Burned spy and all-around badass who loves his mom, sunglasses, yogurt, and things blowing up.
Abusive Dad: Michael's dad used to beat him, in part because Michael antagonized him to keep his attentions off little brother Nate.
Because of his tough childhood, Michael is fiercely protective of children (see Berserk Button below).
In one episode, the Baddie of the Week is an abusive father, and Michael adopts the persona of someone who would have the motivation and opportunity to gutpunch the dude mercilessly and often.
In another episode, a baddie takes advantage of Michael's history by pretending to be an abused wife trying to find her son. This works until she pulls a gun and tries to kill Michael and what is now his client.
Often times when he has to act overtly angry or when he's giving a heart-to-heart to a client, Michael will get a Thousand-Yard Stare during or after, suggesting that though he's changing the names to protect his privacy, he's drawing upon his memories of his father.
Because he's a bastard, Anson reveals that Frank eventually had a Heel Realization and honestly wanted to make up with his son...but his organization killed him when he became suspicious of Anson's probing.
Michael pulls out an impersonation of his father to help motivate his mother's performance during a case. Neither of them is okay with it.
Maddie: You can play your father in there, Michael, but don't try to tell me what to do.
The Atoner =/= He Who Fights Monsters: The result of having worked with Larry, who turned Mike from an average unexceptional spy into a world-class operative. It's also by the hand of Larry that some of Mike's quirks are what they are. It was Mike blowing up a building with farmers in it in order to get to the warlord they were hiding and him not caring that became a wake up call as to the slippery slope he was traveling down. Hence his Determinator attitude to finishing the job with minimal collateral damage.
Berserk Button: Michael frequently talks about the need to stay emotionally detached, but he will always take clients solely because kids are involved. It's a sore spot for him and has happened no less than 8 times.
By season three, Michael has all but given up on trying to lie to his mom and resorts to vague language even though both of them know what he's talking about. By the season four premiere, he stops trying to lie to his mom altogether and simply tells her the truth, even the uncomfortable parts.
The Dreaded: Among Russian intelligence and special operations units. He's less of a name and more of a mythical figure that everyone thinks is a code name for an entire wetworks team.
Dude, Where's My Respect?: despite Michael's selflessness, compassion and sometimes very stupid amazing respect for human life, he gets bitched out and given many an undeserved "The Reason You Suck" Speech by people complaining about his morals and decisions, even when there is quite literally no other choice if he wants to save his friends and family. This includes long talkings-to and screaming matches with many upset clients (right up until Michael solves all their problems), Fiona ( a gun runner and arms trader of many years, a profession where collateral damage is impossible to avoid), Sam, Jesse, various psychopaths and sociopaths (who also complain about his morals and decisions), assorted criminals, agents and operatives of illegal intelligence syndicates, the CIA, the FBI, the police... oh, and Michael's own mother, who eventually gives him a horrendous tongue-lashing, blaming him for not only getting Nate killed, despite Michael doing everything he could to prevent him being put in harm's way, but blaming Michael for Nate being the person he was in the first place, for Michael being the person he is, and likening him to a monster (of course, Michael is so damaged by this point that he doesn't call anyone on their bullshit and takes it at face value).
Guilt Complex: if Michael is even remotely involved in a problem, he tends to believe that it's his fault or that he could have done something to change it. Despite his nearly Jumping Off the Slippery Slope turning him firmly into The Atoner archetype in the first place, he has a really terrible - and consistent - habit of blaming himself for a situation, or worse, blaming himself for not being in a situation. However you slice it, odds are Michael can find a way to make himself guilty in some way. Of course, he doesn't talk about it, he just buries it deep down and becomes more committed to trying to save everyone. The fact that he gets blamed for a lot of things that are neither his fault nor responsibility does not help the issue (e.g. Nate).
Honor Before Reason: Michael is extremely loyal to anyone that has earned his loyalty. Part of it comes from the fact that his abusive father and other life events have instilled in him a fear of losing people close to him/being alone.
Hyper Awareness: Michael explicitly mentions the term but also says that it can play tricks on you, seeing into things that aren't really there.
In the pilot Michael makes casual mention to Fiona that he was aware of the three FBI agents watching him at a club.
On the flip side, during the first few episodes of season 5, Michael mentions that this can happen after an operation is over resulting in constant paranoia and troubled sleep even though you know everything is over, primarily due to having been on edge for so long.
This even applies to realizing your deep cover is blown in Season 7.
Indy Ploy: Michael is often forced to use these whenever something unexpected happens, all the time. Arguably, most of his apparent plans are just him Indy Ploy-ing from one simple plan to another.
Several episodes require Michael figure things out on the fly. The best example was probably an episode where he was being held as a hostage in a bank. He subtly sabotaged the bad guys' plan without them knowing that it was being sabotaged.
Frequently, his cover is blown, so he keeps talking or takes a hostage while figuring a way to escape.
Michael almost mentions this trope by name when, after Sam asks him what the plan is, replies with a hasty "I'm making this up as I go."
Sam lampshades it again in "Blind Spot" with the client, who doesn't think much of their plan: "We pretty much make it up as we go along."
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: To anybody other than family and friends, Michael appears to be a pretty big jerk. However, he has a genuine soft spot for kids, especially when it comes to kids and their relationship to their fathers.
Keep the Reward: Michael sure does refuse payment a lot, though he usually ends up keeping enough to cover expenses. A maddeningly frequent plot formula is "Michael grudgingly accepts a job because he needs the money. Michael does the job. Michael refuses to take any money."
Like Father, Like Son: Michael resents the implication, but the first season pointed out several times that Michael really is a good deal like his father. Frank was apparently a master of the Indy Ploy and a Consummate Liar, just like Michael. However, Frank was an abuser, an alcoholic, an asshole, and a petty crook, whereas Michael helps people. When Michael helps Madeline with a role early in the fifth season, both of them are deeply shaken by how well Michael channels his father.
Married to the Job: A recurring theme is that Michael's obsession with spy work and helping others is an obstacle for most of his relationships.
If you want an acceptable explanation, Donovan manages an acceptable Southern accent early in the fifth season. But when he does so, he's imitating Michael's father...
Another explanation lies in the fact that Florida doesn't really have a unified or distinct accent. A General American accent would probably be more likely than a Southern accent in Miami.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: In the season 6 premiere Michael subjects Anson to a vicious can of whoop-ass in revenge for pressuring Fiona into surrendering to the feds. Alas, Anson weasels his way out and escapes the same way he always does ("back off or your friends die in a giant fireball", etc.).
Omniglot: Played with. Michael is fluent in Arabic, Russian, Persian, and Czech, has recently learned French and German, and even speaks a bit of Urdu. However, even though he grew up in Miami, he doesn't speak a lick of Spanish.
Michael: En Inglés, por fa... please!
The season 4 finale reveals Tagalog is also one he doesn't know (or at least can't read).
He's apparently picked up Spanish by Season 7.
OOC Is Serious Business: Fights a man in an illegal street fight during the season seven opening as part of his cover. Mike actually KILLS HIM once he's already beaten. It's extremely unsettling to see him do it without a second thought when you consider how rarely Mike has directly killed anyone in the first six seasons. Fridge Horror sets in once you remember that Michael has been there for nine months just building his cover.
Plus his cover is that of an alcoholic petty crook AKA Frank sans the abusive part.
