Just as season 3 ended with a close-up on conman-on-the-run Neal’s (Matt Bomer) face expressing a myriad of emotions, White Collar season 4 opens with Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) sitting alone in Neal’s apartment looking a little lost and despondent.
In case you have been living in a cave and missed the season 3 finale, there is a reason for Peter to feel down in the dumps. His best friend, and partner, has gone on the run, and he blames himself for Neal’s sudden departure. Whether you believe he did the right thing or not, Peter now has to deal with the consequences of his nod to Neal telling him to run just as his sentence is about to be commuted. The Justice Department is not impressed and even his boss, Hughes (welcome back to James Rebhorn), can’t protect him and puts him on leave.
Worse still, Peter’s mentor, Agent Kramer (Beau Bridges) is convinced Peter knows exactly where Neal is and sends Kyle Collins (guest star Mekhi Phifer) from the Office of International Affairs to hunt Neal down. Collins has a reputation for finding needles in haystacks and gives no illusion that he cares whether he brings Neal back dead or alive.
Six weeks after leaving his home and his friends in New York, Neal and Mozzie (Willie Garson) are happily – albeit guardedly – living on their island paradise, mixing it up with and befriending the locals. Being on an island means we are guaranteed some shirtless Neal, getting a nice tan emerging from his private pool in a slow-mo shot that brings to mind Daniel Craig’s James Bond emerging from the ocean in Casino Royale. But I digress.
Neal is a hopeless romantic, and what better way to start a new life than to find a new love? Maya (guest star Mia Maestro) owns the café frequented by “James Main” and his buddy “Barry” – Neal’s and Mozzie’s new aliases. While some women may find mysterious men attractive (as if Neal needed extra help in that department), Maya pegs James’ “open book” easily as a work of fiction – men like him mean trouble. Not surprisingly, her efforts to resist him, valiant as they may be, don’t last too long, and the scene that finally wins her over is, simply put, absolutely breath-taking.
Hiding in plain sight when you’re a “regular” person is hard enough when you’re running away, but when you’re a couple of wealthy Americans living the high life in a country with no extradition treaty with the United States government, you’re bound to draw attention. Add to that, if you’re running from every US law enforcement agency, you’re going to need protection. To this end our runaway duo look to Henry Dobbs (Gregg Henry), who has the local sheriff’s department in his pocket, for help.
But how long can Neal and Mozzie hide from the Feds for? Peter is the only one who has ever managed to catch him in the past – twice – and Collins has greater access to information which may lead him to Neal’s whereabouts and right now, all roads lead to the woman who holds the key to Neal’s past – Ellen Parker (Judith Ivey).
There is so much action packed into the season opener that it has been split into a two-parter that is guaranteed to leave you hanging on the edge of your seat (again) at the end of “Wanted.” Here are some more teasers that made me laugh and cry and assure fans that the suspicion and conflict we saw between TV’s best bromance last season are long gone. Season 4 is going to be all about family, and with Peter and Neal working together side by side.
- Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) is the best wife ever: “Do you want me to kick Collins’ ass?” I bet she could, too.
- A stakeout without Caffrey is just not the same for Peter, whether he admits it or not.
- Diana (Marsha Thomason) and Jones (Sharif Atkins) are forever loyal to Peter. And they know a lot about church bells. (As an aside, it is great to see Sharif Atkins finally credited as a regular instead of “Guest Star” after three seasons!).
- Hughes protects Peter in a way Kramer never did. I am so happy he is back in charge.
- Mozzie to Neal: “You run, I run.” Happy to see all wounds are healed between these two partners-in-crime.
- Look out for the return of the “prom picture”. Its appearance made me smile.
- The reunion between Peter and Neal totally warmed my heart – relief mixed with sheer joy, and throw in a little hesitation. Perfect.
Usually, when a show is into its fourth season, the characters start to become tiresome or caricatures of their original selves; storylines become same-old, same-old and you feel like every story or joke has already been told. Thankfully, White Collar is none of those things.
Every season, creator and showrunner Jeff Eastin (who also wrote this episode), gives me more reasons to “hate” him for making me love his show, his characters (even the villains) and his actors more and more. If you follow me on twitter, (@valshopaholic) or have read my past reviews, you will know I am prone to over-analyzing these fictional characters like they are real people in my real life. Kudos to Eastin and his team of writers for giving his characters real personalities.
Having had the privilege of watching the first three episodes of season 4, I can report that “Wanted” sets an extremely high benchmark for the rest of the season. Gone are the days when the first half of the season offers up some warm fuzzies building up to a big mystery to unravel in the second half. Every episode is going to leave us begging for more.
The major mythology for this season will be around Neal’s past. As usual, there will be breadcrumbs along the way for us to pick up. So pay close attention! Some questions that we have been asking for the last three seasons will be quickly answered while new questions will be raised. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: Caffrey and Burke are back.
White Collar season 4 premieres on USA Network, July 10 at 9/8c.
Guest stars: Judith Ivey, Mekhi Phifer, Gregg Henry, Mia Maestro