BURN NOTICE 5.03 ‘Mind Games’

While trying to bring down a murderous loan shark, Michael accidentally exposes a potential ally to danger.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Mind Games"

Writer: Michael Horowitz

Director: Scott Peters

Previously on "Burn Notice":

Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) cleared his name with the CIA and began working with the agency again on a provisional basis. He even teamed up with his new CIA handler, Max (Grant Show) to track down and capture or kill everyone on the NOC list. However, Michael was unable to find anyone who could tell him the reason why he was burned in the first place. And the lack of answers has made Michael disturbingly paranoid; much to the concern of his girlfriend Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar).

Story:

Michael's brother Nate (Seth Peterson) moves back to Miami and shows Michael and Madeline (Sharon Gless) his new baby while his wife is conspicuously absent. Privately, Michael wants to know why Nate moved away from Las Vegas, but Nate only tells him that he's trying to stay clean for his new family. Later, Fiona insists upon buying a new paper shredder so that Michael can destroy his files on the group that burned him. Michael soon spots a man that he believes is following them. But when Michael confronts him, it turns out to be an innocent bystander.

Michael's paranoia over the NOC list is so great that he even wakes up from nightmares and grabs a gun in the middle of the night, while sharing his bed with Fiona. Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) attempts to set Michael up at  spa to ease his nerves, but Michael repeatedly turns him down. Shortly thereafter, Nate introduces Michael to Jessica (Kiki Harris), a woman whose recently deceased husband owed a lot of money to Carter (Wade Williams), a dangerous loan shark. Since her yogurt store doesn't make much money, Carter is pressuring her to give him her father's fishing boat.

Reluctantly, Michael takes the case and does recon with Sam on Carter and his boss, Wallace (Michael O'Keefe). Michael soon comes up with a plan to make it look like the fishing boat that the bad guys want is wrapped up in a police investigation. Michael seems to pattern himself off of Nate and he introduces himself to Carter as another loan shark who is also owed money by Carol's dead husband. Michael says that he has access to someone who can forge papers and make the boat legitimately theirs. Impressed by the plan if not Michael himself, Carter brings Michael to Wallace and makes the pitch.

Later, Michael explains to Jessica that he intends to frame Carter as an undercover cop. When he and Nate tail Carter, they see him and an associate as they are about to torch a motorcycle dealership. Michael intervenes while Nate plants a tracking device on Carter's car. The next day, Michael hands over the near perfect documents to Carter, but Carter orders him out of the vehicle at gun point. Meanwhile, Sam and Fiona attempt to plant the evidence against Carter when Michael warns them that Carter is returning without him. Sam fakes a car accident with Carter to allow Fiona just enough time to finish.

Armed with the evidence that he knows is in place, Michael briefly introduces Jesse (Coby Bell) to Wallace as a law enforcement clerk working for him in order to confirm that the boat is owned by the police. Michael goads Wallace into confronting Carter with his men as they ransack his apartment. But to Michael's astonishment, Wallace's men discover that Carter is an undercover FBI agent. Desperate to save Carter, Michael alerts Sam and Fiona and slips Carter a weapon before locking him in a trunk. When Wallace opens the trunk to interrogate Carter, the FBI agent belts him with a tire iron and escapes into the wild where Sam and Fiona soon find him.

Michael then convinces Wallace to retrieve his cash and financial records before fleeing to Vegas, only to find Carter and the police waiting for them. Afterwards, Michael apologizes to Carter for nearly getting him killed and Carter accepts it for his role in bringing Wallace down. Later, Fiona finds Michael still obsessing over the files that he implied that he destroyed. And as she urges him to come back to bed, he remains transfixed by the information that he's read dozens of times before.

Breakdown:

I've mentioned before that the "A-Team of the week" stories have been wearing out their welcome. But this was a really good "A-Team of the week" story. And oddly enough, there wasn't a real B-plot this week. "Burn Notice" usually crams two or three stories into every episode. So it was refreshing that the main case actually took the majority of the screentime.

There was a smaller subplot about Michael's increasing paranoia that is starting to get interesting. Michael's brother Nate didn't really serve a purpose in this episode except to tell Michael that his obsession with the people who burned him is a lot like Nate's problem with gambling. It's an addiction that Michael can't seem to free himself from. It would be a bold move if the series went forward and showed that Michael really is too wrapped up in his quest to see that there is no where else it can go. But I expect that Michael's actions will be vindicated at some point. The hero is almost never wrong on a show like this.

Of this week's guest stars, Wade Williams was terrific. I was so used to seeing him play a scumbag prison guard on "Prison Break" that I completely accepted him as a loan shark. However, I did guess that he was an undercover cop when he kept trying to convince his boss to let him see his books. Regardless, it was a great moment when Michael realized that he had inadvertently set up an innocent man to die. If Carter really was what he initially presented himself to be, I don't doubt that Michael would have let Wallace kill him without a second thought.

Trey —  Michael's newest persona — was pretty amusing, particularly when he kept referring to himself in the third person. Michael's intentional mangling of common sayings was funny the first few times, but it did get a little old by the end. That said, it was fun to watch "Trey" work Wallace into his confidence and convince him to make one last stab at freedom to reinvent himself in Vegas.

Regarding Coby Bell, I'm wondering if his time on "The Game" is what's keeping him so removed from the action this season. His appearance here was practically a drive by. Fiona did mention in dialogue that Jesse was only available during his lunch break. But that seems like it was the extent of Bell's availability as well. Was that a commentary on his current situation by the writers?

Nate was also kind of wasted this week on an episode that seemed to imply that he'll be staying around this time. I don't know if I'd want to see Seth Peterson on the show every week, but in small doses he's fine.

"Burn Notice" hasn't hit its stride yet this season, but at the very least this was an enjoyable episode.

Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.