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White Collar season 3 premiere

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White Collar returned last night for its season 3 premiere, which picked up where we left off last season when recovering con-man Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) found himself in possession of billions of dollars of stolen art. We always knew that the twist would fracture Neal and his FBI bestie Peter’s (Tim DeKay) delicate relationship — but I didn’t expect to like it.

So much of what I love about White Collar is the duo’s relationship. In fact, I’d say that’s appeal factor No. 1. There’s always been a somewhat playful distrust on both of their parts, but overall, there had been so much progress over the series, I sometime forgot the nature of their arrangement (Fed and con).

But in the premiere, there was no confusion: Peter and Neal are in a battle of wits like we’ve never seen them before. Peter suspected Neal of stealing the treasure — or at the very least he believed Neal knew where it is. Meanwhile, Neal continued to feed Peter the story that it was all destroyed when the warehouse exploded in the finale, but he was secretly covering all of his tracks and arranging an escape with Mozzi. (And in the episode, we also learned that Mozzi was the one who pulled off the switch-a-roo.)

Their attempt to flee with their loot didn’t work out, of course. (Neal sacrificed their getaway last minute to save Jones, played by Sharif Atkins, and no one ended up being aware of their initial plans.) But in the end, Peter, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, still believes Neal has the treasure. He seems determined to catch Neal in his lie, and while I had my doubts about putting a barrier between the two, I rather enjoyed it. Watching them constantly one-up each other was as good — if not better — than watching them get along. Because I’m rooting for them both. If this is the path the season is headed, count me in.

What about you, PopWatchers? Are you liking this battle of intelligence and savvy between Neal and Peter? Did anyone else love that interrogation scene? Was this a solid episode of White Collar  in your opinion? And did you like that there was more Elizabeth in this episode (coughandlessSaracough)?

Follow Sandra on Twitter: @EWSandraG

Read more:

William Sadler, Danny Masterson to guest on ‘White Collar’

‘White Collar’ season finale: Jeff Eastin on Neal’s tough choices and season 3