Wednesday, April 20, 2011

White Collar - 1.05 - The Portrait - Recap

At Grand Central Station, Mozzie curses Kate's bottle clue. "She could have sent us anywhere, so she sends us to a place that leads everywhere." Ha! Mozzie's rightly overwhelmed at the prospect of finding one little clue in all the hubbub. Neal remains confident. That "X" in Bordeaux means something significant. He looks up to find an "X" in the girding above the entrance. Moz: "X marks the spot again?" Neal: "Kate loves the classics." Apparently Kate loves pirates or needs a Clues for Dummies book. Neal climbs up and retrieves a letter. Mozzie grabs it from Neal's hands and reads it out loud: "Dear Neal, Heard you're looking for me. Wish I could explain more but time is not on our side. Know that you're my friend, my only lover. You consume my thoughts. Every day I miss you more, but you need to stop looking. No one can deny what we have, but it's over. Please move on. Kate"

Some people say ouch; I say get real. The letter's designed to keep Neal looking. "You consume my thoughts," using "have" instead of "had." Something's up. Not to mention, it's spacing is all off - cramped in some places, extra space in others. Even the penmanship's odd for an adult. Besides, the "X" was on the bottle; she meant to leave something there for Neal but it could not be this note. He was in prison not looking for her when she left the bottle. Even the witchiest ex-lover doesn't send you on a scavenger hunt to get dumped. It's easier to stick a rejection letter in the bottle itself. In summary - things are not what they seem, but they never are on White Collar.

Neal's as confused as I am. "All this for move on?" Mozzie's the least compassionate friend ever. "Oddly bipolar. I'd rather have some oysters." Now there's the ouch! Neal is still pondering the letter on Monday when Peter stops by. Neal claims his weekend was uneventful and offers Peter coffee. We know Peter loves June's coffee, but a stolen painting can't wait. It's a Haustenberg stolen from a home. "I'd like to meet the person who keeps a Haustenberg over the mantle." Peter likes the coffee he helped himself to. On the way over, Neal learns that "Young Girl with Locket" was the painting stolen. There's no picture but Peter surmises it's of a girl wearing a locket. Neal: "You don’t get enough credit for your deductive skills." Ha! I thought the same thing. Peter says it's worth $2 million and Neal helpfully exposits that his paintings are rare because they were stolen from Hungary in WWII. Peter pointedly stares at Neal who says he didn't steal it. Peter knows but worries about what happens if Neal finds the painting first. Peter needs to pay attention because he almost hits a stopped cab before him. Thankfully the car has sensors to automatically stop the car. Peter: "This is a (product-placed Ford) Taurus. I'm keeping my eyes on you." Neal: "Good, good. The road is important too." I'm with you. Cars that think for us? Great! Now we can be more stupid than ever. Neal figures Peter checked his anklet and Peter admits he tracks Neal every day. I wonder why Neal's surprised at this; it's Peter's job to track him. He asks why Neal was at Grand Central Station and Neal grumps that he stayed within his 2 mile radius to eat oysters. Peter: "I wonder if we've been a little too generous on that." Neal sulks that Peter doesn't trust him. Peter: "What did Reagan say? Trust but verify." Neal: "That was also the motto of the Soviet secret police." Peter: "Get used to it, Comrade." This scene was produced not to establish character or plot but to sell the Taurus as the brakes go off again. While USA noticeably product places cars all the time, this time it noticeably drags down the tempo, making me not want a Taurus.

They arrive at Julianna Laszlo's, a college student who inherited her grandma's name, house, and painting. The $2.6 million painting was not insured, raising all kinds of red flags. She got home early from classes and found the thief. She hit him, he threatened her, and she hit him again. I like the spunk on this girl. As Julianna gets a picture of the painting, her uncle Gary descends the stairs. He skedaddles and Neal and Peter agree it's an inside job. Peter questions Gary while Neal gets the scoop on Julianna. Her grandma raised her after her parents died. The picture is her grandma in front of the painting. Neal says she looks like her grandma and Julianna takes it as a compliment. However, when he asks how Uncle Gary took his mom leaving everything to Julianna, she changes the subject saying Neal doesn't look like an FBI agent. Neal: "I'll take that as a compliment." Julianna says Peter looks like an FBI agent as he rejoins them.

As they leave Peter recaps his interview with Gary, who asked for a lawyer right away. Neal thinks Gary's splitting the money with the robber, but Peter thinks he has debts with shady people. My money's on Peter. Peter starts fussing over what they need to find the thief, but Neal suggests he talk to Gary. Sounds good to me but Peter is ticky. He throws Neal's probation in his face AGAIN. It's getting old. Neal asks about legalities and Peter says it's fine as long as Neal doesn't threaten or lit to Gary. The last one's a problem. Neal basically gets Gary to fill in the blanks. "Do I look like an agent?" Gary asks if "he" sent Neal and they do the non-lying all innuendo dance showing how good a con Neal really was. Gary doesn't want Julianna to get hurt and offers Neal $300, but since it isn't enough, he writes Dorsett a personal check for $10,000. Obviously Gary is new. What loan shark takes a check? Gary's not that bright. Peter says Dorsett is a bad guy and that they need to catch him quickly. Peter is now starring as Captain Obvious. Neal worries about Julianna.

