Burn Notice Summaries

Prequels to the Series

P01 - The Fall of Sam Axe (SA01)  

Photo of Burn Notice TV season prequels episode P01
Sam Axe looked real good in his dress white uniform, Commander – US Navy, as he presented himself, Feb 1st, 2005, 0800 hours, at the American embassy in Bogota, Columbia for an inquiry into an incident which occurred during: Operation Provide Support. He asked for a beer, to the chuckle of the hearing officers; but, instead, was told to raise his right hand in order to swear an oath for honesty. He asked if he was under arrest but was told that it was just an "informal talk" to see what had happened. Structures, vehicles and people had been destroyed. He asked again for a beer, and the obviously high-ranking officer requested that he not waste his time; so, he began, "how did It begin? Well…  in bed." He had met a lady named Donna, and liked her, but she chose when they were getting dressed as the time to reveal that she was married. Then, Sam recognized her husband when he pulled up unexpectedly outside: Admiral Maitland!  He had to escape by jumping over a barking dog to the next roof. To decompress,  later that evening he went to the "Beer and Bowl" in Virginia Beach, to met with his old buddy, beard and mustached, photographer vested, Michael Westen who said that his different appearance "comes with the job." Mikey had a tan from being "someplace sunny," a refreshing change of pace from the pasty look he got the time they were stuck together in Poland in '92. Sam revealed his dilemma and asked for advice. Amazingly, Mike said "go to Maitland and explain… right now… call him on the phone," not what Sam wanted to hear. "Remember that thing in Kiev with Misha," Mike asked, "when he sold out the wet work team on the way to Paris?" That's the kind of thing that stay's secret. "This will come out as soon as Maitland looks sideways at his wife!" Sam patted him on the shoulder and said: "you're a smart man, but you've dated like only one lady and she was a frikin' psycho." Mike said that his spy intuition told him Sam wasn't going to listen and also that it was going to blow up in his face. Sam sighed and said one day he would have to give him some spy lessons. As Michael left, he turned and said: "Be careful." Later, leaving the bar quite… well… drunk, Sam was "captured" by MPs who whisked him to a very angry Admiral Maitland. He was shown his belt, which he had inadvertently left behind; told that Donna had sold him out; had his "I was unaware" excuse shot down by the fact he hadn't even noticed Maitland's name on the mailbox; and then advised that he was being reassigned - "this very night"… to Columbia!
By 0800 he was aboard a transport to report to a Department Governor Perez who had called in some favors in order to get a "fact finding" mission to check on some unrest – really to scare up some US money. "Espada Ardiente", a home-grown insurgent group, had been staging attacks all over the country and Perez introduced him to Commandant Veracruz; who, it turned out, had trained at (unintelligible) in '92 where Sam "knew everyone who made you do push ups," like Dick Rayburn (aka the Terror).  The terror group, Sam was told, was planning to hit an international clinic run by Doctor's for All. Being located at a strategic pass in the mountains, Veracruz said the terrorists probably wanted the clinic for a base. Their plan was for Sam, bedecked in his camoflague blues (another "tweak" from admiral Maitland), and the guys to get there first and be ready. However, the Canadian doctor wouldn't even listen, saying he couldn't move patients and he had no problem with the Espada Ardiente. Amanda Maples, local food relief program, intervened to take Sam aside; but once outside she turned out to be a smart ass who told Sam to take a flying leap. Walking back to Veracruz, Sam saw that a "teenage girl" was being roughed up by a soldier, thinking she was a spy. The girl claimed in Spanish that she was just hungry and was looking for food, but spit when they gave her a banana and let her go. When they got to their close by camp, Sam saw that Veracruz and his men had enough fire power to wipe any terrorist off the map! He decided to just keep his head down and make his reports. He did call Admiral Maitland as ordered and was told "see you in a couple months." That night Veracruz went out of camp with his men but wouldn't let Sam go with him. So, when his "guard" sat at the fire listening to the radio, Sam cut out of the back of his tent and went to "scout" on his own. What he found was Veracruz unloading more weapons from a "hidey-hole" and overheard them plotting to attack the clinic themselves but blame it on the rebels. Veracruz said: "we attack the clinic… and then I shoot the American in the head."
