White Collar Review: White Collar Goes Preppy

Neal Caffrey might just be the best-looking high school English teacher I’ve ever seen. This week on White Collar, both Neal and Peter go undercover at the elite Manhattan Prep High School to thwart a possible embezzlement of the school’s endowment fund. Plus, if it doesn’t work out as Peter’s C.I., Neal and Mozzie could always open their own matchmaking service since they also play cupid with two Prep school students.

Before work, Neal (Matt Bomer) meets up with Peter and attempts to make amends for Elizabeth’s kidnapping with coffee and great Yankees tickets. But Peter insists they should just focus on work. When they get to the FBI office, Evan, a bright high school student from Manhattan Prep, is waiting for them. Evan’s financial aid package is being revoked and he believes that Andy Woods, a member of the board of trustees, is embezzling from the school’s endowment fund. Woods, also has a daughter, Chloe, at the school, who Evan has a crush on. Evan has even created an impressive visual aid packet for Neal and Peter to support his claims. Peter is skeptical at first but explains that Andy Woods is suspected to be a dirty financier.

To begin the investigation, Peter and Neal plot to go undercover. Neal, “the alias savant,” suggests that Peter will pose as a wealthy potential parent looking to enroll his son while Neal will be his assistant.

At Manhattan Prep, Peter first meets with the headmaster, Graham Slater, and then Andy Woods. So he leaves Neal on a bench outside the headmaster’s office with a student, who is in trouble. Neal, of course, gives the little boy some advice on how to appear innocent before he is mistaken as a substitute teacher for a poetry class. Neal goes along with the mistake, especially after he notices that Wood’s daughter, Chloe, is in the class. Neal is not just a pretty face. He immediately charms the students, especially the females, and shows off his high poetry IQ. I think I’d have enjoyed my high school poetry class more if my teacher looked like Prince Charming.

Meanwhile, Peter is busy chatting with Woods about the school and questions Woods about possible donations to the school and endowment fund. Woods then brings Peter to the wood shop classroom to question him about not being seen at the hotel where he is supposedly staying. It is clear that Woods is trying to intimidate Peter who covers by saying he is staying with a girlfriend, of whom his wife is unaware, which is why his bags weren’t at the hotel. After this, Peter meets up with Neal and finds him teaching a class. After class, Peter reprimands Neal saying, “I said sit on a bench not reenact the Dead Poets Society.”

Back at his apartment, Neal and Mozzie (Willie Garson) discuss winning Peter over so he does not tell the FBI about their involvement with the treasure. Neal also fills Moz in about the case and Evan’s crush on Chloe. The two plot how they can bring the two teenagers together but they are interrupted by a text from Peter telling Neal to come back into the office. Once there, Peter informs Neal that he believes the principal, Slater, is in on embezzling the scholarship fund. Peter then says he’s allowing Neal to go back undercover as the teacher but “only for the good of the case.”

At home, Peter and Elizabeth discuss the case, Neal posing as the teacher and that Peter must give his account of what happened with Keller and the treasure. Peter explains if he agrees with Keller’s confession then the art is returned, Keller remains in prison but Neal gets away with it. Elizabeth thinks this is okay and wants to give Neal the benefit of the doubt since he gave up the treasure for them.

The next day, after Peter drops Neal off for school (10 blocks away), Neal notices the headmaster slipping a letter into Chloe Woods’ locker. The only way to get to it is to pick the lock—so Peter reluctantly pulls the fire alarm to empty the school giving Neal time to retrieve the letter. It turns out the letter is an early look at financial numbers from the headmaster so Woods knows how much money he can embezzle. Meanwhile, Chloe approaches Neal about tutoring her. Neal agrees, with Peter’s approval, since this maybe an opportunity to search Woods’ home. But Neal’s caveat with Chloe—she must invite Evan.

Back at the FBI, Peter and Woods plan a dinner at Woods’ home at the same time as Neal’s tutoring session. The glitch is that Woods wants Peter to bring his girlfriend along. The always-dependable Diana (Marsha Thomason) steps up to go undercover as Peter’s girlfriend. The plan is for Neal to get into Woods’ office and copy his laptop’s hard drive while Peter gets the alarm system in the apartment shut off.

