Hunks of Burning Flesh, Part 2: The Husband

When was the last time we saw a man come home from work to have dinner with a cheerful wife? Which television wives resist the temptation to nag their husbands for going back to work (again) after dinner and instead see him out the door with a hug and kiss goodbye? What man escapes the ever-present war between wife and work? What woman understands that she cannot always come first, and is able to be loving and affectionate anyway?

For one: Elizabeth Burke in White Collar.

Peter (Tim DeKay) & Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen)

Elizabeth is married to FBI Special Agent Peter Burke who has his hands full chasing criminals and keeping track of one he already caught—Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer). This ex-con holds Leading Man status for his own set of reasons: bravado, charm, intelligence, style. But it is Peter who stole my heart from the very first episode and whose character has carried the show, especially in the latest season. But how can this be?

I mean, Matt Bomer is basically a god. In fact, I am pretty sure that phrase is his contract: Matt Bomer (henceforth Mr. Bomer) shall play Neal Caffrey, and Mr. Bomer‘s previously mentioned status as basically a god will feature heavily in his wardrobe, makeup, dialogue, action scenes, non-action scenes, and scenes in which he is not present, if any should occur. N.B. They should not.

Basically a god.

Sure, Peter is handsome. But how dare I hold him up to Neal? How dare I suggest that he might be (gasp) better?

I’ll tell you why.

1. He is humble. (CB says: “He is hot without being flashy.”)

Peter knows that he is a damn fine FBI agent, but aside from that he is a regular guy. He likes beer. He takes his dog for walks. He learns about things that interest him, like astronomy. He married a woman he loved and still loves her. He doesn’t assume that all women will be attracted to him (which may or may not be another clause in Matt Bomer’s contract).

He goes undercover like a boss.

Elizabeth: You’re playing Piece of Meat #2. You’re going to flirt—
Peter: Talk. I’m going to talk to them.
Elizabeth: and then you’re going to walk across the stage while these women are bidding on you.
Peter: Elle, my chances of being picked are slim to none between Neal and—
Elizabeth: Wait. Hold on. Your chances are not slim. Honey, look at you.
Peter: I’m holding poop.
Elizabeth: And you look damn sexy doing it. You know what?
Peter: What.
Elizabeth: You’re going to win this thing.

And he does. (N.B. That female is not Ellie.)

And he does. (That female is not Ellie.)

2. He loves his woman. (CB says: “I could see myself coming home to someone like him.”)

Aside from work and his bromance with Neal (it had to be said), the focus and jewel of Peter’s life is the beautiful event-planning Elizabeth. He enjoys being with her and would prefer to never leave, but he honors his obligations. And she understands.

When he agrees to go undercover at a bachelor auction, his first thought is Ellie. “Are you scared to tell Elizabeth?” Neal asks.


But she takes it in stride, and even helps with prep. (When asked what he does? “That’s boring. Let’s talk about you.” When asked why he is still single? “I haven’t met the right woman.”)

Elizabeth: And who might this “right woman” be?
Peter: Oh, well, she’s about five-foot-five, brunette, most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen, smart as a whip and gorgeous as hell.
Elizabeth: Perfect.

And they are.

3. He wins when it counts. (CB says: “He doesn’t have to constantly do amazing cool and hot things.”)

He goes into the auction telling himself to maintain eye contact, and remember it’s a conversation, not an interrogation.

Surprisingly, this does not work well.

Peter: Where were you before New York?
Bachelorette: Cleveland.
Peter: Fascinating. Tell me more about… Cleveland.
Bachelorette: It’s in Ohio?

Uncomfortable laughter.

He makes the rounds in similarly awkward fashion, until he comes to the woman under investigation: a drop-dead gorgeous chick whose last six husbands have mysteriously died shortly after the honeymoon. And then he nails it.


But… also literally.

Seleena (i.e. potential murderess): So why are you here, Peter?
Peter: To find someone special.
(The potential murderess is not impressed.)
Peter: But most of these women are only interested in small talk, so…
Seleena: Well, what are you interested in?
Peter: Being caught off guard. Having a conversation that goes beyond the what-do-you-do and where-are-you-from. Seleena, there are a lot of nice guys here. I truly hope you find the one you’re waiting for.

She bids $15,000 right off the bat.