Burn Notice photo: The Fall of Sam Axe episode P01
The hearing officer interrupted Sam's dialog saying that the reports he had been given varied considerably. Sam told him that Veracruz wasn't going to announce that he had planned to "kill the American." Ok, he demanded, "tell me how you were kidnapped by terrorist forces." Sam continued that he had gone back to the tent, put a kidnapping scene in place then "double-timed it back to the clinic." Unfortunately, the clinic didn't have a sat-phone; and, although Maples at least said she believed him, she still was acting like an ass and kicked Sam out – she said "So Veracruz wont find you there!"  Veracruz was shown back at the camp discovering Sam's disappearance then shooting the guard, to create a cover story that the Espada Ardiente had done it. Back at the clinic, Sam ran into the teenage thief girl, Beatriz, who was coming to warn the clinic that Veracruz was coming early. As Sam began forcibly helping Maples and the doctor to take cover, they continued to resist. Sam's idea was to get the patients in the truck and blow up the clinic themselves - a diversion to cover their exit. He had the doctor help him make a bomb using the defibrillator and propane tanks. Veracruz was coming up the road, but the detonator that the doctor had set didn't blow! Sam began running back to set it off manually, but the doctor kept pushing the trigger and it eventually blew – knocking them both flat on their backs.
As Sam appeared at the hearing again the next day, he told the high-ranking weeny that he had been locked in his room overnight and that this was feeling "less like an informal conversation." The officer advised that "after your testimony yesterday, I wouldn't make any travel plans." Sam began the story where he had left off. Regrouping a couple miles down the road, and having no other choice, the teenage spy girl revealed, perfect English, that she knew of a camp where they could stay – Espada Ardiente's. The hearing officer said he had no record of "this Beatriz you mentioned." "That's not surprising," Sam rejoined, "she's a kid." Sam's formal relationship with Beatriz began in the truck, when he was blindfolded, and she refused to talk about her parents. She said that the Espada Ardiente were her friends and that the words mean "flaming sword" which stands for "fearless… passion!"  There were only about 12 men with rifles. Our best fighter, she said, is Louis. "Oh the big guy there?" "No the one behind him." "The old guy." Later around the fire, Maples said she had gotten information that the groups land was valuable as some sort of drug transport to the coast. Someone had paid off Veracruz to force the farmers out, so they fought back and got lucky a few times which made Veracruz think they were bigger than they actually were. The doctor came carrying a girl who had malaria and announced that she would die without medicine. Sam told him that he was tap-dancing as fast as he could. Louis had Beatriz ask Sam why his pants were blue camouflage when the jungle was green. Sam replied back:  "tell the man I don't want to talk about it" and Beatriz stomped off. Maples told him that Beatriz had seen her father shot and the group had taken her in; also that he had a new name in camp: La Barbilla - "the chin." The next morning Beatriz showed Sam the group's training session and took offense when Sam pointed out that they were really bad, even though they both watched while the big guy chased a chicken. The doctor and Maples weren't any happier when Sam told them that the only thing he could think of was to go back to Veracruz himself.  He said that he would tell them he had escaped from the kidnappers. That way he might eventually be able to use their sat-phone to report in. Maples, still the ass even after Sam had saved their lives, told him that if he didn't come back she would personally hunt him down and kick his teeth in. In Sam Axe fashion, he shot back "I may get my ass shot off… but my teeth are safe."
