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'White Collar' recap: A familiar face returns

Season 6 | Episode 2 | “Return to Sender” | Aired Nov 13, 2014

Last week on White Collar, Elizabeth came back to New York, Neal joined the Pink Panthers, Rebecca died, and Peter found out he was going to be a dad—and that was all in one episode!

So far the finale season of White Collar has gotten off to a great start, and I can’t wait to see where it will lead. We know this is the show’s last season, its swan song, its final con. That means nothing will be predictable. After five seasons of Neal’s cons, Peter’s wits, and each villain’s ability to almost outsmart them, it’s only fair to say there’s no way we can know where this season is going. Will old villains return? Will old flames be rekindled? Will Neal finally get his freedom (with or without the FBI)?

Read on to see what happened in this week’s episode, “Return to Sender.” You may even recognize a familiar face …

Daddy Burke

Peter is busy getting the house ready for the new baby. He is determined to fix everything—including his relationship with Neal—after the FBI backed out of Neal’s last deal. Neal has lost all trust in the FBI’s ability to give him his freedom, so he draws up a contract. Neal will only help infiltrate the Panthers if the FBI agrees to sign his contract. Peter isn’t worried about the contract; he’s worried about the Panthers. He knows it’s a dangerous job and fears for Neal’s life. After some arguing, Peter agrees to present the contract to the FBI.

Keller Checkmate

Matthew Keller (Ross McCall)

A familiar face returns

Off his tracking anklet, Neal goes to his first Pink Panther meeting. Expecting to find Panther leader Woodford, he is met by a familiar face: Matthew Keller (played by Ross McCall). Keller kidnapped Peter (season 2, episode 14: “Payback”) and Elizabeth (season 3, episodes 10 and 11: “Countdown, Checkmate”) and confessed to finding the Nazi World War II treasure in order to get out of his debt to the Russians. He was sent to prison, never to be heard from again—until now.

When Neal tells Peter that Keller is back, Peter flips out. The last time they dealt with Keller, Elizabeth almost died. “No case is worth letting a psychopath run free,” says Peter. He wants to call in Keller’s escape and end the mission right away. Not only is he still traumatized from Elizabeth’s kidnapping, but he is worried Keller will betray Neal and out him to the Panthers, which could lead to Neal’s death. As Peter says, he has a lot to protect: his wife, his unborn child, and his pseudo son, Neal. Neal guarantees he can out-con Keller and bring him to Peter when he brings in the Panthers. If you were Peter, would you let Neal anywhere near Keller? I wouldn’t.

Back at Neal’s apartment, Neal fills Mozzie in on his plan to join the Panthers. Mozzie refers to the Panthers as the 1927 Yankees: Murderers’ Row. Keller crashes the party, revealing that his early prison release is due to a benefactor. So that’s how he escaped a Russian prison. Question is, who is this mysterious benefactor? Keller tries to prod Neal, assuming he is still working with Peter, but Neal confesses that he’s been cut from his anklet, removed from undercover assignments, and is working with the Panthers to save up for a nest egg, a.k.a. the big score. Believing Neal’s story, Keller agrees to work with him and not out him to the Panthers.

Neal’s first Pink Panther assignment

In order to stay in the Panthers, Neal must steal the “Treskilling Yellow”—a Swedish postage stamp from 1855. While this doesn’t seem like a big score to Neal, Peter finds stamps exhilarating, fondly remembering his childhood stamp collection. The stamp is worth millions and is being auctioned off by Bianca Esteverena (Paloma Guzman) on the black market. The FBI has no intel about where the auction will take place, but they have found someone Neal can impersonate: a wealthy young man from California named Nathaniel Dietrick. There are no photographs of Dietrick, so Neal should be able to easily pass as him.

Neal arrives at his meeting with Bianca, but is immediately turned away. She was expecting his father. Wait, his father? Peter had better think quickly because Neal is about to lose his window of opportunity to get the stamp. Good thing Peter is great at going undercover—now he can really pretend to be Neal’s father.

Peter is able to fool Bianca and secure an invite to her exclusive black-market auction. During Peter’s time with Bianca, he confides in her that he has been shaping his “son” to be a good man, and that he is worried there isn’t enough time to make it right. Bianca thinks Peter is talking about Elias’ son, Nathaniel, but we all know he’s talking about Neal. I don’t think Peter is ready to let Neal go. It’s okay, Peter—neither are we.

White Collar stamp case

Braxnet security with the empty stamp case

Neal and Peter make their way into the party and continue to charm Bianca. They find the stamp: It’s guarded by a state-of-the-art glass vault surrounded by laser sensors. This is why the Panthers sent Neal—to break into something that is unbreakable. Neal uses his character’s youthful rudeness to offend other bidders. Neal asks Peter to stand up for him if a fight breaks out and to steer the fighting toward the stamp. The fighting sets off the alarms, giving Neal a chance to wedge a fork into the case and take the stamp. Neal plants the empty stamp case on Bianca, thus shutting down the auction, allowing himself and Peter to walk right out of the building. Well played, Neal, well played.

No guarantees

Despite successfully stealing the stamp and completing the Panthers mission, the FBI confiscates it and gives it back to Sweden. This leaves Neal with no stamp and no way of avoiding being killed by the Panthers. Peter wants Neal out of the Panther op, but Neal is determined. No matter what promises Peter makes about freeing Neal, Neal cannot trust him. Neal decides to find another way: forging the stamp himself.

In order to pass the Panthers test, Neal must perfectly fake the Swedish stamp. Knowing that Keller will be the one to verify the stamp’s authenticity, Neal decides to take a shot in the dark. If Neal can guess who Keller’s jail-breaking benefactor is, Keller might pass Neal’s stamp, even if he knows it’s a fake. Neal hides the word “Interpol” on a tiny part of the stamp. When Keller examines it, he sees the word, and declares the stamp is authentic. Neal was right. Keller is working in the Panthers as an undercover agent for Interpol. Boom. Just like Neal and the FBI. And they are both fighting for the same thing: freedom.

So why did the Panthers want Neal to steal this rare stamp? It was to test the security-system response time. The Panthers had men at Bianca’s auction, timing the system, watching to see what would happen if the alarm was tripped. The stamp didn’t even matter. Neal successfully passed that test. The only danger is, Woodford’s men saw Peter. Neal played him off as a discreet con collaborator, but that doesn’t mean the Panthers or Keller won’t put Peter’s life in danger at some point. Peter is right: This is one game no one should be playing at—especially Neal, because it could affect Peter and Peter has too much to lose.

Peter Burke 1

Peter Burke (Tim DeKay)

Back at the Burke house, Neal shares with Peter that Keller is working undercover for Interpol. Peter also has some news: The attorney general has signed Neal’s contract and Elizabeth is pregnant!

This means we have four episodes left to watch Neal pull off what could be the biggest heist in history, while simultaneously outing Keller and bringing down the Panthers. But at what cost will all of this come? Will Neal get dragged down with Keller? Will he truly get his freedom from the FBI, only to go back to a normal life? Or will Neal escape with the score, leaving everyone, including Peter, to think he is dead? Only time will tell, and now that Peter is about to have a real son or daughter, I think Neal knows it’s time to move on.

My favorite moments from the episode:

  • Elizabeth telling Mozzie she’s pregnant
  • Neal out-thinking Keller
  • Neal and Peter admitting to feeling like father and son

What do you think is next for Neal and Peter? Do you think they will be able to stay friends after Neal gets his freedom? Let’s discuss!

The final season of White Collar airs Thursdays at 9/10C on USA.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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