How much does your father's life and morality impact who you are as an adult? It's something both Neal and Dennis Flynn Jr. struggle with in the mid-season premiere of White Collar.
Neal's father -- known as James Bennett -- is forthcoming with answers at the very top of the premiere. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that he's not a murderer, but he was a dirty cop. He was caught taking money from a bust by his supervising officer who offered to look the other way if James did him some favors.
Those favors involved working with the Irish mob run by a family called the Flynns. At first, the favors were simple: helping them escape police attention, taking out their competition, etc. But when James tried to leave the family, they framed him for the murder of his supervising officer, which eventually led to his family (Neal and his wife) going into witness protection.
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Knowing that the Flynns were responsible for his family breaking up -- James said that before they entered witness protection, his wife filed for divorce -- Neal was determined to take down the son: Dennis Flynn Jr. He was also convinced Flynn Jr. was behind Ellen's murder.
Peter rightly assumes that Neal shouldn't be involved in the case, that he'll have trouble keeping his emotions in check when he's working. They both decide the way to Flynn is to try and help him with one his side businesses, counterfeit whiskey, but Neal is the only one that can fake his way in.
(Side-note: any brand of whiskey that is name-dropped in this episode is real and all of the statistics about them are also true. Great research by the writer.)
To help convince Flynn Jr. that he's one of the best whiskey counterfeiters out there, June offers an expensive bottle for Neal and Mozzie to sample. They of course get drunk and Neal shares his true feelings: he doesn't want to be around his father since he was conned by him into thinking he was this other man, Sam.
Before a tasting event the next day where the FBI plans to introduce Neal to Flynn Jr., Peter makes Neal drink an entire bottle of pickle juice to sober him up. At the event, Neal shows off some of his counterfeit whiskey, and while Flynn Jr. is impressed, he fails to fall for the bait and merely says goodbye to Neal. Elizabeth, who's also attending the event, jumps in and accuses Neal of having forged distillery papers; Flynn Jr., of course, would love to work with a criminal.
That night, the Burkes decide to have James over for dinner, and initially, Neal is very hesitant to come. He does, however, and father and son bond over hiding the terrible food Peter has cooked under the table to feed it to the dog.
James also fills in more of his story. Flynn Sr. threatened him when he tried to stop working for the mob. He even showed James a gun he used to kill a cop that he kept in a whiskey box. He eventually said he'd let James out, but it was a con; James winds up getting framed for the murder of his supervising officer.
The next day, when Neal meets with Flynn Jr., he's told to counterfeit booze the Flynn family used to sell that goes for $100,000 a bottle. Neal also spots the whiskey box James mentioned.
He's so desperate to bait Flynn Jr. into making a mistake that Neal appears overeager. And over-promises. He says he knows someone who can counterfeit the bottles, too. That someone eventually becomes Mozzie, even though he hasn't made a bottle since the '80s.
Of course, both Mozzie and Neal succeed. Peter is then brought in as the buyer and is told by Flynn Jr. that he plans to kill Neal and Mozzie now that he no longer needs them. Peter is able to signal backup in time and they're able to stop Flynn Jr.'s henchmen, while also recovering the gun in the whiskey box, which is linked to Ellen's murder.
Unfortunately, they never get to interrogate Flynn Jr. since he is killed off-screen on the way to prison. That means James' life is now in danger and Peter suggests to Neal that he needs to disappear, which he does at the end of the episode after a goodbye with Neal.
While Neal got plenty of answers from his father, new mysteries have opened up. First, who killed Flynn Jr.? Second, James received a phone call in prison decades ago telling him that his family would be hurt if he didn't turn state's evidence against the Flynns -- who made that phone call?
The mid-season premiere of White Collar
was quite strong. We got satisfying answers to the long-running story, while the "case of the week" episode was also engaging because of the parallels between the Flynns and Neal/James. Plus, we're left with interesting questions for Neal and Peter to ponder over the next few weeks.
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(Image courtesy of USA)