White Collar

Season 3 Episode 12

Upper West Side Story

Aired Thursday 9:00 PM Jan 24, 2012 on USA

Episode Recap

Peter is walking to work, and is joined by Neal, who has thoughtfully picked up coffee. With the coffee are two Yankee vs. Red Sox tickets, which Neal casually says he's not going to be using. "They're behind home plate!" Peter point out, and Neal tells him, innocently, "Oh? I hear that's pretty good?" "This is not your most subtle con," Peter says drily, "you're trying to get back on my good side." "Anything wrong with that?" asks Neal. Peter starts in on everything that Neal has done wrong in the past few weeks, starting with Mozzie stealing the treasure from the U-boat. By the time they reach the office, Peter is wound up from reciting Neal's lengthy list of transgressions. When Peter takes a breath, Neal offers an apology. "I'm sorry Elizabeth was put in danger because of me," he tells Peter, and asks how she is doing. Peter doesn't want to talk about it anymore, and tells Neal that if he really wants to get back on his good side, he should focus on the Mortensen real estate scam, which Neal eagerly agrees to.

As they enter the office, they see a teenage boy in a private school blazer sitting stiffly, holding a battered satchel. "Did Hogwart's book a field trip?" Neal inquires. Jones tells them that the boy had been in the lobby since 7 AM, and would only speak to a 'case agent.' "Someone did their homework," comments Neal, and Peter agrees: "10 points for Gryffindor." The boy's name is Evan, and after introductions, Neal correctly identifies his uniform tie as being from Manhattan Prep. Evan asks if they can sit down and talk: "I brought visual aids," he tells them, which earns a raised eyebrow of surprise from Peter.

In the conference room, Evan, handing them a report, tells them that even though he has been at Manhattan Prep since ninth grade, his family is not as wealthy as the parents of other students, and he is on scholarship. However, he has discovered that his financial aid has been pulled, and asks them to review the report: He believes that someone is embezzling scholarship money from the school's endowment fund. Peter gently explains to him that just because his financial aid is being cut, it doesn't mean that someone is stealing money. Evan refers to a chart, showing that the endowment fund has stayed steady, but the amount of aid offered has steadily decreased – he works in the bursar's office, and he "dug around." Again, Peter is skeptical, and points out that endowments also cover operating costs. Evan directs him to his conclusions – the scholarship money started drying up when Andy Woods took over the endowment fund. The name strikes a chord of recognition with Peter, and Evan tells them that his daughter, Chloe, also attends the school. "She's very . . . nice," he adds, with a hint of longing, "but I think Mr. Wood is a bad guy."

As the team later reviews the data, Peter confirms that Andy Woods is a financier who has long been suspected of handling money for the Juarez Cartel. The DEA suspects he launders money through investment portfolios. Jones adds that Woods lost a landmark divorce settlement after his wife discovered a mistress, but he gained custody of Chloe, who attended Manhattan Prep, and he was put in charge of the endowment fund. "He's using the endowment fund as his own personal piggy bank," Diana adds. Peter plans to approach the school as a parent of a teenage son, but needs an alias. Neal suggests one: "Alistair Stone, a wealthy Hong Kong banker relocating to New York, looking for a school for his only son, Alistair, Jr. You like catamarans and cognac." Peter grins, but nixes 'Alistair' in favor of Peter. Neal offers to be his amanuensis and, "follow you around, write things down, make you look powerful …." Impatiently, Peter asks why he can't just be an assistant. "Not at Manhattan Prep," Neal informs him loftily.

