Episode Title: "Gloves Off"
Writer: Mark Goffman
Director: Renny Harlin
Previously on "White Collar":
Neal (Matt Bomer), Peter (Tim DeKay) and Mozzie (Willie Garson) watch the mysterious video Neal received as a young Ellen appears on screen. She tells Neal that his father may have confessed to a murder he didn't commit thanks to a group of corrupt cops that he and Ellen were working with. Ellen adds that she, Neal and his family are about to go into WitSec, but that she's placed a key in a locket for him that will open a box containing important information on the case.
Neal tells Peter he plans to show the tape to Sam to get his take on it. Peter wants to go along, but Neal tells him Sam won't go for it. He says he'll figure out a way the three can work together and Peter and Neal agree not to tell anyone else about what they've learned from the tape.
At the office, Peter briefs the team on Eric Dunham, a crooked investor who's been leaking insider information. Neal recognizes Dunham from his time with Vincent Adler and agrees to reprise his old "Nick Holden" persona to get close to him.
Neal finds Dunham (Victor Webster) at his boxing gym and tells him he wants to get back in the game. Dunham turns him down but Neal gives him a tip about a firm that's about to take a big hit. It's the same firm Diana is orchestrating a raid on the next day.
Later on, Neal meets with Sam (Treat Williams), who tells him that he and his father were working undercover for an organized crime family. Neal's father turned State's Evidence and brought down the entire organization. Neal tells Sam he wants him to meet Peter, but Sam refuses. Just then, Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) arrives with dessert and Neal has Sam hide. When she realizes Neal has company, Elizabeth leaves and watches from outside, where she snaps a picture of Sam walking out. She then sends the picture to Peter.
After Neal's tip proved legit, Dunham brings him on at his firm. There, Neal manages to sneak into his office where he finds a copy of a stock report that's not supposed to come out until the next day. The team realizes that Dunham is using the report to tip off members of his insider trading ring.
Neal pays up to be a member of Dunham's fight club, where investors come to trade punches and stock tips. However, he soon learns he'll have to win a fight in order to get any intel. Neal gives Dunham another tip, but this time he demands to know the source. Neal tells him it's from a former FBI agent turned hedge fund manager. He then arranges a meeting between Dunham and Peter, posing as the fund manager/former fed.
At the meet, Peter says he wants in on Dunham's club and a match is set between Neal and Peter. Afterwards, Peter looks over Sam's file and goes to see him. He tells Sam they need to work together and suggests Sam tell Neal to bring Peter in. Sam tells Peter he'll need time to think about it.
At Neal's apartment, Mozzie and Jones (Sharif Atkins) help Peter and Neal prepare for their staged fight. After Neal goes down, Peter will be declared the winner and thus Dunham will be giving insider information to a federal agent making for an easy arrest.
The night of the fight, Neal gets a call from Sam just as he's about to head into the ring. Sam says it's no longer safe for him as he suspects someone is trailing him. He tells Neal he's leaving town. Upset and angry at losing his only chance at finding Ellen's killer, Neal gets into the ring and goes off the script, fighting Peter for real.
As he pummels Peter, Neal confronts him about going to Sam. Peter says he was trying to protect Neal and becomes angry, himself. In the end, Peter gets the best of Neal, knocking him out. Afterwards, Dunham calls the winners into the ring and gives them a tip. Peter has him arrested on the spot and then looks for Neal, who is gone.
Peter finds Neal at Sam's apartment. He tells Neal he thought he showed Sam the tape, thus going back on their deal. However, Neal says he didn't play the video for Sam. The two then enter Sam's apartment and find it ransacked. Neal blames Peter for causing Ellen's death and Sam to leave town by running their names in the federal database. He tells Peter he's done with letting the FBI agent into his personal life.
Once again, Neal and Peter find it hard making their "convicted felon/federal agent" relationship work. As smart as Neal is, Peter still doesn't trust his ability to handle potentially dangerous situations on his own. And Neal has yet to realize that Peter won't stand for being kept out of the loop. As a FBI man, it's in his nature to investigate and as Neal's friend, it's sometimes his personal duty to do so.
"Gloves Off" was a nice play on the conflict that's been building up between these two as Neal delves deeper into his father's past and Peter is unwillingly sidelined. And the fixed boxing match that quickly turned into a real slugfest cleared up any doubt about just how determined Neal is to learn the truth and therefore angered by watching the only link to his past skip town. In the end, we know Neal and Peter will find a way to work together to uncover who killed Ellen, but their little spats along the way make it that much more fun.
A few additional observations about 'Gloves Off:'
- How about Mozzie sticking up for Peter by telling Neal to go easy on his "second best friend?" Is Mozzie finally warming up to "The Suit?"
- Conversely, we were reminded that Jones isn't too fond of Neal, as he urged Peter to knock him out.
- Was Peter vs. Neal the "Ali vs. Foreman" of "White Collar"? Well, in both cases the older man won.
- Enough with the phone/car commercials in the show. If it's done cleverly, fine but taking the time to show us Elizabeth using the self-parking feature on her car was lame. Also, I'd like to think Elizabeth, a character who often aids in the team's investigations, can handle parallel parking.
After Neal's kiss-off to Peter at the end of this episode, the stage is set for what should be another great summer finale for "White Collar." What makes this season's ender so exciting is just how personal it is for Neal. If he gets the answers he's looking for, we'll be left to wonder if Neal will be the same man when "White Collar" returns.