Episode Title: “Army of One”
Writer: Alfred Barrios, Jr.
Director: Tawnia McKiernan
Previously on “Burn Notice”:
Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) raced against time to solve the murder of his CIA contact Max (Grant Show) before the CIA could realize that all of the evidence left by the real killer implicated Michael for the crime. When a specifically made bomb was left to kill Michael’s impersonator, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) made a deal with one of her former lovers named Armand (Gavin Rossdale) to learn who built the bomb in the first place. Although Fiona seemed to be increasingly upset with Michael over his current situation, she reluctantly robbed a munitions shipment for Armand in exchange for the name of the bomber: Lucien Dobos (Patrick Bauchau), a war criminal hiding in the US under an assumed name.
Michael and Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) captured Lucien, but the old man proved adept at keeping them from learning anything useful during his interrogations. He eventually tricked Sam into looking for his contact at a coffee shop… which turned out to be a distress signal for his contact; who somehow tracked Sam and Michael to the warehouse where they had stashed Lucien. The unnamed man opened fire on the building with semi-automatic weapons and indiscriminately hit Lucien, fatally wounding him. Moments before the warehouse went down in flames, Lucien told Michael where he could find his former partner as a measure of revenge.
Shortly after the warehouse burned down, Michael and Sam regroup and immediately pursue Max’s killer to the warehouse that Lucien told Michael about. However, while sneaking in, Sam accidentally sets off an alarm which allows the killer to burn all of his hard drives and get away relatively cleanly. Worse, Michael’s new CIA contact, Agent Pearce (Lauren Stamile) seems to be closing in on Michael by having quickly realized Lucien’s connection to Max’s murder and she wants Michael to hand over his investigation files immediately. To stay off of Pearce’s immediate radar, Michael takes Sam’s place on a corporate espionage job for Jesse Porter (Coby Bell). And much to Michael’s dismay, Jesse immediately brings in Michael’s mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless) to assist.
As planned, Michael approaches a man named Holcomb and his men while posing as a hacker named Dixon. But to his surprise, Michael learns that Holcomb intends to take everyone at a private airfield hostage ahead of a billionaire’s arrival and force the man to hand over his bank accounts after killing his security detail. Holcomb’s men are so effective that they even sweep up Madeline from the parking lot. To keep Holcomb’s men from becoming homicidal towards the hostages, Michael disarms one of the security guards himself and he volunteers to see if the hostage round up got all of the airfield’s employees. He quickly makes up an employee named Jack Marsden, who he claims is notably missing from the hostages.
Using the missing employee as a pretense to search for him with one of Holcomb’s men, Michael improvises a bomb and a gun to make it seem like Marsden is pulling a “Die Hard” and attempting to take out the criminals by himself. Michael also builds up Marsden in the minds of Holcomb’s team by telling them that he is an ex-ranger who happens to be an explosives maker. Finally convinced that “Marsden” is a real threat, Holcomb splits up his forces long enough for Michael to alert Jesse about the situation and to divert the billionaire’s flight… after cutting a hole in the fence for the hostages to escape. Michael then takes out the last man guarding the hostages to escape and gets them to follow him after Madeline tells them that he’s her son.
However, Holcomb and his men are too close to the exit point for the hostages to escape. So, Michael blows up a plane to give them the cover and the time to hide in another warehouse while going back to the original building and pretending to have been injured by Marsden. But this time, Holcomb doesn’t believe him and he threatens to shoot Michael then and there. After another man states that the hostages are hiding in the warehouse, Michael offers to kill them himself if it will prove his loyalty. Once inside with another one of Holcomb’s men, one of the hostages spots Michael and outs him as Madeline’s son. Michael narrowly overpowers the man with Madeline’s help and then uses the man’s blood to make it appear as if he was mortally wounded.
Michael tricks Holcomb into leaving him with a live grenade to take out the hostages and Marsden when they get too close. And soon enough, the cops are waiting for Holcomb at his safehouse and he sees Michael and Jesse watching him as he is led away. Meanwhile, Sam uses one of his hacker friends to recover data from a burned computer drive left by Max’s killer while Fiona leads the cops on a wild goose chase as they attempt to place Sam’s friend back under house arrest. Sam and Fiona eventually learn that the killer was paid by someone local to Miami, but time is running out and Michael reluctantly turns his files over to Pearce, who now has three times the manpower to solve the case. And she is convinced that she is getting close to the killer. But as Michael nervously notes to himself, everything leads back to him in the absence of the real killer.
I was initially against the idea that Jesse was now a security consultant outside of the team, but it’s proven to be another way to get into the stories without the CIA or the “A-Team of the week” scenarios. There was a particularly great sequence early in this episode where Michael slowly realized how out of hand the so-called easy job was getting. One of the things that Jeffrey Donovan does well is putting a sense of dread in his face and mannerisms. There were even a few moments when Michael seemed like he was afraid, especially when Madeline was violently taken from the parking lot and when he was outed by the hostage late in the show.
Obviously, we’ve seen variations of “Die Hard” before in other TV shows and films, but this might be the first one in which the hero convinced the villains that there was a John McClane style hero gunning for them while pretending to be one of their own. It was a pretty brilliant plan, but late in the game it seemed overly reliant on the villains being too trusting of Michael. I really liked the majority of that storyline, however it was ludicrous that Michael convinced Holcomb that he was fatally wounded with the blood from the back of another man’s head. That was definitely pushing my willing suspension of disbelief.
Aside from Madeline, the hostages were all pretty unsympathetic and kind of stupid. It’s understandable that they wouldn’t immediately trust Michael, even with Madeline vouching for him. However, the hostages seemed incredibly foolish when they spoke about surrendering to the criminals, in addition to outing Michael when one woman got scared. I’m not generally a fan of “spy mom” Madeline, but I did like the way she took charge and herded the meek hostages to safety almost against their will.
I’ve also noticed a recurring scene in “Burn Notice” where Michael and his team are almost always there to watch the bad guys get taken into custody… and none of the police men question their presence or even ask for a statement! This week’s take on that scene seemed particularly over-the-top because Michael and Jesse were basically gloating at that point.
There was some fun in the Sam and Fiona storyline and her methods of eluding the police were amusing. Unfortunately, we’re getting a lot scenes where Fiona complains about her relationship with Michael and how she isn’t sure where she fits into his life. And that’s actually working against Fiona’s character by making her less sympathetic. The writers are understandably trying to humanize Fiona by giving her doubts, but this conflict that she has with Michael seems like a forced way to eventually separate them for a while. I wouldn’t be surprised if it will be used down the line to hook Fiona up with Jesse, just to increase the romantic tension.
Regarding the Agent Pearce story, is there any way that story is going to end without Michael being initially blamed for Max’s death before his eventual exoneration? There was a really effective flashback with Michael that reminded us of the things he did to cover the killer’s tracks to save himself; which was edited particularly well. But if the season is going to hinge upon this story, I’d like some surprises along the way.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.