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'Burn Notice' Recap: Which Character Sacrifices Themselves For Michael?

June 28th, 2013 8:50am EDT

Burn Notice Burn Notice didn't have a great episode last week. Thankfully, it rebounds this week with an episode that's more plausible and heavier on the real spy action.
Michael is hiding in the plants somewhere and not too happy about it, while Burke (Adrian Pasdar) is interrogating their "guest" Serrano (Ricardo Chavira) about an arms deal he did in Haiti. Serrano's not talking until he sees via laptop that Michael, albeit very reluctantly, is in his daughter's bedroom with a gun pointed at her head. He understandably cracks, so Burke calls off Michael, while giving Serrano a gun with a single bullet in case he wants to check out before his Russian friends find out he talked. Serrano calmly smokes a cigarette before shooting himself. It's one of the darker openings in Burn Notice history.
After that, our hero calls Strong (Jack Coleman), all upset. "Make them understand I can't do this," he insists, adding that Burke has now asked for Sam and Jesse to be brought in for a job in Cuba. Strong really doesn't care how Michael feels, so Michael breaks a glass instead. The next morning he's reunited with Sam and Jesse, telling them that their task is to break out a woman named Sonya (Alona Tal, Supernatural) being held by the aforementioned Russians in a secret prison. Michael's plan is to pretend he's a double agent, convince the Russians to evacuate the prison and grab Sonya when they do. Jesse suggests having someone in Miami grab an old Russian contact of his to help sell the story. That someone, of course, is Fiona, and she brings Madeline along.
Back in Cuba there's some "sufficiently gross" work to hide a transmitter on Michael before he goes to make contact with the Russians, who do not give him a warm welcome (because the Russians vs. USA thing is one of the oldest plot points in the book). He's handcuffed to a chair before he meets Vladimir (because there's always a Russian guy named Vladimir). Meanwhile, Fiona makes the boneheaded decision to leave Jesse's acquaintance Ivan alone with Maddie, so he promptly escapes. You'd think an experienced soldier like Fiona would know better than to leave a prisoner alone with a civilian, especially a retiree. Thankfully, the escape is short-lived, so our team is ultimately able to sell their story.
It doesn't work like they planned, though. Rather than flee, Vladimir decides to stay put and up security at the secret prison, which of course is counter-productive to Michael's ultimate goal. Elsewhere, Burke dispatches Sam and Jesse to kidnap a random Russian agent - out of the bunch that just nearly captured them - so that person can be framed as another traitor. That abduction goes pretty easy, especially when compared to how much of an annoyance Fiona and Maddie's new friend has turned out to be. He wants them to write a letter to his girlfriend before he'll capitulate. He starts talking about how he didn't want to be a spy and was trying to pay for his girlfriend's nursing school, which strikes a chord with Fiona, who says she'll put most of the money she's about to move in another account for said girlfriend.

Vladimir tells Michael that his henchmen have identified the traitor in their team, and he's come around to the idea of leaving the prison with Sonya. "As long as she's safe," he says, "you will be well rewarded." Yet just as they're about to leave, Vladimir changes his mind again, saying he's just gotten a great phone call from Moscow: there's a Russian submarine diverting their way. This means Michael is trapped in a room with an unconscious, locked-up Sonya, while Burke, Sam and Jesse are armed, waiting and confused outside.
A twitchy Burke decides to employ two pounds of high explosives, while posing as Michael's CIA contact. "I've never left anyone behind," he insists. "The people who fight alongside me, that's my family. I'm not going to leave Michael behind, or Sonya." Yes, Virginia, the mercenary has a heart. Burke walks right through the front door of the secret prison, plays his bit with Vladimir, and gets taken to see Michael. He tells Michael to believe in Sonya and the two share a handshake. Then Burke sacrifices himself to save them.
With a still-unconscious Sonya in tow, Team Westen speeds away from the remains of the secret prison. One thinks that Strong is not going to be happy when he hears about this.
And as for Fiona, she liberates her kidnap victim, and hands him some fake ID's and some brochures for nursing schools. His girlfriend is in the nearby bus station waiting for him. "Let's just say we like the idea of a spy getting a chance to start over," Maddie half-explains while sad piano music plays.
But there's a 'but' coming. Jesse gets knocked unconscious by Sonya, who makes a quick escape, setting up a manhunt (or is that womanhunt?) in two weeks.
"Brothers In Arms" is a major step up from "Down Range," because most of this episode makes logical sense (aside from Madeline being left alone on prisoner watch). It also injects some seriousness back into the Burn Notice formula. The show has always mixed comedy and drama, but hasn't really had a truly gripping episode this season until now. Michael watching Serrano's daughter sleep while he can hear her father committing suicide via earpiece? That's some heavy stuff for a show that airs on a network with a "blue sky" philosophy. And it works - because Burn Notice is still a spy show and in reality, spycraft gets messy.
Of course, there are a few things here that are tired; pretty much everything about the Russians is a cliche, and then there's how Fiona's kidnapping vehicle of choice happens to be a black van. It's really obvious that the 'B' story with Fiona and Jesse's contact is supposed to make her think about her relationship (or lack thereof) with Michael. And one has to question giving Alona Tal top guest-star billing when she doesn't even have a line of dialogue.
But the good vastly outweighs the iffy, particularly in the case of Adrian Pasdar, who finally gets to start doing more with the Burke character than just bluster. In this episode, we can finally start to buy Burke as the capable soldier he was presented to us as, and see that there's more to him than your usual double agent. Unfortunately, it's the same episode in which he dies. (Making this the second USA Network show Pasdar has been killed off of, after Political Animals last summer.) At least Pasdar left the show doing his best work. The question is who's going to fill the void he just left - and how the show is going to build on his memorable exit.
Burn Notice is off next week for the Fourth of July, but returns in two weeks.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

Related: Burn Notice, Starpulse Exclusives, Recaps, Television, Action & Adventure, Drama, USA

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