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White Collar Season Finale: There's Nothing Sadder Than a Con Man Conning Himself

Just when it seemed as though the Vincent Adler/Kate/Nazi treasure storyline had all but wrapped up, last night's season finale of White Collar ("Under the Radar") threw us for another loop with that cliffhanger ending.

Throughout the series' run over the last two seasons, the relationship between Neal Caffrey and Peter Burke has grown into something resembling an actual partnership based on mutual trust, respect, and, well, friendship. Which is why the innate tension and suspicion of the "prove it" scene at the very end of this week's installment threatens to alter the delicate balance that has existed between the two for some time now.

Neal has proven himself a staunch ally to the White Collar Crime Division of the FBI, willing to lend his expertise to catching some crooks, but he's always had his feet in two worlds: the criminality that he's sworn to give up and the path of redemption that Peter has put him on. Is it possible to remain within both? And does the ending of the season seem to indicate that Neal has made a choice about which path he's choosing? Hmmm...

The White Collar writers went to some great lengths to plant that painting of the Chrysler Building at the beginning of the episode, showing the audience Neal's latest work in his flat, establishing that he had painted said painting, but also inserting the fact that he has a storeroom filled with such works. Not only did the audience notice the painting, but so did Peter.

Which made the ending cast more than a little suspicion on Neal: When the warehouse containing the U-Boat's billion-dollar treasure trove went up in smoke (thanks to a convenient explosion that killed no one), Peter spied a tell-tale piece of Neal's painting among the rubble. So did Neal engineer the explosion as part of a master plan of vengeance against Vincent Adler, as Vincent believed?

Nope, though the writers initially wanted us to consider that as a possibility, that Neal would take what Adler loved most since he had taken Kate from him. And that scrap of canvas is awfully incriminating. But while we know that Neal's not the mastermind (he wasn't aware of Adler's location nor that of the treasure), what the scene does is explode the relationship between Neal and Peter, casting Neal in a suddenly untrustworthy light. And Peter's suspicions have the same effect on Neal, making him distrust his partner. Hence, all the posturing and "prove it" machismo at the episode's conclusion. It seems as though the music box's tune has gone sour...

But if Neal's not the culprit than who is? Who left that little anonymous calling card for Neal signaling him to that storage facility? Just who is this mysterious "friend" that leads Neal to the location of the Nazi treasure?

Let's take a look at the possible suspects...

(1) Alex Hunter. We know Alex is a master thief and she has a personal connection to both the treasure (via her grandfather, who was the signalman who heard the last SOS transmission that the sub made) and to Neal. She's made it her life's work to find the music box and solve the riddle that her grandfather had told her about Midas.

She's also extremely helpful (almost obviously so) during the kidnapping and safe-cracking expedition and the kiss she shares with Neal shows that she (A) still has feelings for him, and (B) is willing to drive a wedge between Neal and Sara. Plus, she's no fan of the feds, so anything that puts Neal off-balance there and pulls him back into the world of criminality is a good thing in her book. She's also no fan of Adler, so the heist means getting one over on him as well.

So why would she give it over to Neal? A peace offering? A gift? The promise of more unimaginable wealth to come? And just how would Alex have been able to pull off such a grand design on her own? Hmmm....

(2) Mozzie. The fact that the anonymous note was typed rather than handwritten would seem to indicate that Neal would have recognized the handwriting in question. Which means that the perpetrator is likely someone Neal knows only too well. And Mozzie was there when Neal's painting was glimpsed by Peter.

But surely Mozzie would only be too willing to take credit for pulling off such a feat right underneath the FBI's noses? And why would he seek to incriminate Neal? I think Mozzie's actually in the clear on this one.

(3) Sara Ellis. Our insurance investigator friend did get awfully close to Neal in those library stacks last week, though her feelings were noticeably bruised by seeing Neal and Alex kiss at the dry dock after their near-death experience. Could it be that there's more to Sara than meets the eye and that she likes to walk on the dark side a little bit? We've seen nothing to that effect so far, so I don't think she's suddenly started stealing huge amounts of treasure on a whim.

Other theory: She's been in Neal's apartment and has access to some shady individuals (as well as a nice amount of capital) from her line of work. So, it is possible that she also had a vested interest in the recovery of that Nazi treasure? Could her insurance company be behind the theft in an effort to recover the stolen merchandise and profit from its "disappearance" in that warehouse fire? And that the anonymous note to Neal was her way of scoring one on him? Hmmm...

