After a particularly strong episode of White Collar last week that introduced a new nemesis and new set of reasons for Neal to lie to Peter, we're back to the "case of the week" format involving two New York institutions: taxis and jazz clubs. (With a mix of forgery and money laundering thrown in.) It's a lighter episode, but it does possess one interesting quality: you're never quite sure who is actually the perpetrator of the crimes in "Empire City".
At the start of the episode, Mozzie is working as a cab driver, but don't worry he didn't actually get a job. Instead, he's gathering info from people who might know where in the city the key from last week's episode
matches the skyline. Peter is trying to find the cityscape as well, by following Neal on his tracker. Both come up empty.
By this point, Neal has tried many views from various places that were important to Ellen over the years--including the view from an ex-boyfriend's place. And Elizabeth continues to express reservations over Peter's involvement in the case because of the danger involved.
On the way to another location in Brooklyn, Mozzie notices someone is driving a cab with the same medallion number that he's using. Peter, however, doesn't seem overly concerned when Neal and Mozzie bring him up to speed--after Mozzie is arrested for reckless driving trying to track down that other driver.
Peter does take the case though and starts to realize someone from inside a taxi fleet might be involved. To learn more, Peter poses as a TLC employee where he discovers Mozzie is already talking to other cab drivers and has learned a new cab is coming in to the lot every morning from a potentially corrupt employee named Luke DeSark.
Mozzie, Neal and Peter don't learn much until they return to Neal's apartment and look at the GPS tracking info of the new cabs coming in every morning. One location catches their eye: The Cotton Club, a jazz club in Harlem. They start to wonder if the club, which is reopening soon, is laundering dirty money from the club in a cab scheme.
When Peter and Neal head inside to the club, Mozzie lucks out when one of the owners gets into the cab they drove in--assuming Mozzie is a real cab driver. Inside, Peter and Neal meet his brother, the other owner, and try to convince him that they need a singer for opening night--June, specifically.
They rifle through photocopies of the club's records but still don't have enough to arrest one of the brothers. So Diana winds up working undercover as a cigar girl in the club that night.
She sneaks away from her position at one point and overhears the brothers arguing about the selling more cab medallions. When she gets caught by one of the brothers for snooping, she makes up a lie that she was looking to rifle through some of the older record collections. She even winds up smoking a cigar with one of the brothers, Angelo, and they reminisce about the music and the atmosphere the Cotton Club is supposed to be all about.
Diana (and Jones) become convinced that brother Delman is the guilty party and not Angelo. To find out for sure, Neal comes up with an idea to swipe medallions that are in the voice-activated safe Diana spotted in the basement of the club.
June is recruited to help create a fake vintage album so Neal can convince the brothers to hire her for the opening. That night at the opening, Neal sneaks downstairs to get a look at the safe and June helps buy him time by stalling before beginning her performance.
Neal is able to successfully open the safe and discovers the medallion inside. Diana helps him trade the fake medallion he created for the one in the safe DeSark arrives to make a trade with one of the brothers for it.
Angelo makes the trade with DeSark, but clearly doesn't look happy about it. DeSark tries to leave, but Mozzie has slashed his taxi's tire and it is at this point DeSark discovers the medallion he just bought is a fake.
DeSark confronts the brothers when Angelo is able to produce another medallion. Peter arrests all three of them downstairs, but offers the brothers to turn on each other. Peter goes to arrest Delman when Angelo says he'll take the heat.
It's then back to the overarching arc for the season, as Neal realizes that the vantage point for the cityscape is something from Neal's life, not Ellen's.
Back in the day, when Peter was closing in on Neal, he saved corks to mark how many days he was able to avoid capture. Both discover the cityscape is the view from a pier that Neal used to visit at that time. The cityscape turns out to cover every building from that view--except the Empire State Building. Whatever Ellen wants Neal to find... is there.
"Empire City" wasn't one of White Collar's stronger episodes--especially since there was little pay-off to the brothers' story. But we now have a destination for the rest of the city: the greatest building in New York City.
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(Image courtesy of USA Network)