Recap / Burn Notice S 1 E 11 Dead Drop
As the season finale, the Burn Notice Arc takes up a much larger portion of the episode than is usual. This is the first half of a two-part episode.
Burn Notice Arc
We learned at the end of the previous episode ("False Flag"
) that Phillip Cowan, the man who burned Michael, was headed to Miami. When the episode opens, Michael is doing sit-ups in his loft... with a pistol in his hand. After turning down Sam's job offer, he gets an anonymous text directing him to a fountain at a park at one PM. Sam offers to go along and Michael agrees.
Client of the Week
One of Sam's old buddies from the SEAL teams has hooked him up with a job offer. He asks for Michael's help with it (hoping to get Michael's mind off of Cowan), but Michael turns him down. Sam decides to run with it anyway.
Michael waits at the park and gets a phone call. It's Sam, thinking Cowan didn't show. Michael disagrees; he's watching. Michael studies the area and sees a new, empty office building nearby; he heads over on the assumption that Cowan is watching from there. Michael reaches the empty roof and finds a greeting card with a mysterious message and a newspaper clipping inside. The headline reads "Belgrade Weapons Depot Destroyed". Looking down to the ground, he sees Cowan standing by a car, who points to Sam, shakes his finger in a negative at Michael, and drives away.
Back at Michael's loft, Michael discusses Cowan with Fiona and Sam. Michael believes Cowan wants to meet, but doesn't trust Michael. The clipping deals with an incident in Michael's burn notice dossier; though we don't know whether that particular incident was Michael's doing or not. The message is intended to start a private communication; Cowan knows all of Michael's career and falsified a good bit of it. Sam leaves to meet with his client.
Sam's client is a woman, Gillian, an employee at SXG, a government contractor. Her friend, Melissa, has been cheating on her abusive, controlling husband, Kent. Gillian signed in her boyfriend because she was the one with security clearance. Then the boyfriend stole some files and started blackmailing both Gillian and Melissa. Gillian has to sign for packages while Melissa smuggles them out. They're from a subsidiary in Turkey: heroin. Sam agrees to help.
Unfortunately, Melissa isn't cooperative. She just wants to keep her head down and pretend nothing is wrong. Nevertheless, Sam manages to get some information out of her; she met "Dave" at a bar. Her husband gets home and she gives Sam and Gillian the bum's rush. Sam gets some additional information from Gillian; when did Melissa start talking about Dave?
At Madeleine's house, Michael shows up in response to an urgent call from his mother. She got an anonymous phone call herself. The man on the phone said "Van Buren Avenue" and hung up. A noise at the back door has Michael reaching for his gun, but it's his brother, Nate, who lost his key. Madeleine called him, too. After yelling at Michael, Madeleine storms off. Michael asks Nate to look after their mother, and gives him a gun.
Sam meets Fiona at the Carlito. He wants some backup to find "Dave". Mike is wrapped up in the Cowan business. Sam got enough information to get them started; tracking down the date of when Melissa started talking about Dave, he's running down her receipts. Sam needs a wingman to help him locate the particular guy at the bar. Fiona demands fees, up front plus expenses and an hourly.
Meanwhile, Michael is walking down Van Buren Avenue, looking not for Cowan, but a cutout, someone sent in Cowan's place. Michael sees a man standing in a bookstore leafing through a tourist guide for M
isconson; the man gives Michael an envelope and leaves. The envelope contains another note and another newspaper clipping, this time "Thursday 6PM Alone" and "Terrorist Killed in Budapest".
Sam and Fiona have tracked down the bar, only something seems slightly off; it's full of beautiful men. Making out. And yet, according to all the information Sam gathered, this is where Melissa met her boyfriend. Sam goes up to the bar and learns that "Dave" is actually a hustler named Ray Wagoner. He appears to have stepped up to the exciting world of blackmail and drug running.
Sam and Fi visit Ray's house the next day and, when he doesn't answer the door, explore around back, where Ray takes a swing at Sam with a two-by-four. Sam takes him down with a crack on the jaw, grabs the two-by-four and begins interrogating Ray. It turns out that Ray isn't
blackmailing Melissa; she hired him to pose with her in some photos, taken by her husband.
