Michael meets up with Gilroy to learn about the gig they're going to be pulling together. Mostly he learns that for a preliminary robbery, Gilroy wants him to work with a very tall thief who goes by the name Claude.
He also learns that Madeline is being honored with a crime-stoppers award, primarily for calling in Michael's car thefts for him, and she expects him to be there. Which will be awkward for Michael, being in a room full of cops and all, plus he's got that thing for Gilroy when it's supposed to be happening. Drat the luck.
And then there's the job of the week. Sugar, the drug dealer Michael chased out of the apartment below him way back in the pilot, wants Michael's help getting his cousin un-mixed up with a dangerous local heist crew. Sugar thinks Michael's all about shooting people (which is understandable given their last interaction), so it's not surprising when he gets himself shot and put out of the picture. Suddenly Michael's a lot more motivated to sabotage the job and take the crew down. The team figures it's for an art heist next week, only to learn that the bad guys are planning to rob an armored car, like, right now. Michael and the team not only foil the robbery and get the bad guys nabbed but save Sugar's cousin. Sugar then gives a grateful speech about the importance of family.
Duly guilted, Michael then makes time to both sabotage the heist with Claude and show up for Madeline's award ceremony, which they both bail on. And then Michael learns from Gilroy that Claude is dead, and Michael's on his own for the job they were supposed to pull together. Which I guess is what Michael wanted, sort of.
"It's never fun to be the guy who clears a location for a meet," Michael voice-overs, even though Sam is certainly dressed for fun in his standard Tommy Bahama drag, watching a Miami street go by from a sidewalk table. "In the best case, you waste your time looking for dangers that aren't there. In the worst case, of course, you miss something." Which is as close as we're going to get to a theme tonight. Michael joins Sam, who tells him "your buddy" (meaning Gilroy) entered the restaurant across the street alone ten minutes ago. Michael thinks he's pretty safe at such a nice place, but Sam seems to think the menu is pretty dangerous. "Foie gras? Lappin?" "Lapin," Michael corrects. "Whatever, it's still French for bunny rabbit," Sam scoffs. He wonders if there's a way to bring Gilroy down without working with him, but Michael's already committed to this course. "Whatever he is planning, the only way to stop it is to be right in the middle of it." And he sounds so upset about that, too. As he gets up and crosses the street, shrugging into his suit jacket, Sam wishes him bon appétit. "That's French for watch your back, amigo." Really? It is? I'm going to have to start paying more attention to the magazine that says that on the front and comes to my house every month. Maybe someone's sending me a warning...or a threat.
But enough of my problems. "Even routine meetings can be risky if you're sitting down with someone you don't trust," Michael VOs as he enters the restaurant, which doesn't look as packed as his earlier talk about reservations might have indicated. "You have to be alert to any subtle clue that tells you what you're walking into." There's Gilroy, with a martini and last week's subtitles that still read, "Gilroy -- Freelance Psychopath." So our first subtle clue is that the subtitles are still coasting. The VO goes on, "Are they armed? Did they bring backup? Of course there are also not-so-subtle clues. Like a third place setting at a lunch for two." As Michael sits down, Gilroy explains that "Claude" is coming. "Wonderful chap. Excellent conversationalist. Has great fashion sense. And he's the best thief in the Western Hemisphere. Useful skill in this phase of our little project." About which we of course aren't learning anything else yet. That kind of thing used to make me curious, like there was some big picture behind the glimpses Michael gets, but I think at this point it's clear that the main reason Michael never finds out more is because the writers haven't thought of it yet. For some reason, Michael tells Gilroy that he prefers to work alone. "Working with someone you don't know is stupid and dangerous," he pronounces as though he's treating Gilroy to a VO right there. Gilroy insists Michael "learn the value of teamwork." Instead, Michael gets up to go, only to find himself face-to-collarbone with Claude. Gilroy makes the introductions, and Claude growls, "So this is your local boy" in an Australian accent. Michael decides to sit back down, presumably because Claude is so damn charming, and while Gilroy gets all fey with the wine list, Michael and Claude glare at each other. "Claude -- Michael's New Teammate," reads the subtitle. Well, Claude can't get along with Sam and Fi any worse than they do with each other.
