White Collar "Gloves Off" Review: Hunk Tussle!

White Collar S04E09: "Gloves Off"

I figured it out! White Collar isn't simply the story of a con man gone good. It's actually an examination of a friendship between two grown men, but the joke is that it's the sort of friendship the rest of us experienced in elementary school. Despite the decidedly grown-up plotlines related to art theft, FBI protocols, and tropical extradition laws, the subtext of almost every scene is involves Neal and Peter being Best Friends Times Infinity Blackout Forever Jinx U Owe Me a Coke Let's Hug We Are Besties!!!!!1 And this week's episode, "Gloves Off," not only explored what happens a person has TWO besties, it devolved into essentially a playground tussle over the matter!

Honestly, this childish dynamic makes tons of sense in the world of White Collar: Much like the FBI, friendships often entail several levels of security clearance depending on your place on the totem pole. Like, if your second-best friend tells you a secret, you can only share that secret with your first-best friend, as your first-best friend has the highest level of security clearance possible. But major conflicts arise when the second-best friend believes that he or she is actually your first-best friend: THEN what are the proper clearance levels of secrets disclosure? This conflict is bound to happen when you weight relationships like this, but often your two best friends will TEST their security clearances by forbidding you to disclose information to the other, which is always the first step toward a huge friendship meltdown. That's basically what "Gloves Off" was all about: Neal found himself caught between TWO parties who each demanded best-friend status, and it did NOT end well for anybody.

We began where last week's episode left off: Neal, in dressy-casual, popping in an old Betamax tape for an exposition viewing party at Peter's house. Though the video was recorded so long ago that Ellen looked like a different person entirely, the quality of the picture was darn-near HD. (Dang, maybe Beta shouldn't have lost the videotape format war?) Anyway, Young Ellen didn't say too much that we didn't already know: Neal's father had confessed to a crime he probably didn't commit, his department was filled to the brim with dirty cops, Young Ellen wanted to devote her life to keeping Neal safe, he should trust Sam, blah blah blah. Honestly, the lack of new intel was borderline annoying, but the important thing was, somewhere out there was a lockbox containing MORE information. So, you know, just another thing that needed to be tracked down—oh, and also they'd need THE KEY to the lockbox. So I guess TWO things to track down. After viewing the video, Peter told Neal he'd help him figure out this whole thing, but they each made the other swear that neither of them would involve anybody else—not Sam, not Diana, not Diana's ponytail—NOBODY. They even shook on it! That they didn't pinkie-swear was a big sign that betrayal was probably in the cards later.

Unfortunately a (perceived) betrayal arrived basically right away. After Sam dropped by Neal's place for an afternoon session of dancing around answers, Elizabeth popped in to bring Neal some homemade gelato (Elizabeth is the best). But because Neal didn't want Peter finding out that he'd been hanging out with his NBF Sam, he made Sam go hide in the bedroom and even went so far as to rattle his ice cube tray real loud every time Elizabeth mentioned something incriminating. Elizabeth ain't no dunce, so she immediately knew Neal had company. Minutes later, after a really long car commercial in which Elizabeth enjoyed her self-parking car, she ended up spotting Sam leaving Neal's and snapped a photo. Needless to say, Peter was totes butt-hurt about Neal cheating on him with Sam. Bestie drama!

This all led to the case of the week which involved insider trading between wealthy Wall Street jocks. "Jocks" isn't just a pejorative here—these guys were seriously sharing insider trading tips at secret boxing matches. Neal went undercover using one of his old Wall Street aliases and scored a job at the financial firm of the main suspect Eric Dunham (guest-star Victor Webster in a rare, fully clothed role), but when he attempted to feed the guy some "inside info" about some supposed sexual shenanigans at a coffee bean company, Dunham demanded to meet Neal's source. And that's how we got another delightful moment in which PETER had to go undercover also. Peter ended up being a terrific wealthy Wall Street jerk, but he was so steamed at Neal for continually overstepping his undercover boundaries that he himself entered into a Wall Street boxing match AGAINST Neal. And that's how THE shirtless beefcake boxing battle of 2012 came to fruition!

Needless to say, the boxing match between Peter and Neal was glorious, and not just because it followed a TRAINING MONTAGE. Because the closer this show gets to an '80s movie, the better it is, in my opinion. But yeah, originally the match was going to be choreographed so that Peter would win (an informal poll of the entire FBI white collar crimes division revealed that Peter was the more credible winner) and would be the one to receive Dunham's insider trading info. But just before the boxing match began Neal learned that Peter had confronted Sam personally ("Neal is MY bestie, Sam!" (paraphrasing)) and now Neal was SO MAD at Peter. So the boxing match took on this unpleasant edge wherein Neal was legit trying to knock Peter out and Peter looked all scared and sad, trying to explain between punches why he'd gone behind Neal's back. This bummer of a fight between two good friends was almost too upsetting to properly ogle them in their boxing shorts. ALMOST.

