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  • I Can See You: In "Dead to Rights", Larry pulls this on Fiona and Sam as they attempt to break into the facility he is holed up in.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Michael, all the time.
    • In "Eyes Open", Jesse blows up Fiona's house with a bomber in it, to both save Michael's life and keep the bomber from ever killing anyone else, even though the team had been willing to let the guy be taken in by the police and/or otherwise be taken of in less ruthless fashion.
  • I Have Your Wife: Happens to several clients, requiring some delicate work, and to Michael twice, once with Sam and once with Nate. In a mild variation, Sam deliberately tried to get himself killed so Michael wouldn't try and rescue him... but what fun is that?
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Michael noticeably only does this while maintaining a cover. Generally speaking, any military-trained characters or professional criminals have proper gun safety habits, while a lot of thugs, lowlifes, and inexperienced people/civilians fail to exercise proper gun safety.
    • One episode had Michael pretending to be an asthmatic, neurotic lab rat. At one point, he demands a gun from the pirates, and then loads the bullet into the chamber by pulling the slide. While it's pointed directly at the Villain of the Week's head. Said baddie immediately swats Michael's hand away once he realizes what he's doing.
    • When "playing" a sociopath, he briefly gestures between someone and himself rapidly while laughing. While holding a gun, with his finger actually on the trigger.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Michael's conversations with Brennen tend to devolve into this.
  • I Like Those Odds: Inverted.
    "He's Michael Westen. There are only four of us!"
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Inverted with Sam. If he isn't drinking, there's serious trouble.
    • Played straight in a Season 2 episode, where Michael and Jason Bly split a pint of vodka after a harrowing experience.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog:
    • Michael's gloss on what he does for a living. Usually invoked around his mother.
    • Also invoked by Sam on occasion, usually when he wants to avoid talking to Fiona and usually involving buying Mike some yogurt.
  • I Was Told There Would Be Cake: Sam's bastardly method of luring some cubicle monkeys away from their office.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode name is made of short and punchy labels, possibly in reference to simple Operation: [Blank] names. Some are based on a Title Drop like "False Flag" (the first time Michael is deceived by a client) or are fairly intuitive like "Center of the Storm" (which dealt with the aftermath of a hurricane) but most are only semi-related to the story and not entirely indicative like "Best Laid Plans," "Hot Spot" and "Eyes Open."
  • Idiot Ball:
    • In the season 3 finale, Management grabs onto it with both hands— landing his helicopter on what he knows to be the only helipad in the area when he also knows that a revenge-hungry psychotic killer ex-agent has had ample opportunity to set up an ambush. The fact that this comes out right before an "I'm tougher than I look" speech only serves to heighten the effect.
    • Agent Bly grabs the ball firmly in "Bad Breaks," attempting to wrestle away a bank robber's gun while the rest of the criminals are within ear and eyeshot. He is shot in the arm for his pains and Michael immediately lampshades the stupidity of the action by pointing out that, even if he had succeeded, he would have caused a bloodbath.
    • Occasionally occurs to some of the crew. Word Of God mentions one story where a police officer who was supposed to prevent anyone from crossing the fake bridge that gets blown up (it was basically a little concrete on either bank with thin wood and such to create the middle - in no way a safe support structure for cars or such) decides that he'd like to guard the bridge from the other side... and decides to drive his patrol car over the bridge.
    • When Sam asks Fiona why she doesn't charge Michael for her help, she responds that she expects "other things" from Michael. Sam, ironically, looks disturbed.
    • Mike was juggling idiot balls at the end of "Means & Ends". After bursting in on Tom Card and Gray after finding out it was a set up, Mike points out that Tom has a gun on Gray. Tom pulls out said gun, pointing the gun away from Gray and then points it back at Gray. Mike does not take this easy opportunity to shoot him. Then Mike watches Tom cover up the murder at a casual pace, doing nothing to stop him. And for the hat trick, only after Tom has finished covering up his crime and put his gun back in his holster, does Mike finally decide to kill him with a shot to the head. He chose the one option that destroys any credibility he would have easily had. It may be time to consider that Mike is just a masochist.
    • And of course, Michael specializes in tricking his targets to hold onto the ball for dear life. Like in episode 3 where he manages to get a desperate con artist to give him his account numbers—you know, the very thing con artists do for a living.
      • Which is partially Truth in Television: It's a well-known fact (and briefly mentioned in a different episode) that conmen are sometimes rather easy to con because they're not used to thinking of themselves as potential victims.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Seems to be a popular line among spies. And Madeline Westen.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Generally averted — if the bad guys can't hit Michael, he can't hit them either. That said, Team Westen faces an unusually large number of supposedly-skilled enemies with nobody—neither them nor the guys shooting at them—getting more than a scratch.
  • Impersonating an Officer: If it works to their benefit, the guys will impersonate law enforcement, FBI, etc. to accomplish their goals. They can pull this off so well, that Michael once does this to trick several police officers.
  • Impressed by the Civilian: In "Question and Answer", the father of a kidnapped boy has to negotiate in person with the hostage taker to get information for Team Westen's rescue effort, and coolly keeps to his story even when the hostage taker starts beating him. Michael, an Army Special Forces veteran and ex-CIA agent, observes in his Internal Monologue that this unassuming suburban dad has "ice in his veins."
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Addressed, as usual, in the show's unique narration. Michael says this as Fiona put a bullet between his feet.
    It takes a good marksman to shoot you at 50 feet from a moving car, but it takes a great marksman to miss... while making it look like they are trying to hit you. Or markswoman, as the case may be.
    • It is pointed out that all three are very good shots; in one episode, Michael and Sam are at a gun range. When their targets come back, Michael's are all grouped at the head and center mass. Sam's is in the shape of a martini glass.
    "Did ya notice the little olive?"
    • Jesse is shown to be a great shot as well as in 5x6, he's able to make a unhappy face out of bullet holes with a sniper rifle from a decent ways away. In "Guilty as Charged," he makes a shot through Michael's shoulder, injuring Michael moderately but successfully killing the enemy who had grasped him from behind. Michael's narration understatedly describes this shot as "tricky."
      • That said, he freely acknowledges in "Besieged" that Fiona is the better shot.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Michael.
    Juan: "What are you doing with that?"
    Michael: "I'm gonna fight them off."
    Juan: "With a hand towel?!"
    Michael: "Why? Do you have a gun?"
    • Or the time that Michael fights off a couple loan-shark thugs with a rolled-up magazine.
    • Fi gets into it during season 6.
  • Improvised Lockpick: In one episode, Michael steals a motorcycle by turning the ignition lock with a penknife, then kicking the handlebars to break the steering lock.
  • Improvised Weapon: You'll never look at a microwave the same way again. Or an standalone air conditioner either for the matter.
    • The show even tells you how to make improvised clubs by wrapping rolled up magazines in duct tape and soaking them in salt water, as well as making an impromptu lighter with nothing but some wire and a AA battery.
  • In Medias Res: For Michael. At the beginning of Season 4, he gets back to Miami after quite a bit of time away, only to get swept up by Fiona and Sam as they work on a job. They hand him a gun and start bickering over who screwed up the operation. Cue Michael:
    Michael: Guys. Guys. GUYS! I have a machine pistol in my hand, and I have no idea what I'm doing!
  • Indy Ploy: So, so many of Michael's plans ultimately come down to this, especially when his cover gets blown.
    • Lampshaded by Sam when one of their clients asks where they get their plans from. "Mostly we just make them up as we go."
    Michael: [after explaining how the last plan went awry] That just means it's time for plan B.
    —> $client: What's plan B?
    —> Michael: [[visibly annoyed]] I'm working on it.
  • Insecurity Camera: Subverted. See trope entry.
    • In a different episode, this trope is subverted. The cameras work and Fi is able to sneak beneath one to bug it. But Narrator Michael points out that the only reason Fiona was able to sneak beneath one was because the owner of said camera didn't trim his bushes which were blocking the camera.
    • In one episode, Michael notes that a building is using wireless security cameras. He pulls a Bavarian Fire Drill with a faux bomb threat knowing that the bomb squad would use a radio frequency jammer to avert any remote triggering... and in doing so, disable the (wireless) cameras. Note that this may be Truth in Television; electronic devices are legally required to accept interference/not interfere with other electronics.
