Burn Notice: “Friends and Family”


Fiona, he did his government work, as you call it, for a reason.

For what? His country? And what have they done for him lately, other than betray him, leave him for dead, ruin his life?

The fact that you have to ask means you’re never gonna get it, Fi.

It seems like ages since Michael Westen jumped out of that helicopter, but the long wait is over and he’s finally coming in from the wet. Not in from the cold, however. If anything, the blanket of protection his mysterious benefactor-betrayers had provided has been lifted exposing him to the elements and the scrutiny of people it would be best ignored him.

It doesn’t take long – less than two minutes, in fact – for Michael to attract the unwanted attention of a bicycle cop at the beach. Things are definitely going to be different this season. Maybe.

The Recap

With the police hot on his tail, Michael steals a pink tee and sunglasses and ducks into a hotel to call Fi. She’s been listening in on police radio and suggests he not blast his way out. Fi. Suggests Michael not blast his way out of something. So Michael takes that seriously and turns himself in nice and calmly. At the police station Sam gives him the good news: cops and foreign agencies are now investigating Michael.

Michael gets released and his “old buddy” Harlan comes up to him. As Michael eyes him warily, ((Foreshadowing alert.)) he tells him he’d been looking for him for a while and when his name popped up on databases he figured he could come help get him out of jail. In fact, he’s got a job he could use some help with, so Michael’s release is just a side effect.

Corrupt officials in Venezuela are engaged in a massive land grab and their bagman, Rufino Cortez, is local. The authorities want Cortez abducted and taken south for trial and Harlan is happy to help. His girlfriend Marta lost her home and her father was thrown in jail by one of the dirty judges.

Harlan and Michael had worked together for about a year and Sam had done four or five ops with him before. His strength is his strength. He’s not so much a thinkin’ man. But he’s got a plan for snatching Cortez, using a key he socially engineered out of a storage company and Cortez’s desire for conjugal privacy. But he’s not so much a thinkin’ man, so he sets off an alarm before he and Michael get the hell out.

Sam meets with Barry over mojitos to discuss Cortez. Barry’s not a fan of Cortez, “a rob and kill for hire and call it an investment kind of guy.” They put together a cover identity for Michael as Tom Wellington, Esq., a lawyer for a mysterious investment group that wants to buy a lot of land from Cortez’s associates.

One dislocated shoulder shoulder later, Michael has convinced Falcone: The Gatekeeper to get him a meeting with Cortez. But it doesn’t go as expected when Cortez turns out to be more security conscious than they realized. He doesn’t show for his first meeting, but sends Falcone to tell Michael there will be a rolling meeting.

So Fi and Harlan steal a garbage truck, Sam and Michael figure out the most likely route for the meeting and plan their attack, and Michael hides knives in the base of a briefcase and taped to the inside back of his belt.

The grab goes (mostly) according to plan and Harlan brings Michael and Cortez to the docks to wait for the commando team. And now we have our not-so-big (but still enjoyable) twist. Harlan’s been hired by Cortez’s associates to kill Cortez before he is forced to testify. They can always hire another bagman.

Pop quiz. Show all your work for partial credit.

  1. If you’re a villain, should you explain your plans to the hero?
  2. If you’ve got the hero tied up, should you feel safe?
  3. Is it wise to let your personal feelings guide your villainous actions? For example, if you believe you’ve been underappreciated as a mastermind, should you seek vengence against those who’ve treated you as mere muscle?

Oops. Harlan failed the quiz. I hope the rest of you did better.


The explosion at Madeline’s, the death of Victor, the long-awaited, sweet bullet Fi put in Carla, all these things should be high on everyone’s list of things to talk about. But these are people good at repression, so we get Fi’s, “Michael, I’m glad you’re alive. Try to keep it that way,” and Madeline’s focus on her house what was blowed up.

But there are signs. Fiona wants Michael to quit. At least to quit trying to get back in. She still doesn’t understand who he is, not even as well as Sam does. Fiona talks to Harlan, asking him to try to convince Michael life can be good when you’re not working for the government. ((Not the best advocate for her position, in retrospect.))

And it’s Fiona who first suspects Harlan might have turned on Michael, because people change. Seems to me she’s aware that people change because she’s looking for any way in to convince Michael to change.

But we know he won’t. He tells Sam he needs an agency, not a bodyguard. He needs back in, or at least believes he still does.

The one true, unguarded moment in the episode came from Madeline when her voice wavered as she told the team, “you three need to stick together.” But even that was a small break in Madeline’s cool cover.

Chin Bits

  • “I took it over there to drop it off and well, we got a little friendly. So she’s letting me hang onto the car.”
    “Mrs. Reynolds? You’re romancing an 80-year-old woman for her car?”
    “I’m talking about her daughter, Miss Reynolds. 39 going on 22. Great lady. Great car.”
  • “Hey, you wanna pick the names you’ve gotta go to the meeting and listen to Barry talk about his skincare regimen.”
  • “Easy on the explosives, Fi. We’re trying to nail this guy on corruption charges. Could be tough if he’s in little pieces.”
  • “Hey sister, don’t be throwing explosives at me just ’cause you can’t take the cold, hard truth!”

Important Lessons in Spycraft

  • “Danger isn’t always obvious. It can be as subtle as a glance from a friendly-seeming tourist, a car that slows down at an odd time, or a cop that suddenly seems a little too interested in you.”
  • “The backbone of most hotel phone systems is secured by nothing more than a door and a cheap lock. Which makes them convenient for people who need to make quick, untraceable phone calls.”
  • “Just because you can escape from a situation doesn’t mean you should…sometimes you have to remember it’s easier to dodge questions than bullets.”
  • “Security devices are generally one-way. They keep people in or keep them out. Most high security locks are a lot less secure if you come at them backwards.”
  • “High-status cover IDs are rarely effective. Claim to be a big shot and people get suspicious. Claim to be a big shot’s errand boy, people don’t think twice. Act like you don’t want to be there, because you’re tired, you’re under-appreciated, or you’re sick and people tend to trust you even more.”
  • “Security levels vary widely for different kinds of vehicles. Garbage trucks, for example, are expensive but the fact that they’re hard to hide and harder to sell means you don’t find a lot of garbage truck alarm systems.”
  • “In close spaces, a knife’s often more effective than a gun. Easier to handle, easier to hide, and in the right hands: scary.”
  • “When you’re trying to hide in the water, fire is your friend. The light turns the surface of the water into a mirror. Then it’s just a matter of finding a place to surface where the fire isn’t consuming all the oxygen.”

Final Thoughts

Guest star Brian Van Holt is a big guy, so it’s possible Harlan’s callsign was chosen for that reason, but when I hear Bruce Campbell ask, “see anything, Hercules?” I expect a response like, “not yet, Autolycus.”

What did everyone else think?