White Collar: "One Last Stakeout"
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White Collar: "One Last Stakeout"

C+

White Collar

"One Last Stakeout"

Season 5, Episode 3

Up till now, Neal’s unwillingness to draw a line between his criminal past and law-abiding future had limited repercussions, namely he and Mozzie’s freedom and Peter’s good name. But now, Caffrey’s inability to stand up to Hagen, consequences be damned, has cost an innocent museum employee her career and one enterprising young bureau agent his life. 

All signs pointed toward the latter development. The sudden, sympathetic insight into Siegel’s life story as an independently wealthy society man who broke free from the elite and began putting them behind bars screamed impending martyrdom. In fact, many of you had been predicting an eminent demise for Neal’s fair-haired handler. And maybe killing him in cold blood is what’s best for White Collar business, even if it’s yet another instance of the show dangling a provocative twist in the Peter/Neal dynamic only to reel it in just as quick. After all, Siegel’s slaying could force our guilt-ridden protagonist into a kind of Caffrey’s choice: Refuse to do the Dutchman’s bidding, essentially calling his bluff, or find some way to re-incarcerate him without besmirching Peter’s innocence in Senator Pratt’s murder.

Neal’s in a pickle to be sure, but it’s hard not to feel sour about most of his choices during “One Last Stakeout.” Hagen, played with relentless Bond-villain emoting by Mark Sheppard, hardly seems like Neal and Mozz’s most intimidating foe, but he’s got Caffrey all out of step. Or maybe he’s just rusty after all this time on the right side of justice. What else to explain leaving his fingerprints on the Gershon Museum’s (not a real museum) gated security door, a careless seduction of museum-staffer Rebecca (who could easily be mistaken for a svelte Christina Hendricks btw) and flustered wriggling out of multiple close calls with a helicoptering Peter and alert Siegel? The fact that he still manages successful deception only serves to undermine his colleagues’ credibility, making it awfully hard to find the tension in Neal’s duress.  

Even Mozz is off his game. Not in the, “Who’d have thunk a pregnant Diana would follow me back to my underground refugee shelter-cum-wine-bar?” kind of way, but more of the “Whoopsie, I underestimated another con man’s wiliness at evading institutional security and nearly got Neal arrested” variety. In an episode already stretching credulity, it was an inexplicable oversight. Unless, of course, Mozz had grown weary of Neal’s willingness to put him in increasingly precarious situations, even after Diana made him for black-market antiques fencing. We’ve established that Mozz and Neal’s mutual trust is priceless to them both, and all that keeps them grounded in their otherwise heady pursuits, but at what point does Mozzie say, “Hey man, I don’t mind being slavishly devoted to your maddening dream of civility, but can you at least come with me to the bar and be my wingman once in a while?”

This is what happens when Neal is desperate, so maybe it’s best to unpin his back from the wall. That could explain Siegel’s shooting as a catalyst for Caffrey creating space between he and the predatory Hagen. The only question is where things head from there. Jones—as many readers also correctly observed—has been promoted, and will no doubt stop at nothing to solve the first homicide of one of his men. That kind of inter-department intrigue is almost Dexter-esue, but White Collar isn’t about a standoffish forensics nerd doing his best to go unnoticed. Neal, despite the limitations of his ankle monitor, wants to blend in with his friends and colleagues while remaining above suspicion. Mozz, meanwhile, will continue to feel the walls closing in once the dots get connected. Will he remain loyal to Neal, and were tonight’s series of close calls just a way of planting seeds of discontent—albeit sown with kid gloves—between the capering duo? And when does Peter finally choose between Neal and Elizabeth?

Kidding aside, there was a fair share of humor in “Stakeout,” despite its grim conclusion. The bantering between Neal and Siegel about dubious hair styles and “ironic eyewear” didn’t exactly crackle, nor was Neal’s riff on Mozzie’s MacGyver-esque disguise particularly clever. But it sure was nice to watch the ease of Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay’s interplay as they were briefly back on the case together again unspooling the Gershon art heist (also, Neal can simply instruct his superior, Siegel, that he’s not needed at the scene?). Neal’s genuine disbelief when Peter scuffs the museum floor with his shoes is a welcome return to simpler times, not to mention wholly believable given Neal’s demonstrated delicacy on his toes.

If only our well-intentioned fashionable FBI consultant were as considered with how he balanced his obligations to good and evil. Siegel might be alive, poor Rebecca could carry on her passion for geeking out over rare historical texts, Peter wouldn’t be needlessly beating himself up for botching the titular stakeout, and ever-patient Elizabeth would be getting a lot more love and affection from her preoccupied hubby. Let’s just hope he doesn’t soon join Johnny Death among the ranks of Mozzie’s enemies list.

Stray observations:

  • Maybe the episode was too busy, but it really felt like the actual target of Hagen and Neal’s thievery—the Moscone Codex or whatever it was dubbed as—didn’t get appropriately romanticized.
  • As a former resident of Greenpoint for nearly a decade, I’d like to say that the only eyewear I’ve ever sported is prescription and non-recreational.
  • Where do I know Zev from?
  • I like “idea-napper.” I’ll have to steal that.
  • Man, two minutes sure goes by real fast in a sporty Ford.
  • Wait, it took Neal that long to deduce it wasn’t about the value of the book but rather the info in its pages? Man, he really is askew.
  • Rebecca was ridiculous, but I kind of loved her.
  • Glad Peter at least made passing mention of the quality time well spent with his wife at the game. What is Elizabeth’s role at this point?
  • Man, Peter really just ate that dressing down from Neal. I don’t get their relationship.
  • Really, the museum workers can’t even check the book under those circumstances?
  • “Yep, Neal’s right, why bother being thorough and checking all the doors.” —Peter, suddenly swapped once again for randomly less authoritative Peter.
  • Despite all the new construction and rezoning throughout NYC, this show continues to find amazing locations, like the warehouse where Siegel met his fate.
  • Speaking of Siegel, he’d been so neutralized as a real threat to Neal by episode’s end that he may as well have been put down, but the blood stain could have at least been more badass.