    • In one episode, Michael actually counts on security noticing the cameras getting disabled since he's only trying to scare them rather than actually breaking in.
  • Inspector Javert:
    • Detective Paxson, who knows stuff has a tendency to blow up around Michael, and she's determined to find out why. Michael of course, can't exactly explain.
    • Agent Pearce in season five, though she's a fairly sympathetic one - she just happens to be out of the Team Westen loop.
    • In season 6 we have Agent Riley.
  • Instant Sedation: Of the martial arts variant and averted. Knocking someone out with a submission hold is shown to take more than a few moments. Directly mentioned in 4x01, when Michael attempts a sleeper hold on a big guy and mentions that while it's a good way to subdue someone, those ten seconds to truly knock someone out can be painful - as in the guy he's trying to knock out backing up into walls and such.
  • Insufferable Genius:
    • A safecracker Michael plays with an artistic temperament, to justify him being very picky about the details of the job towards a boss who's trying to keep everyone in the dark. He explains that in the criminal world "bank robbers are the rockstars, car thieves are the blue-collar guys, and safecrackers are the artists".
    • Eve, the hacker in "No Good Deed".
    • Brennen. As much as Team Westen hates his guts, he's scarily effective at making sure things veer toward his intended objective. Every time he was stopped, it took some serious work on Michael's end or a well-placed knife to the chest in order to cut him off.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Fiona. In Season 1 alone, she quickly goes from violence to sex at least twice, once knocking out a thug sent to intimidate Michael and then dragging Michael to his apartment in the pilot episode, and later on, attacking Michael and ending up in bed with him.
    Michael: Violence may be foreplay for you, Fi. Not for me.
  • Interquel: New Day. Set between seasons 4 and 5.
  • Investigator Impersonation: Michael's favorite trick.
  • Invoked Trope: Too many to mention but Michael uses a lot of bad-guy characterization tropes when trying to convince somebody that he's now their biggest problem.
  • Ironic Echo: More like plot point - Michael finds out in the Season 4 premiere that in the course of helping Management's company during the episode, the crimes he committed to do so (steal files, etc.) end up getting pinned on a spy which results in said spy getting burned. Said spy, Jesse comes back for the rest of the summer season to work with Michael & Co., all the while trying to find and kill the person who burned him. When Jesse finds out who actually burned him in "Blind Spot", fury ensues.
    • From "Partners In Crime": "Easy money gig??!"
    • From Season 3, Episode 4 (Fearless Leader):
      Matheson: (to aspiring henchman) See, that's your problem, Tommy - you don't think!
      [later in the episode]
      Michael: [to Matheson] 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!
    • Simon from "Devil You Know" repeats one of Michael's prominent lines from the season 2 finale.
      Simon: I want my life back.
    • The season 5 finale makes an echo from the pilot. Frank Westen's last words to his son? "I'll see you in hell, boy!" Michael's rebuttal to Anson after a) spoiling his attempt to sabotage Pearce's op and b) a couple episodes after Anson revealed himself to be Frank's killer? Guess.
    • Invoked by Sam in Blind Spot toward the villain of the week: "You know, there’s nothing more pathetic than a bitch who can’t move on. A raging British jackass once told me that."
    • Used in the finale by Fi ("Shall we shoot them?") and Sam ("You know spies, bunch of bitchy little girls."). Jesse's more subtle "that's how we do it" is also used, as is Michael's "My name is Michael Westen" (though it's Fiona who says it).
  • Irony:
    • Dramatic irony. Michael wants to know who burned him, and Victor responds with "Who cares? It's a name in a file. I want the organization." In the fifth season, we learn that the entire organization has been reduced to one man, that that one man was the one who started it all, his name wasn't in any file, and he was personally responsible for burning Michael. Among other things.
    • Lampshaded by Fiona in a smaller example in Center of the Storm. Michael and Jesse robbed a bank and wound up stealing a Bible from it.
      Fiona: So your search for the root of all evil led you to rob a bank, and you're rewarded with the word of God. What is that, irony?
  • Is That What They're Calling It Now?
    Michael: Okay, I'm not hooking up with her. It's not what's happening. I need her for tactical support.
    Sam: Hehehe, is it what they're calling it these days? Tactical support?
  • It Has Been an Honor:
    • One slight variation in the third season finale. Sam and Fiona are disarming a bomb they were both well aware could go off. As they reach the crucial stage, Sam says to Fiona, "It's been real."
    • Another variation in the fourth season finale, as Michael was ready to engage in a suicide mission to give Jesse and Fiona time to get the NOC list into the proper hands. He gives Jesse the list and said in a very formal way, "Agent Porter, for what it's worth, I am sorry I got you burned." Jesse knew exactly what Michael was implying, and was noticeably distraught over it.
  • It's Always Sunny in Miami: Lampshaded by Michael when he starts pining for the dry weather of Afghanistan. You can occasionally still see a light drizzle in some shots.
  • It's Personal: In one episode, a childhood friend of Michael's is gunned down in a gang dispute. Mike teams up with the victim's brother to take down the gang leader responsible.
    • In season 6, someone shoots Anson, who created the organization that burned Mike. Unfortunately, it was a high-caliber bullet, so it passed through Anson's body to hit Nate standing behind him, and now whomever took the shot has officially ticked off Mike. And Fi. The rest of Team Westen can't be too happy with them either.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: In 1x10, "False Flag", Evelyn the assassin tricks Mike into finding her target for her. But an experienced operator like Mike would notice the lack of bullets, so she just takes out the trigger bar spring. Mike improvises a new one from a bar spring that might have one shot. And he also has to improvise a bomb to distract Evelyn.

  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Deconstructed thoroughly. Torture is a good method to get information, but there is nothing to prevent the one tortured from giving you bad information. Michael relied on making their target believe his information was worthless. Michael consistently avoids using torture or similar interrogation methods to mentally break someone, citing that torture only gets you the quickest lie to make the pain stop. While using torture only is useless (unless you torture someone so extensively that they don't even have the mental faculties to lie anymore), using torture as an aid to mentally break someone is quite effective (against people who aren't trained to withstand torture). Torture aside, though, Michael very rarely uses any of the methods to physically or mentally stress someone (e.g. putting someone in stress positions, depriving them of sleep, sensory deprivation (or exposing one sense to extreme stress while blanking the others) in the downtime between interrogation sessions usually makes someone more pliable upon questioning.
    • And later in season 2, they manage to get info from two marks simply by scaring them silly. And pushing one out of a window.
    • In one particularly notable example in season 2, Sam manages to scare the hell out of a guy by injuring himself. As Michael puts it in the narration, "You want them thinking, 'If he's willing to do this to himself, what the hell is he going to do to me?'" Watching Sam cut into himself was genuinely creepy for some viewers. It got worse when he started bleeding onto the guy.
      "A lot of people's first instinct when they need information out of a captive is to grab a baseball bat or a gun... The fact is, torture is for sadists and thugs. It's like getting groceries with a flame thrower; it doesn't work and it makes a mess."
    • Inverted in 3x02, "Questions and Answers", where they perform "Reverse Interrogation" to get the bad guy to reveal things about his plan. This involves "Chuck Finley" punching Michael. A lot.
    • In another season 3 episode, when Sam and Fi have trouble getting a prisoner to talk through normal methods, Michael's mom takes a crack at it. Throughout the whole interrogation, she just acts nice instead of beating the prisoner to a pulp. The way she pulls it off is far more creepy than anything the other protagonists are capable of.
    • Sam reinforces the notion of "the threat is more important than the demonstration" in "Made Man", in his "Chuck Finley" persona. He sharpens a bunch of knives, one of which he calls "Mr. Slicey", in front of his tied-up target, then threatens to cut the guy up. The guy talks.invoked
    • Referenced in "Breach of Faith". After a quick threat by Sam to see if he'd talk, an uncooperative bad guy sees Sam taking his toaster and assumes Sam is going to torture him in some horrible fashion. Sam really just wants his toaster. To blow up the floor, admittedly.
