Previously - Hagen blackmailed Neal into stealing the Musconi codex, Moz and Neal decided translating the codex first was the best way to get rid of Hagen, Peter found an FBI pen in Mozzie's chiropractor's office, El was nervous for Peter since Seigel's death, and Rebecca agreed to help Moz and Neal.
Outside a barber shop, Neal meets with a chipper and dapper Peter, all smiles because it's the anniversary of El and his first date and they're going to relive that date tonight. Awww. Peter: "I'm making it a point to remember all the anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, the day we brought Satchmo home from the breeders…" Obviously, Seigel's death didn't just affect El. Neal snarks but Peter counters, "Dec. 7th." Neal: "Pearl Harbor Day?" Peter: "Another day that will live in infamy - first time I arrested you." Neal: "And 4 years later, we did it all over again, but this time you gave me jewelry." Neal adjusts his pant leg to reveal the anklet as I laugh. Fun abruptly ends though as Peter questions Neal about the FBI pen he found. Neal denies any knowledge but he's shaken by how close Peter is already. Later that night Peter reveals what a romantic he is, wooing El with the surveillance pictures he took of her holding up the "I Love Italian." sign. Love that meet cute story. Peter asks if she used the sign approach often, but nope - only to ward off stalkers. El: "Did you ever think where you would be if you didn't walk into my gallery that day?" Peter: "Nope, never. Too scary to think about." Wow, Peter knows exactly what to say. I adore small Peter and El moments, away from the chaos. Sadly they must end. When the talk turns to Seigel, a waiter appears with 2 glasses of bourbon from Peter's ex during his Quantico days. Uh oh! Jill realizes she interrupted something, but El invites her to join them. Bad move. Jill and Peter chit chat about the past as El chokes down the bourbon with a wine chaser. I feel your pain, El. I do enjoy the Quantico toast though. Peter: "Truth, justice…" Jill: "…and stay out of our way." Ha!
Meanwhile Neal charms his own date by inviting a duly impressed Rebecca up to his flat. Rebecca: "It's like a good book I'm finally getting to read. I can't believe you live here." Neal: "I just rent the epilogue." Neal shows Rebecca the codex copy and she freaks out that it is a real Musconi. She exposits Musconi history as they deduce that the pages make a picture of a stained glass window. Not sure how Moz and Neal missed that, especially since it's reminiscent to how Kate communicated with Neal. Not buying this as anything but plot device. Rebecca however gets so excited she kisses Neal, and right on time, Mozzie walks in. Guess Neal and Peter both have unwanted visitors. I however am good with Moz interruptions. Rebecca not so much; she can't leave quickly enough. I still maintain that she is a con artist herself, because she makes all the long con moves Neal taught us over the years. I'm not sure if she is being blackmailed by Hagen as well though. That would be a good twist. Regardless, Moz is less than delighted at Neal's growing relationship. Moz: "You, business, and women - the unholy trinity." Ha, so true. Neal denies it but Moz is no fool. "Oh, like I've never seen this before. Kate, Alex, Sarah, now Rebecca. There's more behind this than the codex." Neal: "So you're an expert on romance now?" Moz: "One who has loved not wisely, but too well." Neal: "Othello." Moz: "Yeah, we all know how that turned out." About as well as Peter and El's anniversary date. Peter extols Jill's virtues, which doesn't exactly go over well so it's time for some backtracking. "But you’re the reason I'm the man I am today." Good save. Peter: "I couldn't have gotten through this past year without you…or any year." Aw! Reconciliation, and my favorite TV couple are back on track….for a hot second.
