Episode Title: "Damned If You Do"
Writer: Matt Nix
Director: Stephen Surjik
Previously on "Burn Notice":
Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) was cleared of murdering his CIA Contact, Max (Grant Show), although his new contact, Agent Pearce (Lauren Stamile) clearly resented Michael's role in the coverup of her friend's murder to protect himself. "Dead Larry" Sizemore (Tim Matheson) also returned with a hostage named, Anson Fullerton (Jere Burns) as Larry blackmailed Michael to break into the British consulate. Michael was able to free Anson to alert his friends, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) and Jesse Porter (Coby Bell) to try and save Anson's wife, but the woman was murdered before they could get to her.
Fiona eventually came up with a plan to free Michael from Larry by luring their enemy to a window where she had planted a powerful explosive. The trick worked and Larry was seemingly killed, but a second explosion killed two security guards in the lobby. Later, Fiona tearfully told Michael that she blamed herself for the deaths of the guards before Anson entered and told them that he had recorded her confession and Fiona's actions as a way of getting leverage on them. Anson then explained that the entire set up was a ruse and he was the last man from the organization that framed Michael. And now that Michael was back in the good graces of the CIA, Anson told Michael that he intended to take advantage of it.
Sometime later, Michael relates that for a spy, becoming someone else's asset is their worst nightmare. He claims that's why spies try not to love anyone, so no one can be used against them. Michael meets with Pierce as he is evaluated for a higher security clearance in the CIA and he tells her that the organization that burned him has been wiped out. Of course that's not completely true, as Michael meets with Anson later for his next set of instructions. Anson wants all trace of him removed from the CIA's computers and he has a special virus in mind to do it. It was written by a man named Oswald Patterson, who is hiding out in a heavily guarded compound in Puerto Rico.
Against Michael's wishes, Fiona volunteers to accompany him on the mission to retrieve Oswald. Sam and Jesse also pitch Michael on the idea of using his mother, Madeline Westen (Sharon Gless) to help them steal information from the police and see if they are investigating Fiona for the crime. She doesn't like the idea anymore than Michael does, but Madeline accepts it after some flattery from Jesse. Once in Puerto Rico, Fiona stages a perfect distraction for Michael that sends all of Oswald's guards to the front of the compound while Michael escorts him out the back. Back in Miami, Sam and Jesse teach Madeline how to remove a chip from a laptop and put it back, much to her frustration.
Once back in the U.S., Oswald tries to insist that Michael grabbed the wrong guy, but when he threatens to let Oswald go without protection he freaks out. Oswald then admits that he created the virus for a local drug lord, but he was arrested before he could implement it and that's why he was hiding out in Puerto Rico. But he claims to have an associate who can help him retrieve the information from the FBI. At the police station, Jesse brings Madeline in as a potential witness of the consulate explosion and then he gets the investigator out of the room for a few moments while Madeline completes her task.
Michael and Fiona escort Oswald to the home of his "associate," Sherry; who seems more like an ex-girlfriend. Oswald apparently hid what he needed in an old TV that he sent to Sherry; which she put away in storage. Sherry also reluctantly called Xavier (Ian Anthony Dale), the drug kingpin whom Oswald whom Oswald inadvertently crossed when he was arrested. Surrounded on all sides, Michael pretends to be a rival who also needs Oswald and he smuggles Oswald and Sherry out of the house as hostages. Later, Fiona uses a friend of hers to help sneak Sherry out of the country for her safety and she confesses to still loving Oswald.
Elsewhere, Sam and Jesse use the stolen info to discern that the police don't know about Fiona's involvement. But Anson confronts them in a public place and says that his clues will be all the police need and he hints that he has researched Sam and Jesse for leverage against them as well. Meanwhile, Michael takes Oswald to the storage unit and ties him to the door while he retrieves the card keys from the old television. Xavier and his men arrive at the storage faculty and Oswald freaks out because he thinks Michael will leave him behind. Instead, Michael disables Xavier's car and escapes with a grateful Oswald in tow.
But just before Michael and use Oswald's card keys to get into the FBI facility, he warns Michael that if he steps inside he will be tagged with advanced tracking devices that will make it impossible for him to avoid being captured. Annoyed, Michael comes up with a new plan to trick Xavier into taking his place. They fake Oswald's escape from Michael and use Sam and Jesse as his bodyguards when he makes a deal with Xavier. At the FBI facility, Xavier is dosed with the tracking devices without his knowledge as he retrieves the virus. But before he can get far, Michael and Fiona intercept his vehicle and copy the virus.
Even as Xavier threatens them, Michael and Fiona laugh it off as the cops close in and arrest him for the break in. Fiona later sends Oswald to join Sherry and possibly reconcile with her. At the CIA, Pierce tells Michael his security clearance has been increased and that the agency will have more off-the-books assignments for him. He later meets with Anson to give him the computer virus. But Anson isn't done with Michael at all and he insists that he use his new clearance to plant the virus in the CIA's computers. When Michael balks at this, Anson simply reminds him that he owns Michael now.
From a structural viewpoint, there wasn't much of a difference between this week's case and the usual "A-Team of the week" stories that "Burn Notice" has told for the majority of its five season run. But the personal stakes for Michael really elevated what could have been a pedestrian story and made it much more entertaining than it deserved to be. Matt Nix is also one of the best action writers on TV and he came through again on this episode with several exciting sequences.
I'm still not entirely sold on Anson as the new major villain of the show, but it is fun to see Michael so frustrated and under someone else's control. It's hard to picture Michael getting out of this situation without burning himself all over again with the CIA. As it is, the agency seems overly forgiving to Michael for covering up Max's death to save himself from the frame job. But that doesn't mean the agency doesn't want him to do the dirty missions they can't officially sanction. Those have been my favorite stories in the fifth season and I'm glad that more of those cases are seemingly on the way.
If there is one thing that the writers on "Burn Notice" have to stop doing, it's coming up with ways to shoehorn Madeline into the plot by claiming that she's the only person they know who can accomplish something without arousing suspicion. I could swear that I've seen that same scene of Sam and Jesse trying to convince Michael to let them use Madeline on a mission at least two or three times earlier this season. Also, Madeline looks 52? Sure… and Jennifer Morrison is 28.
For a story that centers on Fiona's fate being used as leverage against Michael, Fiona herself seems to have the smallest role to play. She's weirdly unassertive as Michael falls deeper under Anson's control. It's not that Fiona needs to break down and cry over it, but she needs to take some kind of active role in these events. If push came to shove, it would be a powerful move for Fiona to turn herself in rather than let Michael be slowly destroyed by Anson. Aside from insisting upon going with Michael to Puerto Rico, Fiona seems like she's been too passive about the whole experience.
Ian Anthony Dale had a good guest turn as the drug lord, Xavier and I enjoyed the con that saw him get locked up. It was a little too clean and easy, but that's kind of the "Burn Notice" way of doing things.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.