Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Burn Notice - 6.10 - Desperate Times - Recap

Previously - Nate died and everything went to hell. Maddy and Michael are on the outs. When the team goes undercover to find out who the shooter was, their lead source gets shot after giving them the name of Tyler Gray. He dies before they get any more info. Season 6 rocked!

Michael dresses in the loft when Fiona enters, upset that Michael read the CIA in on the Pryon Group/Tyler Gray information. Fi accuses Michael of lying to her but Michael needs CIA resources to track Nate's killer. Fi is concerned there will be a heavy price to pay later if the CIA gets involved but Michael doesn't care. The CIA already found a lead. He heads to the CIA office of his old mentor Tom Card, who tells him Tyler is in Panama. Officially the CIA can't run an operation so Michael will have to go under the guise of checking out a munitions robbery. Card sends Jesse, Fiona, and Mr. Chin (aka Sam) with him where they will join Brady Pressman who worked in Langley on Anson's capture. Given that we've never heard of Brady and Card is being incredibly generous, one of them is guaranteed to betray Michael. It's the Burn Notice way. I hope Card is on the level. Michael's been screwed over by the government far too many times for comfort. Card reminds Michael, "I am way out on the skinny branches on this one, so whatever happens in Panama stays in Panama." I really regret that Las Vegas ad ever ran. These jokes are getting old.

Michael informs Sam of the plan while driving to his mom's house. He's surprised to find the front door locked but after everything that has happened, I'm surprised Maddy hasn't put in bullet proof glass, reinforced doors, and a moat. To say things are frigid between them would be an understatement. Maddy hasn't answered one of Michael's calls since Nate's funeral and she isn't interested in conversation now. Michael tells her far too much for a classified mission but guilt weighs heavily on him. Maddy asks how she will know he's okay and hearing the team is going doesn't make her feel better. Michael promises to call but she wants something more concrete so he gives her Tom Card's number. She's a bit mollified until Michael explains that he'strying to making Nate's death up to her. Michael: "I know you blame me." Maddy: "Not just you. There's more than enough blame to go around. This is on everyone." Michael: "Mom, I'm sorry." Since we all know nothing makes up for a child's death, Maddy's reaction is fierce. "I don't want your apology! Every mistake Nate ever made was because he wanted to be like you. He had no business being out there - none." Michael says it's his fault but Maddy blames herself for not stopping it. "He only wanted to help you because he knew how proud of you I was. I was his mother and my job was to protect him from you." Ouch! That's harsh. As Michael goes to touch his mom's hand, she flinches away from him. Michael begs, "Please" but she rejects him again so he leaves. This scene is brutal to watch (mostly because of the top-notch acting by Sharon Gless - Brava!) and I can't help wondering if Maddy will regret her words. First off blaming Michael for all of Nate's mistakes is flat wrong. I know it is grief talking but Michael is already overlade with guilt and both brothers' problems stem from their abusive father. Michael simply channeled his anger and helplessness into a more fulfilling direction. Second, Nate wanted to help for myriad reasons, such as wanting to be part of the team, approval of mom and big bro, and his natural instinct towards the dangerous. I loved Nate but let's face it, he could find trouble in a monastery. I can't imagine the level of Maddy's anguish and I understand her tendency to lash out in pain and anger, but she only has one son left and he's constantly in danger. I would hate for these to be the last words she ever says to him.

