Family Secrets: White Collar ‘Vested Interest’ Summer Finale Recap and Review
The real identity of the mysterious Sam (guest star Treat Williams) was finally revealed in the last few moments of White Collar’s summer finale episode ‘Vested Interest’ … but that not-so-surprising revelation has only raised more questions for Neal Caffrey and the viewing audience.
After Neal and Peter’s dramatic falling-out last week, which culminated in an emotional slugfest and Neal’s vow that he and Peter were finished, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) is trying his best to make up at the start of this episode. Neal (Matt Bomer), however, is obviously not about to forgive quickly. He still believes that Peter’s meddling is what led to his friend Ellen’s murder as well as the disappearance of Sam, who was the only one that could help find Ellen’s killers. Neal even refuses a ride to their next assignment, a national FBI conference which showcases advancement in crime solving technology and techniques, telling Peter he’ll meet him there.
Peter and Neal are scheduled to appear on a panel discussion about FBI Confidential Informants and their handlers; it turns out the two have the highest closure rate of any FBI/CI team in the country, and the conference organizers want them to talk about their very successful working relationship. Neal’s currently frosty demeanor, though, is going to make that difficult. Peter tries desperately to cajole him, saying that the panel is a very big deal for them. “You mean for you,” Neal says, unsmilingly, but Peter is insistent. “They’re expecting a team out there,” he tells Neal. “And because you’re such a damn good con man, that’s exactly what we’ll give them.” Neal responds with an overly bright smile that is obviously false, but Peter is satisfied. “That’s the Neal Caffrey I know and love,” he says, and Neal returns to scowling as he turns away.
Neal is convincing but slyly sarcastic during the panel, telling embarrassing details about their first case together (The Dutchman, from the pilot episode) and dropping little digs that only Peter notices. Their presentation is cut short by a security breach, however, which Peter leaves to check out with the conference chairman as Neal heads home. When Neal arrives home, he’s surprised to find that Sam has not fled after all; he’s in the apartment, arguing with Mozzie (Willie Garson), who is rather ineffectively threatening Sam with a corkscrew. Neal calms down Mozzie, introduces Sam, and the three concoct a plan to entrap whoever is after Sam. They know whoever it is has access to FBI files, so Neal plans to file a fake FBI surveillance authorization form for Sam at a location they’ve chosen. Their target will jump at a chance to corner Sam at the remote surveillance site, which Neal and Mozzie will stake out. This week’s comic relief comes in the form of the convoluted scam Neal uses to get Peter to sign the form, which involves distracting the FBI office by releasing Mozzie’s trained rat Percy onto the floor. (Who knew Agent Jones was so afraid of rodents?)
Back at the FBI offices, Peter briefs everyone on the conference security breach. Someone hacked the surveillance cameras and lifted an attendee’s security pass, and now has free access to the convention center full of priceless security technology. Peter marvels that someone could be brazen enough to pull a heist in a roomful of FBI agents; Neal smiles, commenting, “I like him already.”
To find the potential thief, Neal participates in a panel on identity theft in which he announces that he has stolen the ID of someone in the room. Jones and Diana secretly film the crowd, and identify the fake FBI agent as as someone who didn’t reach immediately for his badge – a corporate espionage artist named Anderson. They track Anderson to a café and trick him into saying which panel he plans to attend that afternoon: The Hudson Group, who manufacture body armor, specifically a prototype of an extremely advanced bullet-proof vest.
Later, Peter tells Neal they have the opportunity to complete their interrupted panel. In discussing what cases they’ll talk about, Peter gets nostalgic remembering the years he spent chasing Neal, the cat and mouse game they played, and how much they had in common. Neal asks why Peter accepted the deal of having Neal as his CI, and gets an unexpectedly honest and sweet reply. “I liked you,” Peter tells Neal with a genuine smile. “That’s why I took your deal.” The frost appears to be melting a bit … but Neal still doesn’t reveal his plans when Peter brings up the subject of Sam.