Burn Notice photo: The Fall of Sam Axe episode P01
Interrupting yet again, the hearing officer showed a photo of the man they had been told was running the rebels, as he call them. It was of a younger Louis. Sam said "he looks good in uniform." The officer still didn't seem to get it, or likely had some other agenda, and asked about the rebels' "command and control structure." Exasperated, Sam said "They had NO structure… they were farmers… that's why I was going for help!" So, he continued, he ditched his truck, "put on some kidnapped make-up," and ran toward Veracruz's soldiers. He really put on a show convincing Veracruz of the ferocity of the group. He said, "I say we track 'em down and light 'em up." That got him time alone on the sat-phone and a call to Maitland, who gave him grief but said: "I will make some calls." After Sam led the soldiers on a wild goose chase, Veracruz arrived in a cloud of dust. He pulled his gun and said that he had just spoken with Department Governor Perez who had told him that Sam's call for help had been intercepted. After being beaten up a little, and at gun point, Sam acted like was giving in to Veracruz's demand to know where the Espada Ardiente were hiding saying: "That mountain range looks familiar." However, before they could leave they were interrupted by a flaming truck descending upon them. That gave Sam just enough time to take a flying leap down a cliff-side with Veracruz emptying his pistol clip at him all the way, but not being able to hit the broadside of a barn. At the bottom, Sam was met by Beatriz on a motorbike, but she refused to take him unless he promised not to insult her men again - he did, and they rode away to the music's crescendo.
Still grasping at straws, Sam told Maples and the doctor that he knew of a CIA outpost 50 miles away. While they continued to hassle him with patient issues he stepped away to confide in Beatriz. She relented and told him that her father had been a journalist who was covering the issue with the farmers. He had been shot in front of her and Louis had taken her in. Sam begged her to translate for him and try and get the men to help him with his plan. She said he should start talking and if she liked what he said she would translate. With a lot of flowery compliments it worked and Sam began training them.  The hearing officer broke in all upset, demanding to know if he had helped train the terrorists. Sam said the only training he had given them was from the Analee High School JV Football Squad. He had explained his training tactics using a football and play diagrams. The next day, Sam said, they moved out with the patients in one truck and the "Flaming Sword Guys" in the other. It was only 50 miles but "in the mountains the miles are more like dog years - every one is like seven." In the truck cab alone with Maples, Sam asked "so… do gooder… why so cynical." She relented that "you get into this because you want to make the world a better place and it turns out that there's a lot of people who want to make it a worse place and we're outnumbered." "Not just soldiers, but usually where there's a lot of people going hungry there's a guy with a gun making it happen." Their course was stopped by a downed tree blocking the road, but they wouldn't listen to Sam about that it might be a trap, and began cutting the tree. Sam found a radio in the tree just as some men opened fire. The doctor was still being written as the buffoon and continually arguing with Sam until reinforcements were spotted coming up the road. Their men rolled rocks down on it and Sam tossed a running chain saw down and through Veracruz's men's window. They succeeded!
Burn Notice photo: The Fall of Sam Axe episode P01
Finally at the CIA outpost, the two men were pretty much doofuses, rambling that they didn't have any weapons only outdated medicine and their burro, which they took into town for supplies. They finally did call out but the idiot at the Santa Marta base said he wouldn't do anything unless SAM CAME THERE TO SEE THEM! "There is some confusion about your situation." It was only then that the two goofballs revealed they had a helicopter!  Of course the CIA guys and their computers made the helicopter overweight so they took precedence over the hospital patients and the girl who we were told was dying. Over worried looks, Sam told Beatriz and Maples that "look I'm coming back, ok, I'm not going to let you guys down." The entire group was standing on the balcony of the CIA outpost looking grim as the melancholic music swelled and Sam flew away in the helicopter. It was only then that the CIA creeps admitted they weren't going for help – only to escape without incident as per their orders. They told him "grow up… there's no way we could give them what you promised… the only way they would send help is if US assets were under attack." In voiceover, Sam proclaimed: "there's a point in a soldiers life when he's gotta decide whether he's going to follow either the letter or the spirit of his orders." The next thing the creeps knew Sam was ordering them to land at gunpoint. And, back at the "inquiry" the interrogator jumped in and demanded "you mean you kidnapped…" Sam stopped him, "Kidnapped? Get out of here!  I was just helping them do the right thing." "Helping them with a 45 caliber pistol?" "Well you know what they say, sir, guns don't help people – people help people." YOU are in a world of hurt soldier, the interrogator said as he showed his true agenda.
