White Collar – S04E12 – “Upper West Side Story”
A young but bright student brings his case of an embezzling endowment officer to Peter and Neal’s attention. Neal goes undercover as a poetry teacher and Peter a wealthy businessman looking to send his kid to the school. Meanwhile, Peter’s disposition for Keller’s trial looms near and will the proverbial boy scout tell the truth or only from a certain point of view? A wonderfully self-aware episode which will make you laugh from beginning to end.
Score: 4 of 5
It’s almost kind of sad that the Royal Pains/White Collar crossover ad upstaged the entire episode, but it was pretty darn funny. Although “Upper West Side Story” does score points for replay value.
We start the story with the knowledge that Keller’s hearing is coming up and Peter has to testify to what happened. If he sticks to Keller’s story then Keller goes away for a long time and Neal gets a chance to get the anklet removed. If Peter tells the whole truth then Keller could get a commuted sentence and Neal will be thrown back in prison. It’s a case of doing what’s right and doing what’s the right thing to do.
They’re distracted when young student Evan (Graham Phillips) comes in well prepared to make a case against Andy Woods (Dylan Baker) for embezzlement. Turns out Andy is already under investigation for possible money laundering for the cartels.
Peter goes undercover as a wealthy Hong Kong businessman who wants to send his son to the preppy upper west side school while Neal plays the role of assistant. In one of the best scenes this season, Neal gives con man tips to a poor kid stuck outside the principle office when a lady runs up saying “World Poetry”. Neal of course rattles off something that sounded beautiful (Bryon maybe?) and so she thinks he’s the substitute teacher for the class. For what it’s worth Neal does try to correct the mistake but when he sees Andy’s daughter, Chloe, is in the class, well, doesn’t take a con man to see an opportunity waiting to happen.
Of course every girl in the class gains an instant crush on the new substitute. I think it would be shattering the suspension of disbelief if they didn’t!
Neal isn’t oblivious and he and Mozzie put together a plan to turn Chloe’s affections towards a more age appropriate target, Evan. These two con men haven’t been this adorable in a long time, massive grins all around.
The rest of the story is a bit average, your usual ‘undercover op goes bad, got to improvise’ plot but it’s the way the characters play it that makes it so much fun. When Mozzie comes across the Chemistry Lab, you know what’s going to happen but you tingle in anticipation anyway.
In the end the bad guy goes down, Evan gets the girl, and Peter does the right thing to do and only tells as much truth as required in order to put Keller away and keep Neal on the track to freedom. Oh, this is gonna get good.