Evan shows up at Neal’s apartment for a pre-tutoring session. Mozzie and Neal aim to give him “game to get the girl.” Neal and Mozzie prep him—giving him some advice and making him fix the cardigan sweater combo he’s wearing. Mozzie sends him off with final advice, “carpe diem Evan. Carpe diem.”

At the Woods home, Neal begins the tutoring and matchmaking session with Chloe and Evan. Meanwhile, Peter and Diana show up for dinner. To get the alarm system turned off so Neal can enter Woods’ office, Peter must open a door to set off alarm and get Woods to turn off the alarm. Diana comes to the rescue as Peter’s “girlfriend” by picking a fight with him claiming that she is pregnant, which causes a scene and allows Peter to open the door setting off the alarm. Woods shuts it off at the same time that Neal sneaks into the office and copies the hard drive. But there’s a snag in the plan—Chloe leaves Evan to follow Neal and flirt with him. With her cell in her back pocket, she pocket dials her dad, who answers, overhears the conversation and rushes in to find out what is going on. This looks like it is going to end badly but Evan covers for them all saying he wanted to see a map of Paris in the office. For this, Chloe is appreciative and even acknowledges his presence by saying goodbye.

Afterwards, Peter discusses with Neal that he must soon give his statement on Keller and the treasure. Neal doesn’t want Peter to lie but just not tell the whole truth. Peter makes no promises and leaves. Our matchmakers, Neal and Mozzie, plot how to take advantage of Evan’s momentum with Chloe with the “grand romantic gesture.” Mozzie wants to see the “little guy get the girl” so he will write a poem for her from Evan.

Next, at Manhattan Prep, Peter is going to meet with the Headmaster again. At the same time, Neal runs into Evan, who is shaken up. Woods realized Evan accessed the financial documents and threatened to expel him. Unfortunately, Evan also blew Peter’s cover. Woods confronts Peter and takes him to the woodshop classroom to interrogate and threaten him. Meanwhile, Mozzie is doing the “equivalent of hoisting the boom box” by putting the poem in Chloe’s locker on Evan’s behalf. Who knew Moz was such a romantic? Then, Neal calls Mozzie for help because Peter is in trouble and needs a distraction. While waiting for Mozzie’s distraction, Neal runs into Chloe and uses this to his advantage. He offers to give her his phone number but really calls her dad, who assumes she pocket dialed him. Woods listens to their conversation about Chloe meeting up with Evan, who is in Neal’s classroom. Woods leaves Peter alone with his bodyguard to go find Chloe. By this time, Mozzie has finished his distraction, a smoke bomb that Neal uses in the woodshop classroom. This allows for Peter and Neal to get the upper hand on the bodyguard. Cut to Woods rushing into Neal’s classroom where Evan and Chloe are. But Neal and Peter with Diana as backup show up and arrest Woods.

After the arrest, Neal walks with Chloe and gives her some advice. He says this is a “chance to start over. Maybe live the life you really want. I got that chance and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.” Peter also overhears this. At Chloe’s locker, Evan apologizes for everything that happened with her Dad and says he’s there if she ever needs someone to talk to. She thanks him and opens her locker to be surprised by a lot of red roses that fall out. Way to go Mozzie! She grabs his hand and they walk away.

The episode concludes with Neal returning to the FBI office to see Peter finishing up his statement about Keller and the treasure. Peter decided to protect Neal and not tell the whole truth because as he explains to Neal, “What you did on this case, how you carried yourself, makes me believe this partnership can work.” Peter returns the Yankees tickets to Neal saying that his actions mean more. Neal gives the tickets to Jones who immediately invites Peter, who then agrees to go to the game.

This episode’s report card—an A from me. Collars, see you next week!

Season 3, Episode 12 “Upper West Side Story” (original airdate January 24, 2011.)

White Collar airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on USA Network.

Images courtesy of David Giesbrecht and USA Network.

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