A White Collar Community
USA (ended 2014)

Let me preface this by saying (as all of these articles do) that I am a fan of White Collar. I've watched the show since it first premiered. And other than a few wobbly issues here and there, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. There is a lot to love about this show, and so much of it works. But as good as the show is, it does have its flaws. And one of them in particular reared its ugly head in the Season 5 Premiere.

I'm referring here to the writers' latest move to restrict the show to the original box that it came in. Namely that Neal Caffrey is a criminal working for the FBI, and he is overseen by a handler/friend who never completely trusts him. And while the lovable Caffrey spends most of his time assisting the FBI in their investigation, he will moonlight as a thief/forger/conman/general criminal and rogue often enough to remind us that he is a thief. This season started in a very interesting place: Peter was being held in jail, awaiting trial for the murder of Senator Terrence Pratt (no relation of mine, I assure you). Neil, on the other hand, was a trusted FBI consultant who wasn't in the process of committing any crime, and had no plans for committing said crimes in the future. This was a very unusual situation for this show, as things have always been the other way around. There were so many possibilities for what the writers could do with this... And then faster than you can say "Hello boys," Neil had gotten in bed with the devil and Peter was back to being a shining beacon of white, bright, goodness.

But, is this really the best thing for White Collar? Does it even makes sense that these things would happen? Before I answer these questions, walk with me for a moment as we examine the previous four seasons of the show.

In the first season, the writers first introduced us to their brilliant new character dynamic: a criminal and FBI agent, both lovable and endearing, worked together to solve crimes. But here's the catch: while both of them were starting to become quite friendly, neither of them could trust the other. You see, Neal was trying to find his girlfriend, Kate, who had disappeared without a trace. She had come to say goodbye and break things off with Neal (who was in prison at the time), and that had given him a reason to break out. So he used his "freedom" working for the FBI to secretly track her down. It soon became clear that someone in the FBI was involved/behind her disappearance, so he couldn't trust anyone in the FBI, even Peter. And naturally Peter couldn't trust Neal because he was a criminal, obviously.

In the second season, Neal and Peter got along together much better, and had become genuine friends. However, Peter found it hard to trust Neal, since the thief clearly had his own agenda when it came to avenging Kate's death. However, they mostly worked together through this season, ultimately teaming up to take down Vincent Adler, the real villain behind Kate's death. The season ended with a newfound trust between them. Well..almost. The warehouse that held the treasure in it blew up, and a piece from one of Neal's paintings fell down to the ground. Peter found it and suspected that Neal had been behind the whole thing.

In Season Three, we learned that Mozzie was actually behind the whole thing, and now he and Neal had the treasure. If you recall, this season was mostly one where Neal made a lot of plays behind Peter's back for his own self-interest. He and Mozzie did several things to keep the treasure hidden, and were planning to leave with it and make a fresh start somewhere. But then Neal made a surprising revelation (at least, it was surprising to him): he didn't want to leave New York. He liked it there. In fact, he liked working with the FBI. He was in the midst of his own renaissance. Even better, he was about to serve out the last of his sentence. He was going to be a free man. And he told Peter that even with the anklet removed, and even with his newfound freedom, he still planned on coming into work the next day. Because that's what truly made him happy.

And then Kramer showed up. He wanted Neal for himself, and was going to acquire evidence on Neal that would put him away for far longer. Peter realized that his former mentor just wanted to use Neal as a tool, and didn't care at all about doing the right thing, so the season ended with Peter signaling to Neal that he should make a run for it. And he did.

Finally, in Season Four (last season), a whole lot happened. Neal returned to New York, and after jumping through a few hoops everything was back to normal. Except now he had another big mystery on his hands. That of his father's shady past. The important thing about this season, though, is that Peter and Neal trusted each other for the most part. Sure, there were a few sections here and there where Neal didn't think that Peter cared about his interests more than that of the FBI, but it usually took only a couple of episodes for them to be back on track again. In fact, Peter actually assisted Neal and Mozzie with a few illegal investigations in order to take down Senator Pratt. And it turned out that Peter was on Neal's side more than his own father was. For the first time, a season of White Collar ended not with Neal in some sort of trouble/distress, but with Peter having to face several consequences (even though the case against him was extremely weak).

