Wednesday, February 2, 2011

White Collar - 2.11 - Forging Bonds - Recap

We open to Peter finding a picture of Neal with Vincent Adler. Cut to Neal's apartment that night where Neal is working on a Monet-like painting when Peter drops by. Peter questions him about it, but painting clears Neal's head. He isn't excited to see Peter. Peter confronts Neal about Adler and Neal says "he's the man who made me who I am today," raising the stakes. Peter accuses Neal of holding out, but Neal needs to "reconcile the Adler I knew with the man responsible for…" Obviously Neal is struggling with the new info, but Peter's excited about catching Adler. He even bought beer (Neal: "I'm not much of a beer drinker.") for himself and cheap wine for Neal. Again, Neal's not thrilled. "Wow! I don't even need a corkscrew." Bwah! Peter wants to know everything Neal knows about Adler but Neal won't implicate himself in past crimes. "A few secrets are good Peter. It keeps the mystery alive." Peter offers full immunity on anything Neal says before sunrise, provided he didn't kill anyone. Neal shows Peter the fractal Mozzie made out of bendy straws. (The music box code contained directions to build it.) He admits seeing similar ones in Adler's office. Peter asks about how Neal met Adler. "If you want to know about Adler, we've got to start with Mozzie." Peter: "Why am I not surprised?" And we're off….

New York City, 8 years ago - Neal arrives with disheveled hair in an untucked shirt and jeans. Matt Bomer must have loved this episode. Willie Garson however is probably glad to have it behind him. Enter Mozzie in a toupee and goatee, running a card scam with a partner. Neal agrees to play Find the Lady (find the queen as a hustler shifts 3 cards around). I play this at Cardinals games except you find the digital ball under the digital hat. Never knew it was a con too. Neal wagers $50 but Mozzie jeers him into $500. I smell a reverse con here. Neal is excited and nervous, nothing like the suave criminal we are used to. Aw, it's Nathan, Garson's real-life son, as the kid watching the con. Neal walks off with $1,000 by picking the right card, only to have Mozzie and partner realize he switched the cards. He played them. Mozzie pays Nathan to follow Neal, saying Nathan is in his training program. Ha! Neal's apartment is decent for someone new to New York. Probably a con there too. Mozzie knocks on the door but Neal won't give him his money back. Moz says, "Aw, keep it," puzzling both Neal and I. "What's your angle?" Neal asks as he opens the door. Mozzie compliments him on the sleight-of-hand and says he's looking for an "upgrade" in partners. Back in the present, Peter smirks at Mozzie's toupee. Neal explains that Mozzie was a con artist in Detroit since he was a kid. Peter's not shocked but wonders how this ties to Adler.

Neal trusted Mozzie enough that day to show him the bonds he forged. Mozzie's amazed by the quality and wants Neal to join him in a long con, "which, if executed properly would enable us to purchase and retire on neighboring temperate zone islands in a mere 6 months." That's some con! For Neal it sounds too good to be true. "I just got to this city and I'm too young to retire." He asks who the mark is and Peter surmises that it was Adler. It was the first time Neal heard of Adler, but it was the first time Peter heard of Neal too, which peaks Neal's curiosity. "We've got plenty of beer and (motions to the wine glass) this, so tell me." I'm amused that Neal, the wine snob, doesn't pour it out for the good stuff we all know he has. Neal's ego makes him think his case was a big deal; however, Peter's desk mate passed on it. By the way, Peter sports that hideous moustache we saw in the Need to Know episode. Peter was really impressed by the forged bonds. "I think this guy has a future." In the present, Neal wants to know his FBI nickname. It has to be ego-stroking because Peter doesn't want to tell him so Neal resorts to blackmail. "The sooner you remember, the sooner we can move on." Peter sighs, "James Bonds." They make bad 007 jokes and Peter tries to deflate Neal by saying, "You weren't that good." Flash back to Peter and Elizabeth moving into their new home. "This guy's good." Elizabeth enters with puppy Satchmo. Aww, I'm not into pets but he's adorable. Elizabeth asks about Neal and Peter explains that he is an expert at all three things needed to forge a bond - seal, signature, and security strip - whereas most forgers only do one. "The man who forged this bond is capable of bigger things. He can do it all." Elizabeth: "Well, so can you." Elizabeth scores bonus points by convincing Peter to shave the moustache. "Sorry, Magnum. I still love you." And we all love you Elizabeth for getting rid of that hideous thing.

