Early in “Neighborhood Watch,” Peter is nervous that Elizabeth is suffering from mild, residual PTSD symptoms after her kidnapping ordeal. Or, more succinctly, he thinks she’s paranoid. What else is such a practical and caring man to surmise from his frazzled wife’s claims that she heard plans for a robbery on his police scanner? What are we to think of Peter leaving his scanner on in the first place, outside of it being an odd, but convenient, way for the show to keep checking in with Elizabeth’s ordeal while putting the boys back to work?
Far as said gossipy scanner—and Peter and Elizabeth’s unfortunate back-and-forth about noisy Cobble Hill “hipsters”—it's best taken at face value. It served its purpose, and helped moved the episode, and season, forward post-Keller. Regarding Peter’s assumptions that Elizabeth is being a hypochondriac, it’s actually much worse: Not only is she absolutely correct that a robbery is going down, but their new down-the-street neighbors are the culprits, and she’s decided to pull a Neal and authorize her own rogue investigation.
Tiffani Thiessen is actually great as a catalyst for the action, and she really does play off Tim DeKay with warm charisma when given more to do than patiently dole out advice on how to deal with Neal instead of, say, getting laid. Still, it doesn’t make her character’s rash judgment and impulsive self-endangerment throughout “Watch” any less enraging, or Peter’s unlikely, ultimate approval of her interference any less at odds with his overprotective, professional ethic.
The entire last scene, in fact, seemed to happen in an awful hurry. The deck was stacked well, with True Blood werewolf hunk Joe Manganiello and one-time Sopranos undercover agent Lola Glaudini doing their best Arlington Road, happy suburban-couple imitation as Ben and Rebecca Ryan while plotting a multi-million dollar hotel heist. The dinner scene between the Ryans and Burkes was satisfyingly played mostly straightforwared for its domestic humor. And when Ben waltzed into Elizabeth’s home and immediately called her out on lying and prying, it was a juicy little moment, even if you just wanted to shake Elizabeth and tell her there’s better ways to recover from trauma than by inviting more of it.
Glaudini didn’t have a ton do here, outside of some funny bits scolding Mozzie for rummaging through her trash and feigning happy housewife when Elizabeth presents her with “locally grown, organic” snow peas from her garden. Manganiello, as on True Blood, is a real presence. He’s not always the best at delivering lines with grit and gusto (his “thought you were one of us” to Neal as the FBI closed in was meek and unconvincing), but having him around was a nice switch from the dastardly super-villains we’ve grown accustomed to since midway through season two.
We’ve also seen characters like the Ryans before, in the aforementioned Arlington Road, not to mention films ranging from Rear Window to Fright Night. On TV, and very recently, the creepy middle-class neighbors up to something mysterious served as a major red herring in Homeland, among other countless examples from the boob tube. The Ryans’ story was never meant to be as provocative as all that, but it did feel like there was more suspense to be exploited in the idea, perhaps for a two-parter. There was simply too much being juggled in the episode’s front half—continuing to get all four protagonists back on the same team (I still don't get how Elizabeth isn't more mad at Mozzie) and deal with the consequences of Elizabeth’s capture, touching on Neal’s impending commutation and, of course, getting back to White Collar square one of solving crimes and catching bad guys through various chicanery—and there's simply not enough season remaining to introduce a new permanent threat.
Speaking of chicanery, it was fun to see Neal get back in the skin of Nick Holden and go undercover, but he wasn’t actually pulling off the whole toughguy-ex-con thing with much authenticity. It’s pretty remarkable that Ben even confided in him to begin with, let alone seemed genuinely surprised and disappointed to realize Neal was working with the Feds. On the contrary, Neal was just as great in a somewhat limited capacity as Elizabeth was under her newfound spotlight. Whether waxing nostalgic with Mozzie on stakeout about Peter’s crime stories or walking Elizabeth through the process of picking illegal locks, he was more foil and jester than con man tonight. A la last week's "Upper West Side Story," it was a nice reprieve after the previous 10-plus episodes’ high drama.
It will truly be interesting to see what happens if/when Neal’s off the leash, and “Neighborhood Watch” indicated at times that it might even be pretty damn entertaining to see Neal, Mozzie, Peter and Elizabeth all working together on the same side of the law. Well, at least Neal, Peter and Elizabeth.
- In fairness to the show, much of it is filmed in locations in and around North Brooklyn and Long Island City, where they probably do get more than their fare share of sound pollution from crappy “hipster” bands.
- Neal giving Wesley his case reports was very Christina Applegate in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.
- “A lot of people chatting about saloons these days.”
- Suddenly, Peter’s getting his Hank Moody patois on: “From the looks of it, it’s all good in my hood.”
- Interesting that recent guest star Andrew McCarthy directed. Guess he’s part of the White Collar fold now, a la former guest star and episode director Tim Matheson.
- “Careful, this neighborhood is rife with tetnis.”
- “We think it was a gun.” “Or a Tony Award.” Oh, Mozz.
- Despite his jarring encouragement of Elizabeth impersonating an FBI agent at episode’s end, I loved the mid-ep scene when Peter mulled how to handle Ben’s threat toward his wife. His character is a truly good husband, and a smart, intuitive and respectful one, which I appreciate.
- Cool eye-makeup trick.
- And no, Bomer fans, just because I don’t think he sold himself as a street tough standing alongside a Herculean actor who moonlights as a fictional werewolf doesn’t mean I’m Bomer-bashing.
- I hate Quinoa.