Being a fun, breezy USA Network show, White Collar doesn’t strive for gritty realism. Viewers are expected to roll with developments like Peter riding on a horse in Central Park to catch a suspect or music boxes containing codes leading to sunken Nazi treasure. That being said, the show doesn’t really step outside reality. It takes place in the real-world version of New York City, after all. So, while some suspension of disbelief is necessary while watching White Collar, viewers shouldn’t have to imagine that the show is taking place in some alternate-universe version of New York City, following some sort of Bizarro FBI. Unfortunately, last night’s installment of White Collar was about two ridiculous developments away from requiring that sort of imagination, and had it not been as much fun as it was, I would have had to dismiss it entirely.

The main focus of this episode was a fake will that was actually a secret puzzle left behind for the deceased’s two sons to solve. This led Peter, Neal, Mozzie, and Elizabeth on a treasure hunt. Meanwhile, the daughter of one of the sons was kidnapped by a man who wanted the deceased’s fortune as ransom. Among the treasure hunt’s most unbelievable moments: the deceased using anagrams of famous astronomer Tycho Brahe as names on the fake will; Peter using nothing but a sextant and two mirrors to recreate solar conditions at various times throughout the year (never mind all the ambient light); and the counterfeit tome in the museum disintegrating into dust the second it was exposed to the elements. In fact, the whole premise of the treasure hunt seemed way beneath this show’s usual level of realism, like something lifted from an episode of Chuck. (In particular, this episode of Chuck.)

But at least it was a lot of fun to watch. I enjoyed seeing Neal and Peter work out the clues together, and Peter’s enthusiasm for the treasure hunt was amusing (albeit slightly excessive). Moreover, the Masterson brothers did a great job as the guest stars of this episode (much better than Neil Jackson last week *shudders*). And it was nice to have a respite from the cat-and-mouse game between Peter and Neal that I feared would dominate the season. (This might be the first time that I’m glad White Collar isn’t focusing on its mythology.) Neal really cared about the case in this episode, and unlike last week, I actually felt that he was conflicted about planning to leave behind his life in New York.

So, even if it wasn’t realistic in the slightest, “Where There’s a Will” was at least an entertaining episode of White Collar, which is more than could be said of this season’s premiere. Hopefully, the writing tightens up a bit and we get back to a regular case next week.

One last thing that bugged me quite a bit: this episode ended with a cliffhanger. Mozzie was trying to fence a Degas painting from the u-boat stash when Neal found out that the FBI had managed to recover a partial manifest of the artifacts that were on the u-boat. Even so, how would the FBI track the sale? And if the Degas painting ever surfaced in public, how would they trace it back to Mozzie? You’d think that as an experienced fence, Mozzie would know how to cover his tracks. Let’s hope that there’s a satisfying resolution to this cliffhanger next week.

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