Neal correctly states that Elizabeth named Satchmo because she likes old jazz, not Peter. "Know thy enemy" Peter surmises. "Know thyself and you will win a thousand battles." Neal finishes the quote Sun Tzu. Peter cries Mozzie's influence but Neal claims to be a student of history. You'd have to be to run the cons Neal does. Back in the past, Moz and Neal scope out Adler. Mozzie is less than impressed by Neal's research skills. He quotes Sun Tzu to Neal, proving Peter right, and exposits the long con. They need Adler's personal Cayman account number and password to divert the money he puts in. Not sure how this allows them to buy 2 islands but it's a nice payday for anyone. Neal thinks he's to break into Adler's office and steal the information but Adler is too smart to leave that info lying around. Mozzie wants Neal to get Adler to voluntarily give them the information. Neal says that's impossible. Mozzie: "A wise man once said, 'It's fun to do the impossible." Neal guesses Bertrand Russell, but it was Walt Disney. Mozzie PSA's, "You should read more." Hey! Maybe Mozzie can start a literacy campaign. I love how Mozzie is mentor in the beginning. It's a fun take on a somewhat clueless Neal. Still I'm glad it's more equal now.

They have 5 months for this con but Neal questions why Mozzie doesn't do it. Um, Neal, seen yourself lately? Moz agrees. He needs Neal to charm Adler at a charity dinner, except it costs $5,000 to get in. Mozzie suggests Neal sells some more forged bonds. For Peter this was a big mistake but Neal calls it "a calculated risk, but it was worth it for the con we were about to run on Adler." The FBI got their first visual of Neal when he cashed in the bonds, but Neal counters that Peter screwed up too. At the bank, Neal shows Mozzie the money and the sucker the teller gave him. Mozzie: "The irony of that would not be lost on Alanis Morisette." Bwah! I love Mozzie. They overhear Peter talking to the bank manager and Neal can't resist going over. He compliments Peter about the job he's doing and gives him the sucker. Pretty bold, Neal. Moz is unhappy but Neal now knows Peter's name and to stop forging bonds. Meanwhile, Mozzie pours cheap wine in an expensive bottle for Neal to give Adler at the party. I flash back to the pilot. Neal chooses the alias Nicholas Halden from a legal services flyer. You can be anyone and you choose an ambulance-chasing lawyer. Urgh! To complete the con, Mozzie "borrowed" a suit from the dry cleaners to Neal's protest. "I don't know if I'm a suit guy." "Ah, you'll be fine." Great play off what we know. In all, a great scene.

At the party, Neal looks very young and out-of-place. He's quite different from present-day Neal. Good acting. He introduces himself, compliments Adler, and talks business. Unfortunately, Adler's not interested so Neal chases him down with art, only to get stopped by Adler's assistant, Kate Moreau. Part of the reason I was so excited for this episode was to understand why Neal was besotted with Kate. In all honesty, she looks far too young for this position. She's beautiful but she looks like she should be in college. At first I thought she was running a scam too but it was just the plot contrivance anvil landing on my head. Anyway, Neal is mesmerized and impresses Kate with his knowledge of Raphael. Kate says he needs to get closer to Adler on the seating chart and waves to her boyfriend, dismissing Neal. Switching name plates, Neal passes Adler insider info about his competitors and quickly becomes part of Adler acquisitions team with a gift for information.