Speaking of Fi, she's looking kind of washed out (spray-tan accident, I assume) as she perches on Michael's stairs doing her nails, while Michael busies himself with the Charger. He exposits that the job he'll be doing with Claude is to steal a file from the Chilean consulate. "Invading foreign territory and stealing documents with someone you've never met. Sounds great!" Fi says. Michael says it's not going to happen -- he plans to take Claude out somehow. He asks Fi to see what she can find out about Claude, and while she agrees, she asks how far he's willing to go. "As far as I have to," he non-answers. Which I'm sure he thinks makes him sound determined, but given how little all this really has to do with him, he just comes off overinvested. She's just making a retort when they're interrupted by the sound of loud hip-hop music and a shiny red sports car pulling into the courtyard. Out gets Sugar, the drug dealer Michael ran off back in the pilot, now sporting a fresh and nasty shiner. Michael quietly gets his gun out of the Charger's gun box, keeping it out of sight as he gets out to meet Sugar. "You remember Sugar, the drug dealer who used to live beneath my place?" Michael reminds Fi and all the new viewers. "The man you shot in the leg," Fi recalls. "Yeah, your boy capped me, through a wall. Did something with duct tape," Sugar recalls, finally earning the subtitle, "Sugar -- Michael's Old Neighbor." Michael's not exactly welcoming, but Sugar says he came to hire Michael, and reaches for something in his pants. Michael's gun is out, up, and in Sugar's face in half a second. "In covert ops, you get used to seeing old enemies," he VOs. As Sugar pulls out a wad of cash instead of a gun of his own, Michael says, "Sometimes they're looking for intelligence. Sometimes they're looking for revenge." Sugar asks if Michael's going to shoot him again, which he's cool with if it helps his cousin. "And sometimes, they're looking for a friend," the VO ends as Michael lowers the gun. And then Sugar shoots him. Well, no, but it would serve him right, the big softie.
Instead, after the credits and the ads, Sugar is explaining to Michael and Fi that his cousin Dougie has fallen in with some shady types. "Shady?" Michael asks. "Shady like drug dealers?" Sugar indignantly defends his compartmentalization skills, and says that this is a guy named Lynch who pulls big robberies that tend to get people "hurt, or worse." And they need Dougie for something nefarious. "They're not hanging out with him because they think he's cool," Sugar says. By which he means Dougie is "slow." Worse, Dougie thinks the bad guys are his friends, and when Sugar tried to get them to back off, well, hence the shiner. He offers Michael five thousand bucks to help. "I figure we mount up and ride on these jokers," Sugar boasts. Michael thinks that's a bad plan, and suggests Sugar move his cousin out of town instead. Sugar isn't about to do that, after all the work Dougie has put into getting himself established with a job and a place of his own. Disappointed, Sugar says he'll handle this himself. "What happened to the bad-ass that used to live here?" he asks. "If he comes back, give him my number." He throws it on the ground and walks out. You know, that's actually a fair question. The Michael Westen from the pilot is way scarier than the current version. These days he needs some pretty serious inducement to shoot anyone at all. Fi second-guesses Michael (because that what Fi does) until his cell phone rings. It's Madeline, and Michael goes rushing off to help with whatever she needs. She couldn't have had that much time to say anything, not even, "No, really, Michael, I won't pull the football away this time." So I figure Michael's just eager to get away from Fi.
Sitting at Madeline's dining room table reading a letter on official stationery, Michael incredulously asks his mom, "You're getting the Take a Bite out of Crime Award?" Funny, I always scan the opening credits to see who's guest-starring, and I don't recall seeing McGruff the Crime Dog's name in there. She says the award is for citizen crime-stoppers. When Michael wonders how this happened, she reminds him that she's the neighborhood watch captain. "And it didn't hurt that I called in three stolen cars in the last two months." "You mean the cars I asked you to call in?" Michael asks. "The ones I stole?" Madeline wants him to dress up for the reception, since the chief of police will be there. Which Michael is not nearly as excited about as she is. "Mom!" he protests. "I can't be in a room full of cops giving you an award for reporting crimes I committed!" Madeline doesn't care about that nearly as much as the thought of being the only award recipient there without any family present. "It' s not like I can ask Nate to fly in from Vegas. Noon on Saturday." Bet he wishes he'd hung around to get browbeaten by Fi instead. Sam comes in to borrow a cup of sugar. "Sam nominated me!" Madeline says proudly. Sam clarifies that he actually just signed the paper Madeline had already filled out. He also asks if Fi's looking into Claude, because Sam's coming up empty so far. After Sam leaves, Michael manages a brave smile for his mom.
That night, Michael lets himself into his loft to find Fi lounging on his bed, reading a magazine. Or at least looking at the pictures. He asks what she found out about Claude, and she makes a big show of being distracted by the plight of Sugar and his cousin. They eye-roll and sigh exasperatedly at each other until Fi gives in, and reports that Claude is actually a former Australian secret agent named Tomas Smalling. "You say Sugar's not your problem?" she asks on her way out. "Did you ever stop and think Gilroy's not your problem either?" Yeah, it sounds like Australian S.I.S is on the case. Score! Leave it to them, Michael, and start acting like the title of your show means something.
Next morning, Michael has apparently given in and agreed to meet Sugar somewhere by the beach. They both get out of their respective cars and Sugar goes in for a