R2R Flashback: Example from White Collar (USA) Check Washing Using Benzene


I thought it might be fun to highlight an example of real science used in TV show (even though this show is no longer on the air). White Collar (USA) (2009-2014) was about a conman, Neal Caffrey (portrayed by Matt Bomer), who ended up working for the FBI as a consultant during his house-arrest/using his skills for good sentence. One of my favorite episodes was season 4 episode 7 (Compromising Positions). The best part of the episode was when Caffrey was called to the stand to testify during a case and he explained how check washing worked using benzene.

I was able to find the script online if you’d like to read the whole episode.

Here is the specific scene where real science played a part.

LAWYER “Can you please demonstrate for the court how science can prove this vial contains benzene?”

NEAL CAFFREY “Absolutely. Uh, your honor, I’ll need your pen, please. And the defendant’s glass of water. (He drinks the entire glass of water.) Thank you, sir. Ahh. Wow. I guess I was thirsty. [ Clears throat ] Let the record show that I am writing a check to George Alcott — great guy, sharp as a tack — in the amount of $100. (He places the check inside the empty glass. Then, he opens the vial and pours its contents into the glass with the signed check.) Now, if the liquid in this vial is benzene, the ink from this check will disappear completely within five seconds of contact. Pardon the fumes. [ Clears throat ] All right. Here we go. Four, three, two… [ Spectators murmuring ] Five seconds. Give or take, apparently. Let the record show, where the check was submerged, the ink has vanished completely.”

This was just one part of the scene but it was real science and it was visually interesting. Benzene really is used to wash checks.

Who wants to talk more about how you can use this idea in your current or next story?


[Credit: Flickr/Pete]
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E-mail emilie@real2reelscience.com Hours M-F: 5-10pm EDT, EST Weekends: 12-5pm and other times by appointment.
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