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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

White Collar: “Gloves Off”

Illustration for article titled White Collar: “Gloves Off”
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This season’s been so focused on what makes Neal tick that perhaps Peter’s become the forgotten man. We barely see him spend any time with Elizabeth, and all he can seem to think about is his charge’s missing father and how it might relate to a decades-old police-corruption scandal. His work is certainly suffering—lest we forget his breach of protocol last week to play stakeout with Mozzie—he’s continually playing on both sides of the law despite nearly being demoted, and he pretty much brushes off an unrehearsed ass-kicking during he and Neal’s underground boxing match-cum-insider trading investigation.

Oh, as for that last part, “Gloves Off” appeased a huge contingency of White Collar’s audience by having Neal strap on a pair of sparring mitts while removing his top. And ya gotta hand it to Tim DeKay, who’s always up for his fictional alter-ego’s undercover requirements, even if he’s not as young and sculpted as Matthew Bomer. Then again, anyone who watched DeKay in Tell Me You Love Me (going once, twice…) knows he’s pretty comfortable dedicating his body to cable science.

In this instance, the two were squaring off in a “white-collar boxing” ring lorded over by fraudulent Wall Street type Eric Dunham (Victor Webster), with super-secret stock tips awaiting the victor. And, naturally, the FBI’s patented reverse Scooby-Doo revelation and a pair of handcuffs on deck for Dunham. Taken individually, all the ingredients that led to Peter and Neal’s contentious exchange of blows—a greedy fatcat with his own spin on gladiatorial entertainment, the bureau’s plan to get their boys in the ring and ensure one of them gets tips directly from Dunham, and Sam alerting Neal that Peter came to see him and potentially compromised his safety—are plausible enough. The serendipity of how they overlapped just in time to send a furious Neal hurtling wildly toward an unsuspecting Peter, thereby bringing their issues of mistrust to a head in dramatically entertaining and visceral fashion? Well, it’s a lot to conspire without undoing every thread, and enough to make one’s eyes roll incredulously. Fortunately, the action is shot with a manic, fishbowl realism. The punches themselves land frequently and bluntly, preventing the entire climax from careening into self-parody.

A la “Ancient History,” Bomer conveys anger and hurt with convincing glares and barks (although one “We’re done!” was probably enough at the conclusion), and really sells both the slightly ludicrous pugilist action and subsequent confrontation in Sam’s abandoned apartment. All of which makes it harder to understand why Peter continues to take verbal, and now physical insubordination, from Neal while mostly resigning himself to the bruises and leaving the scene introspectively. We’ve seen Peter’s bite, especially last week in his dealings with the NYPD. So what is it about Neal that drives this generally strong, levelheaded federal agent to cross lines, take it on the chin and put his own family in harm’s way? And is Neal right to feel lopsidedly betrayed, or was he planning on continually running afoul of Peter's well-intentioned orders?

Maybe we’ll find out during next Tuesday’s mid-season finale. Better yet, maybe the mystery of Papa Caffrey’s whereabouts and arrest—not to mention Ellen’s assailant—gets revealed and, when Collar returns, some time will be re-dedicated to Peter’s conflicts of interest. Or perhaps we’ll just discover that he’s actually been Neal’s biological father all along, and their volatile, familial dynamic results from improbably sharing DNA. Whatever the outcome, it behooves Neal to find his dad and Peter to consider making babies of his own with Elizabeth. Otherwise, the duo’s co-dependency could have serious consequences for their characters, as well as the audience’s patience.

Stray Observations:

  • It wasn’t a bad weekly con, but did feel a bit perfunctory.
  • Ah, so Caffrey’s a Blue Label man, eh?
  • Elizabeth makes gelato? What can’t she do! Besides park a Ford Taurus without help from its automated system.
  • The “three Bs”? Badass Peter Slauson couldn’t have come up with something more intimidating than that?
  • Mozzie’s noting that George Foreman “makes a fantastic grill” was disappointingly predictable.
  • Have we ever seen this show set a montage to lighthearted indie rock?
  • Kind of surprised Dunham wasn’t suspicious when Neal popped right back up off the mat.
  • Still don’t get the appeal of boxing.