A Burn Notice Community
USA (ended 2013)

Burn Notice S07E07: "Psychological Warfare"


No, what you just saw was NOT Michael Westen being audited by the Church of Scientology. It was also NOT the super spy of seven seasons interviewing for a high-paying job at Google with insurance benefits. What you saw, dear viewer, was a twisted journey into the psyche of a Legend. A trip deep beyond Michael Westen’s Heart of Darkness, through his looking glass of perception, past his mind’s eye, to a location miles away from the mojitos of Miami: to the place where it all began. Basically, "Psychological Warfare" was like getting shrunk down and injected into Michael Westen's spy genes at the very moment they came into existence. It was witnessing his Big Bang of espionage, watching the wind and chaos of his unformed spy-soul explode into glorious spy-being. In short, we went on a vision quest with Michael Westen and saw not only what makes him tick, but the clock, the gears, and the Old Ancient Man Hands that crafted them all. Penetrating the true nature of someone so expertly given to alias was not easy, and doing so required a thorough dismantling of mental and emotional defenses. The breaking down of Michael Westen happened in three distinct stages:    

In order to convince Sonya's boss of his identity, Michael Westen had to come up with an entire backstory and commit the whole thing to paper. Yellow paper. Yes, I think we can safely assume the first sentence began, "My name is Michael Westen, I used to be a spy..." As if penning memoirs wasn’t hard enough, he then had to repeatedly remember and confirm it all—with no notecards and nada sleep. Nope, not a single wink to his name. Leading this cerebral surge was the mysterious head of Sonya and Burke’s organization, a folksy enigma with a New Age mind for words and a Charles Manson-by-way-of-teen-guidance-counselor-vibe. 

We’d later learn this stringy-haired ex-Trader Joe’s manager interrogator's name was "James" (played by John-Pyper Ferguson from Alphas and Deception), who gave Michael the brain equivalent of a vicious, robust enema. Eighty percent of what came out of this shamanic man's mouth sounded like lines a flirtatious yogi feeds his students when he's trying to get laid. Vaguely spiritual phrases like "set our sights on new horizons" and "the what is less important than the why" were uttered, harsh sirens were sounded, and bright lights were cranked up to "Give Prisoners TOO Sexy a Tan" levels. Essentially Westen was a True Blood vampire under incarceration by the LAVTF. But this extreme fact-checking session was only the beginning...


A cocktail of "benzodiazepine mixed with a synthetic hallucinogen" (a.k.a. Mountain Dew: KickStart) coursed its way through Michael Westen’s bloodstream, sending him on an all-expenses-paid vacation to the Shores of Oblivion. Dude was straight up tripping balls like a freshman at UC Santa Cruz with something to prove. By the time he thought he was near a fire, but also that it was snowing—both indoors—it was safe to say he could NOT handle his truth-shrooms. Too bad Sam wasn’t around to slap on some peaceful World Music and shove an orange slice in his mouth ("Here Mikey, this citrus will mellow you out"). 

Mind-ghost Fiona visited Westen in a slinky red number and living memory/phantom bully "Dead" Larry Sizemore shouted at him in freshly washed snow camouflage about a mission that went especially wrong, morally. Apparently while trying to track down a rogue asset this one time, Westen had let his emotions get the better of him. In so doing, he exploded a factory packed wall-to-wall with innocent villagers. Needless to say, the blown-up townsfolk were not happy because they could no longer earn five cents an hour manufacturing acid-wash Bugle Boy jean shorts overalls, and were dead. 


But Larry loved this part about Michael Westen. Always had. While Westen ping-ponged back and forth between our reality and his untamed past, James nodded along with two index fingers in a steeple on his lips. "Ah yes, interesting. Continue..." We learned that ever since that encounter, Westen’s been haunted by the screams of these commoners, and didn't want that kind of thing to ever happen again. It's why he always gets the job done without collateral damage. That, and because a bunch of kids probably watch this show. But mainly because of this horrible, scarring act. James knew better than to stop here, however. Things were just getting good, and he had all day...