On campus, Neal, wearing studious glasses and carrying a briefcase like a shoulder bag, reflects that if he had gone to a school like Manhattan Prep, he might have graduated. "Only if kindergartners wore ties," jokes Peter. Neal tells Peter that if his sentence is commuted, he might go back to school, get a masters, study abroad, publish . . . but Peter cautions him that he hasn't decided if he is going to close the Keller case. "Focus on the case," Neal decides, hoping to distract Peter from his train of thought. As they make their way through the marble and pillared buildings, Peter observes that his high school didn't have a falconry club. "I guess Peter, Jr. will be the falconer in the family," Neal reminds him, and goes over Peter's cover: the company is putting him up at the Four Seasons. "Generous," observes Neal. "My wife loves the spa," shrugs Peter. Peter is met by the headmaster, who ushers him into the office, leaving Neal sitting on a bench beside a dejected little boy. Striking up conversation with the boy, he learns that the boy is in trouble, and might get expelled. "Here's what you do," advises Neal, and tells him to make eye contact, don't look down (make you look guilty), mirror their nods, and then look them in the eye and simply say, "I'm sorry." "Sweet!" says the boy, with a relieved smile. Suddenly, a woman hurries up to Neal. "Excuse me – Western Poetry?" she asks, out of breath. Neal looks at her curiously, but obediently recites: "I am not far from my going forth, by picking the fated bloom, frost?" She sighs in exasperation and mistakes him for a substitute teacher, thrusting a class roll at him. He tries to protest, but catches a glimpse of Chloe Woods' name on the roll. Instantly, he decides to take on the job. The secretary urges him to hurry before the class starts.

As the headmaster and Peter stroll through a cavernous hall with students playing chess, the headmaster explains that the school hires three Grand Masters to work with the students. "Probably a better life skill than falconry," agrees Peter, as the headmaster introduces him to Andy Woods. Woods is enthusiastic, commenting that one of the students will be the next Fisher, and adds that he likes the way the school pushes kids. "Well, you know what they say, you play the man, not the board," Peter comments. Woods shrugs and admits he never learned, since he grew up in a rough neighborhood, and had to work for everything he has. "So did I," murmurs Peter, but Woods points out that the school gives the students a chance to make contacts, and calls his driver to bring the car around for a tour.

Neal intercepts the scheduled substitute, and sends him on his way. Entering the classroom, he writes "Mr. Cooper" on the blackboard and announces that he's the substitute. The girls are giddy with interest, but Evan is staring in astonishment as he recognizes Neal. Neal observes that they are supposed to be doing Romantic Poetry. The class groans. "No poets?" inquires Neal. Chloe tells him that "stanzas are like math – marking the lines, it kills the romance!" Neal tells them to close their books, forget about structure, and simply listen. He begins to recite, "She walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies . . ." The class is rapt – Chloe is entranced, and Evan steals a longing glance at her from across the room.

As Peter and Woods stroll across the campus, Peter cuts to the chase: "You've checked into me – you know what I do and what I earn, and if I decide to enroll my son, you'll hit me up for a donation." Woods agrees, telling Peter that tuition doesn't cover everything. Peter asks where the donations go, and Woods tells him that most of them go into an endowment fund. "Donors trust us to put it where it will be most useful," he tells Peter. Peter asks about the performance of the fund in recent years, and Woods evades details with an airy, "better than most." Peter asks for details: "Give me the numbers . . . and I'll think about it," he tells Woods, strolling on. He asks Peter where he's staying, and Peter tells him the Four Seasons. Woods tells him that he knows – he ordered a bottle of champagne to be delivered, but tells Peter that even though he is checked in, he has no baggage and the hotel hasn't seen him. "You lie – maybe your son lies. That's not the kind of student we want here," Woods says piously, asking for an explanation. Peter gives a little laugh. "I came here without my wife, ok?" he says urbanely. "I decided to spend the first night in town with . . . a friend. She lives in West Village. If Linda found out . . . she'd make me pay." Woods studies him a moment, and tells him that the same thing happened with the first Mrs. Woods. "Expensive mistake," he muses. As Peter start to leave, he glances in a classroom window, and is taken aback to see Neal teaching a class. Peter slips into the back of the class, and tells them that he is just there to observe. As Neal asks a question, Peter poses a question of his own. "We raise our hand in glass," admonishes Neal. Obediently, Peter raises his hand, and asks a question: "What if a poet worked for a patron, and his poetry was perceived as . . . insubordinate?" Neal smiles. "Well, most patrons respected the poet's process. Straying from the course was considered 'artistic license'." "But was the wayward poet ever punished?" Peter inquires meaningfully, "Say, by being locked in a garret somewhere?" "I'd have to do some research," says Neal, his smile dropping as he realizes that Peter is annoyed. The bell rings and the students scatter.