The intensity of the previous scene is jarringly flipped to the team arriving in San Miguelito, Panama. My emotions are still reeling as they meet up with Brady but I laugh as Sam and Jesse contort their bodies to get out of the world's smallest compact. Love how Fi who is the littlest got the front seat. Brady introduces himself and knows a lot about them from the get-go. That makes me very, very nervous. Fiona is unhappy too as she refuses to shake Brady's hand and snaps at him through the debrief. Usually Fi is my favorite character but in these scenes I wanted her to shut up and stop bratting. Brady reassures her that it's a team effort while Michael tries to blame her charming personality on jet lag. Sam, Michael, and I exchange, "Oh brother" glances as we all take a deep breath to get through this. They set up shop in an abandoned building and Brady brings out all the really cool toys, not a Bond gadget in sight. They even have a bendy gun that shoots around corners. I'm impressed with the guns but so over Fiona's attitude. Brady exposits the plan, Fiona storms off, and they all go to bed. I'm not sure how comfortable sleeping in your clothes while holding a gun is but Michael is obviously prepared for everything. Well except for Fiona not sleeping next to him. He moves his arm to her side of the bed and immediately wakes up. Fi's at the window, unable to sleep. They talk about the sky above the Irish Sea and Michael says Fi looks beautiful in the window's light. He's come a long way since season 1 in expressing himself. They smile but don't move any closer to my surprise. Bigger surprise - Fiona admits she's being difficult and explains that since Nate was their family, they should take care of it on their own. I agree with Michael here. "I didn't want Brady here either but he's doing his job and we owe it to Nate to find his killer. Period." So true. Who cares how you find Tyler Gray as long as you find him?

While Michael wonders about an electrical truck outside an abandoned building with no power at 6 am, I wonder if Brady sent the assassin team. I like him so far and really don't want him to be evil. Michael rallies the troops and they see laser sights in the security cameras. Sam: "Oh cr** I hate it when you're right Mike." I on the other hand love the quick pacing so far. Fiona guesses they'll breach in one minute so Michael uses Brady's explosive steel frame to blow a hole in the roof. They grab what they can and in a blink and you'd miss it moment, Michael puts his arms around Fi as they blow the roof out together. Aww. Just in time because the merc squad busts through in a hail of bullets. On the roof Jesse announces he's shoeless and I wonder where all his military training went. Shouldn't he have grabbed his shoes when Michael roused them? Jesse: "This is going to suck." Guess you'll get your shoes on the way out of an ambush next time. Sadly, the building's surrounded so no going down. Sam: "OK look if down ain't an option, somebody better grow some wings quick." Michael suggests they jump to the next building. I suggest Michael detox from the hallucinogens he's on. No way I'd make that jump. Sam points that out too but apparently a flimsy wooden ramp makes all the difference. I would offer to hold off the bad guys while they all jumped. Death by bullet is a far better option than death by splatter, and I'm not afraid of heights. Everyone's over except Michael when a bad guy breaks through. Michael takes him out with a brick but his shoulder's hurt in the process. Right after he makes the jump Tyler Gray appears and it's one of the few times Michael misses when he's shooting at an open target. Perhaps I'm supposed to think hurt shoulder. Instead I think only 15 minutes into the episode.

Apparently Operation Jump to the Parking Lot Next Door and Steal a Car is a success. What a stupid merc squad! They surround the whole building but no one walkies down to tell them the targets jumped over. It's faster for the guys outside the building to regroup than for Michael and crew to find/steal a car and drive off. Oh well. The team regroups in a junkyard to take inventory. It's sad but workable. Brady wants to wait for back up and I'm still a little suspicious. Doesn't he know how long it takes the government to get back up on the premises? Seems like forever on this show. Jesse provides a little comic relief with his no shoes in Panama line - great delivery. Fiona provides a little hope with her improv explosives knowledge. Brady questions her (I shake my head) as Fiona says, "When it comes to explosives I never kid." She also knows her stuff Brady, oh you of little faith.

Fiona and Michael stay back to make bombs while Sam, Jesse, and Brady attempt to locate Gray's HQ. As Michael voiceovers the only time spark plugs are an acceptable substitute for diamonds, I rejoice in Mike and Fi alone time. Flash back to the other times they made ammunition together. (Deep sigh.) This episode is nailing Mike and Fi scenes. Michael admits that he misses his Ireland time with Fi and if he weren't the main character I'd expect his immediate demise right now. Fiona is just as shocked and says she only needs him. "Michael, I don't need Ireland. I want this." Michael: "A junk yard in Panama." Fi: "You and me working together. Just us. The way it used to be. At the end of the day, this…this is how it should be." I don't necessarily agree but I like this scene. Michael says he'll get out after they get Gray. Fiona and I are surprised he would leave the CIA, but Michael means leaving the whole thing. I'm not sure he can stop playing the hero or what he sees himself doing in this new future but Fiona loves it. Michael: "How does that sound?" Fiona: "Well if we live long enough to see that happen, it sounds really good." It sounds like grief and guilt talking to me. Michael's protective instincts are on overdrive right now and it won't be long before Fi chafes at them. Still it's a shipper moment for the ages.