The next morning there was a guard at the door and the interrogator said he was obliged to ask if Sam wanted a lawyer. It had progressed farther than a mere friendly "conversation." He also said that they were rounding up and detaining the doctor, maples, the farmers etc. – standard protocol. Angry Sam spat back "standard procedure, why don't you bite me." A pathetic underling yelled at Sam "you're speaking to a superior officer" and Sam yelled back at him "YOU'RE speaking to a superior officer!" Sam said he didn't want a lawyer because the weeny interrogator seemed to have already decided what he was going to do and it wouldn't do any good. Sam relented to go on and said that he had ordered the CIA goofballs to return to their outpost. Maples and the doctor weren't happy. Sam said he convinced the two CIA men to call their headquarters, then fired his weapon at the wall to help the two make the story sound more convincing. The problem was that Veracruz was coming and they would need to hold him off for three hours till help came. Sam had his "troops" put their bullets in their guns and the doctor showed him a bomb that he had "improvised" out of C-4 the CIA guys had in the cabin to blow up their computer if need be. Sam notice "the kid" missing. He found her and tried to convince her to stay and watch the CIA guys by asking what her father would do. She finally admitted that he would have wanted her to stay. "You remind me of my father," she told him, "but I didn't listen to him either." They were watching as Perez actually showed up to join Veracruz with a lot more men. They decided to plant the bomb in a small canyon where it would block the road with an exploded truck and would slow Perez and Veracruz down. Sam told the doctor he figured the timing would need them to hold out for about "a half hour… but it's gonna be a long half hour."  "It could be worse," he advised, "it could be raining."
Burn Notice photo: The Fall of Sam Axe episode P01
The lead truck set off the bomb and turned over, and Louis shot the gas tank which caused it to explode in flames. Sam's group were running out of bullets so had to pretend to be firing for a ruse but that didn't last long. Veracruz attacked again and everyone was told to fall back, but Louis stayed behind to cover them with the only live ammunition that was left. The doctor saw Louis fall in a hail of bullets and told Sam he was going back "with one more charge" (he had another bomb). His bomb actually took out a slew of bad guys but Louis was dead and the doctor was hit. Sam went back to get him, then he had to make the still tied up CIA guys call again. When they were getting grief, Sam had to break in and demand to know how much longer until help arrived. On the fly he had to make up a fictitious name so, seeing a magazine article, said he was Deputy Assistant Intelligence Director Chuck Finley. He said he was "down from NSA headquarters doing a random check and ran into this little disaster area of yours." He was advised the troops were 10 minutes away. When Maples questioned it, Sam said he had made a lot of money betting on him back in the day, "I'm thinkin' it's a lucky name… I guess we'll find out" as he looked out the window and saw Veracruz's men pulling up outside. Sam told Maples he was going out to meet Veracruz over her babbling objections. He said that even if he was shot it would buy time and that "if we were going to kiss, now would be the time" so she did. Sam went out riding the donkey with his hands in the air. Veracruz and Perez had to wait while the slow donkey made its way down the hill. Then Sam said that he was here to "negotiate the terms of your surrender." Veracruz pulled him down and slugged him. Spitting out blood Sam said "you really like doing that." Then he began to sell it again. He said that they didn't know what they were up against, he had never met a bunch of guys like the Espada Ardiente, and would a navy commander be here to fight with a bunch of smelly farmers? Veracruz began hitting him with the rifle while Beatriz watched fitfully. Sam kept trying to sell it and Perez came up and kicked him in the gut. They were going to shoot Sam but Perez told them to shoot at the building to see the "Flaming Sword."  Bullets flew and glass broke all around the patients with IV's, the tied up CIA agents and Sam's guys who were hunched to the floor. In voice over and slow motion Sam advised that: "I've heard the old saying about soldiers praying in foxholes… but I gotta say, in my experience, prayer is pretty iffy as a battle plan." Then, as the sound of choppers were heard, he continued: "But I'll also say this, when you need a miracle, there's nothing like it!"
