|Season 7, Episode 11|
|Air date||August 22, 2013|
Tipping Point is the eleventh episode of the seventh season and the one hundred and ninth episode of Burn Notice.
Michael and Sonya head to Mexico to support James in an important meeting for the network. Using his relationship with Sonya to steal details of the coming meet from Sonya's phone, Michael passes on the plans to Agent Strong. Numerous soliloquies detail Michael's growing conflict with his actions and his growing feelings for Sonya. Strong plans to capture James before the meeting, and recruits mercenaries to conceal the CIA's involvement. Unbeknownst to Michael and the team, leading the band of Mercenaries is Simon, Michael's old nemesis.
When the plan to capture James goes sideways, Michael is confronted by Simon and the lengths to which the CIA will go to capture James. Michael's conflicted feelings are pushed over the edge when Simon tortures and murders several of James' operatives. Michael kills Simon and helps Sonya and James escape the second CIA team consisting of Strong, Jesse and Sam.
Having escaped the CIA, James is led to the conclusion that Sonya has betrayed him. In front of Michael he pulls a gun on Sonya and attempts to elicit a confession. As he is about to shoot her, Michael reveals his role in setting up the attack. Michael reveals that he has been working with the CIA for the entire time, but James realizes that he is holding back "You were a believer, I could see it in your eyes -- you defended us and killed for us, no one could lie that well." Michael reveals that he is under duress from the CIA, defending his friends and family from incarceration, but beyond that he believed and had faith that the CIA stood for all that was right. However, their release of Simon revealed to him that they stood for nothing, and now he feels that his life has been wasted. "Are you satisfied?" asks Sonya of James, holding a gun to Michael's head. "No, I am not satisfied" responds James, closing the episode.
Michael, still looking to build trust, has Sonya over and they're going to make themselves fake IDs and passports for a trip in which they're portraying a long-married couple. They're joining James for a very important meeting. Michael uses some of his interrogation techniques, portraying them as casual conversation, to find out they're going to Latin America, but that's all she can tell him. She suddenly started to lament not having traveled much for pleasure because the "job got in the way." Michael soothes her and tells her they might soon travel places together. He sleeps with her again and while she's sleeping he downloads some info from her cell phone. He's starting to worry about betraying her trust. The next morning, Sonya leaves and Michael calls to report to Strong that he has the information. When Strong asks Michael if he's ready to end this, Michael says, "Believe me, I'm ready."
Strong says the data from the phone was a "gold mine." The meeting is in Veracruz, Mexico. They still don't know why the meeting is happening but they're happy enough to be ahead of James. Strong says the convoy will be grabbed on the way to the meeting. Michael is worried the plan is rushed. Strong says he has to trust him.
Meanwhile, Fi is packing up Carlos' things when Michael knocks on the door. He tells her he's leaving town for a job and needs her help. He asks her to keep an eye on Maddy because of what James would do to her and Charlie when he betrays James. She nods and tells Michael to "finish this."
James arrives in Veracruz and meets Michael and Sonya at the airport. They head out in their convoy while Strong and his extraction team prepare to grab the whole group. Michael makes conversation about the trip and James says what's happening has been "years in the making" and that the "organization is about to take a giant leap forward." Strong, meanwhile, tells his men that Michael is to be treated as an enemy combatant until they're headed back to the U.S. As the convoy rolls down a quiet road, James gets a bit nervous after realizing that there haven't been any people on the street for a block. The extraction team strikes, blowing up the lead Jeep in the convoy and opening fire on the rest. James prepares to go out firing, which Michael tries to talk him out of on the basis that it seems to be a "grab" mission and not one in which they're shooting to kill. That's the same reason James feels comfortable going out and firing back. Lots of people are hit in the shootout and Michael is conflicted about what to do, but sticks with James.
Michael continues running with James, Sonya and the rest of the team, but is conscious of leaving a trail for Strong's team to find. He carjacks a woman and keeps her cell phone, putting it under the seat of the car as they drive away so that Strong's team can track it.
Strong says there were "seven down" and Jesse gets word of the carjacking with news of the cell phone. Strong wants the phone tracked.
