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Review #2924: White Collar 3.8: “As You Were”

Posted on the 28 July 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

Diane had her episode this year. Now it’s Jones’s turn. I’ve mentioned plenty of times how underused Jones and Diana are, but this seems like only a partial solution to that problem. Each character was given an episode this year to take a more prominent role in the case-of-the-week, but after each episode, things basically reverted back to the normal status quo.

Review #2924: White Collar 3.8: “As You Were”

It’s been said that the best way to develop a character is through that character’s relationships. With Diana and Jones, the best approach would have been to explore how each character relates to one or more of the other regulars. Unfortunately, what little development that did occur was mostly done through guest characters. With Diana, we’re introduced to her girlfriend, which I think is a good enough idea on its own, but this relationship is never mentioned outside of this episode. And the majority of Diana’s time is spent with the other guest character, Helen Anderson.

With Jones, roughly the same thing happens. We’re introduced to an old friend from his past and the girl that got away. Jones gets some cool moments in the spotlight, like the fight scene early in the episode. We learn a bit about his past, and Jones comes out of the experience feeling a little more satisfied with his life. Overall, I think it accomplished a little more than Diana’s episode did. But it still felt lacking.

Despite the A plot involving Jones, the B plot, featuring Neal, is where the real character development occurs. I could be a little bit bothered by this, but the Neal/Peter dynamic has been so neglected this season that I was glad to see it make a return. And I liked the scene with Neal and Jones sharing a drink. One of the elements that I thought worked best was how Jones and Neal both had to remind each other that they really do have it pretty damn good right where they are.

As has been made quite clear to us so far, the entire season hinges on Neal’s decision to go or stay. And I would argue that this decision hinges primarily on the strength of the development of Neal’s relationships with the other characters. Now, more than ever, the show should be building on the concept of the group as something of a family for Neal. And they need to do this by further developing his relationship with Sara, Diana, Jones, Mozzie, Elle, and most importantly with Peter. To re-iterate a point from a previous review, they’ve been laying this conflict almost entirely on the Neal/Sara relationship, when it needs to be about all the things that Neal has stated he is looking for in life.

The fall-out with Peter over the breakdown in trust could have been the perfect reason to motivate Neal to leave, but that issue was all but ignored as things were rapidly returned to normal. Neal and Peter continue on as if their partnership is as strong as ever. Naturally, Peter has to keep secret from Neal that he’s still trying to find proof that Neal is behind the art theft. And Neal has to keep secret from Peter that he’s secretly plotting to make off with the treasure. But the damage done to their relationship should have played out in the weekly investigations, at least to some degree. And it hasn’t. The very least I could have hoped for was some suspense resulting from Neal and Peter’s cloak-and-dagger conflict with each other, but there’s been almost none of that either.

Still, as annoyed as I am with both the direction and the handling of the myth-arc this season, this episode did take some good steps in the right direction. The story is still the same, but the handling showed improvement. Neal must go even further behind Peter’s back by sneaking into the Burke home to snap a picture of the sub manifest. Neal should have been doing this kind of thing more often this season; the kind of covert activities that could leave him feeling a little more conflicted about what he’s doing.

I think the episode’s strongest moment was Peter’s phone call to Neal. It effectively demonstrated what’s been sorely missing from this season. There’s been almost nothing up to this point to indicate that Peter feels bad about having to go after Neal again, and almost nothing from Neal to suggest that he feels guilty about betraying Peter. The phone call is Peter’s reminder to Neal that he still cares about him. He shows concern for Neal’s situation with Sara, but it’s obvious that he’s more worried about Neal for other reasons.

As far as cases-of-the-week go, this one was a reasonably good entry. Connecting Jones with the case was certainly a good idea, even if it didn’t succeed in developing the character as much as I’d like. And certain longer-term elements have reached something of a turning point. This season continues to be a mixed bag of good and bad ideas, executed with varying degrees of success. My hope is that the season will at least end on a strong enough note to make up for some of the season’s weaknesses, and maybe set things up for a more interesting fourth season.

Rating: 7/10

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