Paradise Lost: White Collar Season 4 Premiere ‘Wanted’ Review and Recap
USA Network’s White Collar kicked off its fourth season last night with ‘Wanted,’ a fun (if somewhat predictable) romp that highlighted some of the most enjoyable elements of the show, and reminded us of just how good its regular performers are.
Season Three concluded with our favorite con man Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) once again a fugitive, fleeing New York with his loyal friend Mozzie (Willie Garson), headed for Mozzie’s long-promised tropical paradise. Last night’s episode picks up several weeks later, with Neal’s FBI handler Peter Burke sitting alone in Neal’s room, looking as depressed as the roomful of covered furniture surrounding him. Tim DeKay manages to portray Peter’s conflicted emotions without saying a word, showing us with his face and the slump of his dejected figure how upset and worried he is about Neal. And … cue the Season 3 flashback recap, for anyone who missed last season!
In the first few minutes of the episode we’re introduced to Agent Collins (Mekhi Phifer of Lie to Me and Torchwood: Miracle Day), who has been sent by the FBI’s Office of Internal Affairs to track down Neal Caffrey. It’s clear from the start that Collins is a serious badass who is determined to bring Neal in at any cost (basically, the same sort of character Phifer always seems to play), and he’s not subtle about it. Collins’ grim voice narrates a montage of what he knows about Neal, concluding with, “He speaks eight languages, including conversational Swahili … and he runs.”
What a perfect time to cut to a shot of shirtless Neal Caffrey, diving into a sparkling pool in a beautiful resort villa, surrounded by sun, sand, and classic artwork (most likely Neal’s own forgeries). The architecture, the azure water, the gorgeous sky, and Neal’s bare chest are all almost indescribably beautiful, and we’re treated to a series of scenes from his presumably serene and happy life on Island Wherever, first stopping at an upscale hat shop to buy a stylish Panama hat (you knew it had to happen), then passing through a colorful street market where he witnesses 12-year-old Hector the fruit vendor getting stiffed by a customer, and finally bribing a street musician to play a song for an attractive barista in a nearby café (who greets him with “Hello, New York!”). Neal, who is now going by the name James Maine, flirts shamelessly with Café Girl as Mozzie watches from a nearby table. Café Girl (whose name is Maya) tries to get a moment of honesty out of Neal, who insists his life is an open book.
“Your open book is a work of fiction,” she retorts, demonstrating that she is smart as well as beautiful.
Meanwhile, back in New York, Collins is determined to uncover Neal’s past, and is grilling Peter about the person Neal visited on Roosevelt Island the day he fled, an E. Parker. Peter says something evasive to try to muddy the waters for Collins, but secretly starts his own investigation with his cute and snarky wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) as an enthusiastic assistant. Peter and El tail Collins to E. Parker’s house and see that Collins is unsuccessful at getting any information from the woman who lives there. Peter approaches her himself after Collins leaves, but also strikes out. Luckily, his scrappy wife turns out to have a knack for police work, and later convinces Ms. Parker to come talk to them. (“She’s a good ‘good cop’,” says Ellen Parker, and we agree.) Peter learns that Ellen was Neal’s father’s former partner on the police force, and she is fiercely protective of Neal. When Peter tells her that he was the one who gave Neal the signal to run, Ellen decides that she trusts Elizabeth and Peter enough to give Peter the number of Neal’s emergency beeper, which allows Peter to call Neal and warn him about Collins.
Back in paradise, Neal and Mozzie have made the acquaintance of the island’s crime boss Mr. Dobbs (played with smarmy menace by the wonderful Gregg Henry). Dobbs asks for $25,000 to protect Neal from the local law enforcement, saying “Paradise comes at a cost, Mr. Maine.” Neal agrees to pay, but insists that Dobbs’ men must stop ripping off little Hector the fruit vendor. Mozzie looks apoplectic at Neal’s show of nerve, but Dobbs agrees, and says he’ll see that the boy is compensated. Later we see that he kept his word, as a happy Hector leads pretty Café Girl Maya to a secluded beach that Neal has set up with wine, chocolate, sparkly lights, and a stunningly accurate and detailed sand castle reproduction of the New York City skyline that took hours to construct. Neal, you romantic fool!
Café Girl is as impressed as we are, and is also pleased that Hector has been paid back for his stolen goods. (It looks as if Mr. Maine might have a good night.) She still wants honesty, though, and Neal tells her that he’ll give her twenty questions. She asks if he is really from New York (yes). She wants to know who his first friend was, and he answers “Barry,” which is the name Mozzie is going by these days.
“He doesn’t look like a Barry,” muses Maya.
