Neal Caffrey used his artistic prowess to show up another art forger in an FBI sting, Mozzie finally discovered the exact location of the evidence box, and Neal revealed some hard truth to his father in last night’s entertaining episode of White Collar, “The Original.”
Following last week’s revelation that the all-important evidence box is located on the 50th floor of the Empire State Building, Neal and Mozzie are staking out the building, but Neal’s role in the recon is complicated by the arrival of the suspicious and overly involved Agent Amanda Calloway (Emily Procter of The West Wing), Hughes’ new replacement as head of White Collar and a suspected mole for the evil Senator Pratt. Procter is fabulously unctuous as Calloway, who speaks in a purring Southern accent but makes her distrust of Peter and Neal clear. She’s out for fast, high-profile results that will make her look good in the Bureau, and she intends to keep Agent Burke and his loose cannon CI on a tight leash for their first new case, an investigation into possible art forgery at a high-end sculpture gallery.
At the gallery, Neal immediately spots a work of art that he identifies as a forgery, one of the last four sculptures ever carved by the famous Olivier DuBois, and which has just been sold for 6.5 million dollars. The piece has been shown by X-ray to have a scroll embedded in the marble, DuBois’ signature “calling card” which the owners believe proves the sculpture’s authenticity. Of course, as Neal points out, it would be impossible to verify the contents of the scroll without destroying the sculpture. Sounds like it’s time for some high-tech FBI investigation!
The sculpture was sold by J.B. Bellemiere, a protegé of DuBois’ who is considered to be the ultimate authority on the sculptor and his art, but who Neal suspects is more likely the forger. Bellemiere’s real name is Jeff Blatnik, which Peter thinks is suspicious (although Neal finds the name change logical, saying “I’d buy a Bellemiere over a Blatnik”). Bellemiere/Blatnik now teaches sculpture in his own studio loft, where Neal and Peter find another DuBois sculpture prominently on display. Neal quickly identifies it as another forgery, and while Peter distracts the artist, Neal discovers the remaining two “DuBois” sculptures, partially carved, in Bellemiere’s private (and locked) work room. They can’t arrest Bellemiere until they catch him in the act of selling one of the sculptures, but Neal has a plan … it only requires the FBI to purchase 500 pounds of marble!
No White Collar episode is complete without a montage of Neal creating a forgery, preferably with Matt Bomer appearing sweaty and shirtless, and this one doesn’t disappoint (well, except for the presence of a pesky undershirt). In practically no time, Neal has used those rippling arm muscles to create a perfect replica of DuBois’ third sculpture, complete with the inserted scroll. As Neal finishes, his father James (Treat Williams) shows up unexpectedly, eager to help recover the evidence box that will prove his innocence and allow him to come out of hiding; he was going stir-crazy in Mozzie’s windowless safehouse in the country.(Williams is brilliantly deadpan as he delivers the biggest understatement of the episode, regarding Mozzie, “He’s a very weird dude,” to which Neal only agrees.) James is impressed by Neal’s artwork; he’s never spent enough time with Neal to see his talent up close, and he’s clearly feeling some fatherly pride.
When Neal’s forgery is offered for sale, Bellemiere shows up at the gallery as expected (in time to hear the expert authenticator proclaim “This isn’t a DuBois … this is THE DuBois!”, much to his chagrin and Neal’s smug satisfaction). Neal then offers Bellemiere a deal to split the sale proceeds of the final two sculptures. This will allow him to get close enough to Bellemiere’s forgery to scan it with a nifty imaging scanner, courtesy of the FBI, which will identify the handwriting and fingerprints on the internal scroll; but in actuality, Neal has bigger plans for the cool little portable scanner, involving the 50th floor of the Empire State Building.
Calloway, though, is more suspicious of Neal than ever, and insists on being present in the surveillance van while Neal checks out the sculpture at Bellemiere’s studio. Of course, Neal has a plan to get around even this inconvenience! First, Mozzie makes a mess on the 50th floor which will require a professional cleaning service to fix. Neal plays a recording of sculpting sound effects for the benefit of the FBI surveillance van, but secretly sneaks out with the portable scanner, which he syncs to Mozzie’s laptop. When the cleaning truck arrives, James distracts the cleaning guy while Neal slips the scanner into the floor cleaning machine, allowing him to scan for the evidence box while fulfilling his promise to Peter that neither he, nor Mozzie, nor James, would use the scanner to search the Empire State Building. (Such a clever boy, our Neal!)
After the floor is cleaned, Neal retrieves the scanner and dashes back to Bellemiere’s loft; just in time, as Agent Calloway is starting to suspect something is up. Neal then gets to work scanning Bellemiere’s completed DuBois forgery, but the scanner’s calibration is off after bumping around in the floor cleaner, and the information is unreadable. Peter sends Neal a message to abort the operation, but Neal instead tries to goad Bellemiere into a confession. His taunting of the artist’s talent works a bit too well, though, and Bellemiere goes after Neal with a hammer, inadvertantly (and very conveniently!) knocking over the sculpture and shattering it, which makes the scanner data unnecessary – when the FBI bursts in to break up the fight, they find the exposed scroll from inside the “DuBois” sculpture, but it’s signed “Jeff Blatnik.” (Oh, snap!)
Luckily, there was enough scanner data from the Empire State Building for Mozzie to confirm the location of the evidence box in the ceiling on the 50th floor. James wants to retrieve the box immediately, and is upset when Neal tells him that he won’t do it without Peter. When James protests, Neal blurts out “Peter’s been more of a father to me than you ever were.” James’ hurt feelings are evident in Williams’ underplayed but poignant expression; but Matt Bomer has his own fine performance in this scene, as he reveals the feelings that Neal has been keeping pent up. Neal continues to vent, telling his father the reason he has created no original artwork: “I’ve had three different names, and a dozen aliases, because of you. To be an artist, you have to know who you are.” But James’ doesn’t lash back. “You’re my son,” he replies, smiling sadly, “and I’m very proud of that.”
The final scene reveals that Calloway is even more dangerous than we thought. After recovering enough data from the scanner’s wiped hard drive to identify the ceiling in the Empire State Building, she places a phone call to pass along the information … to none other than Senator Pratt, confirming that she is his mole, after all.
It seems likely Senator Pratt will be brought down in next week’s season finale, but there are still plenty of unresolved subplots. Will James stick around, or is there more heartbreak in store for Neal? Will Hughes return, or is Calloway going to continue as head of White Collar? (Emily Procter is so deliciously nasty that I almost hope she stays.)
I definitely won’t be missing White Collar’s final episode of the season, “In the Wind,” Tuesday March 5 on USA.