Before becoming human confetti late in this episode, righteous soldier Randall Burke hinted at Burn Notice’s pervading theme, declaring, "The people that work with me, the people that fight alongside me: That’s my family." It’s a sentiment that Michael, Fi, Sam, Jesse, and Maddie have operated on all along, and what’s largely set the Burn crew apart as the good guys in opposition to the approximately 600,000-member rogue’s gallery of terrorists, government agents, assassins, drug kingpins, arms dealers, mercenaries, mobsters, hackers, thieves, smugglers, pirates, insurance frauds, pickpockets, grifters, loan sharks, flim-flam artists, quack doctors, poachers, jaywalkers, litterbugs, ne’er-do-wells, gadabouts, and others who generally lack loyalty in the character department, lo these many seasons. Where other groups may not hesitate to shed a teammate for the advancement of a cause, Westen and company insist on leaving no man behind. Compassion is what’s made them unique in an uncaring world. With a final selfless act, however, current mission target Randall "Big Heart" Burke turned that world upside down, showing that even bad guys can do good things, as "Brothers in Arms" wisely combined emotional revelation with explosive sacrifice, both of which further illuminated Westen’s path to the end.
SO: Fresh off of capturing Raphael Serrano—and receiving nada (a.k.a. zip, zero, zilch) in terms of intel via the normal torture methods of tickling their captive’s big toe with a pink feather—Burke and Westen stepped up the pressure game by forcing him to watch footage of his sleeping child with a gun pointed at her head. It’s important for me to remember that this was a very ruthless move on Burke’s part, because by the end of the episode I was pro-him, but also he was psychopath who might've made Michael kill a slumbering child to get what he wanted. THAT'S WRONG. Anyway, like he’d done it a thousand times, Burke very casually, in his Casey Kasem-meets-Marty McFly voice, got Serrano to suicide himself after spilling info as to the whereabouts of one Sonya Russian Last Name (played by Alona Tal from Cult and Supernatural). Then it was off to sunny, zesty, Cuba to rescue this mystery woman from the stranglehold of the Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye, or as the dumb-tongued like myself would say, "GRU."
I always like the Burn Notice plots where the A-story and the B-story ultimately function toward the same goal (not like that cartoonish wiseguy hassling Maddie last week), and thankfully Fi and Maddie’s mission back in Miami to help create a fake mole brought this week's tales together. Fi pretended that she didn’t want Carlos to know about all this Cuba/CIA business, but we all know she was just covering for him while he spent the day using a nearly expired birthday gift certificate to SkyZone Indoor Trampoline Park, probably.
It’s always slightly annoying when Maddie pulls some bonehead matronly move like giving Ivan (JB Blanc, Breaking Bad’s Dr. Barry Goodman) water that caused a minor hiccup, but it is in keeping with her character and does serve to add extra conflict, so I can’t penalize her too much for doing what she does. Side note, though: How come no one in that Miami traffic so much as batted an eye when a bound man went tearing across the highway, then got hit by a van and re-kidnapped at gunpoint? Is this just normal fare out in Florida? Are there road signs that are all, "CAUTION: FLEEING KIDNAP VICTIM ZONE"? Nah just kidding, my wife tells me Florida is gorgeous and wonderful AND I BELIEVE HER.
Anyway, via technology and pass codes, Fi was able to make it look like Ivan was funding a double-agent out in Cuba, even though chubs gave some sob story about his girlfriend missing out on nursing school. I was happy the two speaking Russians in this episode had way Russian-y names, the other of course being Vlad. Throw in a "Boris," and we’d really be priogotovleniya pishchi!
Ultimately this personal information affected Maddie and Fi enough to whip up EVERYTHING necessary for the two to start a new life in Iowa, including brochures for nursing schools. I’m no spy over here (though sometimes I DO listen to my neighbor shout at his golf shows), but shouldn’t it take longer than that to create passports? And also... eh, whatever.
To instigate all this, Michael found himself spy-dialing his ex, which led to a brief emotional exchange during I THINK a romantic dinner(?) where the promise-breaker owned up to his misdeeds and Fi got a look on her face like, "That’s all I wanted to hear...." I mean, we all know they’re getting back together, but I appreciate that Burn Notice is making them work for it. Besides, Westen didn’t have much time for love, as he was busy convincing Speaking Russian #2/Vlad (a solid Ravil Isyanov, in too many past, one-off TV roles to name) that the CIA was closing in on his Cuban hideout. Things hit a snag when the spooked Ruski wanted to take the whole operation to a submarine just chilling off the coast of Cuba (like they do), and that’s when Burke decided to take matters into his own laptop.
Between Serrano sacrificing himself for his daughter, Fi protecting Carlos from these secret operations, Ivan looking out for Eva, Sam and Jesse having Michael’s back, Michael doing this whole CIA job to save his crew, and Burke exploding himself for the sake of Sonya, the idea of self-sacrifice presented itself as the glue that bonds a trustworthy team together. Though it was refreshing to see a leader throw himself into the line of fire, the fact that we still don’t know the nature of Burke’s ultimate cause calls into question whether or not his act was noble, or just insane. Like if the "thing" to be revealed is a child slavery ring, then the guy’s a nut, but if Sonya was going to out every corrupt CIA agent in exchange for clean water and free medicine, or he CARRIES THE CURE, then good on him. What do you think?
– How is Sonya "the key" to Michael’s future?
– Where were Strong and the CIA during all this?
– Will Michael give up his own life here on Earth to save his friends?
– Does Burke deserve sympathy or was he an evil psychopath who would make his men kill children?
– What the hell is Carlos even up to?
– Did you see this takedown of Burn Notice/USA Network from The Onion?
What'd you think of "Brothers in Arms"?
AIRED ON 9/12/2013
Season 7 : Episode 13