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TV Review: White Collar – “Bottlenecked”

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For Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), running a con game is easy. Just smile, and people will tend to give you whatever you want. Throw in a strong dose of politeness to make things pretty much child's play. The problem comes when most everybody eventually grows up. They become wise to the slick stranger who just seems after material possessions instead of, say, a quality relationship. FBI Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) works in the white collar crimes division of the FBI for a reason.

Usually, Peter hears about a case and then Neal gets a phone call from him. This time, plenty will change. Somebody has been sending Neal postcards with chess moves written on them. While it's nothing to be arrested for, a fresh take comes into play on a Museum of Natural History postcard. Mozzie (Willie Garson) inquires as to the postmark. There isn't one! Which means whoever wants Neal playing put the card directly into the box.

Andrew Keller (Ross McCall, Crash), an old rival, is responsible. He challenges Neal to create a wine bottle forgery, and the contest decides who is the best. Of course, this is not just any bottle — but one from the time of Thomas Jefferson. One small snag, though. Any bottle really made before 1945 would not contain cesium-137, a metal which did not exist prior to the first atomic detonation. A flawless forgery is out of the question.

McCall and Bomer are pretty evenly matched in terms of strength. Like distorted mirror images, they move with measured steps toward their ultimate goal. I like the way they are described by Peter down the road. While I won't spoil the pleasure of seeing it spoken onscreen, the reference is a nod to a role DeKay took as a guest star a while back.

What happened to Tiffani Thiessen? She provides balance each week as Peter's wife ELizabeth, so to not have her in an episode feels off somehow. Lauren (Natalie Morales) is around. Nice to see her out in the field trying to chase down the bad guy. Although Sharif Atkins is a decent actor, seeing Agent Jones dominate the scenes week to week is troubling. Ever since "Bad Judgment," I got the impression Peter heads the White Collar team. Others need to make an appearance, even it's only from time to time.

Garson shows off his comedic skills with a certain attention to detail. Suffice it to say Mozzie is caught unprepared. The reaction is priceless. From a blocking standpoint, it's hard to say exactly how this scene would make sense. Still, this is television, after all. Suspension of disbelief must be undertaken; just sit and enjoy.

The music box has reappeared as part of the overall second half theme. While origins go back to Catherine the Great ("Hard Sell"), someone is going to an awful lot of trouble to get it. Using Kate, Neal's long time love (so he thinks, anyway), to bring it out of storage increases the effort to figure out its true secret.

Two more episodes remain in this season. No pre-empting this time, so a DVR should be set just in case. The finale airs March 9 at 10pm on USA. There will be a live video web chat with Bomer and Dekay at 7pm Eastern time. Feel free to submit any questions here.

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