Saturday, January 21, 2012

White Collar refuses to accept "Checkmate"

    USA's White Collar returns with "Checkmate." Picking up where "Countdown," the mid-season finale, leaves off, Keller (Ross McCall) has Elizabeth Burke (Tiffani Thiessen). Peter (Tim DeKay) demands that Neal (Matt Bomer) hand over the Nazi treasure to Keller, and Neil is willing, but Mozzie (Willie Garson) has already moved it. Neal and Peter locate the in-hiding Mozzie, and try to stall Keller by giving him the treasure, but making sure that police are nearby. Keller, in turn, forces them to help him steal it again, right out from under the cops' noses. All the while, Jones (Sharif Atkins) and Diana (Marsha Thomason) search for Elizabeth.

     So the theft of the treasure, a secret that hangs over Neal and Peter's partnership for the entire summer run of the third season, is now resolved, the items returned to the government. And Peter knows everything. As predicted, he is initially angry at Neal for keeping the secret. But Peter is able to understand the truth as the episode goes on; namely that Neal didn't steal anything, and that he chooses to stay instead of fleeing with the loot. In fact, Neal bluntly tells Peter that Peter is the reason that he doesn't run. That, combined with Neal's efforts to get Peter's wife safely back, and his offer to confess to everything to make sure that Keller goes away and Elizabeth stays safe, seems to allow Peter to forgive Neal by the end of "Checkmate."

     As disappointing as it is that this wonderful story arc comes to an end so neatly, the relationship between Neal and Peter is masterful. DeKay and Bomer really sell these characters, and the affection between them feels anything but forced. Neal shows that he can be a good guy, and Peter relents that sometimes laws must be broken in White Collar. With the status quo restored, and the suspicion, fun as it has been, removed, the duo can now move on.

      What's more, "Checkmate" offers the tantalizing prospect of Neal's freedom. With Keller in custody, the villain tries to salvage some of his reputation by claiming to have been the thief the entire time, making Neal and Mozzie seem innocent. Perhaps Keller also thinks that this will be something that he can hold over Neal. And eventually, it might be. But for now, Neal isn't in any immediate danger of going back to prison. What's more, because of Neal's seemingly heroic actions, and his help in bringing Keller down, the feds are considering commuting his sentence, making him a free man once more. Assumedly, he will get to continue in his current job, since he's been so helpful, possibly even with a real, for the government, salary. But that likely won't happen until at least the end of season three. Still, it would be nice if Neal could stop being seen as a criminal all of the time.

     In the interest of status quo, Mozzie also softens towards Neal, whom he is furious at, in "Checkmate." White Collar has cultivated a fun friendship between Mozzie and Elizabeth, a.k.a. Mrs. Suit. With her life on the line, Mozzie drops everything, hands over his fortune, and goes out of his way to assist in her safe recovery. As I theorized in my previous review, Mozzie has formed an attachment to Mrs. Suit and Peter, as well as Neal. While he is the black sheep at the fringes of the little White Collar family, he is still in that bubble of love. Perhaps, with a little clarity from the crisis, Mozzie will stop bugging Neal about leaving, and settle in more comfortably with the others. And he can thank Neal for that, which could be why Mozzie's anger ebbs.

     Peter is less disappointed and angry at Mozzie, likely because Mozzie's falsehoods aren't a betrayal towards Peter, as Neal's are. Peter knows Mozzie is a criminal, and there is never any trust to lose between them. Peter doesn't mind Mozzie's help when he's useful, but they don't share the same bond that Peter and Neal do. Or that Mozzie and Elizabeth have, for that matter. However, again, because Mozzie helps rescue Elizabeth, Peter forgives him, too.

     Elizabeth, in her own right, rarely gets much to do on White Collar. In "Checkmate," she gets more screen time than usual, and makes many efforts to break away from her captor. She even eventually succeeds, partially, and that allows Jones and Diana to find her. So she's more than a damsel in distress. If only they would allow her to show it a bit more often.

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