'Burn Notice': The lady or the psycho

Jeffreydonovan_gabrielleanwar_burnnotice_240 Michael meets an old flame this week on Burn Notice, which leads to a fair bit of combustion on all fronts. Plus, Michael and Victor finally get a chance to have a little chat -- which goes about as well as you could expect.

Michael gets a blast from the past when Samantha shows up looking for help. She's an old partner in crime, a former compatriot... and oh yeah, they were kind of engaged for a while. That news does NOT sit well with Fi and Madeleine. Lady Sam is an "acquisitions expert" (that's thief to you and me) with a problem: Brennen (who the subtitles inform us is both a "Black Market Trader" and an "Evil Son of a Bitch")  kidnapped her son, Charlie, to force her to steal a military targeting chip from a local defense contractor. This chip is a big deal, and every defense and intelligence agency in the Western hemisphere will be after Lady Sam once they realize she did the deed. She needs Michael's help getting her son back, and then getting the chip back so she can return it and escape unscathed.

Slight problem: Brennen is good. He's just as spycrafty as Michael, plus he's, you know, a evil son of a bitch. (What, you thought the subtitles wee bluffing?) He exchanges Charlie for the chip, but as insurance to keep someone (i.e., Michael) from immediately stealing the chip back, he implants a bomb in a plaster cast on Charlie's arm. If Brennen doesn't get away clean, he'll blow up he kid's arm. How can you argue with that? It's time for Plan B.

Michael and Fi go to Brennen as themselves, and tell him they know Lady Sam is planning to steal the chip back. They offer to protect Brennen (Michael because Lady Sam betrayed him, and Fi because she's jealous), but Brennen isn't buying it. Fortunately, Victor provides a good, if unwitting, smokescreen, and Brennen starts to almost kind of maybe a little believe Michael. Michael and Fi come in to enhance the security of the exchange site, while actually smuggling in both Sams in a Trojan truck. The Sams lie in wait in the airplane hanger... but Brennen decides to do the exchange in the open. Improvise! Our Sam shoots at the buyers, who are not happy. They flee, taking their money and vowing revenge on Brennen. Brennen is stuck -- he doesn't have the money he thought he'd have to finance his escape, so his only option is to return the chip, and hope that it's only pissed-off South Americans that come after him, not the combined forces of several First-World governments. This, of course, is what Michael wanted all along.

There's no elegant way to return the chip without anyone knowing they'd been there. Instead, Michael decides to make a splash. He and Lady Sam blow up large portions of the secure facility, return the chip, steal some inconsequential stuff (and then discard it in the lobby), and leave with the crowd. Most likely, the contractor will never even know the chip was missing. Lady Sam and her son are safe.

The Big Bad Plot
Michael and Sam find out a little more about Victor -- he's pretty much in the same situation as Michael himself, except he's been there longer and he's much more pissed off about it. And that, apparently, is why he's decided to kill Carla's operatives -- although it's always possible that this is just something Victor did to pass the time.  Michael declines to turn Victor in to Carla -- he wants to see if he can get vital intel out of Victor and use that to get his life back. This is despite the fact that Carla says if he turns over the killer, Carla will do what she can to release him from his contract.

Victor remains equal parts elusive and psycho, unwilling to sit down for a friendly chat. When Michael finally manages to meet so they can talk, Victor says that if Michael doesn't tell Carla what he knows, Victor won't kill Michael. That's it, end of discussion. "Yeah, I was hoping for a little more carrot and a lot less stick," Michael says. Commence the ass-kicking! Fortunately, Michael has a trick up his sleeve -- he's modified a disposable camera into a taser, and he manages to zap Victor, knock him out, and smuggle his unconscious body out in plain sight in a wheelchair. Will Michael turn over Victor to regain his own freedom?

Spy Tips from Michael (with a bonus tip from Fi!)
  • Spies compartmentalize as a matter of course. Information is doled out on a need-to-know basis. This is good practice on the job, but can get your ass kicked if you just happen to neglect to mention that you used to be engaged.
  • Security hasn't really changed much in the past 4,500 years -- get a good view of danger, make your walls tough to penetrate, stock up on weapons, and beware Greeks (or Michaels) bearing gifts (or trucks with secret compartments).
  • Handprint readers can be fooled by using the print left on a handy soda can.
  • After a certain point in a secure facility, cameras disappear, because the guards don't have the clearance to see what's going on in the secure bit. That makes it easy to distribute itty bitty explosives hither and yon.
  • When you're blowing a chunk out of a secure facility, resist the temptation to restrict your boom to a single place -- the part you're trying to access. Plant bombs everywhere -- "Trip 1 sensor and you're toast. Trip 100 sensors, and nobody knows that to do."
  • Fi's addendum: Want to get disreputable people to turn an equally disreputable person in? Spread the rumor that they were involved in a dog-fighting ring. Even hardened criminals like puppies!

Highlights, thoughts and odds and ends
  • Madeleine is staying with Michael to keep her safe. This actually makes Michael LESS safe, as it mean Maddie is there when Lady Sam drops the engagement bombshell.
  • Gabrielle Anwar does a great job with Fi this week -- she gets these expressions of icy calm that's masking a hell of a lot of pain. Well done.
  • Michael explains the engagement thing in the end -- Lady Sam and I were alike, we got on great, it was easy. Then I met you, Fi, and it was NEVER easy. But you don't stay engaged to someone when you're in love with someone else. Fi is gobsmacked.
  • Maddie is theoretically asleep when Sam tells Fi the above. Lies! She's listening the whole time. "You picked he right girl," she tells him.
  • Our Sam tries to cut the tension with Fi and Maddie when Lady Sam appears. Boy, two Sams, this is going to get confusing! he jokes. "Have you ever been secretly engaged to my son?" Maddie spits out. "No," Sam admits. "Then I think we'll be able to tell you apart," Maddie says.
  • Michael tries to excuse the fact that he never told his mom about Lady Sam: "It just never came up. It was a long time ago!" Maddie is not amused: "So was WWII, but they still talk about it."
  • Lady Sam lets Michael believe that Charlie could be her son. Oh, sure, she tells him he's not, but she also lies about Charlie's age so the timing would be right. Not cool, Lady Sam!
  • Brennen is played by Jay Karnes, who I will always think of as Dutch on The Sheild. He makes a damn fun bad guy, and I really hope he comes back.
  • Lady Sam is played by Dina Meyer, who I recognize from birds of Prey and Starship Troopers. Good god, I'm a geek... She's.... ok, but she never need return again.
  • Victor's full name is Victor Stecker-Epps. "He's got a last name like a female middle distance runner," Sam cracks.
  • Michael proposes the truck trick. "Like we did in Dublin?" Fi purrs. Yes, Michael answers. "Is she talking about that thing we did in St. Petersburg?" Lady Sam asks. Yes, Michael acknowledges. Michaels' in TROUBLE!