Tuesday, May 10, 2011

White Collar - 1.08 - Hard Sell - Recap

Previously - Neal jumped from judge chambers, Ring Man who is FBI controlled Kate, Fowler investigated Peter, Neal talked to Kate on the phone but not in person, Peter had the ring (big shock) and met with Kate

Mozzie and Neal play chess while Moz says it's analogous of Neal's life. Kate rules as queen; Neal's a pawn with restricted movement. It is apt. Neal thinks Fowler lied about Peter having Kate, but Moz counters that Peter has a position of power and is smart enough to succeed. They need proof. "You find the ring; you find the king." In other words, Neal needs to know if Peter has the ring in the picture. Moz calls himself the bishop but Neal doesn't care for his analogies. (From chess novices like me, the bishop stands between the knight and the king or the knight and the queen. It can only move diagonally and is misunderstood by novice players but has power for those sophisticated in playing the game. Another apt metaphor.) The next day, Peter consults Agent Landry. Landry recaps Neal's history including a front page mug shot run when he exited a judge's chambers via the window. Neal still hates that picture. Landry politely tells Neal to shove off while he and Peter allegedly discuss the case but really recap the rest of Neal's story. Welcome to the first episode after hiatus. Peter explains, "There's something special about Kate," but she's "no longer an issue." That sounds ominous. He details the anklet and finally states, "Look you need somebody who can sweet talk his way into a high pressure sales environment. He's your guy." Neal proves it by scoring Rangers box seat tickets in the time they talked. Landry reluctantly agrees to deal Neal in; Neal gives him the tickets. Aw!

Peter explains a boiler room scam, where cons sell bad stocks to inflate prices and then sell theirs before people realize they were scammed - "pump and dump." They're left with worthless stocks and lose their homes. It's been run in 4 different cities but they don't know the leader. A female agent, Madison Cookler, is inside but can't work into the elite circle for sexist reasons. Basically she takes info after people have been scammed. Enter Neal as Nick Halden. Peter briefs him on his interview with "Brad" and says they are pushing Reimer Pharmaceutical stock, which happens to be an FBI front company. The whole place is wiretapped. Neal's flattered Peter thinks he can compete with stock scammers. Peter: "Oh give me a break. You could sell light switches to the Amish." He reiterates that they need to know who's running things. Neal mutters, "So do I," and we all know he's not talking about the case. Giving him a pen voice recorder/transmitter/GPS tracker called an eagle, Peter says they have to cut Neal's anklet which makes it even better in his eyes. Unfortunately, after his prison break stunt, they have to win this case or he's back in prison. Neal: "Glad something's never change."

The interview is in a semi-vacant high rise furnished with tables, computers, and phones. An obnoxious, Gecko-wannabe talks business with Madison and greets Neal with "Yeah don't get your hopes up. I already got dibs on that one." Neal: "Does she know that?" Jerk: "Since when does that matter." Meet Brad. He'll look great in prison orange. They both fake laugh and fist bump; I cringe. They spin the Neal's FBI created cover as Nick and Neal says he's looking for big bucks. Brad says they've got money and denigrates the two women, whom he calls girls, as the cleaning staff of the scam. "They mop up. It's women's work anyway." What 20-something yahoo says this stuff out loud. Not buying how over-the-top sleazy this character is. Neal changes the subject and the interview turns into a test. If he sells the stock he has a job. Lucky for Neal, the FBI intercepts the call so it's a sure bet. Peter takes the call as Charles Fairweather, history teacher, and makes Neal work for it. I love this scene! Neal spins like a pro and even I'm tempted to buy what he's selling. He quotes Henry Ford and talks IBM. "Life comes down to a few moments Mr. Fairweather. This is one of them." Peter whispers to Jones, "He's good." Totally. Neal gets the job and we montage his other calls. 44 sales to the FBI later and Neal's invited to meet "the man behind the curtain."

In a combo law library/business club, Neal sees Avery Philips arguing with his business partner. Brad tells us Avery's the youngest person with a seat on the NYSE and the brains behind the scam. Avery joins them with drinks and calls Neal his rainmaker. Neal brings up the argument by saying he doesn't want to lose his job over an argument. Avery compliments his boldness and tells Neal to butt out. Neal calls Peter with the details and says he'll drop by Peter's place. Peter reluctantly agrees because he has better coffee than the FBI. Enter Elizabeth handing coffee to Jones as Peter hooks the eagle pen to a computer. Neal: "I'm gonna go rummage through your drawers and steal your most precious belongings." Ha! He asks to use the bathroom as a ruse to see if Peter has the ring. He does. It's in a portrait on the wall. Neal is shocked but El interrupts him by asking if he's okay. "Never been better." We get a close-up on the ring as we head for commercials.

