In Michael's opening narration tonight, he talks about scouting a location, and how missing something during a seemingly straightforward job can make you feel like a fool. It's a nice piece of misdirection, because it makes you think that Sam, who helpfully checks out the restaurant where Michael is meeting Gilroy ("Freelance Psychopath"), dropped the ball doing surveillance. When the meeting goes smoothly (well, not smoothly, because Gilroy brings in another player named Claude, but that's hardly Sam's fault), you forget the talk about mistakes, until thirty minutes later, when Sam fails to catch the right name on a sheet of paper and nearly gets an innocent man killed. The circumstances are different, but the lesson is still the same: everybody makes mistakes, but when you're a spy, those mistakes have a tendency to end in bullets.
"Noble Causes" started with familiar situations and faces. We've got Michael forced to work with some very bad people in order to get a handle on the Gilroy situation, and we've got Sugar, the drug dealer who used to live under Micheal's apartment, coming by for a visit. Sugar needs help: his mentally handicapped cousin, Dougie, is hanging with the wrong crowd, a bunch of bad guys lead by a really bad guy named Lynch, who wants to use Dougie for some undetermined heist. Michael gives his usual common sense speech, Sugar refuses to take the advice and get his brother out of town, and then Fiona guilts Michael into helping. Pretty much the Burn Notice circle of life at this point.
Still, the point with a show like this isn't to break routine so much as excel at it, and once Michael tracks Lynch down, "Causes" picks up considerably. The impromptu microwave bomb was great, as was the speech about killers and their driving habits, and while the story was largely consequence free, keeping Lynch's plan a mystery till the climax, and having Sam make a mistake, went a long way towards keeping tension high. Sam's friendship with Dougie was well-handled, and gave a clearer sense of personal investment in the stakes, which paid off nicely when Dougie lent a hand during the final confrontation at the end. Having the thugs openly mocking the poor dumb guy wasn't really necessary (they're already taking advantage of his trusting nature, we already believe they aren't nice people), but it's always fun to see Michael, Fiona, and Sam get really passionate about kicking ass.
The Gilroy/Claude subplot worked out better than I expected too. There's a plot to steal papers out of an embassy, with Michael serving up a distraction as Claude climbs the building, and to stop this from working smoothly, Michael goes to the site ahead of time and booby traps a light fixture. Watching Claude move smoothly up a wall until getting a handful of silicone and falling was satisfying, and finding out that Gilroy killed him for his failure was unexpected and a nice way to raise the threat level. I'm still not completely sold on the character, or on Michael's reasons for not just taking him out now, but this is a new level of crazy for the show's super-villains, and I'm cool with that.
I'm less cool about this week's Maddy plot. She's still the show's weakest link; I understand why they keep the character around, and the scene where she invites Michael to the awards ceremony was funny enough, but her sulking when Michael can't make it later in the episode is childish and self-centered. Right now, Maddy's playing the role normally reserved for the love interest on a series like this—she's demanding and capricious, and we're supposed to put up with her because of some intangible value she adds to Michael's life. Sometimes the relationship works (their last scene together tonight wasn't too bad), but getting pouty that your son can't come see you win an award that he helped you win, when he clearly says "I could get arrested," and "People could get hurt," is something you'd expect from a ten year-old.
That aside, this episode had some great gadgets, some expert bluffing from Michael (his improve at the firefighter's training center was great), and a sweet ending. All in all, not a bad way to end a Thursday.
- Westen's helpful tip for home and garden: "Lush landscaping may be beautiful, but it's hardly secure."
- Hey, I Know That Guy: Bolo, Lynch's contact and Michael's way closer to the gang, was played by Erik King, aka Sgt. Doakes from Dexter.