Meanwhile, Fi calls Sam and tells him James' men outside Maddy's have started "buzzing" and they're headed into the house. If Michael's cover has been blown, the guys might kill Maddy and Charlie. If not, Fi might tip them off by shooting at them. The men go knock on the door and Maddy goes to answer. Sam tells Fi to hold off. Maddy doesn't want to let them in, but when they tell her "something's happened" she lets them in. She waves off Fi.
James notices the helicopter following him and Michael and decides to split the cars up. Michael's car is still being tracked by the cell phone so the chopper keeps following James. Michael and a couple of James' men go to a marina but can't find a viable boat. In the boathouse, another extraction team shows up and a gunfight breaks out. When the shooting stops, Michael, who has knocked out one of James' men himself with a blow to the back of the neck, calls out "Alpha Team" and says he's "a friendly." He's shocked to see Simon Escher, who says he's "Alpha Team."
Michael can't believe it. He captured Simon and put him away and says this "makes no sense." Simon says he has been working for the CIA "off the books" for a couple of years and it made perfect sense for him to be the one to do the extraction because he's someone Michael would never have been likely to work with. Meanwhile, James and Sonya draw Strong, Sam and Jesse's helicopter into a trap and start shooting at it. It's hit, loses fuel and has to land.
Simon tells Michael to radio James and tell him his team has been attacked, drawing James to the boathouse. Michael does this and James says he's on his way. Simon gives Strong the update and Strong, Jesse and Sam start heading that way, but first Strong tells Sam and Jesse that Simon is the one running Alpha Team. They can't believe it.
Fi calls Maddy and tells her to move Charlie into the sun room because she's coming in to take out James' two men. She tells Maddy to grab a weapon just in case. Maddy slips a knife into her shirt and calmly moves Charlie into the sun room.
James calls and says he's two miles out. Simon fires his gun twice in the air to sell it. After Michael is done with the call, Simon walks over to James' last man who's bound and has his mouth taped and shoots him in the chest despite Michael calling out for him to leave the man alone. Michael has had enough of Simon's tactics. They get into a hand-to-hand fight that goes on for a while, each getting the upper hand at some point. Simon pulls a knife and slashes at Michael's arm before Michael gets leverage on the knife and has Simon pinned against a column with the knife pointed directly at Simon's chest. Simon tells Michael it's not too late and that they can finish the mission, sarcastically adding that Michael can "be the hero" as he's always wanted.
"Don't you want to be the hero, Michael?" Simon asks, mockingly.
"Not like this," Michael says, just before pushing the knife slowly into Simon's chest and killing him.
James and Sonya get to the boathouse, where Michael is holding his wounded arm tightly. Michael tells James they were ambushed and that the team was "brave." James tells Michael he was right and that they shouldn't have split up.
"You came back, James," Michael says, thankfully.
"Of course," James replies.
In Miami, Fi is putting together her ambush of James' two men inside Maddy's house. She's outside, placing a directional explosive at a window where one man is standing while preparing to shoot the other through another window at the same time that the blast goes off.
Sam, Jesse and Strong get to the boathouse and Michael sees them approaching. As James and Sonya walk straight toward the trap, Michael surprises even himself by warning them. In a deep cover job, Voice-over Michael explains, you're driven by the fact that you're fighting for something you believe in. But when you see that your side has gone to lengths your enemies wouldn't even dream of -- thinking this as he sees Simon's dead body and that of the man Simon shot for no reason -- you can surprise yourself. James, Sonya and Michael decide to swim out a different way, in case Simon's support team is coming.
Strong, Sam and Jesse walks into an empty boathouse. Jesse calls Fi and tells her not to ambush James' men. She runs to disable the explosive she'd set, doing so with one second left. She pulls it off the window but bumps a garbage can and gets the attention of James' men. They walk to follow the sound and Maddy prepares her knife. The man goes out and finds nothing and the situation is calm again.
James, Sonya and Michael arrive at an elaborate villa. James asks them to come back near the pool. He isn't happy. He pulls his gun and tells Sonya she's the only other person in the world who knew where they were going to be. Michael tries to get James to put the gun down, but James tells him to stay out of it. Sonya insists she didn't tell anyone anything. James stands next to Sonya and puts his hand around her head, telling her it's going to be hard to kill her. He puts the gun to her stomach while almost hugging her and counting down from five until she fesses up. He gets to one and Michael tells him, "She didn't betray you. I did. I'm working for the CIA."