Neal’s not the only one keeping secrets. Without Neal’s knowledge, Peter has once again been delving into Sam’s background, and has found out through the DC bureau that undercover policeman Sam Phelps retired to Florida, and died of a heart attack. Peter tells Neal what he’s found, but Neal says it proves nothing; death certificates can be faked (he’s done it himself!). But Peter thinks Sam may be one of the corrupt cops that he says he’s running from, and wants Neal to be careful.
At the conference, the Hudson Group presentation is packed as the company’s brilliant Russian scientist, Dr. Drugov, demonstrates the vest’s amazing effectiveness. Peter and his team watch the surveillance cameras intently. Everyone is in place to intercept Anderson when he tries to steal the vest; but instead of attempting a theft, it appears Anderson is planting explosives instead. The building is quickly evacuated, and Peter and Neal linger to secure the valuable vest as Diana and Jones search the building. When no explosives are found, Neal and Peter suddenly realize that the vest was never the target. Anderson is attempting to kidnap the vest’s brilliant creator, Dr. Drugov!
Peter rushes to the parking garage to intercept Anderson before he reaches Drugov, and finds himself in the middle of a firefight. Bullets fly as Anderson and a van full of masked bad guys try to grab Drugov, but Peter manages to hold them off, hiding behind a car. Neal arrives shortly, and distracts the bad guys by setting off as many car alarms as he can. Neal helps Drugov get to safety, then attempts a ridiculously foolish move by running back on top of the parked cars to get to Peter – and is shot in the chest by one of Anderson’s men. Peter cries out and rushes to Neal’s aid just as Diana and Jones arrive to capture Anderson and his men … but Peter happily discovers that Neal is wearing the priceless vest under his stylish suit. (That’s our clever boy!) “He shot me in my favorite tie,” Neal laments, as Peter helps him to his feet in relief.
Calling to check in with Mozzie, Neal finds out that Sam has ditched them and gone to the surveillance site alone. Neal and Mozzie rush to the site and see Sam, tied in a chair, being savagely beaten by a muscular man. When Sam’s attacker leaves for a moment, Neal sneaks in and releases Sam. Peter, having discovered the fake surveillance request, shows up and pursues Sam’s attacker, but the man flees over rooftops and escapes. Sam tells Neal he went in alone to keep Neal out of danger, and says the man who beat him wanted the evidence Ellen had collected on the corrupt cops. Neal helps Sam clean up, and sends him home with Mozzie … but he gives his bloody hankerchief to Peter, for a DNA trace to find Sam’s real identity.
At the office, Neal helps Peter identify Sam’s attacker as Dennis Flynn, a member of the DC Irish Mob that Neal’s father testified against when he turned state’s evidence. They suspect Flynn may also be the one who killed Ellen. While waiting for the results of the DNA test on Sam and more intel about Flynn from the organized crime division, Neal and Peter decide to finish their presentation at the FBI converence. The partners relate another story of a famous case (once more from the show’s first season), and their easy cameraderie makes it obvious that the friendship is back on solid ground. (We never doubted!)
That evening, as Neal arrives back at his apartment to check on Sam, his cellphone rings. “There’s something you have to know, Neal,” Peter says, and Neal listens, stone-faced. After hanging up, Neal turns to Sam.
“Why didn’t you tell me … that you’re my father?” Dramatic music surges as we fade to black, leaving us four months to wonder what happens next!
All in all, ‘Vested Interest’ was a satisfying mid-season finale. The only really disappointing part was that Tiffani Thiessen (Burke’s wife Elizabeth) hardly appeared in the episode at all. And to tell the truth, the big reveal didn’t seem like a huge surprise … It’s hard to look at Matt Bomer and Treat Williams, with their thick, wavy hair and similarly chiseled chins, and not see a resemblance. Williams was obviously chosen for the role in part because of a convincing similarity to Bomer, and fans have been speculating that Sam was actually Neal’s father since he first appeared onscreen. But we still look forward to discovering more family secrets. Was Neal’s dad one of the corrupt cops himself? Is he in fact guilty of the murder he was accused of, or was he framed?
Let’s see what we find out when White Collar Season 4 returns to USA in January 2013.