Burn Notice: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Burn Notice S06E02: "Mixed Messages"

Ah, true love. Since the heart first beat rhythms of romance, cupid's bow has spurred mankind to do crazy things, like invade Troy for the world's greatest beauty, or even make Jesse the focus of last night's Burn Notice episode. Agent Porter has been a touchy subject since his inclusion in the opening credits this season (so, only a couple of weeks) with some viewers feeling he has earned his place as a welcome addition to the crew and others seeing him as a total snooze meant to strategically draw in the "stylized bald head" demographic. Though I would have much rather seen Michael dance his way through the deadly boogie of gaining a psycho cartel gangster's trust, the episode still worked surprisingly well because of (A) John C. McGinley's perfectly cast turn as the dude who originally trained Michael, and (B) Fiona going to Lady Jail.

It's probably no coincidence that Jeffrey Donovan directed "Mixed Messages" while his character took on the similarly behind-the-scenes role of mission leader/van captain of an operation aimed at busting the Miami leg of the Zetas drug cartel. The story kicked off with another letter from Fiona, this time detailing her entrance into a crazy prison for extra-violent females (so the same one Martha Stewart attended, basically). Viewers, take "note": This is the second episode in a row wherein Michael tearfully read a missive from his one true love. If next week begins the same way, then we'll have officially moved into "epistolary romance" territory (not complaining, just sayin').

Michael's connection to Fiona runs so deep, he could tell just by her words (and how the "i's" were not dotted with hearts) that she is giving up hope, and he needed to see her (I imagine to so they could passionately line up their hands on opposite sides of bullet proof glass). Problem was, Sam had a super hard time scoring the letter by pulling some strings with Homeland Security (i.e. back massages for a month), so he suggested Michael try for some favors via the CIA. Enter Tom Card (McGinley), Michael's original CIA training officer and all-around higher-up played with the intensity and heartless judgement of a disapproving coach.

Card was the perfect ball-busting mentor figure to take Michael to task for pursuing Fiona so relentlessly. His discouragement on a professional level only makes Micheal's love appear stronger. Plus, did you see he had not one but two photos of himself with President Obama?

I hope the producers let McGinley keep those for his private collection. Was Card the one who taught Westen the merits of yogurt/probiotics? In any case this is the beauty of Burn Notice: Early on, the show smartly found a comedic tone in the world of espionage, so that character actors are able to play around without having to worry about being too silly for the universe, but still not appear ridiculous. Brava!

So Michael made a pitch to Tom Card about helping him see Fiona, but Michael's relationship with her bomb-happy self made it hard for the CIA to help out (they were all like, "You and your girl are TOO trashy to be seen with the likes of us."). Card agreed to let Michael improve his reputation with the agency by helping him bust some gangsters from the Zetas drug cartel who were trying to establish a presence in Miami, a.k.a. Chris Parnell and his friend.

Meanwhile, in Lady Prison, Fiona made new friends and enemies in the form of a kindly bully named "DB" and a sprightly, smokey-voiced Taryn Manning, who I assume was playing herself.

Got to say I'm a sucker for any foray into the brutal world of women's incarceration. If Fiona ends up staying here all season, I'll happily watch as she rises through the ranks to become Queen of the Cell Block. Hey, it could happen!

Back in Dudeville, Mike, Jesse, Sam, and Card all met up at a safehouse to discuss the plan, which was basically to send Mike and Jesse into the criminal ranks as crooked DEA agents with the scoop on a bust headed the Zetas' way. Hopefully, they'd be able sway the coke-mongers into receiving their shipment at a new location, at which point Card would roll up on those fools gov'ment style.

Unfortunately, right off the bat at a pool party Michael recognized a shady lawyer who also looked liked the guy from Men's Wearhouse.

Westen had to bail out of the mission, leaving Jesse to go it alone. At this point hopefully not too many people shut off the the TV, stood up and walked out of the house right into traffic when they realized Agent Porter was taking the action of this episode. Those who hung on were treated with an amazing speech from Tom Card that involved a serious whistle, the phrase "tiddlywinks," and lots of temple-tapping.

