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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

White Collar: "Veiled Threat"

Illustration for article titled White Collar: "Veiled Threat"
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Fame is a strange and circuitous thing. At various points between 1986 and 1994, Jonathan Silverman starred in his own NBC sitcom (The Single Guy), played the youthful lead in Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, and, of course, co-starred with last season’s White Collar villain Andrew McCarthy in Weekend at Bernie’s and its inglorious sequel. During that same timespan, neither Tim DeKay nor his fellow White Collar protagonist Matthew Bomer shared so much as a single screen credit between them. Yet, much like his former Bernie’s running mate McCarthy, Silverman now finds himself logging a fun but fleeting guest spot on DeKay and Bomer’s turf. To paraphrase Bill Pullman and Rick Moranis in Spaceballs, what does that mean for us, the viewer? Absolutely nothing.

Silverman was, however, one of three notable bit players in “Veiled Threat,” along with one-time Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me damsel Mädchen Amick and, in a bit of casting that had to resonate with those two as slightly downgrading, Real Housewives of NYC star Jill Zarin. Fortunately, the latter’s performance was limited to a few brief lines of dialogue with both Peter and Neal at an elite bachelor auction hosted by the duplicitous Jameson (Silverman). Our two favorite FBI agents have infiltrated the event undercover along with Jones and Diana in an effort to investigate serial monogamist Selena (Amick), whose wealthy husbands have a tendency to die prematurely.

What results is a rare White Collar episode in which just one storyline is more or less seen through from start to finish, with a bit of character-building around the edges. And by and large, it’s a good one, and a funny one, and a considerable bounce-back from last week’s overly busy, tonally miscued “Dentist of Detroit.” The first half of “Veiled Threat” finds Neal, Peter, and Jones trying out disparate personas at said auction (which is slickly staged as if Millionaire Matchmaker curated the speed-dating scene in 40-Year-Old Virgin), until one of them sufficiently catches Selena’s eye and wallet. Jones is particularly hysterical throughout these early scenes, portraying himself as a Billie Dee Williams-esque ladies man known as the Pastry Baron of Brooklyn with a penchant for one-liners like “Ladies love the sweets.” And Bomer is clearly having fun tapping into his Texan roots to play Neal against type as a bolo tie-sporting cowboy ingrate. (The moment in which no women would start the bidding on his alter-ego is an episode highlight.) As for Peter, his pride gets the best of him, and despite being worried about what Elizabeth might think, he manages to woo Selena into a $15,000 winning bid.

The problem is Selena proves increasingly hard to pin down, so to speak, and Peter has to continue the charade of being her auction prize through several uncomfortable dates and eventually a marriage proposal. This leads to a couple of excruciatingly tense scenes that put Peter on the brink of infidelity but also offers a great opportunity for Elizabeth to contribute again as more than just the supportive wife by posing as the wedding planner for Peter and his fiancé fatale. When Peter barely escapes being sideswiped by a passing car and Selena shoos Elizabeth away from the scene, it’s probably the first moment in this entire series where it felt as if Peter may be in seriously deep shit with his incredibly tolerant spouse.

If there’s a gripe to be had, I’m not sure I bought the dramatic crescendo of Peter commandeering Neal’s apartment for a dinner date with Selena, as Neal and Sara looked on in secret from a hidden observing chamber that’s apparently always existed in June’s Scooby-Doo townhouse. Not only was it an uncharacteristically risky and capricious strategy for Peter, but by the time Mozzie was intervening as a butler and smuggling an impromptu sketching of Selena between Neal and Peter without Selena getting suspicious, I felt like calling just the slightest accusation of bullshit.

Still, it was a dramatic and witty resurgence after a questionable past couple so-so ebbs, even if the cat-and-mouse showdown between Peter and Neal got put on ice for one week. And even if I couldn’t help but keep pondering the episode's cosmic intertwining of its principal and featured cast.


Stray Observations

  • Speaking of putting things on ice, I enjoyed the Basic Instinct homage in Selena’s apartment.
  • To the writers’ credit, they did a pretty adequate job of explaining Sara’s sporadic appearances so far this season.
  • And if I thought Sara’s outfits were a nightmare, what was up with Diana’s Three Stooges ‘do in the stakeout scene?
  • “For those about to date, we salute you.” Ugh. Let’s leave the quips to Mozzie and Peter.
  • “She likes tall, dark, and handsome.” “How dark are we talking?”
  • I don't remember him ever telling Elizabeth about the kiss, do you? Methinks that might come up down the road.
  • Is it only a matter of time till Tiffani Thiessen gets her own spinoff, The Event Planner? I mean, it is USA.
  • Between this appearance and his few-episode stint on Greek, I feel sad that Jonathan Silverman is suddenly a go-to white-collar baddie.
  • “Oh sure, I’ll hide it under my gargantuan clown sleeve.”
  • Huh-huh. Peter said poop.