Last week Michael (eventually) managed to get his hands on some files about Carla, this week we open with him reading through the remains of them (they've suffered heavy redaction of course) and sifting what information he can get. Fi joins him (Michael is like the easiest spy in the world to locate if you know who he is), they discuss how Carla might be using her previous cover as an irrigation consultant in Miami and Fi points out that he has a tail (see what I mean?). We then get a little bit of exciting action as Fi drives, Michael bails from the car and then throws a rickshaw in front of the tail. It turns out to be Nate, Michael's brother. This is the first appearance from Nate (Seth Peterson) since Loose Ends (the first season finale) and predictably enough he's got a problem for Michael to solve.
It turns out that a Russian lass named Katya has 'lost' her sister. By lost I mean she attempted to get herself illegally smuggled into America with the aid of gangsters and now they're demanding a lot of cash to release her. More money than a pretty, but poor Russian receptionist can afford. So Katya turned to Nate and asked him where she could get a gun (the girl has spirit, her response to the demands was to swing a crowbar at them) in order to solve her problem. Nate instead suggested Michael, as he solves these kind of things everyday... Well not everyday but often enough.
Michael goes to meet up with Sam and they discuss the job and the file a little. Sam mentions one Harvey Gunderson and we get to see a picture, why it's a photo of comedian Larry Miller. I'm sure Harvey won't be making an appearance in this episode then, no sir!
Michael, Nate and Katya meet up with Fi to check out Ivan - the human trafficker. Fortunately for everyone Ivan likes to wear a selection of Russian prison tattoos that nicely advertise all his skills and crimes. These include stealing, working as an enforcer and killing people; I think there was also one which explained how he likes long walks on the beach and cuddling in front of the fire. But I might have just imagined it. Needless to say Ivan is a nasty piece of work, but that's not quite enough to scare off Katya, her response to finding out Ivan is a killer is pretty... feisty.
Needless to say, Michael is not too impressed with the bill but it's Sam's explanation of what happened that really shines. Bruce is just awesome as Sam, he really is. (Quick trivia question. What other show have both Jeffery and Bruce guest starred in. Hint: They were not in the same episode. Answer at the bottom of this post.) Anyway, Fi's surveillance has revealed that Ivan keeps his distance from the kidnapped victims so the guys hatch a plan that involves kidnapping Ivan and then interrogating him while pretending to be government officials. A plan that Sam really takes a shine to. It's Fi who pulls the abduction job (almost) solo, she entices Ivan over into range and then attempts to hit him with a stun gun. But things don't go entirely to plan and she ends up in a Mexican standoff. She has the gun in range of Ivan and has the drop on him, but she can't zap him without zapping herself because he has a hold of her leg. Her solution is to zap him anyway and let Sam cart them both away unconscious.
It's quite possible that this electric shock has pushed Fi even closer to the edge. She's certainly all kinds of crazy in the following scene. (Gabrielle sells it so well imo). But it seems that Sam is also getting a little 'excited' as he's rather enthusiastic about the upcoming interrogation.
Sure enough he really puts it full on while interrogating Ivan (in a brilliant scene), but it's no good. Sam's a trained expert when it comes to interrogation and he realises quickly that Ivan isn't going to break in the short time frame of three days. So he hatches up a new plan, Michael is going to be put into the 'cell' with Ivan as another member of the Russian organisation and we're treated to a rather impressive scene where Jeffery shows off his skills in language and martial arts before winning the trust of Ivan (through the age old classic method of accusing the other person of being the leak/mole/traitor when it's actually you).
Next we get another one of those great Fi/Sam in a car conversations, it's wonderful how well the pair play off each other and I'm glad the writers have decided to build on this by continuing to give them scenes. They're scoping out the location where the girls are kept but the conversation ranges from Sam's continued failures with Harvey to Fi's pervy neighbour. I just love how natural the whole thing feels.
Once inside the restaurant where the girls are being kept (on the top floor) they use a similar plan to the one used by Michael and Sam last week. In short Sam causes a scene with some loud and annoying complaining while Fi sneaks in while everyone is distracted. But it turns out that the girls are not being kept behind heat shielding and instead it's a piracy ring (it turns out FACT are right! Piracy really does fuel crime, in fictional media at least anyways...) So she leaves with Sam, who was getting his face acquainted with the bar.
This episode really is a showcase of Bruce's talents, he's pretty much running both story lines by himself and it's done so well that you might not even realise how Sam-centric this episode actually is. One of the great things about Burn Notice is because Jeffery is providing narrative in mamy scenes - including ones he's not present in - it's possible to have plenty of stuff going on for the other characters without taking the focus from Michael.
We're treated to a pair of scenes with Sam center stage, the first of which is another interrogation scene with Ivan and the second is a truely fantastic scene where Sam changes tack on Harvey and twists him hard where it hurts. By threatening his career. It's a great little scene which is funny and showcases how great these two men are at their job.
Meanwhile, Michael works on Ivan a little more and learns enough to realise that there's no way they'll get the location of the girls in time. Ivan discloses that the girls will be killed if anyone other than him approaches the safe house and also that the girls will be killed on Friday regardless. So Michael talks to Nate about another change of plan, it's time to let Ivan engineer an escape. Nate is not to happy with this and has a bit of a go, so Michael walks off and it's up to his mother to talk some sense into him, while she doesn't have a big role this week Sharon Gless is very good in the scenes she does have.
The escape plan goes exceptionally well, Michael, Sam and Nate sell it and Ivan just can't wait to buy up every last bit of it. So Ivan agrees to bring Michael to the safe house while Fi and Sam follow in Michael's (not so discrete) car. Ivan agrees to move the girls and then heads off to tell the boss man, leaving Michael with his men. Men who are blindsided by Michael attacking them and then Sam and Fi turning up. Michael opens the van the girls were contained in and lets them out.
Most of the Russians skip town, Ivan "goes upstairs" (which doesn't sound like it was a pleasant experience) and Katya is reunited with her sister. Everyone lives happily ever after, except for Ivan who turns up in a dumpster.
All in all this is easily the best episode of the season so far; while Sharon (Madeline) still had to sit on the sidelines a little she did have a couple of good scenes. Seth (Nate) had plenty to do as well, but the real meat of the story was handed over to Gabrielle and of course Bruce. And both of them rose up to the challenge; not only meeting it but exceeding it with ease. Bruce in particular was stunning in this episode, he's always a delight to see on screen and this was no exception.
I have no hesitation in giving this one 4.5 TVs.
Answer to trivia: The show they've both guest starred in is Homicide: Life on the Street. Jeffery played a criminal on a rampage (with a twist) and Bruce played a cop in a two parter the following season.