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

White Collar: “Stealing Home”

Illustration for article titled White Collar: “Stealing Home”
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There’s a lot about “Stealing Home” that’s especially playful, even for White Collar. Chief among the charms of the baseball-themed episode—in which we learn Peter nearly became an MLB relief pitcher and he and Neal infiltrate a plot to steal Babe Ruth’s first home-run ball from Yankee Stadium—was another appearance from FBI upstart Agent Westley, who’s plaued by an actor named Ryan Nolan. Something tells us that Nolan—who appeared briefly in “Pulling Strings” but whose Hollywood resume has otherwise been limited to tech work on films like Hancock—was purposely, cheekily cast in “Home.”

Of course, None of that good fun makes it easier to ignore how hilariously miscast Tim DeKay would be as an actual professional baseball closer. Listed at 6 foot, 2 1/2 inches on IMDB, and possessing neither the wingspan nor heft of your average ninth-inning maestro, DeKay (and, vis-à-vis, Peter Burke) would barely pass for a journeyman lefty specialist.

The revelation of Peter’s sporty past might have been far-fetched, but just about everyone in “Home” is living in fantasy land. Mozzie is all gaga over celebrity con man Gordon Taylor, who’s hired by wealthy Yankees fan Robert Withrow Jr. to build a criminal team and execute the heist. Poor Mozz is swept away by notions of villas in France and harmless scams with huge payoffs, and winds up partly sabotaging Peter’s operation in the end. He is also mostly very funny, as usual, except when rattling off the myriad ways in which he and Neal’s predicament—both are working undercover as part of Taylor’s crew—mirror that of the gang in Reservoir Dogs. No matter which actor gets the lines, White Collar’s pop-culture asides are always pretty cringe-inducing. Though to the show’s credit, when Neal, Mozz and Taylor’s goons strut in slow motion toward the stadium, it’s an obvious dash at any illusions of cinematic badassery. As a group, they appear more likely to ransack Brooks Brothers’ President’s Day sale than violently seize priceless goods from a storied venue.

Peter, meanwhile, is so mystified while gawking at Yankee memorabilia and reflecting on watching games with dear old dad that Neal actually has to rein him in. Naturally, we also get our weekly dose of no-nonsense Burke, especially when he reams out and dismisses Taylor’s hulking accomplice, Paul. But at the risk of spinning a broken record, Peter’s connection to the game as a fan and lifelong New Yorker would have sufficed. Not sure we needed to circle the bases with his utterly ridiculous history as a minor-league flame-thrower.

Neal’s fantasy, of course, is on the verge of reality. His commutation hearing is a week away, and it seems like he’s intent on both having and eating his proverbial cake if/when the anklet’s removed. He just can’t seem to totally disavow himself of the good life. He does, after all, accept Taylor’s check (it’s easy to hope his gift for Peter will be the check in good faith, as opposed to his “not very expensive” baseball card). His continued occupancy of gray ethical territory does help suffuse the larger season’s arc with tense uncertainty, in addition to explaining his prolonged codependency with Mozzie, who’s basically the devil on his shoulder.

“Stealing Home” was also DeKay’s directorial debut for the series, which seems to be a rite of passage for its higher-profile actors (Andrew McCarthy and Tim Matheson have likewise gone behind the White Collar camera). For the most part, with the exception of some terrific Yankee Stadium panorama, DeKay keeps things pretty tight and simple. It couldn’t  hurt to work with a script that’s notably tighter and told a clearer story than the aforementioned, confounding “Pulling Strings.” There’s a clear line ahead to whether Neal gets his sentence commuted, and that’s where the drama in next week’s finale will come from. There’s no cause for “Stealing Home” to get in its own way, but far as fleet, clever hours of this show go, one can say DeKay and his crew hit one out of the park—although even Mozzie would cringe if they did.


Stray observations:

  • As a Mets fan, it was admittedly difficult to endure yet more Yankees myth-building.
  • Also, Peter’s monologue about the love of baseball is astute. It’s just too bad we have to hear Neal’s diatribe about Pollock first.
  • Very funny that Neal views Mozzie as “more of an imp than a devil.”
  • And how can you not love Mozzie quoting Gloria Steinem? Let’s have him stick to feminists rather than Quentin Tarantino.
  • Interesting wardrobe choice for Neal with the cream-colored suit.
  • Has anyone ever earned an easier title credit and paycheck each week than Diahann Carroll on this show?
  • Do the Yanks really pull in millions in cash in concessions after an average game? Jesus.
  • Apparently, Elizabeth is a “tigress.”
  • Very unsure how I feel about the Kool Moe Dee name-dropping, but “I Go To Burke” kind of grew on me.
  • Speaking of which, did Peter share that anecdote with Neal in some presumed offscreen moment? We, the audience, only hear him share it with Jones.
  • So, if Sara chased Neal and the Rafael down six years ago, and we’re going by actress Hilarie Burton’s actual age, she was already hunting con artists when she was 23?
  • And speaking of Sara, and regarding her heinous outfits from episodes past, they’re baaaaack.
  • Oh, and lastly, did Mozzie really call Peter a “pig?” Yowza.