As most viewers of White Collar can attest to, Jeff Eastin and his motley crew of writers have taken loyal “collars” on an exciting trip from Neal’s introduction in the Pilot as he searched for Kate, the music box, his budding partnership with Peter and ulterior partnership with fellow con, Mozzie. All these things defined him, creating a very strong pull which made him want to stay where he was and put himself in harm’s way to protect those he had come to love. During this time both Neal and Peter survived hardship to find a treasure beyond belief that nearly tore their friendship apart. Fences are mended in the end, but all good things can’t last forever. We see that Neal may never get his happy ending, although as this episode progresses he looks happy to remain with the Burkes and his new found family in New York on or off the anklet. With Mozzie promising to stay by his side, everything seems far more perfect than it should be.
White Collar: “Judgement Day” Review (or as Mozzie said: “The WORSE worst case scenario!”)
The very first scene in Judgement Day shows Neal up-close in the camera talking to the commutation committee about himself: Neal George Caffrey, and how he wants nothing more than to stay where he is. He seems way too cocky, too full of confidence as he slips up with a smart remark when they mention him being the “poster boy for reform.” He returns home to hang with Mozzie finding out that while he can’t let his friend speak for him (he is a con after all), Kramer is on the list of witnesses. This worries him enough to go visit with Peter at his home in Brooklyn where he remarks on the lovely scent wafting throughout their home. Peter smiles as he says that El has been baking and shows him a pretty yellow flowery cake with the words: “Congratulations on your Commutation.” Neal looks impressed if not touched as they turn to see Elizabeth coming in with another cake that has a fondant cat hanging off a branch with the words “Hang in there” and an anklet on it’s tiny leg. Both men find it funny especially the fact it’s a rum cake and apparently El put the whole bottle in there.
El leaves the two alone and they speak about Kramer. Peter tells him not to worry. This is where we find out that the agent has been kept out of the loop to what is going on with his former mentor, but Diana has been passing info to him. Kramer wants to find something hidden in letters Neal sent to Kate from prison and use it either to keep the con on anklet or send him back to prison. Nobody knows which.
Peter is worried about his friend and partner, not ready to lose him without a fight. He visits with his old mentor, who acts the friend and fatherly type, but tells Peter without further ado that he doesn’t want him hurt by the con. He thinks they are too close. Peter confronts Kramer for a reason why, obviously upset, when he finds out the real reason behind his mentor’s digging: He wants Caffrey to go with him to DC. This of course brings out my own thoughts about past transgressions. Neal investigated Fowler when he thought he was holding Kate in season 1 and found out about “Project Mentor.” Fowler insinuated he wasn’t investigating Neal but Peter. Maybe Adler involved someone higher up? How else would Fowler have gone from Violent Crimes (his wife was murdered and he was being blackmailed for getting revenge on her killer) up to OPR? This is just my theory for now so perhaps we’ll see more in Season 4 on this.
After the first break we see June giving testimony. She seems much older than her normal self, the very image of a sweet old woman who took in a kind young boarder. She explains how she met Neal, where he was staying (a flea bag hotel) and how he had helped her overcome being lonely in a very big house after her husband had passed on. June goes further (we find out her surname is Ellington, like the Duke) to say that if her husband were alive, he would have loved Neal as she does, like a son. All the while she holds a blue handkerchief in her hand and her eyes look sad yet hopeful as she insists quite emphatically that Neal should be set free. She is excused, a guard helping her obviously distraught self out of the building, when Mozzie walks up and puts an arm around her. She smiles at him and it’s obvious they’ve pulled a fast one in their friend’s favor.
Fade back to Peter standing in his kitchen at home as Elizabeth walks in and he seems worried about something. Now that he knows what Kramer wants he obviously doesn’t want to lose his CI but it’s more than that. He knows things his mentor doesn’t that if they came out, Neal would be tossed back in prison. El looks worried but tells him to talk to Neal (which he refuses because the young man is worried enough) or ask Kramer about his intentions with Neal.
