White Collar

Season 1 Episode 8

Hard Sell

Aired Thursday 9:00 PM Jan 19, 2010 on USA

Episode Recap

Over a game of chess, Neal and Mozzie discuss the possibility that it's Burke who has Kate. Neal can't believe that Burke would do this to him. Moz points out that Burke is smart, and is in the perfect position to pull it off. If Neal's so sure it's not Burke, "prove it. Find the ring; you find the king."

At the office, Burke introduces Neal to Agent Landry of the Bureau's Dallas field office. Landry's following a boiler-room case and needs someone who can sweet-talk his way into a high-pressure sales environment. Burke assures him that Neal's the man.

The scam is a c "pump and dump", in which a group of "junior Gordon Gekkos" is selling bad stock. The guy in charge buys a large amount of dollar stocks, and has his men inflate the price by selling it over the phone. When the price peaks, guy in charge dumps the stock and leaves the buyers holding worthless shares. The average person loses $30,000, and some victims have lost their homes. The boiler room is mobile, moving to a new location after each stock dump. Landry has a female informant inside the room, trying to identify the guy in charge. But she hasn't penetrated the all-male sales force, so they're sending in someone who can.

Neal will be interviewing with a guy named Brad. Burke shows him a photo of Madison Cookler, the female undercover. She won't know who Neal is. When the guys close a sale, they transfer the buyer to Madison who takes down all the buyer's information. Through her the Bureau learned what kind of stocks the room was looking to sell, and put out some of its own front companies as bait. The group went for Rhymer Pharmaceutical, and the Bureau has tapped every phone in the place. Burke gives Neal an "eagle", a pen-shaped transmitter/recorder/GPS locator to keep on him at all times.

"Nick Halden", a former Lehman Brothers broker, arrives for his interview. Brad tells Neal to focus on selling; they have women employees to take down the client information after the men close the sales. The interview begins with Neal making a sales call while Brad listens in. Neal studies a list of potential customers and says, "This 216 area code feels lucky." Outside in a surveillance van, Jones intercepts the call and reroutes it to Burke. When "Charles Fairweather" answers, Neal launches into his pitch for Rhymer Pharmaceutical. He finally closes the sale for 5,000 shares, and Brad is won over.

At day's end, "the man behind the curtain" wants to meet his new rainmaker. Neal and Brad watch from a distance as two other men sit at a table, talking. One man is Avery, the youngest person ever to have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Avery finds the stocks and fronts the cash; the sales reps do the legwork. The other man is his business partner, who looks upset. Brad confidentially tells Neal that while the partners usually work together, the current boiler room salesmen are all Avery loyalists. So the two aren't exactly on good terms right now.

Avery comes out and meets Neal, who deliberately mentions the argument for the record because he's out of transmitting range. Later that night Neal passes on Avery Phillips' name, and meets with Burke at the latter's house. Neal excuses himself to use the upstairs bathroom, and sees a wall photo of Burke wearing the same ring as the man in the photo with Kate.

The next morning Burke reports to the team that Avery Phillips is credible on paper. Phillips runs a separate legitimate brokerage with his business partner, Daniel Reed. From additional research, Burke suspects that Phillips is trying to push out Reed. Neal, now convinced that Burke has Kate, suggests that Phillips is manipulating everyone around Reed while the latter never sees his own downfall coming. The broad hint is lost on Burke.

Burke addresses an all-hands meeting. Now that the Bureau knows who they're after, all they need is proof that Phillips is getting a cut of the boiler room profits. Asking for the financial records would only tip off Phillips and make him close up shop. Cruz points out that Phillips is already using Rhymer Pharmaceutical. Why not use Rhymer's CEO right back at him? The CEO could say he's on to the scam, and demand a piece of the action in exchange for his silence.

Burke likes Cruz's idea. The question now is who to send in. Neal suggests that Burke play the CEO. "You look like a guy people can trust. But I'd also believe that you can be bought, for the right price. If you played it right, I mean." This time Burke doesn't miss Neal's lack of subtlety.

Back at the boiler room Neal tells a buyer, "I'm going to transfer you over to my associate Madison." Brad interrupts and tells Neal not to give Madison the call. Brad doesn't know why, but Phillips has given orders to freeze Madison out. Also, Phillips is having a party at his home on Saturday. In the surveillance van, Cruz and Jones realize that Phillips may be suspicious of Madison.

Phillips meets with Rhymer Pharmaceutical's CEO, "Mr. Edison". Burke cuts to the chase and demands board membership in Phillips' firm. In exchange he won't tell the stockholders or the Feds about the scam. Phillips then invites Burke/Edison to his party. If they're going to do business off the books, they should do it off the clock.