Meanwhile back in the US, Maddy decides a conversation with Tom Card is well overdue. She paces like a tiger until he comes out. She demands answers to Nate's death and threatens to blow the whistle on Michael's top secret mission unless Card shows her the classified files involving Nate. She's got guts and she's a Weston. Card is thoroughly screwed and he knows it. Card: "You're blackmailing a CIA officer without batting an eyelash. And here I thought Michael got all his moxie from Papa Bear." Hint - Never underestimate a Weston on a mission. Card brings her to a file room and leaves her alone with the file.

Segueing back to Panama, Gray's mercenaries aren't sweating the local cops. They've got assault gun toting guards at HQ and the team has no feasible way to get Gray. Shoeless Jesse picks glass from his foot while I wonder why a spy can't steal shoes or make something out of cardboard. Brady exposits soldiers for hire and Jesse breaks a $50,000 scope to make a telescope. Brady objects; I say common sense rules. Go Jesse! He also comes up with a plan and I celebrate the appearance of smart, capable, leader Jesse this year. He rocks! Sam agrees to "adios Senor Angry muy, muy pronto." Enter another Jesse genius idea. He drives up to the guard and asks for a gas station. He butchers Spanish, doing an obnoxious American act complete with sputtering engine noises that make me laugh. It gets the job done and the guard comes over. Suddenly Jesse speaks fluent Spanish as he grabs the guard through the window and hauls him into an alley. Sam and Brady try to grab him but only get the gun. Jesse then takes him out with the truck door. I think it's time to show Sam's smarts now Burn Notice writers. Mike and Fi arrive just as Sam and Jesse fling Senor Angry into a dumpster. Fi: "You find a place to hit Gray." Jesse: "Yeah and more importantly I got a new pair of shoes." Jesse cut the toes out of Angry's boots. Fi: "Oh, the Panamanian peep toe. Tres chic!" Got to love how Burn Notice has mixed humor with action and drama this year. Awesome job! This may be my favorite season yet. Michael lays out a plan but Sam calls foul considering Michael probably has broken ribs. There's no getting between Michael and revenge though so Sam backs down contrary to reason. The walkie the mercenaries NOW carry informs them that Gray is en route. They take their places.

Back at the CIA, Card checks in on Maddy. The information doesn't made her feel better. Smoking does. Maddy has questions but Card says he's laid enough on the line just by having her in the room. She trumps job with dead Nate and Card tries a different tack. I find it interesting that she also brings up Frank. Need to rewatch before November. Card sympathizes but doesn't know what she wants from him. Maddy: "Just decency." I swallow hard. Mostly she wants to know why Nate and Michael turned out so differently under the same situation. She chose to stay with Frank instead of fleeing with her boys. "That choice made Michael strong and capable while it left poor Nate just…How did two brothers turn out so different?" Card: "Imagine that you are holding on to two bottles and they drop on the floor. What…what happens? They both break but it's how they break that's important. Because you see while one bottle crumples into a pile of glass, the other shatters into a jagged edged weapon. You see the exact same environment that forged older brother into a warrior crushed baby brother. People just don't all break the same Mrs. Weston. They just don't." It hits Maddy hard but it's what she needed to hear. Card continues: "The problem here is that you're just focused on the bad because there's some good that came through there too. Don't get me wrong. Michael is damaged, but he also happens to be a little boy who just wants to protect his mommy and his kid brother which means that all the people that he ever helped actually have to thank you and Nate of course. That's all I have." Maddy starts to sob and it's hard not to feel the gut punch between the melancholy strings plucking in the background and Card's soothing voice. He tells Maddy to take all the time she needs and I really, really hope he isn't evil. Again the scene is one of the most powerful in Burn Notice history. While I don’t agree with the implication that staying with Frank ended up being good for Michael, it is amazingly well done.

