Episode Title: "The Original"
Writer: Mark Goffman
Director: John Kretchmer
The penultimate episode of the season, "The Original" is classic "White Collar." A case of art forgery, some insight into Neal Caffrey's psyche and the kind of complex con only Mozzie and Neal can pull off – with a little help from dear old Dad.
Realizing they’re better off (and safer) working together, Elle (Tiffani Thiessen) let Peter (Tim DeKay) in on her deal with Neal (Matt Bomer). Now that everything’s out in the open, Peter tells Neal he’s equally invested in retrieving the evidence box and exposing Senator Pratt’s plot which forced Agent Hughes to resign.
Unfortunately, Hughes’ replacement, former Atlanta White Collar division head, Amanda Callaway (Hey, it’s "Lana Lang" from "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," Emily Proctor) could prove problematic. Callaway’s got an "angle," but Neal’s not quite sure what it is.
Callaway wants a big score right off the bat and assigns Peter and Neal to investigate a potential art forgery. It’s old school "White Collar" as Neal charms, cons and (re) creates priceless works of art all in an effort to bring down JB Bellmier (Hey, it’s "Nick Sobotka" from "The Wire," Pablo Schreiber), the apprentice of the late, great sculptor, Dubois.
Neal spots a forgery, but it’s not the one the Bureau suspects and Calloway tries to shut down the investigation. But Peter persists and Neal uncovers more evidence suggesting Bellmier's fraud.
In the meantime, Neal’s father, James (Treat Williams) has had enough of Mozzie’s bucolic safe house and shows up at Neal’s apartment. He’s eager to get to the bottom of what’s inside the evidence box and Neal assures him that Mozzie is on the case.
Back at the bureau, Peter convinces Callaway to let him pursue the case and more importantly, give Neal access to an infrared scanner, which will allow him to prove Bellmier’s forgery by capturing an image of a secret note Dubois placed inside all his pieces. Peter makes Neal promise not to use the scanner to find the evidence box in the Empire State Building.
And he doesn’t. This is where things get really cute as Mozzie (Willie Garson) visits the floor where the box is supposed to be hidden and makes a mess of it by putting ink on the sole of his shoes. Meanwhile, Neal impresses Bellmier with a fake Dubois of his own. Realizing he has no choice but to work with Neal, Bellmier takes the bait, allowing Neal to access his private studio.
We’ve seen Neal and his pals pull of a countless cons hinged on perfect timing and always-unwitting victims. This time around, Neal and James manage to distract the man hired to clean up Mozzie’s mess in the Empire State Building long enough to place the scanner inside his floor buffer. Back in the surveillance van, Peter senses what’s going on and slow rolls Callaway, who wants to check in on Neal’s tracking device. Thanks to Peter, Neal is able to get back to Bellmier’s studio just in time for Callaway to confirm he’s there.
After it’s used to buff the floors of the Empire State Building, the high-tech scanner doesn’t work quite as well at the studio, forcing Neal to come up with a Plan B. He causes Bellmier to lose his temper and attack him, knocking over one of the sculptures. The feds arrive just in time to save Neal and confirm Bellmier’s forgery.
Pablo Schreiber’s thuggish art prodigy Bellmier is an excellent foil for Neal, who seems to admire and fear him, at the same time. Peter also faces a new rival in Amanda Callaway. While past rivals like Agent Kramer and Agent Collins tried to break them apart, after the Bellmier bust Callaway decides to give Peter license to work with Neal as he likes. She then immediately puts in call a to Senator Pratt after getting a look at what the scanner picked up inside the Empire State Building. We’re left wondering if Peter and Neal have figured out her angle.
It’s an interesting set up for next week’s season finale. The duo has faced pressure from the inside before, but this particular conspiracy runs especially deep. And there’s also the personal element. There’s a great moment in this episode where James pressures Neal to keep Peter out of the equation and go after the evidence box without him. Neal responds by telling James that Peter’s been more of a father to him than he was. Neal also tells James that he’s never created any original art because he doesn’t know who he is. And yet just by saying so, we get a much better sense of who Neal is, or at least who he’s trying to become.