WHITE COLLAR: “Veiled Threat”

In this week’s episode of White Collar, a black widow’s in town, so Neal, Jones, Peter, and Diana go undercover at a speed date and auction.

Jones flourishes under his alias. Sarah helps Neal realize what he does to drive her crazy, so he’ll “bomb” all his dates but the widow Selena’s. Unfortunately, though, it works too well and Diana has to bid on him (the only one to do so—and it’s Neal!) to save his pride. Elizabeth, in true style, tries to help Peter gain confidence, but he is hopelessly awkward. Most ladies don’t go for that, but Selena does, bidding $15,000. They go on a dinner date, they tango and, as Neal notes with awe to Diana from the surveillance van outside, “I don’t hear any screaming.”

By the end of the night, Peter gets an invite back to Selena’s place, which is vital for installing a bug. This black widow works with a partner and before Peter can quit dating her, or become her next victim, they must figure out who it is. For the next date, Peter has dinner reservations, but Selena insists on going to Peter’s place. Problems with this include Elizabeth being there and the definitely non-kosher idea of bringing a murderess to the home Peter and his wife share. Accordingly, Peter crashes Neal’s first “real” date with Sarah. Without time to get out of the apartment, Neal and Sarah hide in Neal’s closet, which contains a two-way mirror because, wouldn’t you know, Neal’s apartment used to be a speakeasy.

Selena sees Neal’s sketches and, again with the insisting, sits down to be drawn. Neal does so from the closet and Mozzie arrives in just the proper moment to be the explanation for how Peter got things set up so quickly and to smuggle the sketch behind a suit out to Peter. Selena notices the huge ring Neal’s drawn on her left hand in an attempt to speed this process along, and the engagement is on.

I was very glad to see Sarah back for this episode and, although I’ve been a little uncertain about her relationship with Neal, I noticed parallels in this first date to Neal’s first date with Kate. As Neal shares with Diana in Season 2, Episode 2: “Need to Know,” Neal and Kate conned into a hotel suite for the night on their first date, ordering six of the most expensive burgers on the room service menu among other cute exploits. He’s
refined his technique a bit, going for the romantic, home-cooked dinner for Sarah this time, but as often happens with Neal, things get complicated. After the engagement is on, Sarah tells Neal that it was the best first date they could have had, “Any guy can make a girl dinner. Only you could sketch a black widow from a hidden back room.”

Next, poor, suffering, strong, clever Elizabeth decides they need a guest list from Selena to figure out who her husband-killing partner is. Elizabeth meets with the happy couple for wedding planning and, as occurred last week with Neal and Peter’s real argument under fictional pretenses, Peter and Elizabeth have a real conversation about their wedding, including Elizabeth’s regrets that it was so big and impersonal.

After some legal savvy that reminded me how much I love her, Elizabeth wrangles a few documents from Selena that, later combined with the insistence that Selena would like Peter to  leave his money to one of her favorite charities “should anything happen to him,” leads the FBI back to the organizer of the date auction. Also, Peter is almost run over by a swiftly moving white car and may have escaped injury only by Elizabeth’s screamed warning.

Now knowing how Selena got the money from her previous late-husbands, through different dummy charities, high jinks and a bachelor party ensue. Guests include strippers, FBI agents, Neal, Mozzie, Selena’s partner, and a lot of vodka, which leads to the next morning when the FBI prod Selena and her accomplice to meet, connecting them with the money for an arrest. Finally, Peter organizes a second wedding ceremony for he and Elizabeth at Neal’s apartment. It’s intimate and beautiful, just as she originally wanted, officiated by Mozzie and witnessed by Neal.

Neal’s presence at the second wedding, although natural and logical, also highlights the close, persistent bonds between Neal and Peter. Before getting the accomplice hopelessly drunk the night before, he says “This is my best friend’s bachelor party. Let’s make it a night to remember!” The only part of his statement that struck me as odd
was “bachelor party,” because Peter is the least likely person on the show to be at, let alone enjoy, anyone’s bachelor party. I later realized that what should have struck me was not the situational context but “best friend.” I recalled in Season 1, Episode 10: “Vital Signs,” when a very drugged Neal tells Peter “Out of all the people in my life… Mozzie, even Kate, you know… you’re the only one…..The only person in my life I trust.” Neal mentally knows not to trust Peter because Peter knows not to trust him, but there may be more emotional truth to Neal’s statement than falsehoods. I personally hope that their actions will follow Neal’s words, though for drama’s sake, I rather doubt it will happen.

