White Collar: “Pulling Strings” Recap & Review
Sara brings a case involving a stolen Stradivarius violin to the FBI and becomes the boss on this one, while Peter takes some time off to celebrate his wife’s birthday. A run in with Sara’s ex-fiancée brings up unresolved feelings between her and Neal, who is on his best behavior as an agent is prepping for his commutation hearing. Here is a recap and review of “Pulling Strings” (season 3, episode 14).
For Elizabeth’s birthday, Peter flies in her parents and plans for them to spend the day all together at their house. Having received a case from Sara Ellis where she suspects her boss, Bryan McKenzie, is behind a missing Stradivarius violin, Peter puts her in charge and tells Neal to use this as an opportunity to impress the FBI. As Neal’s commutation hearing draws nearer, Agent Kramer (Beau Bridges), Peter’s former mentor at Quantico, drops by the FBI in a standard review of Neal’s work with them. Agent Kramer compliments Neal on his job, but warns Diana, who is recently engaged, not to turn a blind eye on his criminal past.
Sara and Neal begin investigating by rummaging through Bryan’s apartment, which Sara has a key to. From the line she said earlier to Neal, “Rule number 1: Don’t date the boss”, we should have foreseen that Bryan was Sara’s ex, ex-fiancée at that. Neal figures out that they were romantically involved and criticizes her for withholding information from him. She does not think that he should be mad at her for this little omission of fact, paralleling how Neal thinks she should not be mad at him for keeping the treasure a secret from her. Bryan returns to his apartment before they leave, leading to Sara lying about why she is there and asking him to take her to the symphony. While hiding, Neal finds a secret compartment in Bryan’s globe, and pulls out a video surveillance tape that shows a woman stealing the Stradivarius. Recovering more video footage, Jones sees that the woman hands off the violin to another person, later discovering that the woman is the symphony’s second violinist, Annie.
Neal escorts Diana to the symphony, keeping an eye on Bryan and Sara, and trying to play it off that he is not jealous of Sara with him. Bryan soon recognizes Neal as one of Sara’s past cases and they begin bickering, while Sara sits by, enjoying watching them fight over her. Although Neal follows him to the restroom, Bryan escapes through a second entrance and murders the symphony’s instrument expert. Diana, Neal, and Sara find the body as well as the Stradivarius in the same room. After bringing Annie in for questioning, they learn that she was simply handing the violin over to the instrument expert to be fixed, having broken it when she was not supposed to be playing it, and that she was not connected at all to Bryan, who had used it to smuggle back from Beijing a carbon polymer that looks identical to a violin string.
At the symphony, Sara walks in on Bryan searching for the polymer string he left behind after committing murder, and tells him that she has what he is looking for. He takes her hostage with an Aladdin knife, which she responds to by whipping out her police baton and hitting him several times in a moment of catharsis. Diana gives Neal the honors of slapping handcuffs on Bryan. While leaving, Sara and Neal realize that rule number one ceases to apply now that the case is over, but Sara suggests that they start out by being friends again, telling Neal to call her sometime.
While the case was interesting, it took a back seat to the relationship drama in this episode. I like that they brought back Diana and Christie’s relationship to compare it to Neal and Sara’s. Diana is nervous about rushing into things, and that is how I see Sara at this point. Having been hurt by Neal once in the past, she is trying to get past the fact of him still being a criminal and not trusting her enough, before she considers how their relationship should progress.
I hope she sticks around long enough for us to see it fold out.
[Image credit] I love the way Sara was reintroduced; it brought back memories of her first episode when she took her own case to the FBI. It allowed her to take a more active role in the storyline again, making her a part of the team instead of just being Neal’s love interest, and gave Hilarie Burton an opportunity to show her talents. Sara was all over the map in this episode: sassy, sexy, scared, and smart. She was thoroughly enjoying bossing Neal around on this case; that proof that she is still a strong woman, despite being broken down so many times, is why I believe she is a character worth liking.
Although Sara broke up with Neal a handful of episodes ago, the sparks are definitely still there. I am all for them rekindling their relationship because they have an onscreen chemistry that is so lively and fun to watch. The scene in Bryan’s apartment when Sara and Neal are bickering was some great sexual tension. I do not know if I see Neal sticking with someone long term, but if I were to root for him to end up with anyone so far, it would be her. Their interaction in this episode was easily the best part of it.
There was one bit in this episode where Sara reminded me so much of Peyton (from One Tree Hill), which is odd because I have never drawn a comparison between these two characters before. The way she said, “Rule Number 1: Don’t date the boss”, and the subsequent look that she shot at Neal was reminiscent of Peyton’s tough attitude and cynical outlook on any type of relationship.
One complaint I have about this episode is that Peter’s storyline seemed somewhat awkward and out of place. I understand that Tim DeKay was prepping to direct an episode at the time this one was being shot and thus needed to have less scenes, but it think they could have given him a smaller role within the case; I do not really buy an FBI agent taking time off merely for his wife’s birthday. While I enjoyed seeing Elle’s parents and their interaction with Peter, they could have been introduced in a number of other ways.
Tiffani Thiessen (who plays Elizabeth Burke) needs more screen time. She handles comedic material so well and is really an underused cast member. Elle’s friendship with Mozzie is something that we have seen a little of in the past, but watching them together in this episode makes me wish we would see her interact with those other than Peter more frequently. She is truly a smart woman who has contributed much to solving cases in the past, and should be seen outside of simply being a wife.