Parental Abandonment: Due to his father's abuse, his mother's weirdness, his own dangerous line of work and his brother's gambling issue, Michael makes an effort to avoid his family. He mentions that a lot of spies are this way.
Quick Draw: He's only demonstrated it once, as he prefers not to kill unless he absolutely has to, but he outdrew a man who already had his gun drawn and aimed. It was Strickler, who didn't have his finger on the trigger, because he was attempting to get Michael to stand down..
See You in Hell: His dad's last words to him, and his last words to Anson in season 5. A mild variant ("I'll see you [at the end of the earth] is spoken to Riley.
Sharp-Dressed Man: Oh yes. He tries to wear tieless light-colored Armani suits whenever possible.
Showy Invincible Hero: The show is split into 2 storylines. A: Michael helps a Miami local with a problem and, B: Michael tracks down the expert spies and government officials who burned him. A main draw of the show is how well Michael conquers the everyday crooks in the A-line, often having to deal with unpredictable scenarios when the criminals don't do what he expects them to do. Still, he always comes out on top and with style.
Technical Pacifist: He's not averse to putting people in positions to get themselves killed, or to get them killed, but it's very rare for Michael to pull the trigger himself. If he does, it's usually to protect Fiona. This has been lifted slightly in S5 now that he's working for the CIA again but even still, he rarely gets an onscreen kill.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: Michael and Nate spend some time arguing over who should get the Charger in the first season. It's rather subtextual, so perhaps you have to want to see it, but both of them wanted their father to have loved them and left them the car he cared so much for.
Wig, Dress, Accent: Most of Michael's disguises, though he usually just restyles his hair instead of getting a wig. The personae he adopts are what sells them. The shows producers and writers call them "mini-sidles", because it's a mini-role for Donovan to play and they let Michael sidle up to the mark.
Subverted in "Sins of Omission". Michael is facing a Dangerously Genre Savvy ex-CIA agent, so he and Fiona break into the man's house and wait for him as...themselves.
She also "has a thing" for lost little sisters, like her own.
Characterization Marches On: Fiona had a very thick Irish accent in the first episode. This was handwaved away when she said she was trying to blend in better in Miami. The reasons were... let's just say Gabrielle Anwar can better fake an American Accent. Her brother notices when he visits, and there's some Lampshade Hanging.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Has often become jealous of Michael talking to other beautiful women. Even if that woman was an enemy of his.
Fiona: I wish our phone conversations were as flirty.
Michael: She threatened to kill me.
Fiona': I can do that.
Cynicism Catalyst: The death of Fiona's sister and her own guilt about them fighting shortly beforehand were what caused her to join the IRA.
Fake Nationality: Fiona is a rare tripleFake Nationality: her actress is British, but the character is Irish, faking an American accent. In one episode, the character faked a British accent, but it still wasn't Gabrielle Anwar's actual accent.
Fetish: Meta-example in that according to Gabrielle, her ideal Burn Notice episode would involve Fi sneaking into the shoe department of Neiman Marcus and finding Michael naked on the grand piano with a Molotov cocktail in hand.invoked
Fighting Irish: Fi is quick to recommend that any problem be solved by charging in with guns and bombs blazing, especially when it involves children being endangered. Her suggestions usually get shot down in favor of something less conspicuous, but when the firepower's needed Fi is always ready to provide.
Girl with Psycho Weapon: With anything you can think of. Special mention must go to her Molotov cocktails in "Fight or Flight".
Modern Minstrelsy: Has been accused of this. And she certainly does fulfill a great many Irish stereotypes.
Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Fiona had a very thick Irish accent in the first episode. This was handwaved away when she said she was trying to blend in better in Miami. The reasons were... let's just say Gabrielle Anwar can better fake an American Accent. Her brother notices when he visits, and there's some Lampshade Hanging.
In a few episodes, her accent rears its head again, mainly when she's extremely concerned about Michael. Presumably, Fiona is distracted and forgetting her American accent.
She's Got Legs: Fiona's wardrobe is mostly miniskirts, short shorts and a cocktail dress slit to the waist, and don't we love it!
Intentional and justified; Word of God has that Gabrielle Anwar (Fi's actress) picks out much of her own wardrobe. It's likely she knows she has great legs and wants to show them off. It's also helpful in-universe, as normally people look at a woman dressed like that and don't expect her to be so particularly dangerous—especially in Miami, where most women her age and younger dress somewhat loosely anyway because it's so hot and humid.
Small Girl, Big Gun: Despite having a figure to make most swimsuit models envious, Fiona always has a shotgun, assault rifle, or a large handgun with her or nearby.
Woman in White: Fiona hardly ever wears anything else. See Woman in Black for when she doesn't. Notably, Fi wears a black dress in "Where There's Smoke". Appropriately and as per the trope, she is the dangerous one during the episode.
To an extent, Sam also has a thing about serious betrayals of friendship or messing with his friends. He will stand by and help his friends even if it means getting into trouble himself. For him, a friend in need is his highest priority and he'll try very hard not to screw over his friends. There are many examples, subtle and otherwise, but it's a large part of "Breach of Faith" and "Dead or Alive".
Comes up less often, but any tarnishing of his time as a Navy SEAL pisses him off. One badguy managed to taunt him into getting close enough to snatch Sam's gun by suggesting he wasn't really a SEAL, and Mike asking him to use his SEAL credit to get information from the Coast Guard resulted in one of those rare moments where Sam was actually angry instead of just mildly annoyed or aggravated.
Commanding Coolness: Was the rank of Lt. Commander (equivalent to Major) during his Navy days. Thanks to a deal he cut with an Admiral he was allowed to retire at the rank of Commander (equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel) with full pension pay and benefits. Currently he's more or less a retired badass who helps Michael when he needs it.
Go-to Alias: Chuck Finley. Named after the left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball.
Friend on the Force: Not one himself, but he seems to have an endless list of buddies in any agency you care to name. Except NASA.
Friendly Sniper: Though all four members of Team Westen are capable of it, Sam most often takes this role. Put to epic and awesome Big Damn Heroes use in "Out of the Fire" when just as Larry's going to kill Michael, a red dot appears on his chest and Sam calls Michael's cell begging to shoot the guy.
He's okay with shooting people who have it coming, but he doesn't like killing in general. In "Down Wind," Sam has no choice but to kill some random mook in order to preserve Michael's cover. He's pretty badly shaken by the experience, and insists on seeing the operation through from that point on, so he can be sure that he didn't commit cold-blooded murder for no good reason.
The Mole: In season 1 the FBI thinks they've got Sam playing this role, spying on Michael for them, but Sam's only telling them what he and Michael think they should know.
Morality Pet: For all his drinking and womanizing, Sam's usually the one to remind Michael and Fi not to cross any lines, to the point characters refer to the soused bedhopper as a boy scout. This fits with their backgrounds, as Mike's a spy, Fi's a criminal, and Sam's a soldier. That's like being a boy scout for adults. A boozing, womanizing boy scout (what kind of a soldier doesn't drink and—absent a faithful wife—sleep around, after all?), but a boy scout nonetheless.
Nice Guy: Very much so and usually the only one around.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Probably the best of Team Westen at this, and embodies it completely. The initial impression one gets of him is a slightly overweight womanizer who chugs beers and has about as much insight as a sixth grader. While the first part is fairly accurate, one learns over the course of the series that he's a former Navy SEAL, has numerous contacts across multiple government agencies, and can be just as manipulative and technologically proficient as Michael or Fi.
