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This is the big Kate meta I’ve been threatening promising to write. Despite being all about the first two season of White Collar, there are spoilers for up to season five. This was necessary to preemptively counteract some arguments. Fandom opinion of Kate tends to fall into two camps. The first is that she was most definitely evil and working against Neal. The second is that her motives were a complete mystery, and we shall never know the truth about this enigmatic character. Sometimes the two mix to become, “We can never know, but she was probably evil.” I take a different stance. I posit that Kate was absolutely on Neal’s side and was actively working to protect him. It would be easy to dismiss this opinion as just another headcanon, no more valid than anyone else’s opinion. And yet I maintain that my view of Kate is, if not the “correct” one, the one most supported by canon. A bold claim. Can I back it up? That’s just what I intend to do. I rewatched seasons one and two and took note of every scene that Kate either appeared in or was significantly discussed. There was no point in going beyond season two, as Kate is virtually never mentioned after that, and never in any way that sheds light on her as a person. Negative views of Kate range from “pure evil” to “selfish, callous, and only out for herself.” As a shorthand, I’ll be describing the negative views of Kate as the evil!Kate idea. Not everyone with e negative view of Kate would describe her evil per se, but I’ve collapsed them for brevity and because, honestly, no one’s going to win any character positivity points with, “I don’t think she’s evil, I just think she”s selfish, and uncaring, and going to sell Neal out.”We’re going to go episode by episode, though I’m going to be bringing in points from across seasons one and two. It’s not going to be, “We’re discussing the pilot, so all I can talk about is the pilot.”So, let’s start with 1×01: PilotWe don”t find out anything about Kate”s personality or motivations in this episode; we just learn she exists. Well, and that she visited Neal in prison for 3 and a half years, before vanishing.It”s interesting. All we see of Kate is that prison security video. A black and white, soundless video. We”re seeing her, technically, but we”re about as removed from her as we can be.While, we don”t actually learn anything personal about Kate, this is the most the show will deal with her visits to him in prison. Proponents of the evil!Kate hypothesis have an easy explanation for Kate”s steady visits: it was part of her con against Neal. Let”s examine that. What was Kate trying to get from Neal anyway, according to this premise? There are three possibilities.1. Kate was after the music box and had been from the start. If this is true, then why didn”t Kate go to Copenhagen with Neal? He was going after the music box, and rather than going with him, Kate fought with him. She refused to go. That”s incredibly counterproductive. She must be an idiot. One can offer that Kate didn”t know Neal and Alex were specifically going after the music box, but she didn”t even try to find out, which is once again stupid. And if she didn”t know that the music box was Alex”s goal, then I can only boggle at Kate”s stupidity. One of her associates was after the same goal she was, and she never figured it out.So, you say, maybe Kate”s just stupid. Except, for evil!Kate to make sense, she had to fool Neal for years, convincing him she loved him. This requires either Kate to be both incompetent and brilliant, or Neal to be an idiot. And Neal”s not an idiot. And before anyone suggests it, there”s no comparison between Neal getting fooled by Rebecca/Rachel and his relationship with Kate. Neal and Kate weren”t only lovers; they worked together, and it appears they lived together. Neal was observing Kate constantly in a way he wasn”t observing Rebecca. Also, once again, Neal and Kate knew each other for years. That kind of long con is very different from Rebecca”s comparatively short term game. Not only that, but Rebecca was ex MI-5. She was a secret agent, trained in deception. Kate was not.There”s one more problem with this scenario, which I”ll get to in the next possibility.2. Kate wasn”t conning Neal from the beginning, but she was recruited by Adler and willingly working with him once the series started. Solves the problem of “Why didn”t Kate go with Neal to Copenhagen?” but there”s still a glaring flaw. Why the whole kidnapping and hostage plot? Kate disappeared four months before Neal”s sentence was up. It made Neal wary and suspicious and got his guard up. It would have been a lot