Neal toed the line between asset and liability this week, playing substitute teacher and partner to Peter's Hong Kong banker as they investigated an embezzlement scheme at Manhattan Prep.
If you had any doubts about the intensity of the prep school atmosphere before, White Collar made it blatantly clear on "Upper West Sider."
There were lessons to be learned all around, and not just in romantic poetry. The episode started with Neal, in essence, attempting to bribe Peter with baseball tickets. It wasn't long before Peter taught him a very valuable lesson: focus on the job at hand.
If Neal had done that all along, he wouldn't be finding himself in this particular position. It wasn't Neal's work for the FBI that put him in the path of the treasure he so desperately sought, it was his extracurricular pursuit and eventual deceit regarding it. If Neal had simply focused on the cases at hand as he worked them with Peter, things would be a lot different - but perhaps also a lot less interesting.
Personal issues aside, this episode had me on the edge of my seat more than once. There were several close calls as they investigated Andy Woods.
My favorite moment took place when Peter was forced to pull the fire alarm to clear that hallway. What was that about textbook behavior, Peter?
Similarly, when Peter was interacting with Woods and they were discussing their children, I loved how Peter seemed to continuously reference Neal as his son, calling him "very bright, but impulsive. His moves seem to land him in trouble." It emphasized for me a sometimes lost element of Peter and Neal's relationship, this parent/child connection.
Peter not only looks out for Neal, but also wishes that he learn a lesson at each step. In this case, Peter was struggling with whether or not to make a full and complete statement regarding the Keller case, realizing that doing so would implicate and doom Neal to prison. Acting in a motherly role, and as Peter's most trusted confidante, Mrs. Suit stated that the right man (Keller) was behind bars. That says a lot about how familial the relationship between Peter and Neal has become, if not how it has always been.
More telling were Neal's words to Chloe about being able to start a new life now that her father was going to prison. You really can see how much Neal wants to change, yet at the same time you wonder if any of it is a face he's putting on. I still hear, and will likely continue to repeat until it comes to pass, that Neal said explicitly to Peter that you can only change once you've hit rock bottom, and openly admitted that he did not believe he had hit it yet.
Either he was arrogantly running his mouth, or he's significantly reformed his behavior in some way, as spurred on by some catastrophic event, including Elizabeth's kidnapping.
Another highlight of the episode was Neal and Mozzie launching a secondary operation of their own to unite Evan and Chloe... and that Neal perfectly recited poetry from memory. Did anyone else find themselves swooning even a little bit (or even a whole lot)?
I did well in school, but I would have done better with Neal as my substitute teacher. Good news is there is still hope for my college career that he could one day appear as a substitute for one of my professors. I will continue to dream, unashamed.
Luckily for Evan, Neal and Mozzie's love advice and behind-the-scenes mastery seemed to pull the star-crossed lovers together. If only we could get the same results for Neal and a very absent Sara, then we would be back in business!
Who is you favorite romantic poet? Favorite poem, maybe? Sound off below!
C. Charles is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.