White Collar's Mid-season Finale: Imposters Anonymous

By Price Peterson

Sep 19, 2012

White Collar S04E10: "Vested Interest"

Well, you guys called it: "Sam" was not Sam at all, but Neal's father! I'll be honest, it definitely didn't occur to me this would be the big revelation in the mid-season finale. This was partly because White Collar is just not the kind of show where I dwell too hard on the big-picture mysteries, but also because that particular possibility just seemed really, I don't know, obvious? For those of you who called it a while back, this twist must have been reminiscent of the now-infamous Dexter Season 6 "twist" that was excruciatingly obvious a full EIGHT episodes before it was finally revealed. But at least in this case, the twist actually added to the drama rather than detracted from it. Up until this episode Sam was an incredibly minor, slightly unlikable character who tended to check into hotels under his own name despite being on the run from killers. But now he's NEAL'S DAD. You know? Instantly more interesting/likable. He is the man responsible for CREATING Neal. If that's not deserving of our respect, what is? Now we just need to get to know him.

The reveal of Sam's true identity nicely mirrored a number of imposter-related shenanigans throughout "Vested Interest." I mean, if we're being real this is an entire show about imposters, but this episode featured at least a half-dozen imposter-related scenarios—even Jones and Diana got in on the fakery. The primary plotline involved an FBI convention getting somehow infiltrated by an industrial spy looking to abscond with some cutting-edge law enforcement technology (or, as we'd learn later, the man responsible for inventing it). It was exactly the sort of case that Neal and Peter could handle in their sleep, but unfortunately Neal and Peter as a unit weren't operating at full-strength. No, at the outset Neal was still hecka miffed at Peter for having possibly exposed Sam to a potential mole within the FBI, so it was still cold-shoulder city.

For his part Peter was trying to be a good guy to Neal and, in a way, win him over again despite not really regretting what he'd done. This was demonstrated in a weirdly lighthearted montage wherein he fixed the coffee maker and presented Neal with a fresh cup, only to have Neal decline and then buy his own at Starbucks. Ouch. Also, Neal couldn't seem to hide his contempt for Peter, allowing it to spill forth during a panel they both shared at the FBI convention. Lottttta passive aggression going on there; it was almost enough to make Neal seem unappealing. ALMOST. But because this was White Collar, their friendship didn't remain on the rocks TOO long. Sam re-entered the picture and Neal saw an opportunity to smoke out the FBI mole who'd given away his whereabouts. And everyone knows that to smoke out a mole, one needs a rat. And what followed was one of the silliest White Collar scenarios of the season: Neal literally set a rat loose in the White Collar Crimes Division in order to distract Peter and slip a piece of paperwork into his "to-sign" pile that would authorize surveillance of Sam.

Admittedly, Jones' reaction WAS pretty hilarious:

So yeah, anyway, Neal had decided he DID want to work with Peter in the Sam situation, just without Peter's actual permission.

Meanwhile, Neal's demeanor improved when he realized he needed to keep up a front at the FBI convention, so he did a much better job at being nice to Peter and together they easily smoked out a false FBI agent by recording an entire room of them to see which agents didn't pat their pockets when informed one of them had lost their credentials. Clever! After they had their mark, Diana and Jones impersonated event organizers and tricked the guy into attending a specific panel where the maker of a VERY expensive bullet-proof vest would be presenting it. But instead of trying to steal the vest, the dude tried to steal the maker! A chase and parking lot shoot-out ensued, and at some point during the shootout Neal decided to run across the hoods of a dozen cars and ended up getting SHOT! (Cue devastated reaction shot from Peter). Fortunately he was wearing the vest prototype and all was well.