Mozzie Quote of the Week: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate the union of Suit…and Mrs. Suit.”

Final Tidbits:

-Mozzie, while pretending to be Peter’s assistant on Peter and Selena’s date at Neal’s, cons money off his “boss.”

-Neal and Diana’s picnic in the surveillance van, a thank you for Diana bailing Neil out at the auction.

-Diana calling Sarah “insurance investigator Barbie.”

-Neal answering his phone on a speed date, “Oh, hey buddy! Yeah, I’m on a date—here!” he says to the woman, reaching his phone across the table, “Say ‘Hi’!” (I have SO been here. I talked to three of his friends on the phone during the course of the evening. And his mother.)

Still of Matt Bomer and Jill Zarin in White Collar

Next week’s episode of White Collar, “Scott Free,” will air Tuesday at 9pm on USA.

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WHITE COLLAR: “Deadline”

If last week’s episode of White Collar was most enjoyable because of the case, this week the case was the bits in between.

The delightful Sarah is back, being cutesy with Neal over early morning coffee and helping to work the technical aspects of one another’s cases. Also, a sleek black briefcase containing the now much coveted manifest is en route to Diana’s, where a thick German-English dictionary waits to translate the list. Diana then plans to whisk it to last week’s D.C. art crimes representative, Agent Matthews, before she leaves on Friday. Therefore, as Diana leaves the building with the case, Neal (who stole her scarf) rushes it out to her on the street. Mozzie stalks for a classic switch-a-roo but before he gets close enough, we meet Diana’s girlfriend Christie. Dr. Lady Suit, as Mozzie dubs her after the aborted mission, apparently likes to cook, so Neal cooks up a quaint double date for Thursday, the details being unknown to Diana.

WHITE COLLAR Deadline (2)

Here are the bits:
Someone is threatening Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Helen Anderson. Her  concerned boss pulls some strings and calls in los Federales, Peter and Jones. However, afraid the cover will spook her source, who is feeding her info about a bad batch of newdrugs being recalled illegally and secretly to save money, Helen refuses FBI protection. Promptly firing her assistant, who ratted to the boss, Peter gets Diana a crack resume, tells her to put on an accent, and get hired by the controlling, over-the-top, nearly ruthless journalist. Yes, I’m still talking about the case, but I do so because Marsha Thomason, who plays Diana, got to use her real northern England (Manchester) accent. For more of this, see seasons 1-4 of Las Vegas.

Diana must enlist the FBI to help her accomplish all her tasks as Helen’s assistant: Elizabeth plans a huge birthday party in two hours, Peter confiscates a robot Hedgehog toy for Helen’s son, Neal gets Mozzie to build a replacement residential door lock that cannot be picked even by them, some FBI flunky translates a bunch of Portuguese, and Diana gets to drive Helen to her meeting and save her life. And there was much rejoicing, mostly when Diana draws her weapon on an attacker later in the episode and sticks it to her pseudo-boss saying, “Agent Diana Barrigan. Damn right I’m overqualified.”

Back to the good stuff:
WHITE COLLAR Deadline (1)
Diana returns home that night to discover a dinner party in her apartment. Sarah is setting the table, Neal and Christie are getting along swimmingly (let’s face it, if you aren’t a Kate-threatening con or a hardline Fed, you are going to get along with Neal), and Diana knows why Neal is there.

Still, as with the careful tension throughout the last two episodes between Neal and Peter, nothing comes to the surface and everyone enjoys themselves including the audience. Funny stories and quick-witted banter give way to Sarah and Neal making out at Neal’s apartment, to be interrupted by Mozzie. Predictable, yes, but no less enjoyable.

WHITE COLLAR (USA) Deadline

I’d call this a ladies showcasing episode (except for Elizabeth, who came across as impressive and sweet but with almost no screen time) and sincerely hope for more of all of them in the future. Diana has not had such a character-rich episode since last season’s “Need to Know;” frankly, I’ve missed watching her work.