Neal flirts with Kate, asking her out, but she's moving to Chicago with her boyfriend within of the month. Chemistry exudes between them but not enough to risk jail for her. In Adler's office, Neal first sees a fractal while updating Adler on a corporate spy Neal falsely lures in. What do you know? It's Alex. Adler plays with her like a cat with its prey before pouncing, which makes Neal uncomfortable. Andrew McCarthy is chilling here. I don't get the scene though because I thought Alex and Neal were together and that's why she didn't like Kate. If Neal turned her in, shouldn't they be enemies? Anyway, Adler gives Neal a bonus for turning Alex in and lets Neal convince him to put the money back into the company as a show of loyalty. He's slippery, using Neal's best ploys against him. I can see how Neal picked up con man pointers here. Neal didn't know Adler was conning them all. I'm less impressed with Mozzie's information here. Shouldn't there be a rumor or something? As Neal leaves the office, he's distracted by Kate and her boyfriend, not realizing Alex is behind him. Neal won't apologize but a drink leads to sex at his place. Apparently, getting busted is a turn on for Alex. In bed, Alex calls Neal on his con and exposits the music box. Yikes! Everything's being crammed into this episode. Neal says that Alex had been chasing the music box for years…so since she was 12. Alex is more age-appropriate for Neal but she's hardly ancient. She heard a rumor that the music box was in Denmark. Are they going to tell us what sparked Alex's quest? She leaves behind a yellow origami flower and says she'll be in touch. What! That's it! That's the whole story of Neal and Alex? No way. I call do-over.

Mozzie knows Neal is distracted by Kate - still don't get why - as Neal takes a sick day to pout over Kate leaving. Then, what do you know? Kate shows up at his door wanting to be with him. Sick day over; relationship commences and things look good for Neal. He even drinks wine with corks. Neal wants "to make the lie real." Unfortunately, he's out of time and Mozzie gives him a reality check on Kate, Adler, and the FBI. Peter has a sketch of Neal so Moz suggests they finish the job and move on. At Adler's, Neal gets fitted for a $10,000 suit. Adler: "Some people say dress for the job you want. I say dress as the man you want to be. Nick, men like you and I, we have an obligation to assault the commonplace every chance we get from the clothes we wear to the art we collect to the women in our lives." It's a philosophy Neal wants to embrace. Adler asks about Kate and cryptically says, "often times, the things we try to hide are the most obvious to the people around us." It sounds ominous to me but Neal uses it to ask for Adler's password to check a glitch in the Cayman account. Adler gives him the password and tells him not to sell himself short. However, he sees a sketch of himself in the paper Adler's reading. He needs to work double time.

Neal kleptos Adler's hat and goes for a walk with Kate. She wants him to stay but he needs to get to the bank for the con. He's torn. "I just feel like you and me and all this, I don't know. I feel like I could blink and it would all be gone." Kate kisses him. "You just blinked. I'm still here." Neal: "Then nothing else matters." Awww! He misses the bank drop and denies getting the password. Mozzie blames Kate. He warns Neal that she will break his heart, but Neal earnestly refutes it. You can feel the upcoming crash. Mozzie quotes St. Augustine, which Neal now gets. "You've been reading." Neal: "A smart guy told me to." Why do I believe Mozzie and Neal's friendship more than Kate and Neal's love? Speaking of, Kate and Neal are in his bed, having a cute discussion of who gets the sheet. Kate of course wins and Neal does a naked happy dance for the neighbors. It's silly, authentic and exactly what 2 college kids in love would do. For the first time, I believe their passion. Unfortunately, breaking news interrupts them. Adler conned them all and fled in the night. Kate and Neal are stunned. So is Peter as he sees the same news. Hey! It's Jones. Jones wants to join Peter's new white collar task force, since he discovered the Dutchman first. Nice tie-in, writers. He notices the sucker Neal gave Peter a year ago and understands why he still has it.

