Burn Notice Recap 3.5 “Signals and Codes”

burnNoticeSeason3Welcome back, my fellow burned spies and trigger happy ex-girlfriends. Did you miss me? I missed you! This week, Michael and Sam sit in Mike’s car while they watch planes take off and land. Wow, that sounds like a blast! Michael’s voice-over complains about how all of his former confidants and handlers don’t take his calls anymore since he was burned. They won’t even follow him on Twitter. How sad. The goal of all this flight watching is to track down an agent that can’t avoid him. Sam and Mike, after an entertaining montage of stake out, finally track down a covert-ops supply plane. They’ve been in that car for a while, and I bet they smell.

Back at his loft, hopefully after a shower, Michael is taking an exacto-knife to a fake ID of some kind when Fi storms in, dressed in a bikini and a negligee. Apparently, she’s dressed for dinner. Hmm. Miami’s dress code IS very different. Our fake Id for this week: Dwayne Winger. Hah. Winger…planes. Get it? Fi seems still upset that Mike continues to pick his job over her, but he’s still concerned about the threat from Frasier’s dad last season: ‘Hell will rain down on you without an umbrella.’So far, hell hath no fury like Fiona scorned, so I’d put my money on her.

Back at the airport, ‘Mr Winger’inquires after his mystery plane with a southern accent stolen straight from Val Kilmer in Tombstone, and flirts shamelessly with the desk jockey. He’s hoping to score the records for the plane. The receptionist is sufficiently charmed and hands over the details. While Michael runs off to photocopy the info, Dwayne Winger is paged to return to reception. Poor Linda, the receptionist, is getting grilled by her manager over handing over the files, which are ‘red flagged.’Michael, cornered in the photocopy room, grabs some extension cords, and slithers out the window to the ground below, file in hand.

Michael and Sam are at the shooting range having a conversation, despite the noise and ear protection. Michael needs info from Barry, who’s demanding a surcharge, since the info requires Barry visiting his mother. Michael agrees. As they pull in their paper targets, I laugh like a fool. My nomination for quote of the night is more of a visual gag, but still qualifies. Sam’s paper target has a perfect design, in bullet holes, of a martini glass. ‘See the olive?’While they exit the firing range, a random passerby named Spencer (played by Michael Weston, my favorite character actor, and conveniently named for this show) tackles Michael WestEn and babbles about seeing his gun. Mike pins him to the ground. It appears Spencer knows he’s a secret agent of some kind. Spencer “Rain-Mans” a bit about tracking a pattern down and finding, someone who can help him. Spencer is clearly a bit troubled, very smart, and willing to scream to the heavens that Mike is a secret operative unless he lets Spencer tag along.

Michael, Sam, and Spencer sit and have drinks, which seems to have mellowed Spencer out a bit. He’s still crazy enough, though, to accuse a former boss of murder. He even goes so far as to predict the next murder in Malaysia. Spencer seems super-paranoid, as he recounts using his friend’s computer to snoop around the company, only to have his friend blow up in a freak gas leak accident. Despite his impressive MIT resume, it seems Spencer doesn’t work at the industrial firm he’s accusing of murder (Stone-Kitteredge). Instead, he waters the plants. Is that a real job? Like, in and of itself? Do offices still have real plants and enough natural light to support them? I’d like to work there! Nutzo Spencer gets all the crazier as he obsesses over alien messages he has received on beams of light and decoded. He crosses a bit of a line, and tosses the dining table over. Michael and Sam call an ambulance for Spencer and use his crazy as cover for thinking Mike’s a spy. It would appear that poor Spencer has been in and out of the psych ward for several years. Michael’s a little worried that Spencer was able to track him down, and stares expressionlessly for emphasis.

Barry’s chilling poolside when Michael wanders up, offended that Barry’s summoning text message didn’t contain a smiley face. I wonder if Michael was REALLY hoping for a winky smile. That would explain his taste in girls built like 14 year old boys. Anyways, Barry is still upset about having to travel North to get Mike’s info, since Barry’s mom is still upset he dropped out of podiatry school. Barry hands over the info on the plane. North Andes Distribution, an import-export shop, seems to have a legitimate tie to the shell corporation that owns the plane, a lucky break for Michael.

Michael’s not feeling so lucky when he heads home and finds Fiona, Sam, and Spencer on his steps. Spencer hacked the DMV and found Michael thanks to a parking ticket. Spencer escaped from the hospital to track down Michael since ‘you were just testing me.’Ok, Spencer of course gets a quote nomination, with an assist from Sam. ‘We shouldn’t be out in the open like this, they’re probably looking for me.’Sam: ‘The aliens?’Spencer: ‘The police. I broke out of a psych ward. Weren’t you listening?’Since Spencer’s proven himself twice now by tracking Michael down, Westen agrees to look at the evidence Spencer has put together against Stone-Kitteredge.

