What's one way to make Burn Notice even more awesome? More Madeline!
This week, Michael's in the middle of a motorcycle pursuit through the Costa Rican jungle - but it turns out he's just chasing Fiona, who's enjoying their vacation. That is, until two Army guys arrive and tell Michael that he has a phone call waiting for him from Langley. Wow, these CIA guys do thus far always seem to call at inopportune times.
Some time later our hero is meeting Max at his "first official government gig," assigned to keep an eye on "valuable asset" Carson Huxley, a genius nuclear engineer who's rather fond of drinking. Yep, it's babysitting duty. At least before his shift starts, he has time to go with Fiona as she looks for a new place (being that her last one blew up). While they're there, Jesse calls Michael and arranges a post-haste meeting, sending him running again. "That man doesn't focus unless an international conspiracy is threatening to ruin his life," Fiona snarks when he's gone.
Jesse - looking sharp thanks to his new private security gig - comes to Michael with a "life and death" problem involving human trafficking. Since Michael doesn't want to tick off the CIA, Fiona and Sam agree to take the client meeting in his absence. Jesse introduces Fiona and Sam to Ryoko, whose cousin is one of the victims of this sinister operation, and the team swings into action without their fearless leader, who's sharing a few drinks with Carson. The loose-lipped engineer talks about his shrewish wife and then tries to pick up a pair of women at the bar. Classy.
The rest of Team Westen track down their leading suspect, a Japanese gangster named Takeda who's missing a finger and runs away from them at the first opportunity. In fact, he's willing to jump off the hotel roof to get away, but do you think that stops Fiona? Of course not. The chase comes to an end when Takeda faceplants oncoming traffic and is "helped" into the back of the car by Sam and Fiona. He ends up sleeping this off under Fiona's watch, while Michael is not thrilled at the idea of using his mom as an undercover operative to keep the guy in one piece. Maddie, however, tells him she can take it, even if it involves scaring the hell out of her. (Can I take a moment to say that Sharon Gless has gotten even more talented - and still looks great - with age?) She needs a minute after seeing him play the bad guy, which then visibly perturbs Michael.
With his attention turned to the more immediate concern, our hero asks Fiona to step in as a "safe target" in his CIA gig. Her idea of safe is taking him for a high-speed drive while fending off his inebriated advances. He becomes terrified and flees all the way back to his convention, locking himself in the bathroom to keep her away from him. Faced with what he thinks is a crazy person, Carson sobers up in a hurry and decides to behave himself.
Michael is forced to get in touch with a familiar face - bleached-blond drug dealer Sugar - to obtain the medication they need for Takeda. When Maddie tries to administer it, the gangster asks for her help. Maddie makes a split-second decision and says she'll trust him, injecting the mattress instead of him. "I think I can get him to talk," she tells Michael. "I may not be some expert interrogator, but I can tell you the one person he is talking to right now is me." Oh, snap.
Time for a new plan! This involves ratcheting the scenario up a notch - enough that Sam tells Mama Westen "good luck" before she goes back into the room where Takeda is being held. Michael has to push his mom around, and even though she tells him to hit her, he's still visibly disturbed when he actually does it. Once he's gone, Maddie puts the screws to Takeda, who tells her the time and location of a meeting he was due at. Sam and Jesse set off to crash the get-together, but it doesn't last long, forcing Sam to follow them (and lose his watch in the process). Ryoko translates the last part of the conversation: if Takeda doesn't show up, all the girls they're holding will be killed.
Taking matters into her own hands, Maddie fakes an escape with Takeda, and drives off with him while Michael fires a few stray shots at her car. The whole team swings into action to sell the ruse, with Fiona and Jesse pretending to be in hot pursuit while she tries to get Takeda to his mafia pals. What he doesn't know is there's a cell phone taped to the floor of the car, so everything he says, our heroes are hearing. He has her take him to a warehouse district and tries to get her to leave, but she has Sam and Michael do a pass-by and convinces him that they need his friends to stay alive. He cracks and gives her the password, telling her to go and get his buddies. With that information, it's time for Maddie to reveal her cover and our shotgun-wielding team to save the day.
Jesse offers Michael funds from his company for the help, but Maddie swipes the envelope. After taking a cut, she gives the rest back to her son for him to fix up his Charger, and advises him to look towards the future. He later gets a scolding from Max before having a heart-to-heart with Fiona. He's building her a shelf for her snowglobe collection - and asking her to move in! Aw, how awesome.
"Bloodlines" is an even stronger episode than "Company Man," because it doesn't have to go through backstory in addition to telling a story of its own. The highlight of this episode, for me, was more Madeline. We saw a concerted effort last season to make Maddie part of the cases, and Sharon Gless has taken that opportunity and seized it in the best possible way. She absolutely deserves the acclaim she's gotten in this role. In the hands of another actress, Maddie Westen could have easily become little more than comic relief - the cranky mother of the hero - but as played by Gless, she is a smart, confident, strong woman who puts up with everyone else's problems and quirks. She's just as much a part of the team as anyone else.
It's also great to see more of Coby Bell, since he only had one scene in the premiere, and the comedic timing of Gabrielle Anwar, who really seems to be enjoying herself as Fiona plays the role of the crazy stalker.
What's best about this episode, though, is the dynamic between Michael and his mother. In seeing Michael at work, Maddie can't help but be reminded of his father - and the same thought goes through Michael's mind. Neither of them like it, and both of them deal with it differently. It seems to bother him more than it does her. I love the relationship between Michael and Maddie; it's a real family bond, even though they drive each other crazy. I always look forward to seeing that explored, and this episode was a great opportunity to do that. It looks like season five is shaping up to be a good one!