In my own little warped mind at the end of “Ancient History” when Neal (Matt Bomer) finally chose to trust his closest allies, Peter (Tim DeKay) and Mozzie (Willie Garson), to watch the old mysterious Beta-max tape with, I imagined our friends would be watching nothing but static once it started playing. After all, it is old and who knows where the tape has been? Maybe the Marshals kept it somewhere near a magnet over the past thirty years and everything on the tape has been wiped clean (think season one’s “Bad Judgement”)?
Alas, my warped mind remains my own. The tape plays. It is of a young Ellen, whose real name we now know is Kathryn Hill (Sprague Grayden), recording a video message for Neal. It was recorded just after Neal’s father, James Bennett, confessed to murder and before she entered the witness protection program along with a three-year-old Neal and his mother. On the tape, Ellen reveals a box which she says contains evidence that may prove James’ innocence. She also shows a locket around her neck, inside which holds the key to that box.
All this news is a lot to take in for Neal, who had grown up first believing his father had died a hero, then finding out that he was alive and was a dirty cop. While Neal is trying to think through this latest revelation, he and Peter make a pact – a formal handshake, no less – not to share this information with anyone else. Will Mozzie be proven right in that this is a bargain that neither can keep?
While Neal is stewing over this latest piece of the puzzle, the FBI still has a job to do and this time, it is to take down a group of hot-shot Wall Street suits suspected of large-scale insider trading. At the head of the suspect list is Eric Dunham (Victor Webster), whose acquaintance Neal made when he was Head of Acquisitions for Vincent Adler back in the day when Neal was known as Nick Halden.
This is more than just a grown-up version of “Hard Sell” in season one or a white collar version of Fight Club. To earn the right to be on the receiving end of Dunham’s tips, traders fork out twenty-five thousand dollars for the privilege of duking it out in the boxing ring with other members. Only winners get the weekly tip (so you can deduce from this why, from all the promotional photos and trailers we have seen from this episode, Neal and Peter find themselves going toe-to-toe against each other). While their take-down plan seems solid, Neal gets some news that gets him riled up and angry just moments before his match against Peter.
In some ways, it feels like the relationship between Neal and Peter has come full circle. Whilst they have certainly become more than just partners, and they trust each other with their lives, there are still a lot of things they don’t trust each other on, probably because they know each other better than they know themselves. Just as a teaser: we will see a lot more of this in the mid-season finale next week.
Now for some teasers to get you even more excited for “Gloves Off”:
• Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) does some sleuthing of her own, proving that she should be on the FBI’s payroll, and not only does she bake commutation cakes, she makes a damn good gelato, too;
• Neal Caffrey has always had a thing for hats, even as a three year-old Neal Bennett;
• The planning and rehearsals for the choreographed fight between Neal and Peter is a lot of fun;
• I think I wouldn’t mind a car that parks itself either – product placements much?
Die-hard White Collar fans don’t need me to point this out, but I will anyway: Matt Bomer does the “impulsive, angry young man” look better than anyone I know. Is Neal a little too hasty in throwing the first punch at Peter? Is Peter right in believing Neal cannot keep their pact? Oh, these suspicious minds just keep us coming back week after week, don’t they?
Just a little side note from me as a long-time fan: Neal found the music box and now he has to find the evidence box. He recovered the portrait of “A Young Girl With A Locket” and now he has to recover another locket. I really hope there is no blimp at the end of this treasure hunt.
White Collar “Gloves Off” airs Tuesday September 11, on USA Network at 9/8c.
Written by: Mark Goffman
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Guest stars: Treat Williams, Victor Webster and Sprague Grayden