Warning: The following contains spoilers from Thursday’s season premiere of White Collar.
White Collar‘s final season debut on Thursday delivered some unexpected news for Peter and Elizabeth: They’re going to be parents!
As delighted as the couple was by the discovery, the bundle of joy will also place “a little different strain” on the husband and wife, creator Jeff Eastin tells TVLine.
Meanwhile, Neal struck a deal with his FBI mentor: He’ll help Peter take down the notorious Pink Panthers in exchange for his freedom. That plan, however, will hit more than one obstacle. For starters, during next week’s episode, Neal discovers a surprise within the Panthers’ ranks — his ex-pal Keller (played by Ross McCall)!
Below, Eastin talks about the Burkes’ upcoming arrival, Neal’s intentions when it comes to post-FBI life and Keller’s role in the con man’s final arc.
TVLINE | Lets start with Neal’s final line in the season premiere, “Who says that’s all I’m after?” What should we take away from that? Is that a hint that he’s not planning to live a clean life?
Oh, that’s a touchy one without giving too many spoilers. I would say that the best thing you can take away from the line is that with Neal, nothing is ever exactly what it seems.
TVLINE | Is he looking at the Pink Panthers as a possibility to assemble a nest egg for himself?
That’s a possibility. Yeah. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Can you talk about the dynamic that we’re going to see between Neal and Keller as Neal’s infiltrating the Pink Panthers?
I would say that beyond Mozzie and Peter, the most important relationship for Neal this year is going to be with Keller. The thing I loved about Keller in the first place was that this was a guy who was sort of Neal’s alter ego. For Raiders fans, there’s a Lost Ark scene [where] Belloq comments that Indy and him were just shadowy reflections of the other, and that really was the design of Keller, that he is Neal. He’s just down a different path. The thing that saved Neal from becoming Keller was Neal did have a heart, and Keller didn’t. But really, their skills are almost equally matched. This will come out further as the season progresses, and we’ve touched on them in prior episodes, but really, Neal and Keller were friends for a while. Kate came between them, and it was inevitable that their friendship would fall apart. But for a long time, they were close friends. I would say best friends at one point. So that begins to come back, and Neal does do a lot this year in terms of looking at himself through that lens [of], “What if I became Keller?” Because really, the idea was that Neal always kind of existed in that twilight zone between wanting to be Peter, but realizing he is Keller. For Neal, it was always really that yin-yang fight that he has within himself. In terms of his relationship with Keller, that’s really what comes out this year is Neal’s spending a lot of time really trying to reflect on that and figure out exactly who he is. The entire series really has been that journey for Neal, figuring out exactly who he is.
TVLINE | The one relationship that’s been so fantastic from the start has been Peter and Neal’s, and Episode 2 is a great one for them.
Every year, the real challenge has always been, how do we keep Peter and Neal fresh? There’s X amount of testing that always says, “No more secrets between them. Just get rid of that angle, and just have them be two buddies solving crimes.” To keep it in a point where Neal and Peter can be working together, and Neal can still have those secrets and Peter can still have that suspicion yet maintain that friendship, has always been probably the hardest thing that the series has tried to do…
A long time ago, Jeff Wachtel – he was president of USA at the time – said to me, “What is the essence of the show?” And I said, “These two guys, Peter and Neal, really complete each other.” Neal’s always wanted to be Peter. He’s wanted that white picket fence. He’s wanted his Elizabeth. And Peter is this guy [who’s] got the white hat on, and there’s always been a little part of him that envies Neal, that envies that ability to walk into a room and just charm everybody. Even going back to the pilot when Neal walked in and got June’s mansion and everything else, Peter just didn’t understand. So there’s always that evolution towards Peter and Neal really figuring out who they are and realizing what the other can bring to each other’s lives. Especially this year with Episode 2 [and] moving forward, you’ll really see the evolution toward the end of the season, especially with the finale.
TVLINE | Peter promised Neal that he was going to get him his freedom, he gave him his word. Is that contract as ironclad as promised?
As ironclad as Peter can make it, you know? We had seasons where Peter can promise anything he wants, but the FBI is a different story. That promise does figure in relatively heavily toward the end of the year. Keller does ask Neal, “How many times has Peter promised you this? And how many times has it failed?” That becomes a pivotal moment in the finale.
TVLINE | Fans have been wondering for a while why Peter and Elizabeth didn’t have kids. Was the timing just right now that you knew you were going into your final season and you wouldn’t have to deal with a baby on set indefinitely?
Pretty close, yeah. When Tiffani [Thiessen] first called me and asked me who Elizabeth Burke was, I got this big, old chuckle when I compared her to Abigail Adams [from] the John Adams miniseries at that point. One thing I really liked about that was Abigail Adams was this woman who knew who her husband was. That’s who Elizabeth Burke is. She knows. For Peter having a kid, the real problem for us as writers was suddenly Peter being late, suddenly Peter not showing up on time… Yeah, going into the final season, we said, “You know what? This is the time to do it.” So now, not hinting at where Peter may end the season, but yeah, having a kid at this point seemed like a natural evolution.
TVLINE | And Neal will be the godfather, right?
Of course. [Laughs]