"I said 'Sit on a bench' not 'Reenact 'Dead Poet's Society'!" exclaims Peter as they leave, but Neal points out that Chloe was in the class and he thought it might be useful. Peter decides to go back to the office to examine the endowment numbers and tells Neal he's off for the rest of the day. Neal, pleased, says that he needs the time to prepare for tomorrow's class – they're doing Dickens!" "Great expectations," Peter sighs, shaking his head.

That night, Mozzie tells Neal that he should have known that their daring rescue of Elizabeth wouldn't buy much time with Peter. "It's Peter – he can't be bought," Neal reminds him. They realize that if Peter doesn't let Keller's admission of guilt stand, the crime will come back on them. Neal tells Mozzie that all he can do right now is remind Peter that he is an asset, not a liability. He shows Evan's report to Mozzie, who is impressed, and tells Mozzie that Evan is in love with Chloe, who doesn't appear to know he exists and, as a teenage girl, is "in love with love." Mozzie surmises that Neal is going to redirect Chloe's attention, and Neal agrees. Peter texts Neal and asks him to come in and look at new evidence, and Neal leaves Mozzie perusing the report.

Peter tells Neal that he has a theory on how the money is being embezzled. Investments are the only area Woods has complete control over, and if Woods is doing what he claims to be doing, the returns should be higher, and if a fixed percentage of the endowment goes to scholarships, that would explain why they are down. Peter thinks the headmaster is probably in on it, too. He tells Neal that he wants him to go back the next day, to Neal's pleasure. "But this time, I'm writing the lesson plan, and you better follow it!" he warns Neal.

At home that night, Peter is describing the scene in the classroom to Elizabeth: "I walk into the classroom, and the girls are all glassy-eyed, like they had seen that kid from those vampire movies," he laughs. Elizabeth, thinking aloud, says that she bets that Neal would be a good teacher. "Which will validate him even more," Peter grouses, taking a pull on his beer. "It's a pattern – Neal misbehaves, but because he's Neal, he doesn't face the consequences, AND he gets a gold star for it!" Elizabeth realizes that Peter is talking about something other than the case. Peter tells her that he has to go on record next week about what happened with Keller. Only they know that Neal was involved with the art theft – there's no trail that leads back to him. "If I sign off on this case, the art goes back where it belongs, Keller serves life in prison, and I'm a hero for taking him down." "But Neal gets away with it," smiles Elizabeth. "Yeah," sighs Peter. Elizabeth points out that Neal had the treasure, but gave it up for them. "I think that says a lot about his character," she says firmly, sipping her wine. "He had the treasure – THAT says a lot about his character," Peter points out. "If you ask me," Elizabeth tells him, "the right man is behind bars."

Peter drops Neal off ten blocks from school, to avoid being seen with him. They fix their earmikes. Peter plans to meet with the headmaster and get him out of the office, which is when Neal will slip in to look for evidence. Peter warns him to stick to the plan. As Neal enters the building, he tells Peter that the headmaster has left his office and walked away with an envelope under his jacket. Neal follows him, and watches him put the envelope inside a book in a student's locker. The bell rings, and students fill the hall. Neal tells Peter that if they can clear the hallway, he can break into the locker. Peter spies the fire alarm and, wincing as tell-tale blue indicator gel sprays on his hand, pulls the alarm. Neal quickly opens the locker – it's Chloe's – and the envelope is in the back of her calculus book. Neal takes a picture of it with his phone – it's a copy of a report that's going to the board of directors next week ("no electronic trail or email – smart," muses Neal). They realize that Woods is getting a heads up from the headmaster so that he knows how much money to siphon off of the endowment fund ahead of time. Peter decides to get a look at Woods' personal finances. Meanwhile, Chloe finds Neal outside, and asks if he does home tutoring – they are starting "A Tale of Two Cities". At first, he demurs, but catching Peter nodding vigorously in the background, he accepts, as long as her dad is at home. The girls with Chloe are giggling madly, and Chloe has a big smile. "You know, we should invite Evan," he tells Chloe, to Evan's further astonishment. Peter thinks this is a perfect opportunity to get a no-knock warrant to examine Woods' financials.