Retired Badass: At the start of the series. The Sam-centric TV movie takes place before he's washed out of the Navy.
The Nicknamer: Played subtly. While everyone else calls Michael Westen "Michael", even Fiona, Nate, and Maddie, Sam calls him "Mike" or "Mikey". He also calls Madeline "Maddie" while Fi tends to go with "your mom" or "Madeline" and Jesse prefers the more formal "Mrs. Westen".
Would Hit a Girl: But only after she tried to take away his shotgun and beat him up.
Jesse Porter (Coby Bell)
Pre-S6: "So I'm supposed to lie to the people who are trying to find out what happened to Marv. Sounds like a Michael Westen plan."
As of S6: "Boom! That's how we do it people!"
A former spy (technically, counter-intelligence), introduced in Season Four as a foil for Michael. Over the fourth and fifth seasons, he's become an important part of the team. Though subtle, his role as a foil and being the only real clean cut responsible one of the team, has put him and Michael in something of a both a sibling and a mentor relationship.
Ambiguously Brown: The actor who plays Jesse is bi-racial. Based on the picture of his mother that he showed to Maddie, Jesse may not be. Word of God mentions that this is in part intentional; since you really can't peg Coby Bell as one thing or another, this allows him (and by proxy, Jesse) to play different sorts of characters.
Chronic Hero Syndrome/Cowboy Cop: Which got in the way of him being a field agent and eventually resulted in him being demoted to a desk job. Eventually, the influence of Team Westen results in him leaving said job after clearing his name. Subverted in Season 7, as when the others are in favor of a direct approach (usually involving pulling Michael out of some sticky situation), he is usually the one to make everyone stop and think of a plan.
Et Tu, Brute?: He took it very badly when he found out Michael had gotten him burned.
Hopeless Suitor: To Fiona in the first part of season 4. Fi is attracted to Jesse and having one of her rocky patches with Michael, but as Maddie has to explain, at the end of the day none of that's going to get between Michael and Fiona.
Missing Mom: Not missing but dead. But it had enough of an effect on him that he takes to Madeline pretty quickly and vice versa, enough that one could almost call Jesse Maddie's responsible son.
Motor Mouth: A lot of his cover IDs are this, and the results are usually hilarious.
One-Hour Work Week: Even after finding a new job, Jesse still has plenty of time to help team Westen.
Only Sane Man: A little more than most of the others due to his more straight laced background. Outside the team such as to the CIA, he often seems this way (to the team's benefit usually) since unlike the other members, he's basically still in good standing with the CIA as opposed to being thought of as a washed up drunk who used blackmail to escape time in a military jail, a potential terrorist, or a dubious ex-burned spy.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Which is why he got pulled out of field work before getting burned. Some people are able to watch innocent get hurt or a woman be beaten in order to maintain a cover identity. Not Jesse.
The Smart Guy: He crunches data better than anyone, which is something of a play, since out of the main cast, he's the tallest and most athletically built, attributes more commonly associated with other archetypes. Because his analysis and technical skills are far better than the other members of the team, he typically comes up with more concrete plans versus Michael's Indy Ploys and often acts as Mission Control by default.
What, Exactly, Is His Job?: In the fifth season Jesse decide to leave intelligence work and gets a high paying gig for a private security company. Said job is nebulous enough in nature to give him access to all sorts of things, a One-Hour Work Week and with varied enough duties to give team Westen new adventures. And he's got enough leeway and security clearance to still do contract work for the CIA under Michael.
Hypochondria: A characterization that didn't really stick past the first episode. Her pills are still part of the set dressing, but it's not actually a part of the character any more. Though this may be because it was a call for Michael's attention. She doesn't need it anymore since he's back in Miami.
Lethal Chef: She gradually improves over time, but the low quality of her chocolate-chip cookies is a Running Gag. On the other hand, she does appear to have a good recipe for iced tea.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Her part and parcel. She plays up the neurotic, chain smoking old lady angle to get people to underestimate her. As early as the second episode, where she leaves an agent alone in her house long enough to plant a bug, it's questionable whether she was playing him or not as she is immediately able to point out the house the listening crew is in when Michael asks.
Took a Level in Badass: The poster girl for the trope. We've lost count of the actual levels she's taken, but she starts out a nagging, hypochondriac chain-smoker in the pilot and over three seasons, has become virtually equivalent to a spy herself.
Best demonstrated in "The Hunter", where Sam and Fiona are interrogating a pilot to find out where Michael has been taken. Sam gives up the questioning when the pilot makes it clear he's not afraid of anything, and goes to think through new options with Fiona. Madeline calmly walks out to the garage where he's being kept, lights a cigarette, and comes back 4 minutes later with the coordinates, having not even had to TOUCH the pilot.
There's an excellent moment in the season 3.5 opener, "A Dark Road", when she outright blackmails a woman she's become friends with because the woman possesses information that Michael needs to save lives. She hates it, but she stonewalls the woman and gets the files.
She shows off her Mama Bear status in the season three finale when she stalls and misdirects a set of government agents who only very slowly come to realize that she's not an innocent old woman. She tips Michael off that the FBI is at the house, then sends the feds on a wild goose chase. This whole time she is interrogated in her own home, given photographs of bad stuff Michael has supposedly done and she doesn't even flinch, but she pretends to crack to keep the agents fooled. When they finally threaten to arrest her for aiding and abetting, she practically puts the handcuffs on herself, and oh, yes - slaps a federal agent.
To show her new badassery, when Michael tells Sam and Fiona that she's trying to hold them off, Sam says "She's good, but she's not that good." When a former Navy SEAL thinks you're tough, that's saying something.
Of course, this isn't the first time said Navy SEAL acknowledges her badassery - from "The Hunter":
Madeline: Sam, let me remind you you're sleeping in my guestroom. You call me or God as my witness I will smother you in your sleep. Sam: Okay, we'll call!
Season Five's "Bloodlines" sets a whole new record for Maddie. Successful undercover operation, where she poses as a nurse to a Yakuza drug lord? Check. Keeping her cover while her son masquerades as his father and reenacts the abuse she used to suffer? Check. Pulling a faked escape with said drug lord and after he leads Team Westen to his hideout, triple-crossing him and holding him at gunpoint with a shotgun? CHECK.
Later in S5, she's searching a house for evidence and picking the locks in the process.
"Jesus, bro, dad's dead, you're not in Afghanistan any more; when are you going to learn there are people you can trust?"
Michael's younger brother and Madeline's youngest son. He started out as a Con Man with a gambling problem, but now owns his own limo business, has a wife and kid, and sometimes is a support member in Michael's jobs.
The Atoner: Never treated as a bad guy in the show but is trying to put his past transgressions behind him.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: To a certain extent. Nate's more naive than stupid. He isn't a spy, criminal, or soldier like the main three, but he's got serious car-boosting skills and his improv at playing a cover has saved the day several times. More or less, he's Michael without the badass attitude or proper training.
Deliberately Bad Example: In much of the first 2 seasons or so, Nate tends to show what would happen if a normal person tried to do what Michael does. It tends to end up with him getting death threats by bad guys, beaten up, or being a Distressed Dude a lot.
Distressed Dude: Whether or not it's his own doing, he's often ended up like this.
Five-Finger Discount: Even early on, he was able to do this to Michael- he was never totally useless. He's even better than Michael at stealing cars.
