Empire City - Recap

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The episode begins by dispensing with the business of the skyline key. No one knows what it maps to and no one seems to be able to figure it out. Neal on his part doesn’t want Peter involved in it, and Peter theorizes that Neal may be using it as part of a heist or a scam, which is why he is keeping things from him. But it doesn’t matter for long because Mozzie is about to bring Peter a case, from the looks of it. Turns out, someone is selling counterfeit taxi medallions in New York. Apparently, Mozzie has legally bought and paid for a taxi medallion. He’s using it to prod his fares for tips about possible places to loot. But it turns out, someone is illegally using Mozzie’s medallion number, and he’s not happy about it.

Peter gets pulled into it, and during a conversation about the incident, they all realize the magnitude of the scam and decide to look into it. Peter and Neal go to the cab company that the illegal taxi was registered to. They scam their way into the office of the owner, and get copies of the taxi fare logs, so they can find the information they need. With a little research into the taxi stops, they find a connection to The Cotton Club, which might just be the source of the scam. Peter and Neal pose as a label rep and talent agent and manage to get a foot in the door with one of the co-owners of the Cotton Club. They get an EP audition for June, and they also get pictures of the club’s record books, while they are at it.

Peter, Mozzie and Neal meet later at Peter’s to discuss their next steps. They decide they need a person on the inside, so they can be kept in the loop about the goings on in the club, the whole time. Diana as a result gets herself hired as a cigar girl at the Cotton Club. While Diana is undercover, she has the opportunity to hear bits of a conversation between the brothers who own the club, and finds out that one of the brothers Angelo is complicit. She decides to take a look at the safe that contains a briefcase that’s to be exchanged, and finds out that one of the brothers is still in the office. Caught in a place she doesn’t belong, she thinks on her feet and expresses her irresistible desire to peruse the owner’s legendary vinyl collection.

The owner seems to buy her premise and this then leads to a conversation about Jazz music and Jazz singers. She holds up her end of a conversation about old Jazz greats with the owner of The Cotton Club, and apparently does it quite proficiently. Back at the FBI office, they decide that while one brother is complicit, the other brother Delman is not. Delman has no desire to be anything but above-board, and he never knew what was in the briefcases that were sold. So the plan is hatched keeping this in mind. As a part of the plan the team is swapping the genuine medallion with a “melting medallion”. They put the voice-recognition pattern that opens the safe on the left channel of a vinyl recording by June Ellington.

Neal and Mozzie make the products of the scam. Mozzie is apparently adept at the craft of sound recording, and somewhere in mansion of June’s, there’s a sound-proofed studio. The album comes back from the printers and Neal is ready to take the EP to the club, to demo for one of the owners. Finally, the plan can be put into implementation, now that everything is in place. For it to work though, the cab company owner has to come and buy another counterfeit medallion, and the dishonest brother has to be there to complete the sting. Its opening night and June is onstage, about to sing. But first, there’s a problem: the cab company owner is coming to the club while Neal is just getting started on the switch and will therefore need more time.

Before Delman can go to the office to get the briefcase for the swap, they have to stall for more time. First Jones tries a stall, and then Elizabeth comes up with a killer last-minute fix and tells Delman not to leave. She basically tells him, June Ellington is going to dedicate her first song to him, which is excuse enough for him to stay a little longer. Jones overhears what Elizabeth has said and writes a note, throws June a few hand signals to stall, June requests some water from the stage, Jones hands Diana the note, Diana grabs a glass of water and delivers it with the note to June thus conveying the message, and June dedicates the song to Delman, just in the nick of time.

Neal in the meantime switches the audio to the left channel, plays the vocal password, and the safe pops open, just as expected. Delman in the meantime hangs around to listen to June for a few minutes and then excuses himself to go to his office. Since Neal isn’t done yet, one more stall is needed by Diana in order for the job to get done successfully. Diana delays Delman in the hallway outside his office with congratulations and nostalgia. This in turn helps buy some more time and allows Neal to complete his task successfully. Neal then climbs out of Delman’s office through an impossibly high, impossibly small window and into the humidor. “Clockwork?” asks Peter, when Neal returns. “Nope” replies Neal. “Skin of our teeth” he adds, explaining how close they had come, to being discovered.

The rest of the plan goes off without a hitch to the sound of June singing “Some of These Days”. In other words, the criminal brother returns in time to be implicated in the illegal sale, the love of brothers is affirmed and the sting is successfully over with. Later at Neal’s apartment, Neal is shown puzzling over the key. He is still doing all he can to figure out its mystery. From the last case, he puts together something crucial though. He figures out that the vantage point of the key would be something that was relevant to him, not to Ellen. Like Delman wanting to get his old life back when he got out of prison; Ellen too had thought Neal would go back to his old life before he was caught.

As he and Mozzie drive to a pier where he used to sit before he was arrested, counting the days left of his freedom; they don’t realize that Peter is watching his movements remotely. Peter too is trying to figure out the mystery of the key. Peter then has the same realization that Neal had, and finds a picture of the cityscape from the pier, from an old flyer he’d had in his box of unfiled Caffrey evidence. Peter and Neal, each holding the key up to a skyline, realize the same thing. Basically, Ellen was leading Neal to the Empire State Building, for some reason. The episode ends at this point.