Apparently Jeff Eastin, the show's creator, decided his New Year's Resolution was to really toss things into high gear with this episode. He succeeded.
The episode aired with Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) running in the park (all that was missing was the title music for Chariots of Fire in the background), ruminating on what had gone on with Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and his recent actions that, while keeping him out of jail, seriously crossed lines in terms of lawfulness in Burke's eyes. He then got a call from the FBI Section Chief Bruce (Boris McGiver in a decidedly different role than the assassin Hersh on Person of Interest) who said that Washington was ready to hire Burke. It was a huge opportunity for the longtime FBI agent, but as Agent Clinton Jones (Sharif Atkins) told him in the next scene, Caffrey was holding him back and Jones suggested that Caffrey should learn to take responsibility for his own actions. Of course, neither agent had a clue what was REALLY going on.
Caffrey and Mozzie (Willie Garson) went to meet Curtis Hagen (Mark Sheppard) at a public water fountain. Caffrey wanted to renegotiate, but Hagen had his own tactic - kidnapping Rebecca Lowe (Bridget Regan), Caffrey's love interest. He proved it by showing a cell phone with a live stream of her sitting in a corner of a room, gagged. Caffrey was ready to drown the scuzzy forgerer, but held back after being warned that the lovely hostage would die. Caffrey had half an hour to meet at an address with the window.
In the past few episodes, Caffrey and Mozzie had been finding their friendship really strained, since Mozzie had kept warning his friend not to get emotionally entangled with Lowe. Yeah. Like Caffrey really listened to that. He proved that there was still solidarity when Caffrey said, "I'm on my own." after Mozzie tried to get him to loop Burke in, Mozzie said softly, "No ... we're on our own." which earned a grateful beam from Caffrey. They hatched a plan to try to plant a tracking device/bug on Hagen that would allow them to both listen and follow him wherever he went.
Burke met his wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) at the park and told her that he was taking the Washington job in two weeks. Burke still felt tortured at having to accept what Caffrey had done. He also showed her the card that the late Agent David Siegel (Warren Kole) had been carrying. He was meeting an art dealer about a possible forgery. He said he was not bringing Caffrey in on it.
Caffrey and Mozzie met Hage. Caffrey showed the window pane - that should have been it, but Hagen made them stay to solve the rest of the puzzle of the Mosconi code. He said that Mosconi was covering a big secret and showed them a mural he had restored. Caffrey took this as a cue to try to sidle up to Hagen and slip the bug in Hagen's pocket. The Gods Of TV Writing had Burke call him right there, killing that chance. Caffrey said that he had to see the FBI agent so as not to arouse suspcicion. Before he left, he made Hagen call Lowe and he talked to her. Well, he talked at her, since she was gagged and couldn't say anything more than "MMPH! MMMPH! MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMPH!"
While Caffrey was with Burke trying to suss out wheter a painting was a forgery, Mozzie and Hagen were having a snark-off, with both actors leveraging their smarminess to the hilt. Hagen showed that he had the upper hand by revealing that he knew Mozzie's real name of Teddy Winters. At the art dealer, Caffrey found that the painting was indeed a fake and that it had Hagen's initials hidden on it. This set Burke on Hagen's trail, which couldn't happen. Caffrey decided to put the tracking device on Burke instead so that he could track him and know if and when he might be going after Hagen.
After hearing that Burke had pinpointed Hagen's location to where they were currently (and also some damning things about his moral character), Caffrey turned the tables on his nemesis. After having Mozzie "Rain Man" the Mosconi Codex pages, he dumped them on the ground, poured gasoline on them and then after Hagen freed Lowe, set them on fire. While Hagen spluttered, the two men dashed away, with Caffrey splintering off to meet Lowe in a harrowing scene that had me expecting her to be shot in front of him. That didn't happen as they had a long embrace. A few minutes later, Burke and Jones came in and found Hagen, smoking a cigar and seeming quite full of himself. Another problem - Jones decided to check Caffrey's anklet ... which would place him in Hagen's hideout for most of the day.
Caffrey and Lowe were sharing what they knew while hunkering at his place - and Lowe insisted on not telling the police the true story, since that would land Caffrey in jail. They decided to keep working on it together and they figured out that Mosconi may have been hiding a diamond that was the equivalent of the Hope Diamond.
In the interrogation room, Hagen, after telling Burke that Caffrey had probably framed him for that painting, took both of them to a park. A whole phlanx of police accompanied them. He began brazenly telling Caffrey and Burke to 'beg for his freedom.' Then everything turned sideways. A sniper's bullet hit Hagen, killing him instantly. As Keanu Reeves is fond of saying in his movies: Whoa...
