Episode 'White Collar' Season 3, Episode 4 - 'Veiled Threat' Recap
Just where would Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) be without Neal Caffrey (Matthew Bomer)? Surprisingly, the suit does OK on his own.
“Pick a deed, any deed,” Neal says, assuring Peter that the solution to their ongoing mortgage-fraud investigation amounts to little more than luck of the draw – and elementary deduction. The white-collar hall-of-famer explains gently to his straight-laced FBI cohort that he needn’t even guess what card Peter drew.
There’s no guessing involved; he’ll just count the other 51 cards and know. Now, Peter gets it: instead of cards, they’ll match a list realtors with the title company’s deeds and just see which realtor is missing from the list.
“It’s not magic. It’s math,” Neal said. I wish he hadn’t. “Presto! Arithmetic!” just hasn’t the same child-like wonder.
Peter sees his cue and shuffles the act himself: it’s time he and his lovely assistant abracadabra “serial monogamist” Selena Thomas into a first-degree murder arraignment. She’s pitching one uncanny shutout: four wealthy husbands, all room-temperature, all wed before untimely sudden deaths – and his grieving widow apparently cashing out nary a loaded life-insurance policy?
Her show’s on the road, and apparently headed for a limited New York City engagement, this time finding her good hunting at the Manhattan Millionaires’ Society bachelor auction. Peter has designs on baiting her with handsome Fed eye-candy packing shiny badges, not twinkling diamond bands. He needs three volunteers to fetch Thomas’ pretty penny at the meat market.
Now, I ask you: would this be “White Collar” if Neal wasn’t the first prize bull to be herded onto the truck?
One wise-crack too many, and Jones (Sharif Atkins) is the next in line.
Doth Neal and Jones protest this gig too much?
No, just enough, actually. It’s not long before there’s a consensus that this is a ship that demands the captain go down with it, if there’s good faith to be had. So Peter is of course roped into playing pretend. Regret doesn’t waste a moment getting comfortable.
“Are you scared to tell Elizabeth?” Neal asks.
“Terrified,” Peter answers.
The normally understanding Mrs. Burke is at first just about anything but cool with her lawman of the house squirming on a hook to get a nibble from a pretty black widow. Then Peter starts downplaying his appeal and thus the likelihood that he’s going to be the pick of all the eligible Pound Puppies, and suddenly, her man getting snubbed becomes a matter of pride for Elizabeth. Suddenly she’s Burgess Meredith and she’ll be damned if Mr. Suit won’t eat lightning, crap thunder and fetch a damn fine (fake) price . . . with her help.
Neal, meanwhile, will get his kicks as Texas oil heir Nicholas Monroe, much to the contrasting delight of vivacious Sara (Hilarie Burton), who finds it maybe just the slightest trace amusing that for all romantic interludes, they’ve never enjoyed a true couple-like “date” alone. For all Neal’s detail-mindedness, he seems boggled this has somehow escaped him.
Pro-Tip, would-be felons: when dating a feisty and alluring ginger-locked insurance investigator who once helped put you behind bars, one doesn’t press luck; one realizes picking up a check for a little Pad Thai and a Julia Roberts movie early and often is the price of freedom – and all its . . . ahem . . . “pleasures” contained therein.
Elizabeth is coaching her horse like a prized thoroughbred, but Sara would rather Neal tank his other dates and guarantee it will take but one bid to turn him from frying pan into the fire: Selena’s. To that end, she walks her slick Lone Star oil man through the fairer sex’s every glowing, red “For-The-Love-Of-God-Don’t-You- DARE-Push-It” button.
Come auction day, Jones decides he’ll win it straight up as Billy-Dee-Williams-smooth “Pastry Baron of Brooklyn” Arthur Ford. Peter Williams is straight-laced steel magnate Peter Williams, who’s been coached by Elizabeth that any woman can be won by remembering that those two ears are always to be used in proportion to that one mouth.
As chants of “Men! Men! Men!” ring across the auction house before the initial speed-dating style inspection of the stock, the boys look at one another like November turkeys that just realized, “Ever notice that ever 12 months, we end up down a few heads for Poker Night?” Jones/Ford lays it on thick and sweet as German chocolate cake frosting, and makes a few knees dangerously week. Neal/Nicholas makes one thing crystal clear: there’s only one thing he loves as putting a double-tap in young Bambi’s brainpan, and that’s checking the Mavericks score on his iPhone.
Meanwhile, Peter finds the fatal flaw in Elizabeth’s master plan: listening is fine, but hardly charming.
When auction time rolls around, Selena’s gotten a distinct impression of everybody. Jones softened her heart like warm cookie dough. Neal was the model mix of Jones’ charm and Peter’s intent, sincere interest. Peter? He gives up and ultimately suggests non-chalantly that any man could probably sweep her away easier than he.
Which proves to be just what she needed to hear.
Jones? A touch too charming for her. Neal? Surprisingly, too young – and saved from absolute rejection only by Agent Berrigan (Marsha Thomason) bidding a grand (his only bid) for his hand. Peter, though? Sincere, sweet, gentle – and apparently worth a cool $15,000 to her.
With Elizabeth still absolutely dreading the investigation’s unique dangers to her man – and maybe betraying just a little un-Tiffani Thiessen-like insecurity – Peter and Selena rendezvous for dinner, drinks and dancing, while Neal repays his debt to Berrigan with mango-chutney halibut and a little champagne of their own while monitoring Peter’s interactions with their suspect via Peter’s earpiece. In exchange, the Sapphic authority figure expresses her own dismay that she’s sharing a mano-a-mujer bite with Caffrey before “Insurance-Investigator Barbie.”