4. He can tango. (CB says: “But sometimes he does amazingly cool and hot things.”)



“Peter! There are certain things you cannot recover from!” Neal warns from his perch in the surveillance van.

“I can handle this,” Peter growls.

The music starts.

“I don’t hear any screaming?” Neal is dumbfounded.

“Remind me to thank Elle for the dance lessons.”

5. He brings Ellie in on cases. (CB says: “He wants her at home and on the job.”)

She helped Peter figure out a treasure map will. She threw a life-or-death last-minute birthday party. She taught him how to flirt. And now she’s planning his wedding.

Elizabeth: Look at you two! Peter, you didn’t tell me she was so beautiful.
Seleena: Thank you.
Elizabeth: You’re so welcome.


In a nutshell, he loves his woman and he shares his life with her. What more could we ask?

6. Oh. That he’s a hopeless romantic.

At the end of all of this fake flirting (on the part of Peter) and real jealousy (on the part of Ellie), Peter does a bit of fenagling to rearrange the wedding Ellie planned for him and the Black Widow into a re-wedding ceremony for himself and his beautiful wife. What a testament to his till-death-do-us-part love, and what better reassurance for a woman who just had to watch her husband be with another lady?

“I’m sorry for what you went through on this one,” he says. “So, to make it up to you, I’m giving you the wedding you always wanted. Small. Simple. Just us.”

He gets down on one knee.

“Will you marry me—again?”

And she says, “Yes. As many times as you ask.”

THIS, people. THIS is why Peter Burke is a Leading Man. He’s a good husband, and he’s a good man. And that’s what we want to come home to.

Even if it is just on our TV screens.



  1. So, all examples from one episode? ;p Peter definitely Is a better husband material, but Leading Man? Oh no. They do try to show Matt Bomer’s Godly features and status in every episode, but that is because he HAS all those charisma in him and CAN do otherworldly things effortlessly. He can attract and distract any viewer to a point where people forget to notice or care about all the plot holes and/or even story lines. And this is exactly what a Leading Man should able to do. To be honest, most of the people watch WC to watch Neal Caffrey, the Extraordinary Conman (who has a heart of gold despite all his crimes and has no reason to be humble or subdued- it’s difficult to suppress this much talent & beauty!). And to most of us, Neal Caffrey is not just the leading man of the show, he IS the show. The bromance is great, but all the story arcs, all the characters and all the excitements simply just revolve around him. And Season 3 is the prime example of all these facts.
    Since beauty lies in the eyes of it’s beholder and every person has his/her own opinion, It is pointless to argue who is better between Neal and Peter. But I will tell you why I don’t find Peter likable most of the times. He can’t take any joke about him easily. He always make cruel jokes about Neal (the prison joke in Taking Account was just tasteless), but when Neal tries to joke, he just simply threaten him to throw back in prison. He can seat on Neal’s sofa with a sweaty body, can disturb his peace, can take control over his TV, can commandeer his dates, always interfere in his personal life, but Neal, poor Neal, can’t even participate in breakfast at Burke’s household without snide comments and displeasure from Peter. It’s like Peter has double standards. He is always talking about being friends, but never really act like one. He wasn’t at all sympathetic to Neal in Kate issues, which is strange since he is a man who knows what love is and how important it is to have your loved one in your life & keep them safe. Since Keller kidnapped Elizabeth, I do hope now he will understand how Neal felt. He won’t though- he will just lounge at Neal’s throat. In whole season 3, these negative sides of Peter just increased. Neal is the conman, the bad guy here. We expect him to do wrong things, to make faulty decisions. But Peter is supposed to the good guy! Every wrong moves from him seems like a betrayal.
    Back on topic- Peter IS the regular guy and he is humble, cause he has nothing to be flashy. He doesn’t constantly do amazing things cause he is not that amazing or talented, doesn’t flirt with everyone cause he can’t flirt, can’t charm everyone cause he is not really charming. He is a pretty serious kind of guy. And I don’t want the Leading Man of my fav show to be serious and boring. I will take Neal over him any day.

