Episode Title: "Unchained"
Writer: Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Director: Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Previously on "Burn Notice"
Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is on edge because the FBI is stonewalling him every time that he asks about the investigation into his brother's murder. So, Michael tracks down the lead FBI investigator at a restaurant and not-so-subtly threatens him to share what he knows. The agent is angered by Michael's approach, but he does say that the FBI was ordered to shut down the investigation without explanation. Some time later, Agent Pierce (Lauren Stamile) berates Michael once word of the incident leaks back to the CIA. She also theorizes that the FBI took the case out of the CIA's jurisdiction because they didn't want anyone solving it.
Fortunately, Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) knows "a buddy of a buddy" within the FBI willing to share the sealed file on Nate's murder in exchange for Michael's help capturing a reclusive Boston crime lord named Quinn. When Sam introduces Michael to Agent Woods of the FBI, he learns that Quinn hasn't been seen in years, but his number two man, Jimmy has been spotted in Miami. Wood also mentions that Kelly Duke, the key witness against Quinn is on his death bed and that he has been transferred to a Miami hospital under guard so he can testify against Quinn before he dies. Once Wood hands over the file on Nate's murder, Michael agrees to help him.
Later, Jesse Porter (Coby Bell) and Pierce examine the FBI's file and determine that they didn't actually learn much about the killer aside from the brand and make of the sniper rifle used to target Anson and Nate. Together, they formulate a plan to blackmail Wayne Meyerson, the Vice President of sales for the company that built the rifle to discover who it was sold to. Pierce is aware of the danger if she is discovered using CIA assets for Michael and his team, but she volunteers to help out of gratitude and loyalty to them. Meanwhile, Michael tries to keep his girlfriend, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) out of the operation to get Quinn. But she refuses to back down.
To set the plan in motion, a tracking device is hidden in Michael's belt and he is locked in the back of an FBI car when Wood and Sam arrest Jimmy. Inside the car, Michael introduces himself to Jimmy and says that he has a message for Quinn. Michael then warns Jimmy that his girlfriend is about to run the FBI car off of the road and break them both free… over Jimmy's objections. Initially, Jimmy refuses to flee with Michael and Fiona, but he finally goes along with it once he realizes that he'd be blamed for the escape attempt. Some time later in a hotel, Michael presents himself as an information broker who is trying to sell Duke's location to Quinn if he can get a face-to-face meeting.
At a sales conference, Pierce and Jesse locate Wayne shortly before Jesse convinces Wayne that he is one of his previous gun buyers. Over Wayne's initial hesitation, Jesse takes Wayne out to a strip club and he eventually drugs Wayne's drink after paying for his private session with one of the dancers. Back in Miami, Fiona and Michael convince Jimmy to take them to Quinn, but they are spotted by Miami PD in a stolen car. So, Michael and Fiona keep Jimmy from shooting at the cops while they burn the car as diversion and elude the police. Soon enough, they get to the meeting point where they are greeted by several thugs… but not Quinn.
Michael is told to strip down and change his clothes before he will be brought to Quinn. However, Fiona is left behind as collateral and Michael reluctantly parts with her to maintain his cover. At the same time, Woods panics and demands that they bring Michael and Jimmy back in immediately. They follow Michael's tracker and determine that it has already been dumped in a nearby trash can. Back at the sales conference, Wayne wakes up with a bad hangover and a lot of incriminating photos that his wife probably wouldn't like. But to Jesse's surprise, Wayne laughs off the attempted blackmail and promises to use his father's influence to crush him.
From another room, Pierce bursts in on them and tells Wayne that she will use the CIA to expose his father's hidden foreign assets. This gets Wayne to back down, but Jesse says that Pierce shouldn't have revealed herself and he worries that it will blow back on her. Back in Miami, Michael finally gets his meeting with Quinn, only to learn that Fiona will be injured or even killed if Quinn doesn't believe what he has to say about Duke's location. To save Fiona, Michael tells Quinn exactly where Duke is being hidden. Using code, Michael is able to tell Fiona roughly where he is before they simultaneously attack their captors. Fiona overcomes the two men watching her while Michael gets Quinn at gunpoint… but he soon finds himself seriously outgunned by Quinn's men.
To alert Sam and Woods to his presence, Michael sets Quinn's home on fire. Despite Quinn's apparent willingness to die, Michael manages to hold off the remaining men until Sam and Woods arrive to save the day. Some time later, Jesse tells Michael that the rifle used to kill Nate was purchased by The Pryon Group. Left alone, Michael and Fiona make love in the loft. Hours later, Pierce wakes them with a loud knock. Once inside, Pierce tells them that the CIA learned that she blackmailed Wayne and that she shielded Michael and his team from the blame. However, Pierce is permanently reassigned to a low priority position in Mumbai. Before she leaves, Pierce asks Michael to promise that her sacrifice will have been worth it.
TV is a business and recurring performers like Lauren Stamile come and go all of the time. That's just the nature of the industry. But can you think of a less worthy sendoff than the one that Agent Pierce got last night on "Burn Notice"?
By no means was Pierce as important to the show (or to Michael and company) as Nate Weston was, but her departure should have had more impact. That doesn't even mean that Pierce had to die, just that her last episode should have been memorable. There's nothing wrong with the idea that Pierce would sacrifice her life for the team. That would have at least had some meaning. But in no way did I buy Pierce giving up her once promising career to meekly accept a desk jockey position overseas. There was something so undignified about Pierce's exit that it reminded me of the time that Poochie the dog was literally removed from an episode of "The Simpsons"… as a joke!
On the mythology front, "Unchained" offered at least two intriguing elements. First, someone in the government likely has ties to Anson and Nate's murderer and they've already tried to cover it up. Second, the name of The Pryon Group suggests that it is either a private military contractor or a player in the intelligence community that we haven't come across before. And since I doubt that finding Nate's murderer will be the only plotline for the rest of this season, there must be something larger at play. My theory is that Management is still on the loose somewhere and secretly orchestrating these events.
Aside from the misstep with Pierce, Jesse's con with Wayne was fun to watch. But it's becoming clear that Jesse is going to fade into the background unless he gets a personal stake in the story again. Do you remember how riveting Jesse's presence was in the fourth season when he had a serious grudge against the man who burned him? Of course, that man was Michael and it fueled some great tension between them. Now, Jesse is so mellow and laid back that he's like a mixture of Sam and Michael. Given the choice, I'd much rather see Jesse get his intensity back.
Michael and Fiona's undercover antics were entertaining enough, and there was at least one moment where it seemed like Michael was going to sacrifice Duke just to save Fiona's life. The problem is that Michael didn't suffer any consequences from that act and it was as if he didn't even have to choose between his girlfriend or a presumably innocent man. It was just too easy and the potential threat to Duke seemed pretty toothless after some initially tense moments.
Eight episodes into the sixth season, it's still too soon to say whether "Burn Notice" is on the right track. While I'm relieved that the Anson storyline is finally over, the shape of things to come still isn't clear. If given the right story, "Burn Notice" can be the king of the summer shows once again.
But that's still a big "if."