Elsewhere, Neal's plan suss out the FBI mole with Mozzie and Sam wasn't going so well after Sam decided to take matters into his own hands and he got himself bound, gagged, and beaten by a thug with an agenda. Neal fairly easily snuck in and saved Sam just before Peter and his team arrived to chase the thug away (without catching him). In what represented a major change of heart, Neal secretly dabbed Sam's blood and slipped the sample to Peter for I.D.ing. Later that night while Sam was chillin' at Neal's, Peter phoned Neal with the bombshell: The person Neal had known as Sam was indeed simply using the identity of a deceased informant... The Treat Williams-looking dude was actually Neal's father. Neal awkwardly confronted "Sam" about it and the episode left us there. Cliffhanger? Not really. Just a big piece of the puzzle locking into place. But still, it only took us 11 episodes of talking about him before we finally met Neal's dad, so that's pretty cool. Oh, and also Peter and Neal kind of officially made up during another FBI panel when Peter suggested that their relationship is based more on faith than trust; i.e., even if one doesn't trust what the other is doing, they have faith that they're doing it for the right reasons. Because no criminal has ever used "right reasons" to do a terrible thing. Great lesson, Peter!

Guys, my problem is this: The thing that makes White Collar fun to watch is the same reason it's hard to write about... What's to discuss, exactly? Things happen, they're fun, and then it's over. Even in this stretch of episodes where a sort-of mythology was introduced about Neal's family, I'm still not all that thirsty for answers. I just want the next episode to quickly explain what his dad's deal was (because let's face it, it's basically backstory), make Neal and Peter be besties again, give Elizabeth a few fun scenes, and show a cool heist going down. You know? Season 4 has been solid if not enthralling, but that's okay. I almost wish it would just skip the parts we KNOW won't last (i.e., Peter and Neal's cycle of fighting) and just introduce a really cool archvillain or something. I'm not saying my interest in White Collar is waning per se, but my ability to say something new about it each week may be. You know? If White Collar can't manage it, then how can we?

Oh well, these are issues we can revisit in January! Overall this was a solid mid-season finale—not earth-shattering or must-watch, but perfectly enjoyable. Like coffee!


... Did you see the Sam twist coming?

... Is your patience starting to wear thin with the Neal-Peter on-again, off-again fighting?

... Should Elizabeth get an exciting day job? Something?

... Have you ever set a rat loose in order to distract a mark?

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  • mmmshuddup Sep 27, 2012

    You said it! This show is one of the few so-called "procedurals" that I love - if not the ONLY one. In fact, I hate pretty much every procedural show out there. But this show has something that most others don't. Anyway, the point is that White Collar doesn't necessarily NEED unbelievable story arcs to be great, it's just great anyway!

    And like you said, a solid mid-season finale.

  • Shreela Sep 22, 2012

    Was it last episode I called Sam as Neal's father?

    The coffee scene was BORING, but the rat scene was somewhat amusing, but I can't believe Moz would let his pet be put in danger (maybe men handle rats differently in NYC?)

  • DavidJackson8 Sep 21, 2012

    You seemed to echo my sentiments exactly in your last paragraph: as much as I can say I enjoy White Collar, it's mostly just for a light watch. I haven't really cared much at all about the plot / story of Neal's dad, Sam, Ellen, etc. I also didn't care for Neal's blowup last episode regarding his trust issues with Peter. Anyway, this was a decent episode. Kinda fun, kinda not.

    - I did and I didn't see the Sam twist coming. I expected it might / would happen, but I never said and thought this would definitely be the case.

    - The Neal-Peter trust issue is wearing thin on me. We see them trust each other completely, then something goes awry and the trust is broken for a few episodes. They get really happy with each other again, then again, something causes them to dislike each other for a few episodes. I get it: this kind of thing happens in relationships, and White Collar puts a lot of emphasis on the Neal-Peter bromance. But to do it again and again, it's kind of stale. It's the kind of thing that has made Burn Notice stale.

    - Lizzie doesn't (and maybe shouldn't) be on screen a lot. Unless she actually becomes a fed, there's just no plausible way to have her play an integral role in every or most episodes. So, because of that, I don't have much of a desire for her to have an exciting day job. I believe she's a party planner -- that's fine with me.