Peter goes to work, where Neal is acting the poster boy for case files (which the con hates) and the agent compliments him about working hard. That makes the consultant curious as he follows and finds out what it is that Kramer is looking for in those letters. We also discover that Kramer wants Neal as his own “tool in his belt” (ex: Agent Rice from “Front Man”) and when Neal’s two years are up he will not let the young man go free. He insists he’s protecting Peter but the agent knows better, obviously upset despite finding out that Kramer insinuated his omitting certain things from the case files which apparently read like “pulp fiction.”
Next we find Neal has gone to visit Sara Ellis, the files he saw telling him that Kramer is after the Raphael. Sara is not mad but happy if not excited to know he had stolen it and was so close to having gotten it back. She even kisses him pulling out old evidence and handing it to him as they discuss how to give her the painting back as his way of righting an old wrong. Kramer calls during their planning and she lies that she has the Raphael already. This gives Neal 6 hours to retrieve it and hopefully clear his name before the hearing tomorrow.
The con heads out to Roosevelt Island about to hop a tram when Peter calls asking why he’s there. With some momentary suspense, Neal asks for a change of radius to do what he needs to (without telling Peter what) and gets to the island where he meets up with an old friend named Ellen. She seems more like family than anything and we find out she was apparently his father’s partner on the force. We also find out his parents are both alive but she doesn’t know where. The more they catch up on old times, the more we discover things such as Neal was about to become a police office and join the academy when he found out about his father’s past and the fact he had been a dirty cop. His mom lied about his father being dead and we see a very old picture Ellen kept of Neal as a child with his father. Soon he tells why he’s really there and she gives him the picture and tells him that Kate left it for him.
Neal leaves, warning her that the FBI may come by, only to bump into Peter who’s followed him. They go back in the tram to Manhattan. Neal is about to reveal some deep dark secrets, even Mozzie doesn’t know, when Peter’s cell rings and Diana tells him that Kramer is waiting to take Neal in. Neal takes a chance to Peter’s shock and admirable surprise as he leaps from one tram to another and rides it back to the island only to meet up with Mozzie. During this time we see a quick flash or two of Sara giving testimony. She admits having hated Neal in the past, nailing him to the wall at the bond forgery hearing since she lost the Raphael, but that her mind had changed as he had. She thought he deserved a chance for his reformation.
After the next break, Elizabeth Burke is on the stand. She slips up a bit in her testimony but she admits that like her 12 year marriage / partnership with Peter, her husband shares a very close and trusting bond (trust when it counts) with the ex-con and thinks that he should be set free.
Meanwhile Peter meets up with Kramer as he exits the tram and blames his former mentor for the reason why Neal isn’t here now. They argue a moment over the fact that Peter might not be as law abiding as he used to be. There are definite fireworks between the two as they part and Diana follows.
Soon we’re back with Neal and Mozzie who are in a stolen ambulance somewhere in Manhattan. We find out that Mozzie kept half the treasure (less than half since he was mad at Neal) for his friend just in case. Neal doesn’t want to run, so he leaves to take the painting back to Sara and fix things.
It’s an exciting close chase as Neal avoids capture (mainly due to Diana taking a chance and helping him,) and getting to Sterling-Bosch only to get caught by Kramer and agents (including Peter) in the lobby. Kramer takes the painting with an almost gleeful air as he makes Peter handcuff his partner and friend. Sara Ellis shows up not too soon after with her boss, Walter Bosch to reveal that there is no crime here. The painting apparently belongs to them and Neal was bringing it back as a favor since he was their main authenticator. Kramer looks mad now, throwing accusing looks and words at Peter as the con is set free and sent home.
