'Burn Notice' takes Michael to the jungle

Gabrielleanwar_burnnotice_s3_290 Take The Most Dangerous Game, stir in a little Apocalypse Now, and sprinkle with Michael, Sam, Fi and Maddy, and you've got a kick-ass episode of " Burn Notice."

Michael gets a thoughtful present -- a gift basket overflowing with yogurt. It's from Tom Strickler, a secret agent agent. He lines up jobs, takes a cut, and everyone's happy. Well, not Michael -- he 's not a hired killer. Strickler warns him that a pissed-off Ukrainian is after him, and that he can help Michael deal with the man. Michael declines.

As Michael managed to piss off quite a few Ukrainians back in the day, he'll need some help narrowing things down. He goes to Beck, an arms smuggler who works with all the big guys in the Eastern bloc. Beck is disinclined to help him -- he doesn't need friends, and Michael has little to offer his business -- but things take a turn when a passel of Ukrainians storm the cafe, throw some flashbangs, and whisk Michael and Beck away. Michael has time to snap a pic of the extraction team, call Fi, and hide his cell phone somewhere she can find it.

The Ukrainians are working for Chechik, one of the more brutal folks Michael had dealt with. He wants Michael's head on a stick -- after he's extracted all the secrets from it. Because Beck was sitting with Michael, they assume he has something to offer -- so Beck should REALLY stop insisting that the has nothing to do with Michael, that he knows nothing, that he never met he guy before today... Fortunately, Michael is able to talk them out of shooting Beck, and later engineers an escape into the Everglades. Beck is less grateful about this than you'd imagine -- he carps and complains as he and Michael run for their lives.

Some clever maneuvering on Michael's part means they're able to elude the search team, and the even take out the team leader. That brings Chechik out -- and he brings a whole bunch of reinforcements. Beck decides to try negotiating, but Chechik's men shoot him. Michael drags him away, but things don't look good. He asks Beck to trust him, and Beck doesn't answer. So when Chechik's men find Beck left out in the wilderness, it's possible Michael abandoned him.

Hah! Like Michael would do that. Beck is just a diversion, allowing Michael to prepare. This involves trip wires, bullets and a big shiny knife. Upshot: Michael lures Chechik and his men into a trap, then rises out of the water to hold the knife to Chechik's throat. Go, Michael!

While Michael's been playing in the woods, his loved ones have been trying to catch up. Sam and Fi visit Strickler, who identifies the heavy on Michael's phone as one of Chechik's men. And, since war criminals don't tend to fly commercial, he also points them to the pilot who brought Chechik into Florida. Fi exercises her grasp of subtlety by flirtatiously sauntering up to the drunk, armed pilot, then grabbing the gun tucked in his waistband and threatening his manhood. Subtle, indeed!

Since Maddy is no longer oblivious to the dangers Michael faces, she demands updates. When Sam and Fi snag the pilot, she demands that they bring him to her place. The pilot won't talk -- he's more afraid of Chechik than of anything else -- so while Sam and Fi argue over how to extract the intel they need, Maddy wanders out to the garage and  convinces him with kindness. Well, that and intimations about how brutal and deadly Sam and Fi will be. That gives Sam and Fi the location, and they head off into the swamp. they arrive just in time to save Beck form Chechik's goons.

Beck's men arrive to help round up the Ukrainians, and Beck gets to do a little blustering. You called me nobody, but the funny thing is, I work very closely with a lot of people who boss around your bosses. They will NOT be happy about this. Chechik tries to buy his silence, but Beck is unwilling to deal. Beck admits that yes, Michael is a good friend to have. It looks like Strickler won't experience the benefits of Michael's friendship -- Michael turns down the payment Strickler negotiated among Chechik's enemies for taking him out. Michael may be a bad-ass, but he's not a mercenary.

Highlights, thoughts and odds and ends
  • Fi and Michael train with each other -- which means Fi has an excuse to physically vent her frustrations on the man who is frustrating her. After a boot to the head and a particularly tough gut kick, Michael is rethinking the workout arrangements.
  • Strickler is all about the upside of any situation -- "The enemy of your enemy is your financial opportunity." He also manages to outflank Michael at their first meeting.
  • Strickler works at sucking up to those around Michael -- he sends new curtains to Maddy, who wonders why no one else has given her a house rewarming present -- not even the guy who blew it up. "Maddy, I thought we were over that," Sam sighs. "Forgiveness is a process," she replies. "Pick me up some curtain rods and maybe..."
  • After Michael is nabbed, Sam tells Fi they need to visit Strickler -- he may have info, and "it will give us a chance to kick his teeth in." "Well, I'm wearing my teeth-kicking heels," Fi replies. I be she really has a pair of those.
  • Poor Beck -- life at the top of a global criminal services organization doesn't prepare you for being hunted for sport in the swamp. Still, he needed to stop mouthing off to Michael.
  • Maddy is a force to be reckoned with -- and Sharon Gless knocks it out of the park. Maddy insists that Sam and Fi call her when they find anything about Michael. "Sam! Let me remind you that you're staying in my guest room. You call me, or god as my witness, I will smother you in your sleep " And her interrogation? Brilliant.
  • I loved watching Michael fleeing through the swamp. Every motion was economical, contained, flowing, not showy. He conserved his energy, but was completely the master of his own body. Plus, he spent much of the time coming in and out of the water, which is always a good thing. Yowza. 
  • Thus far this season, Michael has collected the friendship of an annoying cop, a crypto genius, and an arms smuggler. This should get interesting...

Spy tips from Michael
  • Treat meeting a new operative like a blind date -- arrive early, have an exit strategy, and be prepared for an ugly surprise. Huh. I'd have thought he'd have snuck something in there about carrying protection, too.
  • Flash-bang grenades temporarily incapacitate your sight and hearing. But if you've got Michael-level skills, you can still snag a perfectly-framed photo with your camera phone.
  • In a hostage situation, it's best not to tell your captors how useless you are. They're liable to treat you as dead weight -- literally.
  • After an adrenaline-fueled operation, even the most hardened killer needs a nap
  • "Military units are a lot like marching bands -- take out the guy conducting the operation and you'll throw everything out of sync. Pretty soon, all you'll have left is sound and fury."
  • To a spy, there's no shame in retreat. It's just an opportunity to get to  a position where you can turn the odds to your favor.

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