    - I haven't set a rat loose. Oh, speaking of small and furry, am I the only one that laughed pretty hard at Peter's "Well, Diana doesn't like bulges" line? It just seemed out of place in White Collar for me, which made it much more funny than it really was.

  • JT_Kirk Sep 21, 2012

    Neal does not do petulant well, it was not fun to watch. Once they were done with that, the episode picked up considerably.

    I see what you mean about it being hard to write about, there's very little concern that personal drama will continue to unfold for long, the show is light fare and gets out of its own way pretty easily. The movie "Catch Me if You Can" ended where it did for a reason, that's where the conflict in the story ends - and that's exactly where White Collar begins, which means they have to manufacture a lesser level of conflict every week to make it work. I think ultimately the show needs to put more tension and risk into their work next season because Neal isn't doing enough to warrant Peter trusting him implicitly - he can trust some moves, but the larger scheme Neal has shown that he's not entirely safe.

    I thought the producers said they were going to involve Elizabeth more this season, so far it seems like it's shoehorning in the setups to that and then cutting out the meat. She needs an episode to highlight her daily life, something where she gets to be part of crimefighting but not required to testify later.

    Did I see Sam's twist coming? I dunno, let's look at my last-week's comment: Sept 12 - "So, we're not talking about how "Sam" is almost certainly Neal's father and not Sam? I mean, every physical detail redacted AND no photo in the file AND he's played by the handsome, good-haired Treat Williams, not to mention that whole last scene?"

    My patience isn't wearing thin with Peter and Neal having relationship issues, my patience is only wearing thin with them not hashing it out or doing broader things to drive the issue into the ground or into bigger territory.

  • Atlantida Sep 20, 2012

    Still can't believe Sam is his father! Was totally sure Neal was created 34 years ago when Beauty gave Sexiness a very special hug))

    P.S. Yeah, I'm obsessed with Matt Bomer, what? As if you watch WC because of the plot!

  • Liria Sep 20, 2012

    The rat thing was just so ridiculous, right down to the remote control rat door in the briefcase... but it was just so funny, I can't really hate them for it.

    I don't mind their occasional fights, and I do think it's funny that it's usually Neal mad at Peter bc Peter someone broke his trust. I guess it's because Peter is supposed to expect Neal to be sneaky or something like that?

  • blackmage8472 Sep 20, 2012

    It was kinda obvious for a few episodes. And if you hadn't gotten the hint by then they hit you over the head with it during last week's promo with Neal all flustered saying "Why didn't you tell me."

  • ilee1990 Sep 20, 2012

    I agree about the constant distrust and arguing getting old. Unfortuantely, The producer Jeff Eastin (who also comes up with all the stories) has said numerous times that without the tension between Peter and Neal there would be no interest. Sadly, he can't see that there are many other ways, besides the the cycle of fighting, to make the stories exciting and not another cop buddy show. You can still have Neal con his way through everything and drive Peter crazy without putting their friendship in jeopardy every few episodes. I love White Collar, I just wish they had a larger budget so they could get more creative minds working on it.

  • Mate Sep 20, 2012

    It was a decent episode. A little scripted and usual though. They really need to change it up a little. I think they dropped the ball this season when they brought Neal back the second episode in.


    1. Yup. Seriously that was pretty predictable.

    2. Yes. They need to be off for an entire season.

    3. I thought she was a party planner or something.

    4. A rat no. But I did have a taxidermied (sp?) that I used one time to freak a professor out that cancelled class until exterminators could come. That was a good week.

  • lucdejonge Sep 20, 2012

    - At the end of the first episode of the season I told my brother that Sam would be Neal's father, and I'm usually not someone that really thinks about tv shows, just sit back and enjoy them, it was a very obvious "twist"

    -Yes, it's boring & useless, especially because we all know it won't last

    -She has a job, and even if she had a more exciting job, how would this change anything?

    -Do it all the time, and of course the timing's always exactly right, just like in this episode, one of the least plausible things they've done on White Collar, and they've done a lot

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