Episode Title: "Desperate Measures"
Writer: Michael Horowitz
Director: Stephen Surjik
Episode Title: "Means & Ends"
Writer: Jason Tracey
Director: Ron Underwood
Previously on "Burn Notice"
Welcome back, “Burn Notice”!
I’ve had some problems with the show since the introduction of the Anson Fullerton storyline midway through season five. But “Desperate Measures” and "Means & Ends" may be the game changers that the series badly needed. Which isn’t to say that there weren’t some problems along the way.
Full spoilers are ahead! You’ve been warned…
I love that “Burn Notice” has put us in the position of liking Tyler Gray (Kenneth Johnson), the man who killed the brother of Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan). Through most of “Desperate Times” and “Desperate Measures,” Gray came off as the typical sociopath villain that we’ve seen so many times on “Burn Notice.”
And yet Gray is so impressed by Michael’s willingness to withstand torture to protect his friends that he rejects the info given to him by Tom Card (John C. McGinley) and saves Michael’s life. All of which leads to one of the most unlikely alliances in “Burn Notice” history.
Backtracking a bit, “Desperate Measures” was the stronger of the two episodes from the midseason premiere. Looking to get out of Panama without alerting Card to their survival. Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar).Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), Jesse Porter (Coby Bell) and Michael stole a plane from a local drug lord. However, Gray managed to slip out of the plane during takeoff, forcing Michael to remain behind as well.
The bulk of the episode dealt with Michael and Gray attempting to withstand torture at the hands of the drug lord while Jesse, Fiona and Sam came up with a rescue plan. It was fairly straightforward, with some amusing scenes with Jesse and Sam as they tried to barter with a young boy for his phone.
I was more impressed by the bond that formed between Michael and Gray. Nate may have been Michael’s brother, but Michael was more similar to Gray than he’d like to acknowledge. Johnson’s innate charm also helped sell the face turn by Gray into a more heroic figure. Michael was moved enough by Gray’s actions that he shifted the blame for his brother’s death back on to the man calling the shots, Tom Card. And Michael even offered Gray the chance to walk away before Gray voluntarily decided to help them take down Card.
All of that felt like it would have more than enough story to carry us through the rest of the sixth season. Instead it was over by the end of "Means & Ends."
There was a lot of drama yet to be mined out of the new alliance between Michael and Gray; which Donovan and Johnson gamely demonstrated when Michael’s trust in Gray began to rapidly decay. But Gray turned out to be worthy of Michael’s trust and he even allowed Michael’s mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless) to confront him about killing her other son.
And Gray took it! Everything that Madeline said to him, and all of her anger. It really seemed like Gray was on a redemptive path… right up until he was seemingly killed by Card. Michael had realized that Card was beginning to wrap up his loose ends and that a team was already being mobilized to eliminate Gray.
After Card shot Gray, he pleaded with Michael to forget the past and work with him again. To which Michael responded by putting a bullet through his head.
I really loved that moment. I’ve always felt that “Burn Notice” needed more of an edge to Michael and there it is. Unlike the Anson storyline, Michael’s animosity towards Card seemed to have a genuine emotional component. Card had been a mentor and father figure to him, so Card’s betrayal hurt Michael almost as much as Nate’s death.
The Anson storyline simply lasted too long and ran out of steam. There was a lot of potential for the Card vs. Michael storyline to keep on going for a while. But in that moment, Michael made the right call. Card was simply too dangerous to leave on the board and he had no problems setting up his assets to die or murdering Gray himself. In short, Card had to go.
Not that this ends well for Michael. Unlike Michael’s previous run ins with the CIA, he is actually guilty this time. And the agency is sure to pursue him over Card’s murder. Michael has previously been exonerated for murdering his CIA contact, Max. Potentially, the CIA could revisit Michael’s old accusations and decide that he was retroactively guilty of those crimes as well.
I loved the Card and Gray storyline in “Means & Ends,” but I hated… HATED the forced client storyline of Fiona’s old cellmate showing up at the loft just as Michael, Fiona and Gray were preparing to burn it down to sell the illusion that they were dead. Let’s get this straight, Ayn not only knew where Michael and Fiona lived, she set up an informal stakeout with the neighborhood kids to see when they returned?
I call bulls*** on that one, “Burn Notice”!
Sticking that storyline in the middle of the more compelling arc was simply a mistake. It completely screwed up the tone of the episode. I did like the twist about the group accidentally turning a rogue cop back into a more justice driven individual. But not in this episode. It just didn’t belong here.
Judging from the previews for next week’s episode, it looks like the CIA will be chasing down Michael as the lead suspect in Card’s death while holding Sam in custody. Is “Burn Notice” going to try to force a client storyline into that episode too?
I know that “Burn Notice” is predicated on a very “A-Team” formula. But enough is enough. When they are this close to the endgame, the writers shouldn’t have to fallback on the old tricks to fill out a B storyline.
Show us something new.
On its own, "Desperate Measures" gets this grade:
While “Means & Ends” will have to settle for less.