  2. I really do not know where these people make the assumption that ‘most’ people only watch WC for Neal Caffrey.For myself and my friends, we are watching for Peter Burke; if he ever leaves, we will be gone too. I would not be so vain as to assume I speak for ‘most’ people but I will say shows featuring the teen hunk idol of the moment do not interest me and I usually do not watch them. It was the unlikely partnership of these two that drew me and it was Peter Burke, refreshingly normal, honest and likable that kept me tuned in. The Peter-Elizabeth moments are the highlight of the show now days, especially in third season when the partnership has now been demoted to secondary status, because WC is now the show STARRING MATT BOMER. In this season, Neal has betrayed all of his friends, broke into Peter’s house and enabled his psychotic ex partner to kidnap Peter’s wife. So naturally, it is all Peter’s fault, in fangirl logic!

    Peter Burke as a leading man? Yes, yes, YES! He is the thinking woman’s hunk. And I would take him any day over surface glitz and glamour.

  3. Hmm…I won’t go into that Who is the main attraction of WC, but to be honest, I never understood the appeal of Peter-El scenes. They are pretty ordinary, aren’t they? I mean, every couple around me acts just like them. My parents, all my uncle-aunts, my sister & her husband, mu cousins, my friends and so on. Almost all of them are busy individuals with their career & job, but at the same time are happily married, have children, great homemakers and loves each other dearly. So, when I see Peter on screen he doesn’t really interest me. On the other hand, the otherworldly Neal Caffrey is someone I enjoy to watch immensely. Well, you don’t see someone like him around you often (if ever), do you? I think most of the fans do watch White Collar for Neal, otherwise why on earth ALL the WC promotions, posters, billboards only focus on him? Seems like USA Network believes this theory too. If you go to the WC official forum, you will see, 80% of the discussions and chatters are about Neal. I follow Jeff E. on twitter and honestly, even he loves to talk about Neal and his antics most. My 54 out of 56 WC watching twitter friends watch the show only to see Neal. So, yeah, it do seem like WC is a “Neal C.” show.
    But saying Peter is the thinking woman’s hunk is really unfair. Women (or men) who love Neal are very much capable of thinking and love him not only because of his looks and charisma, also because the character he is. Blaming Neal for everything bad happened in season 3 is also a result of fangirl logic. I think, Neal, Peter and Mozzie are equally responsible for the mess they created in S3 (well, Mozz is leading the pack). Hope everything turns out fine.
    FYI, Matt Bomer is NOT a teen idol, he is not Robert Pattinson. Me and all of WC lover friends are well over 30 and we love Matt anyway.

  4. That was a great article on Peter and veiled threat. Tim DeKays talents shined throughout this episode. Thank god they hired him to play peter I see no other actor who shines in the role. Sorry that makes me laugh that people call the show Neal caffrey show last checked it’s Neal and peters show, USA have not bought that clue.

  5. This show shines because of the bromance. Take away Peter Burke and all you have is another repetitive, dull, “hot guy of the moment” series. I tune in to see Peter Burke! He captures every scene. His honesty, kindness, humility and even humorous foibles capture the audience.

    What a man! What a wonderful show! Well written with captivating characters. Peter is one true hunk.

  6. peter had my heart from ep one on hes just such a great character and Tim dekay is just so great as him that it works. Matt is the pretty boy and smooth but so is peter

  7. I don’t agree that Peter is humble. In the contrary- IMO he is very full of himself and arrogant. I also agree with one posters who said that Peter is a hypocrite and has double standards. I liked Peter in Season 1, but now he just irritates me. They should pair him up with Sara, they would make the most annoying couple on the earth, we could watch them smirk together through all of their scenes

  8. Seems that afsu, agnila and ania are all the same person! I mean “otherworldly” used twice by two people … hmm

    You can’t enjoy the show without tearing one of the leading men down? Very sad. Why don’t you take an example from Matt and Tim — they are good friends who compliment each other!

  9. Hmm…wondering what exactly made you think Agnila, ania & I are the same person. Just because our names start with the same letter & we have same kind of feelings toward the Peter character don’t make us the same person. You understand that, right? Or is it too hard to believe many people actually don’t like Peter much or don’t find him attractive? ‘Otherworldly’ is a very appropriate word for describing Neal Caffrey, no wonder people use it often.
    I made my earlier comment on December 2011, while ania made her comment, what, 2 days ago? Why would I come back to comment again? I already expressed what I felt about Peter in my detailed comment. If you feel pointing out the downside of a character means “tearing them down”, then I’ve nothing to say. I just can’t believe you expected everyone to have the same opinion as you do on peter. And what was that about Tim & Matt? Nobody said anything about Tim Dekay, the actor (who is very talented). We were talking about Peter, the character, remember?