[I don't know why I did this.]

Anyway, Peter pretty convincingly knocked Neal out and moments later found himself on the receiving end of some HOT insider trading action. At this point Eric Dunham was arrested and taken away, but rather than feel the warm glow of a double-victory, Peter had a lingering sense of guilt over having sorta-betrayed his friend and also punched him out in public. He quickly tracked Neal down and they yelled at each other in the street about the semantics of their original agreement and about whether Neal is allowed to have a private life outside of their friendship and whatnot. THEN they learned that Sam's apartment had been ransacked, probably because of Peter's meddling ways. In a final, slightly devastating moment, Neal coldly informed Peter that he'd continue being an FBI ward of the state but that their friendship was effectively over 4-EVA. [Sadface emoji]

I made a crack last week about how this season has been solid if not particularly electrifying, but I think this episode was much closer to the electrifying side of things. The drama was fast and enjoyable and in the end felt serious enough as to be meaningful in the long run. I mean, honestly, how many times can these two besties have a friendship-threatening squabble and still reset to the norm? I'm guessing they'll be thick as thieves-and-FBI-agents again soon, but still. This friendship drama is getting intense!

Finally—and I HAD to point this out—this episode was directed by the one and only Renny Harlin! I'm a HUGE fan of his oeuvre, but especially of one of his earliest works, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. I mean, out of all the Freddy movies, Part 4 is at LEAST in the Top 3 (depending on how you feel about New Nightmare). The cockroach scene alone!

I really hope you enjoyed that.

Next Week: The midseason finale!


QUESTIONS:

... Will Neal find that lockbox and/or key?

... Will Neal and Peter hug it out?

... Should Neal and Peter have a boxing rematch?

... What is better: Pistachio gelato or Elizabeth as a person?

Comments (27)
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Oh, also, Price, where is the Matt Bomer gallery?!! Serious withdrawal symptoms at this stage.
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I think Matt Bomer is probably the only person in the whole world who looks freaking gorgeous with a hoodie on, and the hood up. Seriously, he just looked delicious! And those eyes, it'd almost be worth it to have him be really pissed at you just to see those icy blue eyes. Honestly, sometimes he's so distracting you almost forget the drama going on!!



I know the whole trust issue between Peter and Neal is an old storyline, but Peter is such a cop he really just cant help it. He will never be convinced that a leopard can change its spots, and it might just be rather refreshing to have the two lads mad at each other for a bit. Snide, bitchy remarks over a conference table in the FBI? Now thats entertainment!
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All the best arguments are over semantics. Word warfare. It's the worst.

-Of course he will. The real question is will he find it during the midseason finale?

-Boxing is just aggressive hugging 75% of the time. I loved their fight...I fully expected to be distracted by a shirtless Matt Bomer, but the moment Neal got that call and those baby blues got all icy, I knew shizz was about to get REAL. I was enthralled in their little tift and barely had the time to properly ogle them in their cute little shorts. Sometimes I wish I were more shallow. No I don't.

-Elizabeth. Obviously. Elizabeth is the best. IT doesn't get better than Mrs.Suit. The best cop wife on tv to date.
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Neal & Peter, the cutest couple on television. And not in a gay way.
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I didn't like this episode, generally because it bored me throughout. The boxing match -- or, more specifically, maybe the directing of it -- was silly. I've gotten quite bored of the 'Who and Where is Neal's Father' story line, and at this point, I could care less if Sam turns out to be Neal's papa. The end bothered me more than any other part of the episode... I really don't feel like seeing Neal act like a baby again (yes, even though he was kind of right about this one).



I really hope White Collar doesn't keep re-establishing the distrust between Neal and Peter (almost) every season, because that will get boring fast. It's the same kind of problem Burn Notice has gone through... after 6 seasons of "someone else that I trusted was involved in me being burned!", it's gotten stale.
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The writing is getting less clever, but the concept is still fun and the cast is fun to watch. Just gimme Neal/Peter angst and I'll be there! But for how long? I dunno.
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Oh my gawd. This rehash of the old distrust storyline is getting SO tiresome after four years. Can they possibly KEEP returning to this? I mean, REALLY. How many times can Elizabeth and Sara and Mozzie give them a, "Oh, come now, give them another chance" pep talk and have it end well again? I'm just getting exhausted over here. The BEST thing about this show is the comraderie between Peter and Neal, and to destroy that is to destroy the show, imo.