After 2 days van spying, Jones is let out to exposit. Dorsett has the painting and is trying to sell it at galleries. He's not that bright either. His muscle, Joshua, sports a nice bruise where Julianna hit him. Way to take on the bad guy! (Kids, don't try this at home.) Dorsett's into "high-end loan sharking. Although calling him a loan shark is like calling Oedipus a mama's boy. He makes questionable loans with big corporate money. Get behind on your payment, he'll fire bomb your office." Taryn Vandersant, a local art buyer set up a meeting for Neal, her wealthy client, to buy the Haustenberg. Taryn's beautiful, smart, and willing to help out the FBI. I don't trust her. Oh TV procedural, you've made me a cynic. I'd question Pollyanna's motives these days. Taryn and Neal flirt as we establish Dorsett is quite dim. He's selling the painting for $100,000. Peter's more concerned about the sparks between Neal and Taryn and attempts to reinsert control. Peter: "Have you ever met a woman you didn't.." Neal: "Brittany. Brittany Nicole in second grade." Peter stares in disbelief. Neal: "I had a gap in my teeth." Peter just nods. Bwah! Back at Neal's, he studies Kate's letter, now rumpled from endless folding, looking for a secret message. He finally folds it so it says, "Here Friday Noon." We're reminded "Kate loves the classics" again. I think Kate lacks imagination.

Neal and Peter head to a museum where Peter and I are astounded to learn a rectangle of sheets(?)/towels(?) sold for $120,000. I do not get the art world. Peter thinks Haustenberg is "too cartoony".' Neal: "You're a Philistine." Peter points to the laundry art, "Yeah, I'm the crazy one." BWAH!! So with you, Peter. Taryn walks in to get wired. Taryn straps a box to her thigh and a mike to her cleavage. She asks if Neal is tempted by the money, making Neal wary. Peter warned Taryn about Neal's past and tendency to redirect. Neal: "Yes, I just got out of prison. Yes, Peter is the guy who put me there and yes, I'm tempted." Taryn asks if he really escaped for Kate. Neal: "Some people think I'm a romantic." Taryn: "Did she?" Neal: "I'll let you know." Dorsett enters the gallery under full surveillance. Neal inspects the smallish painting, which isn't as cartoony as Peter suggested. Taryn authenticates it while Dorsett questions Neal and Taryn's relationship. She mentions Neal's girlfriend. "Again, monogamy is the great casualty of beauty." Neal: "Not always." There's pointless talk of butterflies and Dorsett speaks about Brigitte, his French girlfriend. When he closes the door, he makes the undercover FBI agents outside. He nods to Joshua and pulls a gun. "Perhaps you can explain why there are people signaling outside." Um, those FBI agents need more training? Jones wants to go in but it's too risky. Neal accuses Dorsett of bringing the FBI down on them, as Dorsett takes the painting and the cash. Peter arrests Neal and Taryn to protect their cover, as she flirts with a handcuffed Neal.

The next day, El and Peter walk to work. The FBI began an administrative inquiry, but he knows all will be okay when he gets the painting and money back. El says at least Neal didn’t take it. Peter: "Yeah, this is progress." He doesn't think Neal was part of the debacle but is confused by Neal's flirtation with Taryn when he's obsessed with Kate. El says it's Neal's nature and she loves Peter for being the opposite. Peter: "What, that I lost all ability to flirt when we got married?" El laughs, "Honey, it was even questionable then." El gets the scoop on Taryn and tells Peter to encourage their flirtation. "I need that like I need a hole in the head." El explains that if Neal falls for Taryn, he might stop hunting for Kate. I think anyone who breaks out of prison and allows himself to get re-caught over a girl won't give her up that easily. They kiss goodbye and head their separate ways.

With the subtlety of neon, Peter mentions Taryn to Neal. He says she's not his type, so Peter points out her virtues and Neal calls him on matchmaking - find a nice girl and settle down. Peter: "It would simplify my life, probably save yours." True, but it would make for lousy TV. They are stopped by the exposition anvil. The Channing Museum curator, who claims the Haustenberg was stolen from them in 1967, waits in the conference room. He and Neal have the art history geek version of a macho rumble over late century European Post-Impressionists. "Caffrey, not familiar with that name." Peter: "It's probably for the best." Ha! The curator authenticated the painting himself when they first got the painting. I question the timeline. The painting was stolen 43 years ago and he looks to be in his 60's. Would a museum have someone in their mid-20's authenticate a painting so valuable? Peter stops the escalating word war to bring up Julianna. The curator doesn't care; he wants the painting back and mentions that receiving stolen goods is a crime. Neal's sympathies lie with Julianna.

