My education in all things espionage-y got under way as soon as BURN NOTICE fired up last night: In the very first scene, ex-spy Michael (Jeffrey Donovan, ex-Dwayne, ANOTHER WORLD) gave a crash course in stegenography — the art of hiding coded messages in such a way that no one even realizes there is a message. In this case, Michael’s beautiful and mysterious new handler, Carla (Tricia Helfer, Six, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) hid a message in a crossword puzzle — which is apparently a common tactic in the real spy world. Carla set up a meet that demonstrated her unnamed organization is adept at undercover work and has its own personnel and resources.
Carla demanded Michael duplicate a high-tech security badge for some unknown reason, so he went to master forger Nefzi (Erik Avari, ex-Chandra Suresh, HEROES). The mystery deepens: Why does Carla need Michael to do this stuff? Was he burned and planted in Miami specifically to be available to Carla? Clever Michael figured out that Carla speaks Arabic with a Khurdish accent, so she was probably once stationed in the Middle East. And it was cute how Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) was instantly antagonistic toward Carla — jealous much, Fi?
Meanwhile, Sam (Bruce Campbell, Ash from the Evil Dead flicks) was approached by a comely damsel-in-distress who wanted to enlist Michael’s help. Sophia (Jacqueline Piñol, ex-Rikki, CSI: NY; ex-Sherry, GENERAL HOSPITAL) turned out to be a DEA agent who got in over her head with gangsta boyfriend Raul (Kevin Alejandro; ex-Santos, UGLY BETTY; ex-Dominic, YOUNG AND RESTLESS) while working undercover in a drug operation. Helping her interfered with Michael’s gig for Carla — which made his handler unhappy. And when she’s unhappy she kills people — and threatens Michael’s mama, Madeline (CAGNEY & LACEY’s Sharon Gless).
Until this episode, I had no idea how easy it is for counterfeiters to “wash” a check: All you need is some checks, nail-polish remover and a pen. Oh, and another secret ingredient. See, series creator Matt Nix always leaves out a vital step or two when detailing secret/dangerous/illegal activities, so no misguided kids can actually try this stuff at home! However (without leaving anything out), Michael also explained how to get skeptical strangers to trust you: Let them think they have discovered some dirty little secret of yours, because trusting a stranger is all about perceived leverage. And never volunteer a lie; let the bad guy drag it out of you (by force if necessary), so he thinks it’s his idea. Another handy tip: An obnoxious guy is a better distraction for thugs than a pretty girl, because the thugs will want the babe to stick around, but the jerk gets sent packing as soon as he has served his purpose. Oh, and Carla demonstrated a sneaky way to kill a man without leaving any traces: Pump in nitrogen to displace all the oxygen from a room. (I hope there’s more to it than just slipping in a hose; after all, how does the oxygen get replaced rather than the native nitrogen, which naturally makes up 70 percent of our atmosphere?)
There was another fun bit with Madeline’s coffee-maker — which could make for a nice running gag, perhaps replacing last year’s yogurt jokes. However, I was concerned that Sophia mentioned hearing “rumors” about Michael helping people. That means he’s becoming known — which is not a good thing for a secret agent (James Bond notwithstanding).
But it would be good if you return for the next installment of Night Shift, in which we will discuss the return of Billie Piper‘s Rose to DOCTOR WHO!
Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com