So there you have it. Now, I'm sure that a number of you are wondering why I've just sloppily recapped the entire series up to now. Well, the point I'm making is that this show is chalk full of moments where Neal is so close to moving on to something better (or at least something else), but is then pulled back into being a prisoner and a criminal. On no less than two occasions (the end of Seasons three and four), Neal was about to be a free man, or in the second case a trusted member of society who had no aims for anything illegal in his future. Only for these goals to be crushed and for him to be returned back to square one. And on too many occasions to count, Neal and Peter have gone in and out of being bff's and being entirely mistrustful of each other.

It is painfully clear that the writers are doing everything they can to maintain that stellar character dynamic that they first came up with back in Season One. But stellar as it was, does it really belong in the show now? I mean, look at what happened in the introduction to the fifth season. Neal went from being a trusted and good dude, to teaming up with a murderer in order to commit a crime that the White Collar Division were almost certainly going to look into. And Peter went from being a guy who went above and beyond to help his best friend and landed up in jail trying to do the right thing, to a man who was completely cleared of all charges, got a promotion, doesn't fully trust Neal anymore, and is going to make someone else Neal's handler.

How did this happen so quickly? For starters, why did Neal get into bed with the Dutchman in the first place? If it was a matter of forging his father's confession, why didn't he do that in the first place? And why did he so fully guess everything about the Dutchman's plan only after he had done the deed. I know I can't be alone is seeing the heist being a set-up from miles away (especially with the episode titled: "At What Cost"). Neal practically walked into the Dutchman's trap blindfolded. I realize that he'd do anything for Peter, but the Caffrey I've seen on my screen for the past four years would never be so stupid or reckless. Even when people he loved were in mortal danger, he had plans and counter attacks. Is it just me, or does this look like a hasty, and out of place, way for the writers to put Neal back in the dog house?

And then there's Peter. He got promoted literally minutes after he walked back into the office. Don't you at least wait a week after someone's gotten out of jail before making them the head of a division? I realize I don't really have the experience here to know one way or another, but don't they at least give someone a breather from jail to let the suspicion waft away a bit? Seriously, that guy rose even faster than Neal fell in this episode. It's mind-boggling.

Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like I want to see Neal walk the straight and narrow for the remainder of this show. On the contrary, I love watching him steal, scam, and forge. However, 1. I want it to be on his terms and for his reasons. None of this: "steal this painting or your friend dies" stuff. Think about Season Three when Neal and Mozzie were doing criminal things because they had an actual treasure to protect. Now there was a reason to break the law. They got so much joy from admiring all that art, and from thinking of themselves as its owners. It was for this reason that they pulled off arguably the most epic heist of the entire series (remember the parachute jump in "Countdown?") Yep, this is White Collar at its best, when Neal is stealing something for a reason that is ultimately his own.

But where was the enjoyment in Neal's latest heist? Sure, I bet he had some fun with it; it must have felt nice to steal something again. And it was hilarious how Mozzie had to argue with someone about how conspiracy theories were all wrong. But they were ultimately doing this because a villain had told them they had to do it. And because of that Neal was forced to derail his own team to that his actions weren't discovered. Think about it: immediately before this episode, anyone who called Neal Caffrey a no good thief who couldn't be trusted would have been very wrong. But a mere forty minutes later and they're suddenly entirely justified. Neal Caffrey is now a "thief" again. But he is a thief against his own will. Is that really what you want Neal Caffrey to be?