“Do I look like a James?” Neal replies, and Maya tells him, “That’s why I call you New York!”
Later it’s apparent that Mr. Maine did indeed get lucky, as Neal is awakened looking attractively rumpled next to a sleeping Maya. When he sees that his emergency beeper has gone off, Neal goes out to the beach to take the call, and finds himself speaking to Peter Burke.
“It’s good to hear your voice,” says Peter with emotion. (Such bromance! It makes the heart go pitty-pat.) Neal tells Peter that he’s safe and happy, and he asks after El. Peter tries to tell Neal how much danger he is in because of Collins, but Neal brushes him off, and tells him that this will be the last time they speak, ending the conversation with the line that we’ve seen in many previews leading up to this episode: “You’re an FBI agent and I’m a con man. There are only a few ways this could have ended. This is one of the best.” As lightning crashes over the water past his sandcastle New York skyline, Neal tells Peter good-bye … but we know better.
Peter immediately enlists Jones and Diana (Sharif Atkins and Martha Thomason) to help him analyze the recording of his call with Neal for clues as to Neal’s location. They hear church bells striking four, which means it was either 4 AM or 4 PM. The sound of thunder also helped them pinpoint bad weather at that time, and Diana finds an Internet video of the exact church whose bells match the ones on the tape – it’s on Cape Verde Island, off the West Coast of Africa. (Thank heaven for the Internet! What would we ever do without it?)
Unfortunately, the nasty Agent Collins has obtained a search warrant for Peter’s home, and when he pushes past Elizabeth to search the place he finds the map where Peter had circled “Cape Verde Island” in red. (Not too smart, Peter.) Collins leaves immediately for Cape Verde Island to capture Neal (apparently without considering that Cape Verde Island has no extradition treaty with the US?) and naturally Peter risks his career to try to find Neal first.
Collins arrives on Cape Verde and starts handing out “Wanted” posters with Neal’s face. Hector sees him and tips off Neal, who tells Mozzie he has to leave. Mozzie resolves to go with him. “You run, I run. That’s the deal.” Together they burn Neal’s forged art pieces and head for the airport.
Meanwhile, Peter arrives and starts to search for the church with the bells, but sees the hat shop. Knowing Neal so well, he stops in and shows the proprietor Neal’s photo; the man immediately identifies Neal as “Señor Maine,” who loves the classics. He helpfully adds, “He also loves his coffee,” as he points out the pretty Café Girl next door. Peter tries to get Maya to tell him where Neal is, but before he can win her over Collins shows up. Collins offers everyone in town $500,000 for turning Neal in, saying “I don’t care what shape he’s in – just bring him to me!” (Our Agent Collins plays just a little bit fast and loose with the law, if we hadn’t already figured that out.) Suddenly Neal’s friendly little island is not so friendly, and he’s now the target of a crazed mob manhunt.
Hector swipes Peter’s wallet and leads him to Neal, who tells Peter, “You know, I used to take pride in being able to steal your wallet … but man, if a kid can do it -” He’s cut off by a strong, manly hug from Peter. (Awwwww!) Their reunion is cut short when Mozzie insists that they must find a place to flee, NOW (he sarcastically suggests a leper colony). As they try to escape, the crowd of mad reward-seekers descends and there’s no hope for Neal – until Café Girl swoops in on her scooter and carries him away in a heroic SWOOSH!
Mozzie and Peter try to negotiate a way off the island with a friend of Mozzie’s who owns a boat, and Maya brings Neal to Mr. Dobbs, who will presumably help Neal since Neal paid him $25,000 for protection. As Maya leaves, Neal tells her his real name. “Be safe, Neal Caffrey!” Maya says as she zooms away. (Somehow it’s hard to believe that’s the last we’ll see of her.)
Neal tries to speak to Dobbs, but Dobbs is angry that Neal has brought the US Government onto his island. No one is surprised when Agent Collins steps out of the shadows, waving a gun at Neal. (You mean the crime boss is a double-crossing BAD GUY? *Gasp!*) Collins sneers “Hello, Neal,” and we’re left to bite our nails until next week’s episode ‘Most Wanted’ to find out how Neal will get out of this jam.
‘Wanted’ was a thoroughly satisfying episode to start White Collar‘s new season. Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay, Willie Garson, and Tiffani Thiessen are wonderful at portraying the characters we’ve come to love over the last three years, and we expect a season full of action and thrilling escapes along with all the heartwarming character interaction that make the show such a joy to watch. White Collar creator Jeff Eastin promises that Neal’s pursuit of his family will dominate this season’s story arc, which gives us even more to look forward to.
Don’t miss White Collar Tuesday nights at 9 ET/PT on USA.