Entertainment Magazine

Review #3681: White Collar 4.9: “Gloves Off”

Posted on the 13 September 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

Written by Mark Goffman
Directed by Renny Harlin

This episode sure did take me by surprise. I knew that it would involve boxing, in some way, which left me a bit worried. The whole “fight club” trope is one that has suffered from heavy overuse in episodic television. So the title, “Gloves Off”, seemed appropriate enough. But the title has a secondary meaning associated with the overall direction of the storytelling. “White Collar” takes the gloves off, and the results aren’t pretty.

Review #3681: White Collar 4.9: “Gloves Off”

The episode picks up immediately where the previous episode left off: with the viewing of the old Betamax tape. We’re met immediately by the face of a younger Ellen Parker, played by Sprague Grayden. We don’t learn much that we didn’t know, or suspect, already. Neal’s father first proclaimed his innocence, and then suspiciously turned state’s evidence. The video makes things even more personal for Neal, who still isn’t sure what to believe about his father. And now, there’s a box for everyone to go after that contains all of the info Ellen dug up about the case. Younger Ellen was convinced that Neal’s father was framed.

A case-of-the-week quickly crops up, in which the White Collar team must investigate an insider trading ring. Conveniently, Neal already knows the leader of the ring, through an old cover ID. So Neal is sent undercover to help bust ‘em. The case itself isn’t extraordinary, but it works. And more importantly, it builds to a gripping conclusion that merges with the serialized story arc in a surprisingly dramatic and shocking way. Thankfully, the case-of-the-week is balanced rather well with investigation into Neal’s father, through Sam. And the boxing elements are well-utilized.

Sadly, Peter and Neal are falling back into old habits; once again keeping secrets from each other and going behind each other’s backs. I’ve ignored it up until now, but it’s been happening almost all season. My first instinct was to be annoyed. Again with this? Haven’t we moved past this? But the more I think about it, the more I think that this was the only way it could be, and the more pleased I am that the writers aren’t shying away from the consequences of Peter and Neal’s inability to fully trust each other. Once Neal learns that Peter went to Sam, leading the bad guys directly to Sam and driving him away, it’s pretty clear what’s going to happen with the fight.

Mozzie really hits it on the nail with his comment to Elizabeth regarding Neal and Peter’s handshake. “Well, clearly, they’re lying to each other… making some sort of bargain that neither of them can keep.” Neal’s rebuke of Peter is probably the most brutal moment of the entire show. But the fact is, Peter and Neal have made a lot of progress. It’s not as though they’re just back to square one. Neal desperately wanted Peter involved, but Sam wouldn’t allow it. Peter discovered this, and didn’t become angry with Neal over it. Instead, he went to Sam on his own. Peter had come to grips with the fact that Neal’s hands were tied, but wanted to help anyway.

At first, it all goes well. Sam seems to change his mind about Peter. But Peter failed to realize how high the corruption went. His attempts to help Neal end up leading the secret society of ex-LEOs right to Sam’s doorstep. Worse yet, Peter’s digging probably helped them find Ellen too. As far as Peter has been willing to go for Neal in the past, he’s still an FBI agent, which makes him a liability. Ironically, this rift between Neal and Peter may have the effect of pushing Peter even further outside the law, in order to regain Neal’s trust and friendship. It’s easy to feel that this represents a major backwards slide in the progress of Neal and Peter’s relationship, but I’m suspicious that this is just the catalyst for progressing it even further.

Of course, we all know that Peter and Neal are going to reconcile eventually. Their friendship (and perhaps father-son dynamic) is the heart and soul of the show, and probably one of its biggest selling points with its fans. I just can’t imagine that this rift between them will last very long. The show has spent too long developing their friendship and their evolving code of ethics. The theme of police corruption fits in too perfectly with Peter’s descent from upstanding FBI agent to a man willing to bend the law in order to help a friend from the other side of the law. For now, this may be the best way to keep things interesting between them, and I appreciate the darker aspects of “White Collar” that appear from time to time.

Score: 9/10

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