With all the excitement above happening, Jones was giving his statement. He looks somewhat nervous but he speaks of Neal in glowing terms describing him as “knowing people.” He paints a kind picture of a caring individual just as likely to give you your space as to let you bend his ear when you needed it. Despite the kind words, Jones knows that much as he likes and respects Neal, the con should finish his time. He looks sad saying those words but you can tell he really does care for his conman colleague and respects him. All of these statements from Sara, El, June and Jones seem to show that as much as Neal feels he is an outsider, he has come to be respected and loved by several individuals and he is more than the criminal tag that has been placed on him by others including Peter Burke.
In one of the last scenes, Neal is at the hearing now. He seems less self-assured, definitely less cocky and more honest with how things should be. He tells the committee that whether he is on anklet or off, he his happy where he is and doesn’t intend to leave anytime soon. Outside he meets up with Peter who asks him about Ellen and the Degas. Neal tells him the truth about the Degas and how he switched it, keeping to his word that he had never lied to the agent but Peter doesn’t believe him so he promises to tell all once the hearing is finished. They part and there is a quick flash of scenes starting with Neal looking happy as he walks the streets of Manhattan, Sara gazing happily at the Raphael and then fade back to Peter about to enter for his part in the hearing.
Kramer shows with Marshals much to Peter’s dismay and he discovers that no matter what, his mentor is never going to let Neal stay with him. Right at that moment Neal appears in the background. They give each other a knowing look and then Peter shakes his head as Neal nods and disappears.
The last and final part is the most significant of all. It pans between Peter giving his statement and Neal at June’s. Peter is talking about how Neal is an individual, a person to be treated with respect. If they keep him tethered, he will only continue to act on what he knows. If they set him free, then they will see what choice he will make good or bad. While he speaks we see Neal at June’s as he pulls a bag from his secret cache, cuts his anklet, drops it on the table and takes a cab. The last few images are close-ups of Peter obviously getting to his point of freeing Neal forever as we watch Neal get on a plane where Mozzie joins him. There is a quick shot back to Peter testifying when Diana gets a call and interrupts. Neal has cut his anklet and run.
Wide shot of Neal in the plane seat looking nervous, sad, swallowing hard and finally… smiling only a glimmer.
Of all the cliffhangers, I have to say this is my favorite. While it was far more subtle than the last two finales, it didn’t tear at me. I almost feel like Neal left with Peter’s blessing and when the next season starts, we’ll find Peter and Neal back together again as they always were trying to find a way to undermine Kramer and bring the con back to the family and freedom he deserves. We can only hope.
Favorite scenes and lines:
- Mozzie: Well, behind every ‘worst case scenario’ is a ‘worse worst case scenario!
- Neal: Isn’t there a child who’s balloon you need to pop somewhere?
- Neal: Peter, I’m looking at 2 cakes here. 1 celebrates my fate while the other seals it. I’m on edge!
- Mozzie: How’d it go?
- June: I nailed it!
- Peter: I think we need a 3rd cake…
- El: 1 with a file in it?
- Neal: (on the tram to Roosevelt Island) Thank you buddy.
- Peter (on tram after seeing Neal make the jump) Wow!
- Mozzie: Got a second?
- Neal: (standing ON top of tram) I do now.
- Mozzie: It sounds windy where you are…
- Neal: It is.
- Neal: You saved my half? (of the treasure)
- Mozzie: A little less than half (Neal frowns some) I was angry, so sue me!
- Jones: You need a beer, he’ll pour but he’ll let you know he’s slumming it.
- Mozzie: I’ll lead the federal dogs on a chase of the “wild goose” variety.
- Love how happy Winston Bosch was when he found out that he didn’t have to pay Neal a fee. He was such a great spot on character!
- Neal: (testifying the 2nd time around) Someone (Jones) once said, My life is like a dream with an anklet attached…”
- Peter: We’re not in the revenge business. (pause) Neal pissed you off and now you want to hurt him!
- Peter: (at hearing) As long as we keep him (Neal) tethered, treat him like a criminal, he’ll always think he is.
Written by Elle Deegee, find her on twitter @j3nnee