Previously: Neal figured out his kidnapper was auditioning for the Pink Panthers and ended up auditioning himself, Elizabeth announced that she was pregnant, and Neal angled for an ironclad contract to exchange the Pink Panthers for his freedom but Mozzie pointed out that the FBI hasn't been trustworthy before.
In the house of soon-to-be baby bliss, Peter noisily tries to fix the garbage disposal way too early in the morning for El, who reminds him that the baby won't need it. Peter's way too gung ho and pulls the whole thing out, leaving El and the audience to wonder how much a new one will cost. Peter, however, has faith. "Oh I'll fix this. Yeah, you watch. This baby will puree a small Chevy by the time I'm done with it." Ha! They kiss but are interrupted by Neal bringing Peter his daily coffee. El reminds him not to spill their secret yet and surprisingly they don't, even when Neal clearly doesn't buy El leaving her dream job to stay in NYC. He also mocks Peter's home repairs. Neal: "Leave this guy alone for 2 seconds, he goes all Home Depot on here." Ha! He's my dad now that he's retired. Neal and Peter head to the FBI office together, discussing Neal's proposal. Peter's talking to a higher up but that's not enough after Neal was screwed by them last time. He had Mozzie draw up an extensive contract. Peter: "Ehm, it certainly seems…uh…" Neal: "I think comprehensive is the word you're looking for." Peter: "I was going to go with abusive." Bwah! Neal's serious. He won't go an inch further until that contract's signed and he'll sue if the Feds try to weasel out again. Peter: "Oh I can assure you the FBI has no interest in a scenario that ends with a cross-examination by Mozzie." Ha! Maybe not, but that's a scenario I would love to see. Still, Peter's worried as the Pink Panthers (still shaking my head at that name) are not to be trifled with and getting caught means Neal's death. I wonder why it's different than any other person Neal's double crossed for the Feds. Adler sure wasn't averse to putting a few holes in him. However Neal's too focused on his freedom to care. It's that kind of tunnel vision that will ensure Neal's success and perhaps get him run over by the train.
Minus one anklet, Neal heads off to meet with Woodford. He gets frisked by a professional guard with no sense of style. He actually tosses that beautiful fedora on the ground. How dare he! Neal retrieves it with his typical wrist snap flare only to be stopped in his tracks by…Keller. Woo hoo! Neal's jaw drops as I clap. I know some hate Keller and I don't blame them, but I think he's the best villain Neal has gone against. It was personal between them and Keller makes a great foil for Neal - the thug to Neal's class. Both of them are smart. Still its Keller's ruthlessness that really sets them apart. Neal's right to be worried because this should be the end of him. Instead Keller compliments him "You're aging like one of your fine wines, Neal. Time, it's mellowed you. Taken the edge off." Huh? Neal and I are both wary but I so want Keller to be the Big Bad this season. Their history makes their antagonism far more compelling than the random Woodford. Speaking of, he joins the conversation and tells Neal that Keller talked him up. Yeah, he wants something. Woodford on the other hand wants Neal to steal a stamp, making Neal less than excited. Neal: "What's your bigger game? You gonna take down the postal service?" Woodford doesn't appreciate snark as much as I do. He proceeds to exposit the job and butcher the name Bianca to my ever increasing annoyance. In short Bianca Esteverena, a black-market auctioneer, is selling the stamp at a private party and Neal's to steal it. Meanwhile Peter meets with DC Fed Honcho David to discuss Neal's contract. They meet for coffee and proceed to discuss Neal (including his full name) going undercover for the Feds with the world's most notorious criminal gang in front of any number of customers. There is NO Cone of Silence, people. Talk in private! Really the only reason for this scene is to convince us Peter has as much to lose with this case as Neal has to gain. If it goes south under his watch, he'll be fired. No pressure. Peter: "Well I've never been one to duck and cover when the ground starts shaking." Game on.
