Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Burn Notice: "Brotherly Love"

Illustration for article titled Burn Notice: "Brotherly Love"

The episode title should be your first clue that we're in for another visit from Nate, Michael Westen's fuck-up brother. It seems Nate's come to town to help out Jeff and Billy Taylor, his buddies in the custom car business, who have gotten in over their heads in debt and into bed with a local drug dealer. (I know. A drug dealer in Miami? On Burn Notice? Will wonders never cease?) One of their cars, a 1969 GTO has been stolen, and worse yet, it was stuffed with 20 kilos of heroin at the time. This turn of events does not please drug kingpin Rivera, which means it's time for Michael to break out one of his golden oldie cover identities: car thief Johnny Boy, last glimpsed in the season two episode "Hot Spot."

Maybe you don't remember Johnny Boy. Maybe, like me, you'd like to forget him again as soon as possible. Wearing a dark suit and sunglasses, speaking in a hard-boiled staccato rhythm that would have gotten him laughed off the set of Dragnet, the Johnny Boy persona suggests nothing so much as an undercover cop from a '70s porn movie. It may not be the most mockable Westen cover identity of all time, but it easily cracks the top five.

I can't say I was thrilled to see Nate again. It's not that I hate the character or have anything against Seth Peterson's performance; it's just that there are certain tired tropes that go along with his appearances on the show. It's a given that Michael will get exasperated with him three or four times before they part again on the usual "I can't stay mad at you, bro" note, but these episodes also provide a showcase for the most tiresome use of Sharon Gless as Maddie; that is, scolding Nate for getting in trouble again and Michael for putting him in even further danger. Maybe the revelation that Nate has gone the family man route will put an end to this repetitive cycle. I hope so, anyway.

There's not much in the way of useful spy information this week. Michael and Nate do pull off a trick straight out of the Johnny Cash classic "One Piece at a Time" by taking apart the GTO and reassembling it in the yard of the drug dealer's henchman, who stole it in the first place, but if you remember the M*A*S*H episode where Radar mails a jeep home to Iowa, you already had this caper down pat.

Really, the most fun to be had this week was with the B-plot, in which Sam and Jesse travel to the Dominican Republican for the NOC list auction. It turns out they didn't need the bag of money from Marv after all; once they figure out that the list is always in motion (being passed hand-to-hand from a series of motorbikes doing loops around Santo Domingo), it's a simple matter of recruiting—that is, paying off—a number of street corner observers to keep an out for said bikes. For some reason, this portion of the episode reminded me of an Amazing Race task but in a good way. I was expecting this plotline to spill over into the next episode, but it's wrapped up rather abruptly when Michael and Fiona fly into town on a seaplane, set up a quick ambush to retrieve the list, and whisk it back to Michael's loft before the end credits roll. "Brotherly Love" does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, as Michael must decide whether to turn the list over the government or go after the names on it himself.

Overall, I thought this one was just OK. The parallels between Michael and Nate and the Taylor brothers were obvious enough without Nate spelling them out for us, but that didn't stop the writers from making him do it anyway. I'm not a huge fan of Maddie in nagging "take better care of your brother" mode (although I did enjoy her threatening to put her cigarette out in Michael's eye). And in the name of all that is holy, I hope Johnny Boy is now retired for good.


Stray observations:

  • "Buck Wild." Wasn't that George Costanza's porn name?
  • "This is my happy face."
  • It's official: The Burn Notice prequel concerning Sam Axe's final days as a Navy SEAL is set for spring 2011. Jeffrey Donovan will direct.