BURN NOTICE 5.12 ‘Dead to Rights’

Larry returns to blackmail Michael into a job before his true adversary finally reveals himself.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Dead to Rights"

Writer: Jason Tracey

Director: Matt Nix

Previously on "Burn Notice":

For weeks, Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) has attempted to find the killer of his CIA Contact, Max (Grant Show).in order to avenge his friend and to evade an expertly place frame job. Unfortunately, Michael had to dispose of most of the evidence because it would implicate himself. With the ongoing assistance of his girlfriend, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) as well as his friends, Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) and Jesse Porter (Coby Bell); Michael and company learned that the real killer was a man named Tavian.

Eventually fearing for his life, Tavian abducted Sam and released him with a request to meet with Michael. Although Tavian offered answers to questions that Michael hadn't even thought to ask, he was out of the country at the requested meeting time, forcing Sam and Jesse to pin in Tavian with a Homeland Security sweep. But Michael had bigger problems in the form of his new CIA handler, Agent Pearce (Lauren Stamile). She confronted Michael at his home with evidence that he had been spotted fleeing Max's murder scene. And as Michael attempted to explain himself, Pearce ordered him to bind himself at gunpoint.

Story:

Jesse and Sam race to Michael's loft because their window to meet with Tavian is rapidly closing and Michael isn't answering his calls. But when they get there, they see the CIA raiding Michael's belongings and realize that Michael is already on his way to a federal holding facility. Anticipating the route taken by Agent Pearce, Jesse and Sam head off the lead car of her convoy and force it off the road. At gunpoint, both Sam and Jesse profess Michael's innocence and tell Pearce that the real killer is waiting to meet with Michael. Michael himself is able to goad Pearce into action by reminding her that she wants real justice for her colleague.

Reluctantly, Pearce agrees to send Michael to the meeting with Tavian while wearing a mic, but she holds onto Fiona, Sam and Jesse as collateral. At the meeting, Michael gets Tavian to admit that he framed him and then he immediately shows him the wire he's wearing. Angered, Tavian opts to commit suicide rather than face Michael's true enemy. Pearce releases Michael and his friends, but she is openly disdainful towards them. And when Michael gets home, he has another unpleasant surprise waiting for him: "Dead Larry" Sizemore (Tim Matheson), who drags along a hostage named Anson Fullerton (Jere Burns).

Larry mocks the changes that Fiona made to Michael's loft before explaining that he is holding Anson's wife with a bomb on her body as leverage to force Anson and Michael to help Larry break into the British consulate. Michael distracts Larry long enough to slip Anson a knife and he tells him to free himself from the trunk and find Sam Axe. Larry and Michael get into the floor below the consulate by pretending to be cleaning up a hazardous spill. Meanwhile, Anson finds Sam, who quickly brings Fiona in for an assist. But the three of them arrive too late to save Anson's wife, who dies in a suspiciously premature explosion.

Inside the building, Michael contemplates killing Larry, but he holds back to protect Anson's wife. As Michael tunnels into the floor above, Larry spots Fiona, Sam and Anson trying to sneak into the building. Larry warns them to stay away and he hints that he's already decided to kill Michael at the end of the mission. When they finally break into the consulate, Larry assaults Michael and warns him against any further escape attempts. Outside, Fiona comes up with a ruse to send Sam and Anson away while she plants a powerful explosive outside of the consulate office window.

Reaching Fiona by phone, Michael learns that Anson's wife is dead and he is likely to be next. To save him, Fiona tells Michael to stay in the vault while she attracts Larry's attention with gunfire against the bulletproof glass. Larry initially mocks her, but then notices the explosive device a moment before Fiona activates it. To her surprise, another massive explosion follows in the lobby and kills the security guards working there. Afterwards, Fiona is distraught over having killed innocent men when Anson bursts in on them and reveals that he video taped Fiona's confession and her actions at the building.

Anson goes on to explain that he is last member of the organization that burned Michael in the hopes of recruiting him. He also gleefully admits to having Max killed when Michael wouldn't stop searching for them and he goes on to blackmail both Michael and Fiona into keeping quiet about what happened at the consulate. During a meeting with Pearce, Michael learns that the CIA still wants his services. But now Anson is pulling his strings and Fiona's as well.

Breakdown:

First things first: the resolution to last episode's cliffhanger and the entire Tavian story could not have been handled in a less satisfying way than it was here. Seriously, Michael couldn't have tried to get more secrets out of Tavian before showing him the wire? And Tavian — the assassin who was so incredibly elusive — just decides to off himself instead of trying to kill Michael and escaping? Yeah, sure. That's believable.

Getting Michael out of CIA custody also seemed to be way too easy. Obviously, there's no show without Michael and his friends, but that undercut last episode's cliffhanger and the CIA's entire presence on this show. There's a limit to the willing suspension of disbelief and this episode really pushed it far.

Take for example Anson's scheme. Rather than partner directly with Larry, he had him sprung from prison and manipulated him into kidnapping a woman that he thought was Anson's wife and taking Anson into custody as well. For someone who seems reasonably intelligent, Anson's plan overlooked a critical issue: Larry is (or was) bats*** crazy and there's every chance that he would have killed Anson the moment that he had no further use for him. When your plan relies on a clearly insane person to behave in any rational matter then your plan wasn't that good to begin with. 

I did like Anson's exposition dump simply because it actually referred to Management by name and laid out the original intent of the organization that burned Michael. The jury is still out as to whether Anson will be an effective long term antagonist, but if Michael is forced to go on missions for both Anson and the CIA than it could give the series some fun stories in the remaining episodes of the season. Everyone also seems to have forgotten that the organization had its own unidentified adversaries in the form of the group who stole the NOC list last season. But that plotline seems to have disappeared entirely.   

The reason that "Dead Larry" keeps coming back as a guest star is that Tim Matheson is really entertaining in the part. Larry's more sinister demeanor and behavior also made him seem more dangerous than usual. Larry even kept Michael off of his game and he was unable to directly free himself. Larry's standoff with Fiona was one of the high points for the episode, as was her realization that she may have killed innocent me. And it certainly looks like Larry was one of the casualties. It's a little wasteful to get rid of a strong adversary like that, but if the producers ever try to bring Larry back and pretend that he survived than I'm going to be really annoyed.  

On the plus side, this was one of the season's better Michael and Fiona episodes and it's nice to see that they have something real to worry about besides their commitment issues. It's too soon to tell if Jere Burns will turn out to be a memorable villain on the show, but I'm cautiously optimistic about the rest of the season.

Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.