Everyone knows that at the heart of every great screwed-up person is an even more screwed-up parent. Michael Westen’s upbringing at the hands of a drunken father has been mentioned in the past, but this time we were treated to a real-time flashback that had adult Michael Westen swapping places with Lil’ Mikey Westen: Boy Spy, in a delicious acting exercise that Jeffrey Donovan must’ve eaten up like fresh yogurt. Trust me, I used to work at a prominent national playhouse and there’s nothing actors love more than flexing their chops as a child character. They all think they're excellent at it too, but usually it's just awkward. Weird, but whatever. 


With a youthful slouch, naively wide eyes, and fidgety hands, Westen fought his father as a grown-ass man but with the strength of a non-grown-ass son. He was like the opposite of a superhero. In a way, we all have an abusive guy in a garage slapping us around willy-nilly, attempting to make us feel guilty for past transgressions. Personally, my garage-guy looks like one of those marionette puppets from Sidney Lumet's The Wiz. Ultimately, Michael’s mega-regrets emanated from the worry that he’d left home, lost Fiona, and got Nate killed all for the sake of the CIA. With a final smack from Papa Westen, it seemed as though these demons might have won for good, putting all his friends' lives at risk, realizing Michael's greatest fear of all...


Just when it looked like James would next don a virtual reality helmet and Quantum Leap himself into Michael’s very skin, Sonya rescued Westen from the back room of an Apple Store holding cell, with armed soldiers in hot pursuit. But something wasn’t quite right, and a last-minute chat with his boy-self confirmed just what Westen suspected: that this was James’ final test. I was kind of hoping that at the very end of the episode, James would be like, "Guess what that was just sugar water I gave you." It wasn't: Our dude is just that good. Even with all the physical discomfort, all the drugs, all the mind-ghosts, Michael Westen—both the kid, and the killer—was still too strong to give up his friends. In the end, isn’t that all that matters? (Cue Randy Newman’s "You’ve Got a Friend in Me.")   


BURNING QUESTIONS:

– Did you enjoy how this episode addressed Michael’s past?

– How will Michael respond to Sonya’s trickery in this episode?

– What does it mean that James demolished the interrogation home?

– How will Michael be different following this vision quest?

– Did you enjoy the B-story of Sam, Fi, and Jesse racing around town?

– Would you watch a series called Burn Notice Jr.?

– Have you ever had a vision quest like this? What did you discover about yourself?


BURNING QUOTE: 

"Seeing him wasn’t the hard part, ma. It was realizing he was the only reason I survived."

