Hilariously ‘Compromising Positions’: White Collar Recap and Review
Last night’s White Collar episode, aptly titled ‘Compromising Positions,’ involved a number of uncomfortable, dangerous, and at times hilarious situations for con artist Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), FBI Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), and their associates. Guest star Treat Williams plays the mysterious Sam, whom Neal is finally able to meet in the opening scene. Neal has been searching for Sam since his friend Ellen Parker’s death, but the meeting is a disappointment. Sam admits that he knew Neal’s father, but refuses to say anything else; he fears for his own safety, blaming Ellen’s death on the FBI’s involvement. He leaves abruptly, but not before Neal manages to force a key into the passenger door of his rental car, breaking it off in the lock as Sam zooms away. Back at his apartment Neal fills Mozzie (Willie Garson) in on the meeting. Mozzie promises to track down any repair requests for cars at local rental agencies that fit the description Neal gave him, but suggests to Neal that he may want to enlist Peter Burke’s help to check out Sam’s background, so that he can go into the next meeting with both eyes open.
“I’m simply saying, the Suit has the resources to be those eyes,” Mozzie says, as Neal stares at him disbelievingly.
“You realize somewhere, pigs are flying right now?” Neal tells his famously anti-government friend.
“Yes, and that is the sound of hell freezing over,” Mozzie admits.
At the FBI offices, Neal finds Peter preparing his testimony for the Delancy trial with Assistant District Attorney Josh Bryson (Michael Torpey). Peter and Neal had both worked undercover to bring down Victor Delancy (Nicholas Turtorro), a developer who had planned to use a vial of benzene to taint soil samples in a fraudulent plot to build a luxury condo complex. Delancy had shown the vial to both Peter and Neal, but since the benzene vial was never recovered, Peter’s testimony is key to Delancey’s conviction.
However, at the trial ADA Bryson seems distracted; he flubs his questioning, and Peter is forced to admit that the FBI does not have the benzene. It turns out Bryson has a good excuse for his fumble: Delancy has compromising photos of Bryson sleeping with Delancy’s girlfriend, who seduced the ADA at a bar a few weeks previously.
The source of the photos turns out to be a hard-hitting political fixer named Landon Shepard. Ms. Shepard is famous for her expensive clients and her very unorthodox methods, as well as her ability to get under the skin of anyone who tries to question her or her methods. During an interview, Peter cleverly manages to get Shepard’s cellphone number. Neal, Jones, and Diana obtain her phone records, and turn up a familiar number: Neal’s ex-girlfriend Sara Ellis (Hilarie Burton), insurance investigator for Sterling Bosch, who turns out to be one of Shepard’s best customers. Peter, Neal, and Sara concoct a plan to entrap Shepard into committing blackmail. With a story that has quite a bit of truth in it, Sara tells Shepard that her ex-boyfriend “Steve” (Neal) is a convicted felon, a thief and con man who possesses incriminating photos of Sara with another man, and she would like Shepard to do whatever it takes to make sure the photos are destroyed.
Outside Sterling Bosch, Peter mentions to Neal that he has a source that may be able to help locate Sam. Neal is hesitant, and admits to Peter that he suspects a source within the FBI may have been responsible for Ellen’s death. He tells Peter he’d like his help, but only if Peter is willing to do it “off the books”; Peter, only recently back at his job after breaking FBI rules to rescue Neal in Cape Verde, is not willing to do that.
After an uncomfortable parting with Peter, Neal returns home to find Mozzie has been busy; in typical wildly original Mozzie style, he has gathered information from the rental car agency by posing as a dad with a rubber baby (which looks amazingly like a tiny Mozzie) in a front carrier.
“Bartholomew helped me access their mainframe,” Mozzie explains. Neal asks if the baby has a computer science degree, and Mozzie replies, “Think of him more as a Swiss army knife … that occasionally wets himself.” Bartholomew, it turns out, contains multiple tools, including a flash drive that Mozzie used to copy Sam’s rental information. Neal is thrilled that he can now locate Sam again, without Peter’s help.
The team sets up surveillance to catch Shepard as she blackmails Neal, but the plan goes awry when, instead of demanding money, Shepard reveals that she followed Mozzie and knows exactly what information he stole from the rental car agency and is willing to expose it. Neal panics at the thought of Mozzie getting caught, and blurts out that he’ll destroy the photos, tanking the operation before Shepard can say anything more. Peter, watching from the van, is furious.
