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White Collar - Episode 1.01 - Pilot - Recap / Review

In 24 days we will officially have a new White Collar episode. I don't know about you guys, but it seems like it's been forever. So in excitement for the hiatus ending, I thought we could stroll down memory lane and where better to start than the Pilot that first gave us the awesomeness that is Neal Caffrey and Peter Burke. Hope this brings back fond memories for you too….

We begin as a scruffy man shaves off his beard with prison created tools. Hello, Neal Caffrey. Let's not try that beard ever again. You look like Ted Kaczynski. Neal takes a prison uniform, conveniently stashed in the toilet tank and sneaks right out of maximum security prison. I'm a little concerned about the prison system because that looked way too easy. After hotwiring a van, he drives off and buys a yellow slicker off a street vendor. In the luckiest/smartest move of all, he gets a rich old man to give him his car keys for a month because he thinks Neal is with valet parking. Meanwhile, Peter Burke, FBI extraordinaire, paces while a safe cracker attempts to break into a bank vault. He deduces something fishy but it's too late - the vault explodes. Apparently the bad guy has a sense of humor; he spelled out FBI with the code. Peter goes berserk and at first glance I didn't really like him. He was too busy blaming everyone and making people feel like idiots even though they went to Harvard. He's just justifiably ticked but I like our Peter better - the solution-makers with endless patience with Neal.

Diana enters to break the bad news about Neal's escape. Peter wonders why Neal would choose to escape now with only 3 months left in his prison term. He's snarky in a bad way to the warden and others on the team but proves he is the right guy to lead the task force. He's definitely able to get in Neal's head. Neal used the warden's wife's AmEx to get a guard's uniform off the internet. I wonder why they didn't check his mail. This is one lax maximum security prison. He then took an old pass and restriped it with a cassette player. Glad to know there's a use for those. Peter: "We're not going to catch Caffrey using roadblocks and wanted posters." Peter makes the intuitive leap that Neal grew the beard so the guards wouldn't recognize him when he shaved it. Smart move! He traces Neal's plan back to when Kate Moreau, Neal's girlfriend, visited him last. Who knew? Peter is a lip reader too.

Back at Kate's last known address, Peter finds a distraught Neal holding an empty wine bottle. Escaped convicts should make me afraid, but he looks so upset that I can't help but feel sorry for him - just like TPTB want me to. Neal is gun-free because he's a gun-hating criminal, also designed to make me like him. Darn TV execs! He laments that he missed Kate by two days and I wonder why it took her so long to move out. Was she waiting for the lease to be up? Peter tells Neal that he is surrounded by well..everyone but Neal no longer cares because the empty bottle is Kate's way of telling him goodbye. Unfortunately, this also means 4 more years in prison for Neal. Love bites!

Neal snarks about Peter's lack of style but is very curious about a fiber on Peter's jacket. Peter reminds us that it comes from the blown safe and Neal knows what it is. Take that Harvard grads! Peter claims the mad bomber may be as good as Neal. Having seen more than one episode, I highly doubt it. Neal trades his knowledge for a meeting with Peter later on. Back at the feds, Diana tells Peter that Neal was right. It is a fiber from the newly minted, not yet revealed Canadian $100 bill. Peter knowing this could cause an international incident.

Peter meets Neal as scheduled, and apparently Neal saw Catch Me If You Can with Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio while in prison. He wants to exchange prison for an ankle monitor and 4 years service to the FBI. Hey it worked well with Frank Abagnale, Jr. and some early hackers. Peter says no and Neal's hopes of finding Kate are up in smoke. Back in his prison cell, Neal befriends a prison guard who lets him keep his light on longer. Unfortunately, the stresses of the day make Neal wig out and he takes out a light before marking the days on the other side of his cell.

Roughly three months later, Peter can 't sleep either. His wife, Elizabeth, comes downstairs and Peter exposits that Neal would have be out that day if he hadn't run. May I interrupt here to say Elizabeth is an awesome addition to this show. Peter has someone to patiently support him and she provides common sense and a good sounding board for Neal. Besides Tiffani Amber Thiessen has come a long way from 90210 and Saved by the Bell. Peter still hasn't found the Dutchman and Neal's offer is sounding good, although he objects to letting criminals out before serving their time. Peter also thinks Neal is playing him for more than just Kate. He's smart to suspect, but Elizabeth reminds him that people do crazy things for love. Elizabeth: "So you're suggesting he escapes a maximum security prison knowing full well that you'd catch him just so he could trick you into letting him out again." Peter: "It's a working theory." Elizabeth: "Yeah, keep working." Great moment between the two of them. This was the point when I first watched this episode that I started liking Peter.