I'm disappointed we start in the FBI conference room. I thought we'd see Neal recapping the ring to Mozzie. Instead, we learn Avery looks legit and his partner is Daniel Reed. Peter talks shop but everything Neal says undertones his distrust of Peter. They discuss partnerships and trust and one partner screwing over another. Neal smoothly starts a role play scenario with Peter as Avery and himself as Reed. Avery wants to cut Reed out to keep the money. Neal: "I never saw it coming." Peter walked neatly into that spider web. Back at Neal's House of Chess Innuendo, we get our Mozzie scene. Obviously Neal didn't say anything which is odd since it's at least 12 hours afterwards. Moz notices Neal scowling and Neal recaps. He swipes the chess pieces to the floor in the first time I've really seen Neal lose it to anger. It tells me he and Moz really are close and Neal feels utterly betrayed. He's too good at covering emotion otherwise. Moz takes off his glasses. "I'm so sorry man. I truly am." I'm ecstatic he didn't go on an anti-government rant but is merely there for his friend. Neal doesn't understand and Moz replies, "He's a suit. This is what they do." Oops, spoke too soon. Urgh! Moz asks what Neal wants to do - run since he's anklet-free or continue with the FBI. Neal says he would need cash to run but that isn't a problem. Neal tells Moz to get the money.

At FBI headquarters, Peter can't tie the scam to Avery. Requesting his books would tip their hand, so Lauren suggests the fake Reimers Pharmaceutical CEO rattle things up by asking for a cut of the scam. Smart! Peter wonders who will play the CEO. Neal: "How about you? You look like a guy people can trust…but I'd also believe you could be bought. For the right price…If you played it right." He smiles but Peter at last knows something's up. "Do we have a problem?" Neal: "Why would we have a problem?" He says he's excited to see Peter undercover and Peter tells us he has active aliases. Neal: "You're a man of many faces." As Neal walks away, Peter's eyebrows furl. Later, Neal's hard at work selling fake stocks to fake people when Brad tells him to cut out Madison. Neal asks why and Brad uses the old "because I say so" excuse. Neal: "What? Am I an intern here?" Apparently Avery's on to Madison and that's one cover blown. Neal is invited to a weekend party though at Avery's.

Speaking of Avery, Peter enters his office as Mr. Edison and says he knows about the scam. He wants a share of the pie. "You know what you stand to lose. I want to know what I stand to make." Avery invites him to his weekend party and it sounds like everyone's going to be there. Alas, it doesn't come with good friends and good times. It's a bunch of jerks watching the head jerk skeet shoot. Oh the fun. Neal sees Peter and asks what's up but Brad tells him to mind his own business. Neal: "You know, you're a little psycho." BWAH!!! And then they laugh too. Neal refuses to take the gun and we join Avery and Peter inside his frat house of greed and geekiness. He's got a wicked comic collection. Avery calls himself Peter Pan and a superhero. I say crazy attracts crazy. The comics are his inspiration. They're definitely a retirement plan since one's worth a car. He exposits the room's security in detail so we know it'll be important later. The oxygen is sucked out of the room if there's trouble. Anyone else guess where this is leading? Yep, all of us. Hey, no guessing needed because Avery makes the classic villain mistake of telling Peter that he'll kill him in this room if he steals from him. He didn’t buy shares in subtlety.

Back at the skeet shoot, Avery and Peter join the others. Brad calls Neal chicken for not shooting and Neal says he's not "a gun guy." Well, at least until Peter says "Let the grown-ups play with the big boy toys." That rubs Neal the wrong way and he almost blows their cover by asking if he knows Peter. "Edison" asks "Nick" if there's a problem and Avery breaks the tension by telling "Nick" to shoot. Neal takes the gun from a puzzled Peter and hits the target twice, dead on. Looking at Peter, he says, "Just because I don't like guns doesn't mean I can't use one." Whoa! Let's back this up right now. The scene is delightfully tense and makes me nervous. There will be fallout. Avery calls Neal crazy but since Avery commands one of the scammers to take Madison in the house, I think Neal should be saying that. Peter sees Madison too and eye conversation ensues. The other guys follow Avery in the house with the guns as Neal states the obvious. Peter tells Neal to back him up but he says no. "I saw your ring…I know you took Kate." Peter: "All of us have those rings. Not now. Back my play." Peter tells Avery that Neal is a spy. Neal asks if Peter is selling him out but Peter demands, "Trust me. I'll explain later."

