Recap – Burn Notice 4.10 “Hard Time”

There are a lot of things I’ve learned from watching Burn Notice: how to make explosives, how to escape a parking garage, how to spyproof my office…and that Garret Dillahunt may be the best actor to play bad on television today. He’s done it on Deadwood, The 4400, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and most recently this show, so I’d been hoping he’d come back as the villainous Simon Escher all season long. Add him to a regular cast without a weak link, and how could this episode not succeed?

As we know, Michael is preparing for his face-to-face with Simon, arranged by Vaughn last week. He can’t possibly prepare enough for dealing with that psychopath. At least Vaughn arranged it at a pretty swanky place (and brought security). Michael goes to meet Simon, who appears to be auditioning for the role of Jesus with his new look. Rather than play nice, Simon decides to tackle Michael through a window instead, but very quickly gives Michael some information about locating an audiotape that he has buried. Obviously, he wants to know who’s after his Bible just as much, or he wouldn’t have bothered. If these are people Simon is concerned with, I’m more than a little bit scared of them.

After that fracas, Michael passes this information on to Fiona and Sam, the latter of whom is not thrilled. He needs their help to find the tape since Vaughn is now watching his every move. Sam, however, has to go to help an old friend named Juan who is now in prison and fearing for his life. Seems he declined the offer to steal money from a gang account, and the guy that offered him the deal has decided to kill him instead of letting that information get out. Sam ditches a gang tail and pitches the case to Michael and Jesse, who point out that prison is a scary, scary place. Michael has an equally scary idea: get himself locked up, using his new FBI ‘friends’Lane and Harris to help him out. Let me just say that in the course of obtaining my Criminal Justice degree, I spent a few hours on a jail tour jail, not prison and I wanted to go home pretty badly by the end of it. I wouldn’t last an hour in prison, so I have all the more admiration for Michael trying to last a week in one. He meets Juan, meets the bad guy Cruz, rolls through some more bad Spanish, and it’s on. Your next lesson is how to defile a ton of hardcover books in order to make instant body armor. Now I have a use for that old set of dictionaries from twenty years ago!

Cruz sends a few guys to Michael and Juan’s cell to start a fight. Predictably, Michael makes short work of them, which only means Cruz is ticked off and going to make an even bigger second attempt: starting a prison riot.

With Michael on the inside, Fiona and Sam are left to dig in the cemetery where Simon’s stashed his tape. By which I mean, Sam’s doing all the digging. However, it’s Fiona who notices the box is booby-trapped. Their job is interrupted by Michael using the FBI’s drop phone to tell them that they need to re-enact Prison Break, and to lean on the corrupt prison guard. Sam and Jesse go to shadow the guy, who’s being blackmailed already by Cruz so blackmailing him again is not an appealing option, but their only option. They coerce him to tell them everything by promising to eliminate his problem.

Fiona and Michael have a nice visit in prison (with her doing an awesome Southern accent). She passes on the information that Sam and Jesse have obtained from the guard, and lays out their rescue plan…before she practically sucks his face off in order to pass him the lockpick he’ll need. Then she recruits Madeline to help her back in the cemetery, where she’s busy playing with chemicals in order to defuse Simon’s booby trap. Inside the box…is another box. Madeline provides an excellent distraction by playing the ‘grieving family member’and reading the groundskeeper the riot act while Fiona loads up the box, and the two women make their getaway. No one on this show can BS better than Sharon Gless.

Back in prison, the escape plan gets a wrench thrown into it when two guards come for Michael and Juan walking them right into Cruz’s clutches. The subsequent fight is ugly, and leaves Juan injured, making him wonder if they can get him out at all. ‘If you’re staying here,’Michael says, ‘then Cruz is gonna have to leave.’He changes the plan, trying to manuever Cruz to the infirmary instead. That’s where he heads himself, whipping up one giant fireball. The moment Cruz and his thugs show up, he greets them with a big bang. Sam and Jesse turn up just in time to help him deal with the fallout, and Michael calls Harris to help set up Cruz in what looks like an attempted breakout. He’s met by a good dozen of his closest friends with badges, and Sam later finds out that Cruz has been dealt with once word of his attempt at stealing money from his own gang was exposed. It’s not pretty, but as they say, all’s well that ends well?

Of course, what we really want to know is what’s going on with that mystery box. I’m pretty sure there’s not tickets to a comedy club in it. But there’s all sorts of other stuff, including high school yearbooks(?) and that audiotape. What’s on the tape? A chat Simon had with Vaughn, in which Vaughn tells Simon that they preferred Michael as his replacement meaning that Vaughn is involved in getting Michael burned in the first place. Simon and Michael meet later, with Simon still impersonating Jesus. Simon tells Michael that the guy who tried to steal his Bible is someone named John Barrett the CEO of an important technology corporation. He tells Michael to take the Bible to Barrett, let him decode it, and let Barrett wipe out Vaughn. He’s even more angry about being burned than Michael, and determined to see Vaughn pay for it.

Unsurprisingly, Michael takes this information to Vaughn, just to see what he’ll say to it. He asks Vaughn what the next move is, and of course it’s complicated. When is anything on this show not complicated?

This is a good, solid episode and I’m not surprised, given that it was written by series EP Alfredo Barrios, Jr. who knows the show probably better than anyone not named Matt Nix. I’m surprised that Michael and Simon didn’t really have it out, but I think that’s more the fan in me that wanted to see a showdown. The information that Simon revealed is interesting, if not entirely surprising, and I am surprised that Michael took it straight to Vaughn. Things on this show just get more and more interesting, and any show that can do that without being too full of itself is doing a great job. It would have been interesting if the show had let Bruce Campbell go and put Sam in prison, but then I suppose the question is what do you do with Michael on the sideline for most of the episode? I didn’t even complain about there not being a lot of Coby Bell this week either. It was just that much fun.

But you know what the most awesome thing is? Robert Patrick is John Barrett. I am not kidding. One of my favorite actors of all time, and probably one of the best character actors of all time, is our next bad guy. He plays bad so deliciously well (see Terminator 2, The Unit, and his guest spot on Chuck) that I know this will be amazing. I absolutely cannot wait. Burn Notice knows how to cast its guest stars, and it knows how to build a story  we’re going to see an amazing final two episodes before the midseason finale. I just know it.

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