White Collar: "Out Of The Frying Pan"
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White Collar: "Out Of The Frying Pan"

B+

White Collar

"Out Of The Frying Pan"

Season 5, Episode 2

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When Neal says he has a feeling that abetting Curtis Hagen’s release isn’t the end of his devil’s bargains, but “just the beginning,” it’s a purposeful metaphor for an episode that propelled Season 5 out of its predecessor’s shadow. Diana may be willing to grant Mozzie a temporary reprieve for his misdeeds while she recovers from giving birth, but as Peter demands and she instinctively understands, Teddy Winters isn’t in the clear just yet. New White Collar supervisor David Siegel (a surprisingly welcome presence in Warren Kole) is bummed he lost this first case, but as the unsolved cons pile up, his intuition about Neal’s duplicity will grow in confidence. And as for Peter, who is in many ways the heart and soul of this show, he’s ostensibly handling Neal at arm’s length while keeping a closer eye on the temperament of his other agents. 

The most literal fresh start, of course, comes in the form of baby Theo Berrigan. The second Diana obliged Neal by waiting one more day for an unauthorized recon at Teddy’s warehouse, you knew two things were about to go down: Diana to the waterfront crime scene in question, and that wailing newborn the rest of the way to daylight. Contriving both events to overlap, with the added flourish of Mozzie as midwife (not that the concept doesn’t have spinoff potential), was an over-the-top crescendo to an episode that otherwise moved along with symphonic precision. 

With all the snappy one-on-one exchanges and artfully considered cat-and-mouse antics throughout, such bombast—particularly the orchestrated cuts from Neal’s tap dance around White Collar security cameras before destroying evidence against Hagen to Diana and Mozz’s primitive natal ritual—wasn’t needed. Diana’s choice to defer Mozzie’s arrest, welcome him by her side during the baby’s first hours on Earth and lie to Peter on his behalf seemed capricious at best. But for now, ASAC Burke, and viewers, will chalk that up to sleep deprivation and hormonal chaos. Besides, it was fun getting to hang out in Mozzie’s underground escape lair, no doubt the only such one in existence that doubles as a sitting room for wine sippers and classical enthusiasts.

In general, “Out of the Frying Pan” was a significant coming out chapter for Mozzie, who had his Cosmo Kramer moment with the reveal that Teddy Winters was no nom de guerre, but in fact his true self. It allowed us to revisit Mozz’s life story as a nerdy orphan in Detroit, and even shared a full dossier on his illegal overseas accounts, black-market antiquities trading and the general rap on how he amasses both fortune and reputation outside of Neal’s purview. And while Neal may never understand the plight of the orphan, Mozz will never quite understand why paranoid disguises like a panhandling Statue of Liberty elicit quizzical stares from his good friend. These two love and admire each other, even if their methods couldn’t be more different, and they’ve earned our easily charmed approval. 

Last week, the foundation for a season full of co-dependent and/or contentious relationships was laid down. And in “Frying Pan,” that comes to fore. Agent Siegel is a sharp and charismatic good guy who’s unwittingly stepped right into the thick of it with a CI like he’s never encountered; Peter made the tough decision to put professional distance between he and Caffrey, and their dynamic is familiarly rife with uneasy trust and friendship; Neal and Mozz are once again stuck like glue, bonded by their mutual sidestepping of the law despite their best intentions; and we certainly haven’t seen the last of that devil on Neal’s shoulder, the Dutchman, and their tricky alliance. The latter dynamic still holds some mystery, while the others are comfortably lived in or, as with Siegel and Caffrey, somehow already feel that way. USA always talks about welcoming characters, and even with Diana on the down-low and Hagen an unknown quantity, White Collar seems to have finally found an airtight ensemble— one that can withstand even its most outrageous situations.

Stray observations:

  • I’d like to see Mozzie and Nolan on Revenge out-hack each other in a crossover episode. Is this possible?
  • Neal was especially class clownish in that debriefing, huh?
  • According to Agent Siegel, CIs “like smoke, and I know exactly where to blow it.” What, no dinner first?
  • It’s a relief that Siegel isn’t merely a new adversary, and will make the procedural aspects much richer.
  • Do Elizabeth and Peter always get warmed up to do it after talking about Neal? And do people still “do it”?
  • I always feel bad when characters get ragged on because of their actors’ actual appearance. But, Neal has a point there about Kole resembling a Von Trapp child.
  • And here I thought multi-geeking was a new porn sub-fetish.
  • I liked Neal and Siegel turning the tables on each other’s vanity.
  • Speaking of nerds, I loved Mozzie cursing the UCLA “pencilnecks” who invented the Internet. Take that, Bill Walton!
  • This is what happens when you Google Roanoke Praxis.
  • For such a stellar agent, Burke sure does have trouble reading people sometimes.
  • And yes, Mozzie, most certainly leave the tomatoes.

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