White Collar just keeps getting better and better. It’s always heartening to see a show on which I’d almost given up rise from the ashes and improve week after week. “Prisoner’s Dilemma” was a fine addition to the show’s strong second season, and was probably the best episode of the season so far.

The “prisoner’s dilemma” featured in this episode wasn’t a true prisoner’s dilemma in the game theoretic sense of the term. That is probably a trivial gripe, but it is my greatest complaint about last night’s stellar episode. Everything else was nearly pitch-perfect. Elizabeth was back in the mix, in full, non-green-screened glory, and her interactions with Peter and Mozzie provided some very welcome humour and heart. Neal and Peter had quite a bit of amusing banter, and their role reversal was well-played by both Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay. Diana and Jones filled in the gaps quite nicely, and Diana didn’t seem “off” this week.

White Collar continues to prove that the USA network is capable of producing more than stale, repetitive garbage (*cough* Burn Notice *cough*). White Collar keeps things fresh by presenting interesting or unique cases. This week’s case revolved around a fugitive, a wrongfully-accused FBI agent, being pursued by corrupt United States Marshals. It’s always entertaining to see a case that pushes characters out of their comfort zones. Peter had to go on the run in this episode, and it was a little alarming to see him breaking rules, stealing cars, and hiding out in safe houses, but it helps to remember that he was breaking the rules in order to do the right thing. A willingness to bend the rules in order to do what is right is a fascinating development in Peter’s character. It seems as if Neal is rubbing off on Peter. I wonder if this is leading to Peter breaking a significant law to help Neal in his investigation into Kate’s death.

White Collar would do well to keep writing cases such as these. The show would get boring if every episode were about catching a forger or an insurance fraudster. That being said, the show has to be careful not to stray too far from its original premise and into the realm of unbelievability. So far, the show has done a good job of maintaining a balance between the standard cases and the weirder ones, and I expect it to continue to do so.

Stepping away from the case for a moment, this episode was also one of the funniest of the season. There were plenty of humorous bits, including Mozzie’s zen garden, the fact that Diana had already seen the White Bored exhibit, and Peter’s burning pot roast. The cast has excellent comic timing, which makes the humour seem like a natural part of the proceedings and not thrown in just to garner laughs.

“Prisoner’s Dilemma” also gave us a couple of mythology-related tidbits. We now know that Kate and Fowler were in contact just before the plane exploded. This isn’t too interesting a development, but it’s certain to fuel additional “evil Kate” speculation. The second tidbit is that Neal now has a key, which he stole from the corrupt marshal, to unlock his anklet. We haven’t gotten to see the key being used yet, since Bancroft ended up escorting Neal to the White Bored exhibit, but it’s definitely going to play a role in the future.

I’m curious to see what role Sara will be playing in all of this once she returns to the picture. Last week, she agreed to help Neal on his quest. I’m sure that some “Sara is in league with Fowler” speculation will emerge in the coming weeks, but for now, I’m content with her not being around.

White Collar hasn’t exactly knocked it out of the park every episode this season, but it’s delivering solid, quality entertainment. This season, it has managed to rise out of mediocrity and above the USA network trap of blandness. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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