Back in Panama, Brady has asked around and located the mercenaries who were hired to attack the team. Several of them are heavily armed and lurking around Gray's hideout; Jesse decides to pick off the lone guy at one exit by pretending to be a clueless American tourist. (Because there's always the one bad guy who is left all by his lonesome, because either his bosses brought an uneven number of henchmen or no one likes him.) Once that thug is disabled and disarmed, that gives Team Westen Plus One their way in.
While Maddie reviews Nate's autopsy report, she asks Card how Michael could have turned out so "strong and capable" while Nate didn't. Card does his best to console her, in a scene that makes his character surprisingly likeable and is the best of John C. McGinley's guest arc. In that moment, the audience starts to see what Michael must have seen in Card while working beside him all those years ago.
In Panama, Michael gives Brady the option to walk away from the impending fight, which he declines. He tells Michael the story of how his father was an Army Ranger killed in action and the killer was never found. That's a little more background information than we normally get for one-episode guest characters, so that doesn't bode well for Brady. But before we can ponder that, Jesse calls to say that Gray is on his way back, and the team's plan swings into motion. It doesn't work as well as planned, however, and they're left to pursue Gray's Hummer before finding it abandoned with the driver dead at the wheel. A sudden shot strikes Brady in the thigh, while everyone else is thrown back on their heels.
Card wants Michael to wait for backup, which we all know he won't do. The team makes their move, which gets Jesse nicked and a nearby barrel of gasoline punctured, so that we can have a nice explosion at some point. Michael literally crashes into the room where Gray is holed up, and knocks him around a bit before arresting him. "Card isn't sending an extraction team for you," Gray warns him, revealing that Card sent him out there and the whole thing was supposed to be a "suicide mission" for Michael and his team. He dares Michael to tell Card that Gray's escaped, and Card's insistence that they not pursue him confirms for Michael that Card has, indeed, betrayed him.
That leads to yet another last-minute plot twist: Michael explaining the situation to everyone else while they run for their lives from Card's reinforcements, who promptly blow up the building Michael was just in. Just to confirm the situation for the audience, this is intercut with Card telling Madeline things about "truth," doing what he needed to do, and Michael being like a son to him. Brady decides to sacrifice himself to draw the pursuit team away from Michael, Sam, Jesse and Fiona, who are left to stand and stare at the fireball he leaves behind.
Burn Notice hasn't necessarily lost its luster this season, but season six is missing something compared to the different feel of seasons four and five. There's nothing specifically wrong with any episode, yet it's not quite appointment TV anymore. What's changed? Part of that may have to do with it serving as the lead-in to Suits, a series that's firing on all cylinders this summer. Comparison is thus inevitable and unfortunate; it's like driving a car that you've had for years and love very much, and then seeing the breathtaking new model at the dealership. It doesn't change how you feel about your car, but you can't help but be interested in what's newer and less familiar.
The other factor at play, at least for me, is that after being a loyal viewer for six seasons, things start to feel a little too familiar - which is just part of the life cycle of television. When you've seen so many episodes, inevitably something is going to repeat itself or close to it. Burn Notice is starting to get that feel about it. Things like Card and Rebecca's betrayal(s), Fiona's return to the team, and even Brady's fate in this episode have been too easy to see coming, which somewhat lessens their impact. The show is still entertaining to watch, but it's not as surprising as it used to be.
"Desperate Times" is an entertaining summer finale that isn't necessarily lacking, but still comes out feeling like it could have been better. Let's see if the second half of season six steps up the game, because Burn Notice still has the cast and panache to make it so much more than your usual spy thriller.
For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my Starpulse writer page and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.