Monday, February 28, 2011

White Collar - 2.14 - Payback - Recap

Previously on episode 1.12 (Bottlenecked), we met a Caffrey-wannabe con man named Matthew Keller. He's smart, ruthless, but not exactly suave and charming. Think stereotypical New Jersey con man versus Neal's New York style. He killed a man and then challenged Neal to create a fake wine bottle given to Ben Franklin by Marie Antoinette. Neal accepted only to play right into Keller's hands. He wanted his bottle tested to prove it was real, driving up the price, which he needed to pay off the Russian mob. Unfortunately for him, Mozzie buys the wine bottle for a million dollars he doesn't have, forcing Keller to confess to theft and murder to get protection from Sergei and the Russians.

We open as Hughes exposits Keller's 20 year sentence at Barksdale (maybe? - I can't find it on the internet) for manslaughter. Keller wants to avoid a super max prison with a strong Russian mob presence and is ready to deal - something Neal is dead set against. "His sentencing didn’t go well and now he wants a deal." Hughes: "Probably, but we do that sometimes Caffrey. We make deals with con men." Burned! Love the attitude, Hughes. Keller won't talk to anyone but Peter so Hughes tells him to check it out even if there's nothing to it. Diana asks about Keller and Peter describes him as "a little more Ratso Rizzo than Cary Grant." Neal beams since that makes him Cary Grant. Not sure Keller can be reduced to Midnight Cowboy petty crime though since he's very smart.

At Keller's prison cell, I am seriously depressed. Keller's in typical prison orange in a cinderblock cell decorated with artwork, Tiffany lamp, and an oriental rug. He drinks port, plays chess, and smokes cigars. Nice to know prison is such deprivation for him. Neal's disappointed too while Keller extols the merits of Dominican cigars "infused with Louis the 13th cognac." He offers one to Peter, who declines, and over chess, asks Neal if this is business or pleasure. Neal: "It's always a pleasure seeing you behind bars." Again, the comebacks are cutting today. I love it. Keller wants to work with the Feds like Neal in order to stop the transfer and stay where he is. Neal: "Barksdale Super Max. I don't think they chill the port there." Instead, he's worried about the Russians. Keller's pis aller (last resort) is to give up passport forger Jason Lang in exchange for a pass on Barksdale. "Relax Neal, alright. It's not like I am asking to be let loose on the streets of New York with only an anklet to control my compulsions." Peter states that it's too late to stop the transfer but Keller is convinced they can deal. "These are perfect passports, Caffrey-quality. Just the thing for terrorists and smugglers." Neal makes his last chess move. "Pis aller can also mean the worst thing that can happen." As he leaves, Keller counters, "We're both running out of options, Caffrey. It's your move." He moves the chess piece a final time. (Side note, this rivalry reminds me of Michael and Brennan on Burn Notice, except Brennan annoys the stuffing out of me. Great job White Collar writers for creating a rival I actually want to see again.)

At Peter's house, he searches for his jacket. Elizabeth brings it in since he forgot the dry cleaning. Elizabeth says it's okay, but Peter realizes she didn't call him about it because she assumed he would forget. He doesn't want "to be the husband that forgets to pick up the dry cleaning." Elizabeth says she's not mad but Peter claims it will fester with her all day. You're headed for dangerous territory here, Peter. He backtracks, sort of, and she fires back. Satchmo senses they are both miffed and scurries into the kitchen, causing things to get huffier. Elizabeth: "Ok. Look, I don’t want to be the wife that has to call and nag you to do things. And plus, it's a lot more effort to try to remind you and I don't even know if you are going to remember." They are disappointed in each other but still civil. She calls a halt to the discussion for work and they say awkward goodbyes. Elizabeth: "Have a wonderful day." They kiss. Peter: "You too." Awkward pause and Elizabeth leaves. While it's good to know that they are not perfect all the time and it makes them more realistic, they fight weird. It's all patient sighs and carefully worded speech. They're not going to be on the Maury Povich show anytime soon. Plus, this is so not about the dry cleaning. Peter looks rueful. Satchmo re-enters as sad background music plays. "Yeah, that could have gone better."

On the street, Mozzie wonders what Keller wants. Neal recaps that he's living the good life at some prison I also can't find on Google. Are they making these up? Moz wants Keller to suffer and worries that he'll go free. Neal reminds us that Keller's being transferred and Mozzie brings up Kate. Last time, Keller angered Neal by suggesting that Kate slept with him while Neal was in jail. Personally, I don't buy it because Kate isn't the type to go for oily salesmen, but all 3 of them share past history. Neal claims he's over Kate, earning skeptical glances from Mozzie and me. "Look, she'll always be a part of me but I have to move on." Moz is worried making this is the perfect time for a surprise Kate sighting. I can't shake the idea that Kate's role is not quite over yet. The more Neal protests, the more I fall into a Mozzie-sized conspiracy theory.

