Recap / Burn Notice S 3 E 4 Fearless Leader

The episode opens with Mike and Fi planning on how to recover money for one of Fi's clients. She will go into the thief's house and ask for the money one last time, and Mike is supposed to come in with a shotgun exactly 3 minutes later. However, right after Fi goes in, Detective Paxson shows up, preventing Mike from carrying out the plan and forcing Fi to escape by jumping out of a window. Paxson tells Mike he now has a 24 hour police tail. Once she leaves, Mike and Fi agree that she will continue to make their lives hard unless they find a way to keep her off their backs.

Mike and Fi meet Sam at the bar, and Sam tells them Paxson is too clean to blackmail. Mike asks Sam to check on another case that Paxson is working. The detective has spent 8 months trying to bring down a criminal named Matheson, and once she tried to bring him down a few times and failed, he successfully filed a harassment complaint to keep her away from him. Mike decides this is the best way to keep the detective away, making Paxson the client of the week.

Mike and Fi go to Matheson's hangout to scout, and see a man named Tommy D'Antonio, who they identify as a frustrated middle manager they could use to get to Matheson. Mike gets Sam to draw on some accurate prison tattoos for Mike's cover story, and he goes to meet Tommy at the dog track. Mike introduces himself as a criminal named Milo that heard of Tommy in prison, and tells him he is trying to earn some money. Tommy takes them out to dinner, and then uses them to rob a dry cleaner. Mike and Tommy almost get trapped inside, but Mike breaks them out of the back of the shop and they escape with an Impala stolen by Fi.

The next morning, Paxson is knocking at their door. She casually mentions that they have recovered components and wires from several crime scenes, and mentions the dry cleaning robbery from last night. She offers him a change to come clean before the forensics come back, which he declines. Mike then goes to meet Tommy, using a locker door to bruise his face and saying he has to run, as he is being chased by people to whom he owes money. Tommy then invites Mike to meet Matheson. Matheson first berates Tommy, saying he doesn't know anything about these people, and they might be cops, but Tommy insists they are pros. Matheson then agrees to take them on a job and dismisses them while he gives Tommy the details.

Matheson tells Tommy that their job will be guarding the front door of a meth lab while they rob it, but Tommy recognizes it as a suicide mission. Later when Mike asks Tommy what the plan is, Tommy says there is no job as he doesn't want Mike's crew to be killed. He says at first he wanted to move up the ladder, but he decided that isn't what he wants anymore. Mike then drops his cover and says he is trying to take Matheson down, and eventually Tommy agrees to help.

Mike has Fi gather the Impala that was stolen during the dry cleaning robbery, and meet Tommy and Matheson outside of the meth lab. Matheson tells Tommy they will go in once the cook leaves for supplies, and to stay with the getaway van while Mike, Sam, and Fi hold off the meth dealers. Once Matheson and his goons go inside, Mike and Fi superglue the front door shut. While they are exchanging fire and setting off explosions to hold off the meth dealers, Tommy intentionally parks the getaway van too close to the door, locking Matheson inside the lab. Tommy, Mike, Fi, and Sam escape just before the cops show up, arresting Matheson.

Paxson later meets Mike, telling him about her other case, and how C4 that was linked to 7 explosions in the area wound up in the trunk of a stolen Impala. Mike tells her that they are on the same side, and she dismisses his police tail. Later, while Mike and Fi are having dinner, she wants them to keep working their own jobs, while Mike is still interested in getting back into the CIA, which saddens Fi.

Tropes Featured:

  • Bad Boss: Matheson is generally an asshole—treating all of his subordinates with disrespect and (as shown with Tommy) smacking them if displeased. It's also demonstrated that he'll gladly let his mooks die in order to enrich himself.
  • Benevolent Boss: Tommy's not really in charge, of course, but he treats Team Westen very well and even warns Michael of the suicide mission.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Matheson's in jail, Paxson's laying off Team Westen, and Tommy is going straight, but Fiona is quite displeased by Michael's desire to get back his old government job.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Paxson is one. Sam notes that she is too clean to blackmail.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Tommy demonstrating he doesn't want to be like Matheson. Lampshaded by Michael's narration.
    "Work in intelligence long enough, and you get good at predicting human behavior, but sometimes, people surprise you. [...] And when they do, you can surprise yourself."
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Team Westen's in is exploiting Tommy's desire to "move up the ladder."
  • Establishing Character Moment: Matheson harassing a busboy just trying to do his job.
  • Frame-Up: Matheson is certainly guilty, but Team Westen also plants C4 at the scene to further implicate him. Paxson notes how it was determined to be the same C4 used in at least seven explosions. Paxson is certainly not fooled by this, but she opts to take Michael's advice to not Pull the Thread.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Sam thinks he can turn on the charm for the IRS agent when he hears the name "Stacey." Of course, it's a guy. Later in the episode, it's implied that Stacey has been teased about his name a lot, as he is able to defensively rattle off a list of famous men named Stacey.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Sam realizes who Stacey is when he spots him looking longingly at a baseball card.
    • Paxson knows who the C4 really belongs to, but she opts to drop it in order to get Matheson.
  • Glad I Thought of It: Team Westen helps Tommy through the dry cleaner robbery by suggesting more appropriate courses of action (like cutting the cable for a security camera instead of using spray paint on the lens). They play into this trope in order to butter Tommy up—making it seem like he was the one suggesting they do those things in the first place.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Tommy realizing that being like Matheson isn't the person he is.
    • Subverted with Michael in the end. Fiona hopes that Michael will realize that he can do something different like Tommy did, but he asserts that he won't.
  • Honor Before Reason: Tommy tries to keep Michael from taking part in the suicide mission—knowing full well that Matheson would've had him killed if he showed up without his crew.
  • Ironic Echo: "That's your problem: you don't think."
  • Karmic Thief: Deconstructed. Matheson is criminal who specializes in stealing from other criminals, which would make him a "good guy" or an Anti-Hero in most shows. However, Matheson does this by being a Manipulative Bastard Chessmaster with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder who is perfectly willing to throw away the lives of associates or kill his targets as long as it gets him what he wants.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Matheson gets exactly what he deserves. Lampshaded by Michael.
    "Not used to being the guy in the trap, are ya? What made you think you could piss off every drug dealer and cop in town and not get any payback? Oh, wait, that's your problem: you don't think."
  • Loophole Abuse: Matheson was able to get Paxson off his back by complaining about harassment.
  • Parental Substitute: Sam was this for Stacey years ago when he dated Stacey's mom. Deconstructed after they broke up. Sam thought Stacey was a good kid and wanted to still do activities with him, but his mom refused. Stacey took Sam disappearing out of his life pretty hard. They patch things up in the end, with Sam agreeing to give Stacey advice any time he needs it.
  • Pet the Dog: Tommy tells Michael a story about betting on a dog that was favored to win. The dog broke his leg at the start of the race and was going to be put down, but Tommy adopted him—calling him a perfectly good dog that only happens to have a gimpy leg. In the end, Tommy talks about moving back to St. Louis and starting a kennel.
  • Pull the Thread: Mike warns Detective Paxson not to do this—saying investigating the C4 connection further could cause the case against Matheson to unravel.
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