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Tuesday, 17 of July of 2018

White Collar – “Where There’s a Will”

“One sentence in and I already hate this conversation.”

Agent Melissa Matthews unwittingly spills the beans to Neal.

Watch out, Neal! You're gonna get killed by beeeeees!

So Myles and I were talking last week, you know, kicking around the old peanut, and we discussed the new seasonal problem established by “On Guard.” No, that seasonal problem isn’t Hilarie Burton being raised to season regular while Sharif Atkins still guest stars. That’s just something the troubles me. No, we’re talking about the new stakes that don’t involve Kate or the music box. This thing with the Nazi treasure and Peter cottoning to being on Neal’s tail. While I think we know that this will take a while to play out, he seems a little more pessimistic than I am, referring to the arc as being “dangled” in front of us while I felt it was going to be more integral to the plot.

I can’t say for sure that’s what Myles meant because (1) I only know him through Twitter and (2) when I say we were “kicking around the old peanut,” I meant that we exchanged about three tweets. An odd number because he didn’t answer me on the last one. Academic critics: always so high and mighty in their ivory towers.

Jury’s still out on how they’re going to use this arc against us especially since we’re so early in the season but I’m winning so far. Unlike the music box and the whole Kate fiasco, Mozzie and Neal conspiring to abscond with the Nazi treasure is figuring into a pretty heavy B-story. Neal seems to actually care what happens to this artwork (unlike the Neal-bot reacting to Kate’s death and the music box mysteries for most of Season 2) and Mozzie has a new focus. Sure, this kind of just rehashing what they did with these two in Season 2.5 but it’s better because this could actually threaten the relationship between Neal and Peter. But you know all that from last week.

This week is step 2 in raising those stakes: reestablish the Peter/Neal bond to make sure we still have something to lose. How’s the best way to do that? A treasure hunt, of course!

Now, it might seem hokey that Neal and Peter go all bygones because they hunt for treasure together like a couple of disparate children in a home-spun Southern yarn. And it kind of is. But it’s nestled in the A-story of two brothers (the Masterson boys, Chris and Danny) and the last lesson their late father tries to teach them. So that makes it less obvious, right?

The Dan-Brownish hunt for clues across New York is pretty bland and full of false stakes that get explained away pretty easily: the priceless book is a fake, the kidnapped girl is perfectly safe, the countdown clock is ticking to no event despite all the “impressive” work that went into making the site. There wasn’t even much for the Masterson boys to do, their combined abilities for comic delivery underutilized. We don’t even get a big reveal as to what was left to the brothers. Not that it matters really since the point of the A-story is just to serve the S-story.

The overall story (the story above A) is about Neal and Peter coming back together again, putting aside their mutual distrust and remembering how much they respect each other. This is important to establish for our seasonal arc but also makes it a point for the show to take care of its most valuable asset: the leads’ chemistry. As Neal and Mozzie’s plans unfurl (and, inevitably, unravel), the chemsitry and bond between the characters is going to take a few punches and kicks to the groin. Not only does the bond have to be stable and endearing enough to make sure we have something to lose with Neal’s nefarious decisions but we also have to believe that it’ll sustain through the rigorous storm of subterfuge and backstabbing it’s about to endure. Expect more Neal-and-Peter-getting-along episodes while Neal and Mozzie set and reset their plans.

I explained last week that this season looked to explore the grayer side of the blue skies of White Collar. This was not an episode in that direction. Neal is successfully leading the double-life right now and Peter is able to run parallel. It’s not going to be until after everyone believes Neal and Peter are bulletproof that the real fun will begin with these guys lying to each other, violating trust, and reluctantly acting out who they think they are. For now, the B-story involving Mozzie and Neal threads comfortably without upsetting the Neal/Peter balance. Their balance is the driving force behind the “blue skies” in the show. It’ll be interesting to see when the skies will go a little overcast. Winter is coming.

Other things:

  • The new title sequence is rough. The way it was before wasn’t amazing but it was fine: little rock diddy with images of Neal and Peter. Good enough. But this new thing, with the fake, sterile “gallery” and freeze frame portraits of the cast regulars is too much like Covert Affairs for my taste, which means it makes me want to vomit all over the place. In other words: I hate it.
  • Someone tell me why Hilarie Burton has a picture in that gallery from Wolfenstein 3-D and Sharif Atkins doesn’t? Jones has been there every step of the way for over two seasons. Sara No-Chemistry is hardly around after two episodes of being a series regular. I call shenanigans.
  • Peter’s reaction to Elizabeth asking if he wants to go play with Neal: adorable.
  • I’ll be really upset if the escape plan stuff gets relegated to the coda of every episode like the music box did. This can be a strong story. Don’t mess it up. I hate it when smarmy Myles is right. With his glasses and his know-it-all Canadian accent. No! YOU don’t know what you’re talkin’ a-boot!
  • With all the wiring, installation, and internet security involved, do you think Treasure Cam is worth it? I mean, wouldn’t the FBI track what Neal does on the interwebs?
  • “Hey. Does this look like a compass rose?” “I think it looks like real estate fraud.” “I think so, too.” “Yeah.”
  • Anna Chlumsky has come a long way since My Girl. She’s all growns up. Also, she spent all of five minutes of screen time with Neal and she still has more chemistry with him than Sara does. Just like everyone else. Elizabeth. Alex. Satchmo. Everyone.
  • “I like the idea of stars.”
  • “What? You wanna come and give it a go, Bob Villa?”
  • Chris Gates is nowhere near as good as Nick Halden. That’s a shame.

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