WhiteCollar-Peter El kiss

Peter Burke: giant romantic doof

I just reblogged a thing on Tumblr (SPOILER ALERT: contains a spoiler for 6x03 - pretty minor if you've seen 6x01, very spoilery otherwise). This launched me down a chain of rambling White Collar musings which eventually ended in the thought that when the Burkes arrange some kind of relationship-related getaway/date night/etc. on the show, it's often Peter's idea.

And then I thought, wow, it's kind of always Peter's idea, isn't it?

In fanfic, people usually have Elizabeth being the one who's socially clued in -- the one who invites people over, the one who comes up with romantic getaways, etc, while Peter is just kind of a stereotypical guy about the whole thing, and expresses his feelings for his loved ones mainly by trying to protect them. Which is by no means wholly without basis in the show, especially the part where Peter and Neal couldn't be more terrible at communicating with each other if they tried. But looking back over previous seasons and Peter's behavior when it comes to taking care of people he cares about, he's actually kind of a huge sentimental soft touch (and not exclusively with Elizabeth, either).

I mean, look at the evidence:

- Peter spends most of 1x01 trying to come up with an extra-special gift for his and El's anniversary, and the trip + the entire doofy-romantic rooftop proposal was his idea (albeit with Neal's suggestion having sent him on the right track).
- He springs a romantic dinner on El in 1x10 as an apology for flirting on a case.
- Peter is the one who suggests their "date night" in 2x07 (and goes home early to do the cooking); then when things don't go as planned, he tries to fix it later.
- Renewing his and El's vows in 3x05 was his idea, based on nothing more than an offhand comment El made.
- He spends most of 3x14 trying to come up with something special to do for her birthday (and eventually does).
- Getting away from the city for a romantic getaway in 4x14 is his idea, by way of making it up to her for the stress she's been under because of his investigation of Pratt.
- He takes her ice skating in 5x0something for similar reasons to the romantic dinner in 1x10, to reassure her about the state of their relationship.

What's kind of striking about this is that I can't actually think of an instance when Elizabeth has been the instigator of something like that (although if anyone else can come up with something ...?). Not that I'm saying Elizabeth is less invested in the marriage than Peter is, by any means. It's just that most (all?) of the instances on the show of the two of them doing something couply are usually Peter's idea, often responding to fairly subtle emotional cues indicating what she needs/wants.

And it's not just with Elizabeth; there's also things like:
- Peter inviting/ordering Neal and Sara home for dinner in 2x16 (and similarly, bringing Neal to dinner in season five to talk about the Rebecca situation)
- Giving Neal coffee as an apology in 4x10 and 5x01
- Remembering the date he arrested Neal as their "anniversary"
- Noticing that Neal is struggling after Kate's death, and going to Mozzie to talk about it
- And 2x07, mentioned above as a Peter + Elizabeth episode, also has Peter very subtly thanking the people who helped him by doing nice things for them - returning Mozzie's broken rake and asking Bancroft to take Neal to the gallery exhibit. (I am pretty much 100% sure Peter asked him, though we don't hear it, but we see that little exchange between them with Peter gesturing to indicate Neal's anklet.)

... and of course nearly every episode includes scenes between them that tend to waffle back and forth across the line between "protecting" and "stalking"; I'm mostly ignoring that. XD It's more the subtle emotional stuff that I'm thinking of -- the times when Peter notices or infers that something's up and then takes steps to fix/help/do something nice for somebody. Which he actually does A LOT.

But in fanfic, this role tends to be given over to Elizabeth -- and it's not completely unfair, Elizabeth does do a lot of things like that too, and in her case it's more overt (making muffin baskets for people and so forth), so it's more obviously a part of her characterization. And Peter himself also downplays that aspect of his character, especially with Elizabeth; he seems to spend a lot of time fretting about not being romantic enough, or not being able to give her nice things. But if you actually look at what he does rather than what he says, it's a different picture ...


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wow, it's kind of always Peter's idea, isn't it?
Wow, it is indeed! I never really noticed it until how, but you're right, almost everything romantic Peter & El romantic did on the show was Peter's idea. So, does it means that Peter is really the romantic one in this marriage? Wow. Kind of weird to realize it after 5 years:-D (I kinda remember Phil and Claire from Modern Family:)

In consclusion: Peter! ♥ ♥ ♥
I know! I had never noticed it either, 'til I started thinking about it and realized that I can't think of a single time on the show when it wasn't his idea. (And I spend a lot of time thinking about Peter!)

I think it's easy to take what Peter says about himself at face value, and he seems to believe that he isn't romantic, but his actions tell a different story.
I am so glad you pointed out in the pilot with the rooftop thing. People act like he has no clue at all, but while Neal gave him a bit of a nudge, it was clearly Peter's idea. I always felt he's more romantic than he gave himself credit for.
I know - he really is much better at it than he thinks he is!

