BURN NOTICE 4.4: Breach of Faith

This week’s BURN NOTICE took a sort of “divide and conquer” tack, with Jesse and Fiona tracking down an address related to this season’s umbrella story, while Sam dragged Michael into the case of the week: taking hostages in a storefront office.

Well, that wasn’t exactly what Sam (Bruce Campbell) had in mind when he talked Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) into helping out Josh Warren (guest star Frank Whaley), the administrator of a charity for police widows and orphans. Josh lost the fund’s money to a crooked financial manager, so Sam and Michael were meant to be muscle to scare Nick (Clayton Rohner) into giving back the money. But Josh foolishly brought along a gun, and somebody has read their Chekhov – if you show a gun in the first act, it has to be fired – so the situation quickly devolved into a hostage situation. Sam insisted on staying to help his pal, so there was no way Michael was going to leave without Sam.

Unfortunately, the police could not tell the good guys from the bad, so our heroes had to figure out how to get Josh’s money back and escape from a building surrounded by police. The “surrounded by police” part was actually pretty great, because this was a large-scale production, employing scores of police and SWAT officers, cars and trucks that made the episode almost look like a movie. (Well, okay, at least more like a big-budget broadcast-network series.)

There was a lot to like about this week’s installment, which typified what I think of as one of the true strengths of BURN NOTICE: Taking a relatively simple set-up and spinning an interesting story out of it. This tale boiled down to the bond of friendship between Michael and Sam. Michael really would do anything for his buddy. And we got another peek into Sam’s past, when he told Michael the story of how he got pinched at age 10 for stealing a Red Ryder BB gun. Hey, it could have been worse – he could have shot his eye out! Still, Sam has never been in jail since, and had no intention of ever going back. Was he obliquely asking Michael to kill him rather than let him go to prison? That would be a true test of friendship!

Loved the way pals Sam and Michael worked together this week, how they found a way to get the safe out of the floor. Not that I would ever want my golf clubs used that way, but good to know they are that tough. (Okay, so I don’t own titanium clubs, but maybe one day…) I also liked that Michael continued to handle the narration, even while Jesse was doing all the action at the beginning of the episode. Truthfully, I can’t really picture Jesse giving play-by-play. And, besides, he seems like more of a “fly by the seat of his pants” guy who shouldn’t be teaching anyone how to do anything. But he does know how to handle himself. That skill was also evident in the confident way that Michael held the gun once he snatched it away from Nick: Donovan held it high, and his chin higher. His arm was straight and unwavering as a steely Michael drew a bead on the baddie. He looked like he would shoot Nick. Earlier, when Josh was handling his gun, he treated it casually, like he was unaware of its power. Nice work by Whaley as the nebbishy Josh. He was timid, but kept his character distinct from Brett, the dude Jules menaced in Pulp Fiction.

It was fun the way the show revisited that lesson we learned about how making something more securely hidden makes it less accessible in a pinch. It almost proved to be the undoing of Navi Rawat’s Kendra. Ah, yes, Rawat had a fun little bit as the Nosy Neighbor From Hell, but unfortunately for the-powers-that-be who wanted a shocking reveal, her tiny role invoked the Law of Conservation of Casting, which means if a guest “star” of any stature is hired, that star’s character is significant; otherwise they could have hired a nobody for scale. Most people will recognize Rawat from NUMB3RS, but to me she’s still Dana, the vampire slayer who escaped from the mental ward in the fifth season of ANGEL. It was just a matter of waiting to see who Kendra would turn out to be. Well, it turned out that she was very significant, and will be back. I hope she proves to be more than a short-term villainess. With other baddies like Simon and Gilmore pushing up daisies, Michael needs a new recurring foe willing to get her hands dirty and mix it up with him in the trenches.

Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Jesse (Coby Bell) played supporting roles, letting Michael and Sam take the spotlight again. After the major roles Jesse played in the last two episodes, this installment should help make sure we viewers don’t get too sick of Jesse — or resent him for throwing the three-way dynamic out of whack.

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