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 9/12/2013

Season 7 : Episode 13

50 Comments
Comments (50)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
That was a particularly stellar acting job from Jeffery Donovan there. Bravo.
Reply
Flag
I really liked the episode. I think it will go a long way towards helping Mike come to peace with his past. He spends so much time covering it up or avoiding it. I think that realizing that what happened to him as a child, while horrible and inexcusable, it enabled him to do what he does now and that without that unfortunate "training" of sorts he would have died a long time ago probably after giving up those he was supposed to protect. Of course what his Dad did was wrong, but I think he can move past the anger he feels now. Mike needs to really deal with his past, accept it and truly move on before he can start making decisions for himself free from any demons haunting him and hopefully without the guilt. So far they have done a great job with the season. I like the fact that we are seeing MIke not perfect, that he is struggling with his mission and who he is as a spy and a man. I think that you can't have him lead a real, normal life without going thru this and I don't think he could be a succesful CIA agent without it either. I really HOPE he ends up with Fi and leaving the agency but the way its being set up right now I think it could go either way and make sense.
More+
Reply
Flag
This episode should have been titled "The Job Interview from Hell." Donovan's acting for this episode--awesome. Kind of makes me understand the past Larry episodes better--I always wondered why he was so obsessed with Michael being just like him. Although his overuse of the word "kid", usually shouted at full volume with spittle on his lips, makes me want to poke him in the eye.
This episode had the stink of Anson Fullerton on it. I don't miss the episodes where he followed after Michael like some sort of crazed parrot, saying "Why? Why Michael? Why did you do it this way? What are you thinking now?"
Maddie and Charlie--snoozefest. Jesse, Fi, and Sam--under utilized. Besides, how would they know if Mike had dropped off the grid so quickly? He does that regularly. Also, how many times are we going to see Fi put a tracker on someone's car? Frankly, I'm surprised Sonya didn't see a bright, cherry red coupe cut across the grass, and squeal onto the highway to the sounds of horns blaring and tires on pavement. I mean, who's she following, Stevie Wonder?
The new Big Bad looks weak, but I'm sure he'll do terrible things to prove me wrong. Note-- is anyone else watching Burn Notice with the same sort of dread/anticipation I am? I can't wait for the next episode but I don't want it to end either.
More+
2
Reply
Flag
Totally agree on the Anson Fullerton observation. And "is anyone else watching Burn Notice with the same sort of dread/anticipation I am? I can't wait for the next episode but I don't want it to end either." Yes, yes I am silkguitar.
1
Reply
Flag
This was amazing. Really awesome episode, loved every bit of it. Jeffery Donovan deserves an Emmy nomination for this episode. Seriously. Best work I've ever seen from him.
6
Reply
Flag
Fail.

Shark has been jumped.

Didn't like it... in fact i kinda hated this episode.

Why ?

Larry aka mr shouty pants..stupid character..

and the guy from alphas is the new big bad... wow that wasn't even a shocker...and he's basically playing the same part again..

was the kid weston violence really necessary ?

some how despite the drugs he holds out and wins.. really ? belief has been suspended pending an enquiry..

obviously the ' escape plan ' was another test i mean come the fuck on... it's a cliche now...

poor sam.fi,jesse resigned to watchdog duty....

and to cap it all..nothing about Afghanistan.. when micheal was there eating goat for several months/years... NOTHING..

Oh and for the inevitable HATE i'll get for this..

borderlands 2 assassin fucks given.
2
Reply
Flag
I won't waste my time with the HATE you seem to want, but I will ask--how is it possible for a show that is wrapping things up in it's final season to "jump the shark"? Oh, right--it's not.
Reply
Flag
lol

guess people are just ignoring my post...by jumping the shark (seriously ?)

this episode told us mike is so awesome he can with stand the most powerfull mind drug ever created..

and still lie still fake still know his true purpose..

and then days later is completely fine..

and some how these 'super terrorist/warmongers/blackopps' swallow all his bs ?

the plot has always been in some way realistic and believable this was just way out there in jaws territory...
Reply
Flag
I'm beginning to think that Sonya was given the same drug torture treatment than Michael when she got on the organization, if that was the case she might be more brainwashed than evil
Reply
Flag
I liked it. Expanding a bit more on his backstory (how he went from "competent" to "superspy"; it was actually ok to find out that he didn't show up at The Farm all superduperawesome from the get-go), his moment with dream-Fiona, figuring out the "twist" in James' last test - it all worked pretty well. :)
2
Reply
Flag
It was a pretty decent episode. Focus on Mike, leave out the back up squad.

questions.
No, well I kind of did. I would rather see it than have it just be told through his bad trip. Mike was supposed to be a badass, I kind of wanted to see it.

Likely he would understand it. He has done the same thing a few times.

It means there is no forensic evidence left for anyone like say the CIA to attempt to figure out who he is, what they are doing etc. It is smart.

Likely not that different. They don't have enough time to get into a vision quest.

Nope. I haven't enjoyed them for the past 2 seasons.

If it starred Alona Tal maybe. That could be a cool spin off.

