The past couple weeks’ headlines have been all abuzz with news of the NSA collecting call and email data on normal citizens from major communications providers. The eerie revelation has sparked debates over privacy and security, two topics coincidentally explored in "Forget Me Not," an episode that also gave us all a flashback look-see at the origins of Miami’s favorite spy couple (sorry Carlos, we don’t know you yet). Now, I normally watch Burn Notice more for the boom-boom-shoot-shoot, and less for topical discussions on civil liberties, and because it’s a spy show, nearly EVERY adventure involves some level of espionage, subterfuge, and the government dancing around public truth in order to bring about a greater good for an unknowing society. However, as Michael Westen found himself increasingly conflicted about whether to continue spying on his own friends in order to aid the CIA, I found MYSELF wondering about the appropriate level of transparency in protecting those outside of the "need to know" circle. ALSO: HAPPY 100th EPISODE!!! Great directing job, Jeffrey Donovan! Let the syndication dollars roll in!
Beyond the aforementioned and probably-not-prescient heady themes, this week’s adventure was mainly concerned with reuniting Westen and his crew, as well as sticking our noses right in the sour roses of Michael and Fi’s spoiled relationship, all while uncovering the true identity of last week’s dastardly Mystery Man. We seem to get episodes like this every season, where Michael is sidelined in the role of protecting his team; the only difference this time was that no one had seen or heard from him in over nine months. Of course, any time you've got an ensemble as strong as Fi, Sam, and Jesse, separating them from the leader isn’t nearly as fun as having all four personalities bouncing off one another. But reconnecting after a nine-month absence is a necessary plot point, and I’m happy it was addressed nice and early in the season.
Still, whenever the two story threads are essentially the Westenless team executing a mission—in this case, investigating an address associated with Mystery Man/Dexter Gamble (hey that was easy)—and Westen watching them execute that mission, the plot risks redundancy. There was a little fun to be had with Westen playing guardian angel, but the dramatic impact amounted to Sam and Fi looking around quizzically, as if they smelled yogurt in the air. Thankfully a cozy Irish pub circa 2001 offered a blank-filling diversion into some nascent moments involving Miona (Fichael?). Does rowdy, drunken gun-assembly really happen in the Emerald Isle? What I liked most about "Michael McBride’s" visualized memories wasn’t so much the playing out of the event (the "First Contact" graphic novels already touched on the Belfast days), but rather the emotional punch they delivered.
Anyone who’s ever encountered an ex in a public setting where that person is unaware that they’re being watched can attest to how surreal the one-sided sighting can be. You’ve imagined him/her in a mental vacuum, and seeing that person function autonomously outside of any association with yourself can do a number on the old ticker. Factor in how Westen hadn’t had any contact with Fi for nearly a year, plus how he discovered his romantic replacement (Carlos) while saving the new couple’s life, and plus how ultimately reliving the past resulted in concrete evidence (the cheek-kiss) that things were finally over, and it’s a wonder that Michael didn’t break down into fat Irish sobs from his vantage point before mission’s end.
So we’ll count the death of Dexter Gamble as a curve ball, because I honestly thought he’d be around a little longer as a mini-boss, and instead he ended his two-episode stay holier than a thing with a lot of holes in it. I know this man did bad, terrible, unspeakable things, but to discover that his main crime was figuring out who Michael Westen actually was at the behest of Pablo kind of made his murder seem like overkill. Yes, him knowing Westen’s CIA association jeopardized the mission down in the Dominican Republic, but dude got cut down by like four machine-gunners (or whatever kind of guns those were). I know it was either Fi or him pretty much, but Strong’s earlier willingness to put the team in jeopardy for the sake of his eight-year, marriage-ending mission makes me suspect that he’ll become a dangerous force to contend with later on (as usual?).
Anyway, as predestined as the reunion was, I still enjoyed seeing the boys back together, and it led to my favorite Sam joke of the episode ("Please tell me you were not listening this morning"). Though Michael's zipping back down to the D.R. solo with his sights set on Randall Burke, I hope that it won't take too long to get everyone all on the same page. It's the last season, so let's not beat around the bush keeping these badasses apart any longer than necessary!
– Was there any other option for Dexter besides kidnapping Fiona?
– Can Andrew Strong be trusted?
– What does Carlos bring to the team?
– Was Carlos right to chin-check Michael in the middle of the road?
– Will Carlos die, leave, or double-cross?
– How will Charlie fit into the rest of the season?
– How will the team come back together?
– Was the "Lone Ranger" exchange a sneaky advertisement for that a certain "big mouse" studio’s cowboy movie?
– Was Maddie’s patting on the elevator glass an effective way to call for help?