In the van outside of a mob boss' restaurant, Jones brings the morning coffee. Lauren helpfully establishes Burrelli, the mobster they have under surveillance. He's ticked his Bible is missing, which is a bit off. He sends his nephew, Paul Ignazio, over. "You guys are the FBI right? We need your help." So much for undercover work. How much can you accomplish when the bad guys know you're there? In Hughes' office, Burrelli explains that someone stole his parish Bible last week. Peter is disgusted and tells him to file a police report. Burrelli would take care of the problem himself, but it's hard to bust heads and torture people for information with the FBI watching your every move. He explains that it's a special medieval Bible from Naples. "The saints prayed over this book." Peter eye rolls but Hughes can't afford to upset the Catholic church upset by not taking the case. Peter agrees, but he wants Burrelli to disband his book-making business at Mazzo's, by which the van is parked by the way. Burrelli: "Mazzo's, it's a restaurant. See for yourself any time…after Thursday." Ha! For a mobster, he's funny. They've got a deal.
Meanwhile, Neal and Mozzie stare at Kate's bottle. Mozzie's tapping fingers drive Neal nuts, and he's frustrated he can't crack Kate's code. Moz: "Look either you taught her too well or it's just a bottle." Neal claims she left it for a reason. Before he can brood further, Peter calls for Neal to join him right away. Moz snarks about Peter interfering, but Neal cuts him off. Moz agrees to take the bottle back to the lab to run tests. Neal scoffs since the lab is a storage unit. Moz: "Semantics." At the church, Father D'Allesio gives the Bible's history and Lauren says it was a smash and dash robbery. Burrelli insists no parishioner would dare take the Bible, but Peter is skeptical. He remembers the church running a soup kitchen, and the priest guiltily says that they don’t anymore looking at Burrelli. Apparently, mobsters don't share pews with the homeless.
At June's, Neal wonders who would steal a Bible; Mozzie's prosaic. People steal everything. Neal: "Why would we steal a Bible..in theory?" Good question, Neal. Planning a heist? Moz exposits that medieval Bibles are rare, which makes them valuable but hard to sell. Neal: "People get weird about buying stolen religious artifacts." Moz brings up the 8th commandment and I laugh. Moz shills for EBay, saying we can get $600 for an original Star Trek domed lunchbox. Neal and I are glad he doesn't explain why. Our mobster friend left out a few pertinent details about this particular Bible, including its purported healing qualities. Known as the Healing Bible, those who touched it survived plague and a blind girl regained sight. The light bulb over Neal's head goes on - a true believer stole it. At the FBI, Peter prefers the "congregation full of criminals" theory, but Neal's persistent. This Bible allegedly kept its members from the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak. Peter checks out the faith healing angle and we're back to the church. Peter, a lapsed Catholic by the way, and Neal argue over a "higher power." Neal suggests God may have saved the parish, but Peter believes more in locked doors and oranges. Peter cites King Tut's curse as an example. "Germs. There's your divine intervention ." Neal counters, "God can't use bacteria?" Most people probably disliked the filler but I enjoyed the look at Peter and Neal's character. Father D'Allesio interrupts our character study to mention he let a homeless man, Steve, sleep in the sanctuary. He didn't tell earlier because Burrelli discourages them from being there.
Peter and Neal find Steve on a park bench and he admits he stole the Bible. They look at each other - case solved and we're only 9 minutes in. Peter: "Great. We need it back." Steve: "No, I need it back." Maybe not so easy. A man approached Steve about taking the Bible. He agreed to show Steve how to cure his dog Lucy, but instead he left with it. Steve freaks out since Lucy is getting worse, and Neal crouches down to pet her and sympathize. Very touching. Steve believes the Bible will help Lucy and he goes to the FBI to identify the man. It doesn't go well. Peter hopes Neal's hunch pans out. Neal: "Oh ye of little faith." Peter: "You've been waiting all day to drop that one out, huh?" Neal: "I've been holding on to it since lunch." I love their banter. They relieve a frustrated Lauren in the Steve interrogation. Steve explains that he's an Iraqi war vet, which stuns Peter and Neal. Steve found Lucy in a Predator strike under some roofing. I'm not usually a pet person, but this scene got me in my Grinch-sized heart. Steve wants to help but they are interrupted by news that Paul Ignazio, Burrelli's nephew, was murdered. Steve shocks everyone by saying Paul took the Bible.