There's only $1 in Adler's account; the password was an anagram for Nice Try Neal. Kate and Neal are broke, but he reassures her that they will get that whole life back. Great! One con life coming right up. He tells Kate the truth but we don't see her reaction. I feel jipped. Neal schools Kate on con life. Disappointing, since I wanted Kate running a con on Adler herself. To run manuscript cons, they impersonate the police, which seems dangerous, with Mozzie as the third man. Score one for Kate since she tells Mozzie he looks better without the toupee. Mozzie beams. Neal and Kate celebrate by pretending to be in France. Neal wants to go to Europe, ostensibly to flee Peter's pursuit, but Kate's a smart girl. She realizes she's being conned. Neal really wants to help Alex get the music box in Copenhagen. Kate calls him on lying and the sad strings of the music box play as Neal tries to convince Kate it's for their future. Neal leaves but the heist fails. Alex is hospitalized and the French police suspect Neal of stealing the box. When Neal gets back, Kate is gone. He runs bigger cons to get her attention, but she stays hidden.

At the FBI, the Peter's new task force is stumped. Neal keeps changing passports and avoiding their traps. Both Jones and Diana are there. She suggests they stake out Kate, as the FBI knows where Kate is even if Neal does not. They set a trap. Mozzie joins Neal, who is planning a Burmese ruby heist, the subject of next week's episode. Very clever! Mozzie is glum and Neal asks if his pigeon Estelle died. Ha! I find that very funny for some reason. It just fits Mozzie's paranoia. Mozzie says he has highly unreliable information and Neal surmises it's about Kate. Mozzie warns him it's a trap but Neal has to see her anyway. Mozzie cautions Neal to be careful. Kate is indeed at the storage place hiding a forged Raphael; coincidentally Neal stole a Raphael to get her attention. Kate is strangely stoic and flat faced, making me think she's part of the FBI trap. Neal tries to woo her. "I missed you. I lied to you about a lot of things, Kate, but I never lied about loving you." Kate believes him and says she loves him too. They kiss and she asks how he found her. They realize together that it is a sting. FBI break the door in and Neal tells Kate it will be okay. Neal and Peter greet each other as Peter declares he's under arrest. Neal: "I know. Thank you. I never would have found her without you." He shakes Peter's hand. There's no criminal quite like Neal Caffrey. Neal questions how they fit in the van and Jones quips, "It doesn't smell too good either." Bwah! Good continuity. Neal takes one last longing look at Kate as he is hauled away. Dramatic music plays as Peter finally eats the sucker.

As the sun rises, Peter and Neal brainstorm about Adler and the fractal. Peter is stumped about what the fractal means and says Neal's holding out on him. An origami bird sits on Neal's table made of yesterday's receipt - Alex. She thinks it's a fractal antennae; the shape corresponds to an emergency beacon of a boat or plane from the 40's. If they build it, they can track it. Peter questions that any treasure is worth killing 2 people over. Neal: "It's worth it to Adler." Their new mission - find the boat or plane before Adler does.

I thought this episode was good but my expectations were far too high. I loved the progression of the characters and the visual gags of toupees and facial hair were hilarious. Neal's growth from typical college wear to stylish charmer was believable. After all, he wasn't born a con artist. My concerns come mostly from the pacing. It started off quick but steady until about halfway through. Then they threw in everyone and everything they could think of. I think it was a mistake to go all the way through Neal's arrest and to toss in Alex as a side note. They could easily have added more flashback episodes later, giving us the time to absorb the relationships. This rush made it hard to believe that Alex cared for Neal and negated her role in the first season for me. However, the biggest fallout was Kate. Without enough time for us to get to know her or see Neal and her together, the biggest mystery to me by far is still why Neal risked jail and let himself get caught a second time in order to be with her. I think summing up 8 years in 43 minutes hurt the episode instead of helped it. They are already renewed for a new season. What was the rush?

Next week - Burmese rubies and an imprisoned American. Classic White Collar. Should be good times ahead.

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