Peter calls Woods to make an appointment to go over numbers, but Woods says he is stuck at home since his daughter has a tutor coming over and his girlfriend is cooking dinner. He invites Peter and his "girlfriend" over, and asks her name. There's a pause, as the team looks at each other in consternation, but Diana, thinking quickly, leans over and says, "Danielle – my name is Danielle." Peter and the team go over the plans – Woods apartment is heavy secured electronically. Peter plans to open a specific door at 6 pm promptly, to cause Woods to disarm the system and allow Neal to get into the office to download records on a special flash drive.

At Neal's apartment, Mozzie is reviewing the plans, somewhat scornful of the flash drive. At a knock, Mozzie opens the door to Evan, who Neal has invited over for a "pre-tutoring" session. "Neal is the romantic, I am the Machiavellian puppet master," Mozzie tells Evan, explaining that their purpose is to give him "game." At Evan's blank look, Mozzie explains further: "To get the girl!" Evan is skeptical, and Mozzie moves on, wondering why Evan is wearing a cardigan with a sweater vest. "I dunno – I don't know what to wear when I'm out of uniform," Evan confesses. They eliminate the sweaters, unbutton the shirt a bit for a slightly disheveled look, and Neal advises him to "smile like you've got your own thing going on – she'll wonder what it is." Mozzie hands him some hair gel and tells him that he's heard great things about it, as Evan eyes Mozzie's bald head skeptically. "Carpe diem!" chirps Mozzie.

Arriving at the Woods apartment, Neal introduces himself and Evan to Woods. "You're the tutor?" asks Woods incredulously. "My daughter didn't describe you as being so . . . . " "Bookish?" suggests Neal. "So . . . symmetrical," mutters Woods, who then glances at Evan. "I don't know what to make of you," he tells Evan, glancing doubtfully at him. Sighing, he tells them, "Let's talk house rules." He takes them to a library, and tells them that they are to stay there – no wandering – and he has one hour. "Understood?" he asks Neal. "Understood," Neal agrees. Chloe walks in and tells her dad that he can go. "Hi, Chloe," says Evan, receiving only a muttered, chin-down "hey" from her as she avoids looking at him. Woods goes to answer the doorbell – his dinner guests have arrived. As he leaves, he tells Chloe no cell phone and getting in Evan's face, he tells him sternly, "And you – eyes on your books!"

Over dinner, Peter tells Woods that he wants to make sure his money goes somewhere useful, like scholarships, instead of a new pool. "Danielle" makes small talk with Woods' girlfriend, as they are carefully scrutinized by Woods' bodyguard. Checking his watch, Neal notes that it is five minutes before six. Chloe takes a phone call from one of her girlfriends, giggling "yes, he's here!" Neal tells Evan to distract Chloe. "How – I'm invisible!' he protests. Meanwhile, Peter realizes that the alarm he has to trip is being guarded by the bodyguard. He leans over and whispers the problem to Diana, who tells him to call her "Linda." During the next sentence, he calls her Linda, and she explodes: "Linda? Your WIFE?" she says cuttingly, demanding to talk to him privately "right now!" They move over to the wall of windows near the alarm. Neal, excusing himself to go to the bathroom, anxiously checks his watch: one more minute. "Danielle" and Peter are fighting furiously, as she demands Peter leaves Linda. He protests that he can't because of Peter, Jr. "What about Peter, Jr.'s baby brother?" she demands. "He doesn't HAVE a baby brother!" exclaims Peter helplessly. "He will in six months," she tells him grimly. "Oh, no – I need some air!" Peter moans. Woods nods the bodyguard away. Neal checks his watch – show time. He opens the door to the office a second before Peter can get the other door open, but it appears that Peter has set the alarm. Woods disarms it, and Neal quickly begins to download Woods' computer.