Transitioning back to Panama is brutal and for a second time, I'm rattled by the change in tone. Michael recaps the plan as he and Brady wait for Gray together. He tells Brady he can leave. After all Brady, just like Nate, is not a field agent. Brady declines, saying he owes it to Nate but Michael won't share the blame. Today's episode is brought to you by the letter G as guilt pours out from all directions. Brady back stories his father's death when he turned 14. He joined the military at 18 to avenge his father but never found out who to take revenge on. He's therefore determined to not let Nate's killer slip through. It's a touching story that makes me like Brady even more; therefore he's dying before the end of the episode or he's evil. Sometimes I hate the cynicism being a Burn Notice fan has created in me. Michael's glad Brady's with them and thanks him as Jesse calls with Gray's location. Fi plays a street person to stop the convoy while Michael and Brady shoot out the windows. They seem shocked that Gray shoots his own team members to escape. Since all bad guys we've met on this show would do the exact same thing, I'm puzzled by this. They begin the lamest car chase ever seen on this show only to find Gray's Hummer deserted with a dead driver. Since they were right behind him 50 seconds ago, I wonder if they stopped for a mojito on the way.

They're now so far behind that Brady has time to shoot his driver, run into a building and set up a sniper hidey hole. I hope the mojito was worth it. Shots are fired. Is anyone shocked when Gray wounds Brady? Anyone? Yeah, I didn't think so. Michael reminds Sam to stop poking his head up like a prairie dog and I wonder if I'm the only one who remembers Sam was a Navy SEAL. Even I know to duck when bullets fly. Brady needs a hospital but insists that Michael get Gray since they won't get another chance. Aw Brady, you're so going to die. Sorry. I like you. Michael checks in with Card who vehemently denies the plan to go after Gray. I am in vehement denial that he's the bad guy, but there seems no other option for a Burn Notice midseason finale. Card says Michael should wait for back up. Like that's going to happen. Card: "So what? Are you going to go in blind, deaf, and bleeding? That's a super idea Michael." Ha! Love the snark. Michael: "Tom listen to me. We already have a plan. I'm going in. Accept my apologies in advance." Sam calls him on sharing the non-existent plan, Fi spots the likeliest place for Gray to set up, and Michael has Jesse and her to try to draw Gray out. That's certainly not overprotective so there's hope for them yet. Sam likes the second part of the plan: Michael and him approaching from the east side to get into the building. Jesse: "Of course you do. You're not the one trying to outrun a sniper in hobo shoes Sam." Bwah!!! Have I mentioned how much I love Jesse this year.

Fi and Jesse takes off at a sprint with bullets riding their heels. They head towards some barrels and hide behind an old taxi. Jesse gets nicked in the heels but it's better than all the glass he's had in his foot this episode already. Gray gets smart and starts shooting at the barrels filled with gasoline instead. (Have to wonder why people are storing gasoline in barrels on unguarded property. In St. Louis, those puppies would be stolen pronto.) Fi gives Michael the update and Sam and he sprint to the other side. They scale a pipe to the roof with some impressive upper body strength as Gray gets closer to igniting the gas. Jesse: "Fi, we're one spark away from going up like a Roman Candle. We've got to move." Michael wants to use an antenna as an anchor for his weight but Sam says it's suicidal. He'll hold Michael's body weight while Michael repels into the window. Right as Gray is about to shoot a fleeing Fi and Jesse, Michael crashes in and kicks the rifle away. Gray is down and Michael doesn't appreciate his humor. He zip ties Gray and calls Fi. The plan is to wait for the extraction team and they congratulate themselves on the victory. That's the final straw. We still have 7 minutes. It's the midseason finale. Yep, Card is evil.