But Neal has a plan! In an absolutely brilliant turn, he figures out a way to make the extortion photos of ADA Bryson worthless … if compromising photos exist of star witness Agent Burke, it will be even more enticing to Delancy. And since Sara has already told Shepard about the photos her ex-boyfriend possesses, those photos could be of Sara and Peter! Peter is understandably squeamish, but agrees it’s a good plan … now, they have to convince Sara, and Peter’s wife Elizabeth, to go along with it.
“You should tell them,” Peter whines to Neal. “It’s your brilliant idea.”
“It’s your WIFE,” Neal replies, exasperated.
“It’s your ex-girlfriend!”
Finally, they agree to tell them together, (“Teamwork!” “You and me.”)
“I’d like to start by saying this is Neal’s idea,” Peter begins, as Elizabeth and Sara listen, completely puzzled. What follows is one of the most awkward and hilarious scenes yet enacted on White Collar. Tim DeKay is endearingly embarrassed as he tries to explain to his wife the plan to create blackmail photos of himself with Sara. “And you can completely be there!” He burbles.
“In the photos?” El replies, confused.
“No, no!” Peter blusters. “I’m just saying that you can watch.”
“Oh, because THAT won’t be awkward,” puts in Sara.
Tiffani Thiessen portrayal of Elizabeth is perfect – first shocked, then intrigued, and finally whole-heartedly enthusiastic about the plan. And Tim DeKay is masterful in his depiction of Peter’s complete discomfort with the situation, which only gets worse when they move on to the actual photography. As Neal stands outside the patio door with the camera, Peter and Sara try – completely unconvincingly – to look passionate, while Elizabeth, seated to the side with a glass of champagne, critiques their performance, telling Peter “Get into it! Show her what you’ve got!” and to Sara: “Whisper in his ear. He likes that.” Neal eventually weighs in with advice as the situation gets even more awkward, telling Sara “Do that thing with your leg!” Sara responds by barking, “Neal, I’VE GOT IT!” in what is possibly the funniest exchange in the show so far this season.
Mercifully, the photos are finally done. Neal, using his former undercover role as a scientific contractor, takes the prints to Delancy, who is delighted. He wants to use them instead of blackmailing Bryson; but Shepard resists, as Peter and Neal knew she would, out of loyalty to her favorite client (Sara). Shepard quits Delancy, taking the photos of Peter and Sara with her.
But the case is still in trouble. Without the actual vial of benzene, Peter’s shaky testimony is not enough to bring down Delancy. They realize that Shepard must still be holding onto the vial of benzene herself, but they need a plan to flush her out. Neal agrees to testify at the trial in order to buy some time, and Peter looks the other way while Mozzie does a few highly illegal things, first locating the storage facility where Shepard keeps her evidence.
Watching Mozzie work his magic, Peter finally asks in bewilderment. “Where did you come from?” and once again, Willie Garson steals the scene.
“Forty-five years ago, an enigma gave a paradox a very special hug,” Mozzie replies.
While Peter studiously avoids watching or overhearing, Mozzie poses as a storage company employee and calls Shepard to tell her there has been a flood at her storage unit. As Neal takes the stand at Delancy’s trial, Shepard shows up at the storage unit to remove her evidence. Peter distracts her while Mozzie pulls out baby Bartholomew once again, this time to break into Shepard’s trunk (using a drill hidden inside Barty’s head … “Drill, baby, drill!”). Finding the trunk open, Peter retrieves the vial of benzene. In order to lessen any charges against her for concealing evidence, Shepard agrees to verify the chain of custody of the vial, to prove it was the one used by Delancy.
Charging into the courtroom just as Neal is running out of stalling tactics (and in danger of seriously annoying the judge), Peter presents the vial of benzene as evidence. Neal, now serving as an expert witness, uses his background as a forger to prove the vial contains benzene, with a showy demonstration of how the chemical erases ink from a check. Voila! Delancy is foiled.
In the episode’s final scene, Neal uses the information Mozzie uncovered to track down Sam, trying to convince him that he wants to find Ellen’s killers as much as Sam does. Sam hesitates. “No FBI?” He asks.
“No FBI,” Neal promises. The two shake hands, and we watch through the lens of a camera as Peter Burke grimly observes them from his car. Peter’s trust in Neal has suffered yet another blow, and it’s getting harder and harder to see how their friendship can ever recover.
Don’t miss White Collar Tuesdays on USA to find out if it does.