We know by now that White Collar is superlative at delivering a season’s bookends. What happens between the wickets has been less consistent. To wit, “Most Wanted,” which is ostensibly part two of last week’s premiere, “Wanted.” In that context, tonight’s episode is a serviceable, if not as suspenseful, conclusion to Peter and Collins’ adversarial manhunts for Neal. The only snag is that White Collar’s pretty committed to serving its bigger ongoing story. Namely, will our designer hat-adoring con man ever truly have his freedom, and can he and Peter exist without mistrust and suspicion? And while the uncertainty of Neal’s return to New York didn’t require being drawn out over the entire summer, “Most Wanted” put a bow on that chapter rather abruptly, ultimately offering diminishing returns on months of buildup just to open it.
In the process, a lot happened in a very short span of time, and you have to wonder if Collar producers fought for “Wanted” and “Most Wanted” to be condensed into one expanded premiere. Or, for that matter, if they simply maxed out their budget to shoot on location in Puerto Rico. Alas, that’s all sparkling Cape Verde waves under the bridge, and Neal and Mozzie’s archipelago paradise is in the show’s rear view.
Maya said it best when she reacted to the boys’ hairbrained, “just-so-crazy-it-might-work” escape plans by observing that it “sounds incredibly intricate.” Even if her comment is half intended as a fourth-wall wink, it doesn’t make the scheme—which is the episode’s centerpiece—any less inscrutable. Essentially, it turns out Dobbs is actually Robert McLeish, aka number four on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, and hiding away in Verde much like Neal. So, naturally, once Peter and Mozzie break their pal out of Dobbs and Collins’ capture, Peter strikes a deal with his bosses to swap McLeish’s arrest for Neal’s safe return home. After that, it’s mere logistics: Infiltrate Dobbs’ house party, trick local law officials into thinking Dobbs is making away with their money, create a false rendering of an open safe to authenticate the cash-grab, and then reason with Collins to go along with their plan and come away the hero.
Thankfully, despite otherwise demonstrating himself to be a borderline psychopath who shot Neal in the leg and put a bounty on his head, Collins was super on-board. As for Peter and Neal, life’s apparently too short for justifiable grudges, and they all but wished Collins a safe trip and happy trails. Nothing about that climactic transaction between the unlikely trio felt very natural. That could have to do with Mekhi Phifer once again playing his character like the T-1000 in Terminator 2, or the sheer implausibility of these three making nice given their brief but contentious history.
Another challenge in tying up so many loose ends is shoehorning loose strands of exposition in without taking viewers out of the moment. An entire scene of transitional dialogue was wasted on Neal and Ellen parting ways yet again (and her managing to explain away that June couldn’t bear renting his old pad to anyone else, to boot), and did we really need Peter and Mozzie to recap exactly how and when Neal was supposed to meet up with them that morning? Between the actual scenes from last week and our own deductive reasoning, we can capably put events into sequence.
It’s easy to nitpick, and as has been emphasized often in these reviews, White Collar isn’t any fun if you’re expecting 44 bulletproof minutes of prestige TV. Still, during its qualitative ebbs, those otherwise minor distractions become impossible not to focus on. Of course the doctor removing Neal’s bullet is smoking hot, but given that she arrived on-screen just after Neal nearly dismantled an iron jail cell while bound and gagged, there was an air of theatrical absurdity.
“Most Wanted” wasn’t a terrible hour of television. Mozzie had some great one-liners (“Why did you just defile a nursery rhyme?”) and still lurks around the edges of things in a not entirely Kosher way. And there is some reassurance in seeing Neal back behind his desk, and great potential in the repercussions of Peter being booted out of the department for his shenanigans in Cape Verde.
This time, it’s Neal’s turn to rescue his BFF. And if the speedy resolution of all that overseas drama was meant to safely land in a place where new viewers could comfortably drop in and not feel overwhelmed, then “Most Wanted,” along with “Wanted,” did its duty. It was, however, a slight letdown for longtime audiences after such a promising seasonal bow.
- McLeish sounds more like a fast-food option for canines than a villainous surname, but I guess that’s why he changed it to Dobbs.
- At least there’s consequences for somebody besides Dobbs/McLeish by episode’s end.
- I think I’ve made comparisons between this show and Sherlock before, but a lot of times, Caffrey strikes me as a less idiosyncratic parallel to Benedict Cumberbatch’s take on Holmes.
- I don’t believe Peter learned such expert cocktail skills under that duress, although I enjoyed the reference to his baseball days.
- Peter needs to stop leering whenever Neal’s making out.
- A fake and bake? C’mon now.
- Ah, the shattered martini glass was an omen for the shattered ship. Cheeky bastards.