All is going swimmingly except for that little Keller problem. Neal tells Peter that Keller is back in play and Peter goes ballistic. Given the fact that Keller once kidnapped El, I don't blame him. Peter: "No case, no case is important enough to let a psychopathic kidnapper run free. I have a lot to protect." He goes to call off the investigation, but Neal stops him. "I will get you Keller. I will. I will hand him to you on a silver platter when we take down the Panthers together." For Neal, it's all about his freedom but Peter wants to protect El and the baby. It's a great, intense scene and Peter eventually capitulates. He puts 4 guards on El and Neal goes home to celebrate with Mozzie. Moz: "Neal you've already been playing in the big leagues, but this…" They are interrupted by Keller himself, as I wonder why June has such shoddy security. Anyone and their cousin comes in whenever they want to. Did she suddenly lose her fortune? Keller: "Yeah, I'm up to the plate, Neal's in the batter's box, but you, Mozzie, you're stuck in the nosebleeds. Maybe if you're lucky I'll buy you a bag of peanuts. Now scram. Caffrey and I've got a lot to discuss." I seriously side eye Keller for putting Mozzie down and Moz looks ready to protest but Neal says it's okay. Once Moz leaves, Neal attempts to con Keller about his current situation with the Feds but Keller isn’t buying it. What I don't get is how the Pink Panthers don't already know. Do none of the criminals Neal's put away talk about it? Bah! Keller offers a truce. "I appreciate your work, Neal. I always have. I know you respect mine." Neal: "Respect isn't the word I'd choose." Me either. Still they need each other so they shake on it. It's a chilling alliance, like FDR reaching out to Stalin. You just know it's going to backfire badly.
The next morning, Peter and Neal discuss the stamp heist as Peter geeks out over memories of stamp collecting with his father. They were hardcore and it's absolutely adorable. Peter: "You know you have to admit the stamp is a pretty exhilarating mission." Neal: "I don't think exhilarating and stamp have ever been used in such quick succession." Bwah! Have to agree with Neal here. Peter: "You laugh but I still have my membership card to the American Philatelic Society." Neal: "I hope you realize how lucky you are to have ever kissed a human female." I can't express how much fun this entire scene is. I love their bromance, but back to the exposition. Jones informs us that the Treskilling Yellow stamp was a misprint and worth about $2.3 million. Peter: "None of my stamps were worth more than 60 cents." Bwah! Diana: "I wish any of my mistakes were that valuable." Jones continues the info dump about Bianca Esteverena's Nazi looter grandpa. Jones: "It seems as if Grandpa Esteverena taught his granddaughter the ropes of the business because now she's the Sotheby's of the black market." She's also security conscious so no one gets into the auction without her meeting and vetting them first. Smart plan. Luckily one of those she's meeting is camera shy. Jones: "Put it this way. There are more photos of Bigfoot than there are of him." No idea how an international playboy avoids paparazzi, but okay. He also happens to be roughly Neal's build. Hmmm. They decide to detain him at JFK so Neal can take the meeting.
Luckily a far more interesting meeting also takes place - Moz and El. I love these two. While they unpack dishes, Moz protests El turning down the National Gallery. Moz: "Don't get me wrong. I'm elated that my friend and drinking partner has returned to the New York metropolitan area, but you had the opportunity of a lifetime." Elizabeth: "Moz, you were only interested in scoping out the art that I was responsible for." Mozzie: "I can neither confirm nor deny this baseless yet intriguing allegation." Bwah! He notices El is not drinking and figures out she's pregnant. He's elated for them and El swears him to silence. Mozzie reminds her that he delivered Diana's baby. Here's hoping that's not what happens this time. Fun over - it's time for business. Neal tries to charm Bianca but no dice. She was supposed to meet with his father. Uh oh. They don't have time to bring someone in so Jones suggests Peter play the part. Peter: "I can't do it. I'm not old enough to play Neal's father." Jones: "Yeah well neither am I. I mean plus call me crazy but the African-American thing might be a tipoff. Look, come on. You can pull this off. I mean you've acted like Neal's dad for years." Peter: "More like his slightly older, much wiser brother." Jones: "Oh whatever you need to tell yourself." Ha! Still I see Peter more like Neal's older brother than dad too. Despite Peter's protesting, they don't have a choice so he joins the meeting. Neal wears the same look at seeing Dapper Dad Peter as he did with Fat Charlie. I laugh. Peter sends Neal off and proceeds to save the day by playing on Bianca's past. He talks about not really knowing his son and regretting the past. He asks if she thinks there's still time and she falls hook, line, and sinker. Her father left when she was 5 so she encourages him to make it right. Yep, that's two real invites for one fake sob story. Well played, Peter. He informs an impressed Neal. "The student is now the master." Peter: "No, the master's still the master." I'm going to miss these two.
