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2009/10/26

TV: Conjecture about White Collar

I didn't intend for this space as a place for me as a place to talk about TV, but it's where I have cut tags to protect people from spoilers. C'est la vie.

White Collar is a show on USA Network. The main character is Neil Caffrey, a con man. He was caught by Peter Burke, an FBI agent. He escapes on the cusp of his release, looking for his wife. Peter catches him again, and, in part inspired by his sense of fairness, springs him to serve as a consultant. There we have the premise.

At one point, Peter is looking for a way to get a warrant to enter a warehouse he is sure but cannot prove is the location of a crime scene. Neil, a criminal not a cop, wonders why they just don't go in. Peter then passes him the Big Book of Warrant Law. Neil reads the Big Book, figures it out, and gets himself and the ankle bracelet location tracker dragged into the warehouse. Peter knows the game when he follows the machine-gun-toting FBI entry team into the warehouse, quoting chapter and verse as to why he can go in without a warrant. I don't know that Peter knew what he was doing when he gave the book, but he certainly knew when he got there.

Consider, for a moment, The Sting. That's the great con movie, and while we're in on great parts of the con, we don't know the final bit until the end. Same with the Ocean's Eleven remake. The audience can't know it all. So, what's the underlying con for White Collar.

We don't know what's going on with Neil's wife, but we know
  • Neil knows Peter about as well as Peter knew Neil
  • This includes Peter being smart and liking smart, and we mean really smart. He has great ire over the large number of Harvard graduates in his unit who are not nearly as on-the-ball as he is.
He had to know that Peter would come after him if he escaped. If he just waited a month, he would've been a free man, rather being chained to Peter for four years, but now he has a badge. Presumably, he thinks he needs that kind of backing, the kind of backing that can fill a warehouse with armed agents in very little time, to confront whoever has his wife. Which makes an acceptable series-long Big Bad.