    • Played with painfully in 4x06 when Kendra smashes her own head on to the table multiple times (enough to cause bleeding) to prove that they can threaten her with physical torture all they want and she wouldn't break.
    • Sam endures some very harsh interrogation in the Season 1 finale... and has a hard time explaining the injuries to his sugar momma.
    • The team's position on this seemed to firm up later on in the show's run. As early as "Old Friends" (1x04), Mike had no qualms about inducing anaphylactic shock and withholding an epi-pen until the mark talked. Of course, the mark in that case was Jan Haseck, an assassin out to kill him.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Michael uses this tactic once.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: When Michael tells Anson that he ruined his life, Anson pointed out that burning Michael actually helped fix his life, as it allowed him to mend his relationships with his family, past friends, and Fiona. Of course, this was coming from Anson when he was trying to avoid Michael's wrath.
  • Join or Die: Michael has this conversation with Sam:
    Michael: I've been given a new job.
    Sam: What's it pay?
    Michael: It's more like "you do this for us or you die".
    Sam: Oh, never liked those.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Almost any time one of the clients wants to take matters into their own hands, they manage to demonstrate one of the reasons Michael Doesn't Like Guns. For example, forger Buddy pulls out his newly-purchased pistol, shows it off, then stuffs it back into his waistband... only for it to drop straight out and land on the floor.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope:
    • A number of times, this is the team's move for burning one of the bad guys. They get the bad guy to buy into an extreme scenario and put himself in a compromising position, whether with the cops or worse bad guys. The writers play it out a number of different ways, with surprising complications.
    • Agent Riley. When she first begins to chase Michael, she could be considered a Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist, simply doing her job to catch a criminal; Michael did, in fact, kill Tom Card in cold blood. This all changes when she becomes so obsessed with her goal that she makes a deal with a drug cartel to have all of Team Westen assassinated.
    • At the end of the seventh season, Michael does this. He gets sucked in by Kendrick's Knight Templar schtick and agrees to step in and take over the man's organization.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Discussed as a way of pulling off a Bavarian Fire Drill; government workers (in this case firemen) are used to arguments over which job is whose, so you can buy some time by claiming to be from a different department.

  • Karma Houdini: Larry. He's probably killed more people than the rest of Michael's Job Of The Week villains put together, and he had fun doing it. But he always gets away in the end. In "Double Booked," he even got to keep the money. Later, averted in the S5 midseason finale where Fiona finally kills him (after being manipulated by Anson into doing so).
  • Karmic Death: Michael's pretty good at Batman Gambiting people into these. With the kind of people he deals with, it generally just takes a little Apple of Discord to make the bullets start flying.
  • Kick the Dog:
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Maddie tries to retrieve a package from a nasty man and gets smacked around for her trouble (and remember, Madeline lived for years with an abusive husband and was shown in a previous episode to still have some psychological fallout from it). On her second attempt, she brings Michael, who strong-arms the guy into a submission hold, smacks his head on the fridge until he gives up the package, and breaks his freakin' arm.
    Michael: That's for my mom.
  • Knight Templar: The organization of burned spies. Vaughn basically says so when talking to Michael, "We just draw the line at different points."
    • Same goes for James from the final season.
    James: I'm a man who's willing to go to extremes.
  • Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy: Sam's key role is being "the guy who knows a guy". The amount of contacts he has is absurd.

  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: Sam's "ladies". Mike once asked him what he was doing for these women. Sam grins and goes "Well...". Mike promptly says "Don't wanna know." When Fiona asks more directly, Sam quips "Wouldn't you like to know."
  • Lampshade Hanging: Nate Westen suggests that Ma Westen move to Vegas with him. He outright says that he gets worried for her because "...spies and murderers keep crawling out of the woodwork every week." Which is ironic, because in the Covert Ops: Vegas Heist web tie in, you have to help Nate deal with kidnappers, murderers, and thieves.
  • Large Ham:
    • Michael himself can becomes one depending on the episode. In one he has to pretend to be a psycho. Among other things, he ends up jumping up and down on a car screaming "THIS NEIGHBORHOOD IS MINE!" repeatedly. His most entertaining Large Ham iteration might be in the season two half-finale, when he has to portray a drunkard who has a "midnight revelation" conversion to Christianity in order to foil a kidnapping plot. Turns out that Michael does righteous rage awfully well. With an Aside Glance to God at the end of it.
    • Fiona has an amusing moment where she has to stop a pair of hitmen from breaking into a house without revealing that the house is guarded. She accomplishes this by driving her car onto the front lawn, ranting and screaming about what a no-good cheating bastard the house's occupant allegedly is, and wrapping up by throwing a cinderblock through the front window. The hitmen lurking in the bushes take one look at the target's "crazy ex-girlfriend" and all the noise she's making, hear the house's alarm blaring, and decide to just leave and come back tomorrow.
    • Sam all the way. He plays the hilariously outraged Large Ham quite a lot to let Michael and Fiona plant explosives/get info/etc.
  • Michael and Larry have a full-blown Ham-to-Ham Combat while talking their way into a federal file warehouse.
  • John C. McGinley joins the cast in season 6 as Michael's former training officer. Definite elements of Dr. Cox creep into the performance.
  • Laser Sight: Frequently used by the team on their sniper rifles, specifically so that their targets will be aware that they are in the crosshairs. Nearly backfires on them on one occasion, when one of the snipers has a personal grudge against their target and doesn't switch the sight off when told to do so.
  • Laughing Mad: Victor. And the villain of the week in "Bad Breaks", eventually.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: One episode begins with Michael addressing the camera, re-hashing all the stuff that happened to him during the season. Turns out he was talking to Carla the whole time.
  • Le Parkour: Victor pulls this in the storage lot.
  • Like Father, Like Son: The show repeatedly plays up that Michael is very much like his father, a comparison he greatly resents. He often shows up at his mother's home, hunting for some old items of his father's to help him with a job. An electrician's outfit, a gas company uniform, a city employee uniform, cuff links and a cigarette case. his father's closet also had a false wall his mother was astonished Michael never discovered. They were both good at improvising as needed, and would often "just find" solutions. In short, Michael's father was an asshole, an alcoholic, an abuser, and an all around petty crook, but he had many of the same skills Michael employs in his career as a spy. They're similar enough that when he channels his father to motivate his mother's performance in a con in the fifth season, both of them are left deeply shaken by the experience.
    • The show plays with even this one in the S6 summer finale. When Michael comes over to his mother's house to talk to his mom about Nate's death and what he's doing about it, Maddie angrily demands what he wants, assuming that he wanted something rather than the actual thing he was doing.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Michael certainly favors the Armani suit and no tie combo a lot, doesn't he?
    • Not to mention Sam's Hawaiian shirts and khakis.
      • Mentioned in episode commentary by Word Of God as one of his weaknesses.
    • Even the more fashionable Fiona has a rotating wardrobe. Dresses and other outfits and accessories come and go regularly. Her most common element is her fanny pack.
      • Word Of God mentions this as a way to flesh things out with Fi. That she's more than just an Action Girl but has likes and dislikes and that, yes, she likes girly things too.
      • Word Of God from Gabrielle is that she herself picks most of Fi's wardrobe as she feels she knows what Fi would wear better than any one else.
    • Recurring baddie Brennen tends to favor grey suits. And grey ties. And he has grey hair.
  • Living Legend: Generally, Team Westen tries to fly under the radar, but Michael is an Urban Legend, Shrouded in Myth, Memetic Badass in Russia. Fiona's also deliberately cultivated a reputation in Miami.
    Offscreen Mook: It's Michael Westen! There are only four of us!
  • Living Prop: A few, particularly the various low-level law enforcement keeping tabs on Michael. Generally taken to the logical extreme of having no lines and being entirely unacknowledged by the other characters. Occasionally gets lampshaded.
    Michael: Detective Paxson! And Detective Forget-your-name!
    • Michael likes making fun of the "nameless bodyguard" type a lot. He refers derogatorily to the "suits-and-sunglasses crowd" a lot in the first couple seasons. He makes fun of a voiceless bodyguard to his face in Carla's car in season two, and again to Barrett's bodyguard in the season four mid-season finale.
  • The Load: Half the time, the client of the week keeps doing things that get in Team Westen's way.