Which leads me to: 2. Don't constantly make Peter the "good guy" and Neal the "bad guy." He technically served his time and should have gone free a while ago. And yet he's still kept as a prisoner because a select few people in the FBI are corrupt. Even Peter keeps on reminded everyone that Neal is a thief, even though these days he only steals things on orders from the FBI, or if he's got a gun to his head (both figurative and real instances of this have occurred). We've seen Peter do bad things for good reasons, and he gets rewarded for it. Why is it that when Neal does the same he often gets punished for it? Does White Collar really want to make its main character the show's punching bag? Neal watched the woman he loved die, lost a long-term girlfriend/lover, lost the treasure of his dreams, was betrayed by his father, and has been imprisoned for the entire series thus far. Peter on the other hand has sustained a constant, loving marriage with his beautiful wife (way to be just about the only guy on television to do that, btw), has had an overall successful career, hasn't lost a single important person in his life, and spent about five minutes in prison before rising up higher than ever before. Really? At least give Peter even a little of the pain so that Neal can have a little break.

Here's what I would like: I want this show to move forward. The writers have dragged the whole "Neal Caffrey is a criminal who's a prisoner in his own home and Peter Burke's the saintliest saint around who feels guilty when he doesn't submit the right paperwork, and yet they somehow are the best of friends even though they're opposites" thing out as long as they could while keeping the events on this show believable and genuine (with a few exceptions, notably the Season Five premiere). But now it's time to start a new thing. Like: "Neal Caffrey is a good man with a shady past who will often pull off epic capers and cons for good reasons and is content with the illegal things he does and Peter Burke is a good man who will occasionally bend the law when the law is clearly not doing the best good it can in a given situation, and not surprisingly they're the best of friends because of their long-term partnership and comraderie that has grown over more than four years of working together, as well as the fact that they're actually pretty similar people when it comes down to it."

And by all means, let them have arguments and fights from time to time. Let them mistrust each other here and there. But make the reasons for the tears in their relationship actually make sense. Don't make Neal and Peter have a falling out because Elizabeth told Neal to do whatever is necessary in order to save Peter from not being able to be an FBI agent again, and he actually did that. That's just silly. Again, look to Season Three for an actual reason for them to mistrust each other. Granted, Neal has changed as a person and is no longer into stealing things from people for the sake of stealing things (he no longer can be labeled as simply a "thief." Unless the writers want to pretend that four seasons of character growth haven't happened). So it's not like he should start stealing random paintings on a whim.

Here's a thought though, why not have Peter do something questionable? After all, he did just spend a good stint in jail. Maybe he had to do something in there to survive. Isn't it stereotypical for inmates to not like members of law enforcement who are unfortunate enough to walk among those that they could very well have put away? Who knows, maybe he had to get in bed with some bad people himself. Or are we just going to simply forget that he ever spent time in jail?

Anyway, what do you think? It's clear that I think that this show is trapping itself in the same box season after season, when it could just move on to a possibly better box. But what about you?

1. Are you happy with the latest turn White Collar has taken?

2. Do you think that Neal was acting like himself when he got into bed with the Dutchman?

3. Do you prefer Neal as a prisoner, or would you like to see him freed of his sentence?

4. Do you think that Peter is doing the right or wrong thing by distancing himself from Neal?

Also feel free to discuss anything pertaining to where the show should or should not go in this season, as well as whether or not you agree with my interpretation of where this show has been and is going. Regardless, we'll be finding out more about where this show is headed in two days.
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Also, does anyone else find Rebecca to be smart but really annoying?
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Sorry, but I disagree with most things about this article.

So first you said, "And then faster than you can say "Hello boys," Neil had gotten in bed with the devil and Peter was back to being a shining beacon of white, bright, goodness."

^Um okay, what did you want to happen? Did you want Peter to stay in jail the whole episode and Neal to just comfort Elizabeth? This is a TV show. Obviously, Neal was going to do something to get Peter out of prison. And since a jailbreak wasn't an option, and the Dutchman contacted him, what was Neal supposed to do?

You also said, "Don't constantly make Peter the "good guy" and Neal the "bad guy.""

Neal is a criminal. Nobody WANTS to see him as the good guy. Watching him give in to his temptations is what makes the show exciting. In 5x04, when he's drugged to recreate the scenario with the psychologist, he tells Mozzie that the doctor is right, and he doesn't feel guilty when he commits crimes, but he also likes working with Peter.

I felt like that episode really revealed Neal's true feelings. Neal loves the challenge; that's why he commits crimes, but that's also why he likes helping the FBI bust other criminals. Either way, he gets the adrenaline rush.