At the FBI, Peter exposits that Keller and Lang were partners in a bad con. The partnership dissolved when Keller was shot twice with Lang's gun. Neal surmises that he wants revenge with his stay in jail free card, but they still have to check out the forger over Neal's protest. Peter: "Relax, we're not going to release Keller on an anklet…unless June has a spare bedroom." Bwah! Neal doesn't think that's funny, but I sure do. Peter hounds Neal. "…he had cigars in his cell. I remember your prison cell. No cigars." I love Snarky Peter and the delivery was perfect. Let's see this side more often. Neal finally gets Peter to leave and asks what's wrong. "Your sarcasm goes up in direct proportion to your stress level." These two know each other well. Peter dishes on the dry cleaning saga. Neal asks if Elizabeth was angry and Peter says no. Neal questions for us all us, "And that's bad?" Peter's guilt of being a disappointment weighs on him. He wants to be a better husband (aw!). "And the worst part is that when she left this morning, I didn't call her 'hon'." I love Neal's face here. "Have you ever seen an actual fight?" Neal, we're all on the same page as you. I'd guess Neal and Kate had some doozies. Peter explains that "hon" is their shorthand for "I love you." Neal finds this "efficient"; I find it sad. Guess it's a married thing. Neal common senses that Peter should leave a message and call her "hon at the end. Peter's adorably relieved at the idea. Peter, honey, you're smarter than this. I'm surprised you haven't called already. "I'll call her as soon as we're done here." Yep, that's a doomed sentence if I've ever heard one. We all know something will interrupt that call.

In Lang's all-white studio, Peter questions Lang while Neal looks around. Lang says he's far too successful for illegal activity now. He takes a phone call and Neal points out the color-shifting printer and a Metrolux which creates holographics, both needed to forge US passports. It's enough to get a warrant but Lang runs when questioned. Peter tells Neal to stay and gives chase. Neal of course chases too, but he's not quick enough. When Peter exits the building, a gun is shoved at his head and he realizes it's a trap. Lang tells him to drop his gun and cell. Just as they put a bag over Peter's head, Neal sees him. Unfortunately, he's not faster than a speeding van. As he gets to the place Peter was kidnapped, Peter's phone rings with Keller on the other end. "You lost a key piece Caffrey." Neal: "…this isn’t a game." Keller: "Of course it is. Life is a game. If you stop playing, Peter Burke will die."

Peter is locked in a cell in the garment district, surrounded by creepy mannequins. Is this a new TV theme? First Supernatural and now White Collar. At least Peter doesn't have to worry about mannequins coming alive and killing him. Of course, since Lang makes no effort to disguise himself or his hired thugs, Peter should worry about them killing him. Peter claims Keller will betray Lang, and I agree. He's not the type to share the wealth. Peter reminds me of the movie Sneakers, where Bishop figures out where he is by using turn clues and timing. Lang is less impressed than I am. Peter wants a deal, but Lang was burned by the government before so he's sticking with Keller. I guess people get annoyed when the government hassles them. Lang shoots a dummy for emphasis.

Neal tries a different emphasis point as he shoves Keller into a wall. I puzzle over Neal accessing a prisoner without Peter. The FBI doesn't know that Peter's been kidnapped, so they aren't pulling strings. Keller: "You better protect your king." Neal agrees to talk outside, since Keller apparently makes his own prison schedule. Must be nice. No wonder he wants to stay. Neal knows Keller will kill Peter, so he hasn't informed the FBI. Keller: "Well, it's best not to discuss personal matters with everybody, Neal." This makes me laugh because it's oily and he's trying to be cool, but not pulling it off. While Keller denies participating in the kidnapping, he could help Neal with his "big problem" if he gets 2.5 million. "My sources tell me that I too face dire circumstances unless my debts with the Russians gets (sic) paid." Neal balks at the price since his resources are depleted. I guess the FBI doesn't pay criminal consultants well and Neal often needs specialized items to keep his quality of life and cons up to par. Keller hints at a Scottish item Neal stole 6 years ago. He's confident Neal kept it and gives him 3 hours to deliver the goods before Keller's transferred. Neal tells Keller he will lose again, but Keller is in pis aller and has no choice. If it weren't French, I'd guess this was the name of the episode.

