Dear Mr Eastin,
Though we have never met, I feel like I have known you forever, so I’m going to dispense with the pleasantries and just call you Jeff, if I may.
Well, Jeff, I know your birthday is fast approaching (no, I am not being creepy stalkerish, it’s public information for those who already have one finger on the phone to the police), and unfortunately I am not able to give you a present as awesome as the “FBI Profile” file that a group of us gave you last year. So I hope this open letter will suffice.
Now, as you know, I am a big fan of yours. There may be a small dissident group who think genuine fans are sycophants and like to diss other fans for their support – but thankfully that is just a minority. Your show, WHITE COLLAR has got me addicted to the point of unparalleled obsession.
I have lost sleep because of you and your crazy cliffhangers. Because of you, I discovered the world of fan-fiction and it re-ignited a passion for writing that I had not experienced since high school. Because of you, I have also discovered the world of slash-fiction…let’s not go there…I can’t write it but, boy, do I admire the talented people who do!
So now let’s move on to the season 3 finale, “Judgement Day”. Let’s start with the spelling. We here in the commonwealth spell it with an “e” in the middle but what’s a letter here and there between friends, right?
I know you love leaving clues and hints for fans to find, so let’s take a look at the bread crumb trail you left for us that led to where we are now.
The flashback sequence
There’s the U-boat treasure: there was a LOT of it when Mozzie took it from Vincent Adler, and whilst there was a lot of it that was “returned” by Keller, we should have known there would be more hidden somewhere else. After all, the man who believes a safe word that is two words long did tell Peter and Neal that he had hidden it in a few places when he handed it over to save Elizabeth in “Checkmate”. So why should we be surprised that he had stashed some of it for backup?
Raphael’s St George and the Dragon has been a topic of conversation since Sara Ellis was introduced in Season 2 and although Neal never admitted to having stolen it, we always knew he must have it. The I-never-said-I-had-the-music-box-but-I-just-let- everyone-believe-I-did trick can only work when it’s not over-used, so, well-played in finally giving us closure on the whereabouts of the painting. I know you are enjoying looking at it hanging in your house now.
Agent Kramer (to be honest, I was really hoping his first name would be Cosmo, like in Seinfeld, as an homage to Tim DeKay’s excellent turn as Bizarro Jerry on that show) saying to Neal “I’d say this moment was inevitable” at their first meeting should have given us an idea that he was determined to catch Neal, but who knew he would be this vengeful and that those words would be repeated as Neal is caught red-handed with the painting in his hand?
The commutation hearing
I am very glad you didn’t go with “Commuted” as the title of this show because having read some TV reviewers try to spell this, I would expect the show might not have lasted more than one episode (computed, communicated, commuter? Arrrggghhh!).
A few of our oft-asked questions were answered during the hearing: Neal’s middle name is George – a name he has used in his many aliases in the past (named after your beloved pooch); June’s last name is Ellington (we know you like jazz…hello Satchmo!); and Peter’s recommendation would have the most impact on the final decision.
Haunted by past crimes
How did the FBI get their hands on private letters Neal wrote to Kate when he was still in prison? Is it the norm to intercept and copy them before being sent out? Why was Peter’s team never able to crack the code before? I would never want to assume incompetence, so I will just assume Neal’s code was just that good.
We all remember the long night of drinking and confessing between Neal and Peter in “Forging Bonds” when they were chasing Adler. When Peter gave Neal immunity, I always wondered what other notable crimes he had committed. I’m sure there is a very long list and I hope we will find out more about them in the years to come.
Being haunted by his past is what Neal has been forced to come face-to-face with. Peter once said to Elizabeth that Neal never faces the consequences of his actions. But now he does – sort of. A crime he committed seven years ago is threatening to bring him down. But as always, he is saved from the consequences, thanks to Peter’s quick-thinking and a bit of plotting with Sara, and what a wonderful turn from Sara’s boss, Winston Bosch, who looked peachy keen that not only has he recovered a $15 million painting but also saved money on having an expert authenticator.
The great escape…again
Your friend, Matt Nix, once dared suggest that WHITE COLLAR is a show about two good-looking, well-dressed guys walking and talking and solving crimes with their witty banter. Well, you sure showed him! This season alone has seen Neal BASE-jump off the 43rd floor of a high-rise on to Wall Street with a perfect landing and not a hair out of place. It was a feat seemingly so ridiculous that even Peter didn’t believe it could have been done when Neal confessed to how he got away with Degas’ Entrance of the Masked Dancers.
As if that wasn’t enough, Neal climbing to the top of a moving cable car in mid-air, then flying through the air to reach the top of the approaching one in the opposite direction, and grabbing the painting tube he nearly dropped into the river during the jump – wow, my fingers are exhausted just from typing that.
And speaking of that action-packed sequence, what’s with the Roosevelt Tram being called a tram and not a cable car? Don’t trams normally run along the ground? But I digress…the most significant moment in that scene, in my opinion, is not the jump but what happened afterwards – Peter flat-out lied to his former mentor about whether Neal had the painting on him. Maybe Peter could count that as a technicality because Peter didn’t know for a fact what was inside the tube Neal was carrying.
I am grateful to you for this action sequence and for not letting Matt Bomer’s character die, because, as you know, fans like me have endured way too many “Boments” when we have watched him die some not-so-pretty deaths in some of his roles.
“We are not in the revenge business”
Wow, Phil Kramer, take a chill pill dude! Actually, my feelings towards Agent Kramer are more like “YOU $#&$& S.O.B! LEAVE NEAL AND PETER ALONE!”