What I did not expect, though I probably should have, was Peter arranging for Agent Matthews to leave on an earlier flight Friday morning, meaning Mozzie was too late to switch briefcases with her. The manifest is translated and now in D.C. As White Collar fans know, Neal has a tracking anklet that prevents him from, when not with Peter, leaving his neighborhood, let alone New York. How, then, will he and Mozzie get the manifest?

Mozzie quote of the week: “That lock is so complex, it is only rivaled by my brain.”

Tidbits:

  1. Jones wants to be a cowboy!
  2. Neal and Mozzie discussing the time they broke into Fort Knox.
  3. Pottery class.
  4. Neal’s ok hand gesture to Diana, approving of Christie.
  5. Neal acting like Peter’s self-obsessed boss in an undercover mission to the pharmaceutical’s corporate headquarters
  6. Peter in black glasses.

USA’s White Collar will next delve into Mozzie’s past with the Mafia in “The Dentist of Detroit,” airing Tuesday at 9pm.

Familiar TV Faces Perform “Side by Side” at Tonys

The Tonys aired this past Sunday and amid the awards and numerous performances was one number that was particularly exciting for TV fans.  Neil Patrick Harris (who also hosted the awards show) led a group of very familiar faces in a performance from Company.

The actors backing NPH up included Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), and even Stephen Colbert! Take a look!

Awesome, right?

TORCHWOOD Preview

For those of us blessed with the Starz channel, tonight promises a treat. At 10pm is the season finale of Camelot, the Starz original series to wide acclaim that I have not yet watched due to my love of Merlin, the BBC original series now on SyFy (first season available for free on Hulu). Directly after Camelot’s finale will be a preview of the new season of Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off series starring John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness and Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper.

Torchwood members Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper

Torchwood was cancelled by the BBC and the rights bought by Starz, now billed as Torchwood: Miracle Day. The first episode, “The New Day” will air July 8.

UPDATE:

The miracle is no one dies. No one dies anywhere in the world.

Not dying sounds lovely, but six characters know otherwise. In last night’s preview, Torchwood staple Captain Jack explained the miracle. A former CIA operative died by impaling, but didn’t. Now he investigates Torchwood. Shots of a linguist alternate between before (excitement to be investigating) and after (warnings with tears and blood). A journalist is selling the miracle. Gwen has a secret; she talks about her daughter and husband in the past tense. A condemned man was executed but didn’t die. All urge the human race to beware, to “trust no one,” interspersed with clips showing massive chaos and suffering.

No one can die. People keep being born but no one dies. People suffer and are never relieved by death. Babies don’t replace anyone, they just join to exponentially grow the world’s population. Someone or something has done this to us; Torchwood will found out who.

The official trailer can be found here. Last night’s preview is available here (Thanks, Kayla, for finding it!).

LOST IN AUSTEN

Someone at OWN loves Jane Austen.

Oprah Winfrey’s Network, it seems, has bought the rights to the four-part British mini-series Lost in Austen. From what I gathered watching yesterday afternoon, Austen enthusiast Amanda Price finds a door in her bathroom that opens into Pride and Prejudice, specifically to Elizabeth Bennett’s home of Longbourne. Amanda inserts herself, Elizabeth stumbles into modern reality, and poor Miss Austen’s carefully constructed plot unravels. Although a bit fantastical, the series is nevertheless interesting, amusing, and smartly written. Austen fans willing to suspend their disbelief and take the series lightly, as was intended, will engage in the joys of “What if” while watching wonderful performances by Alex Kingston (Doctor Who), Gemma Arteron (Prince of Persia and Quantum of Solace) and Hugh Bonneville (Downtown Abbey, Notting Hill, and two upcoming episodes of Doctor Who). Non-Austen fans will relate to the hilariously dysfunctional family interactions and a society full of drama moving at a horse-gallop pace.

My favorite image? Mr. Darcy and Amanda, both in period clothing, argue in front of a blaring TV while Elizabeth, in shortly cropped hair and skinny jeans, opens her laptop to an online version of the text to prove that she and Mr. Darcy should end up together.

The mini-series doesn’t appear to repeat in the next few weeks, but for interested parties who don’t want to wait, Lost in Austen is available from Amazon for $12.99.

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.