Burn Notice photo: The Fall of Sam Axe episode P01
Three choppers rose up menacingly through the mist from behind the headquarters building. There was a short standoff with the copters and Sam facing Veracruz and Perez; then, the bastards turned and ran as the copters opened fire. The copters blew up all the trucks using their missiles and announced for everyone to raise their arms, get on their knees and surrender. Sam taunted Veracruz with "you want to surrender now" and the coward blustered after Sam with a knife. Sam, almost without breaking a sweat, handily pummeled Veracruz to the ground – obviously the vastly superior fighter. They all, the good guys that is, had a quality good-bye, shaking hands and hugging. Sam told the doctor that he'd make a good soldier; then, when Maple wanted to know, told her: "Oh, I'm probably gonna spend some quality time at the nearest military facility." They kissed again but were interrupted by Sam's MP escort who wanted to walk him back to the helicopter – as the farmer's all saluted their "Commander Axe." He saluted back then left in the copter waving at Beatriz hiding in the trees. Back at the interrogation, the creep didn't even look moved. He told Sam that he was going to be sent to court martial, which was his agenda all along. Sam paused and looked disgusted. Then he revealed that there was one other thing which he hadn't yet told about – just in case the creep was going to be a standup guy; but, now it looked like had better tell. The discussion with Beatriz had continued longer. She had revealed that her father had interviewed Louis for the newspaper, so she knew all his story – How he had left the army to be a soldier. After her father had been killed by Veracruz, she went to Louis and convinced him to fight. It was she who had given the group the name of Flaming Sword. It was all her idea. Realizing that, Sam had set her to do a job: get a camera from the CIA and document the whole thing in photographs, then get away clean in order to go back to the biggest newspaper in Columbia with the whole story. "A kid with connections at the largest newspaper in Columbia… well that could be mighty handy," Sam said. Realizing he may be in trouble, the creep told everyone else to take a break so Sam could point out "imagine what photographs of CIA agents would mean… bad right?" We then find out that the creep is an admiral when he asked Sam: "what do you want" and Sam said "thanks for asking admiral." "First you let my friends go, then you rebuild the clinic, the Flaming Sword guys get to go back to their goats, I get an honorable discharge and we keep our mouths shut about this forever. In the words of my buddy Mike Weston, this is the kind of secret that stay's a secret." "That's blackmail," the weeny admiral whined. Sam leaned in close and said to his face "No sir, I believe this kind of extortion is 'graymail' – it's much nicer than blackmail. I believe we're done here."
Later, as Sam was shown disembarking a plane at the airport, the voiceover changed to the weeny Admiral who read Sam's discharge papers of Feb 20th 2005.  They read that Sam had agreed not to disclose his activities between Jan 22 and Jan 31st of 2005; and, "He is to receive the following: An honorable discharge with full pension, a change of clothes, first class air transport to the city of his choosing&hellip and one ice cold beer." Then, we finally find out the weeny's name: Rear Admiral James G Lawrence, USN.   And, do you need to ask?  Sam chose Tony Bahama and… Miami!
From the first moments of the movie we see that Sam Axe knows how, and tries, to be "squared away"; but, the odds are stacked against him. First, because the ribbons, insignias and medals on his uniform must have been switched with someone in a completely different military – it sure isn't the US Navy.  And second, there's… well… everything else! A metaphor that he is up against a "broken" system is telegraphed within the first minute, when the automatic gates close prematurely on both he and his "honor guard" – requiring him to "rescue" everyone from the recalcitrant iron gratings. From then onward, it seems to be Sam against the system trying to make his way through a maze of deception where he (and we) can pretty much count on nothing or no one being what they claim to be. The political officials are drug runners, the "terrorist rebels" are victim-farmers, the "clients" don't want help, the so-called "friendly talk" is a witch hunt; and the Burro… well, he's the one thing that seems to be "real" (at least as far as we know).  Many Burn Notice back-story questions were answered, but not without posing several more. The special effects were a bit low budget; but, this is a movie about Sam, not explosions. The acting was believable, but not always precise by the less experienced cast. The Characters were varied and typical Burn Notice faire. The story held your interest for the full two hours (sans commercials) and is credited to only one writer: Matt Nix. That may have also been the story's weakest aspect. Had there been a co-writer to provide counter-point there may have been the ability to more accurately portray the military genre. Bit more attention to the details of ranks, insignias, protocol, culture and systems would have made it more believable and enjoyable to watch. In all, a good use of 2 hours – especially in the "wasteland" that is the summer hiatus.

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Burn Notice: Fall of Sam Axe