In light of all that has happened, I bet Peter is regretting ever having brought his old friend and mentor into the mix to help find the U-boat treasure. But really, has Kramer suddenly become a villain? Or is he just the anti-hero? Or maybe Kramer is simply the same man he was when we first met him and it is just that Peter has changed so much since he started working with Neal? Has Peter finally discovered a new colour that is not just black or white but something in between? Whichever way I look at this, I have to admit I should have seen this coming when you put Kramer in the “villain” category during one of your impromptu Q&A Twitter sessions:
It’s all in the family
We all wanted to know more about Neal’s family. Throughout the series we have seen how Neal has bonded with those around him. They consider him as more than a friend or colleague – they consider him family. It’s not just because he is charming and good-looking, although of course that helps. But deep down, Neal Caffrey has a good heart. It’s just that, well, if Lady Gaga is right and we’re born this way, then Neal believes he was born bad.
We got a hint of Neal’s biological family in season 2 when he mentioned his father was a dirty cop and that he was dead. Now we know he wasn’t always dirty and he isn’t dead. But if Caffrey Snr wasn’t always evil, as revealed by the mysterious US Marshal-protected Ellen Parker (who was his partner), then shouldn’t this give Neal cause to reassess his belief that he was born bad and that he doesn’t deserve the white picket fence existence he so craves?
I have to admit I did a little happy dance in front of my TV when the tidbit about Neal’s parents was revealed because it was what I had postulated in my fan-fiction. I had him alive and well, in witness protection, but Neal didn’t know it until after he was handed the U-boat treasure (in my version of events, it was Caffrey Snr who was responsible for switching the art from under Adler’s nose). For all we know, he could be in WitSec. After all, Ellen is, and we don’t know why…yet (hint: I hope we will find this out in season 4).
Where is Neal’s mother? She obviously tried to protect her son from the truth about his father and she is obviously alive but Neal doesn’t know where she is. Is she also in witness protection? For what it’s worth, I think it’s time to do a cross-over with IN PLAIN SIGHT. Scheduling shouldn’t be a problem now that they are about to wrap up its final season, right? And what better fit for a cross-over than with a show about US Marshals? (Please consider this? Seriously!)
What’s in a name?
Neal George Caffrey. There have been far too many teases about this possibly being an alias. I, and many others like me, don’t want to consider this at all. We have all grown to love this name, even if some people can’t spell it right (my favourite version to date is Neil Cafferty, though I have seen worse but it was such sacrilege that I promptly erased that from the limited space that is in my brain). I know you have also said that Neal didn’t say that Neal wasn’t his real name, so I take small comfort in that, and I want to hear that long story he avoided telling Sara in “Stealing Home”. I am sure this will make for a great story in season 4.
I’m not just talking about the myriad of expressions on Neal’s face when he boarded the plane in the final minute or so of the episode. A while ago, in another impromptu Q&A session, you mentioned that you wanted season 4 to open outside the US. Not just outside New York City, but in a totally different country. When I read that, I was aghast! Considering the FBI doesn’t have jurisdiction internationally, the only reason the show could take place outside NYC is if Neal is on the run.
I got angry – at you for even suggesting that as a possibility, and at Neal for thinking that Peter would not support him at his hearing. It made me unfollow you on Twitter – yes, I was that angry (but I over-react so it’s ok. I will send you the therapist bills later)! But then I calmed down. You would never break up my favourite bromance! Inconceivable! And sure enough, when Kramer reappears, it all became clear – Neal would never run from Peter. He is running from Kramer.
So how about Peter’s subtle shake of his head when Kramer confronted him at the steps of the Federal building as he was about to make his recommendation to the commutation hearing committee. My first instinct when I watched that scene and Peter’s expression (oh Tim – that face!) was “OMG NEAL! Peter is telling you to run!” and I was relieved. Yes, I was right – Neal would never run from Peter and Peter is putting his career, and possibly his life, on the line by giving his friend his blessing to run.
After multiple viewings of that scene though, you had me doubt myself for a moment – what if Peter, the ever judicious and righteous, law-abiding man, was actually telling Neal not to do anything stupid like running? After all, Peter tells him that all the time, right? But then, when I saw a tiniest hint of a smile on Peter’s face when Diana interrupts his statement at the hearing with the news that Neal had disappeared, I was happy again. Ah, Jeff, you nearly tricked me there!
So now, then, what about Neal’s face? As he sat down in his seat, he looked out the window, contemplative. Was there a hint of regret – at having to run and give up the life he had worked so hard for; the family he has left behind? Was he scared – for what will happen to Peter with him gone, because we all know Peter is going to be in deep trouble now? Was he sad – after having made the choice to stay, he was forced to leave? Was he angry – at Kramer for all that has happened; or even at himself for letting it happen?
And then in that final moment, was there a slight smile on Neal’s face as he contemplates a life of freedom without an anklet? Is he going to live the dream life that Jones says he has, only now without being tethered to an anklet and with a mother-load of treasure to be shared with his pal, Mozzie?
Where to from here sir?
Lolanna has become a symbol of Neal’s freedom. She is from a non-specific island. I would like to think that Neal and Mozzie have run away to the biggest island of all – Australia. Let’s face it, if they came here, they could blend in, enjoy the sunshine and we have wine. Plenty of wine. And good stuff, too! And great art! I’m not suggesting they steal it, of course.
So how about it, Jeff?
That’s all I have for now. I have lost a lot of sleep since I discovered your show nearly three years ago. It has been a long journey and one that I hope will keep on going for a long time to come.
Now I shall leave your merry band of worker bees to go back to work on what I am sure will be an amazing season 4. Thanks Mark, Jim, Joe, Alex, Channing, Matt and Dan.
PS For the record, thank you to everyone who read this post and provided such positive feedback to me here and on Twitter. I was very excited to have also had feedback from Tim DeKay and Jeff Eastin. Thank you guys for making such a wonderful show! 🙂