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Recap / Burn Notice S 1 E 2 Identity

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The second episode opens with Michael investigating the people who left photos at his apartment at the end of the previous episode. As some of the photographs were taken at his mother's home, this sets up the action for another staple of the series; Michael's mother blackmails him into doing something for her. In this case, she withholds information about the agents investigating him until he helps a friend of hers who got robbed.


First Michael has to search the house for a bug (she left one of them alone in the house while she showed the other the garden. Michael runs down the street once he exposes them, hoping to get some information. All he finds is a nasty fire.

When he returns, his mother sets up her blackmail scheme. She gets Michael his client of the week. Her neighbor Laura got scammed out of her retirement savings. They also beat her up, broke her arm. Unfortunately, she's the worst kind of witness, unable to even give a good description of the bad guys. Fortunately, she's got the prize letter, which is enough to get Team Westen started.

Michael's first point of contact is with Sam. They discuss the high quality of the fake prize letter and start investigating printing shops. At the loft, where Sam will be staying for a few days, having had a falling out with his sugar mama, they run into Fiona and we learn that she and Sam have an unpleasant history. Then she joins the team on their job.


They beat the bushes at the printing shops in Miami and follow an amateur teammate back to the three con men. Quentin is the boss, with his two apprentices, Greg and Bonnie. Sam demonstrates that, as a former SEAL with connections, he's the one who does research and outfits Michael with his cover for the operation (in this case, as a former cell-mate of a former partner of Quentin's). Sam also demonstrates that he works best with his pants off. The trio each have their strengths. Sam's good at background and paperwork, Fi's good with explosives, and Michael's the face.

They then launch another staple of the series that didn't show up in the pilot: when Michael goes on a job, he assumes a persona, complete with wardrobe, hairstyle, and accent. In this case, he's a con artist from Brooklyn. It also establishes his trademark willingness to go all-in on a role, stealing Quentin's gun and using it to shoot out the tires of a cop car to prove his bona fides.


Michael goes to a meeting with the con artists to sell them on a new scam so he can pull them apart and get at their money. Meanwhile, Sam and Fi break into their boat (they live on a boat) and plant some bugs. Sam and Fi's bickering almost gets them caught.

Michael continues trying to get in and break up the team while Sam prepares a fake paper trail. Meanwhile, Madeline has another requirement: Michael and Fiona have to come over for dinner. Hilarity Ensues. Finally, she tells him about the agents that came to the house. She told them he was a perfect, devoted son. In other words, she lied. Then Michael gets a phone call from Quentin, who found all of Sam's paper work and is furious.

Sam's paper work isn't the only thing too effective. So is Fi's "gizmo". Instead of wiring the electrical system, she attached a blasting cap to the gas tank. Technically she did disable the car. Unfortunately, the explosion gets the feds, who were at a distance with Sam staying at the loft, to start following more closely.

Michael tracks Quentin down, who went into hiding following the apparent murder attempt and promises to get him in contact with a hit man. Sam and Fi pretend to be cop and scare Greg and Bonnie into running. Michael uses his federal tail to scare Quentin into giving him his banking information. This gives Michael the access he needs. He gets all the victims their money back, and gets Quentin sent to prison, likely with a death sentence from very angry criminals he insulted in Quentin's name.

The episode ends with Michael being thanked by a grateful Laura, and his mother giving him a phone number given her by the agents who were asking about him. He calls and is told they'll be in touch.

Tropes include:

  • Actor Allusion: Sam introduces himself and Fiona to the apprentice con men as Detectives Cagney and Lacey, referring to Sharon Gless's (Madeline) former role on Cagney & Lacey.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "You can't choose your intelligence sources. Might be a heroin smuggler, a dictator, or your mom."
  • Alter Kocker: Laura, the client, has a definite East Coast accent and gives off the general vibe of being a prototypical Florida retired Jewish lady.
  • Blackmail: Madeline refuses to give Michael the information he wants until she does something for her. Fortunately, she's savvy enough to know which information is urgent (the empty house across the street and two doors down) and which can be safely withheld.
  • Blatant Lies: Madeline claims not to be nosy.
    Maddie: I don't notice what the neighbors do. I'm not interested in them.
    Michael: You'd notice if the neighbor hasn't vacuumed his car.
    • Quentin claims to be a water filter salesman. While carrying a forty-five in a shoulder holster.
  • Bluff the Impostor: How Quentin tests Michael's cover. Michael gets it right.
  • Cat Up a Tree: What Sam compares helping a little old lady to. Then Michael points out the vicious nature of the crime he's dealing with.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: Once he's gotten all the information he can out of her, Michael's stuck sitting next to a crying, elderly widow. He says "I should go" a few times before he leaves.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Michael begins to show shades of this, though he has a good reason this week, like last week, to help.
  • Con Man: A straight villainous example, taking his role right off the trope page; he targeted an elderly widow.
  • Conservation of Competence: Even professionals have to work with amateurs sometimes. Shake the tree and see what falls out.
  • Consummate Liar: Both con men and spies are liars. When going up against a con man, you just have to be a better liar than he is.
  • Death Glare: From Michael to Fi after she tells the neighbor she'd like to be a June bride.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Madeline's awful wig is gone, leaving her with a very fetching haircut, but her hypochondria still makes a little appearance. "My doctor thinks what's wrong with me could be affecting my memory."
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Justified, in that Fiona thinks everything that can be made to blow up should be made to blow up. Sam's very, very surprised by it, though.
  • Fake American: Gabrielle Anwar ditches the Irish accent of the pilot and begins speaking with an American accent. The switch is lampshaded and dismissed.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: How Sam and Fi get away from Greg and Bonnie when they're caught bugging their boat.
  • Fan Disservice: Bruce Campbell in his undergarments. Michael's distinctly uncomfortable.
  • The Fashionista: In addition to her new accent, Fiona's got a new wardrobe. This is explained in-story as her blending in with Miami. Out of story, it's explained by the show's budget and Gabrielle Anwar taking charge of her wardrobe.
  • Genre Blindness: The client of the week got taken in by scam artists who told her she won a prize. She wised up before they got everything, which is why they had to beat her up instead of just conning her.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Sam's betrayal paper trail is discovered a little too early, and all at once instead of in pieces. Quentin blows up.
    • Also, Fi did wire the car so they could disable it. Unfortunately, "blown to pieces" technically counts as disabled.
  • Headbutting Heroes: Sam and Fiona have a long way to go before they make it to Vitriolic Best Buds status. Right now they hate each other, and it causes a few problems when they argue on the mission.
  • Indy Ploy: Thanks to Quentin's lack of trust and Fiona's work on the car, Team Westen has to do some tap-dancing.
  • Insult Backfire
    Sam: No, wiring crap into a car is not an art. It's about as subtle as hitting someone with a brick.
    Fi: Hitting someone with a brick takes a lot of skill. You should try it some time. It's all in the wrist.
  • Joisey: Michael's cover as Peter Jordan, who seems to be based out of Newark.
  • Keep the Reward: Laura's shocked look when Michael asks for payment prompts him to come up with this response.
    Michael: Well, I didn't do it for the money. Let's call it 500 for expenses.
    Laura is shocked, Madeline upset.
    Michael: Call it 300 and you promise not to enter any more contests.
  • Kick the Dog: As if emptying a retiree's bank account wasn't bad enough, the con men who did so also beat her up and broke her arm.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Westen really does a number on Quenten's reputation.
  • Lampshade Hanging: A few items are lampshaded so that they can be dismissed (Anwar's new accent) or rendered acceptable (Michael helping a little old lady is rather cliché.).
  • Local Hangout: Carlito's makes its first appearance.
  • Luck-Based Mission: When Quentin tests Michael's cover ID, he asks about Paco's (the former cell mate of Michael's cover) prison wine. Michael replies that "What are you talking about? Paco doesn't drink." He and Sam lampshade this and how Michael had a Gut Feeling that Quentin was testing him and just took a shot in the dark.
  • Never Going Back to Prison: Part of selling Michael's cover ID includes acting nervous around police and declaring how he will pull a Suicide by Cop rather than be sent back to jail.
  • Noodle Incident: We don't ever really learn what happened in the past between Sam and Fi. We just know that she was on the wrong side of the law and he cost her a lot of money.
  • Self-Serving Memory: "My mother's understanding of my career changes with what she wants from me. One day she can name everyone on the National Security Council, the next day she thinks I work for the post office."
  • Snark Knight: When Michael comes to him with a job of helping a little retired lady, Sam hangs a lampshade on it and pokes a little fun. When Michael points out that they took her life savings and beat her up, Sam immediately gets serious.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Justified, in that Fiona wired a blasting cap to the car's gas tank.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: "Yeah, uh, I think there's a fire down the road, and the smoke, it drifted."
  • Tempting Fate: "Fi, do me a favor, just go easy tonight."
  • Those Two Bad Guys: The apprentice con men.
  • You Do NOT Want to Know: Michael's response when Laura asks how he got her money back.

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