Chloe finds Neal in her dad's office, and, perching on the side of the desk, starts to talk to him. Her phone "pocket-dials" Woods, who answers the phone and hears Chloe telling Neal that if her Daddy knew that he was breaking the house rules, he'd be upset. Woods, alarmed, runs toward his office. "What the hell is going on in here?!" he asks angrily. He demands to know what Neal is doing in his private office with his daughter. "Dad, don't get mad!" protests Chloe. Evan comes in and tells Woods that it's his fault – Chloe said he had an old map of Paris in the office, and he wanted to see it. Neal agrees, pointing out they were studying the French Revolution. "And after hearing about the map, I thought it might be an original Hogenberg." He turns to the map on the wall, admiring it. "Sixteenth century, birds eye perspective . . . and there's the Bastille!" Chloe and Evan exchange a smile of relief. Woods demands that Neal leave immediately. Neal, glancing at Chloe and Evan, agrees and walks out. Woods sends Chloe to her room. As she leaves, she tosses a look over her shoulder. "Bye, Evan!" she tells him, winning a smile.

At Neal's apartment, Peter tells him that Jones has already identified several account numbers from the information Neal pulled off the computer. "Sounds like another win for us!" comments Neal. "A win for the Bureau," Peter corrects him. "Of which I am an integral part," Neal reminds him. "Stop digging," Peter sighs, telling him that he knows Neal is aware that Peter's statement for the Keller case is coming up. "I won't ask you to lie," Neal tells him. Peter rolls his eyes. "But I don't have to tell them everything, is that it?" "Peter, I have nothing to hide!" protests Neal. "Sure about that?" Peter asks skeptically, then calls out, "Mozzie, you can come out, now." "You have no proof I'm here!" Mozzie's voice floats in from the balcony. "There's a half a bottle of wine on the table and a whiff of camembert in the air," Peter tells him. "Circumstantial!" protests the voice. Peter says goodbye. Mozzie enters cautiously. "Until that file is wiped, I'm keeping a safe distance from the Bureau's favorite Brooks Brother!" he tells Neal. Neal reminds him that Peter hasn't made a decision yet, and there's still a chance it could swing in their favor. Mozzie points out that Evan 'got on the map' with Chloe, and now it's time for the grand romantic gesture, suggesting flowers, chocolates, or a sonnet done in Evan's handwriting. "I can whip up a sonnet, and you can forge it!" Neal wonders why Mozzie is so interested in helping Evan, and Mozzie confesses that he needs the distraction from worrying about what Peter will do.

The next day, Peter is taking the check to the headmaster's office and Neal is in the classroom. Suddenly, he hears shouting in the hall, and he comes out in time to see Woods striding angrily away from an upset Evan. Evan tells Neal that Woods knew that he was the one that copied the bursar's records, and threatened to have him expelled. "What did you say?" asks Neal. "I told him I had powerful friends of my own looking into it," he tells Neal. Urgently, Neal tells him to wait in his classroom. He calls Diana and tells her that they need backup at the school immediately, since Peter's cover has been blown.

As the headmaster is thanking Peter, Peter is excusing himself to "go to the airport." Woods walks up angrily, telling Peter that he's not going anywhere. The bodyguard comes to stand behind Peter as Woods explains that Peter's appearance is more than coincidence, with all the questions about the endowment with the quarterly report coming up. "That check – it's a trap!" he exclaims. The bell rings, and students start to fill the hall. "Don't do anything stupid," Peter tells him, as Woods grabs his arm and orders him to walk with him. Meanwhile, Mozzie, wearing janitor's overalls, calls Neal from Chloe's locker to tell him that "I've just done the equivalent of hoisting the boom box!" Neal, dashing after Peter, tells Mozzie, "Peter's in trouble – I need your help!" Mozzie turns and immediately heads in that direction. Neal follows them to the wood shop, where Woods is asking Peter, whose wrists are bound, if the Juarez brothers sent him. "He's with the cartel?!" asks the headmaster worriedly, but Peter tells Woods that he has it all wrong. "Check my jacket pocket." At Woods' nod, the bodyguard reaches into his pocket and withdraws Peter's FBI badge. The headmaster becomes hysterical, and the bodyguard tells Woods, "We can't cut up a Fed." "Yes, we can!" says Woods. The bodyguard switches on the table saw, and Woods begins to ask questions: "You're going to talk, or you're going to disappear!" Neal tells Mozzie they need a distraction. "It's a classic 23B – hurry!" Mozzie pauses by the chemistry lab, and a smile breaks across his face.

