After last week’s badly plotted disaster, my love-hate relationship with White Collar was on the verge of turning into a hate-hate relationship. I was about two episodes away from giving up on the show.1 But this week’s episode pushed that relationship back into love-hate territory. That is to say, I loved some parts of “Taking Account,” and I hated others.

The case this week: a bank heist carried out electronically by a hacker. White Collar has usually stayed away from cases that centre on technology, perhaps because nobody in Hollywood seems to understand how computers work. (Seriously? Hiding a logo made from monospaced text by executing a line of code as an “object file?” *facepalm*) But once I got past the fact that White Collar’s writers know approximately as much about hacking as Amy Winehouse knows about being sober (Zing!),2 I actually got a kick out of this week’s case. The con jobs on this show have always been totally implausible, but the one that Sara, Neal, and Mozzie pulled at the bank was a lot of fun. And of course, it led to that very entertaining shopping spree montage.

Which brings me to something that I hated about this episode. Obviously, Sara and Neal’s shopping spree had to end some time. But when Peter barged in and yelled at Neal for scamming the bank, I felt a sense of déjà vu. It wasn’t the kind of sense of familiarity that made me think, “Oh, that’s nice.” It was more like, “kaklsdjf that’s the 569th effing time that I’ve seen this very scene!”3 *slams head against brick wall enough times to cause brain damage*4

That one scene by itself wouldn’t have been too big a concern. Unfortunately, Peter was all over the map in this episode. In the scene immediately after the one where Peter reamed Neal out in front of Sarah, Peter and Neal were at Peter’s place, enjoying wine and bantering as if Neal had merely stolen the last cookie from the cookie jar.5 And by the time the FBI was pursuing Brouwer6 at the port, Peter was completely fine asking Mozzie to hack into the port’s display systems illegally. All of this would be alright if Peter had always been presented as a hypocrite, but he hasn’t been written as such. As a result, I found myself wanting to punch him in the face for quite a lot of this episode.

But at least Peter didn’t make any speeches about Neal settling down and renouncing his conning ways or I might have had to fling heavy objects at my TV screen. Instead, this week’s tie-in to the Nazi loot mythology was through Sara, which actually made me happy. (Or less displeased, to put it more accurately. Happiness is relative when it comes to this awful storyline.) In spite of all their necking and hot make-out sessions,7 Neal and Sara don’t really know each other. They hide things from one another and don’t trust each other completely. That’s not necessarily due to Neal’s hoarding of a pile of Nazi loot. In fact, as we see in this episode, at the first hint that Sara might want to run away with him, Neal wants to reveal his secret. Rather, Neal’s secrecy is part of his nature; he’s a con, and openness and honesty aren’t principles by which he lives his life.

I have to praise the show for employing a bit of subtlety here. Past episodes have been pretty heavy-handed with the notion that Neal might not want to leave his current life because of the friends he has made. I was expecting the show to drive home that point in this episode with the fact that Neal luuuurrves Sara. Surprisingly, Sara presented the situation to Neal in practical terms: you can’t live a daydream; paradise is ephemeral. It’s a lesson that Neal hadn’t seriously considered up until that point, and it adds a layer of complexity to his decision whether or not to leave.

I also have to praise Hilarie Burton and her work in this episode. I hadn’t been enamoured with her performance, not that she was being asked to do much other than looking pretty and making out with Matt Bomer. But it turns out that when the script demands more of her, she can deliver. The way she played Sara’s increasing suspicion of Neal’s deceit was masterful and quite nearly touching. (And I say “quite nearly touching” because this is a USA Network show, and nothing on a USA show can ever truly be touching.)

When you take Peter’s apparent multiple personality disorder out of the equation, this was quite an enjoyable installment of White Collar. I liked the case, and I actually liked how it tied in to the mythology. Hopefully, Peter’s behaviour in this episode was an anomaly and we won’t have to see much more ridiculous hypocrisy from him in the future.

1 Okay, maybe that’s hyperbole. I wasn’t actually going to give up on this show. That’s not because episodes of the same quality level as “Scott Free” are fun to watch; that’s because it can be tough to turn my eyes away from a train wreck. Right now, I’m working on a piece about giving up on TV shows when they’re no longer enjoyable, and it should be up within the next two or three weeks.

2 I briefly considered making a joke about Coheed and Cambria bassist Mic Todd’s drug addiction and his recent arrest for robbing a pharmacy, but a) too soon; and b) not enough people would have gotten it.

3 Who came up with the idea of banging random keys in home row to voice frustration? Credit goes to him…or her, because as we find out in this episode, women can be hackers too. *gasp*

4 Any typos or inaccuracies that follow in this review are the result of said brain damage.

5 One could reasonably argue that because Neal was taking money from a rich guy (or more accurately, a guy who had gotten rich illegally), his crime was on the same magnitude as taking a cookie from the cookie jar; the victim of the theft could certainly afford it. I suck at metaphors, okay? Deal with it.

6 Did I spell that right? Whatever, probably not.

7 Seriously, the directors need to tell Matt Bomer and Hilarie Burton to tone it down. It’s getting ridiculous. Keep it in your pants, guys.