Burn Notice is on a roll. Last week it did an excellent job bringing back Nate Westen, and this week it provides the return of one of my favorite bad guys, arms dealer Tyler Brennen (The Shield‘s Jay Karnes).
The most important question from last week was “What is Michael going to do with the list of people who burned him?” We get a quick answer, as Michael tells Jesse they need to hand it over to the government. Jesse, in turn, has contacted Marv (Richard Kind), hoping to use the information to get both himself and Michael back into the spy world. Marv isn’t too keen on Michael, so Michael meets with him. It’s not a great meeting; Marv tells him that he’ll have to go on record against the people that burned him. Furthermore, he wants Michael to take a polygraph exam. As someone who has been polygraphed, I can say those are not a good time. Michael knows that he needs Marv, however, and agrees to the polygraph. He’s forced to repeat the show’s introductory lines – “My name is Michael Westen; I used to be a spy” – making us think about just how far Michael has come to get to this point.
He hasn’t mentioned any of this to Madeline, however, so when Jesse lets it slip, it makes for a very awkward situation. Even more awkward, Sam has hauled out all his documentation from when he used to inform on Michael to the FBI, and given it to Michael to help refresh his memory. He’s just dropping in, on his way to investigate the disappearance of his friend, Detective Kevin Baruchel. Seems Kevin’s been accused of a lot of nasty things with some drug dealers and now he’s gone. His wife, Claire, has asked Sam to find her husband and uncover the truth about what he may or may not be into. Sam brings the case to the team, and convinces them to help.
Sam takes Michael to meet “your average drug-dealing scumbag” Ted Sayers, whom Baruchel was in contact with before he disappeared. Ted takes of running, but Jesse is there to meet him with a Taser. (I always get excited when there’s a use for a Taser.) They haul him off to be interrogate him, during which Ted tells them that he had a deal with Baruchel’s partner, Detective Pete Jackman (The Glades‘ Eric Wormsley). He admits that killed Baruchel on orders from Pete, who’s the one who’s really in with the drug dealers. Sam does not react well to this news, and Michael has to haul him off. He’s determined to take down the corrupt cop and clear his friend’s name. They decide to use Ted to set up a fake drug deal and bust Pete the following evening.
Fiona goes with Michael to his next hotel meeting with Marv, and the two bicker over her dislike for his former occupation before she tells him to go. Marv tells Michael that his information checks out, but that there are “other issues” involved, and by “issues” he means “people.” He is not fond of Michael’s associations with Sam and Fiona. Michael tells him to put up or shut up, and he agrees to do what he can.
Back at Michael’s place, Sam is whipping up some napalm in order to help Michael’s new cover as the buyer in the fake drug deal. However, Pete is edgy when he arrives, especially when Michael tells him that he killed Ted. He wants to call off the sale, but to convince him, Michael ignites the napalm and creates a ring of fire that intimidates Pete into doing business. This half-backfires, making Pete paranoid, so Michael and Sam reluctantly agree that they have to play the only other leverage they have, and make him believe that Kevin is still alive and coming after him. This means enlisting the help of his wife, and that is beyond awkward. She suggests that they use Kevin’s boat as their next meeting place, and Sam calls Pete out to the boat to break the news to him. Pete proceeds to squirm and head for the Baruchel home to verify the story.
Claire plays her part perfectly, while Fiona and Jesse pose as a pair of Internal Affairs detectives, lying in wait outside the house. It’s the final straw for Pete, who calls Michael and insists that the drug deal has to go down that day on Kevin’s boat. This turns out to be a trap as Pete blows up the boat, trying to take Michael out with it. Michael revises his plan in a hurry: get Pete to plant the coke at Kevin’s, and make sure the cops are there to see him do so.
Step one involves sneaking into Pete’s car during an orchestrated traffic jam and playing the angry buyer role to the hilt. At gunpoint, Pete spills everything and suggests doing exactly what Michael wants him to do. Sam likewise coerces the real Internal Affairs lieutenant to come with him. This means that he has a great view of Pete planting the cocaine and panicking when Sam tells him that Kevin is really dead, and Pete is really alive. For good measure, he decks the corrupt cop. Kevin’s name is cleared, and the bad guys put away.
Madeline finally talks to Michael about his potential reinstatement, and it’s a tearful, sort of uncomfortable moment as she worries about if he’s just going to disappear again. He’s there to get Jesse, and the two of them go to meet Marv again. They hand Marv the files, only to have him apologize to Jesse and promptly die. Who’s behind it? Brennen, of course. And we end on that cliffhanger…
Anyone who thinks Bruce Campbell’s just on the series for comic relief should watch this episode; he gives a wonderful performance, playing both Sam’s normal wisecracking self and the dramatic parts of the narrative with equal talent. It’s also good to see Richard Kind again; I wonder if the writers always planned for Marv to appear in multiple episodes, or if they just realized how much he gets out of such a small role. Really, though, this is Campbell’s episode and I’d love to see him nominated for a supporting actor trophy someday.
If there’s one disappointment I have with the episode, it’s that the commercials seemed to allude that there was going to be a lot more of Brennen then there was. I didn’t expect him to turn up at the very end; I was expecting him to be the bad guy for the majority of the episode. While that was a disappointment, I’m not feeling let down by the episode, which is of itself another reliable Burn Notice caper.