They search Neal and find the spy pen. Avery takes the pen, gun in hand, as the music hits high drama. Avery asks who he is. Neal: "Like he said. I'm a spy." Guess he's backing Peter's play. Peter tells of insider trading, extortion and distrust. Neal: "Oh I'm the one you can't trust. That's a good one." Avery guesses SEC or FBI, but they use corporate spy, Reed's inside man. Neal: "You think he doesn't know what you've been planning. He's been on to you for months." This whole episode is subtext. Avery makes Madison Employee of the Month instead of fish bait so problem #1 solved. Peter convinces Avery to flip Neal into his spy instead of killing him so there's problem #2 gone. This twist is working out nicely. Neal says Reed will cut Avery out first but Avery's not keen on trusting Neal. "Pay me in stock. I help you, I get rich. I screw you, I get nothing." Brilliant. Neal wants 5% and even Peter raises his eyes. He gets 3%. Ha!

What he and I don't get is what's up between Peter and Kate. Over coffee, Elizabeth insists Peter does not have Kate. Neal counters with his late nights. El: "OK, stop it. Peter is the best thing that ever happened to you and you're smart enough to know that." True, but given his profession, I'm sure he's got good reason to be cynical. Neal shows her the photo of the ring while Peter carries his in. It's a standard 10-year FBI pin most agents turn into a ring. OK, but they all have it made the same way? Hmm. El says at FBI accommodation banquets there are hundreds of them. Neal: "Will I get one?" Ha! Good tension breaker. They laugh and Neal apologizes. Still doesn't explain why Peter was in Kate's room. Peter: "I promise you, we'll figure out who it is." Peter concedes that Ring Man is FBI but they need to get Avery first by having Neal play the two off of each other. Neal: "Make him think his partner's betraying him." "Maybe he'll do something stupid." El smiles as Neal leaves. "You going to tell him that you met with Kate?" Great! She's withholding evidence too. Peter: "I don't think he trusts me enough for me to tell him what happened that night." I'm sure he'll trust you a lot more once he finds out you're misleading him. That's a solid plan there.

In his office, Avery instructs Neal to tell Reed the stock will be dumped next Friday instead of this Friday like Avery plans. Neal interrupts Reed's flirting and plays back the preceding conversation. Reed frosts his office windows and I'm jealous. I so want that feature. Not that I spend more than 2 minutes in my office anyway. Reed threatens to kill Avery but Neal suggests they take him down and "make some money in the process." They can blackmail if they get the real records. Smart! Reed states all of Avery's illegal acts are in a ledger since he doesn't trust computer safety. Neal relays the info to Peter and Lauren; now all they need to do is find it. I'm distracted by seeing another part of the FBI. For a while it looked like there were only a couple offices and the conference room. Peter refocuses me by reminding us of Avery's comic book vault. I knew we didn't get that much detail for nothing. Lauren gives us more but the results are the same - no oxygen to breathe. Wonder who's going to be trapped - Peter or Neal? Neal comes to the same conclusion but Lauren says there's a kill switch inside. The catch - it's not printed in the plans so he has to find it before running out of oxygen. Hope you can hold your breath a long time Neal. Luckily, Q stopped working for Bond and now helps the FBI. Neal has his own cigar tube mini-oxygen tank with 5 minutes of air. Handy. Maybe I should get one for smoky bars and casinos. As a failsafe, Lauren and Jones will be in the van nearby. Neal reminds us he has 5 minutes of air and asks about their response time. Jones hesitates. "Roughly 5 minutes." Ha! Peter will be at the party as backup too. Neal: "So just so I'm clear, um, if anything goes wrong, I suffocate." Bwah! Peter: "Then we'll make sure nothing goes wrong." That's reassuring. Everyone walks away as Neal mutters, "Or I can practice holding my breath." (snickers) Couldn't hurt.

On Friday, Peter and Avery talk Ferraris at the party while Neal subjects us to Brad's frat boy fantasies. He pretends to go hit on the waitress but walks into the Fortress of Comic Dude instead. How nice of Avery to keep it open for all to walk right in. There's a box in the center connected to a trip wire. It screams trap or its owner is incredibly cocky of his own genius. It's a toss-up. In the van, Jones tells Lauren's crew to move closer and sees Reed heading in. He calls Peter who tells them to hold their position. I'd say storm the gates but I'm not FBI. Don't they have a warrant for the ledger yet? Reed and Avery argue enough to realize they are both being played. Avery asks about Neal and Brad says he's "getting busy with the…" Sadly, Hot Waitress comes into the room at that time and Reed says Neal's after the ledger. Avery grabs a shotgun as Jones tells everyone to "suit up. This is about to get ugly." Peter gets to the vault before Avery to warn Neal, but Avery appears behind Peter shotgun raised. To protect them both, Neal lifts the box, triggering the Plexiglas door. The rifle shot does not penetrate it. It does however trigger oxygen removal.