Peter and Hughes go to the murder scene, only to find that Organized Crime, lead by Ruiz, is taking the case. Ruiz plays Charlie on Fringe for those keeping track. Nice casting! Ruiz: "Pete Burke, this is a homicide not an art exhibit. What are you doing here?" No love lost here. Ruiz won't share the case with Peter and he's all huffy about it. Plus, Ruiz is not thrilled about Neal. "Where's your pet convict?" Peter: "I left him in the car with the windows cracked." Ha! I should find Ruiz contemptible, but in all honesty, most law enforcement would grumble at Neal's deal. Hughes talks a fuming Peter down. It's Ruiz's case and Peter turned down Organized Crime several times. Besides, Peter only has a homeless guy's word about the Bible; it looks like a mob hit. Peter agrees not to impede the investigation but wants to look at the body. Hughes says no. Ruiz will decide who knows what and he won't share with Neal. Hughes implies that he has reservations about Neal too.
By the river, Neal's frustrated they've been kicked off the case and asks what Peter thinks. "I don't think Paul would have met a Moretti alone by this river. Not with all the bad blood in the river." Good point. Peter says it's the verge of a mob war, so the case is more pressing. Neal asks what they do now and Peter overemphasizes that HE cannot do anything. Neal gets the hint and wants to borrow his FBI jacket since he's chilly. "I swear to you Peter under no circumstances will I impersonate the FBI." Enter Mozzie wearing Peter's FBI jacket. BWAAH! He tries to enter Paul Ignazio's home but is stopped by a police guard. His alias - Ted Jefferson from Evidence Recovery. Guard: "I don't care if you're Thomas Jefferson. I need id." About time! Mozzie claims it's in the van his partner conveniently has taken to Queens. The guard says no dice, but Moz insists he needs a urine swab. Guard: "No id, no pee." Ha! That's one quick thinking cop, well until Mozzie tells him to get the sample. Apparently the guard is squeamish about bodily fluids and while I don’t blame him, it is odd for someone who works in crime. Moz calls "his boss" and the guard lets him in. Neal comes in the back door and they've got 10 minutes to find evidence. Neal: "You know you look pretty comfortable in that FBI windbreaker. Maybe it's time to consider a new career path." Moz: "Nope. I prefer to keep my soul." Ha! Neal's goal: find out why Paul stole the Bible, who killed him, and if the two are related. That's a lot of pressure on 10 minutes. He surmises it's about illuminated manuscripts and finds a book by Maria Fiametta, an art historian from Brooklyn State. Coincidentally, Paul had an appointment there. Oh, and Maria's played by Callie Thorne, one of my favorite villains on Burn Notice. Great guest casting on this show! Neal calls Peter with the news and he calls her "Cindiana Jones." Neal's more polite than me and stifles his groan. Peter should avoid joke-telling.
At Maria Fiametta's loft, Neal introduces himself and Maria mentions "a very talented manuscript forger also named Neal Caffrey." Neal's flattered and Maria's very interested. He explains his situation with the FBI but won't confirm he forged the "spectacular" Vinland map. Peter's annoyed with the flirting. "How about we get back to my current problem?" Maria realizes it isn't a Bible (too small) and Peter says it's a Book of Hours, a prayer book for monks and nuns. Impressive! He slips in Ignazio's name but Maria denies knowing him. She doesn't bite when hearing he's dead either. Peter gives her his business card but Maria gets down to business with Neal. "If you are ever in the mood to discuss medieval manuscripts…" Neal: "You'd be surprised how often I'm in the mood for that." I snicker while Peter shakes his head in disbelief. Have you seen Neal, Peter? Of course, she wants him. Later, Mozzie and Neal walk down a busy street. "Is this just an exercise in schadenfreude because you win. " Moz can't find any message on the bottle - not with fingerprints, chemicals, black light, or the wine (boxed Franzia from early October.) Bwah! Neal asks Moz to keep looking as he leaves to meet with Peter.
At the house, Peter knows Maria was lying but he has "trouble buying the fact that an attractive history professor offed a mobster." Enter Elizabeth threatening a vendor over missing centerpieces. Peter: "OK, maybe it's not a complete stretch." BWAH! El agrees that women can murder, which any newspaper tells you these days. Neal explains the shell game with visual aids no less. Paul = big cup, Steve = coffee cup, Maria = mug, and napkin = Bible. Paul reads Maria's book and knows the Bible is valuable. He has Steve steal it because he can't let Burrelli know he took it - plausible deniability - "but if it doesn't work, he lets the homeless guy take the fall. Well, that's evil." True, Elizabeth. Paul steals the Bible from Steve and calls Maria to sell it. Something goes wrong, Paul's dead, and Steve can't id Maria. Impressive plan, but not near as impressive as the wadded up $20 bill where the napkin should be. Nicely played Neal. Of course, now they need to play Maria. Peter will get a warrant but El says she won't have it anywhere near her. Peter remarks on El's cunning and she winks, "Don't cross me." I love Elizabeth. Neal agrees and Peter suggests they spread rumors that Neal's shady. Only problem is the time and rumors might not reach her. El suggests Neal ask her out and Peter wonders if she'll say yes. El immediately says "yes," which Peter is less than thrilled by. It's true though. Peter could see that with their flirting.
