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Throwback Thursday - White Collar - Judgment Day

Throwback Thursday, a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from over the years.

With every TBT article comes the opportunity to talk about truly thrilling television. This week is no different. Not too long ago I decided to delve into the world of White Collar, and I am more than happy that I did. In fact, I am thankful that I got to witness the amazing world of Neal Caffrey - con artist extraordinaire - and his handler, Peter Burke. Yes, there are certain seasons of this show I enjoyed more than others. However, the finale of the third season took the cake for me. There were other episodes I could've written about, like Vital Signs, Point Blank, Wanted, Most Wanted, or many others, but none of which compared to this episode for me. So, put on your nicest suit, strap on that anklet, and let's talk about some of the most well-acted, stunningly directed, and gripping minutes of TV. It's time for Judgment Day (not the Terminator kind, but still enthralling nonetheless).

Summary of the episode:

In the episodes leading up to this one, we were told that due to Neal's help in recovering the U-boat treasure, and taking down Matthew Keller, one of his rivals, there would be a hearing to take place that would discuss the possible commutation of Neal's sentence. Meaning, Neal could possibly lose his anklet, and become a free man. Already this episode is an exciting one. And with the name, Judgment Day, we already know it's going to show us his hearing and all of the stress involved. Neal is very prepared when he talks to the board. He cites that him and Peter work well together (I'll say!), and he believes he is a changed man. The board says that over the next few days, they will be hearing from Neal's closest friends and family, and on the last day, they will hear from Neal again and Peter will give his statement. Back at Neal's apartment, Mozzie asks how he thinks the hearings will go, and Neal says you could flip a coin to get the answer. Regardless of what happens, though, Neal says this (New York) is his home, and Mozzie is right beside him. Mozzie looks at Neal's commutation witness list, and notices his name isn't on it. Neal states that it's probably not a good idea to have a criminal speak on behalf of him. They go through the list of names and Neal has minor concerns for some, but is more confident towards others. Suddenly, Mozzie notices that Agent Kramer from the D.C. Art Crimes Unit is speaking at his hearing, while Neal thought that he as only going to submit a written report. Neal tries to stay positive while Mozzie could not be more negative if he tried.

Neal goes over to the Burkes' house where we find out Elizabeth (or El, for short) has been baking cakes. She made a commutation cake and a consolation. Neal slyly asks Peter if he has thought about what he's going to say. Peter says that he honestly has no idea right now. Then, Neal goes for the big question: why is Kramer speaking at his hearing? Peter warns Neal to not let this put him on edge, and says that Kramer has been keeping him out of the loop on this. Neal expresses concern, but Peter assures him that he has an inside man. Well, it's not exactly a man, it's actually Diana Berrigan, one of the most badass ladies on TV. Diana mentions that Kramer has had her digging through lots of files, and he managed to crack the codes hidden in Neal's letters to his old flame, Kate, from prison. Uh oh! Peter goes to talk with Kramer in his office, which just so happens to be in one of the interrogation rooms. Kramer nods that it's fitting, because it's "where we find the truth". Peter asks him if there's something he should know about, because he's still pulling Neal's case files. Kramer talks about the music box, Garrett Fowler, the U-Boat, which is all to say that Kramer thinks Peter is covering for him. Peter tells Kramer about how it's complicated, and Kramer says if anybody understands that, it's him. So, Peter wants to know what he's going to do now, and asks if he wants Neal back behind bars. And then, Kramer drops the bombshell. He wants Neal to work for him in D.C., on an anklet where he can control him. Damn! Well, at least we get the theme song now to collect our thoughts.

June's Testimony

The board asks June how her and Neal first met, and she cites how, in the Pilot, Neal was sent to live in a gross hotel. The board finds it a bit odd that June would take in a criminal, and June argues that she had no problems with this fact. She mentions that after her husband, Byron, passed away, that she was living all alone in her big, empty house, and Neal changed all of that for her. She thinks of him as a blessing. Here's a kicker: she says that her and Byron always wanted a son, and that she wishes he was still alive so he could meet him [Neal]. Wow, what a moving speech from June. The final question: does Neal deserve his freedom? June's quick to answer; yes, and the board must let him go free. Mozzie is waiting for her outside, where he asks her how it went. June's reply is classic, "I nailed it!" I love June so much.

