Great episode. The two words any devoted White Collar and/or Matthew Bomer fan loves to hear. Richard Schiff? Not usually so much, unless you’re the anomalous sort who’s been waiting for principal West Wing alum besides Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, and Bradley Whitford to pop up on your TV sets more often. But unlike in previous weeks, the WC teleplay corps deployed their guest star—here playing a nefarious high-stakes colluder and unlikely hitman—more sparingly, opting instead to move the season’s primary storylines ahead. However, I’ve opted to assess “Power Play” somewhat differently than my previous Collar synopses.
Up until now, I’ve presented lengthy, expository think-pieces, which have incited mixed emotions spanning passive dissent to viewer rage. Tonight, I offer this only mildly tangential lead-in, before giving way to a deceptively and equally wordy checklist breakdown of key takeaways and observations from a crucially rewarding, archetypal crackerjack episode. And I welcome your additions, wishful subtractions, and overall enthusiasm, even when/if it's virulently detracting.
Think of it like Stray Observations: The Deluxe Edition. And without further, “Excuse me, gov'na, how do you do” adieu, here are the top 10 things we learned from White Collar: “Payback.”
• 10. I really enjoyed all the teasing at FBI HQ, particularly at Peter’s expense and especially when dished by a giddy Diana. And the role-reversal one-upping between Peter and Neal (my favorite, courtesy of Peter to Neal, who’s masquerading as Elizabeth’s husband: “You married up”) was genuinely hilarious. Do I smell a spinoff workplace comedy?
• 9. It seems like Mozzie is always welding. Who's the Flashdance fan?
• 8. The promo that ran during Law & Order just prior to Collar raised an eyebrow. I concur that Neal, Peter, Mozzie and Diana make up at least an aorta and ventricle of this crime-stopping mod squad’s heart, but no Jones? Or even Elizabeth for that matter, who’s had a big resurgence since Tiffani Thiessen recently facilitated her miracle of life (i.e. popped out a lil'un)? They are just as essential to helping this show’s blood pressure flow.
• 7. “With the Ford Fusion, you can monitor your GPS, answer a phone call that affects the quality of New Yorkers’ lives and still arrive for a huge meeting at work several minutes early!” I know we’ve been over this before, but Collar’s hilariously aggressive product placements for their automotive partner warrant a little jab each week. I’m sure even the writers would agree.
• 6. Collar is knowingly forthcoming by this point about Neal’s likely future as an agent, so what would normally seem cliché or heavy handed—Mozzie's Kafka metaphor, more final-shot stolen glances between Neal and Peter, Neal’s take-your-kid-to-work-day admiration of Peter’s heroics—clicked for me, perhaps because the episode as a whole committed to the series' central conflicts.
• 5. Neal actually acknowledges that he goes to the gym. Has this ever been detailed before? I kind of appreciated that touch, since most similar programs expect us to proceed under the assumption that their protagonists’ hard bodies are occupational perks, like health insurance or part-time usage of a company-owned 1987 Chevy Cutlass.
• 4. I bought Sarah’s background story about her missing sister as motivation. For her at least. Not so sure about it as a reveal of her protective feelings for Neal. But hey, there are some narrative tracks to make here people. (Side note: Sarah, if you don’t want to be followed in the streets, don’t dress like a sexy leopard hotel heiress.)
• 3. On that note, I’m encouraged and impressed by how “Power Play” really threw us back into Season two’s ongoing conspiracy involving Andrew McCarthy’s Vincent Adler, the music box, Adler’s fractal antenna, and how it all explains why the hell Kate had to perish in a fiery special-effects disaster. It’s even made me care about that lingering open end again. Now if only the show didn’t stall about a week longer than I would have liked to find its way back there. (Was this all just due to working around McCarthy’s availability? Maybe the answer to that’s in the stupid music box as well.)
• 2. The chemistry between Neal and Sarah has been handled really patiently, and their feral library mauling (shirtless Bomer alert!) was deserved. And I like Sarah and the idea of her being to Neal what Elizabeth represents for Peter—both for him personally and when nabbing evil-doing rich white men.
• 1. Alex’s central involvement in this mess isn’t a huge surprise. And I’m honestly still not entirely sure how we got to that closing-moments shocker. Something about a German guy who shares a similar surname with a certain Hitler-adored composer whom Alex is descended from. But the teen skater/stalker from earlier in the episode menacingly on her tail was an authentic jolt, even if his attire is ridiculous. This finale’s gonna be goooood.