Episode Title: "Official Business"
Writer: Bridget Tyler
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Previously on "Burn Notice"
Having tracked the gun that killed Nate Weston and Anson Fullerton to a private military contractor called the Pryon Group, Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) and Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) decide to target Pryon’s CEO, Jack Vale (Ric Reitz). Using a dummy corporation and resources from Sam’s girlfriend, Michael assumes the guise of a billionaire interested in hiring Vale’s company. During the initial meeting with Vale, Michael and Sam note that Vale’s associate, Thompson can’t take his eyes off Michael’s expensive Rolex. They also secure an invite to the Pryon Group’s training facility.
However, their good mood is ruined when CIA agents Matt Bailey (John Ales) and Gabriel Manaro (Brendan O'Malley) forcibly recruit Michael’s girlfriend, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) to work on an undercover assignment for them. Noting that since Agent Pierce (Lauren Stamile) isn’t around anymore to protect Fiona from the deal that she made with the CIA, Michael forcibly volunteers for the mission as well. The agents explain that a Ukrainian aerospace owner named Vincent Durov (Timothy V. Murphy) is planning to sell his tech to terrorists, according to Durov’s girlfriend, Angela Flores (Angélica Celaya); who is also a CIA asset.
Michael isn’t exactly thrilled when he learns that the last agent that Bailey and Manaro sent after Durov was found dead on the beach, but Fiona presses forward with the assignment. With the consent of Angela, Fiona is introduced to Durov as a long time friend from Angela’s modeling days who needs a place to stay. And Durov is only too happy to frisk Fiona when she arrives at his mansion. At the Pryon training facility, Sam is accompanied by Jesse Porter (Coby Bell) as they get the tour from Thompson. Jesse lightly attempts to bribe Thompson for a look at Pryon’s personnel files, but Thompson angrily refuses. Sam and Jesse apologize and excuse themselves from the tour for the day.
Inside Durov’s house, Fiona and Angela manage to get into his office and locate his safe, but his quick return from a meeting forces them to pretend to be interested in a three-way with Durkov when he catches them near his private office. Out in public, Fiona manages to tell Bailey that she plans to sabotage Durov’s car so that they can smuggle in her safe cracking equipment. Fiona’s initial plan goes off without a hitch, but the closest mechanic gets into a fight with the bumbling CIA agents and Michael rather than meekly allow them to use his shop. But Michael still manages to knock him out before Durov gets too suspicious. Back at the training facility, Sam and Jesse bring Thompson an expensive bottle of Scotch as an apology… and then bond with him as they polish it off.
Sam and Jesse offer Thompson a ridiculously well paid position within their fictional company, but Thompson reluctantly notes that he is under a three year deal with Pryon. However, Thompson asks for more details on the possible job before Sam and Jesse leave. Later, in Durov’s garage, Fiona retrieves her tools from his car before Angela joins Durov to distract him as he watches a soccer game. Back at Pryon, Sam and Jesse convince Thompson that he has a job with their company and they even give him a contract to sign. However, they also insist that he give them the personnel files they wanted.
While looking through the records, Sam and Jesse believe that they have found the man they are looking for. The problem is that he is an “off the books” contractor known only as T.G. in the files.
Back at Durov’s mansion, Fiona successfully cracks the safe, only for Angela to hold her at gun point and bind her to the safe itself while she steals Durov’s secrets with the intent to sell to terrorists herself. Angela even says that she killed Fiona’s predecessor before trapping Fiona in the room with a bomb to keep her company. Fiona quickly frees her hands and alerts Michael that Angela is the real threat.
Livid, Michael kicks the two CIA agents out of their surveillance van and sets it to blow up in front of Durov’s gate… foiling Angela’s escape plan in the process. Durov and his men find Fiona in the office with the bomb; as she claims not to know how to disarm it. But when Fiona gives them false instructions that will kill them all if followed, Angela is forced to disarm the device herself. Revealed as the real traitor, Durov threatens to kill Angela on the spot, but Fiona says that she is with the CIA and that killing Angela will only cause Durov to throw his own life away.
Afterwards, the embarrassed CIA agree to tear up Fiona’s agreement in exchange for her silence about how they bungled the case. Later, Sam and Michael decide to approach Vale once more with a request for personnel that could only be filled by T.G. himself. When meeting with Vale at a restaurant, Vale has seen through their ruse and he says that they are obviously looking for a man named Tyler Grey. Refusing to discuss it further, Vale mentions that someone was following him before he is hit by sniper fire. Michael shouts at Vale to tell him who Tyler Grey is, but Vale is already dead.
Out of all of the characters from “The Fall of Sam Axe,” it’s a mystery why the “Burn Notice” producers keep bringing back CIA Agents Bailey and Manaro. They’re not funny and they’re not interesting. Giving Michael and company a more adversarial relationship with the CIA could have potential… if their new foil has personality. Bailey and Manaro have none. Bailey and Manaro were also at the center of a sequence that stands out as one of the stupidest scenes in “Burn Notice” history. Somehow, a random mechanic manages to briefly hold off these two idiots… and Michael! That made Michael look bad more than anything else.
There are certain characters on any show that the audience is meant to hate. And if you dislike them, it usually means that the writers and the performers have done their job. But I hate Bailey and Manaro because they suck the air out of all of their scenes. They are also far too cartoonish, even for “Burn Notice.” If Matt Nix and company really want to revisit “The Fall of Sam Axe,” why not bring in Beatriz (Ilza Rosario) for another visit? Or book RonReaco Lee or Kiele Sanchez for a guest appearance. At least those characters were fun.
There was an inherent creepiness to Fiona’s assignment, especially when Durov went out of his way to molest her. I was hoping for some kind of payoff or revenge for Fiona, but it never came. It was also pretty hard to buy into Durov’s attraction to Fiona; which just didn’t seem genuine. The idea of Fiona being blackmailed into working for the CIA is actually a clever way to set up assignments for the team. But it didn’t really work here and the ending of the episode seems to run away from that premise.
Sam and Jesse’s storyline was far more entertaining as they investigated the Pryon group to find the sniper that killed Nate. And the conclusion of the episode was by far the strongest moment of the week. Tyler Grey seems like a formidable opponent for Michael… so far. Hopefully that won’t change when we inevitably see him onscreen,
I think that “Burn Notice” is overdue for someone to come after Michael and company for the unintended collateral damage that they leave behind. Thompson was essentially a pretty decent guy whom Sam and Jesse have basically screwed over to get the info they needed. Thompson rebuffed their initial bribery attempts until they made him an incredible offer… which was a ruse. Now, this guy is either out of a job at Pryon, or at he is at least partially responsible for the death of his boss by helping to set these events into motion.
Regardless of some good moments in the B storyline, "Unchained" was largely a mediocre episode of “Burn Notice.” I know that the series can do better than this. The question is: will “Burn Notice” ever be great again?