I went on walk about in Australia for a month. I learned that I liked the taste of Kangaroo.
Reply
Flag
Great episode. Show seems a little darker this season, and I'm liking it that way. Seems like the general Burn Notice m.o. is everybody usually wins in the end, maybe the bad guy dies doing something stupid to himself, but the gang doesn't ever kill them, and no innocents are harmed. Now Michael Westen just shoots people who deserve it and not everybody lives, good or bad. The whole exposition (finally) on his abusive dad was not only interesting, but it was kinda twisted that the demons that haunted Mike since childhood saved his life. What I took from this episode, at the very end, was that James' methods were enough to cut through all the training and experience the CIA could ever give somebody. But Mike was screwed up long before the CIA, he had to learn to shut himself down to survive against his own dad, and THAT level of learning to be something you're not (or at least something you didn't start out as) is something so ingrained in Mike that not even the most horrific of drugs/torture can reveal what's really inside. In other words, due to his nightmare childhood, Michael Westen is impossible to break. The very things that screwed him up makes him nearly invincible in the field.
More+
7
Reply
Flag
Great episode! I loved delving into the psyche of Michael Allen Westen. Learning about his past and seeing what shaped him into the person he is today was wonderful. I got to say that James' "tests" were a bit extreme, and would most likely push a regular person beyond the limit but Michael held on. I'm sure Michael was aware that it wasn't going to be easy to infiltrate an organization like that. They definitely play things close to the vest, that's why the mansion was burned to the ground, LEAVE NO EVIDENCE BEHIND, it may seem extreme but if you are doing the kinds of things they are I think you have to be careful. I don't think Sonya was betraying Michael, she had vouched for him and told James that he was someone that would benefit their cause. She had as much to prove as Michael, otherwise they could end up dead.
3
Reply
Flag
What I don't understand is why it was safe for Michael to be at his mom's house after all that?
3
Reply
Flag
I just assumed early on, after one episode where they swept the house for bugs, that they *always* sweep the house for bugs now. Hell, Maddie probably does it while drinking her morning coffee.

And like with many other bad guy scenarios in this show, if they wanted Michael and Co. dead, they'd be dead.
3
Reply
Flag
Loved this episode, despite the lack of action. I'm so glad that the Sonya rescue was just a facade. I was starting to get angry thinking they were going to pull a cliche; bad guy changes sides on a whim because of love. First I was hoping it was just an hallucination until the rest of the gang started watching the shoreline and I knew it was real but hoped it was just a test.
Reply
Flag
I'm going to withhold judgement on Sonya for a bit at least. She had to be sure he was "legit" too and, since she was essentially vouching for him, prove something about herself as well. The "I told you he's a keeper" seemed to say, "Hey, look, I was right about this guy." And, I seriously doubt the deception was solely her idea- more like doing James' bidding. Great episode. What happens to the tracking device in Sonya's car? What if she stumbles on to it?
2
Reply
Flag
Welcome to the family? They burned all his belongings and after drugging him, just dumped him on the docks? That's not very welcoming at all.

I liked the kid playing the younger Michael Weston. He delivered his few lines with the same monotone voice that Donovan has. If it was purposeful, that was a nice touch and acting choice. If it was just the usual poor child-acting, oh well, it worked anyway.

James demolishing his 10 million dollar mansion just to cover his tracks makes me think I should get into the villainy profession.
2
Reply
Flag
So, what the flan is with that? He said he has no one and nothing left, so let himdie on the dock after all the drugs you put into him? Or was this another test to see if anyone would get him--- which he failed.
Reply
Flag
Great episode, a trip in Michael's psyche & Jeffrey Donovan more than delivered. Actually Jeffrey acting as a child wasn't that awkward (yes in other shows or films it is) Yes I enjoyed the b-story & Fi having to stop Sam from going all shoot crazy to save Michael.

