WHITE COLLAR: “Dentist of Detroit”

Due to my new status in life as a working stiff, I was not able to watch last week’s episode of White Collar until today. My apologies for this very late review! Also, because of my increased workload, I will have to drop my regular covering of Covert Affairs. Why, you may ask, am I continuing to cover White Collar but not Covert Affairs? Well, Covert Affairs comes on later. Yes, that’s the big reason; my apologies to our Covert Affairs fans! I will continue to watch and enjoy that show thoroughly, as I hope all of you will, too.

So, this week, we learned that Mozzie was orphaned as an infant, left at the door to an inner-city Detroit church, and found by the head of the attached children’s home, Mr. Jeffries. The only item with little Mozzie in his bassinet was a teddy bear named Mozart. Unable to pronounce “Mozart” as a child, little Mozzie called the bear “Mozzie,” a name he adopted when he left Detroit after scamming the local mob out of $500,000. Why is this important? Because the mob has tracked Mozzie down, wanting him to scam the Irish mob of NY in the same way he scammed them, or Mr. Jeffries gets it.

Mr. Jeffries, meanwhile, is on the run to NY to warn Mozzie. Mozzie, though, has Neal, who hears in the FBI’s morning meeting that a Detroit mob boss is in town and, knowing Mozzie came from Detriot, Neal starts poking around. So does the Detroit boss. Peter, knowing Neal, figures out something’s up, literally connects the dots of Neal’s and the boss’s movements. Clever, clever Peter.

Anyway, Mr. Suit gets Moz in bed with the Feds to protect him and Mr. Jeffries, and to end the next great mob war of NY before it starts. Mozzie is taken into protective custody, where he must explain to Peter that, although he is The Dentist of Detroit who stole $500,000, he is not responsible for the rap sheet which the Detroit bosses racked up to keep it under wraps that The Dentist was a twelve year old kid.

Poor Mozzie in an FBI safe house tugs on Elizabeth’s heartstrings, prompting her to bake him muffins and visit, playing gin and chatting, which is a genuinely sweet scene. Her concern for Peter touches even Mozzie, who assures her that Peter will be fine. Mr. Suit, meanwhile, is posing as professional gambler with Neal as his “Lip Man,” in a classes corner room where the rich can bet on horses. Neal has a few seconds jump on the feed and, after a bit of finagling and a very public yelling match with Peter. Here the two leading actors shone with their wit, timing, depth, and humor.

Struggling to come up with legitimate-sounding material for their argument, after insulting one another’s clothes, Neal shouts, “As soon as anything goes wrong, you always blame me first!”, and the audience knows this is a real argument.

“You’re a Con!” Peter shouts, “That’s all you’ll ever be!”

Neal glances up, seeing that the last race has started; he must end this quickly in order to save their sting. “Next time your hot wife gets lonely, tell her to call me.”
Below the belt, and not serious, but still.

The Detriot boss’s muscle and the Irish boss buy it, Neal and Peter live to fight another day. Or in the next ten minutes because…

Mozzie ingeniously ditches the safe house and changes the time and place of the money drop tot eh Detroit boss, intended to link the boss to the money scam and provide evidence for arrest. The Dentist uses a melon, silk pajamas, his Mozart teddy bear, voice recordings, an alarm clock, cords, an electric toothbrush that doubles as a screwdriver, a CD of whale songs, and a clandestine pick-up from June. Mozzie confronts his Detroit mob nemesis and encourages him to walk away from the money and drop off the grid, which the greedy heart cannot do. He picks up the briefcase, the recently arrived Feds move in for the arrest.

Peter brings Mr. Jeffries by when they find him that evening. Mozzie is overjoyed and proceeds into a quote-off with the father-figure of his childhood

In all, this episode explored Mozzie’s background and character as well as set up the emotional conflict Neal (as well as Peter, to a degree) will face when it’s time for the cons to leave New York and make new lives off the masterpieces from the Nazi sub. Mozzie, too, will suffer because of their leaving.

The manifest may well come into plot prominence again in a few episodes, but for now, Mozzie and Neal seemed content to deal with the more pressing concerns of caring for the people they love: Mozzie for Mr. Jeffries and Neal, Neal for Mozzie, Elizabeth, and Peter. If things get more serious with Sarah (not seen in this episode), she may also have a place on Neal’s list. All of this leads me to believe that Neal will, in the series finale, have to choose between staying and going.

For the sake of drama, I believe that either something will go horribly wrong, or Neal will leave. But not for long—White Collar needs Neal and Peter together to work. Case in point, the look Neal and Peter exchanged in the last moment of the episode. Neal expresses to Peter that it’s hard for Mozzie to say goodbye, and hard to be gone. Peter knows Neal is planning to leave, Neal knows that Peter knows, and the look says it all.

I am increasingly concerned for Elizabeth’s safety. If something happens to her, Peter may never forgive Neal, nor Neal himself (any faster than Kate’s death, anyway).