To stop his former trainer from tapping his temples for the next hour—and possibly causing brain damage—Michael convinced Card to hand over the reigns as Jesse smoothly talked his way further into the mission.

Jesse-haters ("JH'rs"?), come on, it was kind of entertaining to see him stumble his way out of this fix. Yeah, he's not as charismatic or skilled as Michael, but I find it refreshing to see a comparative amateur taking bumps while learning the ropes of super-spydom. Then again what do I know? (I was raised by professional clowns).

So while the crew reenacted scenes from Criterion Collection's Another Stakeout, Jesse managed to get a knife pulled on him a second time at the safehouse geared to back up his fake story. You are getting good at this, Jesse! Luckily, some nifty pre-planning yielded a stiff in the fridge for Agent Porter to use as proof that he was, in fact, telling the truth about being shady enough to kick it.

Stay out of the fridge, children/federal agents! The Zeta fella bought it hook and line, but not sinker. Instead the gangster decided to check out one last mystery thing following Jesse's advice. Little did Mike's team know there was another, actually shady DEA agent already selling the cartel intel, and that lead to a comedy of errors where Jesse had to think on his toes, pointing fingers and whatnot. It got to the point where Porter was like "yeah, this guy's not telling the truth because as it turns out, a raid is a-coming." Michael, Sam, and Card took this as their cue to scrap together a tiny raid and then this happened to the real DEA:

Sorry bro, that's what you get for being rotten to the core. Any corrupt DEAs out there, take heed. Crime doesn't pay (unless you are very, very, clever at it).

By this point in Lady Jail, Fiona faced some pretty tough customers herself. Word was she was going to get jumped by DB and her crew, so Fi' did what any fresh piece of prison meat would: She made a lighter out of a battery, then soaked some rolled-up magazines in salt water so that they might dry into clubs. Duh. I had learned that in juvie already, so when Fiona came storming out of a diversionary prison fire, I was not surprised and even yawned...

Yeah right! I stood up out of my turquoise suede Papasan and cheered for all her ass-kickery. Seriously that was way rad. Not even within the context of the show, but just a cool thing to see happen on TV in general. Mark my words, by the time Michael gets visitation rights, Fi' will be sporting cornrows, teardrop tattoos, calling herself "Paper Girl," and ordering prison hits like this guy orders coke-mules:

Sadly, Mike's crew did not have their game as tight as Fi', because before Jesse could coerce the Zetas to move the drop-off to a different location, kingpin Salazar had the bright idea to first make sure there actually existed a threat. Then Michael was like "here we go again," and his team had to create the illusion of a fake raid using nothing but Popsicle sticks and sand:

Not too bad! But you know Zetas cartel members, they just have to shoot stuff. Jesse played along, so it was bye-bye stakeout van.

When it seemed they were all out of the woods, Salazar got word from some of his other agents that a bust had indeed taken place at the supposedly "safe" location, leaving Jesse all on his own to talk his way out of a brand-new bullet facial. He did so by convincing Salazar's #1 to become a turncoat and help out the DEA.

Tom Card was so impressed with Michael's crew that he promised to work at getting him in to see Fiona. Awesome! Looks like there'll be more Tom Card in our futures, which I welcome. He really brings a fun energy to the team, and if there's going to be more Jesse, then at least you non-Jesse fans will get some cool guest appearances to make up for whatever you feel Ol' Baldy slows down.

As the sun set on another action-packed Miami day, Fiona found work in the prison kitchen with her new best friend Taryn Manning, who did what besties do and hit Fi' over the head with a frying pan and tried to drown her!

Yeah right, Paper Girl don't play those games!

Dang, in the end Taryn Manning was not trying to be a friend to Fi' at all, but was just acting on orders from a mysterious "sister-threatening" cell phone call she received one night. I'll just barely allow this, because as a rule I hate twists that don't fairly provide viewers with a sliver of foresight.