Trailers Always Spoil: The teaser for "Shock Wave" all but went out of its way to foreshadow Nate's impending death, and then fully invoked this trope in the last 10 minutes of the episode when Michael relied on him to catch Anson. Also a rather egregious case of Dead Star Walking.
Tropaholics Anonymous: Begins going to Gambler's Anonymous after he couldn't make himself leave the card table even as his baby was being born.
Season 7 offers slight handwaves for her absence: an offhand comment talks about Ruby having fallen Off The Wagon entirely, hinting that an addiction may have been kicking in just after, or even before, Nate's death. Furthermore, the very next episode sees Madeline having to confront one of Nate's old bookies, because he couldn't find Ruby to shake down.
Charlie Westen (Wilson Pennel)
Nate's adorable son, born during his short-lived marriage. Adopted by Madeline after Nate's death.
Madeline: You know, you missed your father's funeral by eight years.
Michael: Well, last time I talked to him, he said "I'll see you in hell, boy," so I figured we had something on the books.
Though long dead by the beginning of the series, the (abusive, short-tempered) patriarch of the Westen family nevertheless remains something of a central mythical figure in the series due to the incredible influence he has over the Westen family, even after he died of a heart attack prior to the series. This influence only grows as of season 5 with The Reveal that Anson used Frank to gain information on Michael and arranged for his heart attack.Michael is "visited" by a drug-induced hallucination of Frank in season 7 (played by Tim Griffin).
Chekhov's Gunman: He's the only reason Michael beats and survives James's interrogation. In fact, not just due to the terrifying confrontation with "ghost" Frank, but a Eureka Moment provided by Mike's younger self:
Adult Michael: What did you tell him?
Young Michael: Nothing. I never tell him anything.
Doom It Yourself: By all rights a terrible mechanic. Didn't fare much better as an electrician, if stealing wiring out of a neighbor's air conditioner counts.
The Ghost: Other than the occasional appearance of a family photo in Madeline's house, with a man in the picture that may be Frank, he remains unseen until Michael hallucinates Frank berating him in "Psychological Warfare".
"You're on the edge of something much, much bigger than us, my friend. The people I work for, they have plans for you."
The man who signed off on Michael's burn notice. Michael spends much of the first season trying to figure out why and get in touch with him, thinking that's where he can find answers. Unfortunately for Michael, Cowan is just the tip of the iceberg...
"I would have to explain two dead bodies; you would have to be one of them!"
Agent of the shadowy organization that burned Michael. Spent Season 2 as Michael's primary source of "do this or we'll kill you" tasks. In spy parlance, that makes her Michael's handler, or evil agency contact.
Mundane Utility: She used the Burned Spy Organizations resources, to get out of parking tickets.
Only One Name: Subverted. While she is always referred to as Carla, Michael's investigation into her previous cover as an irrigation specialist turns up a business card. The card shows that her name is listed as Carla Baxter, though it is possible that was a fake name for the cover identity.
Evil Counterpart: He's "a lot like you, only with rabies", according to Sam. In actuality, he's what Michael could have become if the burn notice had taken not only his job but everyone he loved.
Fatal Family Photo: A variant. It's not meant to make us feel sorry for the family who will have to do without him, since they're already dead, but to make us feel sorry for Victor and care about his angst and, of course, his inevitable death.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: When he found out what Carla had done to his family, he tried to kill every member of the organization that he knew about. Unfortunately for Michael, that included fellow pawns.
"Tell me, Michael, all your old enemies from your spy days, all the people who have scores to settle with Michael Westen, where do you think they've been? Did they just forget about you... or has someone been keeping them at bay?"
A high ranking member of the Burned Spies Organization, and Carla's boss, who she fears will come down on her for her extracurricular activities. Later revealed by Anson to be a co-founder of the Organization and presumably the head of the group.
Even Evil Has Standards/Enemy Mine: Considers Simon a bigger threat to the organization than Michael's antics, enough to agree to help Michael in capturing him. Which is precisely what Simon was counting on.
"Michael: [voiceover] Work in intelligence long enough, you hang on to phone numbers. No matter who your enemy is there's a chance you'll need them tomorrow. Churchill and Stalin weren't chummy in 1941, but once the Nazis marched on Moscow they got past their differences.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Even though Anson specfically mentions Management as the man he founded the organization with, he has utterly disappeared from the series since the end of season 3, without explanation. In the interim between seasons 4 and 5, it's implied that Michael and the CIA hunted down and arrested or killed every member of the organization except Anson, presumably including Management.
Simon Escher (Garret Dillahunt)
"The powers that be decided I was uncontrollable. They dumped me in a hole and transferred my file to you. Gave you a fearsome reputation. My reputation. I want my life back."
A burned spy, like Michael. Unlike Michael, he deserved it, as he did most of the things that Michael is accused of doing in his burn notice. Eventually the Burned Spies Organization deemed him too unstable and uncontrollable and in his words, threw him in a hole. He has something to say about that, and is willing to wreak all kinds of havoc in revenge.
Ax-Crazy: Not as hammy as equivalent villains in this series, but arguably the most unhinged.
But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Threatening to bomb the living daylights out of Miami is just another Tuesday to Simon. To prove this point, before he even shows his face, he treats Michael to file tape of various atrocites he's commited elsewhere.
Cruel and Unusual Death: In the end, he pushes Michael's Berserk Buttonso hard that for his trouble, Simon gets his nose smashed in (with graphic nosebleed), his eyes nearly gouged out, and is slowly stabbed through the chest with a dagger.
Enemy Mine: Once with Michael during his (second) imprisonment by the Organization. Again near the end of the series, where it's forced on Michael under circumstances where Simon is the worst kind of help imaginable.
In a sense, even Larry. This is because Larry has enough of a personal obsession with Michael to be (temporarily) talked down from killing his way through everything. Simon tunes out Michael's protests and does whatever.
Friendly Enemy: As the Organization's prisoner. (There's not much violence he can get up to in two pairs of shackles.)
"This is a new kind of problem. This is somebody willing to let a guy like Simon blow up Miami to protect his cash flow. I mean, bottom line, you may not like it, but we're on the same side here."
Michael's handler is season 4. A high ranking member of the Burned Spies Organization, he tries to convince Michael to willingly work with them against a corrupt group that engages in War for Fun and Profit. Tries to frame past members of the Organization like Carla and Victor as bad apples in a group that, while underhanded and ruthless, is still essentially trying to do good. Not too surprisingly, it's a ruse. Vaughn's role is more or less the same as Carla, with a less "hands on" approach.
Arc Villain: Season 4. Obvious as it seems, it doesn't become entirely apparent that he is this until the second half.
Only One Name: Subverted. Vaughn's full name is never given in season 4. However, in season 5, Michael and Fiona find files with assets associated with Vaughn in DC. The paper shown on screen gives his name as Vaughn Anderson. Whether that is his real name or a fake is never explained.
Villainous Breakdown: Suffers it in his last appearance, because Michael may or may not have left him at Simon's mercy in federal prison. You know, the guy Vaughn got blackmailed by and later "threw in a hole".
"Michael, you can do anything you put your mind to, or at least anything I put your mind to."
DIA psychiatrist and latest victim of Dead Larry, who is holding his wife hostage in exchange for helping break into the British consulate. He is later revealed as the "client" who hired Larry for the job in the first place. After blackmailing Michael to do his bidding, he outs himself as the founder (and last remaining member) of the Burned Spies organization. He gets gunned down by the same bullet that kills Nate just a few episodes into season 6.