    1. Hmm..looks like I myself helping you guys to believe Afsu & I are the same person. Well, I’m saying it again, I’m NOT Afsu or ania. I’m Agnila, alright? And I don’t agree with ania about what she said about Peter & Sara. I have npthing against Sara or Peter. I just don’t find peter Burke a leading man material.

  10. Bethel
    You can’t understand that to some people the character of Peter might not be appealing?
    He has many flaws. Some people might find attractive a guy who takes monster bites of a sandwich and watch the crumbs fly from their mouths as they talk while sitting in sweaty sweats drinking beer in front of a game on TV. I don’t. I think he has many flaws and there is nothing special about him. Even his marriage works mostly thanks to Elizabeth and her understanding nature. Maybe, I could digest his behaviour more if he got off his high horse, but right now I am more of a fan of Mozzie and Neal than Neal and Peter. As Mozzie is the second best liked character after Neal- I would say that is quite a popular opinion.
    My post is not intended to offend anyone, just my opinion on the character.

    1. Seriously? One has a problem with a guy who sits on the couch in sweaty clothes and crumbs falling from their mouth when talking but no problem at all with a guy who lies to everyone and steals anything that takes his fancy? I mean, if you want to talk flaws?
      However, I do like Peter and I really don’t think I’m the only fan of his in the world but if I am, that’s fine too. I’m sorry if it offends somebody that I like Peter the best but I find the character fascinating and a wonderful change of pace from all the angst ridden ‘flawed’ characters that populate the television landscape. To me, Peter Burke is a breath of fresh air.

  11. Totally agree with Lynne you want pretty boys like Neal you can have him. I like a man who can drink beer and watch games and always remembers his wifes anniversary. And even those special moments. I like when the writers give us more and more background into Peter its nice to see. Peter is a different kind of FBI he is smart and respected by those above him and also by his collegues. And I like his relationship with Neal good or bad he reaches out to Neal. And he has even taken to Moz also. So again not sure why people have a problem with Peter he is an all around nice guy. Heck if weren’t for el i would marry him in a heartbeat 🙂

  12. I don’t have an issue with Neal’s morals. To be honest I like him more as a conman and badboy than when he behaves like a good citizen. It makes him complicated, interesting and exciting- exactly what a leading man should be.
    I suppose that the suggestion that people like Neal because he is “pretty” was ment to offend his fans and is not serious, how can it be?if someone likes a character it must be because of the actor?what a juvenile thing to say and an utter nonsense.
    Once again IMO Peter is far from perfect. He is prideful, sanctimonius hipocryte on a huge ego trip who DOESN’T remember his wedding anniversary(remember the pilot and conversation between Neal and Peter in a car?). As I said earlier his marriage works mostly thanks to Elizabeth, she is loyal, accepts everything, doesn’t ask for much. I am sure Peter loves her the most in the world and would do anything for her, but that happens in every happy marriage. They are a pair of boring conformists and I dont find their tedious conversations worth watching. I can’t even start to imagine what would the spin off about them look like.
    As for Peter helping Neal. Neal almost sacrified his life for Peter, he gave up two fortunes for him, he boosts his clearance rate by endengering himself on a daily basis( before You say this is why he is out of prison- it is not, he is there to consult not to be send undercover on Peter’s whim, like in “Unfinished Business”where he was almost killed by Sara) and while Peter certainly cares for him, he hasn’t been that good of a friend to Neal- he didn’t listen when Neal said that Kate was in trouble and then she died, he sidelined Neal during the investigation about her, and targeted him for the whole third season with a smile on his face.
    I am not saying Neal is perfect- far from it, but saying that Peter is, is kind of silly.

    Lynne. if You like Peter that is fine, to each their own.
    I wouldn’t even post here(a clearly place for Peter’s fans) if it was an article only about Peter, and article and some comments wouldnt diminsh Neal’s character and his fans. I find that rude and uncalled for, hence the reason for my posts

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