For someone on a $700 a month budget, Neal gets the finest things in life. Guess those items he did NOT forge made him a bundle. He and Maria chat about former lives and 90's hair. Neal reads her palm - calluses from work, no ring. She sees Neal's ring-less too. "Prison got in the way." From a season 2 perspective, this is more poignantly sad than when it originally aired. Neal finds the FBI work appealing because "it's always interesting to read from the other team's playbook." Maria questions him but he assures her that he is out of the game, "retired and rehabilitated." Um, yeah, right. Maria brings up the Bible, saying buyers and looters often come to her. She trusts Neal to order for her and they trade lines about reading minds.
Meanwhile, back in the van, Lauren got the warrant so she and Jones head into Maria's apartment. It's an impressive place, leading Lauren to guess crook or trust fund baby. Jones says both. Lauren knocks over a vase and decides to drop a bug in it. They only have 10 minutes before Maria and Neal get back and Lauren's snippy about it. Jones: "Are you jealous you ain't getting any of it?" Lauren: "Neal? No." Not believable, Lauren. I think I like Diana better because there's no office romance with them. Neal and Maria arrive and she realizes the vase has been moved. Neal prattles about international spies who decide to answer one question honestly and smarms, "I've always said honesty is a more challenging game." My head twinges from the intensity of my eye roll. Jones admires Neal's suavity; I still say it's cheesy. Lauren agrees. Maria tells Neal to put music on while she gets a decanter. Instead she watches the bug-drop on her sophisticated surveillance system. This doesn't make the FBI look good at all.
Maria and Neal bond over ancient Bibles of historical significance. He calls it stunning and Maria moves to Neal's lips and agrees. "You know what; I don't trust you." Neal: "Smart. I wouldn't trust me either." They dance around each other's lips and this is much hotter than any of Neal's other partners. They pause and Lauren says something's wrong with the bug. Peter: "That's one way of putting it." Ha! Jones looks on in agreement. It has to be awkward for Neal, knowing he's being recorded. Maria decides to play the spy game. She asks, "Which Neal Caffrey are you? Are you working for the good guys or are you working a bigger game?' At this point, who knows? Neal drops the bug in the wine. "Does that answer your question?" Maria: "Maybe." Neal snitches that the Feds linked Maria to Paul through his college visits. He warns her that the FBI will leak her name to Burrelli but he offers $250,000 for it. It's worth a lot more but she can't afford to have the Feds and the mob after her. Maria asks why he'd take the risk but he shows her his anklet and says he's still in prison. At this point in the series, there was still doubt as to what Neal would and would not do. It made the tension here delightful.
At the FBI, Hughes and Ruiz ask Peter about Maria and Ruiz confirms that Paul received $10,000 from her. Peter recaps that Maria will sell the Bible to only Neal for $250,000 in a Swiss account. Ruiz balks and says Neal could run with the professor and the book. Hughes says they have no choice and Peter worries about Maria shooting Caffrey. Ruiz: "I wouldn't lose any sleep over it." Ouch! Now that is cold. Neal walks up behind then and asks how everyone slept. Peter and I smirk. He tells Neal about the drop. "First they're sending me back to prison. Tomorrow they're giving me a quarter million in taxpayer dollars in an offshore account. I guess that shows how much confidence they have in you." Peter: "And how much I have in you." Awesome! Neal looks completely stunned. I wonder if anyone ever told Neal they trust him. I love these moments.
Early the next morning, Elizabeth types on my parents' laptop. Peter can't sleep and he's wearing his lucky tie. He says they set up a dummy account for Neal and El wonders why he's nervous then. He says that since Neal needs to cut his anklet, he could run with the book. El: "You have a lot more faith in a ratty old tie than you do Neal." Peter: "Well, this ratty old tie's never forged a priceless map of Vinland." Bwah, how true. El wonders why Peter questions Neal's commitment, but Peter says the law isn't Neal's first instinct. El: "And trust isn't yours." Peter: "Occupational hazard. I like to know I can count on something." El: "I know you do. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith." Elizabeth might be the most perfect woman on TV. She rocks all!