I think both Peter and Neal are an interesting mix of ego and insecurity. Peter is clearly confident to the point of straight-up ego in some areas, but in others (his relationships with people, mostly) he tends to sell himself short.
I am so glad you pointed out. He seems to hate it when Elizabeth is unhappy,
Yes! He tries so hard to figure out what would make her happy and then do that.
I'd never really noticed that, but you're right! Must remember this next time I write fanfic that touches on their relationship - well, as much as a gen fic might! :)
You know, I had a feeling it was yours. I must have credited it incorrectly - will go fix now. Sorry :(
heeee Oh Peter...
Thanks for using them! :-) It always makes me smile to see my icons around.
I have never noticed that before. That's brilliant. I can't believe I've never seen it before. Would you mind terribly if I use this in a fic?
Oh, by all means - I'd love to see that in a fic! I had never noticed it either, 'til I started thinking about it last night.
This is one of the many things I like about Peter. It's important to him that Elizabeth be happy. He *always* makes it up to her. He never takes for granted she'll forgive him and love him. He puts a lot of effort in his relationship.
No wonder why El is so attached to him. ;-)
And it doesn't matter if El is being unreasonable (like with Jill), what matters is how she feels.
And Peter won't let go until he's sure she's good with whatever is the situation (one of the S5 deleted scene is really telling in that regard. Another exemple is the bed scene in Quantico Closure, where he asks if she understands, and he takes her in his arms, even if she's mad at him)

Although, I think part of the fact that it always seems to be Peter is that we mostly see their relationships from Peter's POV. Peter is the character that matters, in term of show. So, they're showing Peter's actions more than El's. But I do believe El is the same.

The iceskating episode is Ice Breaker, 5x06 ;-)
Yeah, and as was brought up below, the romantic gestures aren't really something that comes naturally to him, in the same way that Neal really enjoys planning that stuff -- Peter is doing it because it makes Elizabeth happy. Like you said, he pays a lot of attention to her state of mind, and if she's unhappy, he tries to fix things.

And yeah, I agree that we mostly see Peter planning/doing these things because the show is from Peter and Neal's viewpoint, so other people aren't usually the driving force of the plot. It's reasonable to assume that she does a lot of the same kind of things he does, just off-camera -- and we've seen it a few times, like her regret over the fight when he was kidnapped, or El conspiring with Neal to keep him safe during the Pratt thing.
also, she bought him cute socks!

Oh, and there's this adorable deleted scene from 5x01 that shows that she knows exactly how to comfort her "steack and potatoes" husband
https://vimeo.com/111377058

And by the way, she did send Mozzie to make sure Peter would eat properly while she was in DC.

So she definitely does those things too. We're just seeing Peter's brainstorming, while not spending much time with El.

And you're right, Peter doesn't really enjoy the planning and he always struggles to find good ideas, but to him it's seeing El happy that he likes.

AHAHAHA! As Brilliant Husband says, "Satch may be a good dog, but—they're going out to dinner." The camera even lingers on the uncovered steaks lying there! Is that meant to be a joke, or does the director not know anything about pets?

I love that scene. That's adorable. They're so wrapped up in each other that they both forget the steaks.
Heee well, after 6 weeks apart, I'm pretty sure that steak doesn't matter that much ;-)
Well, I'd say Peter isn't naturally "gifted" when it comes to thinking of the romantic gestures and such, but at the same time, he knows this stuff matters and so he puts a lot of effort into it - and that perhaps makes it matter even more. Because Peter wants to give El the perfect gift/holiday/moment, and so he breaks his brain trying to find the right way - and then he usually does.

So that makes Peter not so great at romance (when compared to Neal, for example) but at the same time it actually makes him truly romantic. Does that make sense?

Either way, despite some of his flaws, Peter truly is a great husband, a good team leader and a good friend, mostly because he cares for his people and wants to see them happy. He really is a good guy.
Yeah, I definitely agree with this -- that it's not something that comes naturally to him (the romantic gestures and whatnot) but it's more driven by a desire to make his loved ones happy. Whereas Neal actually gets into planning all the little details of it, Peter's mostly doing it for Elizabeth's benefit (not that he doesn't have fun with the details sometimes, like trying to hide from her where they're going on their trip in 4x14). Which is basically the definition of being romantic, at least one definition ...

Edited at 2014-11-13 06:31 pm (UTC)
mostly because he cares for his people and wants to see them happy. He really is a good guy.
Yes you nailed it here! He just want everyone around him to be happy.
It's true with El, of course, but with Neal too.
Like when he was pushing for Neal/Sara. Or even at the end of S5 when he vouched for Neal's commutation. He did say he had reservation whether Neal was ready, but Neal had earned it, and he wanted to make Neal happy. He so wants Neal to succeed and be happy.
Show don't tell, as they say :D And you know, it totally makes sense that he's a guy who sees an issue of an emotional or romantic nature and does something about it. He's an FBI agent, and a good one, even considered one of the best. And he wouldn't be the best if he didn't notice things on an emotional level as well.
Yeah, it's interesting because it's not just show-don't-tell, but what the character says about themselves going completely counter to what their actions actually display. *makes mental note*
Thanks for pointing out the evidence. It's easily missed ...
What I love to observe about Peter are his traits as a gentleman. Opening doors for others, speaking with respect, giving up his suit jacket for Pierce in Home Invasion, and trying to do the right thing for the ladies.
He is a kind and considerate man.
You're right! I've been taking Peter's word for it, but he's not clueless. He loves Elizabeth to pieces, and he shows her.

At the same time, I bet she's doing things that we don't see because we don't see a whole lot of their everyday lives.
I've always noticed that Peter is the more romantic of the two, and despite how stern he can be, I suspect he's a bit of a soft touch. Look how lenient he can be with Neal.

As for the spoiler, I think it'll be interesting to see how they play it out. If she's just pondering aloud to say, Mozzie or June, it wouldn't surprise me. A baby, especially one that seems so unexpected, is going to bring out all kinds of doubts and insecurities.