    • Special mentions go to Mannaro and Bailey, who managed to be more of a hindrance than a help ON THEIR OWN MISSION, and Ben Snyder, a member of James Kendrick's "Family" whose actions on his first field job almost got Fiona killed.
  • Loan Shark: Team Westen as run across the occasional loan shark in their endeavors, and they tend to be some of the more unscrupulous and sleazy villains.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Many, many instances, but there's a good example of playing with the trope in "Bad Breaks" when Prescott's henchmen let Michael (under the guise of a doctor looking for medical supplies) loose in the bank instead of locking him in with the hostages. He's able to not only get the supplies, but rig a cell phone to call Sam and Fiona in to help, and modify one of the mooks guns to malfunction. It's such a Michael thing that Larry expressly forbids Michael from going to one to prevent him from rigging something up when Larry has Michael working for him under duress.
  • Loony Fan: Michael poses as one to befriend a psychotically-unstable bomber (no, not Fiona) in "Eyes Open".
  • Loud of War: In the episode "Comrades", the heroes blast loud music on a captured enforcer from the Russian Mafia.
  • Louis Cypher: Mike does a textbook version as "Luis", showing up in a neighbourhood in "Friendly Fire", talking like Horatio Caine, and wearing a black suit with a red shirt, tie, and pocket square, with slicked-back hair, and repeatedly demanding Team Westen's target. He also seems to vanish at will, and can apparently make things explode just by snapping his fingers. Word Of God has that this was intentional, as a reference to Angelheart (a devil-like character) and Clint Eastwood (a mysterious stranger with no name that scares everyone) but also as a way to play with archetypes.
    "Luis": The Devil wants Rincon's soul. I just want the man.
  • Lost in Translation: The subtitles in "The Hunter" don't always match up with the Russian dialogue.
  • Love Triangle: From Jesse's perspective, he was in one with Michael and Fiona for some of season 4. It's really more a case of unrequited love on Jesse's part, as Maddie gently points out. Though Fi does acknowledge the tension between the two of them in the season 4 finale.
  • Lured Into a Trap: In one episode, a character is offered a meeting in an alleyway. Michael tells him that it's an ambush and that he'll go instead. He then makes a van bulletproof via phonebooks, before talking a man he wants to keep on his side with him into the alleyway and getting shot up. They get out of the alleyway unhurt.
  • Lying Finger Cross: Referred to when Larry kills the guy he and Michael are supposed to be kidnapping.
    Michael: We had a deal!
    >Larry: What can I say? I had my fingers crossed behind my back!

  • MacGuffin: Many miscellaneous items being sought after and finding out the exact nature of a certain mission someone else is planning turn out to be irrelevant. It is only something to get the characters involved and add a sense of "I don't know what they're trying to do, but we have to stop them." Of course, it makes the "mysterious prisoner" of late-season three a bit more surprising.
  • MacGyvering: One of the two main gimmicks of the series. An online game is actually all about mixing and matching various items to Macgyver into a useful tool.
    • Also played with in 3x15. Michael asks Fi what's in her purse. She replies her phone, duct tape, and lipstick. Michael says they can use that. But rather than the phone or the duct tape (both a Running Gag in the series), they use the lipstick.
    • Sam and Maddie blowing up Maddie's house with MacGuyvered Christmas tree lights in the second season finale.
    • Occasionally crops up on the small scale too. In the S6 summer finale, one of the items they have is the digital scope of a high powered rifle (but no rifle). When they need binoculars, Jesse promptly breaks off the digital bits in order to use the optical parts.
  • Mad Bomber: Dennis Barfield. Sam doesn't think that name is menacing enough, so opts to start calling him 'Dennis Wayne Barfield.'
  • Made of Iron: Occasionally played with, but mostly averted. Michael will get caught in fist fights, car crashes and explosions and mostly shrug it off by the next scene, but usually for the rest of the episode you see him clutching his ribs or arm, reminding everyone that he is still hurting. Usually minor injuries and discomforts, Michael will get over quickly (or ignore or be shown casually dressing while doing other things) while injuries that by all rights should be serious are dealt with as serious injuries.
    • Lampshaded right in the first episode, where Michael gets in a fight and is taken down pretty quick with a shot to his previously injured torso.
      Michael: It doesn't matter how much training you have; a broken rib is a broken rib.
    • Definitely averted in "Guilty as Charged" and "Eyes Open", where Michael is shot and involved in a car crash. He tries to shrug it off, but when he can't even lift his arm without wincing . . .
    • Averted in the season 4 finale. Jesse gets a piece of rebar through the leg. Fi outright states he might not live long since they can't be sure he didn't nick his femoral artery. He's pretty much Mr Mc Limpy through the rest of the episode and everyone treats his injury seriously. And Narrator!Michael notes that combat/field medicine isn't designed to be safe... just to make sure that the person doesn't get dead.
  • Magnetic Plot Device: Michael is being targeted by people who want to use him for special projects, which brings the weirdness to him. And after some time, his name tends to get around to people who want his type of expertise, much to Michael's frustration.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Actually invoked in the show, where Michael takes Sam's frequent cover ID "Chuck Finley" and hams it up to the bad guys that this guy is something akin to Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects. Michael himself is actually that role.
    • Michael's one-time cover of Luis certainly falls within this trope as well. He's the "devil-in-a-suit" type who speaks in a low, deliberate, almost monotone voice. And bad stuff tends to happen when he snaps his fingers.
    • Anson pretty much spends the entire midseason S5 finale playing Michael, Fiona, Sam and Larry like a fiddle in much the same manner Team Westen usually does to the Villain of the Week.
  • Malaproper: Michael's cover, Trey, in Mind Games does this at least five times over the course of the episode.
    Michael: Don't look a gift horse in the teeth.
    Carter: Don't you mean mouth?
    Michael: Pretty sure it's teeth.
  • Male Gaze: Most of the "eye-catch" establishment shots focus on bikini tops and bottoms.
    • It's amazing how the women of Miami seem to be walking headless torsos.
    • Played with in 4x07 where Fi and Michael ask why Jesse is staring intensely at an old, overweight woman in a bikini. Turns out, she's the wife of Jesse's old boss and he wants to get in touch with his boss.
    • And again in 6x05, when Rebekah twists a file clerk's arm by walking up to him with several buttons of her blouse undone, and then threatening him with sexual harassment charges when she catches him looking...
    • Interestingly enough, in "Desperate Measures," when Madeline has to meet a guy at a party at a marina full of bikini girls, the show's trademark Male Gaze shots are noticeably absent from the scene.
  • Mama Bear:
    • In one episode a Ukrainian gangster comes to kill Michael. Fi and Sam kidnap one of the gangster's mooks but can't get him to talk. So Mama Westen walks in, questions him and gets the necessary information.
    • Don't forget earlier in the same episode, when Sam is trying to leave without alerting her, but she picks up on the danger Michael is in, and tells Sam: "You're sleeping in my guest room. I can smother you in your sleep."
    • In "Devil You Know", Maddie slaps an FBI agent for trying to convince her that Michael's a contract killer.
      • And let's not forget that before that, 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 Mike has supposedly done and she doesn't even flinch, but she pretends to crack to keep the agents fooled.
    • Maddie's Mama Bear tendencies aren't limited to Michael and Nate. She chews Michael and the Client of the Week out when Fiona is taken hostage in "Where There's Smoke".
    • Her response to Jesse and Michael not getting along. They get along now.
    • Even more badass are her actions in "Last Stand": Vaughn has kidnapped Madeline in order for Michael to surrender the NOC list to him. In order to coerce Michael, Vaughn has one of his goons hit Maddie in the back of the head with the butt of a rifle, sending her to the ground. When Michael, listening to Maddy fall over the walkie-talkie, demands to know what just happened, instead of telling Michael she was hit, Maddie tells Michael she's been fatally shot so he won't come to rescue her.
    • In the finale, she sits in a motel room waiting to set off a bomb when Kendrick's men arrive, sacrificing herself to give Team Westen another chance and allowing Jesse to escape with her grandson.
    • Fiona also has some tendencies along these lines; she gets very emotionally involved when a job involves kids, at one point assaulting a medical scammer over it.