I sigh heavily as Gray starts laughing. "You think you're waiting for an extraction team. Buddy you've got no clue. Card isn't sending an extraction team for you." Here's hoping Maddy never finds out about this. He did say what she needed to hear. Gray exposits Card sending him to kill Michael in a suicide mission. "Weston goes down to Panama. Things go wrong. Weston gets ambushed by a merc squad. Weston goes home in a box. Only one problem - you just won't die." Michael doesn't believe Gray but he realizes things are off. Gray can't tell him why Card would betray him since that's what the winter episodes are for, but he does get Michael to lay a trap. Michael calls Card saying Gray escaped and just like Gray predicted, Card tells Michael to stay put - help is on the way. Card walks right into it by announcing that they tracked Gray to an alley. Michael wants to meet at the embassy but Card says to stay put. He ends by telling Michael he is proud of him. Ouch! That's the kiss of betrayal right there. Gray: "Did he say that he was proud of you? Yeah, he told me you liked to hear that right before he told me to go for the head shot." Ouch again! Michael's taking punches tonight. Michael wants to shoot Gray but goes for the primal scream instead.

Meanwhile Gray still soothes Maddy at CIA headquarters. My stomach turns. He walks Maddy out and says he hoped it helped. Maddy: "Nothing helps but uh maybe you opened up my eyes a bit." You have no idea the sucker punch you're about to take Maddy. Card: "I know that some of that wasn't easy to hear, but that's the one thing you always get from me Mrs. Weston. It's the truth." Cutting to Panama, Michael tells the team Card is a liar as planes fly overhead. I agree with Sam. "Card sent an airstrike into Panama. That's insane." No matter what Michael says, there should be hard proof and a Congressional act before the US bombs a foreign country. They watch as the building they were just in explodes. My head spins as we go back to Card telling Maddy he was hard on Michael because he loves him like a son. He cares so much that he now has planes following the SUV Brady is driving them in. Michael wants to jump out but Brady says as soon as the car stops, they will bomb it and they can't outrun the blast radius. Mike contends their only shot is to all jump out and run together. Brady: "Alright let's do this." However, he has a massive leg wound so it doesn't seem in the cards. They all jump out but Brady keeps driving, realizing the planes will follow him giving the rest of the team a chance to survive. Bye, bye Brady. I wish you had survived. At the CIA, Card tells Maddy how deeply sorry he is for her loss and Maddy thanks him for being there for her son. My stomach inches up to my mouth as Card says goodbye and proceeds to make sure Michael is dead. His facial expression gives nothing away and John C. McGinley's Tom Card is creeping me out more than Anson ever did. It's a perfect betrayal perfectly acted and it leaves me shivering for the hellatus to end already. As we pan over to the team watching the SUV in flames, Sam says, "So, what the hell do we do now?" No one including me has an answer, but I confess I want to know RIGHT NOW!

This was an excellent cliffhanger (excellent pacing, good characterization, enhanced story line, humor) to an excellent season 6. After a subpar season 5, I was ready to consign Burn Notice to the "watch whenever I get around to it" pile. Now I anxiously await November. This season has rocked! The pacing has been much better, the new villain more personal, and the team gelled better together even when Fi was apart from them. I love how Michael has a more emotional storyline than he has ever had and that there is real growth in a character that stalled out for me awhile ago. I love how Fi can be so much more level-headed so she isn't the caricature she was in the beginning. Jesse has finally come into his own as a member of the team and is allowed to be smart as well as funny. Now if they could remember Sam is intelligent and vital too, it would be perfect. Thus far there has been no bad episode in this season of Burn Notice and that's very rare in TV these days. Thank you Burn Notice for being a highlight of my summer. I can't wait to see how being on the run from the CIA is going to pan out and how they are going to protect Maddy when she's in another country.

Episode Grade: A-
Season Grade so Far: A

Screencap by Grande Caps

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