White Collar: Choose a Side, Neal!

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My initial thought, on screening the summer finale of White Collar [USA Network, Tuesdays 9/8C] was this: from the moment Mozzie let him know he’d stolen the Nazi treasure [from the season two finale] Neal Caffrey has to have known this moment was coming.

In order to help Neal [Matt Bomer] evade Keller [Ross McCall], last week, Mozzie [Willie Garson] sold a lost Degas worth six million dollars and that has come back to bite him and Neal on the butt. Peter [Tim DeKay] has brought the head Art Crimes, Agent Kramer [Beau Bridges] in from DC to help find the Degas – and he has brought along the lovely Agent Matthews [Anna Chlumsky], whom Neal told he was an Interpol agent. Uh-oh!

Now, with all kinds of pressure on them, Mozzie gives Neal an ultimatum – in forty-eight hours, he’s taking the treasure and absconding – with or without Neal. Now it’s time for push to become shove and Neal has to choose his great life helping Peter take down the smartest white collar crooks in America, or join Mozzie on a secluded tropical island.

Choose a side, Neal!

This week’s con involves an arms dealer who conducts transactions using valuable works of art [less bulky and awkward than cash]. The complications? Keller’s still in town and managing to evade all the folks attempting to collect on that six-million dollar bounty and, by the way, Kramer and Peter are using the arms dealer con to prove Neal has the treasure.

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As these things go, this week’s double-edged con is great fun to watch, but as usual, none of it matters if we don’t continue to learn about our characters. In Countdown, we learn more about Peter’s past [including how he got a nickname, The Archaeologist] and a revelation from Neal that may not be entirely out of left field but is important, nonetheless.

Without a doubt, this is the most suspenseful episode of White Collar’s third season, to date. You can practically cut the tension with a knife. The core cast is its usual brilliant self, while Bridges and Chlumsky fold beautifully into the story. McCall does his usual [we can say that now, because he’s been around for more than a couple episodes] coldly amazing job as Keller.

And if you thought shooting Mozzie made for a tension packed summer cliffhanger, last season, wait ‘til you get a load of this one! [Let’s just say that there’s a really good chance that it won’t be a criminal collecting that bounty…]

Countdown was written by series creator Jeff Eastin, from a story by Eastin and Channing Powell. John Kretchmer directed. Kudos, all.

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Photos by David Giesbrecht/courtesy USA Network