Burn Notice

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M. Giant: A- | Grade It Now!
Up Michael's Alley
l VOs. "All the conversations in the world won't have the same impact as turning off the right light at the right time." Which must be why Michael is at the country club, dressed like a maintenance man and opening up a circuit box in broad daylight. "If you want to kill a street light without the mess and inconvenience of breaking into the pole with a cutting torch, you need to access the circuit breaker." Michael does just this, inserting a cell phone inside the box and hooking it up. "Connect lines from the breakers to an exposed cell phone wire, and with a quick call, you can short the circuits." Why, that sounds almost too easy! I think I'll go try it now. Oops, I am dead. The end.

Okay, not really. At the same time, Fi is out in the parking lot in her own undercover outfit of tennis whites, as Michael explains, "A similar trick can be used to temporarily disable a car. It doesn't take much to trip a few electronic safety mechanisms and make a vehicle impossible to start." But if you're wearing white, be sure to throw down a yoga mat before sprawling down on the pavement like Fi does. Sam is also on the premises, in a de-branded Ford megavan and brandishing some kind of device with four antennas sticking out of the end. Michael tells us what that is: "If you want to make sure you're the only one making calls, a hundred-dollar cell phone jammer will block all calls within a one-block radius." Michael meets up with Fi in the parking lot, as she complains about not being able to wire the car to explode. Michael says April would be the prime suspect in Erik's death. Is that really April's MO? "We need him running, not bleeding," Michael reminds her. By now they've reached the back of the van, which Sam throws open from inside. "We've got firearms and we've got snacks," he says by way of inviting them in. Sounds like a party.

Apparently they hang out there for the rest of the day, even changing their clothes at one point, because they're all dressed in dark colors by the time we've rejoined them after sunset. "When you want to create fear, it's best to keep it simple," Michael VOs. They're watching Erik walk out of his building to the abandoned parking lot now. "The same things people are afraid of as kids [Michael hits a button on the cell phone in his hand, and a rank of streetlights goes out behind Erik] scare them as adults." Erik walks on, slightly more unnerved when the streetlights directly above him go out next. "Fear of the dark, for example." He gets into his car, and Michael hits the button again, killing Erik's dome light and deactivating the starter. Erik gets out of his car to dial his cell phone, but Sam's ready with the jammer. "Fear of being alone," Michael VOs as Erik fails to get a signal. "And above all," the VO concludes as Fi readies a BFG, "fear of the unknown." Something wrong with fear of getting shot? Sam revs the engine and triggers an entire deer-blinding light package, then pulls out as Fi fires bursts of live ammunition out the window. Erik sprints for the cover of the building, pursued by ricochets off the pavement, and dives back inside. While Fi goes out to "collect the toys," Michael gets a call from Erik, which he answers as Pete. They agree that they have to talk, now that they're both being pursued by the worst drive-by killers in history. I'm not sure how many of those things we just saw count as separate, individual things that the police can't do, so I'm just going to round it up to a dozen.

Next day, Michael meets Erik at a seaside restaurant, and gets to listen to the end of a call haranguing his lawyer about getting the kids from April. You know, just in case we forget what Michael is doing this for. Of course Michael is feigning disinterest in the whole thing, as much as he might want to feed Erik his cell phone right now. "You have my money?" Michael asks as soon as Erik hangs up. Erik doesn't, and says they came after him too. However, his plan is not to refund "Pete's" money as requested, but team up with him to find out who's after them. Michael insists that they run, but Erik's not budging. "You'll get your money when we figure out the problem." Michael is completely disgusted and frustrated by this idiot, which is good, because once again, he gets to use his real emotions as part of his cover.

After the meeting, Michael calls Sam to let him know what Erik wants to do. "I guess we're gonna have to make him regret that decision," Sam says, pulling a bag of groceries and a six-pack of new product-placed beer (not his usual brand) out of the trunk of his Buick in Madeline's driveway. Michael back-burners Erik for the moment and brings up the B-plot involving Garza. Sam's on that: a friend of his who works at the phone company plans to park his cherry-picker in front of Garza's hangar and take a two-hour lunch. "That's all I need," Michael says as he hangs up. Sam says the same to his product-placed six-pack.

We then meet up with Michael, perched high in a phone company bucket truck, watching unnoticed in sunglasses and hardhat as Garza leaves his hangar for lunch. Good thing Garza isn't eating in today. Michael VOs, "With today's powerful encryption, it's usually a waste of time trying to decipher encoded communication. Tap the data stream of even a low-level spy, and you're just going to get incomprehensible garbage." With the coast clear, Michael lowers himself to the ground and goes to his second outdoor junction box of the hour. "Just because it's garbage, doesn't mean it's worthless, though," he VO continues. He picks the lock on the access panel, and pulls out a device about the size of a portable DVD player. In fact, I suspect that's what it actually is. His VO tells us, "A network analyzer can tell you how much information someone's accessing and how encoded it is." He hooks up the DVD player to the guts of the panel, except it turns out to have a keyboard when he opens it up. I shouldn't have underestimated the prop department. "If someone starts using heavy-duty crypto and changing their security protocol, you know you've touched a nerve," Michael's VO concludes. "And sometimes, that's enough to tell you what you need to know." Or, alternatively, end up with that spy pointing a gun at you. Which may actually mean the same thing.

His work done here, Michael gets a call on his Pete-phone from Erik, who's freaking out because he thinks the bad guys are there right now. Michael looks around like, "No, I'm not." But Erik has seen the same old, dark-blue box-mobile drive by three times. Michael tells him to stay put until he gets there, and dials his mom's house as he gets into Fi's Saab. Yep, Joey took Madeline's car. "Let's hope that's all he took," Michael says darkly. Why? He can't be worried that the kid took Madeline's cigarettes. He wouldn't be able to carry them all.

After racing over to the country club, Michael pulls in behind his mom's car, which has been parallel-parked rather sloppily and had an open box of shotgun shells left on the seat, which is even sloppier. Looking around, Michael sees a small figure in the nearby trees leveling a shotgun. He hurries into the woods. Erik, meanwhile, has started wandering around in the parking lot with a handgun of his own, which, honestly, is never not a good idea, right? He's totally oblivious to what's going on in the trees bordering the parking lot, which is that Michael comes up behind Joey, telling him to put down the gun. Instead, Joey points it at Michael, saying he's made things worse. Michael says it only seems that way because the plan is working. Michael should probably get in the habit of warning people that's going to happen, if only to avoid situations like his clients pointing guns at him. Joey says his father made him promise to protect the family before he died, and Michael says this isn't what he meant. "You didn't know my father!" Joey snaps. "He used to make me kill people all the time!" Okay, not really. Michael mildly agrees, "No, but I know that shotgun." For one thing, it's loaded with birdshot. Then there's the plug in the barrel, which, when Joey goes to look at it, a

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Burn Notice




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