Authority Equals Asskicking: Averted, he's probably the least capable recurring character in the show's history — including Maddy. That said, when he has the psychological advantage, he can at least delay someone like Michael long enough in a fight to come up with an exit strategy.
Best Served Cold: Not terribly happy about Michael dismantling his organization.
The Chessmaster: Has had a personal interest in Michael for years prior to the first episode. To put this in perspective, Madeleine complains to Michael that he missed his father's funeral by eight years. Anson was using Frank to learn about Michael and was the one who had him killed.
Internal Affairs: Before becoming disenchanted with his job. "Hated to see all that talent go to waste."note Translation: "Hated to see all those sociopaths go to waste!"
Jerk Ass: Revealed at the end of "Acceptable Loss" that Frank Westen wanted to make up with his son shortly before his organization decided he knew too much and killed him, apparently for no other reason than to hurt Michael.
There is also an argument to be made that he really thought he was helping Mike get closure on his Dad. He is, after all, honestly interested in Mike's mind and mental health, and pointed out that Mike did used to say he wanted his dad dead.
Parental Substitute: Tries to cultivate this dynamic between him and Michael. He isn't very successful at it in the long run but of all the father figures Michael has, Anson is the one most prone to acting like a proper parent, often addressing Michael calmly and patiently.
Psycho Psychologist: While affiliated with Internal Affairs, he analyzed spies like Michael to determine whether they should be burned; This became the seed for the burned spies organization. Unbeknown to Michael, he also stood in as his parents' therapist.
NOTE: Please limit inclusion here to characters who either have at least three appearances or a significant role in a seasonal arc or half season arc. Also, please order the characters according to when they first appeared on the show.
Cutting the Knot: Michael favors complex strategies that are (usually) non-lethal or cause a target to be the cause of his own undoing. Larry kills whoever is in his way and moves on.
You are so busy looking 10 moves ahead that you don't see the move that is right in front of you.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Michael has screwed Larry over several times. Larry would kill a dozen people to get out of a parking ticket but he won't kill Michael. Word of God says Larry loves Michael. Not like that. Well, maybe a little like that. Who knows? Larry's crazy.
Michael: You know the difference between us? I really do understand you. You only think you understand me.
Evil Counterpart: Larry is what Michael might have turned into if he'd stayed in black ops.
Pointed out in season3 that Larry also has a personal intimate relationship with Michael, like Fiona.
Evil Mentor: Larry faked his own death in Bosnia and is now a Psycho for HireProfessional Killer who truly believes that Murder Is the Best Solution. Larry also likes to invoke Not So Different in regards to himself and Michael. Particularly notable in the season 4 finale when Larry wonders where all the darkness and anger Michael had went. On par for being the evil mentor, Larry also laments that Michael is losing those things that made him do bad things with a smile and so good at his job.
Faking the Dead: "Fifteen people watched Larry walk into an oil refinery right before it blew up. Apparently, it was his way of taking early retirement." Also, he was foiled this way in his first appearance as a Professional Killer.
Missed Moment Of Awesome: Let's be honest here. Larry appearing instead of Simon would have made far more sense at the end of season seven. Mike's issues with him were suggested to be unresolved and had Larry been put in that spot instead then the single episode Face-Heel Turn would have made far more sense.
Never Found the Body: Played rather subtly in the Season 5 summer finale - after Fiona blows up the office that Larry's in and (with a little help from the new Myth Arc villain) inadvertently destroys a little more than she meant to, the paper at the end of the episode says "2 people killed" (namely, the two security guards).
As of the season 6 premiere it's looking even less likely (though still not ruled out) that Larry survived. Jason Bly explicitly refers to Larry in the past tense. Though people have believed him to be dead before.
Pretty much guaranteed to still be dead now, with the show done.
Nietzsche Wannabe: He justifies killing people for money on the basis that people die anyway, and he all but calls himself an Übermensch while talking to Michael in "Enemies Closer."
No One Could Survive That: His fate as of mid-Season 5. Though, since "surviving that" is how he got his nickname, he's probably still not dead.
Not Quite Dead: It's his M.O. His subtitles tend have previously referred to him as "Larry: Undead Spy," "Larry: Spy with Nine Lives," and "Larry: Unfriendly Ghost."
Not So Different: He and Michael did run a lot of missions together, doing a lot of the same things...
We Can Rule Together: His entire motivation is to get Michael to work with him again. He'll do anything to get Michael to work with him again.
Tyler Brennen (Jay Karnes)
"Forcing. Such an ugly word. Encouraging? Incentivizing? No, you're right. Let's go with forcing."
A former Military Intelligence officer turned arms dealer. Michael first encounters him in season 2, where he foiled a deal Brennan had going with some South Americans. Ever since then Brennan has wanted revenge and to use Michael formidable talents for his own ends. One of the very few foes Michael cannot reliably outwit or beat due to training.
Cruel and Unusual Death: Everyone else in the show tends to fall to the Instant Death Bullet or being in an explosion. Brennan spends a solid minute with Larry twisting a blade in his chest and bleeding like a stuck pig.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Lampshaded repeatedly by Michael. To the point when Michael first approached the man, he didn't use any alias. He went as "Michael Westen, burned spy" as anything else would have been seen through and likely gotten him killed.
For that matter, when teaming up with Larry he makes the mistake of leaving Michael's mentor unattended or with Michael for long periods of time. Larry may be evil, but Brennan obviously did not expect how much Larry really just wants to turn Michael to the dark side.
So-called "Agent to the Spies", he's essentially a manager to talent like burned spies, ex-special forces, etc. He sets them up with gigs paid for by shadowy figures that he has contacts with, and in return he gets 10%. He appears in Season 3 offering to cut Michael in on a similar deal and promising that he has the connections to help Michael with the burn notice. However, nothing about him screams "trustworthy"...
Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: He actually does manage to get some movement done on Michael's burn notice, much to the shock of Michael's contact Diego Garza. He also has all sort of unsavory underworld connections, which causes Garza to freak out when he learns that Michael was working with Strickler.
"Most people bore me, especially Americans. Always some structure to report to, some memo to file. For all your talk of rugged individualism, in my experience this is a nation of sheep. I see opportunities and I take them. It's much simpler that way, much more fun."
One of the people that Strickler represented. He's a ruthless former black ops operative who has turned freelance, working for anyone and any cause if they pay him well enough, regardless of how much potential damage it may do to the world.
Arc Villain: Second half of season 3. Until Simon explosively upends him.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: After all the build up he was finally going to do something... and someone we hadn't even met yet mortally wounds him off screen. Granted, that someone turned out to be Simon, and doing something like that is exactly Simon's modus operandi.
The CEO of Drake Technologies, a telecom, technology, and infrastructure company that has been part of a conspiracy to forment wars and destabilize entire countries so that Drake Technologies can then go in and rebuild everything afterward at massive profit. Jesse was investigating his activities prior to being burned, and the Burned Spies Organization views him as a dangerous threat to its agenda.
Reality Ensues: He's an out of shape middle-aged man who takes part in a massive gunfight between his mooks, Team Westen, and Vaughn's men. Regardless of how much he's been built up as a potential Big Bad, it makes sense that he'd be dead by the end of the fight. (Although he almost managed to escape.)
X Must Not Win: He's the X in question as far as the Burned Spies Organization and Team Westen is concerned.
