Death sucks. It is the thing that sucks most in the world. The passing of a loved one stirs up all kinds of messed up emotions ranging from soul-rotting guilt to soul-melting anger. Time crawls, thoughts sour. While the departed obviously bear the worst of these icky circumstances, those remaining are left to question the order of the world, evaluate personal value, assess fulfillment, or more often than not just be plain sad. Basically the opposite of a birthday party. In tonight's hearty mid-season finale "Desperate Times," Nate's ghost shrouded a search for vengeance, that once again found Michael considering the effect his dangerous lifestyle has on his friends and family. Questions were answered, promises were made, and in true Burn Notice form, those hard-won milestones were left rendered into mere trailheads pointing towards a larger enemy.
Maddie finally came out of hiding to do the opposite of celebrating, and hashed out some resentful feelings towards Michael, telling him that "every mistake Nate ever made was because he was trying to be like [Michael]." It speaks to the impressive level of emotional intelligence in pop-culture that this difficult scene between a beaten down Maddie (no makeup, no cigarette) appeared on a show as light-hearted and action-oriented as Burn Notice. "Who do I call, when your call doesn't come. Tell me that"? she asked Michael in a mother's earnest quaver. Making Maddie privy to his secret activities immediately backfired, as his mother responded like a vulnerable guardian and the stakes were never clearer: she simultaneously worried for the safety of her one remaining son, and blamed Michael for the danger that routinely surrounded him. Y'ouch. Talk about a guilt trip.
Yo The Shields's Kenny Johnson, 'sup? Despite her pleas, Westen and company, plus an agent working the Anson case named Brady Pressman (Chad Coleman, "Cutty" to The Wire nuts, that guy in I Hate My Teenage Daughter to nobody) proceeded on a covert operation sponsored by the CIA (much to Fiona's chagrin) down to Panama, to capture the man believed to be Tyler Gray. Under the guise of a stolen weapons investigation, Card had to keep the crew slim setting up an all-too-rare full team-based adventure that gave each member a chance to shine. Fiona maintained a generally peeved attitude towards the government agent, even as he ran through all the technologically advanced artillery to which Westen and friends would have access. Speed frame designated wall breacher, M-110 rifle, Level 5 Body Armor, and APR-556, Corner Shot Gun, were among the goodies that would help fell the man who murdered Nate. Brady seemed to be fitting right in, even calling bedtime with "alright kids, tomorrow's a long day so let's get to bed."
The next morning Michael and Fiona shared a romantic moment, with the latter beaming out the window reminiscing, "There's only one other place I've ever seen the sky that color," to which Michael replied "Over the Irish Sea." (Got it, tropical nation Panama shares similar dusk weather with the traditionally severe, and blustery Ireland). Michael upped the romantic ante (romante?) by trying to move things back to the bed, cooing, "You have no idea how beautiful you look right now." Pretty mushy stuff. Unfortunately there was no time for Eskimo kisses because Gray and some local mercenaries ambushed the crew in its own hideout.
After a literally explosive escape onto the rough, Michael suffered a sever rib-cracking merc kick, forcing them to Peter Pan it off the roof and into a nearby junkyard. Fly Sam, fly!
Jesse had it especially rough because in all the hubbub he had left behind his own shoes and was left doing a Die Hard impression from the ankle down. Making off with only a portion of the cool CIA gadgets thankfully allowed Westen to do what he did best, and he hot-wired some weapons out of some already advantageous items.
Feeling chuffed, or perhaps finally recognizing he had put himself and loved ones through enough bullet-related strife, Michael pledged to Fiona that this would be his final mission. In Burn Notice language, that basically meant crap would definitely hit the fan in ways unimaginable. Knock on wood guys! Still grasping for closure, Maddie blackmailed Tom Card of the CIA (Michael's Trainer/John C. McGinley) into providing her access to a classified file describing the tragic official details of Nate's passing. It was a heart-wrenching decision on her part to explore the terrible facts behind her son's death, but perhaps cathartic.
Back in Panama, Brady was alarmed that the get-along gang wanted to continue. Never to back out of its familiar underdog element, Team Westen easily repurposed the supplies into some ceramic glass-shattering buckshots, and mickey-moused flash grenades to conduct a counter-attack. Jesse even cobbled together some boots, to which Fi called "a Panamamian peep-toe. Tres chic."
Like a true ruthless survivalist, Gray sacrificed his own and fled to a nearby building that he promptly claimed as Sniper's Haunt, then delivered sweet bullet love to Brady's leg like his rifle's name was Romeo Don Juan de Cupid…the Gun. The optimistic wound victim related to Michael with a touching story of his father's military death, and offered to do whatever he could to help Westen. In Burn Notice language (once again) that basically translated to "I hereby declare myself a target!" Meanwhile, Fi got to play gypsy...
While the crew swiftly regrouped in pursuit, Card offered Maddie a consolation speech/bottle parable encouraging her to see Michael's dangerous actions as essentially motivated by a juvenile need to protect his younger brother Nate, and his mother. Could this be Westen's fatal flaw? By extension, Card reasoned every person Michael has ever helped was indebted to Maddie and Nate. "Hmm," Maddie probably thought, followed by "...but I'd rather my son was alive."
"Enjoy your trash nap, pal!" With a risky diversion by Fi and Jesse (who humorously grumbled "you're not the one trying to out run a sniper in hobo shoes"–plus I thought Michael hated putting Fi in harms way?), Westen was able to monkey his way up Sniper's Haunt, and swing his entire body nearly through Gray's torso.
Then like a rodeo star, he prize-tied his brother's executioner and helped himself to a little face-bleeding physical justice. It's always a bad sign when the bad guy's caught and he laughs through some blood. It means he's off, or knows something that's about to turn the booted stomach victory into some kind of loss. To the surprise of probably no one, all was not as it seemed down in Ol' Panama Town, and Westen spared Tyler Gray as a hostage, after discovering the sharpshooter to be a mere pawn in the weaponized game of spy chess that is Michael's waking life. Luckily EVERYONE survived…
Well, almost everyone. What did come as a true surprise was that Card had allegedly sent Westen and company on an intended "suicide mission," as evidenced by Card's odd behavior and some shameless telephone lies. Oh, also another good indicator was the F/A-18 fighter jets that air bombed the crew's former location, plus a heroic, imminently bleeding out Brady inside a hijacked getaway Astro Star Van.
Poor Maddie took an earful from Card about how Michael was like a son to him, then dropped all pretense and received confirmation of Michael's purported death. In the end she hadn't really found a satisfying answer to her ultimate question, which was more along the lines of "why do bad things happen to decent people?" Nate was innocuous, but certainly didn't deserve such a grisly end. There's really no rhyme or reason as to why loved ones have to cease being, but Maddie can take solace in knowing she received about as much resolution as us viewers did with this epic, yet frustrating cliff-hanger. How many times has Michael been jerked around by the CIA? Pick a side, suits! Anyway, see y'all in a few weeks! When we come back, the awesome Patton Oswalt guest-stars. SCORE!
-Was the break-in footage of Tyler Gray falsified by the CIA?
-How far up the government chain does this go?
-How will Westen and friends ever survive in Panama?
-How will Maddie react when Michael goes missing?
-Why is Card doing this?
-Was this a satisfying twist?
-Did this twist make sense?
-Will Michael break off ties with the CIA once and for all?
-Does this mean there's a possibility that Pearce is in hot-water for knowing about Anson and company?