Sam and Fiona discuss the situation with Gillian over lunch; Melissa's blackmailing Gillian and posing as a fellow victim. This way she can smuggle out the heroin using Gillian's security clearance, and also keep informed on anything Gillian might do, such as hiring Sam. It's a classic squeeze. Sam's plan is to get to Melissa's husband, Kent, and link him to the heroin. Set up a counter-blackmail scheme. In the mean time, they'll need to convince Melissa that the investigation isn't going anywhere so she and Kent won't get suspicious.
However, to get close to Kent, they're going to need to bring in a third player; Michael. Sam meets him at his loft and brings him in. Michael is to pose as a Green Beret whose gotten wind of Kent's set-up at SXG. He'll ask Kent to let him use his connection to smuggle in his own goods.
Michael approaches Kent at a gun range as a former Marine and asks him to expand his business. Kent is very defensive and wants nothing to do with Michael. Michael offers to ship more goods through Kent's pipeline for top dollar. Kent is cautious, but interested, as the people he works for...
Sam and Fiona are staking out Kent and Melissa's, waiting for Kent to go for a run. While Sam comes to the front door and convinces Melissa that the investigation is going nowhere while Fiona breaks in the back and swaps Kent's phone with their own bugged model. The bug works and the team learns that Kent's terrified of his supplier, probably doesn't know exactly who he's working for, is keeping Michael's meeting a secret, and that Sam's ruse is working.
Madeleine then bursts into Michael's loft, furious that he gave Nate a gun. Michael and Nate start arguing before Madeleine bursts in, angrier still, and demanding to know what's going on. Michael tries to put her off but she refuses. Michael points out that his job is dangerous. Madeleine responds that she's asking him to trust them. Michael refuses, and claims to have a meeting to get to.
The next day, Michael meets with Kent at sparsely populated construction site, with Sam covering him with a rifle. Kent doesn't want to deal with Michael; he just wants to know how Michael knows what he knows, and pulls a gun. After that the two fight and Michael runs. Sam disables Kent's truck and distracts him from following, though he still damages the Charger.
The but lets them know that Kent is even more worried; there's still another package at SXG that needs to be removed, following which he'll clean up the mess. The plan now is for Gillian to get the last of the heroine out of SXG for Kent, which Team Westen will use to blackmail him. However, Sam is babysitting Gillian and is in an area with no cell phone coverage when Fiona, monitoring the bug, learns that Kent has wired Gillian's car to explode after she gets the heroine out. Meanwhile,
The Budapest article is a reference to a job Michael did in the city, where he met a contact under the steps of city hall. That's where Michael has to go to meet Cowan. Sam offered to come along, but Michael knows Cowan wants some alone time. While he's waiting at city hall, he gets a call from Fiona telling him about the threat to Gillian, and that Sam can't be reached. Michael scratches "John 3:16" on the sidewalk with a rock and leaves.
Sam is still covering Gillian when Kent pulls up in a panel van and Melissa walks out of SXG with the heroin. Michael and Fiona arrive shortly before Gillian leaves the building. They can't warn Gillian with Kent watching from the sidleins, so Michael grabs Sam's floor mat and hops the fence while Sam and Fiona distract the guard, pretending to think SXG is a restaurant. Michael manages to disarm the explosive wired to Gillian's car just as she starts it up and drives away.
The following morning, Gillian is understandably upset to learn that Kent and Melissa tried to kill her. Team Westen tell her to take an unscheduled trip to New England. Once again, the team plans to blackmail Kent. They'll document his sale of the heroin and use that to get him to back off. Sam and Fiona go to cover the transaction while Michael goes to his rescheduled meeting with Cowan.
Sam covers the sale from ground level across the causeway with his camera while Fiona uses a directional mic from the bridge.
Michael gets a call on a payphone outside St John's Cathedral. Cowan tells him to come to the parking garage where Michael found his first message, alone, unarmed, and in ten minutes; Michael has to run. He does so, as it's over a mile away.