I think that the house being gone isn't that they don't believe in Michael's commitment, it's just the way "James" operates so he can never be discovered.This show is a lot more adult than it started & this season is turning out to be a great final season (even though it saddens me that my summers will not have Westen & the gang)
Reply
Flag
who's the trigger happy ex-girlfriend now?
Reply
Flag
Sam going all shoot crazy seemed a little off, especially how earlier this season he was beating himself up about having to shoot one guy when Michael had to steal that truck.
Reply
Flag
Nah, he felt bad for shooting a guy because it was just some poor guard watching over some equipment. I don't even think the guy was a criminal, he was watching over some computer equipment for the government and only became "hostile" because Sam and company were breaking the law.

Here, there were seemingly mercenaries/spies/etc of a group of bad guys about to mess up and/or kill his best friend. Hostiles AND bad guys in every extent.

Sam's an old war horse. Killing a hostile merc that's about to kill his friend on the field? I doubt it would trouble him.
1
Reply
Flag
This comment has been removed.
Reply
Flag
This comment has been removed.
Reply
Flag
I agree, it was just James covering his tracks.

I mean this guy has apparently been around for a whole and the CIA had NO idea about it. Heck, they were even tracking one of his lieutenants for years and had no idea he reported to this guy (or anyone for that matter).

So it seems like his strategy works.
Reply
Flag
straight out of alpha's..
Reply
Flag
I had almost given up on this show over the last 2 seasons but this was brilliant, possibly one of the best shows of the series.
2
Reply
Flag
liked it
1
Reply
Flag
Brilliant episode. James pushed Michael farther than I've ever seen him tested. I've never been as concerned for Westen as I was tonight. Honestly, James' influence is no laughing matter to me. His associates are literally willing to give up everything for him, given Sonya and the guy burning up his past like that; and Michael even went back for more, just to finish the mission!!! Amazing man, just amazing!!!

1. I loved how his past was addressed. He's been so tight-lipped about it for the past seven seasons that it had to come out like this. The fact that his drunken-ass father was the key was twisted!!!

2. Sonya is officially on thin ice with Michael now. He'll finish the mission, but with that one move, she went from probable ally to collateral damage. Too bad, she grew on me until the end of the episode. I know she has mission parameters too, but I'm in this for Michael, not her.

3. He leaves absolutely nothing to chance. It also shows that his resources are quite powerful indeed.

4. Following this, he'll still be the same mission-oriented Michael Westen, but more determined than ever.

5. Fi, Sam and Jesse working together is always fun to watch. This B-storyline even tied in to the main storyline well, so it's all good to me.

