White Collar: “Digging Deeper”
B+

White Collar: “Digging Deeper”

B+

White Collar

"Digging Deeper" 

Season 5, Episode 8

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Outside of the useful insight about stained-glass windows, let’s just consider last week’s episode an anomaly and disregard most of its contrivances. That’s especially easy to do when White Collar returns to what it does so well in “Digging Deeper” (apart from allusive titles): raising the tent of an episode on two thematic poles—in this instance, something’s inherent virtue versus its market value, and the inevitable collision of people and circumstance—and camping out inside with a cache of clever twists, gentle barbs, instantly recognizable guest stars (hello, Zeljko Ivanek), memorable male fashion and thickets of duplicity. And tonight, that roll call included a welcome return of some potent animal magnetism, particularly after all the Peter/Elizabeth melodrama these past few weeks. 

When Rebecca locked Neal’s front door and the two pounced on each other like pumas, tearing at clothing and getting off on each other’s sexy-smarts, it was the quickest pulse White Collar’s felt since Neal and Sarah first made with the intercourse. Given that her acquiescence came moments after Neal confessed to his criminal past, it seems likely that Mozz is correct and Rebecca’s got some skeletons in the closet.

Speaking of fossilized remains, Peter and Neal are tasked with busting a slimy corporate raider named Brett Forsythe (Ivanek, not really the Brett Forsythe-looking type) who literally keeps the bones of dead creatures, in addition to B.C.-dated weaponry, in a secret office cove. Forsythe, a dinosaur enthusiast and generally insatiable collector of all things black market, has hired a thief named Michael Holt to snag a shipment containing an ancient T. Rex skull and the un-hatched egg of her stillborn kin. Only hitch is, Forsythe has no idea that the historic carnivore embryo landed in FBI jurisdiction somewhere around the Canadian border. 

It’s an absurd but imaginative little ruse that gives us several opportunities to snicker at Peter while he gawks geekily at the thought of unearthing museum treasures, not to mention a back and forth between he and Forsythe about the veracity of Jurassic Park’s Velociraptors. Tim DeKay and Ivanek make great foils—the latter maintaining an almost workmanlike veneer about his hobby as Peter transforms into Ross Geller before our very eyes. The setup also precipitates one of Collar’s first jazzed-up restoration sequences in some time, as Neal and Mozzie fabricate the egg (complete with hidden GPS inside), Neal in his requisite forgery wife beater. Granted, James Brown’s “Superbad” was a cliché choice for the soundtrack, but as always, their handiwork was worth a Peter Burke jaw-drop or two.

The subsequent strategy of sending Neal in, armed with fake in-utero dino, as Holt’s partner to complete the transaction with Forsythe was sound, except for one nagging detail that went un-addressed: What if Forsythe had recognized Neal as one of the janitorial crew from the day before? Odds are against it, and Neal made himself expertly small as Forsythe closed up shop, but still: Isn’t that a risk the FBI would vet before sending their man in to complete this impossible mission?

Although, none of the guys in the van could have foreseen was that Forsythe would unsheathe an enormous CAT Scan machine to essentially perform an ultrasound on Neal’s phony fossil. It’s mildly surprising that neither Peter nor Jones conceded that their perp’s gizmo was pretty neat, but it probably paled in comparison to the millions-year-old reward waiting just past Forsythe’s capture. Nonetheless, quite the toy for an acquisitions CEO, a fun little set-piece for the show, and something David Cronenberg surely could have employed with sadistic satisfaction in Dead Ringers.

Naturally, the Bureau got their target and led Forsythe off in cuffs, although it’s a shame that Ivanek wasn’t scripted some snarky parting words or more than a bemused expression. Not that a rant against the tyranny of meddling agents was in order, but something befitting his Emmy-winning stature. 

One actor probably not procuring any statuettes for his contributions to White Collar is Mark Sheppard, who finally re-emerges as Curtis Hagen, sneering accent and low-key menace in tow. It’s too bad Ivanek wasn’t cast as the Dutchman, but he was likely too busy booking arcs in every other significant cable drama at the time. But it appears Hagen will remain appropriately shadowy. In “Deeper,” he’s primarily there to give Neal a reality check that honesty in his romantic affairs can’t undo other looming deceptions. And, also, to insinuate that he’ll do bodily harm to poor June. What would Byron do?

There’s real tension to be had in where Mosconi’s stained glass leads, what Rebecca’s really after, Peter’s incisive suspicions about Neal and where the chips fall when all is revealed about Hagen and how all these different threads connect. The instinct to give Elizabeth more to do was the right one, but the execution was labored and results lukewarm. Now that all that business is extinct, it’s time for Season 5 to fully evolve. 

Stray observations:

  • For a buzzed-about restaurant, you can sure get a table for two at the Clifton awfully fast.
  • “Casting call: foxy paleontologist with a thing for Paul Simon.”
  • Nice optimization of Mozz in this episode.
  • Add John McDowell to the list of Neal’s aliases. No relation to former Met prankster Roger.
  • Anyone else thinking of the Governor’s Walking Dead heads when they revealed Forsythe’s secret room?
  • Neal has a Carrie Mathison-esque "jeopardizing himself and the stakeout" quality at times.
  • That was St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo, Brooklyn, flanking Peter and Neal in their BMW. Cool venue. Also, BMW BMW BMW.
  • Nice suggestive touch with the POV shot of Peter and Neal from inside the T. Rex’s vice of a mouth.
  • I didn’t get on anything on “Cooper 3?” when I Googled either.
  • Neal, if you know Peter’s instincts are always dead on…. Blarg, how much tighter can one’s rope get?!
  • Mosconi probably just liked Masonic temples because they and his surname are nearly anagrams of each other.
  • Velociraptor debate, or interpersonal metaphor?
  • A Paleolithic pooper scooper. Ya don’t say.
Filed Under: TV, White Collar

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