Burke and Caffrey found the apartment that Hagen had been staking out, The address and apartment number matched the one on Siegel's card. They found that it was a home office that had impeccable records not only on the two men, but everyone in Burke's division ... and the late Agent Siegel. On top of that, Caffrey found an area where paintings had been created, and Hagen's initials practiced over and over. In another room, there was a dressing room area, with pictures of Rebecca in various stages of costumes, and the area where Rebecca had allegedly been held hostage by Hagen earlier. The two men stood there gobsmacked as the episode ended.
Bomer got a chance to flex some acting muscle: his near-frenzied run when Caffrey was trying to meet up with Lowe was a perfect showing of how the usually ultra-cool man was this-close to losing it.
Well, now Sheppard can go back to just playing the dastardly Crowley on Supernatural.
Was Hagen collaborating with Rebecca and got betrayed by her? This is the first time in a while that the show has made my head spin.
Caffrey: It looks like the con man got conned.
It looked like there was a bit of thawing between Burke and Caffrey at the end when they realized that Hagen may have been a pawn too. Hopefully the show can get back to the friendship of sorts they had in the early seasons.
White Collar returned with Neal Caffrey (Matthew Bomer) straddling the line between legitimacy and crime while his FBI handler, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), wavered between trust and cynicism of his charge.
The episode opened with Burke in prison after being framed at the end of the summer season. His wife (Tiffani Thiessen) was having a conversation with Caffrey and told him to do what he had to do to free him. Before he could, he was contacted by a mysterious person who turned out to be Curtis Hagen, whom Caffrey had put away in the first episode. After a bit of a chat, Hagen said that he could make the incarcerated FBI agent a free man. He acknowledged that he was the reason that the federal prosecutor was leaning so heavily on Burke, and then indicated that he could get him to let him go. In return, he asked Caffrey to do a quick 'smash and grab.' He added one more catch - get his father's confession on tape as the one who actually committed the shooting...even forge it if necessary.
Mozzie immediately jumped into the fray (well, as much as a geek who abhors physical activity can). He had also managed to crack Neil's tracking anklet. He got Caffrey to record a confession, using technology to make it sound like his fathers' voice. The plan worked and Burke was sprung. Burke believed that it was really Caffrey's father who called and he thanked him. Yet another layer of deceit between Caffrey and Burke, since Caffrey did nothing to dissuade the FBI agent. Hagen then called in his favor.
More intrigue: Burke got an offer from Boris McGiver (playing an unnamed higher-up) to become the head of White Collar. Always good to see McGiver when his character, Hersh, isn't getting his ass kicked on Person of Interest.
Hagen wanted Caffrey to get Welsh gold coins from a heavily guarded vault. What happened next involved some comedy with Mozzie wearing an awful wig and goatee, pretending to be a jumper. Caffrey played a fireman who was supposed to be rescuing him and got the building next to the vault evacuated. There were two sequences going on - Caffrey getting the coins and Mozzie finding out out that the suicide negotiator that was supposed to talk him down had even more insane conspiracy theories than he did.
Of course the plan went awry when an overzealous fireman probie made Caffrey hand over the oxygen tanks before he could steal away. It was White Collar 101: Thy most thought-through plan shall falleth through due to the most silly things ever. To make matters worse, the missing coins case was assigned to who? Three guesses.. OK. No. One guess. BURKE, of course. He asked Caffrey to consult, as well. Then of course, he tumbled on to the air tanks that Caffrey used to store the coins ('Why are there air tanks if there isn't a fire?"). Caffrey and Mozzie had to figure out how to save themselves and thwart Burke at the same time. They went to the firehouse and Caffrey got the coins out, but managed to stir Burke's suspicions.
The episode ended with Burke stepping down as Caffrey's handler, realizing that while he thought of Caffrey as a friend, he was still a criminal. He then gave him a new ankle braclet, much to Caffrey's chagrin. Oh, and Hagen revealed that he was really targeting Caffrey and had blackmail material on him from the job. His intention... get him paroled. Ah, White Collar, you and your twists. The plot is afoot and it's interesting that they would bring Hagen back after all this time and to expect many to remember what part he played in the pilot episode. Not all of us have been with the show from the start. But then again, Mark Sheppard is riding a much larger wave of recognition after all those seasons of playing Crowley on Supernatural. He's playing another demon in this show, one who is always making deals. It's going to be an interesting ride.