Peter references Forging Bonds (2x14) in the next scene, and how one night, from sunset to sunrise, he gave Neal immunity to tell him every single crime he'd ever committed. But this was Peter's own version of immunity, illegitimate from the rest of the world. So, if Kramer finds these things, the Burkes are worried that Neal could go back to prison for life. El tells Peter to talk to Kramer again. So, Peter does. Only this time, Neal is there, lurking around to see what he has on him. This scene is particularly chilling, because while Kramer and Peter are talking about Neal, Neal is in Kramer's office. One part in particular haunts me. Neal finds the letters he sent to Kate from prison and the codes solved, but Peter is telling Kramer that he doesn't think Neal should go free. I remember shouting into the void; I was so mad at Peter, although I get where he was coming from. Neal also found a subpoena for the office that Sara Ellis works at, Sterling Bosch Insurance. Neal goes to her office, where Sara is surprised to hear about the subpoena. This would be a good time to mention that there was this painting called Raphael's St. George and The Dragon which Neal was rumoured to (allegedly) have stolen. Sara puts the pieces together: that if Kramer is interested in her files, than she was close to finding the Raphael. Neal confirms her suspicions, and Sara kisses him out of spite. Kramer cracked a partial address of where he is storing the Raphael, and Sara has the other part. When Sara goes to check the file on her computer, however, she is locked out. And to make matters worse, Kramer calls her and tells her she has 6 hours to hand over the Raphael. Neal promises her she'll get it.

Sara's Testimony

The board is interested to know if Sara's personal relationship with Neal is affecting her testimony today. She says that it most definitely is. They remember that this isn't the first time Sara has testified on behalf of Neal; that she has spoken against him in the past. It was because of the Raphael, and she went after Neal with everything she had. She recalls that she called him a liar, a thief, and probably a sociopath, and she meant every word of it. The board wants to know what changed. Sara's response? Neal did. How sweet.

I really like this next scene, too, because Neal is ready to go on a tram to Roosevelt Island, where the Raphael is stored, but Peter calls Neal and warns him that this is a trap and he's playing right into Kramer's hands. Neal claims he needs to do this. They both mention how this place is outside of Neal's 2-mile radius, so Neal pleads to Peter to call the Marshals and extend his radius temporarily. Peter hesitates, but Neal leaves his trust in him as the tram starts moving forward. Eventually, Peter does call to have his anklet temporarily stopped, and Neal whispers, "Thank you, Peter". Beautiful. The next move of Neal's was to call Mozzie. Neal tells Mozzie where he is but he asks Mozzie to get transportation because he'll need help getting back. Then, we see Neal going into someone's apartment. It's a woman named Ellen, who looks so happy to see him. She hasn't seen him since that day he ran away. Feelings, much? Anyway, she still has the Raphael and gives it to him, and she also has a picture of Neal and his father, who was a dirty cop. She warns him to be careful, and says that since she's in Witness Protection, now she'll have to move. So sad. When Neal leaves, Peter is waiting for him. Diana call Peter letting him know that when they get off the tram, Kramer and his crew are on the other side waiting for him. Uh oh, bad timing for a commercial break!

Elizabeth's Testimony

El is the first to speak in this scene, and she talks about her relationship with Peter and the longevity of it, and how it's built on respect, admiration, and trust. The board wonders what this has to do with Neal, and El says that Peter's relationship with Neal is based on the same elements. You're damn right it is! El says that Peter trusts Neal, when it counts. "In the end, when it counts, Peter puts up with Neal because...he's worth it". That quote brought a tear to my eye. And the last question: does Neal deserve to be free? El answers it straight: YES.

