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?