Tyler Gray (Kenny Johnson)
Nice try, Westen. I know who you are and I knowwhatyou are. The only mistake I made is not killing you sooner.
A former US Marine sniper, and one of the foremost snipers in the world. After ending his time in the Marines, Gray became a mercenary for cash, except when good old Uncle Sam needs him, at which point he'll do whatever job is asked of him, no questions asked. It's hinted that Card regularly offered him unofficial, off the books work to further Card's agenda. When Card was afraid that Anson would spill the beans on the links between the two and how Card had used the Burned Spies Organization for his own pro-America purposes, he had Gray kill Anson, resulting in Nate also being killed by the same bullet.
Heel-Face Turn: Begins to cooperate with Team Westen and maybe looking at changing his worldview, but...
Heel Face Door Slam: He is suddenly killed in the process of trying to help Team Westen, and before his character arc goes any further.
Jerkass Has a Point: Michael tells him off for shooting Anson with Nate, an innocent, in the way. Gray then relates the conditions under which he made the shot on Anson. He is not exaggerating when calls it a once in a lifetime shot, and on top of that he had no idea who the hell Nate was at the time. Gray was so far away he would have had to take the curvature of the world into account as he pulled the trigger.
The Power of Friendship: He's won over to Michael's side in large part due to this. Gray entirely believes that Michael is the monster that his file and Card make Michael out to be... until he sees Michael lying under torture to cover for the rest of Team Westen. As Gray himself says, the man who did the things from Michael's file would have never put himself on the line for others like that.
An Offer You Can't Refuse: One of his associates, with whom he planned to steal a truck full of valuable computer eqiupment, finds out what the stuff is actually worth and hikes the price of his sevices accordingly. Burke is not amused and "politely" urges him to think twice. The associate brandishes a knife which Burke promptly jams into the guy's spleen.
Not So Different: Shares a few of these moments with Michael, which draws them to sleep together.
Shrouded in Myth: After busting her out, Sam and Jessie realize that she's probably a certain legendary Russian operative who wreaked havoc at the CIA a few years ago.
James Kendrick (John Pyper-Ferguson)
A Father to His Men: An evil variation on this; he is fiercely devoted to the members of his organization, and he inspires the same in his people. Of course, if one of his people doesn't show that same level of devotion to the team, James will quite calmly shoot him in the head.
The Man Behind the Man: To Burke, the public face of the organization. No one, not even Agent Strong who'd been working for years to take the organization down, even knew he existed until Michael got to him.
No One Gets Left Behind: His motto for missions, to the point where he'll execute someone if they leave a team member behind.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: His backstory is something of a Deconstruction of this concept. Facing a situation where he had to choose between following his orders and following his conscience, he chose his conscience...and wound up having to do things that were just as bad, if not worse, than what he'd been ordered to do. The consequences of doing the "right" thing in a Morally Grey world where there is no objectively "right" decision forced him to snap and go rogue. By the time we meet him, he's long past justifying his actions and lives by his own moral code.
Taking You with Me: Tries to pull this off with his death in the series finale. He fails to take Michael and Fiona with him. Barely.
Two FBI agents tasked with leaning on Sam in season 1 to conduct surveilance on Michael. Sam, in turn, acts as Michael's double agent to only feed them just enough info to keep Harris and Lane's superiors happy (and help get a real crook or two turned in). They eventually get reassigned once Michael stirs up enough trouble to be someone else's problem, but one or both of them turn up as allies of Michael in later seasons.
Defeat Equals Friendship: Not actually defeated, per se - somebody higher up the food chain, ominously, had them taken off the assignment. They're also not really his friends.
"Man, I have to say, Miami's treated me pretty well."
A CIC agent sent in ostensibly to investigate Michael in season 1 when Michael is freshly burned, but really to convince him to sit down and shut up about wanting his job back. Michael eventually puts together information to blackmail Bly into leaving him alone, although Bly attempts to return the favor in season 2, at which point the two call a truce. He reappears again in season 6.
Foreshadowing: When Michael tries to tell him he didn't really deserve to be burned, Bly momentarily loses his cool and tells Michael he should be in jail. Later we find out what the government thinks Michael did. Bly was really understating the case.
Hero Antagonist: For all he's a Smug Snake, he really is on the side of angels and the dossier he has on Michael would make anyone think Michael was a monster.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: He isn't one himself, but he really knows how to make use of them, seeking to inflict "a slow death, drowning in red tape" on Michael.
Out-Gambitted: A bunch of things he thought were going well for him turned out to be Michael setting him up to look corrupt. And to rub it in, after dumping The Reveal about this in Bly's lap, Michael drives off in the Ferrari that Bly thought was his!
Smug Snake: When he has (or thinks he has) the upper hand on Michael. Cue MacGyvering or other such plot development to prove him wrong.
Detective Michelle Paxson (Moon Bloodgood)
Stuff's been blowing up pretty steadily since you arrived in Miami. So are you going to answer my questions, or am I going to pick my way through everything you own?
A Miami Detective who shows up investigating Michael at the start of season 3, almost immediately after he turned down Management's offer to help him stay off the radar. She makes the connection between Michael and some of the group's flashier pyrotechnics, and promptly starts hounding the team and staking out all the spots where they store their equipment. She keeps the pressure up for several episodes, causing a number of problems for Team Westen before Michael helps her catch a dangerous criminal she's been trying to bring down for years. She reluctantly backs off at that point, but notes that if Michael slips or she ever hears of him becoming a criminal for real, she'll arrest him.
Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: She's a pain in the ass obstacle for the Team, but in real life if Team Westen was making all those explosions go off in your city, you'd want them arrested too.
Diego Garza (Otto Sanchez)
I assume you're here because you want back in? Trying to reach out? I don't want this to hurt your feelings, but I'd like you to get the hell out of here.
A laid back CIA field agent who is quite happy with his position working undercover at the Miami Airport overseeing an import/export business instead of risking his life in the field. He reluctantly becomes Michael's official Agency contact during the first half of season 3, but is killed by Gilroy before Garza can tell Michael more about Strickler's connections.
Genre Savvy: He recognizes Michael immediately and does everything he can to try to avoid getting involved with him. Unfortunately, he gets stuck with Michael.
Never Suicide: His death is officially ruled as one, and given he's shown chugging some alcoholic beverage in a panic right before his offscreen demise, it's not completely implausible to a medical examiner...
"What the hell were you doing working with Strickler? Do you know what sort of people he was in bed with?!
Retired Badass: He essentially considers his current job a paid retirement, and he is not rocking the boat.
I have 20 years with the company. I've seen villages burned, kids orphaned. I've been shot. Twice. Then they transferred me here. Now, you know what the hardest part of this job is? That forklift over there turns funny. Now, if I report back that I made contact with a burned spy, do you know where they'll send me? Me neither.
Reassigned to Antarctica: Other agents would view his current position as this. Garza, who has had enough danger in his life, loves it.
Congressman Bill Cowley (John Doman)
Sam: Sir? I'm a war vet ok, this is about my disability. I'm one of your constituents. Cowley:Yeah, but just one. *Rolls up window and drives away*
A blowhard congressman on the House Intelligence Committee with ambitions of reaching higher office. The team first encounters him midway through season 4, when they attempt to blackmail him into helping their client, a retired CIA Agent, get into Witness Protection. Cowley isn't interested in helping, but is forced to due to circumstances of the episode. In a last ditch effort to get the existence and identity list of the Burned Spies Organization into the open, Sam approaches him and tries to enlist him. Cowley is eventually convinced of the truth and brings a group of Marines to save the rest of Team Westen from certain death at Vaughn's hands.