Some charming chatter and divine dining later, Selena decides rugs need cutting. Peter’s just fine, Neal’s fine, Berrigan’s fine – until a distinct tango kicks in. While Neal has a finger upon the “Panic” button, Peter is icicle-in-the-freezer cool: apparently, he’s el Diablo on the floor, giving even wicked Selena a little more than she bargained for.
When the dance is done, she whispers something unwittingly directly into Peter’s earpiece that we never hear, but that we can be assured from Berrigan’s reaction secures her enduring homosexuality. Incidentally, whatever she said was also just loud enough to short out the earpiece, leaving Peter working suddenly without a net . . .
Berrigan and Neal meanwhile learn that Selena was coincidentally the only witness to her husband being stabbed in the throat during a mugging, not long after their nuptials – and it all comes to light as a slinkily-dressed Selena is knifing some ice loose to mix Peter a drink.
Paging Phil Landerer
Peter gets some breathing room – really, about a nanosecond’s worth – by dumping his drink down his shirt, which only cues Selena to start popping buttons. Neal makes a timely call to Peter’s cell masquerading as a panicked employee, then pointedly saying that he’s looking for a “Phil Landerer” when he’s got his uneasy chum on the line.
Peter’s able to bolt, and Berrigan intercepts a call after he leaves from Selena to an accomplice laying out some plan or another to first get Peter to propose, then have him knocked off by a mysterious someone. When Elizabeth later learns the jig must continue, she’s absolutely less than pleased. She stomps off to take Satchmo for a walk. He just whimpers a meek “Dying for your sins, here! Forgive them, Father! They know not that this sucks!”
Later, Neal lures his Sara to his pad for their very first intimate dinner alone, which wins Neal a smooch and a bemused smirk from his lady fair.
Things aren’t going so hot for Peter and Selena, though, and it’s about to poke some holes in Neal’s boat. He texts Neal and warns him that he’s “commandeering his date.” In a turn that could only work so fortuitously for one Neal Caffrey, his apartment just happens to have been a speakeasy in another life, complete with an “Observation Room” – now, Neal’s closet.
He and Sara adjourn and leave Peter and Selena their should’ve-been fine meal. Selena sees Neal’s art, takes Peter for the gifted artist, and suggests he sketch her. Right then, right there.
This presents one glaring problem.
“Unless she’s expecting a breathtaking stick figure, she’s in trouble,” Neal remarks.
Neal tells Sara that Peter does indeed know of the room, and knows that’s where Neal is waiting. He manages to write “Help Me!” on a canvas, signaling Neal to work up the best sketch he can.
On cue, Mozzie (Willie Garson) walks in and barely saves a remark about “throwing a grappling hook through a post office window” upon grasping the situation. Peter introduces his “man servant” who he then gives the “night off” so that he can apparently go check in on Neal in the closet.
Somehow, Mozzie manages to slip Peter Neal’s finished sketch and con him out of $50 on his way out the door. If you catch the rerun, watch the scene closely; you can see the moment when Peter sees the mocking wedding ring Neal has drawn on Selena’s finger and Peter’s sudden desire to paint a very different picture of Caffrey.
Something reminiscent of Dexter Morgan’s “Season Two” period, I’d think.
Selena takes it an entirely different way: the suavest of suave marriage proposals.
“Best. Date. Ever,” declares Sara. Strangely, we don’t hear Neal arguing the point.
Here Comes the Bride
Elizabeth? No longer simply uneasy. If Peter is allowed to breathe without permission by the next Super Bowl, he’ll be counting his blessings. Still, she believes, all is not lost. After all, this wedding needs a planner.
She plays her part, chats up Peter and Selena, and as they’re entering their car, barely warns Peter in time for him to dodge being run down by a sedan.
In a discussion after, Selena apparently tells Peter that should the unthinkable occur, she wants not a dime. She instead wants a big charitable donation in his will.
It rings some bells with Team Fed. Apparently, it’s been the modus operandi for her last four marriages – complete with every charity receiving a sizeable donation now being defunct, and every single one being managed by a bogus attorney names Gerald Jameson (Jonathan Silverman), who bears a striking resemblance to the bachelor auction organizer and auctioneer.
So the sting is set up. Neal goes forth once more as Nicholas, and successfully talks Jameson into renting out his auction house for Peter’s upcoming bachelor party. At the party, Neal and Peter dupe Jameson into repeated shots of tequila while agents posing as party-goers conduct surveillance.
The next day, Berrigan comes to Selena’s door regarding the “death” of Jameson under “suspicious circumstances.”
Well, he was dead-drunk, maybe, giving Neal more than enough time to snap his unconscious-headshot photo and attach it to a bogus incident report. That sends Selena into a panic, wherein she clears out the ill-gotten gains and takes off – running into a revived and hung-over Jameson along the way.
Followed, shortly after, by a cadre of arresting agents.
“It’s not me. It’s you,” Peter tells Selena.
There’s still this matter of what to do with the wedding arrangements which have already been ordered.
During the undercover “wedding planning,” Elizabeth let slip that she was disappointed that her wedding to Peter spiraled from an intimate gathering into a massive production, ruining her small, person gathering. Peter takes a play from Neal’s book and lures Elizabeth to Neal’s home. Clad in a fine tux, he takes a knee and offers her the wedding she didn’t get to have.
“Small, simple – just us,” he says. “Will you marry me again?”
“Yes. As many times as you ask,” she answers.
And then, with Neal a witness and the ordained Rev. Mozzie presiding, they go about joining “Mr. and Mrs. Suit” in holy matrimony.