What makes WHITE COLLARmore than just a standard cops-and-robbers show is the relationship between our two leads. So as you watch this summer finale, consider some of the ingredients that have made this one of the summer’s “must-see” – friendship, trust, faith, loyalty, dreams and happy endings.
“Countdown” opens with a somewhat familiar scene (symbols on the ground in a park, a newspaper, secret phrase involving a bird – Mozzie and Peter’s meeting in Season 2 premiere, anyone?) with Mozzie arriving for a meeting. We quickly find out it is Neal trying to smooth things out with his first mentor and partner-in-crime. Neal admits he has been torn between running and staying – he has made a life in New York and is no longer sure the dream he once shared with Mozzie is really what he still wants. (Has Neal come to the realization that the island-living dream was never his but has been Mozzie’s since the two partnered together to pull the long con on Vincent Adler?)
Peter trusts Neal when it comes to matters of life and death – he desperately wants to find proof that Neal has nothing to do with the missing U-boat treasure but he also knows his judgement may be clouded by his close friendship with the conman. So he brings in someone he trusts for an outside perspective – his old mentor and friend, Agent Kramer (played by the always dependable Beau Bridges), who happens to be the head of the FBI’s Art Crimes Division in D.C. Neal is immediately cautious and tries hard to hide his nervousness when he first meets Kramer – after all, this is the man who taught the man who caught him twice before his “federal work release program”. You can almost hear the gears grinding inside Neal’s head plotting how he is going to get out of this jam! Beneath that cool façade, could Neal be sweating buckets?
We knew that Peter sent a copy of the U-boat manifest to Kramer via his off-sider, Agent Matthews (played by the now-grown-up Anna Chlumsky from “My Girl” reprising her role that was introduced in “Where There’s A Will”), so it was only a matter of time before DC Art Crimes pays New York a visit. With Mozzie selling the Degas last week, it was inevitable that the FBI would now be all over this painting like a rash to prove that the treasure did not burn in the warehouse at the pier and would jump at their best chance of catching the thieves. Very quickly, the urgency for Neal to make a choice is accelerated. The once-loyal sidekick, Mozzie, makes his intentions clear and Neal is being given an ultimatum by the man who taught him all the tricks of his trade.
And on the subject of friends and mentors, Peter gets some sage advice from his – Kramer has been there, done that, and he knows his former probie well enough to know that Peter needs to distance himself from his prime suspect to protect himself. As he wisely said, “you’re not slapping cuffs on a criminal; you’re taking down a friend – it hurts”. I don’t know about you but I wanted to give Peter a hug when I saw this clip because he knows that what Kramer is saying is true. After spending so much time taking that leap of faith Elizabeth is always talking about – that Neal would do “the right thing” – he (and we) just might have to accept that Neal will always be a con.
Ever since the unveiling of the new FBI interrogation room, every scene that takes place there makes me very nervous. In what must be the most cruel and unusual punishment, Kramer and Peter pose a hypothetical scenario to Neal and effectively forces him to help them catch himself.
Meanwhile, DC Art Crimes (hello Agent Matthews!) believe they have found the Degas so Peter and Diana go undercover to find it while Neal gets to spend some quality time with Kramer in the van. I’m pretty sure Neal had more fun in his prison cell than at that moment alone with the man who has no reason or inclination to go easy on him. Everything Kramer says to Neal is said to get a reaction from him. While Neal considers Peter’s mentor as the devil on his shoulder, Peter tells Neal that Kramer is there to remind him of his job – that is to catch the thieves responsible for the missing treasure.
As if trying to get ahead of the FBI isn’t enough to keep Neal busy, his nemesis, Matthew Keller (in a recurring role played by the delicious Ross McCall) makes an unwelcome, but not unexpected, return. Keller knows Neal and Mozzie have the U-boat treasure and continues to be on the run from the FBI. Undeterred by the hefty bounty put on his head by Mozzie, our six million dollar man is not going to give up until he has the treasure.
With Fed and crim hot on Neal’s heels, a plan is quickly hatched for Neal to get the Degas back before Peter does. By now, fans know that when we see Neal wearing a muscle shirt and chewing on a tooth-pick, he is forging something – I’ll let you guess what. The clock (or a version of one) is ticking and there is not a moment to waste. We’ve all seen the promo clip when Neal abseils off the building but the best part about that scene for me is the moments before that.
To say much more about the last 10 minutes of the episode would be to give away too much. So here are some of my favourite moments that you can look forward to:
- The “prom” picture from “Dentist of Detroit” will make an appearance
- We find out Peter’s nickname when he was a probie and it’s not “Burke the Jerk”.
- I love the walk-and-talk scenes on WHITE COLLAR – let’s chat about mentors
- Neal: “Must be nice to have someone believe in you.” Peter: “I never gave him a reason not to.” Ouch! That’s got to hurt, Neal!
- Elevator rides can be a bitch
- Diana goes undercover – yes, she does love guns
- Ross McCall makes eating fruit look dangerous…and sexy
- Mozzie in disguise with a deadly weapon
- Neal jumping off a building – even more awesome than swashbuckling Neal in “Point Blank”
- Given the writers’ penchant for naming characters after people they know personally or as homage to their favorite characters, I am going to go out on a limb and say Agent Kramer has something to do with DeKay’s turn as Bizarro Jerry on Seinfeld (if I’m wrong, well, you won’t tell anyone, right?)
- Jon Ehrlich’s original music continues to shine through every episode. I want to bottle it up and use it as mood music like one would wear a mood ring
- Tim DeKay can act with every muscle on his face – every look Peter gives to Neal is like shooting daggers
- A secret is only a secret if you are the only one who knows it
- Mozzie and Neal quote Orson Wells
Now for a couple of things that bugged me, although I am prepared to overlook them because the awesomeness of the rest of the show outweighs these minor down sides:
- Why does Peter always have to yell out at the suspects from such a distance, giving them plenty of opportunity to do a runner?
- Why doesn’t the FBI put a tail on Mozzie? He can be slippery but Peter knows Mozzie is the one who often does the dirty work when Neal can’t do it.
Season 3 has caused quite a stir in the WHITE COLLAR fandom from the start. The tension has been building up over the past few weeks in the lead-up to this summer finale and I assure you “Countdown” is no exception. I have laughed, cried and yelled at my TV screen on more than one occasion since Peter and Elizabeth renewed their wedding vows in “Veiled Threat”.
For anyone questioning how Neal and Peter could come back from the strains we’ve witnessed so far, all I can say is to trust Eastin and his team (yes, I am a big fan). I believe any relationship that can survive the challenges thrown at Neal and Peter can only become stronger and better – and how boring and one-dimensional would the characters be if it was all fun and no conflict anyway?
As far as cliff-hangers go, WHITE COLLAR has never disappointed. This one made me want to scream and cry and, well, have a long drink. My recommendation for Tuesday night is to grab a drink and settle in for one hell of a ride. Oh and maybe have a medic handy just in case.
P.S. Suggestions for drinking games? Take a shot every time Peter flashes his badge, someone says “Keller” or “Degas” and when you see Neal in the muscle shirt– just because.