Episode 'White Collar' Season 3, Episode 4: 'Dentist of Detroit' Recap
Mozzie (Willie Garson) and Neal (Tim DeKay) have remained free men – well, semi-free – largely because they’re always a step ahead of whoever would try to change that. This week, someone got a drop on them.
As Mozzie is selling off a his collection of sketchy surveillance equipment and other “sleight of hand-me-downs” to benefit the Detroit orphanage where he was raised by a kind man named Mr. Jefferies (Ernie Hudson!), his little fire sale is visited gangster Tommy DeLuca, Jr. and a few friends.
He’s got a message for some chap calling himself the Dentist of Detroit. It’s pretty brief, really: the dull “thunk” of a knife nailing a picture of Jefferies to a wall.
It strikes instant fear into Mozzie, enough to reveal something to Neal: he’s the Dentist.
It seems that years before, it was Jefferies that taught Mozzie that absorbing knowledge could give a man more weapons than the best stocked armory. Mozzie, in turn, stopped sweating fighting the orphanage’s bullies and instead started scamming them. After being adopted at age 12, his adopted brother stole a priceless heirloom from Mozzie’s new family and tried pinning it on him. That sent Mozzie on the run.
Not long after hitting the streets, Mozzie earned himself an “in” on the local numbers and bookmaking scene, until he got tired of being given no credit because of his age. Instead, he talked a local tough into being the public face of an operation as the Dentist of Detroit, as Mozzie pulled all the strings.
The day then came when DeLuca, Sr. and a young Jr. paid “the Dentist” a visit to run him out of the rackets. For the sake of getting even, 12-year-old Mozzie pulls a flawless wire fraud and scams DeLuca, Sr. out of $500,000.
In exchange, DeLuca, Sr. spends the next several years using the Dentist as a campfire story to the feds, trying to implicate him in every major crime that a lawman came around asking him about – even though Mozzie took his 500 grand and skipped town for New York as soon as he had money in hand, and hadn’t used the alias since.
DeLuca, Jr. came to New York only knowing that the Dentist was there – he never realized it was Mozzie he was looking for, and who he had within striking distance. Team Peter (Tim DeKay) already knows DeLuca is town and has figured out from Neal’s tracking data that something’s afoot. To protect his friend, Neal outs Mozzie as the Dentist and gets Peter to take him into protective custody why Neal poses as a “lip-man” for the Dentist to set up a sting.
It seems DeLuca wants to threaten the Dentist into pulling the same big wire scam on Irish mob boss O’Leary, as a kind of penance for what the Dentist bilked from DeLuca’s father. Neal not only makes the set-up, but convinces DeLuca that Peter is in fact the Dentist while Mozzie remains under protection and helping orchestrate the horse-betting scam.
Oddly enough, it’s Mozzie that has a bout of conscience. He can’t see Neal and Peter in harm’s way, no matter how much fun the two have playing “The Sting” with Peter as Newman and Neal as Redford. He has no trouble annoying every FBI agent watching over his shoulder as he does it, but he manages to pull what Agent Barrigan (Marsha Thomason) dubs a “Ferris Bueller” by fashioning a dummy from a cantaloupe and spare glasses when he goes down for a nap and slipping out through a bathroom vent.
It’s Mozzie who meets up with DeLuca at the scheduled drop point, briefcase in hand. He reveals not only that he’s the Dentist, but let’s DeLuca know that it was the punk kid whose ice cream cone DeLuca slapped out of his hand that took his father for all that money. He hands over the money, hoping it will get rid of DeLuca, but DeLuca instead pulls his gun and plans on some revenge. Naturally, Peter and Neal are a step ahead themselves and show up with a team of agents to nab DeLuca.
Later, Peter sets up a reunion between Mozzie and Jefferies, who agents were able to get to safety thanks to Mozzie deciphering the hints Jefferies had left in a series of surveillance photos taken during his trek from Detroit to New York to warn him. DeLuca’s men had been tracking Jefferies the entire way, hoping they would lead him straight to their target.
As the two friends reminisce, Peter and Neal excuse themselves to the balcony and congratulate themselves on a job well-done, but with Neal remembering something Mozzie had warned him about moments before: when the end-game goes down and the two sell their treasure, there’s no more Newman and Redford for Peter and Neal.