The next morning, Peter exposits a lead in the Seigel case. Someone is using an FBI badge to steal cars. Peter: "I want you and Jones on this, two people I trust. Well, one and a half." Bwah! Peter's not near so together though as Jill walks into the office and Neal turns the tables. Neal: "You seem nervous." Peter: "Just leave. Just leave." Yeah, that's got Neal's interest, especially since Jill knows all about him. Jill: "Neal Caffrey." Neal: "Do we know each other?" Jill: "Jill Stone. I stayed up all night reading the case files of you two. Couldn't put it down." Neal: "The good ones keep you up at night." Jill: "Um hmm, the bad ones even longer." Hmm. I kind of like her. She's sassy. Plus she leads to the funniest moment in White Collar history. As Peter invites Jill in, Neal and Jones read their body language from below. Jones: "Tell me we're looking at the same thing." Neal: "Peter Burke, uncomfortable." Jones: "That's not his natural state." They put clues together as Jill exposits the Geek terrorist case she's working and I gasp for breath. Neal: "Woah." Jones: "What?" Neal: "They slept together." Jones: "Peter?" Neal: "Not recently." Jones: "Ah, you know I heard he had a pretty serious relationship with a female agent down at Quantico. She joined SSG." Neal: "The CIA of the FBI." Jones: "Those are some bad a** agents." Best way to do exposition in a series ever. Jill leaves so Neal and Jones pretend they're doing something else. Jones: "She left Peter with a lot to think about." Neal: "Unh hnh." Peter, aware of their interest, yells down, "Get back to work." Neal and Jones both do innocent face as I roar. Funniest reaction of the year! Bwaahhh!!! Still business awaits and Neal suggests a sting to capture the faux Fed.
However, there's no dodging Neal for Peter. As they head out, he's got questions. Peter: "Jill's just an FBI agent who needs help on a case. That's it. End of story." Neal: "You never look at Jones like that." Ha! In desperation, Peter turns to the case, which Neal takes full advantage of. "Alright Jones and I are going to cruise Brooklyn tonight in sheep's clothing, but…" Peter: "What?" Neal: "The wolves need a sleeker wardrobe." And pow, Neal gets the BMW. Score! Things go less well for Peter as he starts telling El about Jill, but gets sidetracked by wine. Peter: "What kind of wine is this?" El: "Oh that's the bottle Mozzie gave us last Christmas, you were afraid to open." Peter: "Still am." Bwah! I would be too. Sadly Jill interrupts dinner AGAIN to gather Peter for surveillance. Not a great way to break the news to El, especially since Peter can't tell her what the case is about, a rarity for the Burkes. El says she's okay with it but it's a bald-faced lie. There's trouble in the Burkeville, which is a shame since I'd really like Jill as a character if her sole purpose were not creating contrived drama. Not cool. Jill and Peter banter about her living in her car and Peter's career aspirations before Jill brings up Seigel. She can relate; her partner died in the line of fire. She grabs Peter's hand in sympathy and I feel an imminent eye roll. Good thing Geek terrorist leaves his hotel at that moment. They plant a gun in his room while Geek re-enters. That's one oblivious terrorist. Good thing Jill and Peter aren't. They see a van tailing them and take a self-picture like a couple to get their faces. Yeah, this won't end well. Meanwhile, Jones and Neal cruise NYC in a much better vehicle. Jones: "Chasing the bad guys in a sweet ride just like Crockett and Tubbs. I am living the dream." Neal: "Did you base your entire future on Miami Vice?" Bwah! And that's a bad thing? After driving 3 hours, they finally find the right neighborhood. Neal product places the BMW's special features as the thief walks up, Jones busts him, and Neal confirms that he has Seigel's id. Back at the office, Peter and Jones grill the thief, but he found the gun and badge in the trash. Another dead end.
An obviously upset Peter returns home to a waiting El, but he says it's classified to El's chagrin. I get that he can't tell El about the terrorism case, but he could talk about Seigel. Just saying. It's evident El is off put by the whole ex scenario when she brings Peter's lunch the next day. Of course, he's in a private meeting with Jill when she does. My eyes roll so hard I'm dizzy. Neal sympathizes. El: "Why aren't you in there?" Neal: "Uh, scratched off the need-to-know list." El: "Yeah, me too." Neal: "Come on, let's go in." El: "No, Neal, I'm not that kind of wife." Neal: "Well I'm definitely that kind of CI." El nixes the idea to my chagrin. I'd love to see Neal stirring the pot like a pesky brother here. El surmises that Jill's lonely; I surmise that she's a plot device. Neal: "Well she lives out of a '86 Chevy. I doubt she throws a lot of dinner parties." Ha! Her social skills aren't stellar either. El waxes nostalgic about loving Peter as he argues with Jill about including Jones on the case. It's filler that's only purpose is for El to see the self-portrait of Jill and Peter from earlier while White Collar turns into a nighttime soap. Argh!!! Why? El leaves as Peter looks worried. He should be. Neal: "Did you call her?" Peter: "I did. El couldn't have been sweeter." Neal: "That's good. Right?" Peter: "That's terrible. When she's upset with me, she makes herself irresistible and unavailable." Neal: "Oh nice technique." Neal suggests he go home to talk to El, but Peter's worried he will be called away by Jill while there. Yeah, that would not be good. Neal then suggests putting another agent on the case, but Peter shoots it down too. Neal: "Okay, is it about the case or is it about Jill?" Good question. Peter: "I can talk to Jill about losing David. She's been through it herself." Neal: "And you don't want to worry El any more than she already is." Peter: "I don't. She's been through enough this year." While I see Peter's point, this is only backfiring on him. Time for a new approach.
