Hello again, White Collar! Apologies for cheating on you with The Voice, but I'm back now and I'm glad to see you haven't missed me too much. "Veiled Threat" isn't the best episode, but it has glimmers of greatness inside of it.
This week's premise is rife with possibilities: Neal, Peter and Jones go undercover at a bachelor auction to lure in a suspected "black widow" named Selena (played by Madchen Amick, who will always be the spouse from Viva Laughlin to me). While this makes Sara bring up that she and Neal have never been on a "real date," Elizabeth is more amused and tries to boost Peter's self-esteem - highlighting the difference between a casual relationship and years of secure marriage. One of the highlights of the episode for me is that Peter relies on Elizabeth to get him through the case, and she doesn't turn into a shrew (although she is understandably concerned and irritated in the appropriate places); they have a real and mature relationship that doesn't change just because it would be more entertaining. And who else got teary-eyed seeing Peter propose to El a second time at episode's end?
In fact, I'm glad the episode doesn't stray too long in funny territory. There are the expected comedic beats - Jones comes off as "a little too charming" and Neal's attempt to make himself look bad to everyone but Selena works a little too well - but thankfully, they quickly give way to actual plot. (Although I did love Diana's referring to Sara as "Insurance Investigator Barbie.")
And while said plot isn't a shocker, it's fun to see Neal decide to throw Peter an unexpected (and unwanted) faux bachelor party as a cover, and the reappearance of that secret room in Neal's apartment, and Tim DeKay getting to tango. I love that it's Peter who gets the undercover gig; how many shows would have let the "cute guy" take that role? DeKay has his own appeal and charisma, and the White Collar team has always recognized that.
I do have one major problem, though, and it's with the character of Selena. There's no sublety about her at all; she's a wannabe Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct and everything she does comes off heavy-handed, from Amick's line delivery to Selena choosing to stir Peter's drink with a knife and multiple shots of her holding said knife after the fact. I understand that she's the obvious villain of the piece, but there's a difference between knowing she's the antagonist and making it glaringly obvious.
An episode like "Veiled Threat" has to take a slightly different approach: since we already know "whodunit," the script has to find something else to hold our interest through the hour. I don't think this episode completely succeeds in that; while there are some good moments, there are some things that are too obvious. Especially on the heels of the surprisingly poignant "Dentist of Detroit" last week, I'm looking for a little more out of White Collar - but even this average episode is still better than many shows on the air today.