By John Keegan and Gregg Wright
It's fitting, perhaps, that Sara Ellis would make her return to the show just when Neal is sent undercover to woo a beautiful heiress. The episode doesn't really milk the tension of this situation, but I found that more refreshing than disappointing. Sara remains extremely professional about the whole situation. And though Neal does confront Sara about what little tension does seem to have arisen between them, Sara is quick to explain that it's not Neal's fault. She has a personal reason for being bothered about Neal's departure.
I wish I could say "I told you so!" in regards to the shooting of Ellen, but I neglected to put that prediction in any of my previous reviews. I couldn't have been the only one to suspect that Ellen would soon be murdered. (True, she doesn't actually die onscreen, but her "Trust Sam" remark sounds suspiciously like a character's last words.) We knew that she was endangering herself by remaining in New York. Killing her off is a perfect way to spark off the season arc and make the coming conflict even more personal than it already is.
It's looking more likely than ever that Neal's father was framed, possibly by fellow officers. Neal's father may have simply been a good cop who went up against the wrong people, but I think the truth is more complicated than that. I suspect that Neal's father was involved with this season's baddies, and then, for whatever reason (perhaps his allies went too far), he had an attack of conscience. This is mostly speculation, but I hope they go this route, or in a similar direction. It would be much more interesting than a more black-and-white outcome in which Neal's father is simply "good" or "bad".
Though not surprising, and perhaps not as momentous, the end of this case marks the return of Peter to his old job at White Collar Division. I never expected Peter's absence from his desk to be for very long. The show has taken impressive steps in moving outside the usual format, but there's clearly still a limit to how far they'll go. And thankfully, Peter's return to work doesn't mean that the consequences of his recent actions have been completely dealt with. It's clear that Peter is worried about the man he's becoming.
The case itself is about average for "White Collar". It's pretty obvious from very early on who the real villain is. However, there is a reasonably good twist near the end of the episode that results in one of the better scenes of the episode. Neal certainly uses his con man prowess to full effect. But better yet is Mozzie's role in the investigation. I love how quickly he buddies up with the other P.I. and gets him to do what he wants him to do. Mozzie is about as eccentric as it gets, and yet he's fantastic at socializing and slipping into character when he needs to.
The myth arc elements, including the somewhat shocking ending (can something be both shocking and not surprising at the same time?), take an otherwise average episode and make it just above average. Now that the season has dealt with the aftermath of the previous season finale, the show can start heading in a new direction, and it has done just that. So far, I am much more pleased with the direction this season is heading in than I was with the last one. Like the music box story arc, we now have a new mystery to add intrigue and keep me glued to the screen until the truth is revealed.John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision. Gregg Wright is Critical Myth's reviewer for White Collar.