Michael explains he downloaded the information from Sonya's phone while she slept. She slaps him, then James hits him with the back of his gun.
James realizes that Michael had a chance to end the mission and let him and Sonya walk into the hands of the CIA, but he didn't. James hands Sonya a gun and she points it at Michael's head while Michael explains that the fact that the CIA sent Simon Escher to lead a team proved to him that they don't believe in anything, and James does. Michael says he realized that he wasted his life being committed to the CIA and it was all a lie. Michael says all this with tears in his eyes and pleads with James to "just end it."
Sonya puts the gun closer to Michael's head and asks James if he's satisfied. James says, "No." She drops the gun.
On an undercover assignment, there's no substitute for building trust. It's not just a matter of getting to know someone superficially. To be really effective, you need to get as close to the target as you can. Both personally, and professionally. It's never easy. No matter how much training you have, it's difficult to become someone's closest friend, knowing that you're only doing it to steal their deepest secrets. Once you've developed a relationship with the target, you can start to use that relationship to get the information you need. If you're close enough, you can make an interrogation feel like nothing more than innocent questions from a trusted friend. Sometimes it's not enough to be a target's friend, however. Sometimes, to accomplish a mission, you have to go further. When you share a target's bed, when they trust you enough to sleep beside you, it's a simple thing to get whatever information you need. That information comes with a price, though. Often, the only way to convince someone that you care about them, is to actually start caring about them. And no matter how important the mission is, no matter how much you believe in your cause, it feels like what it is: a complete betrayal of someone's trust.
As a spy, you get used to the idea that every successful operation comes at a price. Sometimes it's lives lost, other times it's cities destroyed or livelihoods ruined. Then there are other costs that are more personal. Less obvious, but the pain is just as real.
No matter how much you've trained, no matter how much you've planned, there's always anxiety in the moments before you capture a target. Most things are simply out of your control. Your operations team may be monitoring the situation, but they're usually too far away to do much but watch. Your extraction team is there to do one job, and one job only: acquire the targets. Which effectively leaves you alone. At the end of the day, all you can do is smile, play along, and try not to get killed when the shooting starts.
When you're undercover and running from your own capture team, you have to make it look like you're trying to escape. But at the same time, you have to create a trail for your friends to find. Cell phones can be tracked, which means if you can keep one close by, it gives your team a shot at finding you.
With little government oversight and a booming private sector, Mexico has one of the most unregulated airspaces in Latin America. Bad news for safety and air pollution, but good news if you need to conduct a manhunt without the local authorities finding out.
There's a reason helicopters are the search vehicles of choice for every law enforcement agency in the world. When you can travel 150 miles an hour on any axis, with 60 miles of visibility, there's virtually nowhere for your target to hide. The down-side of using a helicopter is that when you're surrounded by nothing but sky, there's nowhere for you to hide either.
Since the Vietnam War, helicopters have given technologically superior forces a huge advantage on the battlefield. In almost every situation, your target's only move is to run and hide. But as everyone from the Viet Cong to the Mujahideen has learned, a helicopter's main defense is it's maneuverability. And if they can force you into hovering over a tight space, like a valley between two mountains, or an alley between two buildings, they can make you an easy target.
As a spy, you're supposed to accomplish a mission no matter what it costs. There comes a point, though, where that's not possible anymore. When you're pushed to the breaking point, and beyond.
When you're trying to save someone from an enemy with superior numbers, the challenge is being in two places at the same time. A well-placed directional charge will take out windows, walls, and anyone standing near them. Timed precisely, it can give you the chance to attack both sides of a structure at once. If it works, you take out all the hostiles inside before they can hurt the people you're trying to save. If it doesn't, you create one hell of a death trap.
The thing that keeps you going in a deep-cover mission is knowing that you're fighting for something you believe in. That the people you work for have your back. But when your own side betrays what they claim to stand for, when they're willing to do things even your enemies wouldn't dream of, everything starts to fall apart. And when it comes down to that final moment, sometimes you can surprise even yourself.
- Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen
- Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne
- Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe
- Coby Bell as Jesse Porter
- Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen
|Episodes | Season 7|
|New Deal • Forget Me Not • Down Range • Brothers In Arms • Exit Plan • All or Nothing • Psychological Warfare • Nature of the Beast • Bitter Pill • Things Unseen • Tipping Point • Sea Change • Reckoning|