Episode Title: "Payback"
Writer: Mark Goffman
Director: Russell Lee Fine
Neal’s old rival, Matthew Keller (Ross McCall) is back and looking to make a deal that will keep him in his cushy prison digs. He offers Peter (Tim DeKay) some key information on a master passport forger named Jason Lang (Adam Goldberg). Peter agrees to look into Keller’s situation in exchange for the information.
On the way to Lang’s hideout, Peter tells Neal (Matt Bomer) about the argument he had with Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) earlier that day over picking up the dry cleaning. While checking out Lang’s studio, the forger makes a run for it. When Peter chases him down, he’s held at gunpoint and taken hostage.
The FBI tells Neal not to play ball with Lang, who wants money to make a deal for Keller’s escape during his transfer. However, Neal uses a valuable ring he had stashed on statue in a park to secure Neal’s release.
Neal meets with Lang to make the exchange and asks for proof of life. Peter sends Neal a coded message in the exchange, warning him not to let Keller’s transfer go through. Neal and Diana (Marsha Thomason) race to the scene but Keller is free.
Meanwhile, Peter uses a safety pin tucked inside his jacket from the dry cleaner to pick the lock on his handcuffs. He then manages to disarm Lang as he holds Peter at gunpoint. Neal then talks Peter through breaking out of the cell, with Keller presumably en route to kill Peter. However, after the FBI arrives on the scene, Keller calls Neal, letting him know that he’s on the run.
Peter and Elizabeth Burke may not be the most intriguing TV couple. I’d say it’s the fact that there relationship "works," according to Elizabeth, that makes them rather boring, and cute at best. Wrapping their relationship around Peter’s jailbreak, however, was more than just cute fodder; it was actually enjoyable.
On the other hand, the idea that Neal is the only person in the FBI field office who can talk Peter through a jailbreak seems hard to believe. But then again, Peter did ask for his con artist partner by name.
"White Collar" is the kind of show that critics who enjoy it will call "smart" and in "Payback," it earned that praise. Neal hiding a two-million dollar ring in a statue in the middle of New York City and then talking Peter out of the cell that Adam Goldberg, complete with ’70s porn ‘stache, is holding him in was not just smart, but fun to watch.
"White Collar" takes many liberties with its subject matter, (as most USA procedurals do) but the show’s entertainment value isn’t found in its realism, obviously. "White Collar" succeeds when Neal’s plots and plans make us feel like little kids, playing secret agent and "Payback" did just that.
And as pointless as Peter and Elizabeth’s marriage woes seemed in the beginning of the hour, at least the "Payback," in the end, was worth it.
The moral of the story? Sometimes, it’s ok to let your wife pick up the dry cleaning, just don’t forget to say "thanks, hon."
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.