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More Family Matters: Recap and Review of White Collar ‘Parting Shots’

By on August 1, 2012

Image © USA Network

Themes of family abounded in ‘Parting Shots,’ last night’s episode of White Collar, as Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) continued his search for information about his missing father and became intricately involved in another dysfunctional family’s issues as well. Neal’s former relationship with insurance investigator Sara Ellis (Hilarie Burton) also played a large part in the story, as Sara admitted some poignant family issues of her own.

In the opening scene, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) catalogs stolen prosthetic body parts in his hopefully temporary reassignment at the FBI evidence warehouse. Neal, obviously enjoying Peter’s discomfort, picks up a fake eye and poses as Sammy Davis, Jr. (in his vintage clothes, this almost works).

“Counterfeit eyeballs – very Rat Pack,” he tells Peter. And then – AWKWARD! – Neal’s ex, insurance investigator Sara Ellis, arrives at the warehouse. She’s working on the life insurance settlement of Grant Covington, a hedge fund financial specialist whom Peter was investigating for insider trading until Covington’s apparent death in a scuba diving accident a year earlier. Since the death was ruled an accident, Covington’s beautiful young wife Sophie is set to inherit $50 million … unless Sara can prove that Sophie was involved in her husband’s death.

Sara Ellis (Hilarie Burton) joins Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) on stakeout duty (Image © USA Network)

By lucky coincidence, today is the day of a memorial service commemorating the anniversary of Covington’s death. Peter and Sara stake out the service, which includes a 21-gun salute. Peter comments wryly, “Nice to see a year after his death, Covington’s ego still lives on,” and muses about whether or not Covington arranged a permit for the display. While Sarah suspects the widow, Peter’s looking at the husband’s business partner Wilson Mailer (who makes an apparently unwelcome pass at widow Sophie during the service). Sarah and Peter both notice a suspicious photographer snapping pictures.

Meanwhile, Neal brings Mozzie to meet Ellen Parker, who is working on her flower boxes under the watchful eye of two federal marshals. Ellen wants Neal to meet her old friend Sam, a cop who may have information on Neal’s father (Ellen’s former partner) and “the others.” Ellen tells Neal that her investigation was bigger than just his dad; but when Neal’s father confessed, Ellen was whisked into Witness Protection before she could find out more.

“Work with Sam,” Ellen tells Neal. “Maybe he’ll find what I wanted to … that he wasn’t a bad guy.”

“I just want to know the truth,” replies Neal, echoing a recurring sentiment during this season-long story arc.

During the 21-gun salute at Covington’s memorial service, Sophie leaves early (“Not quite the grieving widow,” comments Peter). Suddenly, just as Neal arrives a dark van pulls up, and masked men attempt to grab Sophie off the street. Neal leaps to her aid, dragging her away from the kidnappers and tackling her to the ground in an impressive display of gallantry. As paparazzi rush over with cameras flashing, Sophie flees, using Neal’s hat to shield her face.

“Looks like your insurance fraud case just turned into attempted kidnapping,” Peter tells Sara.

“You can add theft to that list … she stole my hat!” laments Neal.

Peter is obviously missing his old job, as evidenced by his enthusiasm in returning to the White Collar division offices to give his statement on Sophie’s attempted kidnapping. He lurks in the office long enough that his supervisor Agent Hughes tries to shoo him away, but Peter insists that as the former lead investigator on the Covington case, he can help with the current investigation. He convinces Hughes to let him be a consultant, outside his Evidence Warehouse hours. Sophie is not cooperative during her questioning by the FBI; but Sara suggests that Neal might find out more from her, saying, “I’ll bet she’d talk to the dashing stranger who saved her life.”

Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer, R) gets personal with a wealthy widow (Laura Vandervoort) (Image © USA Network)

Peter then sets Neal up to run into Sophie as she leaves, but goes blank when he has to come up with a name, and introduces him as “Neal Armstrong.” Sophie is amused, but pleased to meet her rescuer. Neal asks if he can get his hat back, and Sophie invites him to her house to retrieve it. As Sophie leaves, Neal turns to Peter in disbelief.


Peter blusters, “Arms … arms … all those prosthetics at the evidence warehouse! At least it’s better than Neal Hand…elman.”

“No, it’s not! I like Neal Handelman!” Neal complains.

“I should have gone with Eyes-enhower,” Burke says solemnly. (Bomer and DeKay obviously have a great time with these little character interplays … sometimes I suspect they aren’t even scripted.)

When Neal arrives at Sophie Covington’s place, Will Mailer is there. Sophie pointedly tells Mailer goodbye, and after he’s gone she insists to Neal that Mailer is NOT a friend. She playfully pretends she won’t give the hat back, and offers Neal a glass of wine as they chat. Sophie’s a former school teacher and a philanthropist, who annoyed her late hubby by giving away the money she made with her charity for art programs.

Burke and Jones, meanwhile, track down the photographer who was at Covington’s memorial service and is now tailing Neal. He turns out to be a private eye named Freddie Slatkin, hired by Mailer’s wife Poppy. Poppy Mailer is obsessed with Sophie, and has been trying to prove she’s having an affair with Will despite her PI finding no evidence after six months of trying. While digging through the PI’s evidence, they discover Will Mailer was Sophie’s kidnapper, and speculate that he was trying to force her to pay her own ransom with Covington’s insurance money. Sara and Burke convince Neal that to protect Sophie he has to pose as a con artist who is after her money (not much of a stretch for Neal!), in order to force Mailer into action.