(4) Unknown Admirer. Neal has a secret admirer, another criminal who is hoping to impress him with this stunning feat that s/he pulled off without him even realizing it. Neal's just as surprised as we are that the collection didn't go up in flames, which could be mission accomplished for this perpetrator. Whoever s/he is, they've certainly got Neal's attention now, which could have been the point in the first place. Can it be that Neal has some competition in the thieving world, someone who is looking to engage in a cat-and-mouse game of oneupsmanship with Neal Caffrey? Otherwise, why lead him to the treasure in the first place? Unless..

(5) Kate. Unless the perpetrator is Kate herself. We never actually saw Kate die, just saw the the plane explode and we assumed Kate was one there. Given that Kate has some powerful friends and access to some shady individuals with specialized skill sets, it's possible that she was able to fake her own death and then take revenge on Vincent Adler. (Though, if I'm being honest, I hope it ISN'T Kate.) What if she's been keeping an eye on Neal and sees this as her opportunity to win her man back and get her revenge at the same time. The warehouse incident leaves Adler dead (thanks to Peter), the relationship between Neal and Peter fractured, and is the perfect opportunity to end the music box-led quest for this treasure that's now gone forever.

Kate and Neal's history does include an incident in a storage facility--when Peter catches him the first time--so isn't it keeping with tradition that the anonymous note would lead Neal to another storage facility? Hmmm... And it would be a twist that throws further tension into the Alex-Neal-Sara love triangle, the working relationship between Neal and Peter, and might be the thing to push Neal back into a life of crime.

So what will Neal do next? While we see him smiling amid the haul of a lifetime, will he tell Peter and the FBI about the stash? Will he keep it for himself? And will he attempt to unravel the mystery of who this anonymous "friend" is?

What do you think? Who is behind the heist? And what do you predict that Season Three of White Collar has in store for Neal Caffrey? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Season Three of White Collar is set to launch in June on USA.

Comments

Anonymous said…
if we think about it, sarah didnt warm up to neal until they started working on this case. maybe she went to argentina, and found out what was going on, warmed up to neal to get his help on it all.. then decied to share
Anonymous said…
Jeff E needs to fix this episode one season 3 as vast majority of WC fans want Peter/Neal as buds. I assume this is typical season finale bluster that will hopefull ybe quickly rectified episode one in June.
Unknown said…
Anon makes good point about Sarah, warming up to Neal once she got into the mystery. Alex of course has the intel on the sub and what was inside but then Mozzie has closest knowledge and access to Neal: what he's been reproducing, where it's stored, etc. Plus all the "we're different, wake up" anvils.. so I can't rule him out. I can almost see Alex and Mozzie working together on this, break Neal away from Peter. #4 would be a retcon problem, trying to tie someone else into all of this and Kate, totally possible. When there's no body or just limited DNA remains, it's kind of obvious along w/ the increase in reminding us about her role in all of this. Would not surprise me if 1) it was Kate and 2) in the end, Neal's friendship w/ Peter has changed him to where he no longer feels the same. Whatever, I'll be back in the summer.
Abbie said…
It's not Kate. Jeff Eastin has been asked, many times in interviews whether she survived the explosion and his answer is always the same -- "I don't want to give away anything about the show, but I can say that Kate is absolutely, unequivocally" dead."
Mailin said…
Jeff confirmed several times that Kate is really dead (for example: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/white-collar-16-things-we-165225#comments).
Wes said…
@Ms. Snark: Why would #4 be a retcon? There's no sense that an unknown person would trigger any revision of events that came before. Could still be a new character without changing anything plot-wise.

Also, just because Eastin said that Kate is dead, doesn't mean it won't turn out that she faked her death and changed her identity. Writers lie about stuff all the time.
Carol A said…
How about this senario: Adler said Neal was like a son to him. That they would go 50/50 on the treasure. Maybe he put all the goods in a warehouse for Neal and him. Then Neal tells him no way. He then get mad and holds a gun on Neal, then of course Peter shoot Adler. Adler could have put that note and Key on Neal's table and was going to meet him in the warehouse at a later time.
Delta said…
I hope the rift in Peter and Neal's friendship will be solved in episode 1 of season 3, but I have my doubts. Billions of dollars worth of treasure would be a temptation for anyone, and Neal, being a conman, might have a very difficult time giving it up. I'd be thrilled if the first thing he did would be to contact Peter and let him know what's happened, but I really doubt it. That little grin at the end of the episode made me uneasy. Season 3 is supposed to be about choices apparently. Hopefully, we'll get to see Neal make the right ones.
Anonymous said…
KELLER
Unknown said…
I'm looking for a curveball. Neal is revealed to be wearing an elaborate mask that reveals him to be Charley Sheen. And Jeff Eastin, well, the second part of our favorite couple, Mr Lorre.

