By John Keegan and Gregg Wright
In an unusual move for "White Collar", the season premiere was only the first part of what can be thought of as the show's first two-part premiere. Needless to say, I'm very happy with this change in the normal status quo, and I hope it represents a trend. If the final moments of the episode are anything to go by, then this may very well be the case. The previous season had a few more problems than I'd like, particularly in regards to the main story arcs, so I'm curious to see if this season improves on the last.
So far, there's no clear message as to what the season will be about, but I'm glad to see that the show is taking the right amount of time to deal with the aftermath of Neal's escape at the end of the previous season. Getting things back to normal after only one episode would have been unbelievable, and I'm glad to see that Peter and Neal are still dealing with that aftermath when the credits begin to roll. Could this season be heading in a slightly more serialized direction?
With Neal having been handed over to Agent Collins by Dobbs in the previous episode's cliffhanger, Peter and Mozzie have to team up to rescue him. I thought that this would constitute a big portion of the episode, but the rescue is pulled off surprisingly quickly (even with Neal getting a bullet in the leg). It's a little too bad, because it's always fun to see Peter and Mozzie working together. But the rescue is simply the prelude to an even bigger operation involving all three men. And this is where the episode expands on the previous one in some interesting ways.
As it turns out, Dobbs has a very good reason for wanting so desperately to avoid the prying eyes of the US government. Peter realizes that Dobbs is actually Rob MacLeish, a man on the FBI's most wanted list (having had extensive plastic surgery to change his appearance, of course). Peter then hatches a plan to get Neal his old job back through the redemptive act of helping to bring in MacLeish. Only one problem. No extradition from Cape Verde. So the three men must find a way to get MacLeish off the island to a place where he can be extradited.
From here, the plot seems to take a bit of a typical turn, as Neal, Peter, and Mozzie must plan and execute another heist-like plan. The plan, which involves turning the bad guys against each other, is certainly nothing new for "White Collar" (and seems to happen every other week on "Burn Notice"). But I'll admit to enjoying it in spite of its lack of originality. It's always fun to see Peter learning to be a better con man, and the unusually exotic locale adds flavor to the proceedings. And besides, there's more to the plan than meets the eye.
The twist involving Maya (not Mia, as I incorrectly called her in the previous review) is a bit transparent, but the end reveal is still a satisfying and somewhat unexpected end to the proceedings. Sadly, Neal must leave both Maya and Mozzie behind in Cape Verde. Maya was expected, but I did not expect Mozzie to become separated from Neal and Peter. I guess the writers couldn't find a way to make Mozzie's return to New York believable, or maybe Willie Garson wanted to step down as a show regular, or perhaps something else is going on. Whatever the reason, I certainly hope he makes a quick return.
After Neal and Peter fly back to New York, Neal takes up residence in his old room at June's, where he's visited by Ellen. Some tantalizing reminders are dropped about the mystery surrounding Neal's corrupt cop father, and Ellen bids Neal a final goodbye. Being in witness protection, for some unknown reason, Ellen is no longer safe in New York. But Neal makes Ellen promise to tell him everything before she leaves. I suspect that this conversation will occur off-screen, leaving us, the viewers, to learn the information slowly over the course of the season.
As if spending two episodes away from New York and leaving Mozzie behind aren't big enough subversions of the status quo, the episode drops one final bomb on the viewer in its last moments. In good writing, actions have consequences, and that means that Peter has not come out of all of this looking totally clean to the FBI. He's been re-assigned--fired from White Collar Division. Such a deviation from the norm is likely very temporary, but I'm pleased to see the show attempting to shake things up a bit. I have high hopes for the season, and I hope a strong season-spanning story arc begins to emerge before too long.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.