Suddenly, Chloe appears on the steps, reading the sonnet aloud and smiling. Neal approaches her, and Chloe tells him someone slipped it in her gym bag. He tells her that since he's not welcome at her home, he wants to give her his number. "You do?!" she says, wide-eyed. He takes her phone to input the number, but instead dials her dad, who overhears Neal telling a giggling Chloe that Evan is in his classroom. Furious, Woods chases after Chloe, leaving Peter with the bodyguard and the headmaster. "One down, two to go," Neal greets Mozzie, who hands him a vial of potassium, carbonate sucrose and a "just a hint of nitrogen". "They have nitrogen here?" grins Neal. "Oh, this really is an excellent school!" agrees Mozzie.

Peter is trying to convince the headmaster that if he lets him go, he can cut him a deal. The headmaster protests that it's too late for that, and Neal enters, telling the headmaster that "it's a good deal – I should know." He throws the vial down hard, and the room instantly fills with smoke. Peter takes advantage of the cover to use the table saw to cut the rope holding his wrists, drops to the floor and crawls away. Neal takes a swing at the bodyguard, and as the bodyguard struggles to stand, he feels something in the back of his head as Neal tells him, "Don't move or I'll shoot." Peter, recovering, looks at the Neal, who is holding a birdhouse with a pointed steeple at the bodyguard's head. "Nice birdhouse," he tells Neal drily.

Woods finds Evan in the classroom, and is closely followed by Chloe, who demands to know what he's doing there. He tells her that her teacher told him that he might find Evan there, but Neal strolls in from the French door overlooking the grounds. "I'm not a teacher," he tells Woods. Woods bolts for the door, but as he opens it, he finds Peter standing in front of the door, with agents flanking him. "You already know I'm a Federal agent," Peter tells him. Diana comes around the corner. "I am, too," she tells him. Diana arrests him, telling him that his girlfriend's cooking sucks. Woods tells Chloe to call his attorney.

Later, Neal is talking to Chloe, telling her that things will change, and it's not going to be easy, but for her not to run away from it. "This could be an opportunity, a chance to start over, maybe live the life you really want," he tells her. "I got that chance, and it's the best thing that ever happened to me." Peter overhears him from the shadows. As Neal leaves, Evan approaches Chloe and apologizes. She tells him that it's her dad's fault, and thanks him for the poem. As she opens the locker, several dozen long-stemmed red roses fall out. Neal and Mozzie are watching from a distance as Chloe grabs Evan's hand and they dash away.

Neal comes into the office and sees Peter in conference with two men. After the meeting, Peter goes into his own office – Neal realizes that Peter has given his statement. The men leave without glancing at him. Neal wanders into Peter's office, and Peter tells him, matter-of-factly, that it's going to be an early day tomorrow, they need to get on the real estate scam. He notices Neal's tie – the Manhattan Prep tie. "Nice tie," he says. "A thank you gift from Evan," Neal explains. A moment of silence, and then Neal offers, "I know I've complicated your life," he begins, but Peter cuts him off. "Stop. Don't say anything else," Peter tells him, not looking up from papers he is reviewing. "Can I say thank you?" Neal asks. "I told them the truth," Peter tells him, with a slight smile. "But . . . you didn't tell them everything," Neal surmises. Peter, rising from his desk, comes to stand in front of Neal. "What you did on this case, how you carried yourself, makes me believe this partnership can work." Neal looks at him. "I know what this opportunity means," he tells Peter. "Trust me." Peter takes a deep breath, and then reaches inside his jacket. He returns the baseball tickets to Neal. "They're nice – but they're not what matters to me," he tells Neal. Neal smiles, and then dives in. "About the commutation . . . ?" Peter stops him. "Whoa – I've already made enough big decisions for one day! Those tickets," he says, nodding toward the tickets Neal is now holding, "being the hardest!" "Pretty good seats," Neal offers again. "I know," Peter sighs. "You sure?" Neal asks. "See you tomorrow," Peter tells him, dismissing him. As Neal leaves, he gives the tickets to Jones. Moments later, Jones happily appears in Peter's office, telling him that Neal just gave him Yankee tickets, "and they look real! Good seats – you want to go?" Peter just laughs, and then offers to drive.