How many people do you think would even bother watching White Collar if Neal was a goody two shoes who followed the law after getting his anklet? I love watching him commit crimes like when he replaced the Degas painting; the audience feels as if he's really in his element.

Neal is a human being, and this show isn't about turning Neal into a law abiding citizen. It's about balancing the good and bad sides of him.

Also, the thing you said about why the show doesn't make Peter do something questionable? I agree with that. I think it'd be interesting to see model citizen Peter Burke do something bad. But then again, if Peter did something bad and the FBI eventually found out, he probably wouldn't be an agent anymore, so then what would be his purpose on the show? I highly doubt the show would let Peter go rogue or something.

Finally, I noticed how you said that if Peter does bad things for good reasons, he is rewarded, but when Neal does the same thing, he gets punished.

Obviously....You have to keep some things realistic, and given Neal's past, they can't just let him slide just because his "intentions were good".
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Does anyone see that If Neal had kept his firefighter Helment on there would be no point to the whole season. The dutchman would have no video, but peter would be free ect.
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I like Neil and Peter's relationship in the past. I agree with theopratt that they are going in the wrong direction. I want them to strengthen the relationship and go back to solving interesting cases. I mistrust gets old. Neil's past behavior should be put in the past. Neil should become an FBI consultant and provide great insight. I liked it when they went undercover (Neil teaching Peter to open locks, etc.). This session seems long and I hate the idea of Neil going back to being a thief.
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The show isn't about redeeming Neal. Statistically, it'd be more realistic for Neal to go back to being a criminal. It's not like he ever murdered anyone.
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I agree. Neal and Mossy creating a criminal empire of their own is much more interesting than Neal helping Peter even if their relationship is solid, it's not what drives the show (it's criminal part in Neal for me).
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Agreed I love Neal's relationship with Peter most of the time and the connections he has made with others, but ultimately I love his devious side. The devious Neal is what makes the show interesting.
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Neil needs more freedom in recent episodes it shows that Neil has some deep issues and actually likes being bad, I'm not complaining I like master thief Neil, it's hot, and even though he is doing the "wrong" thing most of the time during cases peter needs to trust him more and not be so critical but he can't do that by being his partner he knows Neil to well and is sometimes clouded by his friendship with him.
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well said and spot on!
1. not really but I still like the show
2. not entirely but it does seem like he would do anything for Peter. He was reacting emotionally and hence not thinking like he should be
3. free but still working with the FBI
4. wrong thing

excellent review
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I hate seeing Peter's being a dick all over again. Neal stuck his neck out to help a friend and now Peter's out to "save" Neal again and again and again. Also, if it weren't for Mozzie to add some comic relief, Neal's great looks would just be another pretty boy in a suit. Time Peter wise up and get a reality check that Neal can't be really useful if put in a strait jacket all the time.
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I see your points here, but I am not sure what the true avenue of the show would really be if they altered the dynamic that much. Like, for instance, I had the thought a couple times that wasn't Neal's original sentence four years, like introduced in the premiere? I get when he ran, he is likely serving that time, but usually that would be in the six month range.

I know that the Dutchman thing seemed obvious (and he needed the Dutchman's DA to be able to present the evidence, otherwise there would be a whole chain of custody thing that the DA would make it go through) and we as the audience are supposed to understand that this is Neal doing anything he can to help Peter and then Peter turns around (and yes, knows he did this but he could have actively turned the case toward Neal and didn't). The Dutchman story might not have a lot of legs, just because I am pretty sure Mark Sheppard is basically a regular on Supernatural this season, so he will just pop up now and again.
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Oh, and as to what the true avenue of the show would be like if they changed the dynamic, here's a thought. As a result of bringing down Senator Pratt, Peter discovers that someone is trying to take him down. This person or persons are powerful, and have ties to the FBI and other law enforcement. He realizes that they cannot be stopped using conventional means. So he enlists Neal's help to take them down, expressly asking Neal to con, forge, and steal in order to get this done.

