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Wednesday, 30 of September of 2020

White Collar – “Wanted”

“The Suit’s here with Island Suit. It’s a double-barreled suit!”

Maya and Neal gaze at a model of the New York City skyline.

“Wait until you see my Mothra suit.”

On the carpet of his office in his penultimate season, Gregory House stared at the ceiling and considered a decision that would be snap or less than snap just a few months prior.

The issue was that House could either lie to his girlfriend or let a person die. Even to a person with romantic principles, he would seem ethically-justified to betray Cuddy’s trust. But the heart of “Office Politics” is that he is put on a decision and that he’s not really mulling these options as much as he is debating whether his relationship with Cuddy is making him a lesser doctor. It was. House was being a punk.

I bring this to your attention only because White Collar has its own romance, if a little less mushy than Huddy, that raises a question of whether the participants are better or worse for their coupling. The events of last season’s finale raises the stakes but also unabashedly pushes Peter and Neal over the edge from being merely affected by each other to being changed men.

But is it for the better? And when are these crazy kids just going to do it already?

Remember when Peter Burke was a fuddy-duddy stick in the mud? He didn’t own fine things and didn’t have the interests of a museum fan-boy nor did he lie, cheat, steal, violate Boy Scout code. Remember that it made him a really good federal agent?

Since giving Neal the okay to ditch Kramer, cut the anklet, and escape to Cape Verde with a single head shake, it seems like Peter’s decided to jump over the edge from reluctantly bending the rules each week to all out compromising his ethics. He’s lying to colleagues, using company resources to build his own off-the-books investigation, and is even implicating his friends and wife into his single-minded desire to “bring Neal back.”

But Neal doesn’t want to come back. He’s getting it, island-life style. He has his own haberdasher, the townspeople like him, and he has a gorgeous woman playing hard to get and providing a game of seduction to occupy his time. He’s also never looked better. Straight men are lucky Matt Bomer is not. If he and NPH were heterosexual, there wouldn’t be a woman left for any of us.

But it’s Peter who sounds enamored by Neal when they talk on the phone and finally see each other in person. Collins has a reputation for finding a way to capture criminals dead rather than waiting for protocol so they can be arrested (and Mekhi Phifer’s over-the-top villian-as-an-agent-of-the-season lets us know he’ll really do it) so Peter goes all the way to Cape Verde to alert his little buddy. They hug. Peter has the biggest smile. Ah, to be in Neal’s warm embrace.

But isn’t he a lesser agent for being with Neal? His focus isn’t on work, the case he’s supposed to be working is superseded by the search for the bluest eyes in the world, and he breaks rules just so he can be together with him again. Even when he was with him, Neal was a crutch. Peter closed cases all by himself before Neal came along and now, every week, he seems to have to lean on him in order to scrape by.

When is it going to be addressed by one of Peter’s superiors that his work is suffering because he’s on love leave?

The season premiere itself is not as eyeroll-inducing as others. It doesn’t immediately reconcile the cliffhanger from the previous season finale which is interesting for a show that likes to reset the pieces after quickly resolving Neal’s latest criminal betrayal. You just get the sensation that if Peter could leave well-enough alone, trust that Neal knows how to run, and try not to implicate himself in any part of that escape from justice, James and Barry would still be sipping coffee in an island breeze. I mean, Collins goes looking for Neal in person. I’m sure the island would start talking about being interrogated by the intense man that looks different in a sea of sun-kissed skin. Neal and Mozzie would’ve had a head start.

What I’m not sure about is how long this could last. We’re introduced to a number of characters and situations on this island, a setting that should be a throwaway since we know that Neal has to end up back in New York on the ankle monitor in order for everything to reset. So why do we care about the dude stealing papayas? Purely so that Neal can bring it up in front of Mitchum Huntzburger (who, by the way, is popping up in the oddest of places lately)? Why show the injustice if there isn’t much Neal or Peter can legally do about it? We spend a lot of time wooing the coffee proprietor but is she going to New York with him? I don’t understand why we meet so many people and antagonists here if this is just a temporary situation. Back-door pilot where Maya takes down the Henry Dobbs syndicate with her scooter by running down one henchman at a time? Hector would make a good Robin.

Other things:

  • Has Mekhi Phifer always been this weird in acting? I felt like he was also strangely out of place in the Psych episode this past season. I can’t pass judgement on whether it’s bad or good. Just — out of place? Maybe blue skies just doesn’t fit him all that well.
  • Neal speaks 8 languages, including conversational Swahili, but the file doesn’t seem to say that he sounds like a text-reading robot when he’s speaking them.
  • I’m pretty sure that sequence of Neal coming out of the pool is a recycled shot of Sarah Walker doing the same thing from the season 3 premiere of Chuck. It’s hard to tell who did it better.
  • How long does it take to make an adobe model of the New York City skyline that’s lit up by Christmas lights running on magic (there isn’t exactly an outlet in the middle of the beach)? Neal, even for you, this is a LONG con to get a girl into bed.
  • “It’s good to hear your voice.” “Listen to us! Gabbing like a couple of girls!”
  • Broken city of New York behind Neal during the phone call? Ugh.
  • The men on this island should not quit their day jobs to become bounty hunters. They should go back to day-drinking.
  • What an uncomfortable hug.
  • MOZZIE: “But this is highway robbery! By sea! Seaway robbery!”
  • You can’t trust him, Neal! Didn’t you see what he did to Rory?!

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