Fiona and Sam, covering the transaction, learn that Kent told his bosses about the problems with Michael and Gillian. Their hand-off has gone wrong; their buyer is late. As they get in the car to leave, a rocket-propelled grenade lances into their car from across the causeway, killing them both. Sam goes to flee, but is grabbed by a man with a machine gun. Fiona is trapped on the bridge with armed men running at her from both ends, and jumps over the railing to escape.
Michael finishes his run up through the parking garage and finally meets Cowan face to face. He proves he's unarmed and the two speak. Michael wants to know why Cowan burned him, but it's more complicated than that. Cowan reveals that he's just one part of an organization. As he explains it, it's clear, all the things that have happened to Michael, targetting him, tracking him, burning him, falsifying his dossier, freezing his accounts, couldn't have been done by one man, who then travels to Miami to explain himself. He did try to have Michael killed, but it wasn't personal. Just self-defense.
Cowan tells Michael that the people he works for have plans for Michael. Big plans. They're powerful, dangerous people and they're upset with Cowan. He misread Michael, didn't expect him to object quite so much to being burned. Then Cowan gets shot in the back with a high powered rifle, spraying Michael with blood. Sirens immediately start to blare and Michael has to run, again. First, he calls Nate; he'll need a ride.
Michael and Nate arrive at the loft. Where Michael tells Nate that Cowan didn't have time to tell him anything and the cops arrived far too quickly; it was a setup. He adds that he wants Nate to pick up their mother and get out of town. As he goes to leave Nate's truck, he takes a look at the construction crew working on the road. They're a cover team, there to pick him up, as is the man working on his car on the side of the road behind them. Michael elects to stay in the truck when he gets a call from Fiona. She tells him that Kent and Melissa are dead, Sam has been kidnapped, and she's on the run.
This episode's tropes
- Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Averted, as per usual. Normally, a grown man can't fit under a car unless it's been jacked up off the ground. Or unless that car is a jeep, which is what Gillian drives. Even so, it's a tight fit.
- Actor Allusion: Jeffrey Donovan tried to act like his brother, who served in the armynote , for Michael's bit-part cover as a Green Beret. He thickened up his Boston accent.
- The Alleged Car: Michael gets done replacing the Charger's windshield, she's all clean and polished... and the hood won't close. And then it gets shot up again!
- Awesome Music: The soundtrack is an electronic score with a good baseline that begins when Michael begins running to his final meeting with Cowan. It plays through the death of Kent and Melissa, Sam's capture, Fiona's escape, and ends with Michael's arrival on top of the parking garage. Very well done.
- Dark And Trouble Dpast: Michael's childhood rears its head once again.
Maddy: I'm asking you to trust us.
Michael: And when would I have learned how to do that?
- Bland-Name Product: Despite being modeled on the KFC chicken bucket, Sam's bucket just says "Fried Chicken".
- Blatant Lies
- About the phone call that scared Maddy, Michael says, "Oh, it's nothing, probably just a friend." She doesn't buy it.
- Both Sam and Fiona claim to have suspected from the start that it was a "double blackmail" scam.
- Cliffhanger: Cowan is dead and Michael is possibly being framed for it. Sam's job went seriously sideways, with the bad guys murdered by their bosses, Sam kidnapped, and Fiona running from an expert snatch-and-grab team. And Michael's being hunted by secret agents working for a mysterious organization. Good thing this two-parter aired all in one go, yeah?
- Continuity Nod: When Sam approaches Mike a second time for help with Gillian's blackmail, Mike's fixing up the Charger from the events of the previous episode.
- Foreshadowing: Ray Wagoner makes the step from cadging free drinks and lifting wallets to blackmail of government contractors and international drug smuggling?
- Gay Bar Reveal: When Sam and Fi track down where Melissa met her blackmailer. AKA, her boyfriend... The look on Fi's face is priceless.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: At the gay bar, Sam is the one to go talk to the bartender about "Dave", because...
Fi: I think the balls are in your court.
- Grudging "Thank You": From Michael to Nate. Nate treats it as it is; Michael's belief that he's probably going to die.
