"If I'm not my father's son, who am I?"
Neal Caffrey's journey to try to finding out who his father is has been a well-documented struggle since the second season of White Collar. But after the shocking midseason discovery that his dad's old friend from the force, Sam (Treat Williams), is actually his father James — now what?
"It's been this journey of trying to figure out who he is. So now that we're here and he now knows who this guy is, from a personal point of view, Neal is trying to put together who this guy is and trying to fit that into the ideals that he's laid off on his dad," showrunner and creator Jeff Eastin tells TVGuide.com. "Because, really, Peter [Tim DeKay] has really filled that void up until now. Peter is his dad."
Although Neal (Matt Bomer) may have been searching for his father, and answers about his past for most of his life, the discovery won't exactly be met with open arms when the show returns for the second half of Season 4 (Tuesday at 10/9c, USA). "Initially, Neal doesn't want to embrace it. Ultimately he does," Eastin says. "But then some questions of why James is here and things like that start cropping up."
Many of these questions will come from a slightly jealous Peter, who will struggle with James' sudden re-emergence. "It goes from Neal not embracing James as his father to then embracing James as his father and getting upset that Peter and Mozzie are questioning this," Eastin says. "Peter subconsciously has a real issue with the fact that this new guy is filling the role that is really meant for him. For Peter, it's Elizabeth convincing him and saying to him, 'This is Neal's father. Embrace this guy.'"
James promises to add another source of tension to their already complicated relationship. "The real challenge for us, as time goes on, is to give Neal reasons to be at odds with Peter. Because at a certain point, you say, 'My God, Neal, this guy has gone through so much for you. Stop being a d---,'" Eastin says with a laugh. "That's where we really focus our time — how do we get to that relationship without completely screwing it up? We try to blow up as much as we can at the end of the seasons and then restore it somehow."
Looking ahead beyond Season 4, Eastin says it's the duo's dynamic that will keep the show going even after wrapping long-gestating stories like the whereabouts of Neal's dad. "The great thing about White Collar is even at its worst, it works well as a show just because of Matt and Tim. We always joke that we're going to do an episode where they are just locked in an elevator the whole time," he says. "This year, we're trying to work in an episode where they're in a car ride across the United States together, which I've always wanted to do since the ER episode ["Fathers and Sons"] where Doug Ross and Mark Greene drive across the country."
Plus, Eastin adds, there's still another member of the Caffrey family fans have yet to meet. "Bomer, personally, has been pushing really hard to explore this family side of Neal," Eastin says. "We still haven't met mom, which I don't know if we'll do."
White Collar airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on USA. To chat with Matt Bomer live during the East Coast airing of Tuesday's episode, visit USA's Character Chatter page.