July 11, 2012





WHERE WE WERE:  Watching Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and his closest crony Mozzie (Willie Garson) fly away.  Neal is a con man, art thief and forger let out of jail (with an ankle bracelet) to be an FBI consultant, in the care of Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), the man who arrested him.  Over 3 seasons, their relationship had moved from mutual wariness to genuine friendship, extending to Peter’s wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) and his fellow agents (Sharif Atkins, Marsha Thomason) as well.  When Peter saw that, just as Neal was eligible for parole, another agent was determined to use the secrets of Neal’s past to put him back in jail permanently, Peter allowed Neal to escape with his share from a Nazi art treasure Mozzie had been keeping for them since an earlier season.

WHERE WE ARE:  6 weeks have passed since Neal and Mozzie’s exit from New York.  The two of them are living well on a tropical island, where Neal pays off the local Man In Charge (Gregg Henry) and seduces a lovely waitress (Mia Maestro).  Back in NY, though, Agent Collins (Mekhi Phifer) is ruthlessly seeking Neal’s return, alive or dead, and Peter decides he has to warn Neal about the danger.

Both Neal and WHITE COLLAR are devotees of the long con (the con-of-the-week portion of the show is usually the weaker aspect), and the show’s Season 4 premiere, written by series creator Jeff Eastin and directed by Paul Holahan, was mostly concerned with putting its pieces into place, with Neal and Mozzie on their island, Collins on their trail, and Peter trying to help.  The episode itself was annoying, because it turned on Peter and Neal each doing something alarmingly foolish:  Peter keeps a written record of where Neal is hiding, which allows Collins to find it and track Neal down, and then Neal trusts the one man on the island whom even a child could have told him was completely untrustworthy.  We expect more of the White Collar protagonists, since the show is usually one of the smoothest on USA’s air.

Let’s assume that Eastin and his fellow writers, having contorted themselves to contrive this situation, have a clever way out in mind.  For now, even a subpar episode of White Collar, as this premiere was, is pleasant enough to watch, thanks to the interplay of DeKay, Bomer and Garson, and the show, like its hero, has a definite sense of style (Neal’s method of seducing the waitress, involving, as he put it, “plaster casts and a lot of sand,” was lovely).  The season could have gotten off to a better start, but there’s plenty of summer left for it to settle into its usual enjoyable groove.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."