Can you believe we’re at the end of Burn Notice‘s fourth season already? I was just getting used to having the series back again, and I’ll be sad to see it go; this may be my favorite season yet.
Last week, “part-time spy, full-time sociopath” Tyler Brennen (Jay Karnes) returned, having had Marv (Richard Kind) killed to obtain Simon Escher’s list of spies. Jesse is understandably upset at watching his old friend die in front of him, and not happy that Michael wants him to “sit on the sidelines and lie” to the counterintelligence agents who will want to know why one of their own is no longer. I can’t say that I blame him; when one of my close friends was killed, I had pretty much the same reaction, except I didn’t have a gun. Yet there are other people to worry about now.
Brennen meets Michael and Sam at the Carlito, talking about how much time and money he’s spent keeping tabs on Michael. Can we say stalker? Brennen’s as glib as ever (did he really send Nate a Christmas card? Probably), and he wants Michael to kill the people on Simon’s list, or he’s going to narc on Michael to Vaughn by sending him an incriminating audio file, set up for an automated release unless he stops it. Yet he’s also feeling kind of charitable. To help out, he’s also recruited Crazy Larry (Tim Matheson). Yes, this is Michael’s “greatest hits,” and not in any sort of good way.
Larry thinks Michael is mellowing. Sam suggests that Larry take up writing poetry. Literally stuck between the two of them, Michael ends up on the wrong end of a piece of rebar, but that’s just Sam sneakily telling him they need to get around Larry and to Brennen directly before he blows out. He tells him to get Larry’s cell phone number.
Meanwhile, Jesse is doing his best to stall the CIFA agents investigating Marv’s death by feeding them information on a drug cartel. He’s not too happy about having to do it, and admits to Maddie that he feels responsible for his old friend’s death. He’s worried about Marv’s wife and children, drawing parallels to what he went through after the death of his mother. She cautions him that the truth might do more harm than good.
As they prepare to go after their first target, Michael asks Larry what he’s doing working for Brennen, and Larry admits that he thinks he can get the list away from Brennen at some point. Michael devises a plan that requires Larry to give him his cell phone number. The two sneak into the federal courthouse, where they stage a huge act to persuade the disinterested clerk to get away from his post. This allows them to sneak into another room, where they get the name of the target: Albert Machado, an IMF employee.
Armed with Larry’s cell phone number thanks to Michael, Sam and Fiona wait for him to call Brennen with that information, but Sam is confused when he realizes the network address keeps changing, making it and him impossible to pin down. Michael and Larry just barely manage to get past U.S. Marshals and out of the courthouse unscathed.
Afterward, Brennen gives Larry and Michael everything they need to know about Albert, and lets slip that he’s planning on framing a Filipino separatist group for the murder. Michael convinces the two of them that Albert is more useful alive than dead. Making the understatement of the season, Larry says Brennen is “kind of a dick.”
Sam and Fiona track black market phone scrambling technology to a guy called Alfredo, and of course, Fiona wants to go say hello from the ceiling. Sam does not enjoy the eight-foot fall to the floor. Alfredo admits that he sold Brennen a phone scrambler and a very top-flight safe. Fiona deduces that since Alfredo installed the safe, he has Brennen’s address, and Sam calls in Jesse to help them with whatever comes next.
Michael and Larry surveil Albert while picking each other’s brains about their real motives. They agree to make Brennen feel as comfortable as possible when the three of them meet to discuss their plan for the kidnapping. What follows is a lot of sweet-talking, spy style, and Brennen eats it up…until they tell him that they need a day or two to scout the guard situation out. Then he wises up to them and decides that they’ll pull the operation off right then. Time for a new plan, which involves a few bombs – for which Brennen has very specific directions, so it looks just like the handiwork of the people he plans on blaming.
Jesse gets brought up to speed by Sam and Fiona, and they go to scout out the situation. Unfortunately for them, Brennen had the safe installed in an apartment in an empty building with plenty of cameras, so if the three of them try to sneak in and crack it, they’ll be painfully obvious.
Larry starts blowing things up, allowing himself and Michael to sneak into Albert”s compound while his guards are distracted. Michael is able to get the jump on Albert and once again, his name strikes fear into the person he’s talking to. However, Larry decides he’d rather blow up Albert instead, starting another fight between the two of them. Larry points out that Michael probably wouldn’t mind killing the people who destroyed his life, but he just won’t allow himself to cross that line. Michael pretends as if he’s come around to Larry’s way of thinking, as a way of getting Larry to help them retrieve the spy list from Brennen’s safe. Larry double-crosses him, though, stabbing Brennen and pulling a gun on Michael. With that, Jay Karnes makes his last appearance on Burn Notice. This makes me sad. The character was due to go, but the actor’s pretty awesome, isn’t he?
With Brennen out of the picture, Larry puts himself in charge of Michael, forcing him to call Fiona and tell her to get everyone out of town. He manages to slip her a distress keyword within a message that means precisely the opposite of what he says. Getting the real meaning, Fiona realizes what’s happening and what Michael is really telling them to do. She and Jesse get into the apartment, blow the safe out of the wall and make off with it. They’re gone by the time that Larry and Michael arrive; Michael is more concerned with the sniper dot on Larry’s chest than the missing safe. That’s because the sniper happens to be Sam.
Larry continues to tell Michael that he’s wasting his potential. Michael points out the difference between the two of them is that he’s willing to die for something he believes in, before he walks out, leaving Larry to be hauled off by the cops. As she and Michael prepare to move forward, Fiona points out that they’ve never discussed their future. She goes to crack the safe while Madeline checks on a still-coping Jesse, telling him that she called Marv’s family for him and told his daughter that her father died a hero. “If I’ve learned anything from watching you and my son,” she says, “it’s that if one little lie helps a family sleep at night, it’s not such a bad thing.”
Fiona retrieves the spy list from the safe, as everyone realizes that Brennen’s death and the subsequent release of the blackmail audio file means that everyone will be turning up to say hello.
This first part of the Burn Notice finale, though, does raise that interesting question. What Michael might want emotionally is a completely different thing from what he needs to do. It’s that age-old battle between logic and emotion. No one would blame Michael for wanting to do exactly what Brennen wants him to do; who wouldn’t want to kill the people who managed to wreck your entire life and take away everything you had? That’s a pretty powerful motivator.
However, over the last four seasons and through those experiences, Michael has reached a point where revenge is not what he’s driving for anymore. He’s found a different focus for his time and energies in the cases that he’s taken; he’s built a new life for himself. While getting back in the spy game would be nice, and certainly he’s not going to feel too sad if bad things happen to the people who ruined his old life, that’s just what it is – his old life. This is more about closure and doing the right thing than trying to rebuild what was lost. That’s the most important part of this episode: who Michael is now, and as Fiona says, where he might be going.
Let’s move on to part two…