    • Some of Team Westen's clients go this route, too, which can bring it out in Maddie or Fi.
  • Man Behind the Man: The first two seasons are Michael going from one person to another, trying to reach the top. The third is him trying to do the same thing to get his job back.
    • In "Friends Like These", the innocent woman who was with the bad guy is the actual mastermind.
    • Gilroy ends up being more like an Unwitting Pawn to the mysterious Simon.
    • In season 4, Vaughn reveals that somebody very rich, powerful, and amoral was backing Simon and his missions.
    • And for Jesse, The Man Behind The Man is Michael.
  • Manly Tears: Occasionally, Michael demonstrates some real emotion.
    • At the end of season two, regarding the death of Victor. Donovan's acting really, really sells how badly he's hurt by it.
    • In the season four opener, Michael talks with his mother about what happened and what his life is like. He's afraid that what Simon said was true, that they really are alike, and is almost crying over it. Maddie tells him not to worry about it.
    • At the end of season four, when he apologizes for burning Jesse, both of them are about to break down over it. Michael also takes it badly when Vaughn threatens and hurts Maddie.
    • Sam Axe gets in on the gig in the last two episodes of the show. He's visibly shaken and hurt after fighting Michael and deciding Michael's been turned by Kendrick. His voice is starting to waver when he tells Jesse, Fi, and Madeline that Michael is lost. It's rather striking coming from an actor usually known for his over-the-top Large Ham tendancies.
      • Sam also has a slightly more subtle moment in the season six premiere, when Michael tells him he would have done literally anything to keep Fiona out of prison. Sam is visibly and audibly stunned and wounded that this would include getting honest agents burned and outright betraying his country.
  • Master Actor: All the main characters. Pretty much required for a spy.
  • Meaningful Echo: The last words said in the show are one to the opening narration. "My name is Michael Westen, I used to be a spy."
  • Meaningful Name: The resident inmate who runs the jail economy in season 6. She's named Ayn ("Anything You Need").
  • Memetic Badass: invokedThe fictional Chuck Finley is starting to go this direction In-Universe. He's been just about everything, from an annoying seminar instructor to Keyser Soze.
    • Also, Westen himself. His reputation is so big, he manages to intimidate a Russian Spetsnaz black ops team into submission.
      Spetsnaz: He's Michael Westen. There are only four of us!
  • Meta Casting: Matt Nix commented that when creating the character of Sam Axe they thought that Bruce Campbell would be a good fit but never thought they would actually get him. Sam fits right up Bruce's specialty of a slightly comical badass.
    • Jeffrey Donovan took several years of Russian in college (while maybe not fluent, he knows enough to portray it convincingly) which is frequently taken advantage of in the show, the most common enemies are Russian mafia or people coming from Russia to get revenge.
  • Metallicar Syndrome: Perhaps justified. The team tends to use fancy cars for their high-speed chases and wealthy cover identities. But they also go through a lot of cars - stealing (and then returning) new ones for almost every job, and buying junkers when they are more appropriate. The exceptions include Michael's Charger, which really should have been recognized at some point. Of course, he blew it up, so that isn't going to happen.
    • Most of the time Michael is not really hiding from anyone so there is no point in tracking him through his car. It is easier to just ask one of the many people who know where he lives.
  • Mexican Standoff: Michael and Sam engineer one in 3x02, "Question and Answer". It's a 2-on-1, until Sam fires into the lawn outside the building. Then we hear gunfire.
    • 4x01 has one between Michael and three bikers, while 4x02 has one between two Asian gangsters.
  • The Men in Black: Plenty.
  • Mind Rape: James basically does this to Michael in S7, using a mixture of persistent interroogation, sleep deprivation, noise torture and finally hallucinogenic drugs.
  • The Missus and the Ex: In the second season episode "Sins of Omission" Michael's former fiancée Samantha shows up needing Michael's help. Michael deals with this trope when he has to leave Samantha alone with Fiona a few times. At the end of the episode Michael tells Fiona he left Samantha when he met Fi and realised he was in love with her.
  • Mistaken for Badass: Michael and crew make a drug dealer think the doctor he's been harassing is ex-Delta Force in season 4.
  • Money to Burn: In "Friends and Enemies", a lawyer who has been marked for death by a biker gang offers the bikers all of the money he has in the world. One of the bikers empties the bag of cash onto the lawn and sets fire to it to show that this isn't about the money.
  • Monster of the Week: Or, perhaps more accurately, Criminal Of The Week.
  • Mood Dissonance: Despite the darker-than-usual tone, "End Run" is one of the funnier episodes of the series.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong:
    Mike: There's Chechik
    Beck: Damn! Is there a Russian word for "hardass"?
  • Mr. Fanservice: Michael Westen spends a lot of time working out, shirtless or in tank tops. Then season four gives us Ambiguously Brown Jesse. Bruce Campbell lost a lot of weight to play young Sam Axe for his TV movie. He's keeping it off and showing it off.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Fiona spends a lot of time in skimpy outfits. To say nothing of all the shots in which she's wearing very thin tops and can seemingly erect her nipples at will.
  • Mundane Solution: In several episodes, Michael informs the audience that there's no "super secret spy trick" for a given situation; what you need is a combination of audacity, commitment, and often really good improvisational skills.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Roughly 99% of Larry's dialogue consists of this. "Let's just kill everyone" may as well be his catchphrase.
  • Mushroom Samba: Used as an interrogation technique in "Psychological Warfare". It works, but not enough to blow Mike's cover.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Michael's Urdu is rather rusty.
    Waseem: (reading a note) "I will be wearing a white shirt and ..." This word right here? It's a kind of spicy goat cheese.
    Michael: I was trying to say "black pants".

  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: a few characters (mainly villains) get nicknames like this, including "Dead" Larry and Management.
  • Never Found the Body: Dead Larry. Notice that the newspaper article in "Damned If You Do" said "two dead", which means that only the two guards have been confirmed dead. Which means that Not Quite Dead Larry is out there somewhere, and he's even more pissed off.
  • Never Going Back to Prison: Shows up a couple of times. In Michael's very first cover ID he claims to crook who has jumped parole and says that he'll gladly pull a Suicide by Cop rather than go back to prison. In a season 2 episode Michael gets hired by a Reformed Criminal who can't go back to prison because it'll leave his young son with no one to turn to.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: For the most part the series is about cloak and dagger with most everything being on a small scale in terms of villain threat. The trailers tend to hype it up into something much bigger than it really is and trying to make almost every episode look like it will become a Wham Episode.
    • Notably, the trailer for 4x2 packs in explosions, dramatic dialogue/narration, and what have you. The viewer should realize that the second episode after the season premiere will hardly be anywhere close to Wham.
  • New Media Tropes: Many of them are referenced. 4x06 mentions filesharing sites when Michael needs to quickly upload information. Specifically, he comments that while they allow anyone to see and access what you're sharing, most people are looking for MP3s and movies rather than intelligence information.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Not that you had too many options, but fantastic, Michael. Turn your back on the protection Management offered, then shoot Strickler, then break a psychotic killer out of prison. The last one is immediately lampshaded by Sam.
    • Great work, Michael, with saving Management and trying to bring them down from the inside. Shame your first assignment was burning a fellow spy.
    • Great work, Michael, with keeping Jesse in the dark. Formerly cheerly and nice Jesse as of "Eyes Open" is a heck of a lot darker, angrier, and perhaps even much more willing to cross certain moral lines.
      • Although this leads to another Nice Job Breaking It, Hero... since after spending all of season 4 helping Jesse get his job back, come season 5, we (and Michael) find out that all the experiences Jesse had with the team resulted in Jesse feeling uncomfortable at his job... so he quit. On the upside, it means Jesse can be around more often.
    • In one episode, the team decides to take down a loan shark by framing one of his lieutenants as an undercover cop. Unfortunately, the guy they framed was an actual undercover FBI agent.
    • Calvin Schmidt is a walking case of this, as he pretty much causes all of the problems the team must solve in the three episodes they are involved with him.
  • Nice to the Waiter: The audience is introduced to one Villain of the Week at a club. He trips a bus boy from behind for no real reason.
