Burn Notice

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Into the Woods

At the loft, things are starting out violently: Fi is beating the crap out of someone. Actually, it's something: a big boxing pad Michael's holding for her. As she gives it the business, Michael VOs, "There are advantages to training with someone you're close to. Knowing each other's moves makes training more effective." How did Michael not see that roundhouse kick coming, then? The one that goes clear over the pad and connects with his face instead? "But being involved in each other's personal lives can make training a lot more painful," the VO understates. "Oops," Fi says unrepentantly to the cartoon birdies now circling above Michael's head. Michael thinks this is her way of expressing her frustration with his attempts to get Back In, and she unconvincingly claims to be fine with it, while more convincingly continuing to beat the stuffing out of the pad. Hearing the gate creak outside, Michael calls her off, drops the now stuffing-less pad on the floor, and goes out to investigate.

There's no one there, but someone has left a thoughtful present at the bottom of the stairs: a big gift basket of yogurt. "Wow, that's, like, two days' worth of yogurt," Michael observes. Fi thinks it's either a bomb or from someone who knows the way to his heart. It can't be both? And wouldn't that point directly to Fi? As Michael goes down for a closer look, he speculates that it might be a thank-you gift from a client. "That's the most you've ever been paid for a job," says Fi, who not only steals my line, but has spent the last season and a half driving around in what he got paid for the job he did at the beginning of Season Two. "Pretty soon you'll be able to stop bumming money from me." Michael reads the card: "Frozen Yogurt Cocowalk 10AM," signed, "A Friend." He doesn't let Fi read it, which is not particularly wise, because she's a few steps above him on the staircase and thus could kick him in the face far more easily than she could before. "Good for you. Looks like you're getting Back In," she snots, turning and going back up the stairs. Probably to restuff that pad and then re-beat it stuffingless.

"Meeting a new operative is a lot like going on a blind date," Michael VOs as he walks up to an outdoor balcony café. "You're bound to be nervous the first couple of times you do it. But live through a few and you get to be an expert." Yes, we remember your first meeting with Victor, too. As he takes a seat to scope out the scene below, the VO continues, "You should arrive early, prepare an exit strategy, and know you could be in for an ugly surprise." Right on cue, the guy sitting at the next table with his back to him turns around and compliments him on his choice of surveillance point. Shifting to Michael's table, he drops a minimalist business card in front of him and introduces himself. "Name's Tom Strickler," he says, extending a hand that goes unshook. Michael asks what he does, and Strickler basically says he's an agent. The subtitles freeze on him right then, giving us a good look at his oily smile as they tell us this is "Strickler -- Agent To The Spies." Strickler has clearly been watching the show all along, because he has a pretty good bead on Michael's situation. All he's asking Michael to do is what he does anyway: deal with his enemies. Because apparently, those people have enemies too, and they're willing to pay anyone who gets rid of them. "The enemy of your enemy is your financial opportunity," Strickler says. All he wants is ten percent. In fact, he's working on a deal for Michael right now. He says an "old associate" of Michael's is coming to town, and he figures the smart money is on Michael. "And you're the smart money," Michael guesses. Of course, Strickler doesn't know much more about the returning nemesis, or if he does, he's not sharing. "Some Ukrainian who's very upset about an op you ran in the 90s. I'll let you know more as I get the details." Michael says he's not a killer for hire. His smile not losing one degree of viscosity, Strickler says it might not be that kind of deal, but Michael's still not open to it, even when Strickler says, "This guy's coming one way or another and, uh--" Michael just says, "Tom," and Strickler gets the hint -- but only enough to drop it for now. "We'll talk soon. Unless the Ukrainian cuts your tongue out first, right?" Well, if nothing else, that would leave me a lot fewer voice-overs to transcribe.

Michael comes home to find Fi working her way through Strickler's yogurt. He tells her about the impending Ukrainian invasion and how Strickler fits in: "He's here to profit from any bloodshed." Michael says that just knowing a Ukrainian is after him doesn't really narrow things down, so Fi tells him about a guy she knows named Beck who does a lot of work for certain members of that community. "If there's a Ukrainian in town, he'll be able to fill you in." Apparently he's a big-time cargo hijacker now. "Like FedEx for the Kalashnikov set," Fi explains. What a terrible analogy. "He's about as connected as a Miami hustler who doesn't speak Russian can get." Michael asks her to set him up, but she thinks that's a bad idea. "I may have intercepted a couple of his shipments once," she admits. "Sparkling new P-90s," she moons. Michael's retroactively irritated that she's already alienated a possible contact. But she can at least direct him to his favorite hangout. Which is the same as a home address, on this show.

Just then Michael gets a call from Sam, who's at Madeline's house. Apparently she just got some curtains delivered, sent to her by none other than Tom Strickland, and Sam's wondering what's going on. Madeline just loves her curtains, because they're as garish as she is. Michael explains Strickler's proposal for the second time, and Sam already knows how it would end: "Strickler cuts you a check and you're one step closer to being a mercenary." Michael says he's going about addressing the Ukrainian problem in his own way, and asks Sam to look into Strickler. Sam agrees and hangs up, just in time to have Madeline come over to him waving her new drapes, which she is already busy infusing with the homey smell of incinerated tobacco. "Nobody else gave me a house-rewarming present," she guilt-trips. "Not even the guy who blew up my house." Which is her way of demanding curtain rods. Sam says he's on that, too. Let's hope Strickler does a lot of shopping at Bed, Bath & Beyond so Sam can keep his mileage to a minimum.

As Michael enters a restaurant, he VOs, "The cold approach is something you want to avoid in intelligence work. You want to ease into a relationship over time. When that's impossible, you just have to turn on the charm and hope for the best." With that, Michael approaches Fi's victim, John Beck, a large black man in a white suit sitting alone at a table. Smiling in his most friendly, charming way, Michael sits down and says he hears Beck is a guy with connections. "That's what they say," Beck agrees, not smiling at all. "Beck -- Guy With Connections," confirm the subtitles. Don't go too far out on a limb, there. But he's not seeing why he should help Michael. "I'm a good friend to have," Michael understates. Yes, he can deal with anyone, solve any problem, and he does it all for free. I need friends like that. But Beck is not impressed. "I don't have friends," he says. "I'm a businessman. I got rivals, I got associates, I even got a few enemies. But friends? Sorry, that's not how I roll." He shuts out Michael and his request for information on a possible pissed-off Ukrainian, and goes back to his newspaper, From the other side of it, Michael mentions some the recent hijacks that Beck has been suffering, offering to "make sure that kind of thing stops." Way to roll over on your girlfriend, there, Michael. Unfortunately, that just pisses Beck off more. While he's threatening Michael with a face-shooting if he doesn't leave, a couple of large vehicles are screeching to a halt right outside. One's a black SUV, the other a gunmetal

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Burn Notice

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