In the van, Peter, Ruiz, and Lauren watch Neal pace. Ruiz is snarky and Peter's barely patient. Maria arrives and Neal pats her down under the guise of feeling her up. She returns the favor. Ruiz: "I need a cigarette after that pat down." BWAAH! I need you to return when you're done on Fringe. Lauren: "What is that? She making sure that's not a gun in his pocket." Nope, it's a bug sweep. Maria unlocks the door and Neal asks if she can lose the Feds when he cuts his anklet. She's been chased by much worse. And we get the first time cutting of the anklet. Maria: "With all due respect Neal, we could make quite a fine pair." Neal: "With all due respect Maria, shut up and drive." Ha!
Ruiz wigs about Neal's cut anklet but Peter's got helicopters and police all over. Maria has the Bible in her trunk and laments selling it. "I spent a long time looking for her." Really? Because it's not like the church was hiding it. It was in your own backyard with no cameras or security for years. Neal examines it and proclaims it real. He fake wire transfers her and she pulls a real gun on him. Neal however lifted the clip when he patted her down. Very clever Neal. Maria: "You forgot about the one in the chamber." Or not. Neal: "Dammit. I've never been a gun guy." Well, until you were retconned in season 2. Ugh! Maria demands the book but Neal uses it as a shield. He bets her love for antiquities will keep her from pulling the trigger. Apparently, Paul wanted the money and the book so she shot him. Neal snarks about greed, but Maria shoots him anyway. The Feds ride in 30 seconds too late and Peter tells Maria to drop the gun. When she does, he races to Neal yelling, "Man down. Man down." Hate to say this Neal, but prison was safer for you. Luckily, the Bible stopped the bullet. Neal: "You cut it a little close there, pal." Peter: "I guess the Big Guy had your back, huh." Neal looks incredibly shaky.
However, Lauren has a big smile on her face and Burrelli and his thugs strut in confidently. He has a police scanner. He asks about Maria and Peter explains that his nephew stole the Bible. Ruiz: "That's sad. You know, you can't trust family, who can you trust?" The delivery is awesome! Burrelli wants the Bible back before mass. Peter looks to Neal for it, but he gave it to some FBI guy. The camera pans to Mozzie walking away with the Bible shedding the FBI jacket. Ha! Ruiz stops Burrelli from threatening Neal but then says if Neal doesn't hand it over, he's letting Burrelli drive him home. Neal proclaims his innocence, but Peter laughs. He knows exactly what happened. At the church, Steve and Lucy sit with the Bible. Burrelli enters with Peter and Neal and demands the Bible back. Steve hands it over and starts to leave but Burrelli stops him. He asks if Steve knows who he is. Fortunately, Lucy, who has the greatest timing of any dog, licks Burrelli's hand. He leans down to pet her and notices that she's sick. Steve shows amazing faith in the Bible and Burrelli offers to take them to his vet in Yonkers. Steve gets the head nod from Peter and Neal and goes. Aw! Even mobsters can have a heart. Well, unless they find Steve floating in a river. Peter looks at Neal who protests that he was going to give the Bible back. Peter in a weary voice: "I know." Neal asks how and he says, "Ok, I didn't know but I took a leap of faith that you would do the right thing." Neal: "Elizabeth." Awesome! Burrelli gives the Bible to the Father and Neal calls it a healing Bible as they watch Burrelli pet Lucy. Peter: "It's not a parting of the Red Sea." Neal: "I'll take my miracles where I can get them." I agree Neal. It's all about perspective. Neal gets a new anklet and Peter sees his jacket on the pew. Neal: "He works in mysterious ways."
Back at Neal's, Mozzie sleeps while an exhausted Neal stares at Kate's bottle. The heat from a nearby candle causes a map of NYC's subway system to show through the label. Neal wakes Mozzie. Moz: "Let me see your warrant." Bwah! Willie Garson steals every scene he's in! Mozzie decries missing it and Neal asks if he was ever a Boy Scout. Guess that means Neal was, but Mozzie got kicked out in a Pinewood Derby scandal. I can totally see that. The mystery of the bottle will have to wait as we segue into the credits.
I thoroughly enjoyed this episode; it was a vast improvement from the second one. I think the fabulous guest stars are what raised this episode in my eyes. That and the humor and slight glimpses of the character's backgrounds. All in all, it was fun and developed the season arc. Awesome!