more efficient for Kate to wait out those last few months, then once Neal was out, get him to take her to his stash and the music box. (Since she thought he had it.) Neal was driven to give Kate a better life, and he would have been far more trusting of his girlfriend than a shadowy conspiracy. If Kate was in on the con, then why do things the most difficult way? (As noted, this is also a problem with scenario number one.)3. Kate was never after the music box specifically, but she was only with Neal for what she could get from him. Except, what was she getting from him that she couldn”t get elsewhere? Especially while Neal was in prison. He wasn”t doing her any good then. Kate was an attractive woman, and she was a con artist. Does anyone think she couldn”t have found another sugar daddy? Also, Kate thought she knew where Neal”s cache was the entire time he was in prison, but she only made a move on it once Fowler entered the picture. Not to mention that Kate left Neal and survived without him. (Plus, if one is suggesting that Kate had selfish motives the entire time, then that once again raises the question as to why she didn”t go to Copenhagen with him. Even if she was angry about being lied to, surely it would have made more sense to at least get in at the big score.)As one can see, all the possibilities contain gaping holes. The alternate possibility, that Kate visited Neal faithfully because she cared about him, is simple and direct, and requires no huge leaps of logic. 1×02: ThreadsWhile this is the episode in which we learn that during her last prison visit, Kate was signaling Neal via Morse code, more important for this essay is the discussion Neal and Mozzie have earlier in the episode about Neal”s cache and the location thereof. Neal reveals that he lied to both Mozzie and Kate about where he hid his spoils. One of the staples of the evil!Kate idea is that Kate has Neal wrapped around her finger, and he”s too blinded by love to question her. As we can see, that”s not so. Neal is completely capable of being suspicious of Kate. (Though no more, I add, than he”s suspicious of Mozzie.) He doesn”t trust her unthinkingly.1×05: The PortraitFinally, an actual appearance by Kate. She and Neal have a real conversation. She demands that Neal tell her where he hid everything, and Neal refuses, saying “It”s the only leverage I”ve got.” Note that it”s not that he doesn”t trust her, but that he disagrees with her on strategy. More evidence against the idea that Kate has Neal wrapped around her little finger. He can disagree with her, and he does.Once again, we see that evil!Kate is a complete incompetent, because if she”s trying to manipulate him with this conversation, then she”s doing a terrible job. She”s very forthright and blunt, for one thing, telling him straight up that she wants to know where he hid his spoils. Also, if Neal doesn”t want to give up the information, wouldn”t it make sense to convince him to do so? Neal doesn”t want to lose his leverage, but he”d very likely change his tune if Kate told him her life was at stake. She says nothing of the sort. No, “He’s going to hurt me.” No, “I”m scared.” The only times she mentions danger is when she tells Neal it”s too dangerous for him to know what she knows.She plays minimally to his emotions as well. Other than saying she wants to come home, she doesn”t make emotional appeals. She doesn”t plead with him to trust her, she demands it. She doesn’t try anything like, “If you love me, you’ll do this.” She doesn”t tell him how much she misses him. She doesn”t even directly tell him that she loves him. She tells Mozzie and asks him to pass it on. Kate”s a con artist. Faking feelings is what she does. If she”s playing Neal, why not play up the love and fear to get him to cave? Ironically, the fact that Kate shows less emotion indicates that whatever she is feeling is more likely to be real.1×08: Hard SellThe big Kate and Peter scene. People judge Kate for pulling a gun on Peter. Except, she”s currently being held hostage by an FBI agent. Even if one believes that Kate is willing working with Fowler and Adler, Peter is still the guy who arrested her boyfriend and has now asked for a secret meeting. Of course she doesn”t trust him. Girl”s coming prepared.I believe this is Kate”s longest scene in season one, and yet it”s so hard to get a read on her. This is natural; her guard is going to be way up due to her relationship with Peter and the nature of this meeting with him. Not only that, but Peter is purposefully antagonizing her by not only wearing his FBI ring, but drawing attention to it. He’s not setting out to make her feel comfortable. Whatever Kate’s