Contributor: Gregg Wright
This episode of “White Collar” addressed at least one of my concerns, and did so fairly successfully. I’ve long lamented the under-usage of Jones and Diana. Jones has been in every episode of the show, and Diana returned near the end of the first season and was essentially a series regular from that point on. So for that reason, I was pleased to see Diana taking such an active and central role in this episode’s storyline, where she has to go undercover to protect a crusading magazine journalist. The episode also cleverly utilized Marsha Thomason’s native English accent (Manchester, to be specific). The end result is another relatively enjoyable episode that attempted to give everyone a chance to shine.
To me it does feel that “White Collar” has lost some of its charm and entertainment-value, though I’d have a difficult time figuring out how or where the decline began to occur. At this point it’s just a vague impression, that the show just isn’t quite what it used to be. It doesn’t seem as witty or funny, and the individual stories seem less fresh and interesting. Even the previous episode, which had several moments of inspired humor, still felt slightly sub-par overall. I seem to remember there being more character development in every episode in the previous seasons. This is all quite subjective, of course. And it may very well be that I’m projecting my dissatisfaction with the myth-arc onto every other aspect of the show.
Getting back to this episode, the basic plot revolves around a cover-up of the recall of a dangerous drug, which apparently still poses a threat to the public at large. A journalist is getting too close to the truth, so the FBI is brought in to protect her and figure out what’s going on. The only problem is that the journalist, Helen Anderson, thinks she doesn’t need protection. Luckily, an opportunity opens up for Diana to go undercover as Helen’s new assistant.
From there, much of the episode deals with Diana’s attempts to satisfy her overbearing boss while trying to remain close enough to protect her. It’s entertaining enough, but the best part comes when Diana has to enlist the help of her friends in order to get a series of tasks completed in time for her to accompany Helen on her meeting with a source. Neal and Mozzie are, quite appropriately, given the task of crafting a secure lock. Elizabeth gets to organize a big birthday party for Helen’s son, for which she chooses the “cowboys in space” theme. (Jones gets a couple of surprisingly funny lines at the birthday party. It’s still not much, but it’s more than what they usually do with Jones.) In another funny moment, Peter uses his FBI authority to requisition a very specific birthday present for the boy.
The myth-arc portions yielded some interesting developments. I still think that this season is a major step-down in that department, but there’s the potential for damage control here. I think what I liked the most was how Peter managed to get the better of Neal. As I’ve said before, I like this concept of Peter learning to think more like a con, thanks to Neal’s influence, which lead Neal to underestimate him. I also like the little touches that show how much Neal likes his job. When Mozzie offers him a drink in the evening, Neal declines, stating that “some of us have work in the morning”. Of course, he may have been partially joking, but I thought he was being somewhat serious. One day Neal is going to finally realize that going to work in the FBi’s white collar division with Peter was the best thing that ever happened to him.
A brief note about Sara Ellis: I mentioned last season that I thought it unlikely that a regular would remain paired with Neal for very long. I’ve liked Sara well enough up to this point, but now it seems like her only purpose on the show is to be “the girlfriend”, which is never a good sign. As I said before, it’s hard to imagine Neal holding any post-Kate relationship together long-term.
I feel roughly the same way about this episode as I did the last one. The central case is decent, and results in some fun moments, but offers almost nothing in the way of character development. The myth-arc material has some interesting moments, but still doesn’t rank very well against the myth-arc material from the past two seasons. So far, the season continues to feel just slightly underwhelming, but is still well worth watching for now.