Admittedly, White Collar’s fourth season has been a bit of a disappointment to me and that’s part of the reason I haven’t been reviewing it each week (The other reason is because Tuesday is the busiest night of TV and I can’t keep up). But tonight’s episode, “Empire City,” was a refreshing return back to everything that makes this show so much fun to watch. There were costumes, undercover missions, a jazz club, June (!) and the whole crew working together to pull off a con. I loved (nearly) every minute of it.
The episode begins with Mozzie and Neal searching for the cityscape that matches the key Ellen left behind. It turns out that Mozzie has a side business as a cab driver and he uses it to learn what’s going on with people and places in the city, which comes in handy for his cons. Meanwhile, Peter and Jones are running their own investigation, but Peter has to put a quick end to it when Elizabeth (who is still on thin ice with me after she forced Neal to lie to Peter last week) arrives. Peter tells his wife that he knows Neal would never outright lie to him without a reason. Elle tells him that she’s glad Neal lied to him (and I glare at the screen. I am not here for this version of Mrs. Suit).
Mozzie picks Neal up (insists that Neal has to pay his fare) and as they’re driving, he spots another cab with the same medallion number as his. Mozzie is not happy and chases after the cab, running several red lights only to end up getting arrested. Neal calls Peter to get Mozzie out of his jam and Mozzie insists that he bought his medallion legally and the business is the only thing that separates him from a gypsy. Peter isn’t impressed since Mozzie used the name Hal Hoover, but he agrees that there’s something suspicious going on with the cabs and agrees that he and Neal will take the case.
First, Peter poses as an agent from the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to get access to the medallion fare records. Mozzie is already there, chatting with some fellow cabbies and Neal pretends to be an angry customer so the two can get into the cab with the counterfeit medallion. Peter is not amused by their methods and the three head to Neal’s loft to go through the process of tracing the fares once the medallion changed hands. This leads them to a jazz club in Harlem, the Cotton Club, which is owned by the Wells brothers.
This time, Neal and Peter pose as talent agents as they question one of the brothers, Delmon, while the other brother, Angelo, gets in Mozzie’s cab. It turns out that Angelo works for TLC and he’s less than thrilled about the reopening of the jazz club. Neal manages to take pictures of the club’s books while they convince Delmon to listen to one of June’s records so that she can perform on opening night.
For me, this show is never better than when the entire gang gets involved in the con/investigation (“Burke’s Seven” remains one of my favorite episodes to date). Elizabeth offers to take a look at the books since she knows a lot about venues and Peter and Neal instantly hand them over, happy not to have to do the work. She finds some discrepancies, but nothing that would be enough to close the club down before opening night. Diana poses as a cigar girl to find out where the brothers might be keeping the fake medallion and she finds out there’s a safe in the office. But she also gets caught by Delmon.
She talks her way out of it and the two have a conversation about how much Delmon loves his brother. Diana reports back that there’s no way Delmon will speak out against Angelo so when they bust him for the scam, both brothers will end up going to jail. Neal wants to force Angelo’s hand and to do that, he suggests creating a disappearing medallion. As he works on that, they recruit June to record a song on vinyl so they can hide the recording that opens the safe on that.
The plan is set to take place on opening night. While June prepares to sing, Neal slips downstairs to sneak into the office and replace the medallion with the melting one he created. Elizabeth steps in to stop Delmon from heading downstairs, insisting that he stay and watch June’s first number because she’s going to dedicate it to him. Jones quickly scrambles to write a note to June and catches her eye. She fumbles for a moment on stage and then asks for some water, which Diana brings her and shows her the note. June dedicates the song to Delmon and begins to sing.
He stays for most of the number and then tells Elizabeth that he needs to go. As he heads down to the office, Diana stops him to give Neal time to crawl out the window. He heads upstairs to the club to find Peter who asks him if it went like clockwork. Neal replies that it was more like the skin of their teeth (Seriously, this entire sequence was one of the best things the show has done all season. I need more teamwork, cons, close calls and less focus on the dull storyline with Neal’s dad).
Meanwhile, Mozzie has disabled the guy’s cab so that he won’t leave the club before the medallion melts. Mozzie pretends to have trouble starting his cab and as soon as the medallion melts, his passenger places an angry call to Angelo. Peter and Neal stay out of sight when the Angelo leads Delmon and Luke downstairs to get the medallion out of the safe. As Angelo hands it over, the FBI moves in and arrests the men. Angelo speaks out, proclaiming that his brother was innocent so Delmon is spared being arrested.
The case sparked something for Neal and helped him figure out Ellen’s clue. He led Mozzie to a pier where he used to go as Peter was closing in on him and he collected corks to mark each day he was still free. The cityscape matched up to the key, but there was one extra building in it: The Empire State Building. Peter and Jones were watching Neal’s tracking device and Peter figured out the corks led to the place as well. But what exactly is waiting for Neal at the Empire State Building? Hopefully we’ll find out next week…