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WHITE COLLAR 4.03 ‘Diminishing Returns’

Neal helps Peter crack an old case that's haunted him for years.

Episode Title: 'Diminishing Returns'

Writer: Jim Campolongo

Director: Stefan Schwartz

Story:

Peter (Tim DeKay) learns that he's been reassigned to the FBI evidence warehouse known as "the cave." Unfortunately, his new position will keep Peter from reopening a case that's he's been trying to solve for years, involving multiple bank robberies.

Eager to replay Peter for all he's done, Neal (Matt Bomer) asks Jones (Sharif Atkins) and Diana (Marsha Thomason) for the files from the case. He learns that the thief strikes every five years, just when the statue of limitations on his previous crime expire and he's due to strike any day now. Suspecting the last hit was an inside job, Peter went undercover as a bank employee with a record, in hopes of getting close to the thief.

Neal learns that tobacco favored by the thief was found inside a stolen water delivery truck. He has the truck brought to the warehouse and he and Peter examine it. They determine that the driver is left handed and on the shorter side. Using DMV records, Neal identifies the man as David Cook, a former employee at the bank where Peter went undercover. Peter remembers Cook and he and Neal profile him as a competitive control freak.

At Elizabeth's urging, Peter decides to work the case, despite his reassignment. Neal suggests Peter reprise his cover as bank employee, Peter Morris and talk to Cook as the health club where he plays squash. Peter finds Cook (Michael Weston) who remembers him from the bank and the two play a game while Neal breaks into Cook's locker. Inside, he finds Cook's phone streaming video from a hidden camera attached to a water cooler.

Neal tells Peter the camera is inside a jewelry shop. Using the floor plan Neal drew up from the feed, they narrow it down to short list of stores. With Elizabeth's Tiffani Thiessen) help, they determine the shop Cook plans to hit, but they arrive too late.

That night, Neal comes home to find Mozzie (Willie Garson) in his apartment, playing a card game with what appear to be eskimos. After catching up, Neal enlists Mozzie's help in catching Cook.

Through a street contact, Neal learns that Cook plans to sell the jewels his stole to a fence named Rina Oaks. He comes up with a plan to send Peter in with a better offer, using some real gems he borrowed from June and a couple of fakes.
 
Peter meets Rina and gives Cook's name as a reference. Rina calls Cook, who is furious about Peter trying to undercut him. Rina examines the gems, looking at the real ones first thanks to a trick Neal taught Peter. Cook arrives and makes Rina a better offer. Just then, Jones and Barrigan bust in and arrest Cook. Peter then races over to the warehouse to finish cataloging cell phones before his strict supervisor, Agent Patterson (Brett Cullen) reports him. However, when he arrives he learns that the job is complete, thanks to Mozzie.

Later at lunch, Peter asks Neal to finish telling him about his past. Neal explains that he grew up in witness protection, after his father shot a fellow police officer. He was told his father was a hero until Ellen told him the truth when he turned eighteen. That night, Neal meets with Ellen. She tells him that though she didn't think he could kill someone, Neal's father eventually confessed to the murder. Neal tells Ellen he needs to know the truth about his father.

Breakdown:

A Frenchman once said, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Neal Caffrey could probably tell you exactly which French novelist came up with the proverb, which is an appropriate description for where 'White Collar' is at as season four goes into full swing.

When it comes to a known commodity like a procedural, you don't want casual viewers to return to a show that's barely recognizable. But over the course of three seasons, things to need to evolve. It's not that 'White Collar' hasn't grown, but making big moves that ultimately lead back to square one makes it hard to believe anything's really at stake.

We expected Peter to bring Neal in from the cold, or rather warmth of his island hideaway, but Mozzie chose to hang back, leaving an interesting loose end to a story that was summed out a little too quickly. Having Mozzie still "out there" opened up some fun story telling space the show needs. Alas, one episode later, Mozzie is back with a shrug of an explanation and all is pretty much as it was.

On the bright side, we're learning more about Neal's past and his quest to uncover the truth about his father. Hopefully that take things in an interesting direction. Otherwise, 'White Collar' will begin to feel like a clever party trick that loses its allure after repeat performances.

As for the particulars of 'Diminishing Returns,' we saw Peter reprise an old cover to catch an elusive thief. Though Neal is much more convincing in these roles, it's always fun to learn his secrets as he teaches them to Peter. However, I couldn't help but wonder how Peter did all that investigating while not tipping off Hughes or  his boss at "The Cave," Agent Patterson (Brett Cullen aka Goodwin from 'Lost,' among a million other recognizable roles).

With Neal and Mozzie's stint abroad now buttoned up, albeit disappointingly, there's still some promise in the exploration of Neal's Daddy issues. Neal wants to know who he is and learning the truth about his father is a big part of that. Whether or not it has any real bearing on the larger story remains to be seen.