However, life is valuable on White Collar and, unlike, say Lost, deaths are not inserted merely add or heighten drama, nor to shake things up. I therefore don’t believe Elizabeth has a great red X on her forehead, or a sniper’s little red dot, but her conversations and incorporation into recent plotlines lead me to believe that she will have an increased role to play. Alex, Kate, and June (and even random strangers, again mostly women) have been threatened in order to manipulate Neal in the past. Alder is still missing and Elizabeth is a strategically important woman in the lives of both male leads.

White Collar Gets Cute

Mozzie Quote of the Week:  “I need as many buyers for my slight-of-hand-me-downs as I can get.”

Final tidbits:

-Neal and Peter dressed in tuxes, having their picture taken by Elizabeth, “Prom picture!”

-The nameless Fed outside Mozzie’s hotel room learning whale from Mozzie’s blaring CD.

-Mozzie calls Peter by his name!

-Baby and young Mozzie with thick, black-rimmed glasses.

-The cast commercial encouraging adoption, starring Mozzie actor Willie Garson and his adopted son.

(http://whitecollarfixation.blogspot.com/2011/07/willie-garson-talks-about-adoption.html)

 

Tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) episode of White Collar airs at 9pm on USA.

 

P.S. See this beautiful creation of a featured quote in this episode along with photos.

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COVERT AFFAIRS: Good Advices

I apologize for the delay in this and my last White Collar post. I’ve been confine to bed since Wednesday with vertigo.

In this week’s episode of Covert Affairs, Annie heads to Paris, a union of glamour and action which helps make the show both unique and entertaining.

COVERT AFFAIRS "Good Advices" (1)

Before her assignment, Annie comes into work to find everyone missing except a hurried, harried Jai, who explains the morning meeting had been moved up half an hour. Annie grabs her two coffees, the second for Auggie, and rushes with apologies into the meeting. A “surprise!” and a chocolate cake with a single lit candle welcome her. It turns out Auggie is much closer to Joan than we’ve realized.

He knows Annie will be in Paris on a mission to turn a Syrian embassy worker, so he organized her coworkers into a party six days early.

Jai, friend that he is, got a hand in successfully delivering the surprise (he ought to be successful: he’s a CIA field agent) but Annie never questions that Auggie was the one to organize and implement her surprise. This insight into their close bond is mimicked later in the episode when Annie is in danger in France and Auggie is handling her from Langley.

Once in Paris, Annie stalks her target for a few days, looking for an “in,” unknowingly being followed herself by the deeply professional Eyal Lavine, Annie’s older, more experienced Mossad (Israeli intelligence) counterpart whom she met and worked with in Switzerland (Season 1, Episode 4: “No Quarter”) .

COVERT AFFAIRS "Good Advices" (6)Eyal, it turns out, seeks to turn the same target as Annie and, under the pseudonym George, seems to be succeeding when the target demonstrates her cleverness, thus far lacking in those Annie has attempted to turn. She calls both out on being spies intent on turning her, successfully identifying Annie as CIA but accuses Eyal of being “too Jewish” for Mossad. She starts a bidding war, finally accepting top offers from both agencies but is dead before she can seal either deal the next day. Eyal and Annie meet up accidentally at her apartment, realize they’ve been played, find her dead, and follow her killer. Eyal chases along rooftops, Annie from the street. Once cornered, the man lets go of the building ledge he dangles from rather than give up any information.

The agents separate. Annie reports in and works out a cipher to a telephone number she found during a clever purse-swap that prompted her meeting the target several days earlier. A ghost terrorist who seems to be the Covert Affairs-version of Chemical Ali is going to Paris. Annie learns where and goes to the train station in hopes of snagging a photo of the ghost. She bumps once again into Eyal, who helps her obtain the photo. They are followed to a bar where, after Eyal steals Annie’s camera memory card while intensely flirting, he is kidnapped. Annie follows in a taxi and her chic green trenchcoat and jeans, perfect for downtown Paris, is also handy for blending into the lush French countryside.

COVERT AFFAIRS "Good Advices" (7)

Back at Langley, Joan has jury duty. Certain she’ll be able to get out of it, she goes, leaving Auggie in command, to Jai’s ire. Through several comical scenes in which Joan listens to briefings on her cell in the courtroom and generally annoys the judge, she has her phone confiscated. Auggie, now alone, must decide whether or not to let his friend attempt to rescue Eyal. Annie insists that the only person looking out for the Israeli is Annie, prompting Auggie (the only person, coincidentally, watching Annie’s back at that moment) to agree to let her try to save Eyal. They “work the situation” together, resulting in a large enough explosion to draw all Eyal’s captors outside so she can get in to free Eyal. After a few chases, the slippery fellow saves Annie’s life, suggesting that he can be trusted in the most important situations, if not to steal intel from our clearly swooning protagonist.

This episode put key characters in new situations. Joan provided amusement and the fun of seeing her in a position without her job’s authority. Unable to blow her cover as a World Bank executive, Joan must suffer as the rest of us do, until she’s chosen to be on the jury and pays her fellow juror for the use of his cell phone. She texts Auggie, gets herself excused, and once again she is the Joan we know. Let’s face it: we all would love that privilege.

