Burn Notice: “Question & Answer”
B+

Burn Notice: “Question & Answer”

Judging by tonight’s Burn Notice episode “Question & Answer,” creator Matt Nix and company spent some time during the hiatus making a list of all the lingering questions the show’s fans have had about some of Burn Notice’s plausibility-stretching elements. Like: How exactly do Michael and company keep the lights on and the yogurt bill paid?

We’ve always known that Fiona has an active extracurricular schedule, what with the arms dealing and the fugitive-hunting. This week she tried to cut Michael in on the action—or at least get him to repay her for the countless favors she’s done at his behest. And thus, through a convoluted series of steps, Michael gets involved with recovering the kidnapped son of a bickering couple who work for a diamond wholesaler.

In the annals of Burn Notice villains, I wouldn’t place our kidnapper—a blocky thug named Santora—towards the top of the list. (He’s nowhere near as ice-cold as Brennan, played by Jay Karnes, who returns next week.) Santora is far too gullible, to the extent that I was running a little cold on “Question & Answer” at times. In order to figure out where Santora’s stashed the kidnapee, Michael and Sam run a scam called “reverse interrogation,” which involves Michael pretending to be a drug addict who knows about the kidnapping and Sam pretending to be a rogue cop who brings Santora into the Q&A session. The idea is that in asking Michael what he knows, Santora will reveal what he knows. Only I never really bought Sam or Michael’s acts—they were too twitchy and too direct—and the fact that Santora did buy it made him seem less than formidable.

That said, the episode’s A-story did build to a cool climax, which had Sam pretending to go along with Santora’s plan to kill Michael, all the while trusting that Michael’s skillz would be enough for him to escape, disarm and subdue a hothead with a gun. And the rest of the big plan played out beautifully: Thanks to Fiona snapping a cell phone picture of one of Santora’s men and sending it to her partners, Sam and Michael were able to convince Santora that one of his men had turned on him. And thanks to henchmen’s predictable habit of watching TV when they should be watching their prisoner, Michael was able to free the kidnapee with no trouble. And thanks to Sam firing a gun outside the kidnap-house, Santora and his two armed goons were tricked into panicking and shooting each other. This is why “it’s always best to have business arguments unarmed,” Michael notes.

And though Santora wasn’t a great foe, “Question & Answer” was loaded with great Michael-tips. For example, did you know that a lot of the art of tailing somebody is knowing when to stop tailing them? Also, if you want to find out if a guy you’re meeting is being watched by the cops, you should beat him a little, and see if the authorities come rushing out of the bushes. And if you want to know if you’re being watched by the cops, you should keep an eye out for curious kids.

As it happens, Michael was being watched by the cops tonight, as part of the episode's B-story—and what appears to be this season’s master-plot. Another of those lingering Burn Notice plausibility questions has had to do with how Michael keeps blowing up cars and buildings in Miami without drawing the attention of the local law. In Season Two’s finale, Management’s top manager Martin Crane explained that his organization had been cleaning up after Michael all this time. With Management out of the picture, Michael is now being watched closely by Detective Paxson (“Michael’s Worst Nightmare,” played by Moon Bloodgood), who waits for him outside one his storage facilities to see if he’s going to unload any illegal explosives any time soon.

At the end of “Question & Answer,” Michael uses a water saw to cut a back door in his storage unit and get his equipment out. But while this keeps Michael on the right side of the law, in a way it’s a direct slap in the face of Paxson, who comes snarling around Michael’s place, promising to stay on his heels. “Was that flirty, or does she hate you?” Fiona asks. It’s going to be fun finding out the answer to that.

Grade: B+

Stray observations:

-Oh no! Stadium Vote Delayed!

-Sam is dating a girl who can rebuild an engine. “Put a sturdy tool in her hand…”

-I liked how Sam snorts lactose to convince Santora he’s a bad cop the first time they meet, and then later, when Santora storms back into the warehouse, Sam’s snorting lactose again. Gotta stay in character if you’re going to sell the lie.

-Fiona has a foolproof relaxation technique. Picture a quiet forest, with a beautiful stream. Now picture yourself drowning the kidnapper in the stream.

-Fiona blames Michael for his C4-storage problems, saying that he should have been making bigger explosions all this time. “C4 is meant to be used, not stored.”

-Madeline is so unused to cooking that she forgets to use potholders.

-Beer! A five-pack!

-Does the cast ever get sick of yogurt? If I get to interview Jeffrey Donovan—which I’m hoping to do this summer—that’s the first question I’ll ask.

-A Michael-tip noted without comment: Torture’s no good for getting information because “if you torture somebody, they’ll tell you anything to make it stop.”

-“Uh, there’s someone going there right now….”

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