Neal calls Diana about Peter's kidnapping. Hughes starts a manhunt and sends Jones to oversee Keller's transfer. (Give Jones a real story line.) Neal recaps Keller's plan and Hughes sounds the party line about not negotiating with terrorists. Neal: "Sir, all due respect, Keller doesn't bluff. He will kill Peter if I don't engage him." Hughes stands firm behind FBI manpower and says they are going ahead with Keller's transfer. "Come sundown, Keller's going to be bunking with a seven foot Russian named Ivan." Remind me not to get on Hughes's bad side. He tries to reassure Neal but no dice. Mozzie calls Neal about a mysterious voice who called him with a meeting place and time. They agree to meet and Neal asks Mozzie to bring a hammer. Guess he does have the Scottish artifact after all. Mozzie asks Neal what s going on, but Neal can't talk because Elizabeth arrives. He tells Mozzie that Peter's been kidnapped and then hangs up on a distressed Moz. Good to know he is worried too.

Hughes tries to reassure Elizabeth with the FBI manpower speech and arranges for agents to stay at her house. He leaves and Elizabeth questions Neal about Keller. Keller thinks like a chess player, so the manhunt isn't going to work - the exact thing Peter said about Neal in the pilot. Elizabeth: "What are YOU doing?" Neal: "Well they want me to go home, sit tight." He asks her what she wants him to do. "Whatever it takes to bring him home." With Elizabeth's permission, Neal goes forward with his plans, except Diana plays escort. She says Neal's too emotionally involved to make decisions, but he counters that both he and Keller have read the FBI handbook. To convince Diana to play along, Neal tells of an earlier 3-man heist Keller pulled. One of the men thought he forgot his passport back at the scene. Keller killed him right then - no waiting, no checking the facts - even though it was in his pocket. Diana surmises that Neal was the second man. Neal can buy time by playing along but Diana hesitates until he reminds her that Peter would let him do it. She goes for an hour coffee break while Neal meets Mozzie in the park.

Worried about Peter, Mozzie arrives with a bag of hammers, although he claims he "happens to have an arsenal of hammers." The park has special significance. Mozzie met "John Lennon" there in 1991 - ha! - but Neal and Kate often met there. He imagined their kids would play on the playground and Neal planned to propose there. He was going to have Cesar, the park violinist, play "Everybody Loves Somebody" as they walked by. Aww. Moz asks why Neal never said anything but he knew that Mozzie would not approve, although Uncle Mozzie has a nice ring to it. Speaking of rings, that's the Scottish surprise Keller was talking about. Neal hid it under bronze putty on a park statue. Very clever and apparently safer than a safety deposit box. I'm getting paranoid about the safety of my own money because of this show. The ring is a McNally solitaire, coincidentally worth 2.5 million. Mozzie says Neal held out on him, but Neal says he had "hope…that she wasn't gone." Mozzie: "Fate has a way of putting in front of us that which we most try to leave behind." Yep, here's my conspiracy theory that somehow Kate is still alive. Mozzie questions if Neal will really give up Kate's ring for Peter. Neal: "Keeping Peter alive is more important than holding a candle for someone who isn't." Nice job showing the difficulty of giving up on dreams in this scene, Matt Bomer.

Back in Peter’s cell, he picks the handcuffs with the dry cleaning pin on his suit and finally the whole Burke argument makes plot contrivance sense. Lang tosses an empty can into the cell, making plans in front of Peter. Peter exposits that Ridgefield security will let Keller escape during his transfer. He knows that Lang is meeting Neal and will use what Neal gives him to buy Keller's freedom. Since Lang didn't hide the conversation, Peter realizes that he plans to kill him. Correction - Keller is going to do it himself. Meanwhile, Mozzie visits Elizabeth as a magazine seller. He came without prompting, which I buy since those two have a great relationship the show needs to use more often. Elizabeth panics because the FBI won’t tell her anything, but Mozzie reassures her that between the FBI "and Neal, Peter's going to be home in time for dinner tonight." He recaps Neal's deal. Elizabeth agonizes over the dry cleaning fight to Mozzie, since it was the first morning they didn't resolve their issues before they left for work. Really? Surely in all their years of marriage, they've stewed before. Mozzie: "Seriously, this is about dry cleaning?" Yep, Moz, join in our disbelief. He apologizes because "the longest relationship I had is 11 days…and then she deflated." Bwah! I love how Moz tries to cheer Elizabeth up, but it's not working. Elizabeth frets, "The last thing I said to him was have a wonderful day." Moz: "I'm guessing in a fight about dry cleaning that that's pretty severe." Ha! Elizabeth reminds us that she and Peter have the best marriage ever and she doesn't want to lose him. Mozzie gives her an ear bud so she can listen to what the suits are saying. He kisses her on the forehead (aww) and clumsily puts a bug in the FBI headphones. FBI guys need more con training because it works.