Oh yeah, then Nate showed up at the very end for some reason and was like, "By the way, my wife Ruth left me." Did anyone else feel this was oddly tacked-on? The Brothers Westen got emotional for a minute out of nowhere, so I think the team at BN must've had a note this season to match the body count with moments that involve "feelings." Sorry Nate, tough break!


– How long will Fiona last on the inside?

– Can Jesse hold his own?

– Was it a bummer to see Mike sidelined?

– Is Jeffrey Donovan a true threat behind the camera?

– Do you hope Tom Card and Sam Axe square off?

– Does Anson's criminal enterprise have ties to Lady Jail?

– Is Jesse the best character Burn Notice will ever have?

– Are you reading the Burn Notice graphic novel?

– Is Taryn Manning's band, Boomkat, chill?

Comments (22)
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– How long will Fiona last on the inside? probably longer than I think, but pranks and shenanigans will only get you so far.

– Can Jesse hold his own? totally.

– Was it a bummer to see Mike sidelined? no. since a majority of the episodes are about him it's nice to see other characters take center stage once in a while.

– Is Jeffrey Donovan a true threat behind the camera? he is very good.

– Do you hope Tom Card and Sam Axe square off? not like in a physical fight, but getting into an argument about something Michael-related would be interesting.

– Does Anson's criminal enterprise have ties to Lady Jail? a definitely possibility, he has fingers in a lot of pies...

– Is Jesse the best character Burn Notice will ever have? no. Madeline might be a contender though...

– Are you reading the Burn Notice graphic novel? no.

– Is Taryn Manning's band, Boomkat, chill? no idea.
This has always been a good journeyman show, not great but usually watchable. Sorry but it's getting a bit lousy lately. Michael has already let us know that risking his life is way more fun than bedding Fi and that's a shame. Sam and Maddie should do a spinoff before they get caught up in all this mediocrity...
man Fiona is a true BAD ASS
So Dr. Cox has been a CIA trainer all along, huh? It was the same exact character, even with the whistle at one point.
Yeah, it pretty much shows us his depth as an actor...
Really? That's your comment? Please stop already. Pathetic. Stop watching it.
Card's speech in the van: Perry U. Cox to a T.
Ehh, decent... I guess. I tend to not like episodes that Nate shows up in... and also episodes that feature Mike throwing a temper tantrum: *reads note* RAAWWR *flips table*... bleh, lame. Also, it was like the scene in the season premiere when Mike pulled a gun on Sam, in that Mike's anger emotion fades WAY too quickly, making it seem fake or forced.

I like Card. I giggled when Dr. Cox -- uh, McGinley -- did the whistle. He didn't do much in the episode, though. I also like Jesse, and I don't mind him having a bit of a bigger role.

Fiona will last as long as she wants to. I figure Mike will break her out at some point, but until then, Fiona SHOULD be able to beat the crap out of anyone there. It's basically why I didn't buy her being in danger from DB and her posse.

All in all, this was just another fairly-boring fairly-decent episode. It seems to be the norm of Burn Notice since season 4 or so.
I agree with everything you said especially the point about Mike flipping the table. "Bleh, lame", indeed.
Indeed that was lame, lame, lame. And who among us didn't see that frying pan a comin' just rolling down Mainstreet flags a flyin'...
I also laughed at those Barack Obama photos! haha too funny, I'd want to keep them as well. I forsee Fi rising through the ranks and owning that prison, she's such a bad ass!! I like Jesse so I don't mind him taking more responsibility on the show. Great ep!
-No doubt's about Fi! Lady prison not much of a threat.

-Jesse getting better n better! Love the dialogues "I, kind of accidentally discharged my weapon on my boss 4 times"

-Sidelined? he is the team leader.

-Not at all!

-I love to see sam axe interactions with authority.

-Love all the characters at BN!