true feelings are, be they “I hate Neal and want him to die” or “Neal is the love of my life and I will never give up on him,” she”s not going to show Peter her hand. She doesn”t like Peter, but she has no reason to. The last time they saw each other, he was arresting her boyfriend. She claims that the music box is her price to leave Neal alone, which could feed into the idea that she doesn’t love Neal and really will leave him for a price, but we”ll learn later that Kate”s escape plan accounted for both her and Neal. It makes just as much sense to figure that she’s telling Peter what he’ll believe in order to get what she wants. She stays silent when Peter asks her if she ever loved Neal, but once again, whatever her motives, she has zero reason to answer that question. (It”s such a “When did you stop beating your wife?” question. It automatically presumes that she doesn”t love Neal now.)She does warn Peter “don”t push him.” (“He” is probably Fowler but could be Adler.) Is that genuine concern for Peter? Is she only thinking of how the splash back could affect Neal or her? Who knows? There’s really not enough to get a firm idea.Then we end the flash back, and Peter and Neal have a back and forth about Kate”s motives, but it doesn”t tell us anything new. Peter doesn”t trust Kate, Neal does, rinse, repeat.1×09: Bad Judgment This episode has a pertinent conversation between Neal and Mozzie:Mozzie: Your keeper and I actually agree on something. What if she”s working with Fowler?Neal: I need to talk to her. Then I”ll know.In his conversations with Peter, Neal refuses to address the idea that Kate might be working against him. With Mozzie, however, he doesn’t have the same knee jerk defensiveness. Mozzie is Neal’s oldest friend and his trusted confidant. It makes sense that he would be more honest. Once again, Neal is not unthinkingly in love with Kate. He makes the logical point that he should talk to Kate before condemning her. Neither Mozzie nor Peter has given Neal any real reason he should trust their guts over his own opinions, especially when he has no evidence of evildoing from Kate herself. A lot of people who believe in evil!Kate cite the fact that Mozzie and Peter don’t trust her, so therefore she was up to no good. Let’s examine that. Peter has spent a total of something like five minutes around her. The first time he saw her, he was arresting her boyfriend, and the second time, well, I described that scene in the “Hard Sell” portion of this essay. Peter, by his own actions, however justified, has never seen Kate at her best. And his arguments for why Kate is no good are vague. His line to Neal is, “I looked into her eyes and I did not see concern for you.” Really, that’s what he’s going with? He made eye contact during a time when Kate’s stress level and guard were both way up, and he thinks he knows her soul? Peter worries that going after Kate will lead Neal back to a life of crime. And like a good friend, he doesn’t like to see Neal sad or hurt. These emotions are going to bias Peter against Kate. As for Mozzie, one thing one needs to remember is that until about halfway through season three, Mozzie is very possessive of Neal. He doesn’t like it when Neal lets new people in his life. He certainly shows this with Peter, but also with Neal’s season three girlfriend Sara. Before Neal and Sara start dating, Mozzie likes Sara. In “Burke’s Seven,” he approvingly notes that she is, “a lady who colors outside the lines.” However, once Neal starts dating her, Mozzie becomes dismissive and insulting towards Sara, comparing her to a Barbie doll and the like. (And his Barbie doll comment is delivered in a very dismissive way.) Once Neal and Sara break up though, Mozzie remarks that he likes her. Mozzie doesn’t like Neal’s girlfriends. (Once again, up through the middle of season three.) He doesn’t like sharing Neal. So, no, the fact that Peter and Mozzie don’t trust Kate is not evidence of Kate’s ill intent. It’s evidence that Peter and Mozzie have their own issues and biases. 