Recap – White Collar 2.09: “Point Blank”

Recap – White Collar 2.09: “Point Blank”

Recap – White Collar 2.09: “Point Blank” Can you believe we’re to the midseason finale of White Collar already? This point in the season last year, Neal was framed and jumping out of windows onto bakery awnings, which begs the question: what will he do this time? Aside from pointing a gun in the face of Garrett Fowler, that is.

Peter, Neal and Mozzie are playing with the music box. Neal opens it again to show Mozzie – and us – that there’s a hidden compartment with a second comb. They think whatever music the box plays as a result might have a hidden meaning. What that is, however, they don’t know. Neal suggests looking up Alex, whom when last we saw her, was headed for Italy…or was she? He and Mozzie meet with another old friend in a parking lot who tips them to the fact that Alex is stealing her own stuff back, which is going to make her an easy target for the authorities unless, of course, they step in first.

While he tracks her down, Diana and Peter are still on the hunt for Fowler. Peter knows Fowler has to be hurting for money, and suggests setting out some bait in the form of Fowler’s late wife’s long-denied life insurance claim. If they can convince Fowler he’s finally getting paid, they might be able to draw him out from whatever rock he’s crawled under.

Mozzie and Neal create their own false file to get Peter interested in Alex’s situation. Neal knows way too much about how the FBI assembles and handles their case files, including the fact that Hughes doesn’t actually sign his own paperwork. Of course, when Peter brings his box of old cases home to Elizabeth, she stumbles onto it and it catches Peter’s eye immediately. The next day, he’s already got it in hand when he meets Neal at the office.

Neal: Do you even have to ask?
Oh, just once, I wish I did.

Peter brings the team together to break their new case and try to pinpoint the next victim. Not only that, but he has a bite from Fowler, who’s hit the ATM to withdraw some of his newfound money. Diana goes to check him out, and tracks down where he used to live and what name he’s going under now. Apparently, he was out buying explosives. Everyone knows exactly what he used those for. While Peter wonders if he should tell Neal about that, Neal is meeting with Alex on a nearby rooftop. She hasn’t cracked the music box’s new code either, but he convinces her to break into Diana’s apartment and take it, in order to put it in the Russian Heritage Museum where it’s sure to get noticed. Unfortunately, he’s not able to stop Diana from going home early. Peter shows Neal the evidence that Fowler bought the components for the bomb that blew up Kate’s plane. Fowler was the one who wanted her, and presumably Neal, dead.

Alex gets into Diana’s apartment and gets her hands on the music box, just barely escaping ahead of Diana’s notice. She calls Peter to report the theft, and Peter immediately pegs Neal as being involved in the crime, over his denials. The next morning, when Diana tells Peter about the public showing at the Russian Heritage Museum, Peter is no less angry than he was the night before. He’s able to deconstruct Neal’s plan perfectly, and tells him that he’s pulling Neal off the case because he’s a liability. It’s perhaps the angriest Peter has ever been with Neal, and it shows without a shouting match or chairs thrown or some other demonstration. Now that’s masterful acting on the part of Tim DeKay.

Neal goes to meet with Mozzie after being kicked out of the FBI office. Mozzie is meeting with an Oriental guy named Akiro who might be able to help them crack the code. Neal’s losing his screws now that he knows for sure who killed Kate, and decides he’s going to walk out of the place with a gun. This is a big change of heart for him, as we saw in “Unfinished Business” how much he dislikes guns.

Peter and Diana know they need to stake out the museum in case Fowler arrives, but also in case Neal goes after him. They are well aware that Neal might be more than a little wound. As usual, Peter’s estimation of Neal is right on the money: he’s got the gun, and he’s used the keys he stole off Deckard in “Prisoner’s Dilemma” to remove his tracking anklet (and put it on June’s dog no less). When Fowler turns up at the museum, Peter goes in after him and a chase ensues. When Fowler thinks he’s escaped Peter, he ends up barricading himself in a room with Neal instead. With Diana on his heels, Neal is crazy enough to swing from one balcony into the room where Fowler is, and shove the gun in his face, demanding a reason for Kate’s death.

Fowler wants to tell Neal how much his life sucks now. That takes just long enough for Diana and Peter to arrive. Peter talks Neal down, reminding him that he isn’t a killer and could never be one, no matter how angry he is. Yet because this is Peter, he also has to do the right thing, arresting both Fowler and Neal, the former of whom continues to insist that he didn’t kill Kate.

Back at the FBI office, Fowler talks about how the murder of his wife consumed his life until the day he killed the man responsible. He was blackmailed with that crime into working for whomever is behind everything. He tells Neal that Kate believed they would never be safe, however far away they got, and that it was her idea to blow up the plane, faking their deaths. Unfortunately, the bomb exploded early and she died. He also claims Kate never called him before the plane was obliterated, regardless of what it said on the phone. He’s also able to identify the person he was supposed to meet in “Need To Know”: Julian Larson, a former Special Forces guy who happens to be played by the ever-awesome Paul Blackthorne, of The Dresden Files and Leverage.

Peter and Diana are called to the scene of Hiro’s murder, to discover that whoever shot Tanaka also knows that he was working on the music box code and that Neal was there. Neal’s next on the hit list. They arrive at Neal’s apartment to find him saying goodbye to Alex yet again. He reminds them that Mozzie was also with him when he met Tanaka. Sure enough, poor Moz is getting left for dead after being shot by Larson. We get to chew on that image all the way to January!

What an episode! We get answers to the questions that have been building all season, yet there’s enough to keep us interested for the rest of the run. It’s amazing how Jeff Eastin can come up with answers that surprise the audience, yet don’t betray the little facts he’s given us all season – in fact, everything matches up. Furthermore, the show doesn’t sacrifice its characters for the sake of plot. Peter doesn’t become stupid just so Neal can pull off his plan; it’s Peter’s deep knowledge of Neal and his psyche that really keeps everything from blowing apart. Neal gets his chance with Fowler, but he doesn’t become a raging lunatic, because that’s not who Neal is. Matt Bomer’s quiet rage is perfectly underplayed and just as effective even if the two don’t have a huge climactic fight. Noah Emmerich is totally believable as both a massive pain in the behind and a guy who can be empathised with despite that. The only downer is that Sharif Atkins’ contribution to the episode is humming the Batman theme.

This is to say nothing of an ending that, while we know Mozzie is going to be okay, is still scary. Not unlike Burn Notice, which also shot a protagonist in its summer finale; the difference is while Burn Notice killed off an awesome antagonist in Robert Patrick’s John Barrett, White Collar is just now introducing one in Paul Blackthorne’s Julian Larson. Of course, Burn Notice didn’t give us the expected showdown between Jesse and Michael, whereas White Collar delivered one between Neal and Fowler. I dare to say White Collar was what Burn Notice could have been. It was a satisfying finale, but it’s also going to be a much longer wait until January!

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