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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

White Collar: “Vested Interest”

Illustration for article titled White Collar: “Vested Interest”
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There’s been a lot of tongue-in-cheek speculation about whether Sam (Treat Williams) will be revealed as Neal’s father. It’s even been observed that young Treat Williams bears more than a passing resemblance to handsomely coiffed Matthew Bomer. But only a minority of viewers seemed to believe the midseason finale would end with such a contrived, melodramatic twist.

Alas, Neal and Sam had their Return of the Jedi moment, and it was corny. And with it, any tension that developed as Neal closed in on the possibility that Sam was in cahoots with the Flynn family instantly deflated. To boot, the lingering whereabouts and identity of Neal’s biological dad—a nice carrot to dangle for several more chapters—were abruptly demystified. It was a curious and safe choice, particularly in an otherwise bracing and substantive episode.

Anyone who is just passing through or hasn’t dropped in before will find plenty to like about “Vested Interest.” As always, no other peer series takes better advantage of its local filming permits. From the glassed-in penthouse doubling as an FBI conference site to the Greenpoint, Brooklyn warehouse where Sam is being tortured, every scene is positively enhanced by the show’s keen scouting of obscure outer-borough waterfronts and historical Manhattan nabes alike. The standalone con—former military tactician infiltrates FBI conference to kidnap creator of new bulletproof vest as part of corporate espionage ring—gets resolved rather hurriedly, but wraps up in an exciting flurry of gunfire and narrow escapes. And the dialogue is at its punchy best, especially Peter’s little double entendre about how “Diana doesn’t like bulges” when the aforementioned vest auteur boasts of his product’s slimness.

The one other thing “Interest” does incredibly well is remind us just why Peter is so tolerant of Neal’s recent bratty antics, despite their maddening contradictoriness. In a couple of key exchanges—and ultimately throughout the 44 minutes as a whole—there’s a roll call of references to the pair’s shared history, and Peter even concedes to having grown fond of his CI long before they ever worked together. As is stated with a fine point toward the episode’s end, their relationship has always been built on faith more so than trust. Neal finally realizes that Peter has always seen through to his best intentions, even while playing the role of federal-agent adversary, and the two finally jointly define their tricky dynamic.

All of this led to that climactic moment. Peter retrieved the DNA result that Neal swiped from Sam’s bloody laceration. Over his shoulder, Neal kept one eye on Sam while Peter disclosed who that man reading the paper on his balcony really was. Sam appeared deceptively cool and composed, perhaps coiled and ready to strike. Neal got off the phone looking angry and determined. Something had to give. And then, the Jedi moment.

It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which “Sam” has further shenanigans up his sleeve and somehow isn’t actually Neal’s long-estranged big papa. There’s also no doubt it will be satisfying to finally get his backstory from the horse’s mouth. And the prospect of watching father, son, and Peter color within, and just outside of, legal boundaries while clearing up this whole police corruption mess teems with suspenseful possibility and provides ample opportunity for Neal and Peter to keep testing each other’s trust. As for the viewer, this anti-cliffhanger may have been unpredictably predictable, but as is always the case with White Collar—one of the few dramas currently airing that makes the case for good being good—you gotta have faith.


Stray observations:

  • Ah, the Avery case. Good times strolling down memory lane.
  • Mozzie will not go down without a one-liner: “Great, I brought a corkscrew to a gunfight.”
  • And here I was so looking forward to witnessing Elizabeth’s bowling prowess.
  • So, is Mozzie lactose intolerant?
  • Hey, even Sam’s getting in on the banter, reacting incredulously to Mozzie’s assertion that he relates to his pet rodent “in many ways.”
  • C’mon, Peter never actually says, “Surveillance authorizations—must be Thursday.”
  • Does Mozzie’s thumbprint collection make him like a G-rated Dexter?
  • Boy, sure took Neal a few pauses to figure out that Sam might not really be Sam.
  • I enjoyed the shootout making you roll your eyes and think, “Yeah right,” until he actually gets hit. Not to mention totally plausible that he’s wearing the vest. Suspension of disbelief listed. Although for the record, it does not feel like “a gentle hug, no.”