"Steamy is as steamy does" was the phrase ricocheting through my brain-piece like a heart-shaped swarm of uzi bullets sprayed by cupid himself after this week’s venture into Romance Town, U.S.A. population: Michael Westen. "All or Nothing" combined the awkwardness of ex-lover reunions and the pain of a socially isolating career while still maintaining a fun tone on the way to a sexy, devastating breakdown for our hero. Drama notwithstanding, it was the most normal installment we’ve seen this season—returning the gang to Miami, snow globes, yogurt, beer, gray suits, and the loft, as well as giving Fi and Michael a chance to escape their shared past in a bit of (mostly) frothy role-playing. Guns were pointed, asses were smacked, flashbacks were had, and Westen finally cracked a smile, leaving us all to wonder whether this master of subterfuge was on his way to inner peace, or on a collision course for implosive loneliness. Whatcha' think Axe?
So after vowing to destroy the no-good hackers who outed her, Sonya enlisted Westen and Co. to infiltrate a ring of keyboard jockeys known as the Collective (a seeming reference to real-life mischief makers Anonymous that began and ended in name only). The mission: Find out what dirt this group of stylish eggheads had on Sonya and plant a nasty virus stolen from a software developer that was originally intended for the Department of Defense. Baby, this virus was so strong, it made the FULL version of McAfee look the FREE trial version of McAfee. Yeah, that strong.
While Michael was used to knowing all the tiny details of a mission, like what color rubber-bands his operational targets had on their braces (i.e. glow-in-the-dark or Halloween-themed), Sonya continued with the vague soothsayer-speak by pointing out that there’s "a difference between being in the dark and acting on faith." Instead, she was like, "Just pretend to be a doctor and stab this guy because it'd take too long to explain why some stranger got sick for us." Fingers crossed that whatever community she belongs to is some sort of doomsday spy cult that believes Michael Westen is the one true messiah who will lead his righteous followers to Burnhalla, the heaven of espionage (a.k.a. "Heavenspionage").
Maddie didn't appear in this episode, but we all know she spent the day teaching Charlie useful things like the dangers of alcohol, and how to make Hobo Stew. Elsewhere, love was in the air, as Jesse and Sam made good on a deal to reunite stylish fool Barry Burkowski with his estranged girlfriend, in exchange for some hacker software and falsified evidence of fake computer hackery. Barry's fun, but any time this thread strayed too far from the Sonya/Collective story the episode fell limp, because Jesse and Sam scored the important tech stuff right up front, so the remainder of their time with Barry was just fooling around all low-stakes-like, with peripheral characters like Barry’s pistol-whipped replacement and that manic shady car salesmen fighting for that reel footage—AND WINNING.
Things heated up early on for Westen and Fi, but not in the good way, starting the episode off with a tense "oh so this is your new lady friend" encounter outside the loft (the Loft!), and ending with an unsent text to Ol’ Thunderstorm Boot-Knocker himself. Fiona’s near-death experience caused all this sentimentality, with the threat of losing each other forever clarifying the depth of emotion at play between the two. More touching, though, was Sonya’s innocent inquiry into what it’s like to have a personal life, and her counterpart’s spatially intimate response, which in body language roughly translated to "let's swap Essence, girl." Michael and Fi ending up together seems inevitable, but it's moments like this one that will help keep the journey to that point mysterious. We're seeing the ultimate troubled relationship question: Do the bad times and betrayals bond, or are they a trail of red flags telling each party to move the hell on?
At the surface of all this Jane Austen Presents Burn Notice and Noticeability mush-fest, Fi and Mike’s fake personas, and their adventures into a workplace where all the nerds had submachine guns (just like Google), provided an excellent counterbalance. Charles Mesure and Jordan Belfi played the Collective’s two slimeballs-in-charge pretty much as stock bad guys, but their mugging new hires kept them from appearing too cartoonish. Last season Mike and Fi similarly teamed up as mafia, and it's usually these character-heavy excursions that get Donovan and Anwar one-upping each other with goofy expressions and silly line deliveries in the most charming way possible. You can almost hear the crew cracking up after Westen’s "Blueberry..." line, and who didn’t love Fiona’s nose-ring?
The general lighthearted tone throughout helped disguise Westen’s sucker punch of a confession about being left behind and pitied by his friends, as well as blamed for his brother’s death. These are all things the audience thought had been resolved, what with Maddie forgiving him, and Sam and Jesse hopping the first flight out to Cuba in order to help him out. But maybe this is how he really feels. Sure, it’s likely he’s slept with Sonya just to get closer to her superiors, but who knows: Maybe Michael really is losing it. Maybe this stuff is catching up with him and maybe he can’t ever have a normal life. He’s never been one to use a woman for personal gain and, honestly, given how many times Westen has succeeded and failed, succeeded and failed—this latest gesture, if done in the spirit of panicked selfishness, would feel like a moral failure on his part. Not like he shouldn’t get a little trim on the side—as long as both parties are honest and consenting, but the hero we know doesn’t need to trick his way into bed, and that’s skeezy as hell to lie to someone as vulnerable as Sonya between the sheets. Here's hoping for the best!
– Has Westen done something irretrievably wrong by sleeping with Sonya?
– Will Fi ever forgive him for this?
– Do you wish more character stuff was going on with Sam and Jesse?
– Did you miss Maddie?
– Will Charlie be 17 when we see him again?
– Who does Sonya work for?
– Was this a good episode?
– Was this "one for the fans"?
– Were you happy to see Barry return?
– Is Barry wise in the ways of love?
– Will Michael propose to Fi?
AIRED ON 9/12/2013
Season 7 : Episode 13