Spencer’s apartment is, unsurprisingly, covered in a million paper clippings. Michael, God bless him, is able to decode Spencer’s crazy into an actual situation. Real life spies, and not aliens, are being outted by an executive at Stone-Kitteredge. Spencer has traced a pattern from a series of murders and accidents to find a common theme. Michael and Sam are sold on his story (or the sane version thereof) when they find a clipping from today’s paper with Spencer’s prediction come true: a diplomat found dead in Malaysia. And, with that, Spencer becomes ‘The Client.’

Sam, Mike, and Spencer sip coffee outside and discuss the situation. In 2007, Stone-Kitteredge got the contract to encrypt communications between American embassies. Someone at Stone-Kitteredge is intercepting the emails and using the information to expose spies. Shannon Park, the vice president Spencer is accusing, wanders out of the building and the subtitles, who apparently believe in Guilty Until Proven Innocent, label her as ‘A Murderer and a Traitor’. But, also, ‘Probably Not an Alien.’The subtitles are snarky tonight. I like it! Michael wants to get access to Shannon’s files to prove she has an unauthorized copy of the encryption algorithm. Spencer doesn’t seem to think that’s possible, since her office is beyond secure. Spencer has inadvertently volunteered himself to break into her computer, since he seems to be the expert and laughs off all their proposals.

Michael and Spencer wander into the office. Mike poses as an IT rep, ‘the perfect cover if you want to linger and not be bothered.’It also gives him an excuse to talk to Shannon, and distract her while Spencer sneaks into her office. Shannon snots at Michael, but leaves enough time for Spencer to finish his work on her computer. Michael, meanwhile, tells her off in style, earning the devoted respect of her clearly put-upon assistant. ‘You’re my hero!’

Mike’s voiceover gives us great advice on how to thwart a tumbler lock. I really hope I never need that advice. While Mike practices his break-in skills, Fiona wanders in and complains more. She is nothing if not persistent. Michael escapes quickly.

Michael wanders into a hanger at the airport and takes charge like he owns the place. The hanger is a nice little front plus headquarters for a profitable import-export business. Michael walks up to a Hispanic gentleman and asks if he’s the manager. ‘No, Mr. Westen. I’m Diego Garza. I’m the spy you’re looking for.’The subtitles concur. Diego, despite his initial cooperation, demands Michael leave him alone. Garza is not keen on associating with a burned spy, given the sweet gig he’s landed stateside. This guy is awesome. ‘Mr. Weston, I don’t like threats. But I love your sunglasses. You have a good one, ok?’

Sam, greased and suited up, poses as a ‘dreaded team-work consultant’and gathers up the employees of Stone-Kitteredge on Shannon’s floor for a quick team-building seminar. Mike and Spencer break into Shannon’s office, while Sam convincingly leads a horribly accurate seminar on the ‘7th Sigma.’Hah! Spencer successfully finds encrypted emails Shannon stole, as well as records of payments after each name was released. Spencer panics as he realizes the encryption algorithm is likely in a vault, and not on her workstation as he suspected. Shannon heads towards her office, despite Sam’s attempts to slow her down. Mike quickly sends himself a copy of all the encrypted emails and tries to escape. Spencer chooses this opportune time to go especially crazy. Michael drags him out, hand over mouth, while Spencer laments: ‘We’re all gonna die.’

It would appear they all survived the adventure, as they park Michael’s car at Spencer’s home. Michael and Fi can’t get a word in edgewise while Spencer goes on and on about the impossibility of decoding the emails. When I say ‘on and on’I mean it. Fi, when Spencer finally takes a breath, patiently explains the actual plan to him while Michael looks exasperated. Of course they can’t decode the emails, so instead they’ll use them to scare her. They’ll convince her that someone’s hunting for the leak. She’ll stop leaking names and cover her tracks. Meanwhile, they’ll sick the FBI after her who will hopefully catch her in the act of covering up and arrest her. I can’t do this hilarious scene justice, but suffice it to say it was a really creative way to handle the plot exposition.

Shannon walks out of her building with a scowl on her face. Michael walks alongside her and claims to be ‘the guy cleaning up your mess.’He knows there’s a leak from her department and the algorithm is compromised. He ups the anty by claiming she only has 2 days until a major Fed investigation will expose it all, ruining her company. Michael even flashes her a printout of an encrypted email. She’s taken aback and agrees to cancel her appointments and accompany him to see some evidence. Michael takes Shannon to a boat in the marina, which he claims was Brad’s (Spencer’s friend who was blown up). On the boat is a folder filled with encrypted emails and notes. Shannon insists on seeing what the notes say. Michael tells her Brad wanted to look at the vault’s access logs to see who could have used the encrypting algorithm. Michael demands to see the logs tomorrow morning. In the meantime, he leaves her with a cell phone she must keep on her at all times. It will also function as a remote-controlled bug, but she doesn’t know that. Sam’s in charge of monitoring Shannon while Michael plans to make ‘friends’with Diego Garza.

A tip to burglars out there: front companies make easy targets. In an attempt to avoid unnecessary attention, they rarely install security lights and alarms. They also rarely call the police to investigate. So…have at it! Michael uses this tidbit of knowledge to break into Garza’s operation and steal a pile of goodies. He even leaves him a nice note.

