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Burn Notice Season 3
By Amy J. Johnston
Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) and his cronies entertain us this week on Burn Notice with lessons they've learned from the mysterious and cutthroat world of international espionage. Michael makes a motion detector ring his cell phone when it is tripped. Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) teaches us that throwing Molotov cocktails at the bad guys' cars before they get out of them is a good way to make them leave. While Sam's (Bruce Campbell) contribution to the Burn Notice crew (besides his love of beer, women and going pants-less) is to use the Feds (who have been using him to keep tabs on Michael) to help out this week's client, with them none the wiser. Gotta love the spy business.
But the more interesting aspects of Burn Notice are revealed in the continuous undercurrent of Michael's personal life – the life he has kept himself removed from during all of his years in the spy business. Being forced to reside in his home town, with both his mom (Sharon Gless) and his ex-girlfriend close at hand, is forcing Michael to deal with all of the things about him and his life that he has buried deep, deep down. He is emotionally-handicapped, and everyone seems to know that but him. That is the kind of stuff that makes Burn Notice special, and not "just another spy show" on television. This episode scrapes a little bit more off of Michael's protective spy coating, and the title of "Fight or Flight" can relate to both the plot and to Michael's response to that personal life. He would rather pick a fight or run away, than deal with anything involving emotions. This made him a terrific spy, but a horrible son and boyfriend.
The episode starts with Fiona pointing this out in a metaphorical way. She wants to know why Michael doesn't have a car. He tries to pin it on his lack of the means, credit and driver's license needed to get one, but she doesn't buy it. She believes it is because he fears commitment – and owning a car, or anything at all, is a commitment. I have struggled sometimes to buy into Gabrielle Anwar's acting as Fiona, or "Fi" as Michael calls her, but she is improving with each episode. She truly shines whenever there is a crisis of some kind, handling it like she is changing a tire or shopping at the mall. We get to see that side of her a couple of times in this episode.
Michael's Clients-of-the-Week (CotW) are Cara (Dedee Pfeiffer) and her daughter Sophie (Natalie Dreyfuss), who are being threatened due to Cara witnessing a man named Desantos (Ivo Lopez) beat the snot out of a pizza delivery guy who accidentally rear-ended Desantos' gold Lexus. Desantos is a big guy within the Colombian drug cartel, so he has no problem with offing the witness and her daughter. Michael's landlord asks if he can do anything, because Cara is his best waitress and now she won't leave her house. In exchange for four months free rent, Michael agrees to try and help.
Keeping with his weekly search for answers regarding the burn notice, Michael manages to track down a former associate of his, Akhom (Robert Younis), who is an Egyptian spy, and also happens to be attending a conference at a Miami hotel. Michael saved his life once, so this guy owes him a favor. Plus, Michael threatens to spill the beans on his nefarious activities, for the other side, to the Sudanese delegates he is meeting with at the conference. He asks Akhom for the Homeland Security Directive that detailed his blacklisting. Akhom is not happy with the request, but Michael gives him no choice. In the end, he gives Michael the directive (with the promise he'll never contact Akhom again) and on it is an alphanumeric tracking code and a special code name: "Cold Sunshine." Michael's voiceover states that, "It's not much, but it's a start."
Jumping back and forth from the CotW story to Michael's continued hunt for information about his burn notice is a nice set up. It prevents the writers from having to thin out the storyline, while giving the show itself a purpose each week outside of the CotW – continuity is always a good thing. As for this CotW story, Michael has to go through three or four different plans before finally finding a resolution for Cara and Sophie. He tries appealing to Desantos and the drug cartel's lawyer, but to no avail. Michael also tries to ship Cara and Sophie off to Buffalo, while making Desantos and his men think they went to Utah – but that plan is foiled when Sophie leaves the safe house he set up (in his mom's garage) to attend her Spring Formal. In the end, Michael and Sam manufacture a fake surveillance tape, wherein it seems that Desantos is going to testify in exchange for witness protection, and give it to the Feds. This results in Desantos being thrown into the trunk of a car by his unforgiving cartel family.
One revelation we are given regarding Michael's personal "fight or flight" modis operandi is that it seems to date back to his leaving home to join the military when he was around 17 or 18. His relationship with his father was not a good one, but it sounds as if they both could have been at fault. His dad's old Charger is in the garage at his mom's place and he makes peace with his dad by fixing the car and visiting his grave, like his mom asked him to. He also ends up giving Fiona a key to his place, so that is at least making some progress in the commitment department. Hopefully he won't resolve all of his emotional issues too soon; otherwise the show won't be half as fun to watch.
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