First, sorry for the lateness of this recap. We lost power last night for a couple hours, and I didn't get a chance to buy the episode on iTunes till today.
But hey, pretty solid episode, eh? We finally get something like closure on the Gilroy situation, Fi gets a chance to go out into the big scary world on her own (mostly), and we get a guest spot from Carlos Bernard, aka Tony Almeida, aka Gabriel, aka a guy with a hair cut so bad I'm half-convinced he's concealing a weapon in there. There was some melodrama, lots of fire, and 'splosions, and some excellent helpful spy tips. Best of all, the episode was consistently gripping from beginning to end. Sometimes the melo- got a little heavy, but at least all of "Good Intentions" seemed to exist in the same familiar world. No random assortment of scenes held together by Jeffrey Donovan's drawl this week!
I don't think I'm saying anything hugely controversial by opining that Gabrielle Anwar is not the world's greatest actress. She isn't terrible, but there's a gawky honesty to her work that can occasionally feel histrionic, or campy. Which is one of the reasons why I always enjoy her so much on Burn Notice. Actors don't have to be great to be well cast, and Anwar's weird intensity fits Fiona to a tee. I suspect a "better" actress, when dealing with Gabriel, wouldn't have brought the same level of rawness that Anwar readily provides. Because the conflict here is so straightforwardly manipulative that it really shouldn't work. First you meet Coleman, Fi's "Harmless Weasel" contact, so already you're thinking this Gabriel guy is a major creep. Then Fi meets Gabriel, realizes he's a kidnapper, and has to endure a series of tests to prove her worth to him, and her trustworthiness. So Gabriel looks like another in a long line of obsessive, ostensibly paranoid scumbags who are still more than willing to hire one of our heroes.
Ah! But then comes the final reveal: Gabriel isn't doing this for money, but to bring to justice the chemical company that essentially murdered his beloved daughter. So, cue the violin music, the tears, the moral complexities of knowing who to fight for, etc. Now, I'll give the script credit for giving Fi a case that's a little more emotionally demanding than the usual "Him evil, ruin his day" we get on the show, but the buttons here are very obviously being pushed. We even get a tearful discussion of Fi's own lost sister, Claire, killed by an English soldier. I'm not a hugely cynical person, but I get annoyed when I feel like someone's jerking my chain too blatantly. Fi's big speech about "Bread pudding" really came close to crossing that line.
And yet it didn't, and I think that has a lot to do with Anwar. Neither she nor Bernard ever have an ounce of irony in their work (which is why Bernad did so well on 24), so while their grief-fest wasn't perfect, it at least felt sincere through-out. That pudding monologue, if you listen to the actual words, was mediocre and clunky, but I'll be damned if she didn't believe in it, so I couldn't stop from being a little invested myself. The whole case was exciting to watch, because it always seemed very close to slipping out of control, and the emotional weight added to that vibe. The climax worked well too, with Fi struggling to save someone who didn't want to be saved in the midst of an exploding inferno. The denouement, where Sam informs us that the kidnap victim is going to inform on his bosses, was too tacked on and convenient, but after the satisfying conclusion that preceded it, I didn't mind. (And hey, good Maddy joke!)
Speaking of conclusions, so long Gilroy. I didn't see his death coming, but I wasn't hugely surprised by it. I like the set-up here, I liked the chores Michael had to run before the plane re-route, and I liked the abruptness of the ending. That's another thing that a big, multi-episode plot can provide: a building sense of doom. This is all most likely set up for the show's next season (I have a few guesses about "Simon"'s identity, and I can't imagine them revealing a new Big Bad in the finale, only to have it completely resolved before next year), but it's exciting, and I'm looking forward to finding out how Michael deals with someone who was vicious enough to do with Michael himself could not.
- Lots of great narration this week. My favorite: "The hardest thing to do when an operation goes bad is nothing at all."
- I'm not sure I buy that Michael would be willing to ditch Fi for Gilroy, even with Sam's permission. It was one of the few moments in the episode that rang false to me; I understood the necessity from a script point of view, and it's not completely ridiculous that he'd be used to multi-tasking, but it just seemed off.
- Sam's lawn-care specialist was cute. I can't tell if Burn Notice is getting more lax about the "realism" of characters' fake identities, or if I'm just noticing it more because I'm watching the show for review.
- Maddy: "I brought chicken soup for Fi. Don't worry, I didn't make it."
- Michael: "It's a long story." Maddy: "Whatever."