Corrupt Politician: Illegally sent troops into Columbia in '86, which turned out to be a disastrous bloodbath. He shrugs off both the deaths of the soldiers who took part in this and attempts to use the information against him, stating that he has someone ready to take the fall for him.
Jerkass: Just look at the way they established his character in the quote.
The Load: In both episodes, although it's somewhat alleviated when he brings The Cavalry to save Team Westen.
I never believed what they said about Jesse, but I'm not about to do any favors for a couple of burned spies. I'm sorry.
A veteran counterintelligence agent at the DOD who has worked counter-intel for nearly 30 years. He was also Jesse's former handler, and although he believes Jesse was given a raw deal when he was burned, Marv doesn't dare speak up about it for fear of losing everything. Despite his reluctance to have anything to do with burned spies in general and Team Westen in particular, with a little arm twisting he helps them several times with information and resources. When Michael uncovers the full list of members of the Burned Spies Organization, he tries to convince Marv to help them bring it to the government. Unfortunately Brennan and Larry threaten Marv's family and force him to turn it over to them instead, and kill Marv along the way.
A capable and friendly CIA operative who becomes Michaels' partner in hunting down the members of the Burned Spies Organization early in season 5. After that he continues to be Michael's partner on some small scale CIA work while Michael is gradually worked back into the Agency. Is very suddenly murdered in an attempt to frame Michael.
Almost Dead Guy: And unlike the norm, he doesn't have anything cryptic to say as he's dying - just musings about his wife. It takes a bit before it's realized in-universe that Max was just an unwitting fall guy.
By-the-Book Cop: Although he does, with some convincing, give Michael some help with Michael's side jobs.
You guys were there when I needed it. I said I wouldn't forget and I haven't.
Initially assigned to look into the death of Max, Pearce eventually becomes Michael's de facto handler in the CIA and takes over the role of Sixth Ranger from Jesse. Because she's an agent in good standing unlike Jesse who quit due to his idealism and Michael due to his Cowboy Cop-like attitude, Pearce has both a lot more resources at her disposal but also a lot more responsibilities riding on her shoulders. Nevertheless, while her relationship with Team Westen has not always been smooth, by season 6, Pearce has come to owe them a lot. As a result, she has taken to helping them out - often without any CIA knowledge and usually by bending rules (helping the team out by helping out on other agency business in the same location). In this role, she serves in a similar capacity as Jesse when Jesse is unavailable or in the field himself - Mission Control and analytics. Eventually she breaks too many rules trying to help the team, and is Reassigned to Antarctica.
Best Served Cold: She finds out that the man who killed her fiancee is now a protected CIA asset, convinces him that he's dying, arranges for him to unknowingly give up the information he's holding, and then reveals what she's done done complete with Cruel Mercy.
I'm not killing you, Ahmed, but believe me, your life is over.
A CIA field operative who is introduced as part of a team that Pearce assembles for Michael to command in his first major operation back in the CIA. Is secretly being blackmailed by Anson (who is threatening to turn over information about her brother's whereabouts to a criminal organization that wants to kill her brother) and is one of the agents he intends to use in rebuilding the Burned Spies Organization. She eventually winds up helping Michael and the CIA track down Anson, although she disappears anyway, claiming she doesn't trust the CIA to protect her brother and is going to make sure it gets done.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: And she has suspiciously bad timing about it, since she bolts right around the time that Anson and Nate are both killed. Michael tracks her down and puts a bullet in her shoulder before she convinces him that she had nothing to do with it.
Tom Card (John C. McGinley)
"Imagine that you're onto holding two bottles. They drop on the floor, what happens? They both break. But it's how they break that's important. Because you see while one bottle crumples into a pile of glass, the other shatters into a jagged edged weapon. The same environment that forged older brother into a warrior... crushed baby brother. Don't get me wrong, Mrs. Westen, Michael is damaged. But he also happens to be a little boy who just wants to protect his mother and his baby brother. Which means that everyone that Michael ever helped actually has to thank... you."
"I'm proud of you, son."
Michael's training officer. As with Frank and Larry, Tom serves as something of a father figure to Michael. He acts as a middle ground between the two extremes of Frank and Larry. Like Frank, the relationship between Michael and Tom is at times antagonistic and based more around what the other can do for them. Like Larry, Tom taught Michael the skills he would need later in life. His contribution to Michael's life comes in transitioning Michael from petty criminal escaping his home life by entering the military to budding young spy with enough potential to attract Larry's mentorship and Anson's eye.
Bigger Bad: Or so Michael explains to Riley in the opening of the back half of season 6. He was running ops around the globe and using Anson to do it. Card's explanation...
Dragon with an Agenda: Is more or less that he was another of Anson's blackmail targets/tools, and had to take Anson out (and Nate, incidentally/accidentally) to protect his career and keep serving his country... albeit illegally.
Expy: Of Dr. Cox. Tom has so many of the same mannerisms as Dr. Cox (the "attention whistle" and the way he rants) that you almost expect him to call Michael a girl's name or "newbie." It probably helps that they are played by the same actor. Subverted in the end however, as Cox is a Knight in Sour Armor crossed with Good Is Not Nice, while Card is ultimately a self serving manipulator only looking out for himself and his agenda.
It's All About Me: In his first appearance, Michael deduces from Card's impatient attitude that he needs one of his ops to end sunny side up in order to save his slipping CIA career. Reinforced hard after The Reveal that he paid Nate's killer to lure Michael into a suicide mission, just out of fear that Michael might find out he was in cahoots with Anson.
The Man Behind the Man: In a sense. Card was one of Anson's "clients" on certain unspecified black ops, and most likely, was the one who supplied Anson with the encrypted communications device found in his apartment during season 5.
Pet the Dog: His speech to Maddy, even though it's subverted a few minutes later when he calmly orders Michael's assassination after lying to both of them. Also, in his first appearance he seemed genuinely disgusted by the Corrupt Agent and passionate about doing the job right.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: One of several father figures that inspires Michael to be this. He's as bad as the rest of them. Michael has really shitty luck in this department.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: He claims that people like him and Michael have to 'make calls' and for all his treachery, he seemed like he legitimately wanted to advanced the goals of and protect the interests of the United States.
Olivia Riley (Sonja Sohn)
Counter-Intel legend send in to capture Michael Westen after the murder of Tom Card. Judging from her actions, she seems to be another person manipulated by Card, as she took it quite personal upon learning of his death.
Anti-Hero: CIA operative and specialist of counter-intelligence who wants to bring down Michael badly. Even after telling their side of the story, including the bit about Card collaborating with Anson, she couldn't care less.
Arc Villain: Second half of season 6. Though she starts off relatively sympathetic, by the end she's plunged into outright villainy by betraying the CIA and the DEA to a cartel just to kill Team Westen without ruining her career.
