When we last saw White Collar, I wasn’t happy. I was frustrated with the show’s inability to tell a coherent long-term story and its tendency to rely on emotional manipulation. In fact, I was on the verge of giving up on the show. But “Checkmate” brought me back on board, at least temporarily. I’ll offer a brief explanation as to why after the jump.

Let me be frank – part of the reason why I enjoyed “Checkmate” was that it finally put the stupid Nazi loot storyline to rest. That alone would have been enough for me to at least appreciate the episode. But “Checkmate” pulled it off with a winning combination of fun capers and cons, even amidst the drama of Peter working against the clock to save his wife.

Yeah, yeah, we all knew that nothing would happen to Elizabeth. And it was clear that Mozzie, Neal, and Peter would all end up forgiving each other. (Otherwise, how could the show continue?) But at least “Checkmate” didn’t insult the audience’s intelligence by pretending that the stakes were higher than they were. Wisely, the bulk of the episode concentrated the caper that Mozzie, Neal, Peter, and Keller would use to obtain the treasure from the storage container, so we didn’t waste a lot of time watching a semi-tearful Peter searching for his wife.

Plus, there were some fun tidbits in the case, like the Bones-esque cherry blossom clue – Jack Hodgins would be jealous – and Elizabeth using her knowledge of dog bites to fool her guard. And for such a serious episode, at least by White Collar standards, there was quite a bit of fun banter. The sceptre/shield fight between Keller and Neal might have been a bit over-the-top, but it was fun, so I rolled with it.

As fun as this episode was, though, I’m still bothered by the total lack of consequence for Neal and Mozzie stealing the treasure. Keller’s confession to the Russians was an irritating deus ex machina to keep Neal out of jail. A version of the show with Neal in prison would be completely different from the current one, but I can’t help but wish that White Collar would pull the trigger every now and then, so to speak. I wish that this show would take a lot more risks and actually have real consequences for people’s actions. But then I remember that White Collar is a USA Network show, and it’s unlikely that it’ll amount to anything greater than what it is right now.

So, if White Collar is lightweight, consequence-free, and disposable, at least it’s back to being fun. In the end, that’s what matters, and I’m so glad that the show is rid of the Nazi loot storyline that was weighing it down. Everyone is back to being friends again, and we can all pretend that Mozzie never took the treasure, right?

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