At the prison, Neal is released into Peter's care, ankle monitor on. The stakes are high. If Neal runs, he goes back in prison for life. Peter warns him about looking for Kate and tells Neal that they have to catch the Dutchman to make the situation permanent. Neal's new home is a skeevy hotel. Jail is looking pretty plush right now. Peter exposits that Neal can go two miles from the hotel and leaves him with the Dutchman file. Since Neal is the luckiest con man in the world, he shops at the thrift store when June, a rich newly widowed woman drops off her late husband's clothes. In it is Neal's signature hat. He recognizes a jacket from Sy Devore, dresser of legendary Rat Packers' Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Neal and June hit it off and she happens to have an extra guest room. When Peter goes back to Skeevy Hotel, he finds a note saying that Neal moved in with June. Peter's justifiably confused since Neal now has a penthouse view, a much better place for $700 a month. Conveniently, it's even within his radius. Peter finds the whole thing unfair. He reminds June that Neal is a criminal. She knows that but apparently so was her late husband, Byron. I like June. She's sassy. Neal rejoins Peter to the tune of The Good Life by Frank Sinatra. He's styling but Peter thinks it's too flashy. They both have a point. Peter is particularly prickly these days and Neal calls him on his jealousy. Neal thinks his new life is the way it should be but Peter calls reality check. They get sidetracked over June's superior coffee and Peter warns Neal about "something for nothing schemes".

Diana meets them at the airport, not at all impressed with Neal's charms but liking the hat. They have detained Tony Field for bringing in old copies of Snow White in Spanish. His luggage is as old as the books. There is nothing special about the books but Tony is very nervous. Peter says Diana isn't interested in Neal. "You're not even on her dance card. No dancing for you." I love the way he says this. Tony is nervous but snarky and completely underestimates

Peter Burke. So did I. Peter knows a lot about folklore, not part of standard FBI training. Unfortunately, Tony's lawyer shows up forcing Peter out. Tony looks even more nervous. Meanwhile Diana chats with a female and Neal finally undrstands. He asks about FBI policy. Peter: "That's the military. We don't ask; we don't care." Peter confronts airport police about the lawyer, but by the time he gets back, Tony is dead. Peter is ticked. However, Neal understands it's not about the books but the paper. They visit the National Archives and suddenly it's about a Spanish Victory bond. I'm confused because I thought it was about Canadian $100 bills until I finally see that these are two completely separate cases. Or are they? Oh well, moving on. The paper from the books is a perfect fit for the bonds. Peter's impressed: "You're starting to earn your $700 a month." The museum guy exposits the bond's history and we realize that the Dutchman is trying to fake entire boxes of the bonds, netting millions of dollars. Neal breaks the museum guy's heart by claiming the bond is a forgery.

Peter exposits for those not caught up, while Neal does impressive mental math. Peter wonders why the Dutchman would put a forgery in the archives but Neal exposits that when a box of "newly discovered" bonds are found they would be tested against the one in the Archives. Peter has missed dinner and rushes to get home. He talks to Neal about Elizabeth on the way, but it's Neal who remembers their anniversary is coming up. Peter has a few days to get a good 10-year anniversary gift. Neal calls Peter on not knowing what makes Elizabeth "feel alive," but Peter is annoyed because he feels guilty. "You don't get to lecture me about relationships. My wife didn't change her identity and flee the country to get away from me." Ouch, way to be a jerk there, Burke. At least he apologizes right after, but Neal is done giving relationship advice.

At June's House of Spectacular Views, Neal hears a noise and brandishes a walking stick. Good thing, it's Mozzie. I love me some Mozzie; this show has fantastic secondary characters. He misquotes Ginsberg and tells Neal he met June already. Mozzie can't pick the ankle monitor and doesn't know where Kate is. He can however help Neal find the bond creator. The next day at the Burke residence, Peter looks for what inspires Elizabeth, but still draws a blank. The phone rings and Jones tells Peter that Neal's ankle monitor went off. Peter freaks only to find Neal having coffee with Elizabeth. Neal is impressed that Peter got Elizabeth to marry him;, Peter is not impressed that Neal is in their house; I am impressed at how much I like this show only 37 minutes in. Even Satchmo the dog likes Neal. Elizabeth told Neal about Peter putting her under surveillance before asking her out. It's a classic boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy abuses his power and taxpayer money to find out what girl likes kind of story. Before Peter can eject Neal forcibly from the house, Neal says he knows who the Dutchman is - Curtis Hagen. Apparently art forgers get tired of never having their skills recognized and regularly sign their stuff. Sounds risky to me. Curtis Hagen signed the peasant's pants and Neal signed the bonds he was imprisoned for. Luckily Hagen is restoring a church not far from Peter's house, so they pay him a visit.