As Joan notes to Auggie at the end of the episode, it isn’t easy making decisions that put a friend in danger, and it “doesn’t get any easier.” Because of the open question of Arthur’s future position at the CIA, and what that will mean for Joan as current head of Clandestine Operations, Auggie could conceivably be tapped to replace Joan.

Annie’s glamorous clothes and the Parisian scenery gave a beautiful backdrop to the action of the episode. A 6000 euro handbag she switched with the targets’, the different coats she wore every day she stalked the target, and the party itself epitomized glamour. In contrast, when Annie and Eyal escape to a faded old truck parked in the yard, which Annie plans to escape in, I thought, “There’s no way they’re running out in that old thing!” It was, by far, the least glamorous vehicle seen on the show so far.

I was correct. The truck wouldn’t start. After killing the Syrians, they probably stole a Mercedes to get back to Paris.

Finally, upon returning home, Annie tells her sister Danielle that she went to Paris, rather than Topeka as her cover story stated. She told Eyal of her confliction about her sister in the bar, which Eyal identified with. However, I wonder if Eyal will come back to hurt Annie using her sister. Since he saved Annie’s life and his wife left him because of his job, which she knew about, it looks like Danielle will be more informed of Annie’s real life to her danger. Her two daughters and husband are still barely ever seen, so trouble will probably come for Danielle alone. Annie may need to reveal her true job in order to save her sister.

Did you notice? The taxi cab had chrome door handles and all the windows, including the driver’s, was deeply tinted. Not exactly a stock vehicle in the City of Love, especially not for a taxi.

Covert Affairs, Episode 3: “Bang and Blame” airs Tuesday on USA at 10pm.

COVERT AFFAIRS: “Begin the Begin”

Last night’s season premiere of Covert Affairs, “Begin the Begin,” picked up only a few days after the helicopter ride that ended season 1, Ben is recovering in a Guam military hospital where all the nurses, orderlies, and doctors wear camouflaged scrubs. So do the guards, who Ben and Annie have to get to because, while kissing and being cute, a Finn and an Estonian broke into the military hospital with the aim and ability to kill Ben. Both would-be assassins die and Ben and Annie arrive safely at Walter Reed Hospital near D.C., where everyone is still wearing camo scrubs.

From this point forward, the episode fit the usual pattern: Annie is sent on a mission, there’s some trouble with her sister, Joan and Arthur endure marital strife, the target is in mortal danger, Auggie and Jai help, Annie somehow manages to save the day, the subplot relating to Ben takes a tiny (or not so tiny) step forward. In “Begin the Begin,” all these aspects work together to support Annie’s developmental arc manifested as paranoid evaluations of her mission and her personal life. With thanks to Auggie, Annie realizes this and levels her head again in time to save the target.

I don’t particularly like that our all-American linguist protagonist seems to have recovered during the course of one episode from all the emotional complications of the repeated betrayals, misunderstandings, and near-death experiences of the last two episodes (not to mention all that jet-lag). After all, Annie spent season 1 unable to let go of Ben, who left her two years earlier after a two week love affair in Sri Lanka. Evidence suggests that she does not really know when to let things lie, as is often apparent in her missions, and I can’t imagine her not suffered long-term from her latest trials. Still, Ms. Walker follows her instincts to her credit, and now that Ben is gone on the lam again, I expect Annie to continue pining. Only next week’s episode will tell whether or not she truly is recovered.

In general, I appreciated Annie’s increased interaction directly with Joan, highlighting Annie’s growing status and confidence within the agency (which Joan comments on), as well as their male-heavy work environment. Jai, who I disliked and distrusted through most of last season because of his nefarious father, his previous role as Ben’s handler, and his inability to be Auggie, had a side but important role in this week’s fun. That being said, Jai is growing on me and I appreciate that he seems genuinely interested in Annie’s well-being.

Speaking of our favorite smiling sidekick, Auggie seems especially skilled in touching Annie’s mind, prompting her to reconsider her position and her Jim Kirk-esque tendency to rush into potentially dangerous situations. He did the same in this episode, although Annie once did not listen with embarrassing results.

Now, a quick note on the Auggie vs. Ben conundrum of many fans. Auggie is reliable, talented, the best friend, pining for the one who got away (Natasha Petrovna, a hacker introduced in Season 1, Episode 7: “Communication Breakdown”) while Ben is the lover who ran out on a great thing. Ben is mysterious and strong, passionate, but unpredictable.  The latter quality makes him dangerous. He clearly cares for Annie, but those of the Auggie camp (myself included) are left screaming “Dump the chump!” each time he flees. Still, the leap from friend to love interest, for both Auggie and Annie, will be a long time coming if written convincingly.

Finally, a new character has entered on the Joan-Arthur/ Liza Hearn leak fronts. Chet Liguardi. Does anyone else find him sinister?

Did you spot it?

1. Ben wears TOMS.

2. Auggie has a farmer’s tan.

 

The next episode of USA’s Covert Affairs will premiere Tuesday, June 14 at 10pm.