Back at Neal's, Mozzie puzzles over Keller's cooperation. It is fishy and he calls Neal on it. No way Keller trusts an informant, past or present. Neal counters that Mozzie trusts him. Moz: "I made an exception. Access to your wine collection was well worth the betrayal of my principles." Ever the lush, Mozzie always makes me smile. Neal: "Look sometimes people like Keller get so desperate for the thing they want that they don't notice the ground shifting beneath their feet." Moz: "Yeah, people like Keller." Very perceptive because Neal is currently just as focused as he accuses Keller of being. He wants freedom so badly there is nothing else he's seeing. It's a one-way ticket to trouble. Over at the Burke residence, El creates a proper bow tie for Peter while he demonstrates the now functioning garbage disposal. Very handy, Peter! Kudos! He has 27 other projects to do but El tells him to slow down. There's plenty of time. They canoodle and talk of the future before Neal barges in, calling them mom and dad. El thinks Peter spilled but nope. Peter: "Neal had to pretend to play my son for the current case, which awkwardly makes you his mother." El: "Hmm, well I'm very proud to have a son like you." Neal: "Well a kid couldn't ask for a cooler mom." El: "Aww, now I can ask you to take out the trash, right?" Peter: "Yeah and I've got some chores you can help me with." Neal: "Oh I would love to but unfortunately I have a black market auction to disrupt." Nice ducking of chores there, Neal. You just might be their kid. Bianca texts the location and they have just enough time to get there. Neal: "This is why I keep asking the FBI for jet packs." Peter chuckles but warns, "Remember we're flying blind so nothing happens without my say so." Neal: "Father knows best." Aww.
Arriving at the auction, Neal and Peter are frisked by 2 male models. Neal: "Where'd she get these guys? Abercrombie and Fitch." No kidding. They're hardly intimidating. Bianca greets Peter and ignores Neal, reminding me of Melissa in Vital Signs. Neal is visibly perturbed as I laugh and Peter preens. Peter: "I'm starting to think she doesn't like you." Neal: "Well maybe I should go wait in the car, Pops." Nope, it's business time so they discuss their strategy to steal the stamp IN A CROWDED ROOM!!! Seriously people, I deal with this enough in genre shows. This is ridiculous! It's all for naught anyway because the stamp is in plain view, protected by an ultra high tech security system created by professional thieves to insure it can't be hacked. Peter: "You're angry they didn't ask you?" Neal: "They did. I was in prison." Poor Neal, prison interfering with a lucrative job. Neal goes to Plan B, which they talk about in front of others AGAIN but even louder. (Facepalm and head shake.) Plan B is to set off the alarms by the way. Peter: "I need you to focus. You're taking this whole Southern California slacker thing a little too much to heart." Neal: "Whoa dad, take it easy man." Bwah, I would love to see Matt Bomer as a surfer dude. Next job maybe? Neal interrupts the auction to antagonize a pretentious snot so Peter can start a fight and set the alarm off for a different item. Meanwhile Neal uses an hors d'oeuvre fork to keep the cage open long enough to steal the stamp and plant the box on Bianca. The security goons do a skimpy pat down of Neal and he then has them search Bianca. They find the stamp box so apparently everyone can go. Really? That makes zero sense. Wouldn't they search until they found the actual stamp? I'm not hiring this company to protect my millions of dollars in merchandise. As they all leave, Neal shows Peter the stamp in his collar, while people walk past them. Yep, I can't eye roll enough in this scene. Good thing everything else is stellar.
The next day it's all bad news for Neal. First, Jones tells him that Keller is officially still doing time in a Russian jail as confirmed by both the warden and captain. If the Panthers are Keller's benefactor, they are more connected than Neal thought. And they should know Neal works for the Feds. Just saying. Second, international law says Neal can't bring the stamp to the Panthers since the Swedish government is claiming it. Peter has no choice but to end the operation. Neal goes ballistic. Peter: "I'm trying to protect you." Neal: "I don't need you to protect me. I can protect myself." Peter: "Is your freedom worth dying for?" Neal: "It might be." Neal's not quite as out-of-control as he was in Point Blank, one of my favorite episodes, but he's not so far from it either. Peter: "I gave you my word. I will get you your freedom." Neal: "Your word? I'll get my freedom myself when I take down the Panthers." He storms out and decides to forge the stamp, which is insane. Moz: "You're not presenting a knockoff Remington to some leather-faced dingbat on Key West. This is the Panthers." Neal hopes Keller will corroborate his forgery so yeah, insane. Luckily he and Mozzie brainstorm Keller's benefactor and Neal figures it out. When he takes the stamp to the Panthers and Keller examines it, he sees the word Interpol painted minutely on it. Keller confirms because to do anything less would be suicide. Stupid plan turns smart. Neal's very fortunate. Woodford's impressed, especially since he expected Neal to get caught while they checked out the security response. Nice. No honor among thieves. Neal: "You wanted me to fail." Woodford: "And yet here you are." He asks Neal about his partner but Neal says he was just a collaborator with no knowledge of the Panthers. That peaks Keller's interest.