I don't know. I stopped watching USA Network programs (WC, BN, etc) last year. They seem a little too predictable and sugar coated for me. Seems like the same story with a few twists all the time. Plus it feels like they're doing a PR campaign for the FBI and the CIA.

I have found FX's shows like SoA, Lights Out, and Justified to be more to my liking.

But that's just me.

Btw Jace, I read your reviews on The Good Wife S2, which led me to buy the S1 DVD. It didn't seem to hit its stride until ep 9. It's getting better.
Tempest said…
C'mon folks. It's obviously Jones in a bid to become a series regular. :-) (Seriousy, bump Sharif Atkins up already.)

And while I do adore White Collar, the whole escape from the sub/Adler felt off to me. Maybe it will make a little more sense on a repeat viewing.
macara said…
I vote for Alex.

She's the ultimate insider on the sub and treasure. After all, she's been searching the longest.

She's smart enough to have back tracked before the fake stuff blew up in the warehouse.

My question...how did Neal know exactly where to find Adler and the warehouse?

I don't think it is a coincidence that Neal's paintings were in the warehouse. He knew something ahead of the explosion.

Isn't the ultimate pay back to con someone out of everything...and watch their face change when they realize it? If Neal was in on it...then he got Adler in the end...didn't he?
Helen said…
I vote for MOZZIE. He knew Neal did the paintings to ease his stress. MOZZIE had the fractal and gave NEAL his one big (last?)score which PETER said didn't exist. I think NEAL smiles because he knows he finally has his one big score. JUNE may have helped Mozzie because she likes NEAL and her husband, BYRON, quit the game but he kept the $100 counterfeit plates as his score. NEAL remembered that ALEX said she was looking at the water as a child with her grandfather, that's how he found the warehouse. NEAL would have died if ADLER hadn't found him trying to go into the warehouse, so NEAL and ADLER weren't involved. I don't think NEAL will tell PETER because PETER immediately didn't believe NEAL was innocent. NEAL said he owes SARA "one" so he may give her some of the treasure, but I don't think he will give it back, at least not now.
Gordon said…
@Macara
If you recall neal looked around for a bit before he found the warehouse. He was looking for clues. And he found one - he heard the clinging of the bell from the water's tide/drift. I think he recognized it from when he was inside the warehouse and that's how he knew where it was - or close enough to adler.
I agree with you, it is certainly Alex. However, I do find it odd that Mozzie wasn't at the house when Neal came back.
Anonymous said…
I really hate to see the growing relationship between Neal and Peter disintegrate so badly. Hope they fix it quickly. Would like to see Neal and Sara together - not really picket fence but the kind of relationship that keeps Neal a little off balance and unsure.

I think Alex may have been behind the theft to try and win Neal back. She and Mozzie would have known of his storehouse of paintings and if Neal was going to use them why would he have told Peter beforehand or even had one of the paintings in the apartment for Peter to see! Doesn't make sense for a smart con like Neal.
Anonymous said…
Please fix the relationship between Neal and Peter. Didn't like the way the season finale had it going. Would like to see Neal and Sara together. It would be interesting to see him a little off kilter and unsure while falling for Sara. Would add a lot of interest and humor to the show - push and pull!
Helen said…
@GORDON - Alex told Neal she heard the buoy during the night and she described the warehouse to him. Everything was in an 18-wheeler so she could have driven it away. She called Neal a treasure beyond reach, so this would make him reachable. But Mozzie and Neal had talked about the one big score, so it could be Mozzie. But knowing Jeff Eastin, it's probably someone no one knows!
Helen said…
It wasn't Keller. Keller would have liked to send Neal to jail forever, but Peter would not have accused Neal if he didn't accidentally see a piece of Neal's painting. Also, Keller would not have left a note saying "You'll thank me" because he would never want Neal to have more than him, and Neal wouldn't thank Keller for sending him back to jail.

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