Burn Notice Recap: “Turn and Burn”

My buddy Michael Westen is busy in therapy or something this week, so he gave me this job. I’ll do what I can, but you know, “little out of my league. I’m good with papers not with computers. I think this is a computer thing, right?”

The Recap

That broad Carla left him a message in a crossword puzzle to meet at some mall. He shows up and she gives him a job. She needs this security badge duped and only one guy in town can do it. Nice guy, even if he don’t want to do whatchamacallit, barter, for the job. Takes him a couple of days to do it right, which leaves Mikey time to help out some other chick.

Lady DEA agent in way deep is getting stalked by some big honcho with the Cartel. Me, I like to stay far away from those guys. Guns give me the creeps. But Mikey helps her out. They make it look like this guy’s trying to kill his boss, and then the mook runs to the DEA for protection. He gets the shock of his life when he finds out he’s been hittin’ on the lady DEA agent for years, though.

When Mikey’s not helping her out, he’s seein’ a head shrinker with his mom. But she don’t like that any more than he does. Even if the lady looks just like her.

But she does like the new coffeemaker Carla got her.

When I go pick up the badge – that Nefzi guy does real pretty work – I pay him a little extra ’cause Mikey wants to know what building it goes to. But Carla’s too quick. I run back in, but it’s too late. He’s dead.

Character Counts

Phew. That white track suit was hot. Didn’t breathe at all. Glad to be out of it. Tonight on Burn Notice, the heavy relationship lifting was all about Michael and Madeline. Of course there’s the new coffeemaker, conveniently left in Madeline’s house in the middle of the night by Carla or one of her goons. That’s a bit of a scare for Micheal.

More significantly, Madeline drags Michael to counseling. We get a great sight gag and reaction shot from Jeffrey Donovan as the camera reveals the counselor with hair of gold, just like Sharon Gless. It’s a funny moment, but it’s also a telling moment.

Madeline is seeking confirmation and help in getting her reticent son to open up, but when the tables are turned – really, just the therapist being fair and consistent – she quickly reconsiders the quality of care she’s getting. Michael’s mother is less interested in repairing rifts than regaining and retaining a mythical ideal of family. Her sons are still her little boys and she’s never been able to relate to them as adults, partly because their childhoods were cut short by circumstance.

When Michael comes to pick up his mother for their second session, she tells him she’d rather find someone else, “someone who asks better questions.” Michael reaches out, offering to spend time with Madeline. Standing side by side with arms crossed, postures fully guarded, Madeline gives Michael the answer to the question he’d asked in therapy: why she didn’t ask his nine-year-old self about a black eye he got stealing groceries for the family. She was proud. And thought Michael looked proud. She let him have his lie, that he’d bought the groceries, thinking that’s what he wanted, when in fact all the little boy wanted was his mother’s attention.

It’s a great scene, and the very small smile on Donovan’s face says all we need to know about how Michael Westen feels.

Chin Bits

Honestly, this wasn’t a great episode for Sam or Fiona. They’re pushed mostly to the background, only getting a couple of scenes each. Of course they shine even in support.

  • “When I’m on a job, it turns her on. It’s all I can do to keep up. The things this woman does. I’m trying to get some too.”
  • “Mike, look. I did a little pre-scouting but…I knew he was packing. I didn’t know he had a Mac-10. I thought it was like a regular gun.”
  • “I’m starving anyway!” (Particularly funny as Sam’s scarfing chips as he says this.)
  • “Well, Sammy will take whatever reward you want to give him, baby!”

Important Lessons in Spycraft

  • “If an operative hands you a crossword puzzle, chances are you just received a coded message.”
  • Nail polish remover dissolves ink. A nice way to counterfeit some checks by washing.
  • A great way to meet a thief is to pretend to be in the same business.
  • “People trust you when they have something on you…It’s all about making them feel secure.”
  • “People don’t trust information they get for free. If you want to sell someone on a lie, you have to make them drag it out of you.”
  • Experienced operatives play their roles harder under pressure.
  • The best way to distract men is not with a beautiful woman. They want her to stay around. But they want to get rid of obnoxious guys. That’s of course why Sam is always handy to have around.
  • “The trick to selling an assassination attempt is to use a lot more firepower. And an explosion or two.”
  • “If you walk in on a corpse and can’t catch your breath…someone might be pumping nitrogen gas into the room to displace all the oxygen.”

Parting Thoughts

We got some interesting tidbits on the long arc tonight. Michael *believes* that Carla speaks Arabic with a Kurdish accent. It’s not much to go on, but is a start. Of course, that’s going to be moot if she faked the accent. Michael knows those who burned him want to keep him around for the long haul. He’s refused their blood money, but he’s going to keep doing their dirty work until he can get some answers. He is a de facto employee at this point, and worried about the safety of his friends and family. Carla’s made it clear she can get to anyone of them at any time.

What’s she going to leave Madeline next time? A toaster?

I was moved a lot by the way Michael and Madeline interacted tonight. One of the rare times they stopped talking past each other and connecting, the kitchen scene at the end of the evening packed a lot of punch. That’s two episodes running with really strong character work. Actually, it’s more than two if we count last season’s finale.

The show’s firing on all cylinders, giving us good action, good intrigue, clever banter, and heart. It’s a shame the Emmy committee couldn’t find a place for this gem of a show.

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.