Last week’s episode of White Collar ended with a cliffhanger and tonight’s episode, “Gloves Off,” brought viewers right back to the Burkes’ living room where Neal sat with Peter and Mozzie, prepared to watch the tape Ellen had made for him when he’d been a little kid. The tape brought out Neal’s emotional side and Peter’s protective side. But we all knew from the episode promos that the two were heading for the boxing ring. The only question was how much of that fight was going to be real?
In the video, a much younger Ellen tells Neal the story about his father being accused of murder. She tells Neal that their precinct was filled with dirty cops and his father had been set up or at least that was what she’d believed until he confessed to the crime. That was when Ellen, Neal and Neal’s mother were placed in protective custody. Ellen explains that there’s another cop that Neal can trust, but she can’t give him that cop’s name for his own safety (Anvil #1). She places the evidence she has in a box and puts the key in a locket, telling Neal to find them and figure out what happened. Neal has to step outside to try and get himself under control. Peter follows and comforts him and promises they can work together on this. Neal wants to show Sam the tape, but Peter doesn’t think it’s a good idea. The two make a pact not to tell anyone for a few days and Peter wants to shake on it. Neal teases him and Peter asks if he’d prefer a blood pact. Inside, Mozzie and Elizabeth watch from the window and Mozzie says that they’re lying to each other; making a bargain neither of them can keep (Anvil #2).
Back at his place, Neal transfers the tape onto a computer and then places a call to Sam, telling him they need to meet. He heads to FBI headquarters and Diana tells him about a raid she’s planning for the next day. Peter wants to know how he’s holding up and Neal admits that he’s “itchy” and there’s some awkwardness between the two men as it’s obvious they’re wondering if they can still trust one another (Anvil #3). Peter has a new case involving a huge insider trading ring. There are over 30 suspects, one of them, Eric Dunham, Neal knows from his undercover days when he was going after Adler and posing as Nick Holden. The FBI sends him in to try and score a job with Eric, but Eric isn’t exactly thrilled with the idea. Neal tips him off about the company Diana is planning to raid. Peter is not happy with him, but Neal insists he knows what he’s doing. There’s another moment of uncertainty between them (Anvil #4), but then Neal is upset because Jones called shotgun before he did and things seem fine again.
Sam shows up at Neal’s and Neal has some questions about his father. Sam seems cagey and points out that’s not part of their deal, but he does start to tell a few stories, including how Neal’s love for hats started at an early age (Seriously, the anvils were dropping too hard and fast to count in this scene. From the beginning of the episode with Ellen not mentioning the other cop’s name in the video to Sam getting all gooey over how much Neal’s dad loved him, if Sam doesn’t turn out to actually be Neal’s father, I will be stunned). There’s a knock on the door and Neal has Sam hide in the back room. It’s Elizabeth bringing Neal some gelato to cheer him up. Mrs. Suit doesn’t miss much and she catches sight of the two glasses and Neal’s suspicious behavior. He basically cuts her off or makes noise each time she starts to mention the tape since he doesn’t want Sam to overhear. Neal thanks El repeatedly and then ushers her out the door.
Elizabeth doesn’t leave though. She gets into her car, which parallel parks itself (Jealous! I can’t even regular-park my car) and calls Peter to tell him that something is up with Neal. She tells him about the two glasses and how neither had lipstick so it couldn’t have been a woman and it was water, not wine, so it wasn’t Mozzie. She sees Sam walk out and snaps a picture with her phone, emailing it to Peter. He confirms it’s Sam and he tells El that he should have made a blood pact because Neal broke their agreement (No, he didn’t, Peter! Don’t jump to conclusions…is what I shouted at my TV as I feared for their bromance).
Diana takes down the company, which proves Neal’s tip to Dunham was on the mark, but he still doesn’t fully trust him (That seems to be a theme this episode). Neal does some digging and finds out that Dunham has a secret boxing ring and he makes the traders fight each other. They each have to pay a $25,000 buy in and the winner of the match gets the stock tips. Neal pays the money, but when he gets there, Dunham tells him that he just has to watch at this point. Neal is not amused and they need to find another way in so Neal tells Dunham that his tip came directly from the FBI. Once again, Peter freaks out that they’re not on the same page, but Neal makes up a cover story for Peter too. Dunham insists on meeting with him and Peter wants in on the fight.
The FBI needs to get Dunham on tape giving out the insider information to prove what he’s doing. Peter and Neal plan to choreograph their fight with a little help from Mozzie and Jones. But that ugly tension is cropping up between them again and Peter makes some comments about the FBI always knowing what’s going on and Neal starts to get suspicious. He wants to win the fight because he thinks it would be more realistic, but Peter thinks the information will carry more weight coming from an FBI agent. The team backs him up and Neal says it’s because he’s their boss. Peter reminds him that he’s his boss too. As they practice fight, Jones and Mozzie tell them to make sure the last hit is just right or Peter runs the risk of breaking Neal’s jaw.
Before the big match, Peter tracks down Sam. He tells the former cop that all he wants is to help Neal and he wants Sam to tell Neal they should all work together. Sam isn’t having that (probably because he’s jealous Peter has a better bond with his son than he does), but Peter keeps insisting that he has Neal’s best interests at heart and all he wants is to protect him (aw!). Neal is prepping to get in the ring and Sam calls to let him know that Peter stopped by and now people know where he is. He tells Neal that he’s leaving and Neal freaks out. Mozzie tries to stop him, but Neal gets in the ring, primed for a fight.
I don’t have the words to do the boxing scene justice. Just picture Neal and Peter shirtless and hitting each other – really hitting each other – as Mozzie and Jones watch from the sidelines and lots of investment guys cheer them on. Neal is furious with Peter and Peter has his own aggression to get out since he thinks Neal told Sam about the tape after he promised that he wouldn’t. Peter knocks Neal down, but Neal bounces right back up for another round. The two continue to fight until Peter throws another knockout punch (not Neal’s pretty face!) and this time, he stays down. Dunham excuses all the ‘losers’ from the room and starts to give the insider tips. As he does, Peter tells him that he’s under arrest. Jones, Mozzie and the rest of the FBI return to bring him in, but Neal is gone.
Peter follows Neal to Sam’s and the two have an argument on the street. Peter accuses him of telling Sam about the tape and Neal insists that he didn’t. He tells Peter that he just wanted to be around Sam because he was the only one left who really knew Ellen. He starts to break down and he’s angry with Peter for still not trusting him after all this time (Matt Bomer for ALL the awards, people). The two go into Sam’s house, but the door is open and the place has been tossed. Peter wants to call it in, but Neal blames him for Sam being found and for what happened to Ellen. He tells Peter that he will continue to do his job with the FBI, but as far as his personal life goes, they are done (noooooo!).
I cannot handle this kind of torture in one of my favorite bromances. But this whole season has been building up to this so I’m not really surprised by it. I still don’t like it though. In the previews for next week, it turns out that Sam is not who he says he is (shocker…except not) and Neal is asking him, “Why didn’t you just tell me?” The anvils are all in place, but I’m more concerned with the fact that next week will be the last episode until January. JANUARY. What am I going to do without my favorite convict and FBI agent until then? In the meantime, hit the comments below and share your theories and what you’d like to see in next week’s summer finale.