Better yet, time for a Mozzie break. He suggests El follow Peter, but she says she trusts him. Moz: "You can trust truffles harvested in the Perigord region, bed linens hand-woven in Madeira, and for the most part, a teddy bear named Mozart…but people? Almost never." Aww, I miss Mozart. El: "You trust Neal." Moz: "Neal is the reason never was preceded by almost." And again, awww. Moz and El argue over tailing Peter until Moz goes for the jugular. "Then follow the woman or does your intrepid faith in the Suit extend to her as well?" This will NOT end well. El is sold, but for inexplicably Mozzie bails on the fun stuff. He says bunion removal; I call directing conflicts, but we get Neal in his place and there's never enough Neal and El time either. El tracks the hotel from the picture on a product placed tablet but Neal is skeptical. Neal: "I hear she stays at the '86 Caprice." Bwah! El isn't sidetracked by jokes though. El: "I saw a picture of them in front of this hotel. Close. Extremely close. I mean she looked smitten but he looked like he wanted to go home." Neal: "Cause he's in love with you." El: "I know that. What I don't know is her intentions with him. I mean he's not an ordinary man but he is a man." Neal tries to talk El out of going as the case could be dangerous but she emotionally blackmails Neal in a fair bit on con work herself. Everyone has picked up Neal skills these days. Meanwhile, Jones keeps track on the lunch-bound mercenaries from the van. It doesn't seem fishy to just Jones, but there's more Burke relationship talk as the action standstills. Jill asks about El leaving the office so quickly but Peter downplays it. Peter: "Yeah she was just dropping by a sandwich." Jill: "Sweet. I depend on the kindness of delivery guys." Ha! Again Jill would be a fun character if they didn't shoehorn her in for drama. They argue about Jones again and Jill gets antsy to jumpstart the meeting.
As Peter and Jill enter the hotel with a bag full of money, Neal and El arrive. Neal: "Look, they're probably not even here. Okay, they're here. That is not what it looked like." El: "It better not be." Talk about contrived timing. El and Neal follow but they aren't at the bar, making everything appear even more hinky. El: "You know I really thought I was going to see both of them sitting on stools so close to each other they were touching. You know, Peter having a beer and…and Jill having whatever women have when they're sitting with someone else's husband." Neal: "Alright, don't jump to conclusions." El: "Too late. Already jumped." I would too, El, if they weren't blatantly selling false goods here. Neal: "Wait at the bar. I'll pull a room number out of the desk clerk….if there is a room number." Good save, Neal. Love the reactions in this episode. As Neal tracks down Peter, Jones realizes they lost the mercenaries. He tries to call Peter but Jill turns off his phone in a stunning bit of idiocy. That doesn't even make sense. Urgh! The whole team does head to the hotel though, where El sees Geek and flirts badly with him because everyone is painfully awkward and brain dead this episode. It's one of the most uncomfortable scenes in the whole show. El comes off as a pushy high end prostitute and Geek makes Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory look socially astute. Thankfully the guy is kidnapped after putting a computer chip in El's phone. Neal finds the chip and they pursue Geek. Sadly, Peter and Jill find him with the mercenaries first and their honeymooners excuse doesn't fly. Unlike everyone else, the mercenaries aren't suffering from a case of Stupids so they change their story to rival buyers betraying each other and Peter bribes them into working for North Korea.
