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Recap / Burn Notice S 1 E 3 Fight Or Flight

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Client of the Week

Michael's landlord, Oleg, makes his second and final appearance. His best waitress has a rat problem. She saw a member of a Colombian cartel beating a pizza guy very nearly to death. Now the cartel has her marked for death, and she's hiding, terrified, in her home with her teenage daughter. Michael negotiates four months of free rent in return for helping Cara, the waitress.

Fiona camps at Cara's house in case bad guys come by and Sam goes to one of his cop buddies to run the villain's license plate. Bad guys do come by, and Fiona chases them away by lighting up Cara's liquor cabinet. After the attack, Michael brings Cara and her daughter to stay in his mother's garage, so he can control security.

Michael goes to the attorney for the cartel. Desantos, the bad guy, is just a small player, and his problems aren't even cartel business, so the hope is that they'll get him to stop making waves. Instead, the cartel sends a hitman to take Michael out, so Michael comes up with another approach. They make it look like Cara and Sophie have fled to Salt Lake City, while they actually run to Buffalo. Unfortunately, Sophie's determined to go to the spring formal, gets spotted by the cartel, and scotches that plan.


So Team Westen improvises yet another ploy. Make it look like Desantos is talking to the feds. The cartel kills him, Cara's problem goes away. This finally succeeds and Cara and Sophie are safe and don't have to flee.

Burn Notice Arc:

"International conferences attract spies like hotel bars attract hookers: You can do business and drink for free."
Michael has to find out if anyone at this particular conference is someone he can use, so bluffs his way into a security meeting as an "inter-departmental liaison", quickly skims through the dossiers available, and makes his escape. No fancy tricks, you just have to be willing to do what the other guy won't: like jumping off a roof.

Fiona tracks down an Egyptian spy whose life Michael saved back in the day. Michael interrupts a business meeting (he mostly hands out bribes). Michael points out that Akhom, the Egyptian, owes him his life and hints that Michael could make trouble for him. And demands a copy of the directive authorizing his burn notice.

Akhom hands over the document, and the two part ways on good terms, with the understanding that they'll never see each other again. The document has very little information, just enough to keep Michael on the trail of whoever burned him.


Tropes include:

  • The Alcoholic: Sam apparently loves his beer a little too much. They tone this down later. Really, it was just an excuse to make sure Sam was ready for a fast getaway.
    • Cara's liquor cabinet was apparently good for a ten hour siege.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: According to Gellman, his daughter wants a pony.
  • Amoral Attorney: Gellman, the cartel attorney.
  • The Alleged Car: The charger doesn't work at first.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Michael just walks right into the hotel, then right into the security office claiming to be an "interdepartmental liaison". Deconstructed in that although he accomplished his goal, his behavior attracted attention from security and he had to get out fast.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Michael shows up to save Sophie maybe five seconds before a Colombian death squad.
  • Blackmail: Fiona takes herself hostage to force Michael to give her a key to his loft. She stalls while a group of angry Colombians come for her until Michael agrees.
  • Blatant Lies: Michael, trying to comfort Sophie by telling her about his time with Fiona.
    Sophie: So you're saying that if we're meant to be together that we'll find each other?
    Michael: [Strange look] Sure.
    Sophie: You're really bad at this.
    Michael: Yeah.
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  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Sophie Stagner just can't seem to get it through her head. No, you're not going to the prom. Someone is trying to kill you.
  • Dead Animal Warning: A cocktail waitress, Cara, is the only conscious witness to a drug cartel member beating a pizza delivery boy senseless for rear-ending him. The cartel starts intimidating her, including nailing a dead rat to her front door. Fortunately, Cara's boss happens to be Michael Westen's landlord.
  • Dysfunctional Family: "My father's approach to machinery was similar to his approach to his family. If you don't like how something works, keep banging on it till it does what you want. If something doesn't fit, force it. And above all, make sure it looks good on the outside."
    • Michael has trust issues. Fiona has to blackmail him to get a key to his loft.
  • I Am Not My Father: Michael resents Sam's comparison.
  • I Owe You My Life: How Michael convinces an Egyptian spy to get him the info he wants. Michael saved his life back in the day.
  • Indy Ploy: First Michael talks to Desantos. When that doesn't work, he talks to Gellman. When that doesn't work, he fakes a trail so Cara can hide. When that doesn't work, he gets Desantos killed.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Michael's response to drinking coffee made with recycled grounds is less than pleased.
  • Karmic Death: Desantos was trying to kill a witness. Michael frames him, making it look like he's turning states witness, and the cartel kills him.
  • Keep the Reward: Michael tells Cara to keep the money; Oleg was more than generous.
  • Kick the Dog: The villain of the week beats a man nearly to death for rear-ending him. Then he threatens the witness who called the cops with death if she doesn't shut up.
  • Kill 'Em All: The cartel's response to Michael approaching Gellman.
  • Kill It with Fire: How Fiona chases away the hit squad that came to Cara's home.
  • Lethal Chef: Michael's mom makes a salad dusted with cigarette ash.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Michael's father rebuilt the Charger's engine, so Michael has to re-rebuild it. Sam points out that it sounds like Michael's father is a lot like him, which Michael resents.
  • Marked to Die: Cara has a rat problem. It's nailed to her door.
  • Oh, Crap!: Sophie at the dance, seeing the death squad coming for her.
  • Percussive Maintenance: See Dysfunctional Family
  • Properly Paranoid: Michael. He is still alive.
  • Professional Killer: The cartel hires one to take care of Michael.
  • Pyromaniac: Fi really seems to love fire.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Need to get away from security? Don't need any fancy tricks. Just jump off a roof.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Michael's mother remembers Michael's childhood very differently to Michael's.
  • Serious Business: Sophie really wants to go to the spring formal.
  • Smooch of Victory: Sophie gives Michael a kiss on the cheek near the end of the episode.
  • Snark Knight: Michael, in response to Sophie's complaints.
    Sophie: Whatever. It's a freaking garage. I'd rather be killed than live here.
    Michael: Well, those are your two options.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Yes, alcohol is flammable, but Cara must have developed a taste for kerosene.
  • Supreme Chef: Michael demonstrates his ability to cook with a Persian recipe.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sophie doesn't get it. No, you can't go to the dance. You can't get your stuff. You can't take your phone and stay in touch with your friends. You have to disappear completely.


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