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The Magnificent Seven: An Advance Review of the Next Two Episodes of USA's White Collar

The wait is over: Neal Caffrey (Matthew Bomer) and Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) are back.

USA's smart and slick series White Collar returns tonight for the back half of its sophomore season, following a cliffhanger that threatened the life of Neal's shadowy associate Mozzie (the always fantastic Willie Garson), even as the dynamic duo got closer to unmasking the conspiracy surrounding that omnipresent music box.

When the series returns with the next two episodes ("Burke's Seven" and "Forging Bonds"), provided to press for review, there's a spirit of both righteous vengeance and calculated craftiness employed by Caffrey and Burke on behalf of poor Mozzie, gunned down by an unknown assailant, and some forward momentum on the music box storyline and just who is pulling the strings of the story's characters.

I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that what follows are two fantastic installments, each with their own distinct point of view. "Burke's Seven" finds Peter grappling with suspension as he puts together his own team (hence the title) to track down Mozzie's shooter and make sure that justice is paid. Unfortunately, said shooter (Paul Blackthorne, in fine form here) seems to be one step ahead of Burke and Co. Can Peter manage to pull together the team's diverse talents for a singular goal? And just who are the seven members of this rogue strike force? The answer is both in keeping with White Collar's history and its sometimes irreverent tone.

In next week's "Forging Bonds," it's a chance to take a trip down memory lane, complete with funny wigs and facial hair, as Neal remembers the first time he met both Kate (the improbably irksome Alexandra Daddario) and Mozzie, while the audience learns about the first time that Neal and Peter crossed paths. Sucker, anyone?

While most series typically fail at successfully employing this type of narrative device, "Forging Bonds" gleefully pulls off the flashback episode in fantastic style (as though you'd expect anything less from this charming series), rendering the backstories of Neal, Kate, Alex, Peter, and Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) in three-dimensional glory. Creator Jeff Eastin and the writers have wisely resisted peeling away the curtain to dramatize these events until now but, in the midst of its second season, White Collar has enough momentum and character investment to warrant the use of flashback at this point in time.

And what flashbacks they are.

Bomer gets to play Neal as a wide-eyed optimist, a naive fresh-faced kid with a floppy haircut and a penchant for wearing polos with chinos rather than bespoke suits. Garson's Mozzie is, well, like you've never seen him before, both mentor and comic relief, friend and gateway drug in one. Additionally, we get a little more indication of just why Neal was so hell-bent on finding Kate after his prison sentence (though I still find their attraction extremely unlikely, though that could be because Daddario rubs me the wrong way) and how these two met and ultimately fell in love. Along the way, we're given a glimpse at Neal's working relationship with professional thief Alex and the man who made Neal who he is today.

That man would be Vincent Adler, played to smarmy perfection by Andrew McCarthy. Just what was Neal's relationship with shady businessman Adler? And just who was conning whom? In Adler, we see the seeds of the man that Neal Caffrey would one day become, his seeming generosity paving the way for some of Neal's more flamboyant style. Through Adler, we see the transformation of Neal Caffrey from two-bit crook to gentleman criminal as he gets a taste of wealth and of the possibility afforded by his less than, uh, honest professional aspirations.

These are both two very strong episodes that seamlessly set up the overarching plot for the remainder of the season and allow White Collar's accomplished actors to demonstrate their range and depth. They're also just what this winter needs. Amid a rather staid season, there's a nice heat and flair to these first two episodes back. Throw in a rakish hat, and you've got the makings of a perfect evening.

White Collar returns tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on USA.


Debbie said…
I like that Sarah calls Neal "Jr" after playing the husband and wife Wellingtons. This show truly just keeps getting better and they have a stellar cast that really does seem like they are having fun.

Thanks for keeping us updated on the new information about the show, Jace!

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