Entertainment Magazine

Review #3247: White Collar 3.12: “Upper West Side Story”

Posted on the 26 January 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

The previous episode was all myth-arc, so it’s not surprising that this one is more of a bread-and-butter type episode with a primary emphasis on the stand-alone case and the larger story elements taking more of a background role. Despite the fact that the myth-arc elements tend to provide the long-term hook for me, I can certainly enjoy a well-crafted procedural episode. “Veiled Threat” (which shares a writer with this episode) was one of the more entertaining stand-alone episodes this season, and “Upper West Side Story” has a similar sense of fun and humor to it.

Review #3247: White Collar 3.12: “Upper West Side Story”

The basic premise involves a young prep school student named Evan Leary coming to Peter and Neal for help in dealing with a corrupt school board member named Andy Woods (played by the recognizable Dylan Baker) who is funneling money out of the school’s endowment fund for his own purposes. As it happens, Woods’ daughter (Chloe), who Evan has a massive crush on (a fact that does not go unnoticed by Neal) goes to the school as well. It’s a premise with potential, and the writers successfully wring a lot of humor out of it.

Having Peter or Neal go undercover is an easy method of making an episode of “White Collar” more interesting, so it probably helps things that both of them end up going undercover here. Peter once again slips into his role as a man of wealth, and Neal starts out as his assistant. It isn’t long before Neal finds himself subbing for a poetry class that both Evan and Chloe attend. This is, of course, perfect fodder for humor. Naturally, Neal would be able to recite romantic poetry on command.

Much of the humor of the episode is derived from Neal’s attempts to deflect Chloe’s interests and re-direct them toward Evan; a task that is significantly more difficult for Neal than the average human, for obvious reasons. I liked that it was just a given for Neal that Evan need to “get the girl”. To him, it seems as important as taking Woods down. And I loved that Mozzie eventually gets in on the action as well. He admits that he needs to distract himself from Peter’s impending decision, and I’m sure that that’s part of it, but he does seem to enjoy the fun and romanticism of it about as much as Neal does.

This episode isn’t all stand-alone, of course. The worry over what Peter will say at the hearing colors everyone’s behavior and provides some much-needed context for the episode. This episode couldn’t just be dropped into any slot in the season. Neal has just been given a sign that he might achieve freedom soon, and what Peter says at the hearing could have the potential to completely destroy all of this for Neal. And Mozzie isn’t safe either. So Neal spend much of the episode trying to prove to Neal that he’s an asset, which ultimately results in Peter deciding to let Keller’s confession stand.

I’m expecting much more significant advancements of the overall story arcs in future episodes, but this had just enough to keep the episode from being disposable, and had one of the better cases-of-the-week that I’ve seen this season. I still think that we’re going to need some bigger surprises in the myth-arch material in the lead-up to the finale, but I feel better about the regular procedural episodes when they reach this level of quality, without totally dispensing with the myth-arc material, as some past episodes have done.

Rating: 8/10

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