Oh, how the tables have turned on the new season of White Collar.
When the series returns for Season 5 on Thursday (9/8c, USA), it will be longtime FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) — not con man Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) — behind bars. "I think I look just as good as Matt Bomer in orange," Tim DeKay tells TVGuide.com. "It's going to be called Orange Collar this season instead of White Collar."
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In the Season 4 finale, Peter was arrested for a crime he didn't commit: the murder of a corrupt senator (Titus Welliver) who was actually gunned down by Neal's dad, James Bennett (Treat Williams). "When I first read the season finale last year, I immediately wondered, 'How is Peter going to be able to go back to his office and be respected by the other FBI agents and have it be valid story-wise," DeKay says.
Although orange may be the new black — we couldn't help ourselves! — Peter won't be locked in a cell for long. "We can't solve a bunch of cases with Peter behind bars," DeKay says with a laugh. "But what's interesting is how we address Peter getting out of prison and how the ramifications of Peter getting out of prison propel us into the entire season."
Considering it was Neal's dad who refused to 'fess up before skipping town, it's safe to say Neal will lend a hand. "Both good and evil forces are involved with how Peter gets out of his jumpsuit," DeKay teases. "Neal is extremely instrumental in helping Peter get out of prison and it makes Peter and Neal's relationship even more interesting than it was before."
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"Interesting" may as well be another word for dangerous since — surprise! — Neal's methods are not exactly legitimate. "Sometimes the only way he knows how to be a man and a friend is to do something that perhaps is not completely above board," DeKay says. "He always does things with the right intention."
Fresh out of prison, Peter's relationship with his wife, Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen), will also be impacted. "It sends the Burkes on a completely new path that surprises them and they both welcome it, or at least think they should welcome it," DeKay says. "A big change is in store for the Burkes. That doesn't mean we're going to have a kid or anything like that but there's a big change. In order to show how good their marriage is, it's important to see them face challenges together and what they do with those challenges."
Another one of those challenges will be Peter's reunion with his old girlfriend from Quantico, played by Sons of Anarchy's Kim Dickens. "It's just like seeing that old college girlfriend," DeKay says. "They went two different ways because of where their past was being directed. ... So, it's been a long time since they've seen each other. There's some rehashing of old times that comes up. Peter and Elizabeth have some very serious conversations and there's a lot of misreading going on."
However, Peter's biggest challenge of the season may be no longer working with Neal as his handler. The Following's Warren Kole will play Neal's new boss, Agent David Seigel . "Part of him is relieved to have somebody else take him and the other part is jealous," DeKay says. "It's like The Odd Couple. Oscar would not want Felix to have any other roommate. As much as he says he'd like to get out of the apartment, he doesn't want to get out of the apartment."
But being so closely tied to Neal may spell more trouble for Peter than ever before. "Some very dramatic things happen with the handler. Certain things start to unfold about how Peter got out," DeKay teases, adding that the mystery, and the controversy, surrounding Peter's exoneration "will be our mythology" for this season. "Peter doesn't want to give up on this extremely personal project that he has with Neal, but a lot of things get in the way this season for Peter to still believe in that."
White Collar returns on Thursday at 9/8c on USA.