    • Michael Westen often gets away with his sneaking through high-trafficked areas, like office buildings, by being friendly to the low-level staff. In return, they often overlook when he does something suspicious.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: In his first appearance, Larry remarks that he sees no problem with killing people for money because "some people live, some people die." In his second appearance, he tells Michael that they are better than other people because they have "the will to act on our instincts, to get what we want."
  • No Backwards Compatibility in the Future: More like "No backwards compatibility in the present." "Neighborhood Watch" begins with a voiceover explaining why this is such a big problem for the intelligence agencies of the world.
    Spies are used to dealing with cutting edge encryption and billion dollar security, but sometimes the toughest challenge is cracking something old and out of date. If you find yourself up against an old and obsolete tape drive loaded with arcane software, you can either find yourself a time machine, or admit defeat.
  • No Badass to His Valet: Michael Westen, stone-cold badass who can take down a drug cartel with a bugged phone line and two rolls of duct tape, can do nothing but scream into his pillow in frustration when he finds himself guilted into going to family therapy by his mother.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jeffrey Donovan modeled his character's cover ID in "Fast Friends" on Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
  • No Name Given: "Management". Even his collegue Anson calls him Management despite the two knowing each other for several decades and having worked together prior to going rogue from the CIA.
  • Noodle Incident: Being a spy, Michael has lots of these, particularly Afghanistan.
    • There's also whatever happened between Sam and Fiona a few years ago involving some firearms and the federal government.
    • A particularly hilarious example is when Sam's impersonating a criminal defense lawyer in "Hard Time":
      Sam: You don't remember the Bennigan subpoena?
      Lawyer: Um, Bennigan? Let me think . . . oh, hey, wasn't that the guy who got murdered over the parrot?
      Sam: (making a swift getaway) Uh, no, but boy that sounds like an interesting case.
    • Then there's whatever happened in Chechnya that caused Larry to go rogue and caused Michael to start questioning whether or not he should be working with people like him. All we know is that a lot of people got killed, most likely by Larry and most likely unnecessarily.
    • It's a pretty typical bit of dialogue between Sam and Michael. Michael will think of a plan, remind Sam of it with "Remember [City], [Year]?" Sam will wonder if that'll work and/or mention how they had more time, manpower, etc. the last time. Michael will say they'll have to make it work, and voila. Considering how many of these end with Stuff Blowing Up or gunfire, you have to wonder just how much of a footprint Michael's left on the world.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: James in season 7 is really strict about this and will definitely make sure everyone knows how he feels about leaving a man behind as demonstrated when he kills his best lieutenant Bob for leaving Fiona to die after an explosion in a drug warehouse.
    • Michael saves her though.
  • No "Police" Option: The show is all about how Michael has the skills needed for extra-legal help and because of being Burned that is about the only job he can get. A lot of the time a client is in a situation where they will face legal problems for taking a bribe or something similar if they go to the police, so often this involves getting the bad guy to do something illegal in front of the police so the client stays clean.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Funny how a guy raised in South Florida has a distinctly Bawstan twang. This might actually be Truth in Television, by some reports: in his essay "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," David Foster Wallace talks about a group of completely-unrelated native-born Floridians on his cruise, all of whom speak with New York accents despite never having lived there. Turns out, their parents were all New Yorkers... Of course, Mama Westen doesn't have a Boston accent, either, but Michael's father could have.
    • In one episode, Michael's cover is from Boston. He puts on a Boston accent over his Boston accent.
    • Lampshaded in the third season summer finale, where Fiona's brother remarks that Michael's American accent is a bit dodgy.
    • In "Breach of Faith", the episode starts with Fi and Jesse in the Bahamas. Strangely, everyone seems to have Jamaican accents.
  • Not My Driver: Fiona pulls a heroic version in "Blind Spot", to put the punctuation mark when Sam Out-Gambitted Charles.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • They make a point to mention that near everyone involved with the "Burn Notice Club" were once much like Michael. It is evident in the show that without Fiona, Sam and Madeline (and Nate) grounding him Michael could very easily become like Victor, Carla Simon, or even Larry, as the not-so-dead Larry points out to Fi, and Michael acknowledges later in the same episode. Michael also points out in 3x15 how spies are basically just criminals with a cause. In short, Michael's most notable, most difficult, and most dangerous opponents are more or less just as talented and skilled as he is. Oftentimes, he will determine his counter-plan based around what he would do if he were the bad guy. Given how often he's right, this is another piece of evidence as to the fine (and difficult) line he walks between doing the right thing and doing the easy thing.
    • In "Enemies Closer", Larry realizes that the only thing keeping him from corrupting Michael is The Power of Friendship, so what does he do? He manages to isolate Michael from his friends and nearly succeeds in pulling him over the edge.
    • When Fiona stops Gabriel from killing his hostage, he replies "What would you have done, for Claire? How far would you have gone? That's right, we're the same, you and me! The only difference are the circumstances."
  • Not Used to Freedom: Discussed in an episode where Michael poses as an ex-con. Part of his act is constantly asking his prospective boss for permission to do things, as ex-cons have gotten used to not having liberties.
  • Not With the Safety On, You Won't: In the pilot episode, Michael points out to an ex-Army Ranger holding a gun on him the safety is on. It wasn't, as proven when it discharges when Michael knocks it out of his hands. But the moment of distraction was enough for Michael to knock it out of his hands in the first place.

  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Being a show about spies, this is par for the course. Sam tends to do it the best though - hapless drunken slob one minute, asskicking spy the next.
    • Reversed in a few episodes, one where Sam portrayed a suave black market dealer and Michael portrayed a lanky, nervous, asthmatic lab rat; in another where Michael is a dimwitted rich Southern playboy and Sam is a no-nonsense financial consultant; and another where Sam is a corrupt, "coke"-snorting cop and Michael is a druggie snitch.
    • Michael: (overlooking the car he's totaled) "Omigod, I am so sorry. This cat ran right in front of me."
    • Harlan pretends to be somewhat incompetent so he can kill the mark and turn Michael over to the Venezuelans for the reward.
    • Michael does an excellent "sleazy thief with a solicitation conviction" impression in Season 5's "No Good Deed", grossing out the female Insufferable Genius Hacker Villain Of The Week.
    • And Fiona does an excellent Valley Girl/Dumb Blonde impression when she needs to.
      • In "Where There's Smoke", she plays up being the trophy wife in order to take control of the situation and eventually defeat the bad guys when she reveals her hand. To quote Word Of God "...and it is delicious."
    • One assassin going after Mike manages to convincingly sell the image of him being a harmless bureaucrat who is considering revoking his burn notice - up until Mike lets his guard down and turns his back for an instant.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Pretty much the entire organization that burned Michael, which was the center of the series for many seasons, is dismantled and taken out between seasons.
    • In one episode Mike arranges to leave a mobster facing off with four armed thugs in the open, with no cover, and no way to escape. It's a setup for a Bolivian Army Ending, right up until the end of the episode has Sam mention that the mobster not only survived but was arrested for killing all four of his enemies.
    • In "Beseiged" Michael manages to convince a militiaman to let Mike take his son back to safety from the interior of a hostile, fortified compound, and all the militia are coming back. Said militiaman takes an assault rifle up and promises Mike that he'll cover his escape, all the while he has a broken leg. The next scene has Michael mentioning that "it was a miracle he got out of that compound" but the actual escape is never shown, nor is it shown how the ATF managed to arrest the entire militia after the escape.
  • Oh, Crap!: Eddie in "Bad Blood", upon realizing his boss just overheard him confessing to embezzlement.
    • One of the people that burned Michael gets this when Michael mentions who he is... to his face. It doesn't take being Russian to know Michael's reputation.
    • Bill Cowley turns around and sees Maddie during the season four finale. The smile flees from his face at speed.
    • Michael is trying to set up a nasty thug so his boss suspects him of being an undercover Miami PD officer and Fiona plants evidence to that effect in the guy's appartment. When Michael helps the other criminals search the appartment they instead find an FBI badge.
  • Ominous Mundanity: Major villains are referred to with a single name and they're all relatively mundane: Carla, James, Simon, Anson, Management. Even the two spy rings Michael opposes have simple names: The Organization and The Family.