While Peter tries to grab the stashed gun without attracting attention, Neal and El listen outside in the hall. Neal wants El to get to safety but she's having none of that. They compromise. El goes in as a distraction while Neal sneaks in through the other door. A better plan would be calling Jones to let him know what's up but hey, I've never been kidnapped and these two are old pros now. What do I know? Best part though is that Mozzie and Neal have a gizmo to break into any electronic padlock. That's all kinds of future trouble. El marches in with the chip as Peter freaks out that she's there. Meanwhile Neal plans to take out bad guys holding guns with a room service knife. Um, not liking the odds. Good thing the mercenaries are distracted by El's tossed phone so Neal can slide across the floor, baseball style, to slice through Peter's restraints. He grabs the gun while Jill clobbers a bad guy with her chair. 10 seconds later Jones storms in with the cavalry. Peter: "El, that was incredible but don't do anything like that again." El: "I don't know if I can promise that." Neal: "Another typical day at White Collar." Bwah! And here I originally didn't think there would be enough exciting white collar crime to last 5 seasons. Back at the office, Jill and Peter wrap up the case and their former relationship nicely. They exchange compliments and banter about the past. More importantly they call each other out. Peter says Jill ran from their relationship 20 years ago and Jill says Peter is using excuses to keep from his dream job. They're both right. Jill leaves open the possibility of returning and I agree, provided she doesn't stoke Burke drama anymore. It was silly and tiresome. Jill: "Maybe I'll bring my El with me - male edition." Peter: "Good luck finding one. She's one in a million." Agreed and writers, please remember so as to not make her into a psycho jealous wife again please. She's better than that.
Jill ends the conversation by telling Peter to talk to El about Seigel and luckily Peter takes her advice. It was the elephant in the room, and likely a large reason why this whole episode went sideways. What I treasure about the Burkes is that they come off as a real life couple, but one that respects and roots for each other. The lack of communication and jealous female trope does not work in their relationship. Thank goodness the Burkes are really communicating again. Neal and Rebecca, on the other hand, are in the midst of game playing. Neal leads a blindfolded Rebecca through NYC, making her massively uncomfortable. Rebecca: "You know, you should know that walking the streets of New York blind is a recurring nightmare of mine." Hmm. A psychologist would have a field day with that one. However all is forgiven when Neal shows her the stained glass window from the codex. Rebecca leans into Neal, overcome by its beauty…or because she's a con artist making a play - you pick. She talks about her unprofessional response and Neal falls for it hook, line, and sinker before he kisses her back. There's absolutely no way Rebecca is as innocent in this as she's playing it. No way! But she's not the only mystery left. In his office, Peter takes out a business card he finds in Seigel's id case. On the back says "Cooper3?" and Peter stares at it intently. I really, really hope Seigel wasn't on the take with Hagen too. I liked that guy. It would make all Neal's machinations seem more justified if he were, and that is the White Collar way, but I'd rather have Rebecca working for Hagen under duress than Seigel.
Overall this was not my favorite episode of White Collar. The melodrama was far too contrived both in the Burke relationship and in the case itself. My logical side was placed on hold far too many times, so much that it made the show less enjoyable. I think Jill could have been a real asset, especially since Diana is on maternity leave, but they ended up going the typical ex route instead of highlighting the competent, kick butt agent she is. I wouldn't mind her becoming a recurring character but only if they use her as an asset, not a plot device. Also jealous El was way too much and for the first time I found myself wishing she had less screen time when usually I am crying for the opposite. Probably the best thing in the episode was Jones and Neal working a case together. I like how they are mixing up the pairs more this season so we get to see a wide variety of character interaction. It makes those scenes more interesting. I also love that Jones has a bigger part, even if he was relegated to the van once more. Glad he doesn't spend too much time their anymore. Last, a big shout out to Willie Garson for directing this episode. While I have problems with its writing, I enjoyed the directing.
One part teacher librarian - one part avid TV fan, Dahne is a contributing writer for SpoilerTV, where she recaps, reviews, and creates polls for Sleepy Hollow, Arrow, White Collar, Grimm, Teen Wolf, and others. She's addicted to Twitter and co-hosts the Sleepy Hollow "Headless" Podcast for Southgate Media Group and guests on ArrowCast for DVMPE. Right now she is creating a This Week in TV weekly segment for her blog and maybe others. ~ "I speak TV."