6. Hell no!!! There's only one Burn Notice to me.
More+
1
Reply
Flag
It was a good episode, the snow in the interrogation with James was a nice touch. But i do have a few questions
- How long was Michael taken in total
- Why burn his stuff? (surely they could do this afterwards, if the interview was a failure)
- Why no guilt over Nate dying?
Reply
Flag
BURNING QUESTIONS:
– Did you enjoy how this episode addressed Michael's past?
Oh yeah, Big time!
– How will Michael respond to Sonya's trickery in this episode?
I write mystery and thriller novels. I won't guess; I will wait to see!
– What does it mean that James demolished the interrogation home?
No clue. An expensive leave no clues ploy, but day-umm!
– How will Michael be different following this vision quest?
He should be invincible. A man who has faced his demons and conquered them is formidable.
– Did you enjoy the B-story of Sam, Fi, and Jesse racing around town?
Yeah, except Fi should have been the one to grab the rifle and say "let's shoot 'em up!" Sam--the former SEAL--should have been reticent to barge in, wanting to have a laydown of tactical support.
– Would you watch a series called Burn Notice Jr.?
Hell no! A kid show? How about "Burn Notice: Don't get Burned!" Oh Yeah!
– Have you ever had a vision quest like this? What did you discover about yourself?
I'm Lakota nDn (American Indian, called the sioux--not our word). I have been on 2 Vision Quests--a Holy and Sacred Act--and have returned changed each time. We Lakota do not use drugs to induce the visions. We use either Sweat Lodge heat or Sun Dance pain to induce the visions. Either way, we arrive at a trance state from whence visions proceed.
I discovered a great deal about myself. Some of it made it into my first novel, How the Strong Survive.
More+
Reply
Flag
First, my 6 burning questions from this episode - The ending didn't go with the show:
1. They spent all that time breaking Michael down, only to "dump him on a dock" ? How would they know that the Weston Crewe would be watching? Michael must not be very valuable to the new team.
2. It took Michael a few days to recover; in the mean time, they bulldozed the site used for the interrogation. That is a few days versus a week. What happened to the missing days?
3. If Michael knows that he didn't give up info, then he should be stronger, like the interrogator (what's his name?) said. Why is Michael a weak gutted fish at the end? Drug hangover?
4. Why isn't Michael with his new buddies? The dude said "welcome to the family" and then they abandoned him like a freshly burned spy.
5. Why isn't Michael with the new team? They were going after something at the end of You Can Run Part 1 & 2, so where is that plot thread?
6. Michael brought the former-Russian spy out of Cuba, and did he get thanked? No! I've heard of "mission focus" but not acknowledging Michael's part in the rescue (that cost them one of their top guys) is too big of a goof!
More+
1
Reply
Flag
James must be a fan of Shan-Yu!
Reply
Flag
I'm not convinced that this was a contrived back story. Michael didn't have to make up a story. His life in the CIA and his life for the last 6 seasons was a sufficient enough resume to show that he was properly screwed enough in life and/or qualified for whatever task/mission that "James" throws at him.

With that said, I did enjoy this episode. While I was not surprised at anything that was exposed about Michael, this was definitely a necessary episode before the demise of the Burn Notice series.

Sonya will eventually pay for her trickery, not immediately, but soon enough.

Obviously, James demolished the mansion to erase any trace that they were there. But the fact that he would go to such an extreme suggests that things have been taken to a whole other lever.

It's my hope that Michael's vision quest will lead him to give up CIA altogether, and maybe go into business with Fi, Sam, and Jesse on a professional level.

No, I would not watch Burn Notice Jr.

7
Reply
Flag
It was nice that for once, Michael didn't just say "I promise I'm not CIA. I promise, I'm a bad guy now. Look. I did something kind-of-almost-bad, don't you like me now?" to gain somebody's trust.

I also liked Charlie Rex.
1
Reply
Flag
Finally an Episode the definitely explains the Tao of Michael Weston. Honor above all else with no Collateral damage.
2
Reply
Flag
yet nate died, yet jesse was 'blacklisted' and some other people...
1
Reply
Flag
Nate dying was Nate's fault he was warned to stay away from Anson and put himself in the line of fire. Michael reluctantly burned Jesse then went above and beyond to rectify the situation.
1
Reply
Flag
I love Michael, but his whole life is an exercise of collateral damage. His way of life and lifestyle ensures that anyone he is close to should put a Go bag in your trunk and a rifle under your pillow just in case.

If I recall correctly, he put Nate in the position to apprehend Anson--Nate was closest, and he told him to put eyes on Anson. Nate was not a CIA operative, which Michael liked to conveniently forget. Nate lived his life to impress his big brother, and he wanted to take Anson down for that purpose. Nate has the ultimate responsibility for approaching Anson, but it was because of Michael that he was there at all.

What he did to Jesse was unavoidable. When he continued the lie and gained Jesse's trust, that was another Michael decision for the "greater good," one his entire team had a problem with. His character is an amazing operative with the mission first and foremost in his mind--if anyone gets in the way of that, then they will BE collateral damage. So I'd say his true tao is "complete the mission. No matter what."
2
Reply
Flag
so basically you proved my point.

Flag
Follow this Show
Members
1,902