  • Once an Episode: In the second season, someone trying to talk Michael into returning to his first-season job. Also, Michael eating or mentioning yogurt.
    • Yogurt becomes semi-acknowledged in universe as a running gag when a client offers Michael free frozen yogurt for the job. Michael pauses to look at all the flavors in the yogurt shop and then promptly agrees.
    • Also a lampshade hanging is when in the season 5 premiere someone asks him how he lives so long, given his lifestyle and how often he manages to get himself in trouble, his reply is simply "I don't know, I eat a lot of yogurt".
    • Strickler leaves a gift basket full of yogurt as a gift for Michael as part of his "sales pitch." Fi remarks that it would make a brilliant disguise for a bomb.
  • Once a Season: All of the season finales leave big question marks hanging on what is going to happen to Michael. Larry also shows up once a year, as well as Brennen (Before both were killed off). Michael's brother Nate also shows up at least once, and the crew has stated that they love Nate (and the actor) and would love him to be a regular but felt giving him a yearly episode does more justice to the character.
  • One-Man Army: Michael, when he's got the motivation and equipment and no desire to hold back. In one episode he also manufactures a one-man-army to freak out a bunch of hostage-takers, playing entirely on the "Die Hard" on an X trope, and the episode is even titled "Army of One."
  • One-Handed Shotgun Pump: Done by Fiona.
  • One Last Smoke:Maddie has one in the motel room while she waits for the assault by James' men during the series finale. It's the only time she smoked in season 7.
    • In "Brothers in Arms," Burke coerces Serrano into giving up information that his Russian overlords will punish him for giving up (with the insinuation being that they'll hurt his wife and child), "but only if he's alive." After Burke puts a pistol and one bullet on the table in front of him, Serrano asks for a cigarette (and Burke obliges).
  • One-Steve Limit: Michael's ex-flame Sam (Samantha) comes to visit, which resulted in plenty of confusion between her and the regular Sam. "Call me Chuck. It'll be easier that way, I promise." is our Sam's response.
    • In "Blind Spot", the mark is named "Charles". When Sam says "Time for some Chuck Finley action," Fi points out this trope. Sam insists that "Chuck is forever."
      • Additionally, he starts calling the mark "Chaz."
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. All bullet wounds and other injuries that should be serious are treated seriously. Michael is shot by Jesse in order to hit the Mook holding him. While the wound is not immediately fatal, Michael is seriously wounded and the episode ends with him passing out from his heavy blood loss and possibly on the verge of death. The next episode opens with Michael in the hospital and for a good two or three further episodes, he's shown to have limited use of his arm.
    • Likewise, Jesse in the season 4 finale when he gets rebar through the leg. Fi states outright that Jesse is lucky his femoral artery wasn't nicked and the very first thing they do - even before setting up defenses - is tend to his wound and state right out that it is a shakey temporary fix.
  • Only in Miami: Well, yeah.
  • Only One Name: Two names are usually not given out to any primary bad guys or even allies. There is the recurring FBI agents Harris and Lane, as well as "Burn Notice Club" members Carla, Victor, Simon and Vaughn. Most have last names given after they have been around for a while, but even Fiona's last name (Glenanne) wasn't mentioned in show until season two.
    • Not strictly true. Fiona's surname is mentioned in passing by Jason Bly in a season 1 episode. But it is a blink and you'll miss it mention so YMMV
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In the season two finale, Michael sends Sam to escort Madeline to safety. Madeline isn't hearing of it, offers Sam a beer. Sam refuses the beer, at which point Madeline starts taking him seriously.
    • You know things have taken a sharp swerve down Serious Street for Sam when he refuses a drink
    Sam's Buddy from Texas: Sam's always drinking.
    Madeline: He hasn't been since you showed up!
    • Done again in "Dead or Alive". The waitress at their local hangout brings Sam his regular mojito without any prompting. He declines and says he'll just have water.
    • The subtitles get this at one point. New characters are often introduced with a snarky subtitle under their name, but Simon simply gets "?".
    • The Season 6, "Scorched Earth", has Michael stealing a semi for use, while Sam keeps watch. When the driver shows up, Sam scuffles with him until Mike bounces a bullet off the wall near them and tells him to walk away. Considering how using guns is usually Mike's last resort, this shows how desperate he is. And later in that episode, he pulls a gun on an unarmed Sam.
    • The opening to the seventh season is a big one for Mike. We first see him in an illegal street fight with a full beard. At this point nothing seems off and the beard can simply be seen as just showing passage of time. It's hinted in the opening that his cover is that of a drunk. Once again nothing new. A flashback is the first sign of what's coming: we see Mike's new handler tell him that he needs the old Michael Westen back. He needs the Michael who will get the job done no matter what. Back in the present Mike wins the fight and then proceeds to kill the man he was fighting. Extremely jarring when you consider that Mike directly killing folks is very rare and that the number of major characters he has personally killed can likely be counted on one hand.
  • Opening Narration: Burn Notice starts every episode (besides the pilot) with "My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy, until..."
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: Look for Michael's orange skin, paired with a light blue shirt. Happens almost every other scene.
  • Orphaned Punchline: Sam in his Chuck Finley persona, in "Blind Spot": "... so I said, 'not if that's your idea of a haircut!'"
  • Out-Gambitted: At the end of season four, Brennen and Michael are trying to keep each other in check. Larry uses this in an attempt to try and get the NOC list and force Michael to work with him again.
  • Outrun the Fireball: A scene where Mike and Sam run away from an exploding ship is a perfect example. It's even become part of the opening narration. There's a pretty amusing difference in reactions between Mike and Sam. Jeffrey Donovan, with a career ahead of him to think about, is all stoic intensity. Bruce Campbell, meanwhile, pinwheels his arms and contorts his face in all sorts of funny ways.
    • Done beautifully by Mike and Fiona in the finale.
  • Overt Operative: When Michael wants to cut to the chase, he'll drop his real name and occupation. This usually happens dealing with people who have ties to the Intelligence Industry or he knows his real name will scare people even more.
    • Fiona does it, too, to make various arms dealers and gangbangers take her seriously.

  • Pants-Positive Safety: Team Westen never seem to use holsters. They really should know better, too.
  • Papa Wolf: A number of Team Westen's clients are this or Mama Bear. Threats or injury to a client's child are common. This usually brings out the Papa Wolf in Michael or Sam.
  • Perma-Stubble: Michael mysteriously gets some in the Season 2 mid-finale. Sam frequently has it, but despite the "perma" in the name, he's willing to clean up if required for a role.
    • Lampshaded by Cowley in "Last Stand", where he says Sam looks like he "never learned to use a razor correctly".
  • Pec Flex: In Season Five episode "Mind Games", Michael is undercover as a not very bright man with a penchant for loud, tight T-shirts and is shown bouncing his pecs while he is waiting to meet someone.
  • Perp Sweating: Since Michael prefers not to use torture, he instead opts to use more creative ways to get his prisoners to talk.
  • Pet the Dog: The first episode had Michael give pointers to a kid on how to fight and stand up to a bully, using the same tactics he used to take down terrorist cells. See We Help the Helpless.
    • And in season two, Fiona makes friends with the child of Michael's client. "This one has a Browning. He'll need the high ground..." note 
    • Brennen, the notoriously evil and cunning opponent Michael first encountered in the second season has one of these when he reappears in the third when Mike "threatened" to kill his little daughter.
      Brennen: Sweetie? It's daddy! Are you okay? ... Honey, I'm sorry, I forgot, uh, I forgot what time it was. You go back to sleep, punkin, I'll call you tomorrow.
    • The drug dealer neighbor "Sugar" who tried to kill Michael in the first episode returned in the third season. He had a (mentally slow) cousin, Dougie, in trouble and only knew of one person badass enough to help. This comes with a moving story about why he's so protective of Dougie.
      • It's also a humourous couple of moments in the episode about the show itself. Sugar calls Michael out on his badassery not due to his Improbable Aiming Skills, his Plans, his trademark glasses, or any other sort of flashy/memorable thing you might normally associate with a hero. Instead, Sugar associates Michael's badassery with duct tape.
      (Multiple times during the episode, paraphased) "Let's assault the bad guys! You can do something with duct tape!"
