Last week’s stellar episode was a tough act to follow. While “In the Red” wasn’t as good as last week’s outing, it gave us Jones and Diana as a married couple, Peter bailing Neal out of a tough spot, and a guest appearance by John Larroquette. More details after the jump.

This week’s case with the adoption scam was pretty nifty, no? I liked how it was all tied together with the underground gambling ring (even if I had to roll my eyes at the FBI letting the Chechen mob participate in a sting operation). It’s always a treat to see Neal use his resourcefulness and adopt aliases.

As usual, the banter between Peter and Neal was in fine form. Neal’s line about not wanting to be reduced to a trailer park was hilarious. I liked that Peter bailed Neal out when he was arrested, especially since he didn’t (directly) commit the crime of which he was accused.

Now, here’s where things get weird. I enjoyed this episode a lot, and I thought that it was much better than “Copycat Caffrey,” for instance, but I’m finding it difficult to praise. I feel as if I needed to say that before I dove into the criticism – and there’s a lot of criticism – because the amount of criticism that I’m about to level at the show isn’t really reflective of how I felt about the episode. Like I said earlier, I enjoyed it a lot.

Down to business: did Diana seem kind of off to anyone this week? It was almost as if the writers had conspired to give her all the boring lines (not that that’s what actually happened in the writers’ room). For some inexplicable reason, most of her lines fell flat. In general, the dialogue in this episode wasn’t very sharp.

I felt as if Sara mistrusting Neal again in this episode was unnecessary. In fact, it resulted in a very weird shift in her actions towards Neal. She suddenly went from angry polygraph test administrator to sympathetic helper. I don’t understand why she wants to aid Neal in his quest to find out about Kate’s death; there’s nothing in it for her. It makes me think that she’s plotting some scheme of her own. Perhaps she’s in league with Fowler! (Okay, that’s really doubtful.) If Sara is helping Neal for completely unselfish reasons, then the writers are going to have to do a better job at displaying her motivations. Otherwise, she’ll be reduced to nothing more than a plot device. I also have misgivings about the usefulness of having her around to help Neal. Neal already has Mozzie. I suppose that Mozzie’s contacts are probably more unscrupulous, and that Sara’s purpose will be to get information from high-ranking officials, but the writers are going to have to do a good job of balancing things out.

The mythology of the show continues to advance at a snail’s pace. I hope that the music box and the recording actually end up being important. So far, White Collar hasn’t fallen into the same trap as Burn Notice, wherein ciphers and documents are just meaningless pieces of an increasingly frustrating puzzle. I wonder what would happen if White Collar did a couple of mythology-centric episodes to keep the plot moving. That would shake things up and prevent the show from falling into a slump.

Now that I’ve gotten all that criticism out of the way, I just wanted to reiterate: last night’s episode was very enjoyable, and White Collar has improved since its first season. I’m curious to see what happens next. I just hope that the payoff is worth it.