Bad Boss: A mild version in that when a field agent comments that there are live explosives and they have no real protection against that (eg bomb defusal equipment), she remarks that she'll just find an actual field agent that will do it. That is she seemed more interested in catching Westen right then and there.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: With a heavy helping of Smug Snake about it. Sends one of her guys to beat up Jessie than blames it on said guy, claims she has the document on his mother's murder, when it was just a bunch of empty papers and never planned on helping; then loses what little sympathy she had left when enlists the help of a Drug Cartel just to have Westen killed, and later tortures Sam in the hospital just for kicks. Why did she do all of this? Was it because he killed a CIA agent despite knowing it was in self defence? Nope, it was because he was ruining her reputation.
Bullying a Dragon: Sam outright tells Riley this is what she did when she sent a Cartel Hit Squad after Michael's mother. Stating she no longer had to try to find Michael, as he was now coming after her.
Cerebus Syndrome: Know the voiceovers we hear before utilizing them against the perp? Contextually, it's kind of similar here, except now Westen is on the receiving end of them. Olivia is able to utilize conventional and unconventional means of catching, trailing, and interrogating perps. She successfully catches Sam's lies and plans out defensive and offensive strategies against Team Westen.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Michael calls her out on this, stating he knows that she most likely falsified records to make it look like he was actually the one in contact with the Cartel. Making it look like the Cartel killed him for double crossing them. He was right.
Genre Savvy: She wrote the book on counter-intelligence, quite literally, and so she's pretty good at attacking any situation from multiple angles.
Determinator: Pretty much her defining character trait as she claims she'd travel to the ends of the earth to catch Michael.
Foil: To Michael, moreso than any antagonist in the series to date. To an extent, she's also something of a foil to Jesse who had a similar history with Michael. This aspect of her character is particularly notable in the latter part of season six. It's been stated by Word of God that Michael tends to (or use to) value his own reputation and such over that of others. Olivia shares this with him... but will cross more lines than he will to preserve it, given that she lacks the family he does.
Hero Antagonist: When she has Michael cornered, she orders her team to take the shot no matter what... even when the field agents can clearly see that Michael is unarmed and surrendering.
Hyper Awareness: Much like Michael, she is able to notice tiny features that can tell whether a perp is lying or not. This is evident when she catches Sam wince when she analyzes that Michael is bound to be at a weapons storage as opposed to where Michael is.
I Never Said When: Catches Sam in a lie when he tries to say the boat picture was taken a couple of weeks ago when the scar on the side of the boat was done six months ago.
Inspector Javert: Though at the end she even loses this aspect. Where a Javert will still follow and believe he is following the law, Riley goes as far as to hire a Drug Cartel hit squad and deliberately betraying the CIA and DIA to kill Westen and his team rather than bring them in. She even clearly makes reference to the fact she knows what she is doing is illegal.
Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Steadily becomes more of a jerkass throughout season 6, before outright torturing Jesse and Sam and betraying the CIA and DEA to a cartel. Even her own men clearly notice a more extreme aspect in her personality since she has been chasing them, starting to believe she would be capable of trying anything.
Maddie: arrests her and lets her stew (emphasis on "stew") in an interrogation room for some length of time, then smokes a cigarette when she finally does start asking questions, just to make Maddie (the chain smoker, mind) even more upset.
Which in a way shows the differences between her and Westen. Where She would allow her guys to use torture, Westen and his team would only suggest using this to scare them and never actually hurt them.
Sam: subverted; she barely even tries to get answers out of him. Instead, since he's laid up in the hospital and can't resist, she switches his morphine for a "stimulant" that increases his sensitivity to pain... for no reason!
The Dreaded: Both Michael and Jessie exchange Oh Crap faces when they realize who they're up against. After they explain to Fi that she's literally wrote the book on counter-intelligence, it doesn't really make the situation any better.
Tragic Villain: When she first appears, she is just an agent doing her job since she doesn't know all the facts. However, she continues to pursue Michael after he explains what Card was planning. Her obsession with catching Team Westen leads to her crossing major lines and becomes her downfall.
An Offer You Can't Refuse: To paraphrase: Go on this physically, psychologically and morally draining deep cover op to apprehend this extremely cautious terrorist for us; refuse and you, the most notorious/hated spy in the CIA, spend the rest of your days with your friends & family in a detention facility. A clean slate awaits everyone if you succeed but failure or death is unacceptable. No pressure.
Bad Boss: Plays it painfully straight with Michael, but subverted with the rest of his team who don't seem to mind him. His boss, the Deputy Director of the CIA, proves to be even less charming and may explain Strong's more desperate acts.
Horrible Judge of Character: He might not have been responsible for pulling Simon out of prison, but he sure did see nothing wrong with sending him to aid Michael, provided the job got done. Commence everything imaginable going wrong.
Inspector Javert: His years-long obsession with catching Randall Burke prompted his wife to take the kids and split. Then again, he isn't the most pleasant person on Earth as it is...
Pet the Dog: Unpleasant looming presence though he is, Strong is a decently skilled field agent and is responsible for talking down James's former Special Forces squadmate from blowing up Jesse.
Gets a repeat performance in the series finale by getting Jesse and Sam released from custody despite a lot of people wanting them in jail. And plays hardball in order to get Michael a star on the CIA Memorial Wall.
Other Recurring Characters
Raymond "Sugar" Mosley
"I've got guns and duct tape."
The drug dealer who lived downstairs from Michael in the pilot, until Michael shoots him and convinces him to move. He shows up later asking for help, and after a turn as the client of the week he becomes friendly with Team Westen. Afterward he becomes a source of information and insight into Miami's drug world.
Genre Savvy: Starts off moderately so, being a drug dealer with little tricks like bulletproof doors and the like, but he wises up big time over his handful of appearances. His season 6 appearance is noteworthy in this regard. He doesn't bother asking more questions than necessary when Michael calls him up, doesn't panic when Michael tells him the plan, and he promptly destroys the phone as soon as the call is over.
Hidden Depths: Sugar has a mentally challenged cousin named Dougie that Sugar would die to protect... at least in part because Sugar used to pick on Dougie, but Dougie saved Sugar anyway when Sugar needed it.
The Informant: After his turn as a Team Westen client, he gets called on several times to give the team info on targets in the drug world. Mostly this just adds up to telling them what bad news the latest Villain of the Week is.
Leeroy Jenkins: He spends the entire episode as a Client being a Leeroy.
Noodle Incident: After the aforementioned season 6 cameo, Jason Bly tells Michael in the finale that Riley found out about the phone call anyway, arrested Sugar, and is doing god-knows-what to him in some unknown prison. This becomes Fridge Horror when it's later seen what she's willing to do to Jesse and Sam.
Stupid Crook: Initially. In one of the most iconic MacGyvering scenes of the series, Michael outwits him with duct tape.note And a gun, but mostly duct tape and garage tools. Gradually wises up with every appearance, though.
"You want me to make two hundred grand just, *poof*, appear in your numbered account? Michael, I'm good, but I can't just will that kind of money into existence."
A metrosexual money launderer who nevertheless manages to look like a graying Guy Fieri with extra piercings. Team Westen goes to him for information and financial advice time and time again, and he has been the key to making a number of their plans work.
A rather flighty gun runner that Michael encounters in the second season, he has useful connections in the world of gun runners and specialty guns. His aforementioned flightly and weird nature (and his tendency to draw Michael into his problems, including shootouts with other crooks) is somewhat less useful.
Genius Ditz: While he is an idiot most of the time he does seem skilled at modifying weapons somewhat as he makes water shells for Mike to shoot through a demo trap. He also manages to stay in business so he isn't quite as dumb as he looks. His "jackass" bodyguard on the other hand is a complete moron.