-No novel.
Jesse has been in the opening credits since Season 4, and Nate showed up in the beginning of the episode as well.
Whoops, good eye!
This was probably my least favorite episode of the whole show. It was annoying and anything with Taryn Manning in it immediately drops 10 points. I don't like Card, he is unnecessary and isn't that great of a character. McGineley is being wasted in the spot. He could have been a great big bad. This whole Michael being lovelorn is already annoying. Like to the point where I want to foolishly flip over a table and spill things for no apparent reason. This plus the premiere just dropped the show to number 3 behind Suits and Psych. And since Whilte Collar is coming back soon. It may go down to 4. I know they wanted to change it up so it wasn't getting too repetitive. But they need to fix thing. And now.

Spy Chat?

Fiona will last as long as they need to. Which will hopefully be over and done with half way through the season. Because it is unbearably stupid. Are we seriously supposed to believe that a woman who was a terrorist, who can drop guys thrice her size is worried about Big Chedder (yes that was a community reference) and her two lackeys? Really. Because that is a reach. Also, whomever decides to cast Taryn Manning in any show they cast her in should be slapped repeatedly until they realize they grievous error they have made.

- Jesse is too affable to hold his own. I like him, but as the main man trying to sell a bad guy, he just lacks the aura of michael.

-if all he is going to do is pout and whine and be impotent about Fiona. They can keep sidelining him. But if they are going to do so. More Sam, less everyone else.

-He is all right.

-No, Card should catch a bullet as quickly as possible.

- I think Fi is the best character.

- Nope

- She has a band. Why would someone give her a music contract. After listening to two songs on iTunes. i am going to have to go with Why would you give me that idea to go check out her music Ryan? That was horrible and now I have to wipe that experience from my brain.

I agree with absolutely everything you wrote.

The storyline of busting the Cartel was good, but everything else, um, wasn't. Am I the only one getting tired of prison on TV and movies? It's always the same formula! And they always explain it! We know the new guy/girl has to assert themselves by taking out the Queen/King of the cell-block. We've seen it already a hundred times. But every time it's like, "Okay, HERE'S how prison works." I get that that (grammatically correct double-words, FTW!) is probably how prison actually works, but I just don't care any more. Some true cliches become boring after a while. Plus, as you stated, Fiona giving those women a second thought was ridiculous. She's a renowned terrorist and easily the most dangerous person in that entire prison. Stuff like that usually get around to the other prisoners. THEY should have been scared of HER.

McGineley was miscast (I could have totally seen him as a recurring bad guy) and I was holding out hope Taryn Manning would get shivved by the end of the episode (still time for that - fingers crossed!).

Also, the brother coming back seriously worries me. I never like any of the episodes he was in. Always wanting to be the little helper and coming off as slightly pathetic.

WOW! It probably sounds like I hate this show right now. Which couldn't be further from the truth. I just didn't care for this episode. Although, I thoroughly enjoyed the season premier.

Finally, "More Sam, less everyone else." - YES!
More +
I get that that that that you used after that first that was grammatically correct, but I don't like when people do that.
"Jesse is too affable to hold his own. I like him, but as the main man trying to sell a bad guy, he just lacks the aura of michael." Well put.

I thought Taryn Manning did a good job however.
Paper Girl is a great name. Love it.

-How long will she last? By that I'm assuming you mean, how long until the warden's in HER pocket? I say give it another 4 or 5 episodes.

-I don't know what's up with the Jesse-hating. I like him, and I think he holds his own pretty well. Put me down in the Pro-Jesse column.

-I think Jeffrey Donovan is a pretty decent director. If I recall, this isn't anywhere near his first directing credit.

-Would LOVE to see a McGinley-Campbell square off. Those two would be great opposite each other.

-I'm sure Anson's criminal enterprise has ties to anything he wants it to have ties to.

-Again, I like Jesse. But Michael is the heart of the show.

-I didn't even know there was a "Burn Notice" graphic novel until the ad this episode.

-Don't know the band even a little bit, so, I'm going to say No. They're not chill. (Just 'cause.)
He directed the Burn Notice movie.
I was curious about that flick, it sounded cool.

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