The church is closed for renovations but Neal tells a priest that Peter is going through a midlife crisis and needs to be there to save his soul. The priest gives them five minutes. Peter wonders why he hasn't heard of Hagen before. Neal: "You only know the guys who get caught. You know the second best criminals." Peter: "What's that say about you?" Neal: "It says there's an exception to every rule." I love their banter. Neal finds initials, but Peter's not sure. Before they can argue further, Hagen comes by and kicks them out. He knows who Neal is and I know who Hagen is. It's Mark Sheppard - I love that guy!!! He was best as Crowley on Supernatural but he did a great job in Leverage, The X-Files, Burn Notice, and much, much more. He's my favorite all-round guest star. Here's hoping he finds his way back in the future. As they leave, the priest tells Peter to "listen to the spirit, son, not the flesh." BWAH!!!

Back at the FBI, Peter consults Neal on the Elizabeth anniversary case. He's used the Patriot Act to get her bills, video rentals, etc. That makes me feel secure about my privacy. Neal agrees. "So, you're stalking your own wife?" In summary, Elizabeth likes pottery, Nancy Drew, candles, jazz, etc. "I don't think you're going to find your answer tucked into a list of her eBay bids." Neal explains how the bottle Kate left was a symbol of their future. He got an expensive wine bottle (empty) and filled it up with cheap wine while they pretended to be in France. "..that bottle was a promise of a better life. What Kate got was a guy locked away for half a decade." Aww, I'm feeling sorry for the criminal again. He tells Peter to think of promises he broke to Elizabeth instead of "oleander candles." Diana breaks up the moment but Hagen seems clean. Peter wants all resources on it before Hagen can flee the country and Diana agrees to forge his signature if anything gets in the way. Peter is oddly excited about that considering Neal was locked away for forgery. Peter reminds Neal (and us) that if they lose Hagen, he goes back to prison.

At June's, Mozzie is waiting but he can't pull off the hat thing like Neal can. Neal says he was impulsive to go to the church and now needs to link Hagen to the forgery within the week. Mozzie has a picture of Kate, but a man with a pinky ring has Kate. Neal shares this with Peter, expositing that Kate is in San Diego under the alias Kate Perdu, which is French for lost. Neal thinks it's a message for him. Neal wants to fly to San Diego after the case is over, but Peter pulls a reality check. Kate dumped him. Neal: "I know there's more to our story. Ok. She disappears in the dust? No, that's not an ending." Neal says she's "the one" and I wonder what made Neal fall so hard for Kate. I'm glad we are getting some back story soon. She better be impressive or I'm backing Peter this time. Neal agrees to drop it and meets Mozzie in the FBI smoking area. Jones goes too and offers Neal a light. Mozzie makes me laugh by choking while pretending to be a hardcore smoker. Mozzie hid a message in the cigarette's filter with the location of Hagen's warehouse operations. Meanwhile, Peter figures out what to get Elizabeth.

At Hagen's warehouse of illegal activity, Neal hears a printing press going, but Peter has no reasonable cause so they can't go in. He orders recording equipment and tells Neal to study warrant law. Peter wants to meet Mozzie. Instead Neal does read the warrant law, which is way above the call of duty in my opinion - even if he is their convict liaison. Early in the morning, Peter gets a call about Neal running, but he's at the warehouse taking pictures. Hagen's guards drag him into the warehouse, allowing him access without breaking the law. Neal locks himself in Hagen's office with the original bond and Cuban cigars. He tells Hagen he shouldn't have signed the bonds as the police sirens sound. Nothing like an escaped convict on the loose to allow the FBI into your constitutionally protected warehouse - exigent circumstances and all. Hagen is not happy. Neither is Tony's lawyer/assassin. Peter snarks that this makes him "3 and 0" in finding Neal. Neal agrees, "Maybe I'm not trying hard enough."

Back at June's Penthouse, Peter takes a blindfolded Elizabeth to his Caribbean recreation, New York-style. Elizabeth thinks it's cheesy, but sweet. The real gift though is a vacation in Belize courtesy of a government-seized drug house. Elizabeth tells him to shut up about the details and just tell her it's nice. They are so good together. The next day, Peter tells Neal his consultant position is permanent as of now. He even made Neal his own badge. Neal agrees to stay in town while Peter's on vacation, but he looks at the Kate picture and the credits roll.

This show does a great job with its characters. It would be easy for them to be one-sided or unlikeable, but each one brings something to the dynamics. Not just the main characters, but Mozzie, Elizabeth, Diana, and Jones too. In a word, this show is fun. I can't wait to see what happens on Jan. 18.

Screencaps by killcolor.  My other recaps as dahne1.blogspot.com.

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