1×14: Out of the BoxThis is the first time we get any information on what Kate’s plan actually is. As Fowler described it, “Kate and I made a deal. You both get new identities. We get the box. You disappear. Legally.” At this point we have no particular reason to judge this as true over not true, but we’ll get more information later, and it’s worth noting the first time mention of Kate’s plan appears.This episode contains Elizabeth’s infamous line, “I think there”s a difference between loving the idea of someone and actually loving who they really are.” This has been used countless time to dismiss the Kate/Neal relationship. But let’s look at this line logically. Does Elizabeth know anything about Kate? Does she know anything about Kate and Neal’s relationship? Elizabeth has never met Kate, anything she knows, she got from Peter. This information is going to be incomplete, since Peter has no reason to exhaustively list everything Kate does, and filtered through Peter’s anti-Kate bias. Elizabeth is wise, but she’s not psychic. She doesn’t have any magical insight into Kate or the Kate/Neal relationship.And then the plane blows up, and Kate dies. Ironically, after Kate’s death, we’ll learn far more about her motivation and plans than we ever did when she was alive. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 2×02: Need to KnowIn this episode, Neal and Diana have a conversation about grief and loss. It’s here that Diana tells Neal, “I know you blame yourself for what happened to Kate. I blame myself for Charlie. But Charlie wouldn”t have wanted me to do that. He”d have wanted me to go on with my life. I didn”t know Kate, but I”d guess she”d want the same thing.”If people are going to take Elizabeth’s opinion from “Out of the Box” as factual, then there’s no reason not to view Diana’s opinion as just as valid. After all, neither Diana nor Elizabeth has ever met Kate, and everything they know, they no second hand. They’re equally informed. Now, normally, I would not actually argue that Diana’s statement proves anything about Kate’s motivations. But if people are going to use the opinions of characters who have never met Kate and don’t really know anything about her, then let’s be intellectually honest and acknowledge all of those opinions, including the one that doesn’t paint Kate in a bad light.2×06: In the RedThis is the episode where we hear Kate’s final phone call. Honestly, it’s too vague to give an insight into Kate’s motivation, but I’m including it for completeness sake. Kate: Hey, it”s me. Peter Burke is here. I don”t know why Burke”s here. Does this change the plan?Honestly, that tells us nothing about what Kate was planning, only that there was a plan. She called Adler, but it doesn’t tell us whether she called him as a partner, or a pawn who thought she was about to be free of him. So, that was unhelpful. 2×09: Point BlankThis episode! In which our questions are answered! Well, some of them. In this episode, Kate’ plans and motivations are actually revealed Fowler tells us a great deal of what we need to know. When he, Neal, and Peter are discussing Kate, Fowler looks at the very familiar picture of his hand on Kate’s shoulder and remarks, “She was signaling you with her ATM card that day, huh?” This is a little thing, but it’s worth noting, as it indicates that Kate was not Fowler’s willing partner. After all, if this was a plan that Fowler and Kate cooked up together, he would have known that was the plan, and he wouldn’t need to ask Neal. Now, I suppose one could argue that Kate and Adler were working together and leaving Fowler in the dark, but that doesn’t make any sense. If Kate was evil and trying to draw Neal in by signaling him, there’s no reason for Alder to keep that information from Fowler. It only undermines Adler’s attempts to get the music box, if his pawns have no clue what to expect. (Except when he’s killing them of course.) If you want to argue that Fowler is lying, I’ll get to that.Then, Fowler really gets to the meat of things: what was Kate planning. Here are the relevant bits of conversation (I’ve cut anything not related to Kate’s motives, but nothing relevant has been left out):Neal: Why”d you buy the explosives?Fowler: Oh, that was Kate”s idea. Fowler: Kate felt that no matter how far away you two got, you would never be safe, and I don”t think she was wrong. Neal: So, it was her idea to blow up the plane? Fowler: Yeah, you two bail out over the water. Boom.”Folks, that’s it. That was Kate’s plan. And it was one that fully included Neal. “You two.”There’s an obvious retort to this, and that’s that Fowler was lying. Bad guys sometimes do that. And we shouldn’t assume that everything a character says is true just because they said it. But saying, “this character is lying” is not an automatic end to an argument. It can’t be used to erase any piece of canon one doesn’t like, at least not if one wants to effectively argue one’s point. It has to make sense for the character to be lying. This means we have to ask why Fowler would lie. Why would he claim that Kate was on Neal’s side if she wasn’t? Telling Neal that Kate was using him would make Neal unhappy, but so what? Fowler has never shown any indication that he cares about Neal’s feelings enough to spare him the awful truth. Quite