Tonight’s episode finally satisfied a number of growing viewer concerns and curiosities surrounding White Collar. Despite Sara’s (Hilarie Burton) absence during last week’s “Where There’s a Will,” Neal’s love interest gets a sizeable share of screen time throughout “Deadline,” and we get at least three scenes that demonstrate the pair’s chemistry together. Fan favorite Agent Jones (Sharif Atkins), meanwhile, was given plenty to do in both comedic and more procedural capacities, even showing a flare for the punning arts (although, “She puts the hell in “Helen” is neither especially funny nor precise).
But it’s badass Agent Diana Barrigan (Marsha Thomason) who’s front and center for the entire hour. Not only is her previously enigmatic doctor girlfriend Christie finally introduced on-camera (played by the almost ludicrously attractive Israeli model Moran Atias), but we’re even allowed inside the high-powered couple’s swanky NYC home for a dinner date with Neal and Sara. Oh, and yes, they share a couple of smooches. And while I realize there’s been much fanboy/girl fantasizing about Agent Barrigan and the mysterious Christie, I think we’re all more than mature enough to handle some PG girl-on-girl kissing at this point in cable history. No?
The real drama involved Diana going undercover as the assistant to Anna Wintour-esque magazine editor Helen Anderson (Jayne Atkinson, familiar to 24 fans as Karen Hayes). Anderson’s life is in danger because of her investigation into a corrupt pharmaceutical company named Prager & Vaughn, who are trying to cover up the recall of anti-infection medication Zybax. The plot allows for some fun exhibition between the two women, as Thomason—a native of Manchester, UK—must adopt her indigenous accent for scenes with Atkinson, who is also English, but here plays an American publishing executive with a soft spot for all things across the pond.
Watching Diana clean wheatgrass stains out of Chanel and call in the FBI’s resources to run Anderson’s errands are fun moments, but Anderson herself is a hugely problematic role player. For one, she doesn’t add much of anything to the existing stereotype of a pitbull boss, but moreover—and is the case with nearly all pop-culture sketches of journalists—her character is a mess of un-researched contradictions. I’ve worked in several newsrooms, and understand staffs have dwindled, but I’ve rarely known a publication whose top-ranking editor also doubles as its ground-level investigative reporter. Nor have I encountered many tenacious field journalists covering humane issues who also happen to be egomaniacs broadly devoid of compassion or conflict. It’s as if, when Anderson was conceived, the entire Washington Post masthead circa All the President’s Men assumed the body of Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada. (The height of this absurdity inarguably arrives when, after Diana saves Helen's life and goes back to the FBI, Helen offers her the assistant job back with an absolutely straight face.) The saving grace amidst all this cartoonishness is Diana, who gets to be smart, funny, sexy and kick some serious ass, especially when holding a gun to Helen’s assailant, turning to her former boss and snapping, “Damn right, I’m overqualified.” Pam Grier, eat your heart out.
Since we're on the subject of possession, one running gag I loved in "Deadline" was the second-half’s preponderance of Ghost references, thanks to Neal and Sara uncovering that Diana and Christie met during an ill-fated pottery class as they polish off Neal’s famous non-pasteurized risotto (don't ask). Those kinds of references, particularly in White Collar, can be a bit too cute, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh out loud when Neal slid a penny up the side of his desk while taunting Diana with quotes from the movie.
Neal, Mozzie and Peter took something of a backseat for the most part this week (ditto for Elizabeth, who was awkwardly shoehorned into one scene). Diana was even flying solo during the climactic bust at Prager & Vaughn’s offices. But as has been the case all season long, their Spy vs. Spy game over the Nazi U-Boat’s art manifest—which is in Peter’s hands—and its invaluable haul of riches—safe with Neal and Mozzie—continues to seep further into the episodic fabric. And I loved the little eyebrow Peter raised Neal’s way at episode’s end after his counterpart discovered the manifest had slipped his grasp and made it to the art crimes unit in D.C. Shit is on, and it’s about to get good, even if much of tonight’s narrative padding was just that.
• Ah, so Helen “wrote that killer expose on big oil.” Ah, yes, you didn’t read that one? With the oil and the story and the thing?
• I was willing to overlook it, but wasn’t it a bit risky for Diana to break her accent in the office at all, whatsoever? It’s like her character broke character.
• I get what you guys mean now about the new opening credits. That ending “created by” title for Jeff Eastin is very Scrubs-y.
• I’ve said this before, but dear god do they wardrobe Sara in some awful fashions.
• For the record, no matter the setting or who’s conducting the tete a tete , I’ve never been, nor ever heard of anyone being, verbally lacerated in a job interview like that. Nothing about her character made any sense. Too strong a character to just flit in and out of an episode without more background.
• The splitting of the paper stock was VERY cool.
• Deep Throat. We get it.
• Oh, and there actually is a company called Zybax Pharmaceuticals. Weird.
• What, no Chlumsky? Darn this rotating wheel of female supporting cast.