BURN NOTICE 5.01 ‘Company Man’

Michael teams up with the CIA to take down the men who burned him, leading to a botched operation in Venezuela.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Company Man"

Writer: Matt Nix

Director: Stephen Surjik

Previously on "Burn Notice":

Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) and his friends Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) and Jesse Porter (Coby Bell) made a desperate last stand against Vaughn (Robert Wisdom) and the clandestine organization that burned Michael. In the ensuing firefight, Jesse was injured before he and Michael finally settled their differences. Michael and Fiona also recommitted to each other as they prepared to die in a blaze of glory. But before their bloody demise, Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) showed up with government agents backing him up, neutralizing Vaughn and his team.

Almost immediately after the battle, Michael was whisked away by agents from an unidentified agency, who drove him all the way to Washington. Once there, Michael was greeted by his old CIA handler, Raines (Dylan Baker), who welcomed him back to the spy game.

Story:

In the months that follow, Michael and the CIA go on several missions to track down and arrest or eliminate all of the names on the NOC list. Michael's frustration mounts as none of the targets thus far have been able to tell him why he was burned in the first place. Working with his new CIA handler Max (Grant Show), Michael manages to capture a hacker named Hector. But Michael is soon annoyed when the CIA dismisses him before letting him interrogate the man. Back in Miami, Michael has an amorous reunion with Fiona, but she's pissed off that she's missing all of the action now that Michael is working so closely with the CIA again.

Michael also touches base with Sam and Jesse, although he's surprised to learn that Jesse has rejected his second chance in government intelligence and opted for a private sector job. Things between Michael and Jesse are also oddly tense despite the fact that Sam and Jesse paid to have Michael's Charger restored. Raines then contacts Michael and summons him to Washington. Hector refused to engage his captors, so Michael is finally sent in to talk to him. And instead of getting information through threats or injury, Michael gets Hector to open up through sheer force of personality.

Now armed with information about Kessler, the last man on the NOC list; Michael insists that the CIA allow Fiona and Sam to assist them on this final mission in Venezuela. Reluctantly, Raines agrees and sends Max and a CIA support team along as well. Once on the ground in Venezuela, Sam and Fiona create a distraction that allows Michael to approach a local military official while posing as a Russian intelligence officer. Michael offers the man a substantial reward if he agrees to help them capture Kessler. But at a subsequent meeting, the official pulls a gun on Michael and accuses him of being an impostor.

With an assist from the CIA, Michael bluffs the official into buying his story. They agree to lay a trap for Kessler at a critical road checkpoint. Max then sends Sam and Fiona to the airport to prepare for the last stage of the mission, angering both of them by shutting them out once again. During the operation. Michael and Max monitor the capture attempt from a distance, but something goes wrong and their communications are jammed. Fiona calls Michael and tells him that she and Sam stayed behind to watch the operation, but Kessler was ready for it and several CIA operatives have been injured or killed as Kessler attempts to return to his compound.

Over the objections of Max, Michael and his new handler race after Kessler's vehicle and pursue it even when it makes back to his compound. Max is incredulous that Michael's lack of planning can actually work in the field, but they do manage to kill all of Kessler's men. They soon find that Kessler has barricaded himself in a safe room. Michael improvises a massive explosion to open the room, but they find that Kessler has committed suicide. A visibly upset Michael voices his frustration over losing his last chance for answers, but he and Grant escape just ahead of the local police.

Back in Miami, Max unofficially thanks Michael, Sam and Fiona for their work on the mission. But Michael remains grim about the end of his quest. And not even his mom, Madeline (Sharon Gless) or the restored Charger seem to be able to lift his spirits.

Breakdown:

I've seen a lot of complaints about this episode primarily because Michael's quest to find out why he was burned came to a dead end. And I agree that if this was the last time we ever heard of the group that burned Michael, it would be an unsatisfying end to the long running storyline.

But Matt Nix has more than proven himself to be a great writer on this show, so I'm certain that this is not the end. At some point, Michael will realize that there's still someone else out there who has been pulling his strings for years.

The best thing about this new status quo is that it looks like it's going to allow "Burn Notice" to break away from its case of the week episodes. I really like this show, but those "A-Team" inspired plots were starting to wear out their welcome. According to some of Nix's recent interviews, those episodes are still going to come up in the season. But the more intelligence based adventures will also be prominent. For a first outing, this was an entertaining if all too brief mission. We never learn much about Kessler and his suicide seemed to come out of nowhere. I would have guessed that someone killed him, but there wasn't any indication of anyone else in that safe room.

Grant Show and Dylan Baker were both entertaining additions to the series. The final shootout with Max and Michael was a great action sequence and a good way to get the series back in gear. Show played Max more like a partner to Michael in those final scenes and there's an interesting dynamic between them.

It is a little cheap that Michael's burn notice hasn't been completely lifted, even though the CIA now knows that he was framed for his crimes. But I guess they have to keep the tension somewhere. Fiona and Sam probably had most of the audience on their side when they were complaining about the way they were sidelined. And it's true that they didn't play a very large role in this mission. But it was Jesse's nearly complete absence that surprised me. He literally appears in a singe scene; which seems like a waste of the character. If you've got Coby Bell on your regular cast, why not use him?

Last season was practically a clinic on how to tell an ongoing storyline while keeping almost every episode self contained. The only thing that really bugged me in this episode was that  the new storyline doesn't have a direction or an obvious starting point. If I didn't have a lot of faith in Nix's ability to tell a story, I'd be a little concerned about that.

Overall, this was a solid episode of USA's best series. It's never quite summer until "Burn Notice" comes back.

Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.