Last week's episode of White Collar was a fairly standard art heist plotline but represented something of a watershed for this show: Diana has an inner life too! Most procedurals tend to suffer from a lack of character work, so it can be a breath of fresh air to see formerly stoic or mysterious team members thrust into highly dramatic situations. Speaking of breaths of fresh air: How about that steamy kiss between Marsha Thomason and guest-star Rebecca Mader? I know it's 2012 and that moment shouldn't have been that big a deal, it still sort of was! Credit where credit's due: USA is not necessarily the stodgy, safe network I once chalked it up to be.
This week's episode "Identity Crisis" continued the trend of fleshing out secondary characters (Aw, Mozzie!) but did it with arguably one of the silliest plotlines this show has featured in a while. That's not necessarily a burn; I'm a total sucker for spy stories, hidden passageways, ancient letters, and clues hidden in plain sight. But come on, modern day Revolutionary War-descended spies? Anyway, the episode began with an awkward acknowledgment that Neal was still looking for Ellen's murderer, but his thumb-drive of evidence hadn't yet borne fruit. It did contain one possible lead: A mysterious e-mailer had used multiple IP addresses near Ellen before she died, so Neal suspected that it was probably "Sam," the contact Ellen urged Neal to trust. To me the biggest hint that this person was Sam was that the email address in question was "CitizenSam1@airstream.org". I don't know, I'm not an expert.
So the low-stakes adventure got off to a rousing start when Mozzie ran into Neal's apartment and breathlessly recounted how he'd purchased a storage locker (think Storage Wars but with June as a wingman instead of a frowned-up wife) that contained a fully furnished apartment setup. That's where he discovered a leather-bound journal with encrypted messages, an address, and a pair of antique keys. So of course he then found the apartment, let himself in, dusted, tried on the monogrammed robe, and helped himself to the stash of bourbon. And just as he'd discovered a secret passageway behind a bookcase, a masked gunman entered and began shouting code names and questions at Mozzie. Clearly the man thought Mozzie was someone else and looked ready to murder him, but Mozzie escaped through the secret passage and now needed Neal and Peter's help to figure out what was going on.
Fortunately it was a slow day at the office, so the entire team assembled to get to the bottom of this. Right off the bat, Peter put his historical geek skills to use and we learned all about the Culper spies, a ring of citizens who'd once helped George Washington in the days leading up to the revolution. Apparently they had modern day ancestors and it seemed likely that they (or someone else in the know) were after the priceless original American flag that Washington himself had once bandied about to annoy the lobsterbacks. But for Mozzie, this situation was about much more than just figuring out who had pointed a gun at him while he was illegally squatting in an apartment. In a truly enchanting and emotional sequence involving shadow puppets (seriously!), we learned that much of Mozzie's worldview had been shaped by his parents giving him up for adoption as a baby. He'd long believed (or hoped) that they'd given him up because they were actually spies, and therefore if he could prove that the Culper spies were still active it would give him hope that his parents might still be active somewhere out there as well.
After tracking down several modern-day descendants of the Culper ring—including a foxy blonde professor (who, fun fact, was played by the same actress who played Matt Bomer's wife in Magic Mike) and the now-institutionalized owner of Mozzie's storage space—the team focused on one particularly suspicious man: The author of a critically panned book all about the Culper spies. As it turned out, he definitely was the man who'd pointed a gun at Mozzie, and not only that but he'd straight-up murdered one of the other spies recently. So yeah, a bad guy. After Neal impersonated George Washington's ancestor (and Jones impersonated Thomas Jefferson's!), it looked like the bad guy was all but ensnared. But because Mozzie still wanted to know how to find that antique flag, he interfered with the sting in order to get the last piece of the puzzle: Coordinates to a peephole that, when uncovered, would shine a picture of the entire city onto an old painting and... You know what? Nevermind. It was ludicrous.
Anyway, pretty soon Mozzie and the foxy professor lady were being held at gunpoint by the bad author dude and together they uncovered an "empty" box where the flag was supposed to have been. But just as Peter arrived to arrest him, the foxy professor lady had disappeared and Mozzie was pretty sure she'd probably pocketed the flag. Which meant that the Culper spy ring definitely DID still operate. Which confirmed to Mozzie that spies ARE real and anything is possible if he believes in himself. Or something like that. It was nice though.
Not the most gritty or even logical plotline I've ever seen, but it was downright grounded compared to the movie National Treasure, which I also love. It was all pretty fun, and Mozzie's moment in the spotlight helped continue to flesh out his character beyond the likable punchline-machine we already know and love.
Speaking of know and love... Neal's face!
... Who's the bigger geek: Peter or Mozzie?
... How many secret passageways do you have in your house?
... Have you ever whipped a gun out of somebody's hand using a decorative belt?
... Are you Sam?