Episode Title: 'Compromising Positions'
Writer: Matthew Negrete
Director: Paul Holohan
Previously on "White Collar":
Neal (Matt Bomer) meets with Sam (Treat Williams), who tells him he believes the person who killed Ellen may gotten intel from the feds. He warns Neal that the men his father and Ellen were dealing with have since risen up in the ranks and are more dangerous than ever. Neal's connection to the FBI makes Sam nervous about working with him and he decides to cut their conversation short. But before he leaves, Neal manages to break off a key in Sam's car door lock.
Back the apartment, Mozzie (Willie Garson) suggests Neal bring Peter in on the situation with Sam. Neal tells him about the key in the door lock and Mozzie says he'll work on tracking down the car.
At the office, Peter (Tim DeKay) and Assistant U.S. attorney, Josh Bryson (Michael Torpey) go over Peter's testimony for court that afternoon, as their entire case against Victor Delancy, a man Peter arrested for real estate fraud, depends on it. However, at the trial, Bryson is distracted by a blonde woman sitting in the gallery. He flubs his examination of Peter, making it likely Delancy will walk.
That night, Neal and Peter talk to Bryson, who explains that Delancy set him up. Delancy had his girlfriend pick Bryson up in a bar, unaware of her relationship to Delancy. He then had photos taken of the two in bed, which he used to blackmail Bryson. Though he didn't plan on throwing the case, Bryson explains that he became flustered when he saw Delancy's girlfriend in court.
The next day, Peter and Neal look into another woman who was in court that day, Landon Shephard, a corporate fixer. When she learns that the feds are asking about her, Shephard (Perrey Reeves) shows up at the FBI office. Peter and Diana (Marsha Thomason) question Shephard and she uses her keen observations skills to get under Diana's skin. Peter then tricks Shephard into calling City Hall so that he can access her phone records. After looking them over, Neal spots Sara's number on the list. They call her in and Sara (Hilarie Burton) explains that she's hired Shephard to help get Sterling Bosch out of some tricky situations in the past.
Peter and Neal come up with a plan to get Shephard to admit to extorting Bryson and Sara agrees to help. She calls Shephard and tells her that her boyfriend is trying to extort her using photos of Sara and another man. Shephard tells Sara she'll make sure the photos don't go public.
That afternoon, Peter offers to help Neal track down Sam, but Neal turns down the offer. Instead, he asks Peter to work with him off the book on the case. However, Peter says he can't afford to take any risks after everything he's been through at work.
Mozzie manages to get a copy of Sam's rental car invoice and shows it to Neal. Later,Shephard meets Neal, posing as Sara's boyfriend and also shows him the rental car invoice. It turns out she followed Mozzie to the rental car office. Not wanting to compromise Mozzie, Neal agrees to destroy the photos of he and Sara. Back inside the surveillance van, Peter tells Neal he blew the case.
The next day, Neal comes up with another plan to get Bryson's photos out of the picture. By producing photos of Sara and Peter together and then bringing them to Delancy's attention, he'll insist on using them to thwart Peter. However, Shephard will refuse, due to her professional relationship with Sara. Not one to let her clients dictate her methods, when Delancy pushes back, she'll drop him as a client.
With Elizabeth's help, Neal takes photos of Peter and Sara together. He then reprises his undercover role as a crooked scientist and delivers the photos to Delancy, warning him that Peter is trying to prove he used Benzene to poison soil in his real estate fraud.
Delancy tells Neal that Shephard just arrived and Neal makes a quick exit, ducking under a railing. As expected, Shephard drops Delancy as a client when he insists she use the photos. She takes the pictures with her and Neal realizes that Shephard keeps evidence on her clients to keep them in line.
Mozzie tracks down the storage facility where Shephard keeps her files and calls her down to the facility, under the pretense that there's been a flood and she needs to pick up her files. After she picks them up, Peter has her arrested and brings the Benzene vile to court, just in time for Bryson to submit it as evidence. Bryson introduces Neal as a confidential informant and he takes the stand. Using a check washing demonstration, Neal proves that the vile contains Benzene.
With Delancy put away, Peter leaves the courthouse when he's approached by Shephard. She tells Peter she used her connections to get released and gives him her card, as she expect he'll need her help if he keeps working with criminals like Mozzie and Neal.
Later, Neal meets with Sam again and he agrees to work with Neal since the feds won't be involved. Peter photographs the two from afar and questions to himself what Neal is up to.
It's always great when Neal goes up against someone (almost) as crafty and shrewd as he is. In "Compromising Positions," that person was corporate fixer, Landon Shephard. While she saw through Peter and Sara's rather comically staged blackmail pics, Shephard wasn't willing to let her ego take a bruising in order to help a client.
"Compromising Positions" was one of the smartest episodes the season thus far. At the same time, there was plenty of that "White Collar" brand of humor that makes an exciting case fun but not silly.
Indeed, Mozzie taking inspiration from The Hangover by concealing a drill in a doll was more cool than kookie. Though I wish the show would do more with his character, Mozzie is a big part of what makes "White Collar" both intelligent and funny.
This episode also brought Sara back into the fold without hammering the on-and-off relationship between her and Neal. The scene where Elizabeth and Neal directed a saucy photo shoot between Sara and Peter was a gentle reminder that there's definitely still something between the two, without shoving it down our throats.
There was also plenty of movement in the search for Ellen's killer. Neal convinced Sam to work with him, without help from Peter. But unbeknownst to Neal, Peter's on the case, as he observes Neal's second meet up with Sam.
There's been plenty of hints this season that Peter needs to watch his back with Neal, most recently from Shephard, who warned Peter about getting his hands dirty working with criminals. And Peter, himself, is setting limits by telling Neal he can't take any more risks working cases off the book.
It appears we're building up to yet another showdown between Neal and Peter, as the two are once again at odds with another, though neither one knows to what extent. The difference is this time it's not about stolen art or priceless historical artifacts. This time, it's about Neal uncovering the truth about who he really is. What's going to be interesting is just how far he'll go to find out.