- Harsher in Hindsight: Sam says "I've made plenty of mistakes myself; god only knows." We assume he's talking about a sailor's typical peccadilloes and he's trying to put Melissa at ease, but we see in Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe just what those mistakes are. They are big.
- Headbutting Heroes: Sam and Fi are very much at odds in this episode.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: Michael's Public Secret Message to Cowan, scratched on a sidewalk.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: Sam says "I've made plenty of mistakes myself; god only knows." We assume he's talking about a sailor's typical peccadilloes and he's trying to put Melissa at ease, but we see in Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe just what those mistakes are. They are big.
- Hyper-Awareness: Michael is strolling down the street talking on his cellphone and sees, out of the corner of his eye, someone reading a book of maps from Madison, Wisconsin. And not in a super obvious "LOOK AT THIS BOOK" kind of way, just casually leafing through it.
- Ironic Juxtaposition: Sam, digging into a deep fried chicken breast, wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Michael, fresh off of doing sit-ups on a decline bench, shirtless, eating his yogurt. Sam has the grace to look embarrassed.
- It Amused Me: It's hard to tell how serious Michael and Fiona are about charging Sam for their services. Fiona might mean it, Michael's probably just screwing with a friend.
- Like You Would Really Do It: They brought in frickin' Richard Schiff. And then they killed him. Why? Because you don't kill off someone like Richard Schiff in his first appearance.
- Manipulative Bastard: After uncovering the double-blackmail scam, Sam has to recruit Mike, so he makes sure to bring Gillian along and point her out to Michael.
Mike: Shameless, Sam. Even for you.
- Mood Whiplash: Madeleine asks for Michael's trust. He refuses. He points out that he left them, which paints his face over with pain. Then Nate adds, "And you still got the car."
- Nothing Personal: Cowan actually says this when Michael objects that he tried to have Michael killed. Mike chuckles.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Somehow, at the gay bar, Sam goes from an awkward "So, how 'bout them Dolphins, eh?" to having made some new friends and gotten a free drink. They liked the shirt.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Nate goes from "Wow, dude, and you're giving me crap when scary people are calling mom?" to "Holy shit, my brother just asked me to protect our mother and gave me a gun." At the end of the episode, Michael thanks Nate. It's clear he thinks he might die.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Sam pretends to be a barely incompetent PI to give Melissa and Kent the confidence to work with Michael.
- Only in It for the Money: Fiona immediately demands money for helping Sam. When he protests, she points out that she expects other things from Michael.
- Pants-Positive Safety: Nate keeps Michael's gun tucked in his waistband. Fair enough, Michael didn't give him a holster.
- Properly Paranoid:
- Public Secret Message: When Michael has to abandon his rendezvous with Cowan at city hall, he scratches "John 3:16" on the sidewalk. A message that Michael will be at St. John's Cathedral a 3:16 PM.
- Rule of Drama: Michael disarms the bomb wired to Gillian's car literally seconds before she starts her car.
- Semper Fi: Kent's an ex-marine, Michael even says "Semper Fi" as he walks away from their first encounter.
- Special Effect Failure: It didn't show too much on camera, but when Cowan got shot, the FX guys used the wrong sized charge on one of his squibs. Donovan ended up with a lump on his lip the size of a golf ball.
- Still Got It: Sam's happily retired, and usually overshadowed by Mike, but he's still got some chops.
- Surprisingly Sudden Death: Man, Cowan getting shot came out of nowhere.
- Take That!: Michael doesn't approve of Sam's KFC.
Michael: That'll kill you, you know.
Sam: [eyeing Michael's pistol] Yeah, no kidding.
Michael: No, that bucket of trans-fat you've got there.
- Take That Me: Sam's not really embarrassed by his physique or his chicken.
Sam: Want me to come with?
Michael: Sure, bring your bucket of fat.
Sam: I'll bring my chicken, too.
- Too Much Information: Sam does not want to know about the "other things" Fiona expects from Michael.
- The Un-Hug: Sam welcoming Fi to the Carlito.
- Yuri Fan: Fi seems to enjoy the gay bar and Sam's work there a lot.
Fi: You know, Sam, I have to say... you were captivating over there.