Speaking of, Peter and Neal question her in the office. Julianna claims her grandma brought it with her from Hungary after the war. Jones interrupts to call Peter out. Not sure if it's a ruse to get Neal and Julianna alone together or not, but it works. Neal says Julianna doesn't lie well and her grandma stole the painting. No insurance proves it. Neal asks for a good reason to keep the painting out of the Channing. Julianna isn't talking so he asks for a hypothetical story. Julianna: "Hypothetically, a little black dress, a laced bottle of whiskey, and a horny Irish security guard." Grandma knew how to work it. Julianna shows Neal the locket the girl wears in the painting. The girl was grandma. They smile at each other in understanding. Peter joins Neal sans Julianna and they agree Dorsett would lie low. They look for his girlfriend Brigitte, another example of why criminals should stay mute. Neal weeds out connecting flights and Peter weeds women over 50. Neal and Jones stare at his ageism and he protests, "Tell me I'm wrong." Ha! With 7 candidates left, Neal chooses the one staying at Gansevoort Hotel. "That's where I'd stay."

Unfortunately for Neal, stakeouts are less extravagant. Peter calls it old school as Neal does origami. Peter pulls out his deviled ham sandwich and Neal has a physical reaction of disgust. I'm with you, Neal. He changes the station but Peter wants to listen to the game. Neal says he called it, but Peter says it's his car. Usually I like their banter, but it is painful to watch two grown men brat. I dislike Superior Peter and ADHD Neal. Neal wants to go to a nearby café and Peter says he can't afford anything there. Neal asks Peter to spot him $20, but Peter says to use his new Gold card. Neal: "You know about that." Peter: "Keep it. It makes it easier for me to know what you're buying." Peter warns Neal to keep his phone on and "no shenanigans" - love that word. Neal is glad for the reprieve but silently makes fun of Peter's use of shenanigans. (I stick my tongue out at Neal proving I'm 12 too.)

Neal enjoys wine while listening to a pair of French women. He shifts through his many credit cards and approaches them. Thank you for your support, American Express. The women smile and soon wait while Neal heads to Peter, who thinks they are prostitutes. Neal says it's Brigitte and her friend Claire; Peter and he are invited to their hotel suite. Peter thinks it's crazy but Neal reminds him they won't break any laws if Brigitte invites them in. At least they would know if she's the right Brigitte. Peter says resignedly: "Which one's Claire?" Bwah! In the hotel, Neal relaxes more than Peter, who shifts to investigative mode when the girls go in a different room. Brigitte locks the door as they return. Neal wants to go through the bathroom to the master suite but it's illegal. Brigitte and Neal dance and he lifts the door key. Slipping into the bathroom, he tells Peter to keep them occupied. Peter: "I can't keep them occupied. I don't speak French." Not a problem. The women push him onto the couch and start taking off his jacket. It's all uncomfortable and frisky when El calls. He lies that he's at a nightclub, and El's impressed he got into Gansevoort nightlife. He hangs up and makes a break for the bathroom. Meanwhile, Neal ransacks the room, finding the painting under the mirror. He takes it from the frame, noticing the dedication to Julianna on the back. He has a mischievous look on his face. Uh oh. The next morning Dorsett comes back to the hotel. He finds sleeping women and an origami butterfly where the art should be. Nothing like leaving a calling card, Neal.

Walking together, Neal offers to explain last night to Elizabeth but Peter says, "I don't need you to lie to my wife." Neal: "You going to do it yourself?" Ye of little faith. Peter's trying honesty. Neal calls it a bold choice and offers a new story: Neal complained so much Peter let him enter the night club. Peter saw the suspect go in and followed. Neal is way too good at lying. Peter says it's almost the truth and Neal agrees, "It's better than alimony." Jones interrupts with news that Dorsett escaped again with the painting and cash. Ooohh, someone didn’t tell the FBI he has the art. Not good. As the Burkes eat dinner, Peter explains that without the painting and money, Neal goes back to prison. Peter thinks he stole it and then bumbles through an explanation of last night. After 10 years of marriage El already knew he was lying and says to be honest next time. Peter says he told Neal the same thing, but this is about Peter, not blame shifting Neal. El winks: "I know you're a good man." I know Elizabeth is a saint. He pleads the fifth when El asks if she was cute. They are an awesome couple.