When Neal arrives home, he finds Mozzie has invited Ellen over and is attempting to get her to tell him about Neal as a child.

“Come on, give me something,” pleads Mozzie. “He forged his school ID … He wore ties to preschool!” (I personally have no trouble imagining that last one.) Ellen eventually shares that Neal loved school, and tells Mozzie a few of Neal’s escapades that ensured he was never tardy (including forging his own city bus pass).

Mozzie (Willie Garson) is determined to find out more about Neal’s childhood (Image © USA Network)

After Ellen leaves, Neal tells Mozzie about the FBI’s plan for him to move on Sophie Covington, and says that he has to convince a PI that he and Sophie are romantically involved. Mozzie smirks.

“Well, that shouldn’t be too hard, Cheekbones.”

“Don’t ever call me that again,” Neal replies, deadpan.

Neal cooks a fancy seafood meal for Sophie while Mozzie cozies up to Freddie, who is watching Sophie’s place from the bench across the street. Mozzie poses as a fellow PI who’s tailing Neal, and lets it slip to Freddie that Neal is a con man. As Mozzie piques Freddie’s interest, Neal pretends to forget his hat, causing Sophie to come outside to give it back to him. Neal kisses Sophie goodbye at the door in a paparazzi’s dream shot while Mozzie and Freddie snap away madly (after which Mozzie charges the FBI for two hours of PI work, payable in cash).

As expected, Poppy Mailer goes wild over the new pictures, and confronts her husband, telling him “Your whore had found herself another man!” She also tells him what she learned from Freddie: that Neal is after Sophie’s money. The hook is now set for Mailer to go after Neal. When Sophie invites Neal to a charity gala, the FBI sets up a stakeout to follow Neal and Mailer – with Agent Huges in the stakeout van. (“Did I ever tell you how much I HATE that van?” Hughes grumbles to Caffrey.)

In the limo on the way to the gala, Neal notices that Sophie’s driver Tony is wearing a fantastically expensive watch, and concludes he’s taken a bribe and is about to kidnap Sophie. In a bold move, Neal tells Sophie he’s just stolen her $50 million and put it in his own account, which prompts Tony to pull a gun on him. Tony orders Sophie to get out of the limo, and turns on Neal. As she leaves the limo, Sophie asks Neal “Was any of it real?” and he answers grimly, “No.”

Sophie calls Burke, and tells him everything that happened. Peter then blows off his annoying warehouse supervisor Agent Patterson to chase down Neal.

“Once you step out that door it goes on your record!” Patterson fumes. “Where are you going?”

“To cross a line,” replies Peter firmly, in a scene worthy of a preview trailer. (Oh right, that’s where I saw it before!)

Mailer now has Neal at gunpoint, but Neal has a plan. He tells Mailer his real name, and says he wants a percentage to transfer the (at this point fictional) $50 million to Mailer. Neal shows Mailer his “Wanted” poster to prove his identity, and to convince him that he won’t go to the authorities if he receives his percentage.

Luckily, Burke finds Hughes in the surveillance van and tells him what’s happening. Hughes reluctantly agrees to have Sophie and Sara transfer the money into Neal’s private account, so that he can then transfer it to Mailer. The funds arrive in just the nick of time! Neal does the transfer, and gets Mailer to admit that he sabotaged Covington’s scuba gear to kill him. Neal then tells Mailer that the PI and his photos are the reason he’s going on the lam again (knowing that Mailer will now go after Freddie). Mailer of course then heads straight for Freddie’s place to destroy the evidence – and is instead grabbed by Jones and Burke. Hooray for the good guys!

Sophie has since been informed that Neal was working for the FBI. She thanks Neal, who still feels bad about deceiving her. He says “You asked if any of it was real. A lot of it was.” She kisses Neal on the cheek (which seems pretty restrained, frankly). Damn, that Caffrey boy is charming.

Despite the unorthodox (and risky) way the case was resolved, because Peter was successful in capturing Mailer and recovering the money he is returned to his old position. Peter is back in charge of White Collar Division! The gang toasts his reinstatement with champagne in Neal’s apartment.

Sara (Hilarie Burton) and Neal share a personal moment (Image © USA Network)

Sara and Neal have a heart-to-heart talk. Neal tries to apologize for running off to Cape Verde; but Sara cuts him off, saying it was her issues, and not what he did that made her so upset. She tells him about her sister Emily, who stole from her and then ran away when Sara confronted her; she tells Neal that when he left suddenly it opened a lot of old wounds for her. Sara still doesn’t know where her sister Emily is.

“You deserve to know,” Neal sympathizes.

“Don’t we all?” Sara says, smiling sadly. (It seems everyone has family issues this week.)

Once again, in the final scene of the episode we are served a shocker: When Neal goes to see Ellen Parker before she is taken back into Witness Protection, he finds her federal marshal bodyguards have been shot – and so has Ellen! Matt Bomer is convincingly distraught as he rushes through the police barricade to reach her, yelling “I’m family! I’m family!” (not a subtle reference to our ongoing theme, but still movingly effective).

“Trust Sam.” Ellen breathes to Neal as they load her in the ambulance … and we’re hanging on another cliff edge until next week’s episode. I know I’ll be tuning in; I look forward to seeing if Ellen survives, and what Neal can uncover about his father when he meets Ellen’s friend Sam.

White Collar airs Tuesdays at 9 PM ET/PT on USA.

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