"I understand he's your asset." - Sam
"Yeah. That's part of the arrangement." - Peter
Something occurred to me while watching tonight's episode of White Collar: Peter is Neal's friend, but Neal is not necessarily Peter's friend. Opinions may vary, but it was hard not to almost universally support Peter's action in tonight's episode -- even all season long.
At the beginning of the episode, Peter and Neal make a pact to not share Ellen's video with anyone--not even Sam. Neal comes awfully close to breaking that deal relatively quickly and invites Sam over the next day to chat. He does not ultimately show the video to him, but a large part of the reason why he doesn't is likely because Elizabeth showed up with gelato.
Even Mozzie picks up on the fact that one or both Neal and Peter will break the pact when he observes: "Clearly, they're lying to each other."
The episode also makes it somewhat obvious that Neal's promises made to Sam are more important than those made to Peter. Even though he barely knows Sam. Suspecting, whether stubbornly or too easily, Neal believes Sam is the key to finding out who murdered Ellen. (And secondarily, where his father is.)
It's during the case of the week that Neal inadvertently sets up an actual physical fight that's been building between him and Peter for weeks. (As I speculated in last week's recap
.) Neal is trying to take someone down for insider trading, who bizarrely shares tips with people who pony up $25k to take part in an underground boxing ring. Only the winners get the tips. Neal sets Peter up as a former FBI agent who provides him with insider tips.
Put the randomness of a boxing ring appealing to insider traders aside, and the pay-off of the actual fight is well worth it. Not only is it well choreographed, but you have a genuine feeling of suspense who will win between Peter and Neal. While Peter is supposed to win, so that Neal's boss can give Peter, an FBI agent, the insider tip, once Neal finds out Peter confronted Sam, he decides to wail on him in the ring.
Ultimately, it appears that Neal gives up and still lets Peter win. (I don't think Peter has that good of a hook.) And while Neal can be somewhat upset that Peter went to see Sam even though he explicitly told him not to, at the same time, Peter is right to be suspicious.
"You still don't trust me," Neal tells Peter near the end of the episode. After the actions of Neal all season long despite Peter putting his career on the line to get Neal forgiven for cutting his anklet last season, he has every right to.
Mozzie does warn Neal that Peter is "your second best friend." But by the end of the episode, Neal says they're done in one of the rare times he's raised his voice with Peter. With the summer finale next week, it's likely the pair will reconcile since Sam appears to be in deep, deep trouble.
While I felt the beginning of the distrust and anger between Neal and Peter came out of nowhere, especially since their friendship seemed so incredibly strong in the beginning of the season, the place they're in now feels natural, interesting and narratively strong. Then again, if they wind up as friends again as quickly as Neal was allowed to come back to the US, or Peter got back into White Collar, then the build-up will seem like nothing but a giant tease.
(Image courtesy of USA)