As Neal and Keller exit the building, Neal explains that he knew about Interpol because Keller constantly itches his arm where a tracker was implanted. Neal: "Didn't you once call me a rat for being a CI for the Bureau." Keller: "A rat will gnaw through its own leg if it's in a trap, Caffrey. I'm less desperate, more enterprising." Um, I'm not sure about that. Keller: "You know what they call this?" Neal: "The worst welcome I've had on the water in years." Ha! Keller: "Mutually assured destruction. Your collaborator, try convincing me it wasn't Peter Burke. Yeah, so you've got something on me. I've got something on you." Neal: "Yeah it's almost romantic." Keller: "Until one of us lobs a bomb and the other responds with the apocalypse." This is why I love Keller. He'll take everyone down and there's no love lost between these two. Keller plans to give the fake stamp to Interpol so they're both covered. Just like Neal, if he takes down the Panthers, Interpol gives him his freedom. Still it's a mistake to underestimate either. My bet is they both have bigger fish frying. At the Burke house, Peter is floored and impressed. They banter about Keller but the important thing is the FBI signed Neal's contract. It's official. Peter wants to celebrate but Neal demurs. "Oh no, no, no, no. You are the one who taught me that it's bad luck to do a victory dance before you cross the victory line." Peter insists: "No, this is actually to celebrate a certain paternal capacity that has recently come to light." Neal: "Okay you're taking this role playing thing way too far, Mr. Dietrich." Peter: "El's pregnant." Neal congratulates him, they hug, and the entire White Collar fandom happy sighs. Neal: "Based on the 24 hours you were my dad, I'm pretty damn sure that kid just won the parent lottery." Another heartfelt sigh. It's great to see Peter and Neal celebrate here. Generally the odds are stacked against them.
After a good premiere, this last season of White Collar has gotten even stronger. The re-introduction of Keller is a masterful stroke. He was one of the best villains Neal ever faced, mostly because he was the thug version of him. Their history and his jealousy make him the perfect candidate for the Big Bad of the last season. Strange that he's currently poised as an ally, although I doubt that will remain true for the rest of the season. While this progressed the overall mytharc pretty well, the episode was at its best in the smaller moments rather than the scenes this time. I love how Mozzie is convinced that Neal is as blinded as he accuses Keller of being and his scene with El was fantastic as always. Speaking of, El straightening Peter's tie and trying to get Peter to slow down on the to-do list was perfection as well. Mostly though the moments between Peter and Neal were the highlights. Both times when they argued over how to handle the case were intense. It shows that Neal is just as desperate as Moz thinks he is. He is willing to do anything for his freedom, which puts me in mind of when he was going after Fowler to avenge Kate's death. That Neal was unraveled and out of control. I can see him just under the polished surface Neal is trying to portray now. I, for one, hope he comes out again because a Neal that is not in control and not so suave is always fascinating to watch.
Best Reason to Watch - good forward plot movement
Best Scene - Neal gets his contract and Peter tells him that he and El are having a baby
Best Return - Keller, one of my favorite bad guys on this show and a great foil for Neal
Best Plan - Neal has Mozzie write up an ironclad contract for the FBI to sign
Best Reaction - Neal to seeing Keller / Neal to seeing Peter play his dad
Most Intense Scene - Peter and Neal debate pulling the plug after learning that Keller is involved
Funniest Moment - Neal does his best surfer dude impression
Best Aww Moment - Peter and Neal hug over the baby news
Best Reference - Leave it to Beaver
Best Con - Peter using her past against Bianca to get the invite
Best Twist - Keller is working for Interpol
Most Gleeful about Doing Chores - Peter, who takes handy man to-do lists to a whole new contentment level
The "Are You Kidding Me?" Award - It's bad enough when genre shows do it but Neal and Peter talking about setting off the alarm in a crowd of people is beyond eye roll worthy. Then Neal shows Peter the hidden stamp while people are walking by. Heavy sigh.
The "Hey Watch It Buddy" Award - The Pink Panther guard has no respect for the hat. Shame on him!
Biggest Goosebumps - Neal shakes hands with Keller and the con is on, likely with high stakes for both
Worst Secret Keeper - Elizabeth, although to be honest it was Mozzie digging
Best Trick - Neal hides the word Interpol in the stamp so Keller corroborates his story
Screencaps by Screencapped.net