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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

White Collar: “No Good Deed”

Illustration for article titled White Collar: “No Good Deed”
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Part of the way through tonight’s fall finale, most of us asked ourselves, “How is Peter still friends with this guy?” This guy being Neal, who’s demonstrated a good heart but bad habits that have compromised ASAC Burke’s integrity, livelihood and even family (where you be, Satchmo?). The answer is we’ve all had those relationships where it feels like one of us is the grown-up and our counterpart a mischievous but lovable ne’er do well. They keep things interesting, demonstrate loyalty in the most unexpected ways and accept our own hang-ups (sort of like Satchmo). And as for said ne’er do wells, they like the security of knowing someone not only has their back, but is probably the only thing standing between themselves and self-destruction. Or, at the very least, prison.

To that end, Peter and Neal have tested the limits of their incompatible, semi-professional bromance, but nothing is Teflon (except Teflon), and these guys need a break. That’s too bad, because now the action’s really getting good. “No Good Deed” is arguably the season’s high watermark (except for all that awesome business with the sinister therapist).

All the threads converged like a Mosconi decoder ring linking the pieces of an inscrutable puzzle. And all because of one measly little Welsh gold coin. One of the many that Hagen used to pay off Peter’s prosecutor in his murder case, to be exact. The ones Neal stole from a vault, to be more precise. And, because as Peter explains, all criminals get caught, the coins said D.A. liquidated at a shady cash-for-gold joint whose owners do business with illegal fencers.

One set of circumstances leads to another, the dominos fall, and Peter’s tracking down the coin thief yet again. This leads him right to Neal, which puts Peter in the unenviable position of either arresting his C.I. and risking re-indictment for murdering James (not to mention leaving his wife alone with the conspicuously absent Satchmo for all eternity), or threatening the D.A. to confess and step down and sparing both he and Neal from eons behind bars by the last neatly trimmed hair on their chinny-chin chins. And lord knows Mr. Caffrey looks better in Tom Ford suits than orange one-pieces.

What’s compelling about all this is how it distills White Collar’s original and ongoing dramatic premise, one not that different from other series currently on the air that traffic in the hazy exercise of meting out justice: What are the necessary measures to maintain law and order, who determines what that even is, when is it acceptable to manipulate a system often designed to entrap the innocent and exonerate ill-intent, and how does one on either side of the ideological fence stay connected to their humanity?

But what makes it entertaining is the commitment to exploring these ideas and executing all the machinations therein with more panache than gravity. Rebecca put a charge into the goings-on, a fresh face with new enthusiasm for all this novel cops-and-robbers business suddenly sprucing up her bookish art obsession (assuming she isn’t ultimately up to shenanigans herself); Mozzie is employed deftly for a second consecutive week, abetting Neal in his stained-glass heist but also breaking in his rapport with Rebecca while ruing how Peter has spoiled he and Elizabeth’s special wine-and-cheese lunches; assorted inside-reference allude to the past several episodes’ numerous asides (e.g. Little Theo/Teddy Winters), not to mention there’s new revelations like Jones’ action-figure hobby; and let’s not overlook the Scooby-Doo fun of Neal, Rebecca and Mozzie cracking part of Mosconi’s code and relishing a sudden upper hand over Hagen.


All the business in the Flower District that bridged Peter’s quest for the coin thief and his eventual narrowing down to Neal as the only viable suspect was a bit busy. And shockingly mercenary as Mozzie can be, it hardly seems likely that he’d scare off a tattooed gun thug with a finger-pistol to the neck and some braggadocio. Or, for that matter, that boilerplate toughs like gold coin-fencer Karl Decker would share some kind of nebulous underground rivalry with mad-scientist Mozz.

That thorny excursion aside, there was plenty of ripe material in full bloom during what was as sure-headed a White Collar as we’ve seen in some time. And it’s most definitely the least cliffhanger-reliant and most confident finale, mid-season or otherwise, they’ve experimented with perhaps yet. It’s been an up and down fifth bow for a show that’s at times seemed tangled in contrivance, but “No Good Deed” suggests rewards for those who pay the price for a high-wire friendship.


Stray observations:

  • Nice robe, Neal. Now start answering doors quicker!
  • Wow, Rebecca gets dressed fast.
  • I’d like to know more about this Sister Minnie O’Malley
  • When it comes to Rebecca, will three be a crowd or good criminal sense? Mwahaha.
  • Always love when characters in shows suddenly know how to “act,” a la Rebecca duping those repair men.
  • Hey, Dot Com!
  • Mmmm, croughnuts.
  • Elizabeth sure is a hard one to figure. Also hard to tell if the women in general on this show are brash and independent or just random and cavalier.
  • Thanks as always for a great half a season guys. Viva la Collar!