Neal gives Peter the mini-breather but Peter wants to share. Neal says there's not enough time for that. I think they're wasting precious oxygen arguing. Neal ends it. "Peter, I trust you." The FBI moves in as Neal and Peter frantically look for the kill switch. Reed wants to go but Avery is fascinated at watching someone die. Fabulous! I bet he tortured small animals too. Neal finds the kill switch on the wall behind a comic and I'm thinking it's a pretty obvious place. Then I remember normal people don't want people to die in their vault and would make it accessible. Neal tries desperately to get Peter's attention and faints right as he does. Peter rushes over to hit the kill switch but Avery's outside with the shotgun. Hitting the switch also opens the door. What a conundrum! Peter shakes Neal to no avail. Then he spits of the oxygen tube, points his pistol at Avery and slams the kill switch button. Awesome mini-moment! Fortunately, Jones and Lauren appear on the scene and Avery and Reed are truly well-caught. Peter looks for signs of breathing and is about to begin chest compressions when Neal gasps. Peter tells him to just breathe. Neal: "That was a long 5 minutes." More like 2 but it was the most exciting 2 minutes of the night!

Neal and Peter sit on the stoop as everyone's arrested. Peter calls Neal "crazier than I am" but Neal knew he "would take care of it." Neal: "You've got my back, right?" Peter nods but instead of answering he says, "There's something I need to tell you and I need you to listen to everything before you react." Neal and I both say, "I don't like the sound of that." It is a close cousin to "we need to talk" and we all know how that goes. Peter knows what Ring Man wants. Kate told him. Well if she knew, why didn't she tell Neal plainly instead of all the silly scavenger hunts? Bah! I don't know why Neal's so fascinated with her. Apparently Peter got a Ring Man picture when Neal did. He looked into it and suddenly his phone's bugged. Fowler! Peter has better connections than Neal because he passed the word for a Kate meeting about him. I wonder why he didn't include Neal but guess he didn't want to spook off Kate.

We flash back to the hiatus cliffhanger. Kate enters and pulls a gun on Peter. Didn't expect that. She recognizes his ring but won't admit knowing Fowler. Peter: "Shoot me or put the gun on the table." Anticlimactically, she puts it down. Why even add this? It's been 5 years since they met and I wonder why she wasn't arrested too. She wonders what Peter wants and he tells her to leave Neal alone but she can't. Peter hints that Kate is playing Neal and I admit it crossed my mind too. Peter will get whatever Kate wants and she asks why. Peter: "Why? Because he's good. Because he's the smartest guy I've ever met and I'm tired of watching you twist his heart around." YEAH Peter!!! Was anyone else cheering at this? Kate looks down. Peter: "He's my friend. Let him go." Peter will never say this to Neal so it's awesome we get such a clear picture of how Peter feels. Kate says Neal stole something, narrowing it down to hundreds of things. Actually it's a music box. Huh? Bwah! A music box. That's possibly the most startling and ridiculous thing on this show. Peter's baffled too. The music box is Kate's price for leaving Neal alone and Peter starts to leave. "Did you ever love him?" Wow! That's harsh. He leaves her a message for Fowler. He's just getting started. Kate says not to push him but Peter just smiles and leaves.

On the stoop, Neal takes the news hard. "He's controlling her…She's not working for him Peter." "Neal, when are you going to face the facts here. She may not be on your side." Neal protests; Peter swears. "I looked into her eyes. I didn't see concern for you." Neal calls it an angle and Peter pushes him about the music box. Neal might know where it is and Peter huffs, "C'mon. You're going to cut me off now?" Neal admits he knows it and explains that it's from Catherine the Great's Amber room. The Nazis stole it. Peter figures it's worth something. Neal: "Yeah, but not enough for all of this." They decide it holds a secret inside. Peter wants to see it but Neal needs time. And, it seems, Mozzie's help. At his place, Moz says an escape plan is ready but Neal is re-ankleted. Moz suggests they give Fowler the music box and it would be the simplest way. Regrettably, Neal doesn't have it. Moz is shocked. Neal: "Everyone assumed I took it and I never corrected them." Oops. Half truths get you into as much trouble as bald-faced lies. Moz smirks: "It did make you appear superhuman." Neal: "Image is everything." They both laugh. Neal says next he finds the music box. Moz: "And steal it? Welcome back." Neal picks up a knight chess piece and grins. I love every scene with these two in it.

This episode was a lot of fun from the subtext to the humor and especially the action. I liked how it gave us answers to hiatus questions but still kept me hanging. Is Peter really a good guy? I assumed it once but my faith was shaken over hiatus. It seems he's on the level but we only have his word for it. If Peter is innocent, is Kate masterminding the whole thing or in on it? Did she ever care for Neal like he does for her? What's in the music box and why is it so important? There's a lot to think about for the remainder of the season and I am excited about it. All in all a great episode and I'm looking forward to seeing where it all leads us. Excellent way to end the hiatus.

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