At the party Brad entertains the salesmen with his skeet shooting skills. Burke arrives and goes into the house with Phillips, who proudly shows him his prize collection of comic books. They're stored in a sophisticated vault which, in the event of fire, shuts the door and removes all the air from the room in ten seconds. The two men then join the group outside, where Neal is outright hostile toward Burke. Urged yet again to take a turn with the rifle, Neal nails two clay pigeons and brusquely tells Burke, "Just because I don't like guns doesn't mean I can't use one."

The staredown ends when Madison arrives with a man who steers her into the house. Phillips takes a rifle and excuses himself, encouraging Neal and Burke to continue enjoying themselves outside while he and the others take care of some business. As everyone else heads indoors, Burke scrambles for a way to rescue Madison while maintaining their covers. He says, "Back my play," and Neal refuses. "I saw your ring. I know you've got Kate." Burke quickly replies that a lot of guys have that ring, and then acts on his plan by exposing Neal and his eagle.

Burke goes on to say he finally recognized Neal as a corporate spy who tried to extort him two years ago for insider trading. Phillips asks who Neal works for. Neal plays along and replies, "Daniel Reed." Reed has been on to Phillips for months, and hired Neal to find out Phillips' exact plan so Reed could cut him out first. After a pause Phillips gives orders to take Madison home, give her a bottle of wine and tell her she's Employee of the Month. Burke then suggests that Phillips turn Neal back on Reed.

Later at Burke's house, Elizabeth assures Neal that her husband does not have Kate. Burke shows Neal his ring, which is an FBI anniversary pin given to Bureau employees at ten years of service. Many people have them, and most have their pins made into rings. Neal apologizes, and Burke assures him they will figure out who has Kate. For now, Burke needs Neal to go back and play Reed against Phillips. After Neal leaves, Elizabeth asks her husband, "You gonna tell him you met with Kate?" Burke replies that Neal probably wouldn't believe anything he told him right now. After the case is over, he'll decide.

Phillips orders Neal to tell Reed they're dumping the Rhymer Pharmaceutical stock next Friday. In fact the dump will take place this Friday, making Reed's stock worthless. To convince Reed, Neal plays a recording of Phillips' instructions to him. If Reed gives him access to the boiler room's records, they can find proof that Phillips is taking a cut of the profits and use that against him. Reed says that Phillips doesn't trust computers, and keeps his records in an old-fashioned paper ledger.

Burke figures out that the ledger must be stored in Phillips' comic book vault. Cruz learns that the vault's fire-suppression system has a kill switch which opens the security door and restores the air flow to the room. However, they don't know where it's located. Jones gives Neal a miniature breathing device containing five minutes of air, which fits inside a cigar tube. Jones and Cruz will be parked outside Phillips' house, and can get inside in roughly five minutes if they're needed. Phillips is giving a party to celebrate Friday's dump of Rhymer stock, and both Burke and Neal are invited.

At the party Neal eventually slips away and goes into the vault, where he finds a box connected to a trip wire. Outside, Jones sees Reed arrive unexpectedly and phones Burke to alert him. Reed storms into the living room and makes a huge scene with Phillips. When they realize they've been had, Phillips takes a rifle from his gun cabinet and goes in search of Neal.

Burke joins Neal in the vault, with Phillips and Reed right behind. Phillips aims his rifle, and Neal grabs the box to pull the trip wire and shut the door. As the air rushes out of the room, Neal insists that Burke take the mini-breather because one of them has to hold out until their backup arrives. Phillips is aiming again when Jones, Cruz and other agents arrive and stop him.

With the case concluded, Burke tells Neal everything. Burke talked to Kate on the night Neal confronted Agent Fowler. A copy of the photo of Kate was on Burke's desk the same day Neal received it. Burke didn't say anything because he didn't know what it was about. He recognized the ring and started poking around, eventually suspecting Fowler. Burke sent word to Kate that he wanted to meet, to discuss Neal. At the meeting Burke showed her his FBI ring and said, "You recognize this? Yeah, I've got one too. Just like Fowler." He then told her to leave Neal alone, that he could get whatever Neal has that Kate so desperately wants. As Neal's friend, Burke was tired of seeing Kate twist Neal's heart around.

Kate wants a music box Neal stole. "That's my price." Burke's parting shot was, "Did you ever love him? Tell Fowler I know, and I'm not backing off." Kate's response was, "Peter…don't push him."

Neal says that Fowler's controlling Kate. Burke disagrees, and urges Neal to face the fact that Kate may not be on his side. Neal knows where the music box is. It had once belonged to Catherine the Great; and while it's worth a nice sum, it's not worth all this effort. There's something inside it. Burke says he wants to see it, and Neal says he'll need some time.

At Neal's home, Mozzie asks where the music box is. Neal replies that he doesn't have it. Everyone's assumed he took it, and he never corrected them. Now he has to find the box, and steal it. Mozzie smiles and says, "Welcome back."