the opposite in fact. And after Neal puts the gun down, he has no power over Fowler. Fowler doesn’t gain any advantage by lying to Neal about this. The person who has power over Fowler is Peter, and Fowler isn’t going to sway Peter by presenting Kate in a positive light. Peter never trusted Kate, and at this point her motivations are meaningless to him. Fowler has no reason to lie, so claiming that he is would be a very poor argument. But what if Kate was lying? What if she told Fowler that she was going to help Neal but she wasn’t? I’d say that this argument is severely reaching, but I’ll address it. Once again, we have to ask why Kate would lie to Fowler. As noted, Fowler doesn’t care that much about Neal. He’s not going to refuse to ally with Kate if she’s not on Neal’s side, that doesn’t make any sense. He’s not going to object on moral grounds, not with everything he pulls. And we’re again looking at the fact that evil!Kate is stupid!Kate. Kate was going to fake her death by jumping out of a plane that was set to explode. That’s not something she would have had experience with. It would be plain idiotic for her to lie about the details. To claim that two people would be jumping when only one actually would be is just shooting herself in the foot. And it makes no sense for Kate to plan all this to rescue Neal only to plan to betray him after their escape. If she was planning that, she’d sell him out earlier. Fowler lying or Kate lying doesn’t make any sense. It’s simply more logical to figure that they were telling the truth.2×11: Forging BondsThe most Kate we ever get. It’s not everything I would have hoped for, but it does give us some information. In her first scene, she remarks to Neal “You”re here to cozy up to my boss.” I appreciate this line, because it presents Kate was someone who can see some of Neal’s motives. She recognizes his charm, but she isn’t bowled over by it. Add to this the lines where she tells Neal, “I”ve seen the seating chart, and you”re nowhere near . That”s your first challenge.” This opening scene presents Kate as someone with a degree of savvy even before she becomes a criminal.The development of the Kate/Neal romance is relevant to my interests, but not to this essay, so I’m skipping it. Let’s move on to Kate’s criminal career. We only see one small scene with Neal, Kate, and Mozzie running a con together, but it’s a fun one. And we see a certain degree of camaraderie between Kate and Mozzie, when Kate tells Mozzie he looks more handsome without his hairpiece, and Mozzie smiles. These two didn’t hate each other. Then we come to the big fight scene between Kate and Neal. I made the point earlier that this fight is important. Kate shows more concern about her relationship with Neal and his respect for her than she does about the big score. Also, this is not a scene in which Kate breaks up with Neal. She gets angry, and she turns away from him, but never does she say it’s over. It’s Neal who leaves her, by going to Copenhagen alone. (Seriously, Neal? You didn’t think that would make things worse with her?)Which brings us to the scene in which Neal is arrested. I have seen so much negativity about Kate in this scene. The idea seems to be that Kate’s hesitancy and body language prove that she didn’t love Neal, and therefore the only reason she could visit Neal in prison is to con him. This is a problem in the White Collar fandom. There’s an enormous amount of anger toward any woman character who shows negative emotions. Elizabeth and Sara get it too, but this is about Kate. Kate’s body language is tense and closed off. Of course it is! The guy she’s been specifically avoiding has just shown up out of the blue. This isn’t a welcome reunion for Kate. Why shouldn’t she be tense?And yet that’s not all there is too it. Whatever criticism Alexandra Daddario gets, her acting choices in this scene are good. She plays Kate as very much conflicted. She smiles as soon as she hears Neal’s voice. And while her “I believe you “ after Neal tells her he never lied about loving her is flat, when she turns around and says, “I love you too,” she’s smiling and her voice is so choked up it almost breaks. This is not a woman who’s not feeling anything, and this is not a woman who is only angry.I’ve seen people express bafflement that Kate could be angry with Neal in this scene and still visit him in prison for any reason other than to con him. I’ll admit I just don’t get said bafflement. As noted, Kate’s not only angry at him. Also, is it so hard to believe that she could be angry with him, and then not angry (or as angry) later? Or that she could be angry at him, but not angry enough to leave