White Collar kicked off its fifth season tonight with Peter behind bars for a crime that he didn’t commit. As Peter visited with his friends and Elizabeth and assured them things would be okay, Neal knew he was running out of time to clear Peter’s name. The stakes were high: if Peter was indicted, whether he was convicted or not, he would no longer be able to serve as an FBI agent.
“At What Price” focused on Neal’s attempts to free Peter and as the title suggests, it questioned how far he was willing to go. Anyone who has been watching the show knows the answer to that question: Neal would do anything for Peter and it didn’t matter what the personal cost was to him. Unfortunately for Neal, that cost has turned out to be very, very high and Peter wasn’t exactly grateful to him.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about the specifics of Neal’s plan. Does everyone remember the Dutchmen; the forger that Neal helped Peter take down in the pilot, which eventually led to their partnership? He’s back this season and unsurprisingly, he’s not pleased with Neal and Peter’s roles in his imprisonment. He offers Neal a simple deal: he has to steal some gold coins and in return, the Dutchman will use his influence to get the case against Peter dropped.
It sounds simple enough, but it ended up being complicated. First, Neal and Mozzie had to plant a fake recording of James’ confession that he was the true guilty party. Then Neal had to work out the theft – this involved Neal dressing up like a firefighter so go ahead and savor that imagery for a few minutes. But then things started to go wrong. The coins ended up going back to the firehouse instead of remaining with Neal and guess who was assigned the case? That’s right; a newly freed Peter.
Neal and Mozzie had to scramble to cover their tracks and work to get the coins back, which Neal was able to do by the skin of his teeth. But when he went to deliver the goods to the Dutchman, Neal had already figured out that it wasn’t the coins that he wanted: it was Neal. Sure enough, the Dutchman had caught his heist on camera and would be using it to blackmail Neal into doing his bidding from here on out. At least Peter was free…
Of course that wasn’t simple either. Peter was offered a new job – the head of the White Collar Division – and it came with an eventual transfer to D.C. Peter needed to think about it because it would involve a lot of change. In the meantime, he noticed the Neal’s tracker remained in one place for a long time (Mozzie figured out how to disable it) and that made him question whether he’d ever really be able to completely trust Neal.
Peter dropped by Neal’s loft and shared his news with him and assured Neal that his deal would remain in his place, but he was making a change. Peter gave a speech about how the White Collar Division is like a family and Neal is part of that family, but Neal is also a criminal and Peter has lost sight of that. Now that he’s realized it again, he gives Neal an upgraded tracker and tells him that it’s time for him to get a new handler – someone who will see Neal for what he is and not as a family member.
The episode completely and totally lost us at this point. We don’t understand why the writers insist on forcing Neal and Peter’s relationship back ten steps EVERY SINGLE SEASON. It was bad enough that Elizabeth assumed Neal was only worried about himself; we could forgive her because her husband was in jail, but how dare Peter assume that too? Neal would sacrifice everything for him and Peter still continues to look at him like he’s nothing more than a criminal.
We have to point out that Neal is not completely blameless; he let Peter believe the lie about the confession, which he kind of had to in order to keep protecting Peter, and he didn’t tell Peter about the Dutchman blackmailing him. These two need to stop lying to each other and stop assuming the worst, but in our eyes, Peter has committed the greater sin here. How can he still see Neal as only a criminal after everything they’ve been through together?
Did you enjoy the episode? Which part of the con was your favorite? How do you feel about Neal and Peter’s relationship being fractured again? Hit the comments and share your thoughts with us!