      "Oh so now you bring out the duct tape!" (After Sugar gets himself shot and Michael has to rescue him.)
    • Subverted in "Desperate Times". Card lets Madeline look at Nate's case file and comforts her, right before it turns out Card had set up a ploy to get Michael and his friends killed.
    • Burke gets a major one when he refuses to leave Michael behind, gives a speech about how the people who fight beside him are family, and then gives his life to free Sonya and Michael from the Russians.
  • Pillow Pistol: In "Broken Rules", Michael and Fiona are asleep in bed wearing nothing but a Modesty Bedsheet. But when they get alerted by some suspicious noise they both quickly grab the pistols they left under their pillows.
    • The sequence of events is interesting; first she makes sure her breasts are covered by the L-shaped sheet and only then does she reach for the gun.
  • The Plan: Played with. Michael is fairly good at manipulating the baddies, and his plans still go wrong. On several occasions, they have worked ''too'' well. He explains that sometimes all you need is a method to get noticed.
    • One gambit was used against Brennen, using an Indy Ploy. Brennen had some government property he wanted to sell on the black market and Michael worked to get into his inner circle, but details kept being changed around. Improvising at the last moment Sam screwed up the exchange with the buyers and those guys now wanted Brennen dead. He realized that if he kept the merchandise, both the government and the black market would be looking for him. So to at least keep the FBI off his trail, he got Michael to return it. This was Michael's plan at this point and even though Brennen realizes that's probably what's going on, Michael points out that regardless of what he believes is going on, it's the only possible move he can make.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: In "Friendly Fire", Michael replaces the link in his handcuffs with an epoxy, before Breaking the Bonds in awesome style. "Hard Time" sees Michael enter the state penitentiary as a faux convict.
  • Playing Drunk: This is one of the spy skills that Michael and Sam have cultivated.
    • Fiona has also done this on occasion. Though of the group, Sam seems to be the master of this, for the obvious reason of far more experience and the liver-damage and bar tabs to prove it.
  • Plays Great Ethnics: Jesse is an in-universe example. His bi-racial background (shared with his actor, chosen to allow this trope) makes his ethnicity vague enough that Jesse can claim almost any ethnicity for a cover.
  • Poisonous Friend: It was never really a secret that Strickler was one of these. The only surprise was just how far it went: setting up Fiona to be killed because associating with someone like her was bad for Michael's image.
  • Pop the Tires: Michael does this on a multitude of occasions, albeit usually on cars that are not currently in use, in order to stop someone from being able to chase him in that car after he pulls whatever mayhem he's up to.
    • One time, Michael built a homemade spike strip to stop a car so he could talk to the driver.
    • Defied on one occasion. He tried shooting out the tires of a pursuing vehicle and couldn't, so he began using another tactic: shooting down at the road, causing the bullets to ricochet upwards through the unarmored bottom of the pursuing car. Understandably, this freaked the driver in the other car out.
  • Pop-Up Texting: The second episode used pop-ups as Micheal texted his friends, although they didn't notice because they were too busy arguing. Later episodes did away with the trope, so it only existed early on.
  • Power of Friendship: Michael, Sam, and Fiona regularly help each other out on their various jobs, and occasionally save each other's lives. And they're not the only ones — Michael has racked up a fairly high number of debtors.
    • Deconstructed in too many ways to list in "Friends Like These".
  • Power Walk: After the team steal the NOC list.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: From Jesse:
    Jesse: Man, why you wanna [mumble]?
    Thus: What'd you say?
    Jesse: I said, "why do you wanna lose your TEETH?!" [face, meet door; Jesse exit, stage left]]
  • The Precious, Precious Car / Watch the Paint Job: In "Square One", Michael gives Jesse's car to a criminal as part of a scheme to convince him that they are not cops. The car, naturally, ends up getting trashed.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: When Michael shoots and kills Tom Card, all we see is a tiny bullet-sized entry wound between the latter's eyes.
  • Primal Fear: Invoked in 3x07, "Shot In The Dark", when the team blows the light in a parking area (darkness), keeps the target's car disabled (confinement, lack of mobility), and jams his cell phone (being alone). Then they really get to work.
  • Previously on…: Almost every episode starts with a regular recap of the important events from the well as some brief mention of it by one of the characters (in case you forgot).
  • Prison Changes People: Michael Westen talks about the most basic manifestations of this trope for one of his minisidles in the fifth season; guys who have been in prison tend not to make eye contact, and they ask permission before doing anything.
  • Pro Bono Barter: The only payment that Michael Westen typically accepts for his services is that his basic expenses are covered. He has, on occasion, accepted gifts instead: he did get a bag of cell phones in one episode, and a grateful client gave him a car at the end of the season two premiere.
    • Tied in with Michael's love of yogurt all one client had to offer was a Frozen Yogurt shoppe, which Michael jumped all over and at the end got a "Free Yogurt for Life - Unlimited Toppings" card.
  • Product Placement: Sam's OnStar-equipped Cadillac for season one (later taken back by the gal who gave it to him) And in the first episode of Season 2, a client gives Michael a Saab, which he passed on to Fiona. Both are made by GM, and the Saab is the focus of the "Covert Ops" series of tie-in web games.
    • In the post-opening portion of "Friends Like These", there's a brief closeup of Sam putting his Miller Genuine Draft 64 on a table. This wouldn't be so blatant if a)that's the only time that camera is used in the entire scene, b)in the original airing, there was an MGD 64 ad in the preceding commercial break, and c)the fact that in all other episodes, Sam's beer of choice is Heisler. He mentioned in the previous episode that he was trying to watch his weight.
    • Blackberry cell phones feature prominently in season 3. Considering that they go through these frequently, one wonders why they use an expensive phone with lots of features.
    • Season 1 has a few prominent mentions of DirectTV, including Sam outright mentioning that a certain bar is his favorite because (among other reasons) they have DirectTV's NFL Sunday Ticket. Subtle, guys.
    • Episode 4x08 has Michael driving a Hyundai to a kidnapping payoff with the narrative talking about the need for power and control if you're going to be driving along roads with lots of curves. All this is interspersed with front shots of the car with the logo visible. One has to wonder how much USA is getting paid for these in-show 30 second spots.
      • Actually, almost every time Hyundai cars show up in some sort of context where they can shoehorn in a "the kind of car matters here!" voiceover, the show turns into an ad for Hyundai. At this point you wonder if the obviousness isn't just another lampshade hung by the lampshade-happy writers.
    • Schmidt's Windows 8 gadgets get a lot of close-ups in season 6.
    • The writers sometimes have fun with these tidbits. After Sam and Fiona ram their car into a house as a SWAT team-like surprise, Sam afterwards praises how well it held up and said "You never really know a car until you ram it through a wall."
  • Professional Killer: Whether Michael is one of these is something of a running question for the series. Larry (Yes, Dead Larry) thinks he very much is, and wants Michael to come back to the fold; other characters also have this opinion of him. Michael ruefully acknowledges the bloodier parts of his past, but is pretty consistent about strongly preferring a zero body-count approach to every problem he faces during the series. But, when things go seriously sideways, or if someone is stupid enough to threaten Fiona, all bets are off.
  • Profiling: Fiona and Sam can't do their usual thing in a Hispanic neighborhood in "Friendly Fire" because any white person walking through is automatically assumed to be a cop. This forces Michael to play a crazier-than-usual guy (who he strongly implies is the devil himself) in order to recruit the local gang leader into tracking down the man he wants.
  • Psycho for Hire: Gilroy is described as such by Michael, who calls him a "freelance psychopath."
    • Larry works as a professional killer just so he can be paid for what he enjoys doing anyway.
  • Public Secret Message: Michael has been known to create or receive coded messages in public locations. One earlier example showed him writing a cryptic note to another spy on the sidewalk in chalk.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: In Season One's "Wanted Man", Michael (who holds several black belts), throws several well-aimed blows at 6'7'' bounty hunter Wayne Ray, who just looks annoyed.
  • Punny Name: Sugar, whose real name is Raymond.
  • Put on a Bus: The files that Jason Bly shows Michael in "You Can Run" say that their arms dealer friend Seymour was arrested and deported to Romania.