At Neal's, a false bottom in a kitchen drawer hides the painting. Dorsett, who tracked the credit card number from last night's drinks, calls to threaten Taryn since Neal used Brigitte. Dorsett agrees to 2 days. Neal has no choice but to get help. Enter Mozzie, who can't believe Neal stole the painting. Neal: "I was going to give it back to Julianna." Moz: "You're like a child. No sense of consequence." Have to agree. Neal points out the inscription and says the curator stole it from Julianna first. "And you're Robin Hood? And did I forget to mention the part where you stole the painting?" Moz rightly calls it a snub to the curator. "You did this for spite." Neal: "I've done things for less." Makes you wonder what. He can't let Taryn get hurt so he reluctantly goes to Peter. "This ought to be good." Neal haltingly admits he stole the art but Peter shushes him when he tries to explain why. Neal's lucky Peter doesn't slap handcuffs on him right there. Neal wants to draw out Dorsett since he doesn't know about the FBI. Peter: "We'll set it up tomorrow. Now get the hell out of my house." He lets Neal hold the painting? Really? El says Neal told him about the theft but Peter knows it's only because they threatened Taryn. El: "It's a start." Peter agrees. At his place, Neal forges the painting while Mozzie watches. "You know you have absolutely no impulse control." I disagree. Neal wouldn't be able to pull off long, detailed cons without some. He just doesn't choose to use it in this case. Moz then critics Neal's brushwork saying a tourist might be fooled but not a curator. Neal counts on it. They age the forgery in the oven at 125 degrees. Thanks White Collar! If I ever need to forge art…yeah, I can't draw so oh well. For the final punch, Neal signs his work.

Heading to the sting, Neal asks about his probation and Peter says they need Dorsett. He wants no complications. Neal checks his status with Peter who calls him comrade but will still verify. I wonder if we'll to see the Taurus' nifty brakes a third time. Guess not. Fabulous! Dorsett joins Neal in person since he doesn't trust Joshua with a $1 million painting. I don't trust Dorsett's art knowledge since he still underestimates its worth. Neal says Dorsett won and he compliments Neal on the game. Neal smirks as Dorsett is arrested, which is nothing compared to when the curator examines the Haustenberg. His pause makes Peter nervous. Of course, Neal is giving Julianna the real painting at the same time. She explains that her grandma was Haustenberg's illegitimate daughter. He willed the painting to her grandma but the museum ignored his wishes. Neal: "It's not theft when rich men do it." So cynical for a con man. Neal exposits that the painting's safe because the curator would have to explain why they kept the art in the first place. The curator flips over the painting as Peter whispers, "Neal, what have you done." The inscription reads, "My dearest Walter, I know what you saw here last time. NC" The curator proclaims it the real thing.

On Friday after noon, Neal waits at Grand Central Station for Kate. Mozzie meets Neal with a black and white cookie. Yum. Neal: "Forbidden romantic meetings are kind of a personal thing, Moz." "Yeah, like I was going to let you come alone. What if the guy with the ring planted that note...You'll be happy I came when a red laser dot suddenly appears on your forehead." Aww, Mozzie cares. Although, I bet the ringed man could kill Neal at any time, not like Neal is inconspicuous. Neal laughs it off and Moz wisely admits Kate might have written it months ago. Good point. She didn't know when Neal would figure it out. Neal's confident she will show even if she's late. The pay phone rings and he races to it. Kate doesn't have much time and background noise clues Neal that she's near. He's overjoyed to see her on a walkway. He wants to join her but she says, "No! No, Neal. He's close." Neal doesn't care where the ringed man is, but Kate stops him by asking where he hid everything. He asks why and Kate exposits that the man wants something he took. Problem is that Neal took a lot of things. Kate isn't who I thought she would be. He risked extended jail time for her, and all she talks about is his hidden stash? Kate says to give the man everything so she can come back. Neal asks who the man is and says he can protect Kate. She disagrees. The only way to help is to give up everything. Kate: "You always told me I had to trust you. Well now, you have to trust me." Sorry, woman - I don't one bit. "I want to come home. Please just tell me where you hid everything." Neal: "No…it's the only leverage I've got." He drops the phone, racing toward her. Moz picks up the phone. Kate: "Mozzie, tell Neal I love him. Tell him it's the only way." She hangs up and disappears before Neal gets there. He screams "Kate" as we fade to credits.

I'm confused now. Neal risked everything to find Kate but won't risk his stash. I understand the leverage bit, but why would he flat out refuse without discussion first? Maybe with all the product placement they ran out of time. I find this episode puzzling. I love the painting thrice stolen story and Neal's interaction with Julianna. In fact, "crime of the week" wise, this is one of the best episodes White Collar has produced. Unfortunately, character play between Peter and Neal was more annoying than fun and writing in advertisements broke the plot flow. I know they need the money but I'm glad they are a bit more subtle in the future episodes. Well most of them. In the end I really like this episode, just not quite as much as its potential.

Screencaps by TV Caps (M-Z)
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