Back to the sticky situation Peter and Neal are in, Neal is planning an escape from the tram. Peter helps Neal get on top of their tram in order to jump on top of the tram travelling in the opposite direction. What a nice stunt, but a very dangerous one to boot. Peter's response? "Wow". Couldn't have said it better myself. Neal gets a call from Mozzie. Mozzie states that, "It sounds windy where you are". Yeah, no kidding! He also found them an escape: a stolen ambulance. Only Mozz. It's time for Peter to face the music, and Kramer. Peter tells Kramer that if he didn't threaten Neal, he wouldn't have been forced to go on the run. Peter always knew how to handler Neal. Kramer asks, "Are you handling him, or becoming him? Chilling question. Kramer's crew got word that the tram is heading back towards the island. Kramer warns Peter that he won't make it to Sterling Bosch in time, and if he does, he'll be waiting there for him. Neal gets back to the island, and in a stunning feat of action, he jumps a fence and sprints into the ambulance that Mozzie has found for them. They barely make it out of there in time, but they do.

Jones's Testimony

What Jones said kind of threw me off. I mean, I expected it from him, but it doesn't fit with the pattern of what everyone else said. Then again, I guess we needed someone to argue against Neal's commutation. Jones says that Neal is a great people person, he's a great listener, he has everything he wants, but he'll still pour you a beer and tell you he's having a hard time. Final question time: does Jones support Neal's commutation? Well, I already spoiled it above, but no. Jones states that Neal is damn good at what he does, and he considers him a friends, but he suggests that Neal should continue his sentence on his anklet helping the FBI.

Here's another great scene. Mozzie and Neal arrive at the side of the building of Sterling Bosch. Both Neal and Mozzie are a bit apprehensive about Neal's chances of making it inside to deliver the painting to Sara. Mozzie brings out Lolana (a figurine of a woman that Mozzie uses to remind Neal of the life of luxury they could have) and Neal gets curious. Mozzie tells Neal that before the whole Keller fiasco, he moved Neal's portion of the treasure out of harms way and can be used whenever he'd like. Mozzie says it's worth more than either of them could spend in their lifetime. That's a lot of money! Mozzie says that they can run, but Neal says he's tired of running. They hear on the radio that there's an APB out for the ambulance Mozzie stole, so this is Neal's cue to leave and try to make it to Sara. Sara calls Neal who seems to be concerned, but Neal just tells her to meet him in the lobby, and then he hangs up. Sara then gets a call from Peter who tells Sara to get a meeting with her boss in the next five minutes. Peter has a plan! That plan can't come soon enough, because Neal got spotted by one of Kramer's cronies. Looks like Neal needs to stay on the run a bit more. Along comes Diana, who starts driving around like a badass to save Neal. She drops him off at Sterling Bosch, but Kramer warned his agents to meet up there.

Peter's Plan

Peter and Sara talk to Mr. Bosch, and they appear to approach him with a proposal of sorts. Bosch wants to know if everything is legal, and Peter says he wouldn't be there if it weren't. Bosch asks them what he would have to do, and Sara just hands him some paperwork to sign. Neal glides into the lobby and all seems fine, until we hear the cold voice of Kramer. Kramer takes the Raphael out of Neal's hands, and tells Peter to handcuff Neal. Neal sort of apologizes to Peter, and Peter reassures him that it's not over yet. In walks Sara and Bosch, who argue that the painting in Kramer's hands is now property of Sterling Bosch insurance. Kramer retorts that it is evidence in a criminal investigation, but Sara states that it is their property and they hired Neal to authenticate it. Suddenly, this very serious scene got funny. Bosch offers him a cheque for $1200, but Peter claims that Neal's not allowed to accept it, so Bosch takes it back. Sara says, "See you around, Caffrey", and then walks off. Peter unlocks his handcuffs and tells Peter to go home and get some rest. Neal asks Peter if he will be okay, and Peter says he'll be fine. Aw! Kramer comes over and tells Peter to wake up, and, "You're not his partner, you're his mark". Okay, that's taking it too far. Peter asks Kramer when he stopped putting faith in people. Kramer's response? "When they stopped deserving it." That is very telling of the kind of person Kramer is. Perfect timing for a commercial break.

