Burn Notice season 1 episode 5 review

We’re back once again on the sun soaked shores of Miami for more spook-tastic action as Burn Notice continues its run with Family Business…

5. Family Business

After our introduction to the less well-adjusted of the Westen brothers last episode, Nate spends much of the show making Michael look like a super hero. Having gotten a taste for helping the hopeless, the hapless younger Westen decided to start up his own business, and is currently on a case for a friend – how difficult can it be, right? Turns out it’s actually quite tricky, particularly when you’re nosing around in places where you’re not welcome. About to receive the beating of his life, Nate is all too happy to call on Mike’s expertise to get him out of the situation. This is why spies never tell anyone what they do for a living.

Mike narrowly misses seeing his baby brother getting his ass kicked, and despite the fact that Nate is clearly annoying – not least because he’s determined to take the beautiful car – the ex-spy agrees to ‘help out’ with the case, providing Nate cleans up his act. Fat chance. 

The case involves Nate’s friend Jake, who took several bribes to ignore some dodgy import/export transactions, but recently had an attack of the guilts. He refused the last bribe, and now he’s in fear for his life, and that of his pregnant girlfriend. Jake has no idea how lucky he is that Nate is no longer in charge.

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The trio gets to work tracking down the guys threatening Jake, and it’s not good news. Turns out they’re now all involved with three ex-Mossad arms dealers. As far as Mike is concerned, the best plan of action is for Jake to keep up the pretense of doing as he’s told, so that the Mossad family can be busted with the guns, and everyone is happy.

After some slick spy work, they decide to focus on the youngest of the arms dealing family unit – Ari. They fake up some C4 with cake icing, or as Mike informs us ‘fondant’ as it’s known in the baking trade, and prepare to make the young gunrunner an offer he can’t refuse. Mike’s international man of mystery persona is more than effective, and he’s on the inside of the family operation in no time.

Which is where Plan A swiftly becomes Plan B. With cops on their payroll, the arms dealers will never be arrested, so it’s time to discredit arrogant Ari. Mike sends Jake in to see the family and complain that Mike’s alter ego has been harassing him, throwing around Ari’s name and generally being an ass. He does a great job, and the younger gunrunner is forced to admit that he told Mike everything about their operation, including showing him the warehouse they store all the guns in. The family races over there, but as you would expect, it’s completely empty, the contents having been thrown into the ocean by Big Sam. The arms dealers apparently have no choice but to leave Miami, leaving Jake free and clear, providing he can keep his head down.  Everyone’s happy.

Almost. Thanks to a prearranged break-in at Mike’s, Big Sam hands over the Homeland Security directive to the FBI, putting an end to their surveillance. Apparently, when a classified document ends up under Mike’s sink, it’s time to get serious. Which, admittedly, solves the whole Sam-spying-on-Mike situation, but at what price?

Family Business is another wholly enjoyable outing for Jeffrey Donovan’s acerbic ex-spy, with one small annoyance – Nate. It’s understandable that the show needs a contrast to Mike’s slick know-it-all persona, but surely there are more interesting ways to do it than with a whiny brat. Luckily, Big Sam has enough charm to more than make up for Nate’s complete lack of it, and now that he’s no longer grassing to the FBI, he’ll hopefully be more involved in the cases.

Along with all the spook stuff, one of the smartest things about this show is Maddy’s expert manipulation of her eldest son. He might be a natural spy, but it seems he inherited that instinct from his mother. They only last a couple of minutes an episode, but the Maddy/Michael interactions, whether she’s conning him into taking a job, or seeing his father’s grave, are always beautifully played and highly entertaining.

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Once again this week’s job was superbly executed, and while the I love it when a plan comes together-style happy endings may start to feel a little too convenient after a while, at the moment they’re a huge part of the show’s charm.

The explosive, but rarely bloody violence, coupled with the inventive MacGyver-inspired DIY and the generally high levels of cynicism produce a show that, for sheer fun alone, is head and shoulders above its competition.  It may not be as critically acclaimed as Mad Men, or as in your face as True Blood, but Burn Notice has something neither of those shows has – Bruce Campbell!

Check out our review of episode 4 here.