Episode Title: 'Parting Shots'
Writer: Alexandra McNally
Director: Robert Duncan McNeill
While visiting Peter at "The Cave," Neal (Matt Bomer) runs into Sara (Hilarie Burton) who tells the two about an investigation into a hedge fund manager's suspicious death. Sara explains that Sophie Covington may have plotted her wealthy husband's demise, though the police ruled it an accident. She suggests they stake out the memorial service and observe Sophie's movements. Peter (Tim DeKay) agrees to join her.
At the service, Peter and Sara watch Sophie (Laura Vandervoort) have an unpleasant exchange with Will Mailer, her husband's former partner. They also spot a photographer snapping pictures from afar. Meanwhile, Neal introduces Mozzie (Wllie Garson) to Ellen (Judith Ivey). Ellen tells Neal about Sam, a cop who knew his father who she wants him to meet.
Neal leaves Mozzie with Ellen and walks over to the service just in time to see a masked man attempt to abduct Sophie. Neal rescues her, but the kidnapper escapes. Back at the office, Peter tells Diana (Marsha Thomason) what happened at the service and asks Hughes (James Rebhorn) if he can work the case as a consultant.
Sophie gives her statement to Jones, but tells him she doesn't want Sara or the FBI to harass her anymore. Fearing she won't be cooperative, Peter and Sara suggest Neal attempt to get close to Sophie. As she leaves, Neal pretends to give a statement to Peter when Sophie spots him. He asks her for his hat back, which she took to hide her face from the paparazzi, and invites him over that afternoon.
Neal arrives at Sophie's place where she curtly dismisses Mailer. Sophie tells Neal about her charity work, making Neal think she's not interested in her late husband's money. Outside, Peter and Jones (Sharif Atkins) spot the photographer from the memorial service tailing Neal. Peter tells Neal to lose him so they can follow the photographer home. When they confront the man in his apartment, he tells them he's a private investigator hired by Mailer's wife, Poppy to uncover his affair with Sophie. But he's yet to see evidence of a romantic relationship between the two.
Neal, Peter and the team go over assorted records and evidence. After looking at photos from the service, Peter soon realizes that it's Mailer who tried to kidnap Sophie. The team also suspects he's responsible for her husband's death. Mailer likely plans to kidnap Sophie and then demand she pay her own ransom out of her late husband's life insurance policy.
The team comes up with a plan to capture Mailer. Neal stops by Sophie's place where he cooks dinner for her. When they say their goodbyes outside, Sophie kisses Neal and the photographer gets a shot of it, thanks in part to a tip from Mozzie, posing as a private eye.
After the FBI places an alert on his account, Mailer goes after Poppy when he sees how much money she's spending. Poppy, in turn, confronts him about Sophie's affair with Neal.
As the team preps their next move, Sophie calls Neal to invite him to a charity event. There they suspect Mailer will try again to kidnap her. In the limo on the way to the event, Neal spots an expensive watch on the driver's wrist and realizes he's been paid off by Mailer. Neal then tells Sophie he conned her out of the insurance money. When the driver hears this, he has Sophie get out of the car and takes Neal to Mailer.
Sophie calls Peter and tells him what happened. Peter realizes that Neal wants him to put the money in his "rainy day account" so that he can give it to Mailer. After Peter tells her the truth about Neal, Sophie immediately agrees to give her half. Sara is hesitant at first but later agrees to lend Neal the firm's money.
Neal makes a deal with Mailer and gets him to admit to killing Sophie's husband. Before he leaves, Neal tips Mailer off to the photographer's photos of him, leading Mailer to stop by his apartment. There Peter and Jones arrest Mailer.
Back at the office, Peter is reinstated to the task force and Neal explains himself to Sophie, who is grateful to him. Afterwards, Neal and Sarah have a frank talk about his leaving town. On the way home, Neal comes across paramedics attending to Ellen as she's taken into an ambulance. She tells Neal that "they" found her and that he should trust Sam.
Not one to stray from his con man code of ethics, Neal wasn't fond of the idea of duping a widow, especially one who's "bereaved" rather than "relieved" as Mozzie explained it. And yet with her life in danger, Neal not only charmed his way into Sophie Covington's life, but also conned her would-be kidnapper out of a fifty-million dollar payday.
All of that is just a day's work for Neal. Aside from Laura Vandervoort's guest stint as the wealthy and recently widowed, Sophie Covington, there wasn't much to separate this hour from any other "White Collar" episode where Neal get's to play the dapper dandy. Turns out Vandervoort's character wasn't a black widow after all, but the kind hearted philanthropic type. It's too bad because the former would have been a lot more interesting.
What really mattered about "Parting Shots" was the movement made in Neal's personal life. He's reconnected with Sara, who blamed her problems with Neal on her runaway sister. Neal's also one step closer to learning more about his father, with the introduction of the mysterious Sam, a former cop who with her last dying breath, Ellen tells Neal to trust. And of course, Peter's back on the White Collar Task Force, but we all knew that was coming.
Maybe it's that we're getting deeper into Neal's past (a good thing) that the tone of the show has become heavier (not such a good thing). There's still those comedic moments (Peter's "widow of opportunity" followed by disapproving smiles from Jones and Diana) but the cases aren't as much as fun or inventive as they've been before. Which means the storyline surrounding Neal's past needs to get interesting quickly or as I suggested last week, the format is going to get stale.
WIth Neal's only connection to his past probably (spoiler) dead, judging by the preview, this storyline should start moving quickly. With everything almost exactly as it was before his great escape, something exciting needs to develop before "White Collar's" fans start to feel a con coming on.