This way Neal can still do the illegal things we love seeing him do in such a situation that it's his choice to do these things, as well as he's happy that he's doing them. And Peter can get some much needed character development. It doesn't make sense that Neal has changed so much over the course of this series, in terms of his goals and beliefs; and yet, Peter has barely changed at all. He's still the incredibly straight man of the law that he started out as; any and all times that he's bent or broken the law he's been wracked with guilt. To him, "right" is still "by the book." I'm not saying that he should be breaking the law left and right, and be ecstatic about it (because that wouldn't be genuine either), but for a man who's now apparently a master at picking pockets he's still very allergic to anything that remotely resembles gray.
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Yes! That is where I thought the show would go after Peter was arrested. In reality it would have roughened him up a bit and made him a bit resentful?? At least suspicious of his superiors and leaning a little more toward Neal. Seeking Neal's help undercover the guise of undercover.
Guess the whole concept was a taken from 'Catch Me If You Can' w/Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. Great idea.
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I agree with most of what you said. Yeah, the audience is supposed to understand that Neal teamed up with the Dutchman because he's willing to do anything to help Peter. I do think the Dutchman won't be on all that much; he'll probably show up for maybe a third of the season. He'll be like Neal's father last season. Not there all the time, but still important when he is.

The thing is, while I get that Neal was willing to do anything to help Peter, that still doesn't explain the ease in which he did what the Dutchman wanted. The Dutchman basically said: "I have this guy in my pocket so he'll do what I say. But in order to save face he's going to need evidence that Peter isn't guilty." So Neal forges a confession from his father and Peter walks. But...wouldn't that have happened if Neal had just put forth the evidence?

What I got from the episode is that the DA wasn't actually in the Dutchman's pocket. The Dutchman said that he used the coins to bribe the DA, which implies that he never had any special hold over the DA in the first place. So if Neal had simply submitted the evidence, the DA wouldn't necessarily have tried to quash it with red tape. And it wouldn't have been that suspicious. If you've committed a murder and are on the run, and then you realize that someone innocent is going to be on trial for the thing you did, and you want to exonerate them, then it makes sense that you would record a confession and then make sure that the court gets it anonymously. You're not going to just stroll into the courtroom and register it with the DA's office. So if Neal had just forged the thing and anonymously sent it into the DA, he would likely have gotten the same result.

Now, it's not like Neal could have known that the Dutchman was lying about his influence over the DA. But still, why didn't he ask the Dutchman to prove it? Why didn't he say: "have your guy use this phrase when I happen to walk past him later on today." Or something. In the past, Neal has raced against a shorter clock with higher stakes, and he has asked these precise questions. But somehow he didn't do it this time when he was dealing with one of the last people he should ever trust.

What's more, if the DA did need to be bribed in order to say yes, he didn't need the Dutchman to do it. He and Mozzie could have robbed another place (in a similarly enjoyable fashion) and used that money to bribe the DA. If he was willing to forge and steal while strictly following the Dutchman's instructions, why didn't he just forge and steal on his own? Because he was worried that the DA was loyal to the Dutchman? Again, he should have demanded proof.

And then of course we come to the actual robbery. In the past when Neal has dealt with similar adversaries, he has suspected traps. So why didn't he wear a mask during the robbery? If he was suspicious of having to steal a particular thing from a particular place at a particular time, why didn't he wear a mask or have his face covered at all times during the robbery? Why didn't he at least enable any precaution from having the situation blow up in his face. After all, we're talking about freeing a man by forging evidence and stealing valuable gold coins. Neal's not the kind of guy that would rush blindly into trying to help his friend if there's a clear danger of making the situation worse. If the evidence were revealed to be forgery (the Dutchman could have bribed the DA to claim that it was a forgery, and that would both hurt Peter's case and implicate Neal), or it were discovered why Neal stole those coins, then it could make Peter's (and Neal's) life a whole lot worse.

So yeah, I get that the writers were conveying Neal's utter devotion to Peter's cause. But Neal still has a good head on his shoulders, one that he's for the most part kept cool in tight situations. So while he was willing to do anything, I still think that it would have been more like him to at least examine whether doing this suspicious thing would actually achieve the desired result.
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I enjoyed the premiere (mainly to get that familiar feel of cool) but I hope Peter would be in prison for a few episodes and we'd get to see the roles reversed.