1. Of course he's going to find the lockbox and key. And in fact, it'll be with Peter's help. Step one to saying, "I'm sorry" in bestie language.



2. Duh. They're going to hug. With Neal all teary-eyed and puppy-dog like, probably. That's the best way to make up after a fight like that.



3. No waaaay. I just want them to be funny and quippy together again.



4. Elizabeth is awesome. I love her to death.
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Great episode. There was a definite power struggle between Sam and Peter for Neal's trust and in the end, Sam seems to have won for now. As far as the idea of Sam being Neal's father, it is very plausible. However, he could also be Ellen's killer. He could even be that one other cop Ellen was talking about. There was no picture of Sam in that profile, so literally this "new guy" could be anybody. I'm really looking forward to finding out.



Neal will definitely find the lockbox and the key. He's come way too far to come up empty-handed this season.



They won't hug it out. More like handshake it out.



No rematch!!! It will never be fun between them again in the ring.



Elizabeth for sure. She's the best, and smokin hot too!!
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I am not sure I liked the episode. It seemed kind of well usual.



Questions.



1. Undoubtably



2. I kind of almost hope not. I want a season where they are adversaries again.



3. yes



4. Gelato



PS. I am guessing Sam is Neal's dad. It was the story that gave it away.
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and in the lockbox there is a photo of neal and his dad and it says 'look closer'... i loved the fight! maybe neal and peter should stay broken up for a bit? and totally have a rematch
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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?



Betamax on paper shouldn't have lost the video war, it had superior color and sound, it used a wider tape for more bandwidth and more strength. But Sony sucks at proprietary formats and the market didn't like how Sony was limiting product growth (camcorders that couldn't play back, tapes that couldn't record past an hour, no porno, etc.), so it went VHS.



I think part of the reason the tape was repetitive was because Ellen didn't split away from Neal.



Neal was actually trying to cover up the existence of the tape when Elizabeth was talking so that Sam wouldn't hear, and while it was cute it wasn't terribly clever since he's a former cop (and probably not a Sam).
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Sony got their revenge, though. Rest in peace, HD-DVD.
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I'm loving this season so far :D
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I'm guessing Sam is not the "cop friend" and is actually Ellen's killer. Since we don't know what he looks like (and the emphasis of "no photo available" in his file when Peter checked).
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Oh Price you are seriously the best. Between our mutual love of Vampire Diaries, Face Off, and White Collar it's like we were seperated at birth :)



1. Yes, they will find both but not until the end of the second half of the season.

2. Yes it's not only must but maybe even against the law if Peter and Neal don't hug after this fight.

3. Not sure about a boxing rematch, but anything else that strips them down would be fine.

4. Elizabeth is the best, she is so sweet it nearly puts me into sugar shock.
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This show certainly loves its Macguffins. First the music box, and now a "lockbox."
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Elizabeth, of course. It's obscene to even ask the question. And I'm more into the sorbets as well.
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I agree with Shocker713, Sam is totally the father. I mean Ellen said only three people knew about it, she, Neils father and one other cop. We never get to know the other cops name.

So yeah, Sam is his father, and his trying to watch out for Neal without Neal knowning =)
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I agree with your agreement with me.
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Agreed that Sam is the father, I suspected even before they dropped the hint in the teaser.

But Sam's story was that he was an undercover cop... which is kind-of supported by Peter's background check. So technically, Sam could be person #3 - the cop.

But... chances are it's just the father.
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I'm not sure it is only a key. If I remember correctly the young Ellen said that he needed 'the key' to find the lockbox, so maybe a hint or something like that is in the thing
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It's a show about a relationship, one that we have seen grow and change and deepen. And it is a show full of affection and good humor. It's fun. Don't you worry, guys: they'll get a room and work it out :-)

p.s.: to me, Elizabeth and I'm a girl. Pistacchio just reminds me of Boston Celtics and I'm a Laker :-D
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Based on the "why didn't you tell me!" scene from the preview for next week, I'm guessing...



Sam Phelps...you ARE THE FATHER!
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why does neal need a KEY to unlock something????? ridiculous!
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iirc they don't know what the something is. Finding the key will lead them to what it unlocks - be it a railway station locker key, a gym locker key etc.
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Brilliant!
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