Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

White Collar: “Quantico Closure”

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In football, a team with stability at quarterback and among its coaches can weather most changes in personnel (see: the New York Giants recent pair of improbable Super Bowl wins). But introduce volatility at those positions, and there’ll likely be a precipitous dip in consistent, effective execution (e.g. 2012’s New Orleans Saints sans Sean Payton and the current Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers). To wit, when scripted TV shows call an audible in their upper creative ranks, the results—as many Walking Dead faithful might attest—can lead to narrative incoherence. This disconnect is ever more likely in an era when even so-called “breezy” fare such as White Collar has been tinkering with multiple ongoing storylines over its nearly half-decade on the air.

All of that brings us to “Quantico Closure,” written by first-time WC scribe Nick Thiel. The teleplay veteran of series ranging from Eight Is Enough and Magnum, P.I. to Army Wives and Pan Am was recently elevated from WC executive producer to co-EP/showrunner so creator Jeff Eastin could simultaneously nurture Graceland. While it’s been unclear which season five thread Thiel wants us to follow (the Codex and Rebecca? The Dutchman? Siegel? Peter and Elizabeth? Mozz’s beekeeping?), most of the episodes’ scripts have been drafted by Collar’s longtime stable—Alexandra McNally, Joe Henderson et al.—and thus our central characters have felt true even as circumstances run amok. But in “Quantico,” virtually all these well-defined protagonists go about their business with baffling, atypical irrationality that eases one contrivance after the next. Even for a fairly conventional drama like White Collar, their behavior hews awfully close to sitcom or flashy-procedural antics circa the early 1980s.

Who among us didn’t assume that Elizabeth would stumble on that “selfie” of Peter and Jill (the always memorable Kim Dickens in a fairly thankless slot as Peter’s ex seeking his help on a case) and wrongly assume the worst? And surely, there was more than a few viewers who cringed and thought, “Please, just don’t follow him and jeopardize this incredibly dangerous undercover operation, particularly when you’re level-headed enough to put Peter’s safety before any unfounded suspicious you might have of his extramarital curiosity, or at least not to seek marriage counseling from Mozzie.” Or, “Neal’s not actually going to risk Elizabeth’s life by letting her go ahead and enter that room with those black-ops mercenaries who have her husband tied up under the pretense that he’s a liaison for shady foreign defense contractors.” And, lastly, “There’s no way Peter’s just going to gloss over Elizabeth’s nearly fatal act of mistrust, pat her on the back for a job well done and return to both bedroom and work without any perceptible angst.” Well, in the immortal words of Dark Helmet: Fooled you!

Many fans have correctly intuited that all the gushy Pete and Liz repartee these past weeks was foreshadowing some kind of rift. As it turns out, Peter’s bottled-up grief over Siegel was creating distance between he and the wife, which would have been more apparent had Siegel’s shooting been addressed more than anecdotally since he was shot in cold blood. Instead, Elizabeth’s hostility toward Jill seems over-the-top and unmotivated, and Peter’s inner turmoil over his colleague’s murder comes across somewhat half-hearted. Still, it bodes well for things going forward if that unsolved crime comes back into focus, which it most certainly has following Peter’s frustration over a dead-end lead (did that FBI impersonator really seem like the thieving type?) and discovery of a blood-stained business card with “Cooper 3” enigmatically scribbled on the back.

And chances are, when a sense of urgency is likewise restored to Neal and Rebecca’s decoding of Mosconi’s mysterious Chapter 13 and how the Dutchman figures in, it’ll be awfully hard to revive. That trail hasn’t gone cold, but our interest is growing stale. (Although boy, Rebecca sure has warmed up to Neal right quick.) There’s genuine intrigue in what symbolism lies just behind that church’s stained-glass window that Mosconi was seeking to illustrate, but let’s hope there aren’t two more episodes and more broad domestic unrest until we’re allowed a peek.

Stray observations:

  • This was Willie Garson’s directorial debut for the show, and despite a few dramatic flourishes (a la those final crops on Peter’s a-ha moment with the business card), it’s hard to find much flaw in the look of “Closure,” and it’s tough to say who’s choice it was to handle the chip-smuggling con and subsequent adultery stakeout so wantonly.
  • Man, Rebecca can really authenticate a Mosconi quick. If only she could spot a con.
  • I hate when characters don’t give a solid 10-second count after someone leaves the room to talk about them (re: Neal and Mozz risking blowing their cover).
  • “The good ones keep you up at night.” One of several squirmy innuendos.
  • Nice backup cam, BMW.
  • Eric Healey and Robert Bly might be ex-black ops for a reason.
  • Okay, we get it Elizabeth: Peter’s like an aphrodisiac. Does that explain your jealous impulsiveness?
  • Ah, the old “My hubby wubby forgot his brown-bagged sandie wandie” device to orchestrate wife’s spying of ultimately innocuous photo.
  • Celebrity Death Match suggestion: Agent Gruesner vs. Bert Macklin.