This is not Neal Caffrey’s best day. Why? Because he has to deal with yet another face from his past: an insurance investigator named Sara, who really doesn’t like him. It’s like Alex, part two. I’m supposed to be impressed by the fact that she can beat up some guy and take his Mercedes, but I’m not. Seems she’s missing some Japanese bonds and needs the FBI’s help to get them back.
(A minor qualm: why the heck are we supposed to be all excited over her, and yet Sharif Atkins is still listed as a guest star? C’mon now.)
On a more somber note, Neal gets his first look at the remains of the plane he was supposed to be on. Just the look on Matt Bomer’s face is priceless as Neal and Mozzie try to figure out what happened on the day that Kate died. They bluff the FAA rep into sending Sara a copy of the audio recordings from the plane, but how is Neal going to get them from Sara? Especially when she seems more interested in cornering him about a painting he allegedly stole than actually working on the bonds case?
Still, Peter makes Neal play nice, and lays everything on the table: the bad guys are trying to get the bonds out of the country via a courier. The plan is to intercept the courier in Toronto, replace him with Neal and see what happens. Of course, nobody told that to Neal. However, this is a shameless excuse to see Matt Bomer looking absolutely fantastic in a leather jacket. (Sorry. Fangirl moment.) He makes his way to the meeting place, accompanied of course by the FBI van, where he’s met by a mysterious limo. It only gets worse when he finds out there’s a gun waiting for him in the backseat. Apparently, the courier’s real job is to kill someone. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Neal’s lost contact with the van…
By the time he gets back in contact with the van, he’s on the target’s doorstep and has no choice but to play along. His intended victim? None other than Sara. As much as I’d like to see her get a bullet in the head already, we all know Neal Caffrey isn’t that kind of man. He tries to explain to her what’s going on, and she’d rather shoot him instead than listen to anything. She has the cocky idea to fake her own death, and for the time being, it seems to work. Still, neither Neal nor Peter are thrilled, especially when she refuses to stay at the FBI safehouse as if she’s the one driving the proverbial bus. And since when does she get to call Peter by his first name as if she’s his buddy, especially when she’s pushing him around?
After all that, Neal should be happy to come home, only to find Mozzie telling him that since Sara is ‘dead,’the copy of the flight recording has now been locked up in her office. He suggests making nice with her and I cringe at the thought. (Peter: ‘Do you want something from Ms. Ellis?’Neal: ‘I want her to stop pointing guns at me.’) Peter, Neal and Sara try to figure out why someone wants her dead, and she suggests it has something to do with a property called Ridgemont, which she was looking at around the time the hit was taken out.
The next day, still posing as the hitman, Neal goes to meet the guy that hired him, who is not thrilled that he is still in New York. He presses the guy for details about Ridgemont, and elects to blackmail him to see what happens. Peter learns that the guy subsequently hires a landscaping crew for the following morning. When they arrive to crash the party, they find a very large container being unearthed. It contains one very dead body.
Tiffani Thiessen gets relegated to another phoner this week, to tell Peter to go play nice with Sara. Really? That’s all she gets to talk about? The next morning, he has an ID on the body: the same guy Neal was allegedly working for. The one Neal met is an imposter really named Steve Price, who used to live in the building and may have decided to knock off the real guy for the money he was about to inherit. He buys the property in order to cover up his crime — in theory. Neal’s idea is to expose the murder and recover the bonds, by using Sara. Peter goes to the not-boss’s office to break the fake story that Sara is still alive, and may be working with Neal, who he says is Steve Price. Touche, Agent Burke. The real Price is subsequently arrested taking the bonds out of a safe deposit box.
With the case wrapped up, this clears the path for Neal to try and get the recording off of Sara. He decides to charm her by claiming to drive her to her office. However, Peter thinks something is wrong, and he’s proved right when Jones tells him the real hitman was released by Canadian authorities twelve hours ago. He’s off to finish his assigned task and kill Sara. Neal is oblivious until people start shooting through her front door. Of course, Sara just so happens to still have her gun on her and save him from getting a slug in the head, because she handles everything. And unfortunately, Neal has to leave without the recording, which is bad for him but worse for us because that means we probably
haven’t seen the last of Sara.
I’m not too thrilled with this episode, and it all comes down to the guest star. For the last few weeks, all I’ve been hearing is hype about Hilarie Burton being on White Collar, and she wasn’t worth it (to be fair, nobody is worth weeks of hype). I’m supposed to be impressed by Sara because she has attitude! She can beat somebody up and take his car! She has a gun! She might even have a thing for Neal! We’ve had that — her name is Alex Hunter. Beyond that, it makes Sara look like a superwoman with no discernible flaws, unless you count that she’s a workaholic. Everyone on the show seems to bow to her attitude: she gets to tell Peter how she wants things done, while referring to him by his first name like she’s his friend; Neal has no choice but to kiss up to her; even Elizabeth’s conversation with Peter is about her. And she even saves Neal’s life! The whole hour revolves around her, and all our regular characters are just in her orbit. It’s ridiculous, and I’m annoyed that it’s going to continue in some shape or form. In my mind, this is the first misstep of White Collar’s sophomore season.
However, next week we have John Larroquette playing a pretty bad guy, and Neal getting in with the mob. That sounds more like the show I’ve come to know and love, and I don’t doubt we’ll rebound nicely.