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?
Honestly, this childish dynamic makes tons of sense in the world of White Collar: Much like the FBI, friendships often entail several levels of security clearance depending on your place on the totem pole. Like, if your second-best friend tells you a secret, you can only share that secret with your first-best friend, as your first-best friend has the highest level of security clearance possible. But major conflicts arise when the second-best friend believes that he or she is actually your first-best friend: THEN what are the proper clearance levels of secrets disclosure? This conflict is bound to happen when you weight relationships like this, but often your two best friends will TEST their security clearances by forbidding you to disclose information to the other, which is always the first step toward a huge friendship meltdown. That’s basically what “Gloves Off” was all about: Neal found himself caught between TWO parties who each demanded best-friend status, and it did NOT end well for anybody.
The episode also makes it somewhat obvious that Neal’s promises made to Sam are more important than those made to Peter. Even though he barely knows Sam. Suspecting, whether stubbornly or too easily, Neal believes Sam is the key to finding out who murdered Ellen. (And secondarily, where his father is.)
The serendipity of how they overlapped just in time to send a furious Neal hurtling wildly toward an unsuspecting Peter, thereby bringing their issues of mistrust to a head in dramatically entertaining and visceral fashion? Well, it’s a lot to conspire without undoing every thread, and enough to make one’s eyes roll incredulously. Fortunately, the action is shot with a manic, fishbowl realism. The punches themselves land frequently and bluntly, preventing the entire climax from careening into self-parody.
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