White Collar, “Unfinished Business”

I’ve been in the midst of a move, so some of these recaps are noticeably late. Apologies.

Anyway, another strong episode of White Collar this week, right?

Procedurals like this often rely on guest stars (though White Collar has an exceptionally strong center with Bomer, DeKay and crew) that can come in and mix things up a little bit for an episode and so the introduction of Hilarie Burton as Sara Ellis shot some life into “Unfinished Business.” I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fan of Burton, who I think handled herself admirably on the much-maligned One Tree Hill for years (working opposite Chad Michael Murray can’t be fun). She’s a charming lady who brings an inherent sadness to her performance, in a good way. That’s why I was actually kind of shocked to see her on such a lighthearted series as this one, but thankfully the episode fit itself around her nicely.

By that I mean that Burton’s Sara Ellis was surprisingly deep and more serious than any guest stars have been on White Collar, as the episode spent a good deal of time focusing on Sara’s emotional distress after being “killed” by Neal. Usually serious issues are glossed over on the USA network, and even on White Collar, we haven’t seen a whole lot of internal analysis of Neal’s psyche after Kate’s death, so the tone of “Unfinished Business” was a welcome switch-up. Of course, Burton’s going to be around for a few more episodes so the series did right by setting a more serious tone that it will surely lighten up over the next stretch of efforts, but USA series don’t always do this (see: Burn Notice‘s villains over the last two seasons). Moreover, Burton was able to hold her own with Bomer in the more feisty scenes and frankly, I’d much rather see Sara Ellis as Neal’s main love interest than watching him pout over the awful Kate much longer.

Otherwise, like I said, this was another fine episode. The series has been more willing to have Neal and others go undercover this season, or has at least executed those stories better than last season so that I’ve noticed them. Either way, Neal having to pose as a contract killer was nice. Finally, much like last week, the case was more traditional than white-collar-ish, which again proved that the cases are actually more interesting when not following the type of crime referenced in the title. Or in the least, it’s better to see a case unfold that features both white collar and “normal” crimes.

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