I think you are reading a bit much into it. Neal is probably still working with the FBI because he keeps breaking his tether range (don't forget the start of Season 4 when he went on the run and Season 2 & 3 with the treasure).

Like most shows on USA, what really makes or breaks White Collar is the dynamic between Peter and Neal, if they were to let Neal leave the FBI and let Peter move to Washington what is the point of keeping this show around?
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I started to watch White Collar because of the resemblance to the show from 1968 It Takes a Thief where the thief Alexander Mundy and the CIA agent Noah Bain (Robert Wagner - Malachi Throne) was perfect define and clear: close but not close, partners but still agent and thief. The 1968 show, which was highly popular (and still is) was good because it has drama, irony, spy stories, and good planned and executed robberies by Alexander Mundy and his clan (kind of Mozzie person), Two things I think kept people watching the show: the dynamic of the pair Mundy/Bain, and the robberies. Wikipedia writes this about Noah Bain "Bain, whom Magnificent Thief had shown to be the police detective who had brought about Mundy's arrest and imprisonment, was hard-nosed, with a ruthless streak, and he frequently threatened to return Mundy to prison if the latter stepped out of line. Yet he also maintained a healthy respect for Mundy’s criminal talents, as well as a grudging affection for the master criminal himself."
In White Collar now in the new season is not going to develop those two things, the dynamic in between Peter and Neal, and Neal stealing for his own sake, then it may be the end of this show. I found ep 1 boring.
Anyway, it was Elizabeth Burke who said to Neal: - do what it takes- (or something like that). She has done this before. But it is Neal who gets the blame and has to pay the consequences. But one thing I do agree with Peter, and I get this from the old show: Neil is a thief/ conman/ criminal and he always will be. But that is what it made It Takes a Thief so good, that Alexander Mundy excepted this and lived with this, happily. So should Neal Caffrey.
Just for fan, I recommend to see the intro/ opening titles for It Takes a Thief in youtube. Great music, and a bit similarity to White Collar´s intro.
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Yeah, this isn't the first time that Elizabeth is the cause for Neal lying to Peter. I find this very lazy on the part of the writers. They want to create a situation where Neal is lying to Peter, and Peter suspects it and there's tension. But at the same time they want Neal to have a "good" reason for doing so. So they just have Elizabeth (who's apparently the paragon of morality on this show) tell Neal to lie to her husband. And in this case, she's basically begging Neal to break the law. This naturally leaves Peter in a position where he suspects that Neal could be behind a case they're working on, and he has no choice but to eventually investigate his best friend.

The issue that I have with this equation is that Peter is completely removed from the shady business. It was done in his name, but he has no part or knowledge of it. It would be a lot more interesting, and a better sign of growth, if Peter were the one to ask Neal to do criminal things for good reasons? I realize that the writers have trouble giving Elizabeth things to do, but why have they turned her into some weird pseudo-crime boss who at random times sends Neal on criminal missions that will he bear all the consequences for?
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I don't think Elizabeth ever told Peter that she told Neil to do whatever was necessary...Neil always pays the price for helping Elizabeth (and Peter)
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I agree with you about the thing that Elizabeth told Neal (it was more like a command, I feel). That always irritated me, Neal gets the blame, etc. I would have like to see Peter verbalize some anger at his wife for saying that and putting Neal in that difficult position of forcing him to lie to Peter.
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I commented in the review of the season premiere about my disappointment of the episode.
They missed an opportunity to show Peter in prison and rushed through the plot in order to get him out of prison and set up Neal's arc with the Dutchman - it was a lazy way of getting back to the norm and Peter putting the new anklet on Neal was a worrying sign.
After all these seasons and all the time they have put into their relationship, that anklet showed there was no real intention from the writers to progress.
Its like they dont believe the audience would buy Neal staying with Peter by his own choice.
Before the premiere I thought of their bond to be very brotherly, but now I think the writers have actually ruined the dynamic by making the audience feel the relationship is nothing more than criminal and cop.
Why should the audience care for the protagonists when they dont actually care for each other.
Its a pity because I really like the show.
I think they are going to have Peter uncover Neals secret, it will cost him his D.C. promotion and there is no real progress.
I'll still watch, but I'll have been disappointed by a wasted opportunity
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At least the writers had Peter remove himself from being Neal's handler. It's clear that they want to go back to Neal having a handler that doesn't trust him and is always trying to keep an iron grip on him. I say "at least" because they didn't have Peter take up this role again. He did say himself at the end of the episode that he cares about Neal and trusts him too much to be objective. It's still troubling that they are going back to that dynamic of having a suspicious/enemy handler. And it is troubling that Peter would put Neal in that position, because it can only do him more harm than good. But at least they didn't completely butcher four years of character development and friendship.

