Burn Notice Recap: “Breaking and Entering”

Hi. I’m Terry Miller. Me mate, Michael Westen, is trapped in the back of a lorry, so I’ll be running you through this episode of Burn Notice.

The Recap

When Mike gets out of the lorry, he finds himself in the middle of a war zone. That bird Carla – the one who works for the wankers who burned him – gives him a job: make this poor sap Jimmy do what they want. Take him back to Miami and help him steal data from a low-rent Blackwater and the bloke can save his wife and kid. Plus Mike gets to meet Carla.

Mike gets to keep a copy of the data too. Figures it might help him suss out who burned him.

I come in the game when Mike needs someone on the inside. I meet the chief mercenary, Ryder Stahl. He says he’s just in security, but the chyron says different. Trust the chyron. This bastard doesn’t believe me, so he has me escorted out. I end up having to shoot at my mates Sam and Fiona to earn his trust. Fi proves her mettle by shooting to miss me. Close. Really close. I think she’s upset about something Mike’s done.

In the end, Ryder’s set up to the ATF, Jimmy’s death is faked, and Mike gets a copy of the data.

Character Counts

Burn Notice is fun and light-hearted, but it’s actually less about the bombs and bullets, mysteries and scams than it is about the characters. The relationships Michael has are what ground this show. A man who spent his whole life escaping ties and commitments turns out to have four very significant ones. His two best and only friends in the world, Fiona and Sam, and his mother and brother Nate keep Michael grounded. He might hate Miami, and might wish his mother would stop calling, but he loves these people and would do (almost) anything for them.

That “almost”, of course, is where the drama lies.

Michael’s mother Madeline (Sharon Gless) is still stressing over the men with guns. With the score silent, Michael tells her this is why he never came home, to protect her. It’s a small moment. A touching moment. A moment quickly broken when Madeline tells him he could have written. The score kicks back up, a bit jauntier than usual as they cut to Fi playing with explosives.

That was one of the quickest, most abrupt, and funniest tonal shifts I’ve ever seen and it was pulled off with aplomb. Of the many things creator Matt Nix does well, this is the best. It is also why the show will never get award-love: no one knows how to classify it. Sometimes it’s a comedy and sometimes a drama and rarely is there time to pause between the extremes.

On the drama front, the next-to-last scene between Fiona and Michael, when Fi finally realizes she and Michael can’t be together, is beautiful to watch. Gabrielle Anwar, usually tough as nails, finds some heartbreaking vulnerability here. What’s truly sad about the scene though is Jeffrey Donovan‘s narration.

When you work as a spy, it’s easy to think of people as assets, resources to accomplish a goal. Because you don’t have a personal relationship with an asset. You don’t care about an asset. You don’t miss the scent of an asset when she leaves the room.

Chin Bits

Ain’t nobody better than Bruce Campbell, and this is where we take a quick gander at some of his best bits of the night.

  • Wearing one of Michael’s shirts and looking silly: “Mike, How do you fit in these little shirts? They’re like doll clothes.”
  • “I can count on one hand the number of buddies I got who would stage an armed assault to save my butt. You got Mike, you got…”
  • “I got lots of other friends with ovaries. I got you…”

Important Lessons in Spycraft

For some of us – particularly British? South African? businessmen with accents that meander from the streets of London to the north, down to Capetown and over to the antipodes when we miss a glottal stop or two – the most important part of this show is Michael’s lessons in spycraft. We didn’t learn how to make any explosives tonight, but we still had a few good lessons.

  • Airbags make evasive manuevers tough. But you still drive backwards.
  • “It takes a great marksman to miss, while making it look like they’re trying to hit you. Or markswoman as the case may be.”
  • “A great way to get people talking about their security is to put them on the defensive.”
  • “Counting your steps can be extremely useful if you need to reproduce a floor plan from memory.”
  • “The typical floor is concrete slab over 20-gauge steel pan with steel trusses spaced 30 inches for support. When you cut through a floor the thing you have to worry about is wiring…If you don’t want a chunk of concrete crashing through to the floor below, you need to drill a hole and anchor the slab.”
  • And always remember the most important tool: eye gear. You can also learn that lesson from Norm Abrams on The New Yankee Workshop.
  • Motion detectors bounce sound waves and analyze changes. Move slowly and use a wool comforter. A thermal blanket will make you invisible to a heat sensor.
  • Quadrangle buckshot is best for destroying the inside of a computer…
  • Frag-12 is better for hardened security glass.

Parting Thoughts

I haven’t mentioned the beautiful and talented Tricia Helfer. There’s a few reasons for that, but primarily it was because there was a big-ass monsoon tonight. MikeO is up north and missed this one, but I didn’t. Neither did my satellite dish. On the 7pm showing I got everything but the tag at the end. But Pop Critic #1 filled me in (and I recorded the 10pm showing as well.) Beets. Huh. Interesting. I mean, coming from the Battlestar Galactica girl. That Bruce Campbell sure is a teddybear of a man, too.

That’s right. Matt Nix tossed in a massive, awesome, NBC-Universal pop culture joke and I love him and this show for doing it. I also quite liked the Gabrielle Anwar Scent of a Woman reference. Maybe it was unintentional, but I doubt it.

What did everyone else think?

R.A. Porter is an aspiring television writer who currently toils away in the software mines. He can be found at his personal blog and stalked on Twitter.