Fi and Sam argue over the merits of a ‘let the cops take Shannon down’vs. ‘let’s go blow her up.’Guess who’s on what side? Sam intercepts a call from Shannon to a henchman. Said henchman has wired Spencer’s house to blow, since Shannon traced an attempted hack to his house. Fi has to leave the office building unattended to rescue Spencer. Michael, who appears to be mailing some of the contents of Garza’s operation, gets a call from Sam and races to save Spencer. Does no one have Spencer’s number? Maybe he’s too crazy for a cell phone. Fi barrels through Spencer’s gate, shoots his door open, and drags Spencer out of bed. A normal person would freak, Spencer FREAKS. Michael slaps him hard, tosses him over his shoulder, and drags him out just in time to avoid the explosion. If I’m still recapping next season, I’m totally doing an explosion tally. While Mike and Fi did save Spencer from certain death, they left the building wide open for Shannon to slip in and erase the vault logs.

Since that plan failed, Spencer is going to have to help. He’s the only one she has to fear, so he has to pull himself together and appear to be a valid threat, not just a crazy person. He has to talk to her face to face. Spencer is, obviously, not keen on this. Fiona, in yet another example of her infinite patience, plays along with Spencer’s alien mythology and gets his buy-in.

Shannon, back at the marina, meets Michael, who claims to have gotten a call from an employee of hers, Spencer. This version of Spencer is ex-NSA, a ‘heavy hitter.’Michael tells her that Spencer wants to meet, and with Shannon there.

Spencer, in a nice suit, with Fiona (his bodyguard) at his side, approaches Michael and Shannon. He accuses her of selling the identities of spies. He demands $5MM in cash to keep quiet. My favorite part of this scene is that Spencer is barely holding it together. His clipped speech and hurried tone remain. He even slips into alien-talk a bit before Fi saves him. It would’ve been very easy for the actor to play this totally straight, but it’s been done before. I like it when a show does something a little differently. It’s actually believable. Spencer hands Michael encoded emails, with decoded versions of them. Shannon claims the decoded emails are fake, since he doesn’t have the key. Shannon storms off, but Spencer stops her in her tracks by claiming he knows she’s setting up another deal with the Venezuelans. She accepts his offer for the money in exchange for all the intel he’s gathered. Fiona’s impressed with Spencer when he reveals that Venezuela was just a guess based on patterns and an encrypted folder he found. Not bad for crazy.

Michael and Shannon head back to the car, arguing about the stupidity of Shannon’s mess up. Michael tells her he plans to kill Spencer, pin him with a copy of the encryption key and encoded emails, and make it look like he was the leak. Michael insists that Shannon take him to the vault right now and get the key.

Michael and Shannon head into the vault. She hands him the encryption key, and he cuffs her to the vault wall. Michael heads back to Shannon’s office, where Spencer uses the key to decrypt the 1 Gigabyte of state department emails on her computer. He also logs a call to the FBI, outing her as a traitor. ‘And you guys should really call for backup. That crazy is an alien.’Awesome.

Spencer meets Sam, Fi, and Michael at a bar and hands over a newspaper updating us on Shannon’s current state. She copped a plea to testify against the thug who killed Brad. Spencer looks great, and apparently is taking some form of medication. Sam hooked him up with an encryption job, which also came with the pleasant side-effect of medical treatment for the troubled genius. Spencer thanks the crew for listening to him. He confesses to Michael that he feels guilty for not telling anyone about the pattern when he first saw it, but he didn’t have anyone he could trust. Spencer thinks Michael’s lucky to have people like that around him. Michael, just like a guy, barely nods his head in recognition.

Michael wanders in to Garza’s hanger with some stolen goods. Hilariously, Michael has been selling some of his stolen treasures on eBay under the screen name ‘MichaelHeartsDiego.’Who wrote this episode? It’s great! Michael’s hard work has paid off. Garza is assigned to be Michael’s point of contact in Miami. The company is not interested in Michael’s services at this time. Even Michael’s save by closing the security breach at Stone-Kitteredge wasn’t enough to convince them. Michael seems genuinely upset as he leaves. ‘Get to know me. I’m not one of the bad guys.’The company, however, did say they’d review Michael’s file, which is the largest glimmer of hope he’s gotten in 3 years.

Back at Michael’s place, Fiona waits with dinner and asks him about his meeting with Garza. ‘Whatever happens, one of us will be happy I guess.’Fi rightfully points out Michael’s singular vision on getting his job back, but fails to see her own singular vision of Michael NOT getting his job back. Michael wants to save lives, wants back into what he was made to do. ‘If you truly care for me, you should damn well want what I want for myself.’Fi has her ‘point taken’face on, and finally concedes to be with him on what he wants. And look! More tears! This is some kind of record. Next season: Explosion tallies and Fiona crying counts.

Next week: Michael gets hunted. Will there be a predator? Please?

2 Comments

  1. Kristen July 10, 2009
  2. Kristen July 10, 2009

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