Episode Title: "Bloodlines"
Writer: Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Director: Colin Bucksey
Previously on "Burn Notice":
Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) resumed a working relationship with the CIA and began an international manhunt to capture or kill all of the people on the NOC list. However, Michael grew increasingly upset when no one could tell him why he was burned. To track down Kessler, the final target on his list, Michael convinced his CIA handler Max (Grant Show) to allow Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) and Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) to participate in the mission. Max agreed, but then he constantly sidelined Fiona and Sam. But when the mission went bad and Kessler was tipped off, Fiona and Sam were instrumental in getting word to Michael and Max.
Michael shanghaied Max into a dangerous assault on Kessler's compound, where the two men cornered Kessler in a safe room. Michael was able to improvise an explosive to breach the room, but he found that Kessler had suspiciously committed suicide. With his quest for answers seemingly at a dead end, Michael seemed to feel empty even as Max passed on the unofficial gratitude of the CIA for his actions.
In a Costa Rican jungle, Michael and Fiona engage in a little motorcycle foreplay before he gets summoned back to the states to meet with Max. Once back in Florida, Michael is given his first official assignment for his second run with the CIA. Unfortunately, Michael is simply ordered to watch over Carson Huxley, a gifted nuclear engineer whom Max describes as a "valuable asset." Carson also has a taste for the ladies and Max wants Michael to make sure that he doesn't spill any secrets at a conference that weekend. Later, Michael accompanies Fiona on her search for a new place, but his attention is elsewhere.
Michael and Fiona are then summoned by Jesse Porter (Coby Bell), who tells them that he has a life or death case for them. He introduces them to Ryoko, a young woman from Japan whose sister was tricked into a life of sexual slavery by the Yakuza (aka the Japanese mob). Through Jesse's contacts at his new employers, he's been able to track a desperate phone call made from one of the girls to a local hotel. To maintain his standing with the CIA, Michael sits out the first part of the job to ingratiate himself with Carson while Sam fills in for him with Jesse and Fiona.
Jesse and his friends soon locate Takeda (Brian Tee), a low level gangster pimping out the girls from the comfort of a hotel pool. Takeda gets tipped off to their presence, but they manage to chase him into traffic where he is hit by a car. Sam and Fiona force him into Jesse's car and take off. Passing themselves off as rival gangsters looking to muscle in on their territory, Michael is forced to get involved and pretend to be the boss. The rest of the team also talks him into using his mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless) as a captive nurse to earn Takeda's trust while tending to his wounds. To pull off the illusion, Michael behaves abusively towards Madeline; which briefly stuns her.
Meanwhile, Michael sends Fiona in his place to keep an eye on Carson. She ends easily enticing him into a high speed car ride which soon turns terrifying when she closes her eyes and makes him call out directions while traveling over 120 mph. Carson gets out of the car and runs away in fear. He even decides to reach out to his estranged wife rather than play with fire again. Back at the hide out, Michael's attempt to have Takeda drugged doesn't work out, but the captured gangster begins trusting Madeline enough to give her information on where his bosses were supposed to meet him. Using that Intel, the team brings in Ryoko to translate what the bosses are saying.
To her horror, Ryoko hears the bosses say that Takeda's sudden absence has them worried and they decide to kill all of the captive girls in two hours if he doesn't show up. In desperation, Madeline convinces Michael and Sam to let her "escape" with Takeda and to make it convincing by hitting her. When Michael starts screaming at her, she tells him that he can't play his father when it's not an act. Reluctantly, Michael complies and Madeline frees the injured Takeda and brings him to one of the cars. Madeline even "loses" Jesse and Fiona in a high speed chase to finally convince Takeda to tell her where to bring him.
Once Takeda finally breaks down and tells Madeline, the rest of the team encircles him and Madeline reveals that she's been conning him. Michael and his team soon free the captive girls and reunite Ryoko with her sister. In gratitude, Jesse offers to pay Michael for his services, but Michael turns him down. Madeline isn't as picky and she takes most of the cash for herself. But she also gives Michael a cut to fix up his father's Charger. Mother and son then have a heart-to-heart about moving past what Michael's father did to them. Later, Fiona is convinced that Michael wants to break up with her and embrace life with the CIA. But instead he asks her to move in with him and she accepts.
I knew that the "A-Team of the week" stories were going to come back eventually. But I am surprised that "Burn Notice" is playing it so safe with its content. After going through so much set up to establish Michael's new status with the CIA, it looks like the new formula is going to be "Michael gets a job for the CIA and must find a way to sneak out of it to handle his more important pro bono work." And if that's the case, it's an extremely dull turn of events.
Carson's story didn't really go anyway aside from sending him back running to his wife. Although, Fiona's crazy lover act was pretty funny, it seemed out of synch with the more serious mission of recovering the kidnapped girls. Tonally, it just didn't work. I also had a hard time buying Madeline's relationship with Takeda or even that the team would transcript her for this mission. Part of the reason this didn't work as well as it could have is that we don't get any glimmer that Takeda really would make a connection with Madeline. Or that he could feel any real empathy for the abuse that she went through. Yes, Takeda is supposed to be a monstrous character, but the whole idea of that plot hinges on him showing at least some aspect of humanity. Instead, he was a cartoon gangster.
Also, what's up with the four member Yakuza? Are times so bad that even the Japanese mob has to make staffing cuts? Seriously though, once Michael and his team came into the Yakuza hideout, the bad guys practically rolled over without a fight. That doesn't exactly make them a convincing threat.
The more interesting aspect about the episode was that Michael's dad was apparently abusive to him and to Madeline. I don't recall if that ever came up on the show before, but Sam and the others seemed to have been shocked by it. It's almost unnerving to see Michael slip so easily into that role. And it's probably a good thing he's with a woman like Fiona who would never let him get away with that if he started regressing into that behavior. I actually would have preferred that the connection to Michael's father remain unspoken, since it was obvious even without that confirmation. But I suppose that the writer wanted everyone to get his point, even if he had to hit them over the head with it.
"Burn Notice" is still a very enjoyable series. However, the formula plots are beginning to wear thin. Hopefully Michael's reborn connection to the CIA can send the series off into some new directions… because I don't know how long people are going to put up with the same storylines again and again.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.