It's now time for the final questions for Neal. They ask Neal if he deserves to be free, and he says that's not for him to decide; that his actions while serving the FBI say more than he can. Good answer! Here's a good question to follow up: what would Neal do with his freedom? Neal assures them that if he become free, he wouldn't leave New York any time soon. He's happy there. Neal then references something Jones said in As You Were (3x08) - that Neal's life is a dream with an anklet attached. "If I wake up tomorrow and that anklet is still on, then I have a good job, a wonderful home, a partner, and best friend. A family. But to wake up, and answer only to myself...that would mean everything". Wow, that hit me right in the heart. They remind Neal that they have one more interview left to conduct, and he'll have an answer by 5 p.m. Next, Peter asks Neal how it went it there. Neal says it went about as well as it could have gone, and the nice thing is that it doesn't matter. He's still going to go to work on Monday, like any other day. Peter then changes the subject: he wants to know how Neal swapped out a painting from Countdown (3x10), and Neal tells Peter the exact truth, but Peter thinks he's messing with him. Peter asks who Neal saw at Roosevelt Island, and Neal says when this is over, he would tell Peter everything. Peter goes for his hearing, when he sees Kramer and some marshals surrounding the entrance to the building. Kramer says that they're there to take Neal to prison, that if Peter only listened to him, blah blah blah. Here comes my 2nd favourite part of this whole dang episode. Peter looks out to the street and sees Neal. As soon as they make eye contact, Peter subtly shakes his head side to side, telling Neal exactly what he needs to do. A person walks by, and as soon as the screen clears up, Neal is gone. Heartbreaking. It's time for Peter to speak, and when he does so, he participates in what is no doubt my favourite part of the episode.

Peter's Testimony

What is so brilliant about this scene is that while Peter is making his statement, it parallels and goes back and forth to Neal in his apartment slowly getting his things ready to go on the run. This scene was honestly the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. It had no problems bringing me to tears because it was honestly so touching. Peter's telling them how great it has been having Neal in his life; Neal is cutting off his anklet and getting his bag of passports and money. Here is my favourite quote of the episode, and of the whole show:

“We can sit here until kingdom come and debate over who is Neal Caffrey. But as long as we keep him tethered, as long as we treat him like a criminal, he’ll always think that he is one. Whether Neal is a citizen, a C.I., or a criminal is a decision that needs to be put in his hands.”

Bless this quote, and everything it stands for. Just as Peter says that he thinks Neal should be free, Neal is boarding a plane with Mozzie, headed to god knows where. Diana runs in and alerts the board (and Peter, although he knew this was coming. He practically gave Neal permission to do this) that Neal is is off his anklet. The last shots of this scene are Neal looking sad at first on the plane, but then turning to face the camera and smiling.

The impacts of this episode, leading into the following two episodes, are haunting. In typical Jeff Eastin fashion, we are left on a humungous cliffhanger. Where are Neal and Mozzie going? What will happen to Peter now that Neal is on the run? Will Neal and Mozzie make it safely to where they're going? Will they ever come back home? Will Peter catch Neal for a third time? All of the questions are answered in Wanted and Most Wanted, (4x01 and 4x02, respectively) but in all honesty, I could not have imagined watching this episode when it aired. I would've ripped my hair out waiting for answers! So, with that, I think you can all see why this episode works. The directing in the testimonies was beautiful, the stunt work was awesome, Neal and Peter's relationship continues to just be a treasure (ha, a pun!) and the acting is never short of perfection. I can safely say that Judgment Day, and White Collar in general, pass every sort of test you can give them.

Thank you for reading!

What are your thoughts on this wonderful episode? I cannot praise it enough. How about YOUR favourite episode, if you have a different one, or maybe we both agree? I would love to get a discussion going for this show that I love so much. So please, feel free to leave a comment down below.

Read more of my reviews [here].

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