Back to the case, Neal meets Lang to exchange the ring, but refuses to give him it without seeing Peter. He starts walking away when Lang calls him back. Neal can ask Peter one question via text message, so he asks what cell phone number he had when Peter first arrested him. How can Lang not see that Peter can send Neal a message? Yeah, Keller is definitely killing him when this is over. Peter sends an alpha message, which I assume are his coordinates. Neal buys a sketchpad and pencil to decode the message - No Transfer! I was wrong. Diana calls Jones to stop the transfer, but the driver doesn't answer. A guard lets Keller out, who wears a suit under his prison garb. Keller locks the guards in the truck because he doesn’t want to pay them a cut. And Lang trusts this guy? Jones chases Keller but loses him and Diana drives like a maniac in a product placed Ford Hybrid. Neal: "You're not driving very green. All your leaves are falling off…I feel like I'm stuck inside The Giving Tree, nothing left but a stump." Bwah! Diana: "I'll grow a new one over the weekend." I love the humor this episode!

Hughes is upset by the escape and Diana and Neal's inability to follow directions. Diana sticks up for Neal but Hughes doesn't budge. Meanwhile, Peter provokes Lang by making him suspicious of Keller. Not hard to do if you have any brains at all. Not sure if Lang qualifies. Peter doesn't think the 2.5 million will cover Keller's mob and prison debts. Lang threatens Peter, recapping that he already shot Keller. Apparently, Lang has his own betrayal in mind as he plans to shoot Keller and keep the ring. Peter points out a small flaw in his plan - Lang's not impressive with a gun. He provokes Lang to come closer and grabs the gun, knocking Lang out with the cell bars. Awesome! He uses a mannequin arm to get Lang's cell phone. Then he calls Jones and demands to talk to Neal. Peter has Neal to talk him "through a jail break." Elizabeth, listening to the conversation, demands they put Peter on speaker but wisely doesn't talk to him. He's got a cell to open. Neal has everyone clear a space the size of the cell in the FBI and then tapes the boundaries. It's very impressive. Peter lists his current assets - cardboard boxes, metal chair, soda can, lamp, light bulb, thread, fabric, and "some really creepy mannequins". You caught Supernatural too, huh? They assemble what Peter has into the makeshift office cell too. It's all very MacGyver and I'm excited to see how they jerry rig this. He lets Neal know what kind of lock it is. Peter needs to short out the backup and cut the electricity. He uses the soda tab as a wire cutter, earning Neal's respect for improvisation. He strips the green wire. Neal has him break the light bulb and attach the filament to his phone battery, causing a power surge that will unlock the cell. Peter reminds Neal that using the battery will disconnect the phone call, but Neal is confident it will work. Hughes wants him to wait for the FBI, but Lang starts waking up. Peter trusts Neal. There's a tense few seconds as the phone call disconnects, but all is well when Peter calls back. He's got Lang at gun point and the FBI (and Elizabeth) are on their way. I love how Hughes pats Neal's shoulder in approval. This episode has so many aawww! moments.

Jones enters first and then Neal and Peter hug - aw! Neal doesn't expect Keller to show. Lang of course is screwed. Peter shows Neal the ring and says that if it's not stolen, it goes back to Neal. Neal says it's been missing for a 200+ years and doesn't belong to him. Neal says Peter should contact the Scotland Royal Museum while Peter wears his Proud Papa look again. I'm surprised Neal gives up Kate's ring so easily. Either the producers are hitting us over the head that Neal is over Kate in order to set up a relationship with She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, or there's something Kate-related down the pike. Considering there’s only 2 episodes left and we haven't seen Adler in weeks, they don't have time for side stories. We need to get the fractal mystery solved first. Anyway, Elizabeth arrives and the Burkes kiss and call each other "hon" and everything's perfect until Keller calls Neal. He's seen the commotion and calls this round a draw. Neal threatens, but I want to get back to the Burkes. Keller says Neal sounds “like a law man" which isn’t a compliment to cons. I don't care because the Burkes are still kissing as Keller tosses his phone and walks off.

All in all, this is my favorite episode since Point Blank. It had lots of humor, action, and poignant scenes. It incorporated the best of White Collar, specifically the bond between Neal and Peter along with Mozzie and Elizabeth's strange but awesome friendship. I wish they recapped themselves less but that is the only small criticism I have in this episode. Keller is a classic rival and I hope he comes back again next season. I'd love to see how Neal reacts to being bested by Keller. Let's hope the Russian mob doesn't get him first.

Next week, Neal and Peter switch identities. I think we can safely say humor will abound again.

Screencaps by Caps by Emma-Jane and White Collar Online
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