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Boxed In: Thoughts on Tuesday's Summer Season Finale of USA's White Collar

I promised you some thoughts about next week's summer season finale of USA's slick and stylish drama series White Collar and I hate to disappoint.

Airing on Tuesday evening, the summer season comes to an end with next week's fantastic and taut installment ("Point Blank"), after which we'll have to wait until January to find out just what happens to Peter, Neal, Mozzie, and the others.

Suffice it to say, the wait will be especially difficult, given the cliffhanger ending that creator Jeff Eastin and his crack writing team have left us with. It's far more intoxicating--and far less head-scratching--than the Peter/Ring scenario that they left us with halfway through the first season.

While there's no sign of Hilarie Burton's savvy insurance investigator Sara (sorry, folks!), the episode itself is extremely mythology-heavy, which makes it rather difficult to enmesh newbie Sara to the action right now. But while Burton is not present, Sara's absence isn't felt at all, thanks to a fantastic plot that draws together the various storylines involving the music box, Neal's key, some nifty codes, Kate's murder, Fowler, and OPR.

I don't want to say too much lest I spoil some of the deliciously twisty plot mechanics of this episode but I will say that we see Matthew Bomer's Neal Caffrey in a way that we haven't seen him before... and that the stakes for everyone are higher than ever.

The mysteries that have lurked in the background of White Collar throughout the back half of the first season and the first nine episodes of Season Two are pushed front and center and they manage to bring together just about all of the series' fantastic characters into a single storyline. Which means, yes, Neal, Peter, Mozzie, Diana, and Alex are all entangled in a unified narrative and, while there are answers given, there are more questions still that are raised here. Certainly enough that make us question some of the things we've taken for granted the past dozen or so episodes.

Motivations become crystal clear, alliances are formed and shattered, and Neal makes a decision that will have lasting consequences for himself and several others. Along the way, plot points that have been planted throughout the season come to fruition as the music box storyline begins to reach its climax. Just what secrets does the box contain? Why are so many people after this object? And what will Neal's key unlock once it's inserted?

Like a matryoshka, this box seems to contain secrets within secrets, puzzles within other puzzles. It's a Rambaldi device without the ominous apocalyptic overtones, yet it also connects deeply to the mystery of who wanted Kate dead and just what happened aboard that plane in the final minutes of the first season.

All this and some swashbuckling from Neal that has to be seen to be believed (yes, seriously), some great comedic interludes between Neal and Willie Garson's Mozzie (one of the best being how they age an FBI case file), and a tense standoff involving several interested parties. Not to mention that aforementioned cliffhanger, which will have people talking over the next few months, even as they hum the Batman theme.

In other words: miss Tuesday's episode at your own peril.

The summer season finale of White Collar airs Tuesday at 9 pm ET/PT on USA.


K. Potter said…
Thanks for the intriguing review.

I do think you overestimate everyone's caring about the Sarah character. It seems most fans would rather the time be spent on more Neal/Peter with liberal dashes of Diana, Moz and Elizabeth.

That said, I am most interested in the swashbuckling Neal!
Anonymous said…
Totally agree with K. Potter. Like most people, I watch this show for Neal Caffrey, not Sara Ellis. I don't understand why most reviews apologize for her absence from the show. Without Neal Caffrey, there is no "White Collar".
Anonymous said…
I also agree with K.Potter. too much emphasis on the Sara character and Burton is placed. I personally do not like the character and cannot see what all the fuss is about. I would rather Alex's character be given more recognition and permanence on the show. Gloria Votsis and Matt Bomer's chemistry is much more evident and a joy to watch.
Anonymous said…
This is the 2nd review I've read (another one last week) where the reviewer mentioned the absence of Sara Ellis as if it was significant. I have no idea why.

The fan reaction to her introduction has been almost overwhelmingly negative, and most people are relieved she's not around (even people who 'didn't mind' her in the episodes she was in).

Her absence is a blessing for most fans of the show, from what I can tell.

As for this episode, it sounds really exciting, and the clips I've seen on YT look great too.
Anonymous said…
Neal's actions will have lasting consequenses on himself and several others.

Meaning I think, Peter and Mozzie especially.

I'm eager for swashbuckling Neal and the tense stand off. I don't think I can handle a cliffhanger again and we have five months till January to see what'll happen next to the gang.

I can only hope Neal doesn't go back to prison, and I'm in no hurry to see Sarah Ellis again. Given that I watch WC for Peter and Neal.
Silkrose1 said…
You mean I have to wait until 2011 to see the episode I watched them film on August 27 ??

That is just about going to kill me!!!
Jen said…
The Sara Ellis character is abrasive and not quite believable - she's a cheap knock-off of the Rene Russo character in the Thomas Crown Affair (1996). She is not missed at all. The heart of the series consists of Peter, Neal, Moz, Agt. Jones and now Marsha Thomason's character Diana(so thrilled she's back.) They make a solid core, have amazing chemistry and do amazing teamwork.
ST said…
Well I for one like the Sara character. It's a good setup to have someone who's almost as sharp as Neil but not as amiable as Peter to give Neil some more recurring inter-character friction, and they obviously have "history", which deepens the mythology. (Plus, she's frankly quite easy on the eyes.) Though I think her absence is notable more because she clearly was set up to be part of the Kate plotline and has not been seen since then.
ST said…
Just watched it. January?! Aaaahh!
Tempest said…
January??? January???? That's just plain cruel.

And I have to agree with (almost) everyone else -- not really crazy about Sara.

However, loved "live the file."
Unknown said…
I totally agree with other comments in regards to Sara Ellis. Why is she being pushed down our throats? I for one have not missed her at all. In fact, I would be perfectly happy if she didn't come back at all. Neil and Peter seem to be doing just fine without her. In my opinion Hilarie Burton is only there as "eye-candy" for the male viewers with no substance to her character. Sad because the show is good enough without going down that road. But, I will be on pins and needles waiting for January with my fingers crossed that Sara doesn't come back.
melrec said…
so guys but without sara ellis I think the show is boring and my co-worker I had watch it thinks so too...tried to still watch because face it..Matt is super cute..but I fall asleep.

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