him to rot in prison alone? There is no evidence in canon that these possibilities are true, but there’s no evidence that they’re not true. These are rational, likely human reactions. It is not stretching canon to suppose they might be true. And they make just as much sense, if not more so, as, “If you’re angry at someone once, you’ll never want to support them ever.”It’s actually hard for me to address criticism of Kate in this scene, because I have never been sure of exactly what the critics want. Do they think Kate’s a bad person because she didn’t throw herself into Neal’s arms as soon as she saw him? See above paragraph. Kate’s allowed to have feelings, even ones that aren’t Neal positive. Or do they think she should have done something different when the FBI burst in? If that’s the case, what should she have done? Throw herself between Neal and the FBI? That wouldn’t have accomplished anything. Kate making a scene would only have increased the likelihood of her getting arrested. And nothing would make Neal’s bad day worse than seeing the woman he loves getting taken away with him. Not to mention that Neal doesn’t want Kate to get involved. When the FBI shows up, he moves her back towards the wall and out of the way. He doesn’t want her to get into trouble. And if Kate doesn’t want to be arrested, is that so awful? As stated, there’s nothing she can do to help Neal. Isn’t Kate allowed to be concerned with her own safety? This last scene tells us a lot about Kate, but it’s not what people usually assume.2×16: Under the RadarOnly two scenes that mention Kate, and both times the information comes from Adler. After Neal accuses Adler of killing Kate, Adler says, “No, Neal. You did. You changed her. The Kate I knew would still be alive.” This such a tantalizing line, and yet it doesn’t give us any insight. It could mean nearly anything. It could mean that Kate used to be ruthless and only out for herself, and Neal made her concerned for someone else. It could mean that Kate used to be the type of person who kept her head down, and Neal made her into someone who takes risks. It could simply mean that the old Kate never would have committed crimes. It’s an enticing line for Kate fans, but it doesn’t do much good for the purpose of this essay.Adler’s other relevant line is, “The explosives on the plane were idea. You parachute out over the ocean, the plane explodes, you live happily ever after.” This matches exactly with Fowler’s version of events. Adler would not lie to make Neal feel better. He might want Neal’s good will at that moment, but he would realize that he murdered Neal’s girlfriend, and Neal’s not going to feel warm and fuzzy toward him. He can’t get any really advantage there. And even if we do assume that Adler was lying about Kate, we still have to explain why his story matches with Fowler’s. We could come up with a convoluted idea that for whatever reason Adler planned for this exact situation and rehearsed it with Fowler, or that he grabbed Fowler after “Point Blank” to figure out what lie he told, because he somehow knew that Fowler that had lied, but not what he said. We could do that ,but I’m a fan of Occam’s razor. Occams’s razor states, “among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected.” Which requires fewer assumptions: that after Kate’s death Adler and Fowler got together and decided to lie about Kate’s feelings to deal with a very specific, strange situation, or that Adler and Fowler’s stories match because they’re telling the truth, and they’re telling the truth because they have no reason not to? And, really, even if one wanted to insist that, yes, Adler and Fowler were both lying, there’s still every other bit of evidence I’ve documented. That’s the thing. Even if one disregards one of my arguments, there are still the rest to contend with. For Kate to be evil we need somehow-matching-stories-and-lying-Adler-and-Fowler. We need stupid!Kate. We need stupid!Neal. We have to ignore every time Neal doesn’t automatically do as Kate wants. We have to ignore every time he questions her. We have to deny rational and understandable human decisions. We have to ignore and deny a whole lot. Or maybe we could save ourselves all that brain twisting and figure that Kate was in fact on Neal’s side, that this isn’t impossible to figure out, and while Kate remains enigmatic, she’s not so enigmatic that we know nothing about her or what she wanted. For obvious reasons, I recommend this last course of action.This entry was originally posted at https://nadechworld.com.dreamwidth.org/359452.html. Please consider commenting there.

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