WHITE COLLAR 3.04 ‘The Dentist of Detroit’

Episode Title: "The Dentist of Detroit"

Writers: Channing Powell and Matt Negrete

Director: Dennie Gordon

Story:

June (Diahann Caroll) stops by Mozzie's (Willie Garson) tag sale to purchase a few curious items from his personal collection. Moz asks Neal (Matt Bomer) about selling the art from the U-boat but he's against it with the manifest now in the hands of the feds. Moz tells Neal he needs the money to donate to Mr. Jeffries, the head of the orphanage he grew up in, which is in financial trouble. Neal agrees to spread the word about Mozzie's sale. 

At the field office, Peter (Tim DeKay) briefs the team on a Frank DeLuca (Al Sapienza), a Detroit mobster who's in town and likely up to no good. After DeLuca's visit, a local numbers runner turned up dead. Neal dashes off to ask Moz if he had any contact with the man. Moz says he has just as DeLuca arrives in the showroom, asking to see "The Dentist of Detroit." No one says a word so he takes a picture of Mr. Jeffries (Ernie Hudson), pins it to a column with a knife and threatens to kill him if the "Dentist" doesn't come forward. Moz tells Neal he's "The Dentist of Detroit."

At the office, Peter and the team are hip to Neal's interest in DeLuca and Mozzie's ties to the Detroit mob. Data from Neal's tracking anklet show he's hitting the same spots as DeLuca. Peter shows up at the showroom to ask the boys about DeLuca. Neal fesses up against Mozzie's protests. At the office, Peter asks Moz if he's the "Dentist." Moz tells Peter about his childhood in the orphanage and how Jeffries taught him to use his intelligence to get by. Moz insists on meeting with DeLuca but Neal and Peter are certain he'll end up dead. Neal offers to meet with DeLuca, posing as "The Dentist's" assistant. 

After the meeting  with DeLuca under SWAT surveillance, the team learns that he wants to enlist "The Dentist's" help in pulling a con on an Irish mobster, Patrick O'Leary (Robert John Burke), whom DeLuca blames for his father's death. Moz tells Neal and Peter how he conned DeLuca's father out of half a million dollars when he was just twelve years old. Not wanting the criminal world to know he'd been taken by a kid, DeLuca created the legend of "The Dentist," as a violent criminal. 

A picture of Jeffries taken at a toll booth tips Moz and Neal off that he'll be visiting the Statue of Liberty when he gets to New York. Neal meets with the Irish mobster after the feds shut down a betting operation he frequented. He claims to be on the outs with his boss and offers to help O'Leary. 

At the betting parlor, O'Leary takes instruction from Neal and places a bet, but only for five-thousand dollars. At the safe house, Moz makes his escape and meets with June, who brings him a few of his tools. At the betting parlor, Neal and Peter stage a fight to fool O'Leary into making one last big bet. Meanwhile, Diana (Marsha Thomason) learns that Moz is planning to meet with DeLuca. After losing his money, O'Leary confronts Peter. He returns the money to O'Leary while Moz meets with DeLuca. Peter, Neal and Jones (Sharif Atkins) move in on Moz and DeLuca. Moz tells DeLuca to leave the money, walk away and end it but instead he goes for the briefcase and pulls a gun on Moz. Peter moves in and arrests him. 

Peter stops in with Jeffries to Moz' delight. He explains that Moz couldn't pronounce the name of his teddy bear, "Mozart," instead calling it "Mozzie." Peter and Neal share a chuckle over Mozzie's sentimental reunion with Jeffries.

Breakdown:

Origin stories can make for some great storytelling space but the tired trope of "flashback to character X as a little kid" isn't the most ambitious use of the opportunity. I'll admit though, baby Moz with his Coke bottle glasses was pretty cute. 

After learning how Mozzie came to be the man he is today, I'm left a little disappointed. Somehow, keeping the origin of Neal's eccentric sidekick a secret was more intriguing than this tale of neighborhood mobster ties and street cons. 

And like it's USA sister-show, the excellent "Psych," I can appreciate it when it "White Collar" riffs on iconic films and TV shows. But I don't need Peter to spell it out for me ala mentioning "The Sting" to his wife.

There were a few notable guest stars this week, including two "Sopranos" alums, Robert John Burke and Al Sapienza plus a somewhat random Ernie Hudson appearance. But despite tapping actors who've appeared on the HBO mob hit, ahem, this episode's criminal element was sloppy and rushed, in action. Mozzie tells DeLuca the feds are in the wings and he still goes for the kill. Meanwhile, O'Leary proceeds with minimal caution while dealing with Neal. Tony Soprano would never work with such amateurs.

Meanwhile, the divide between Mozzie and Neal, regarding the U-boat plunder is becoming more of an annoying callback than a real tension builder. Mozzie reminds Neal that despite the trappings of normalcy he's found with Peter and the FBI, the two con men can't deny who they are. At some point, they'll have to turn their back on and betray  their FBI friends. 

The problem is, the whole premise of "White Collar" is that Neal and Moz, are good guys, despite their crimes. We were reminded of that in this episode, when Neal insisted that "The Dentist's" rep as a violent criminal doesn't match Mozzie. Granted, running off with priceless art isn't the same as killing in cold blood, but if Neal were to betray Peter, it could ruin the FBI man's career. The Neal we know would never risk that. And Mozzie, clutching his teddy bear, doesn't seem capable of it either.

If the U-boat treasure subplot is going to run through the remaining six episodes, we're going to need more than a few book end conversations to build this storyline up to a finale-worthy conclusion.

Crave Online Rating: 6.5 out of 10.