BURN NOTICE 5.06 ‘Enemy of My Enemy’

Michael sends Sam into a dangerous undercover operation as he tries to save a CIA asset and find the men who framed him.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Enemy of My Enemy"

Writer: Jason Tracey

Director: Jonathan Frakes

Previously on "Burn Notice":

After hitting several dead ends regarding the people who burned him, Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) seemed like he was finally ready to move on and rejoin the CIA. However, someone murdered his CIA contact, Max (Grant Show) and went through a great deal of trouble to frame Michael for the murder. In order to save himself, Michael was forced to cover the tracks of the murderer as well. Almost immediately, the CIA sent Agent Kim Pearce (Lauren Stamile) to investigate Max's death and she recruited Michael's help to find the killer.

Pearce relied on Michael to illegally acquire additional security footage that potentially had the killer's face. But when Michael, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) and Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) reviewed the footage, the killer looked uncannily like Michael himself.

Story:

Madeline (Sharon Gless) stands with Michael, Fiona and Sam as they stare at the security footage. Even Michael's friends admit that this would have fooled them. Pearce then calls Michael in on an emergency case for the CIA. She brings him to a local hotel to break into the room of an arms dealer who is about to sell a stolen predator drone to a Serbian crime syndicate. Michael actually climbs up the building with his bare hands to catch the dealer by surprise. But they're too late and the drone has already been sold. At a follow up meeting, Pearce is livid that in order to catch the syndicate, a CIA asset will have to be exposed and possibly killed.

Michael offers up an alternative plan to protect the asset and recover the drone. He cooks up a plan to send Carmelo Dante (Todd Stashwick) — an old adversary of his who happens to be the second biggest heroin dealer in Miami —  after the Serbians to smoke out the drone. To set the artificial war in motion, Michael and Fiona stage a robbery of Carmelo's latest drug shipment and leave Sam behind undercover as a truck driver who was supposedly waylaid by the Serbians. Carmelo kidnaps Sam and threatens his life unless he leads Carmelo back to his drugs. Meanwhile, Jesse (Coby Bell) approaches the Serbians and warns them that Carmelo is targeting them.

At the first contact, Carmelo runs down one of the Serbian henchmen and engages in a gunfight with their forces before kidnapping the fallen henchman in addition to Sam. When the henchman spins a different story than Sam's, the man behind "Chuck Finely" manages to let Michael know where the henchman is living via his CIA transmitter. Michael and Jesse get there first and plant evidence that suggests that Sam was telling the truth. Satisfied with Sam's account, Carmelo has the other man executed and he keeps Sam alive until he recovers his drugs.

Michael and Pearce attempt to get CIA support in extracting Sam from Carmelo's custody, but they are blocked by two mid-level bureaucrats who Sam ran afoul of during the events depicted in "The Fall of Sam Axe." Meanwhile, Fiona and Madeline use a sob story to convince a DMV worker to help them find Michael's look-alike with CIA issued facial recognition software. At the docks, Carmelo's men overpower the Serbians with sheer force and overwhelming firepower. But when they find the drone instead of Carmelo's drugs, Sam is almost executed on the spot.

At the last moment, Michael reveals himself to Carmelo and he uses Jesse as a sniper to keep the drug lord at Bay. He gives Carmelo the chance to come out looking like a hero for recovering the drone… or he could simply face jail time or death. Carmelo reluctantly takes the deal but he reiterates his promise to kill Michael the next time that they meet. Afterwards, Sam's CIA adversaries are pissed off over the deal that Michael made with Carmelo to recover the drone and they demand the surveillance equipment back from Sam… who claims to have lost it. Later, Fiona and Madeline confront Michael about his reckless behavior and the way that he endangered Sam.

But Fiona and Madeline also give Michael the info on Jacob, the man used to impersonate him on the security footage. Michael and Sam tail him at a distance and they witness Jacob purchase a weapon from a shady arms dealer.

Breakdown:

As much as I liked Grant Show's Max, "Burn Notice" has been noticeably improved since the beginning of the current storyline surrounding Max's death. Last season, "Burn Notice" put on a virtual TV clinic by successfully juggling the stand alone stories with the overarching developments of the season long story. This episode kept that tradition alive with Michael dealing with two CIA cases simultaneously.

Just by giving Michael another case that wasn't an "A-Team of the week" adventure helped the writer keep this episode fresh. And Michael's barehanded climb of the hotel was one of his best "badass" moments of this season. His dynamic with Pearce is also coming along nicely, but I'm not sure if I buy her sob story about almost marrying one of her CIA assets who ended up being killed. As a character motivation, it's not bad. But the moment relied way too heavily on her verbal account and there just wasn't enough emotion in the performance to make me believe it. 

Considering that Michael has to be considered a suspect in Max's death (even if Pearce isn't admitting it), it's ludicrous that Pearce would leave him with footage that could potentially implicate him in Max's murder. If there's a larger game and part of Michael's frame up is meant to show how he covered up the evidence, then it would be a brilliant move. But if this is really how Pearce investigates her cases than she isn't as good as she pretends to be.

Prior to the season, some news was made about Todd Stashwick reprising his role as Carmelo… and I don't know why. He's the poor man's Al Pacino and at no point does he seem believably threatening to justify the fear from Sam and his friends. Bruce Campbell is almost always great, but he really had to carry those scenes with Stashwick. The return of the CIA agents from "The Fall of Sam Axe" was similarly disappointing. Out of all of the characters to bring back, these were the guys Matt Nix and the "Burn Notice" writing staff picked? Not the villains, Sam's lady friends or even the young girl he practically took under his wing? Because clearly what we wanted from that movie was more of the CIA nerds who spent most of their screentime tied up.

But the action of the episode more than made up for some of the short comings in the performances. "Burn Notice" remains remarkably consistent for a summer series. And the ongoing story of Max's murder and Michael's frame up definitely has my full attention. "Management" seems like the most obvious culprit behind it, but I haven't seen any indication that John Mahoney is coming back to the show any time soon.

Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.