Oh, and just to be clear: even though I said that at least the writers had Peter stand down from being Neal's handler, I'm not actually happy with their decision. It's the lesser of two evils for another person to be the bad cop, but it's still annoying that Peter is creating an opening for a bad cop in the first place.
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I have the opinion that Peter losing out on the D.C. promotion -a result of Neal's deal with the Dutchman being uncovered - results in Peter becoming his full time handler again
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This is a response to your below comment. It looks like we're on the same page with the D.C. job then. And yeah, it would be a great twist if the Dutchman controlled the new handler. It would also make a lot of sense, too. The Dutchman chooses exactly the kind of job that the White Collar division would investigate. And he knows that Peter will catch on that Neal has something to do with the heist, or at least he'll be suspicious. He may have also found out that Peter is due for a promotion. And previous to this he has gotten into his pocket the FBI agent(s) who would be the best candidates for being critical handlers to Caffrey.

The other way this could happen is that the Dutchman could secretly team up with the new handler. He could offer him information over the course of the season (and Neal could wonder where the leak is coming from), until eventually their partnership is revealed.

Regardless, I think the smart thing would certainly be for Dutchman and new handler to be connected in some way.
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The limited replies do make it messy

I like the idea of the Dutchman feeding information, but I thought his end game was to get released, so I cant see it - or if it does happen, only for a limited time
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Well, obviously Peter isn't going to D.C. for any long period of time. So yeah, he's going to have to lose out on it at some point. I actually think that Peter will find out what Neal did, and he himself will choose not to take the job in D.C. He'll feel like he didn't deserve the promotion or something like that. And he'll need to stay in New York to fix things.

The thing is, I doubt that if he lost his promotion because the Dutchman thing was found out, his superiors would want to put him back with Caffrey again. They'd probably want to separate the two of them as much as possible. I actually think they want to give this new, hostile handler thing some pretty long legs. But we'll see.
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By losing out, I meant that Peter uncovers what Neal did and turns down the job to cover himself and Neal.
There will be at least 1 guest handler from the promo's I've seen.
If the new guy was in the Dutchman's pocket, it might be a nice twist
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I completely agree with you about the repetitive forced pattern in the Neal-Peter relationship that is keeping it from fully evolving from the way it was in the first season. Maybe the writers are afraid of the relationship losing its cat-and-mouse dynamic that they feel drive the show. But, to me, it is the way Neal and Peter connect with each other that drives the show.

I like the idea of Peter doing something morally questionable for a change instead of Neal. I can see him being forced to make a deal with some bad guys to survive in prison that ends up having consequences for him after his release. He may be forced to keep the deal a secret from those close to them because he is told that if he tells any of them, they will be endangered. Meanwhile, Neal is the one seeking to uncover what Peter is up to. The more I write about this, I more wish Season 5 went with this direction.

I also wish Neal was freed of his sentence some time ago so the show could have explored Neal as a non-prisoner making his own decisions that aren't held back by the restrictions of his sentence and ankle monitor.

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I totally agree about freeing Neal of his sentence, but your idea for Peter wouldn't really work considering that if he was completely convicted, he would have been in jail for like 25+ years, and the show can't portray two decades worth of stuff.
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