"Burn Notice" Fail Safe (TV Episode 2011) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • To Michael's delight, he's given official charge of a CIA operation, albeit one nobody else wanted, with a young crack team, including hotshot agent Ryan Pewterbaugh, his cocky rival Nick Carnahan and shady Rebecca Lang, to stop slick spies recruiter Reed Perkins. Jesse goes undercover to be recruited in Miami as ex-spy security consultant. Meanwhile the team secretly acts on Vaughn's warning that Anson, who admitted having murdered father Weston, is rebuilding the mighty network that burnt Mike. However the task is so hard and Anson so well-prepared that the team's disagreements worsen until Fiona decides to give herself up to the FBI.

  • When Anson demands that Michael burn the CIA team he's working with, Fi decides she's had enough and takes a drastic step to settle Michael's debt to Anson once and for all.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Previously on Burn Notice: Anson, the man who ruined Michael's life by instituting the "burn notice," explained to him about the whole network of burned spies and framed Fiona for a couple of murders so he could keep Michael doing his bidding. An imprisoned Vaughn told Michael that Anson is rebuilding the whole network.

    "Fail Safe:" Fiona says she can't let Anson go through with his plan, despite what he has on her. Sam says Anson's whole scheme seems pretty complete. Michael wants to confront Anson, and Fiona says she's going to stand by with a sniper rifle and will do what she has to do to end this if it comes to that.

    Fi is set up on a roof across from where Michael surprises Anson with a visit and tells him in a particularly violent way that he won't let him rebuild the network. Anson tells Michael his organization is no different than the CIA, then tells Michael that he's given him everything he has. He asks Michael if he really wants to throw it all away. Just as Fiona is about to take a shot, Michael pulls Anson from the line of fire. Fi shoots and misses. She's not happy.

    Back at the loft, Fi yells at Michael for "delaying the inevitable." Michael says Anson is now afraid of them so they have some time. Sam tries to calm things down by showing them that Anson bought a weapons and explosives warehouse in Tampa. If that's where he keeps the T4 he used to frame Fiona, they could save her. Michael has to meet Agent Pearce about a CIA job, so Sam and Fi will head to Tampa. Sam tells Michael to be careful on the job for Pearce. "I don't want you getting shot just before we cross the finish line," he says.

    Pearce gives Michael his case -- he's in charge of an official CIA team. Reed Perkins, a guy who scouts out assets who might be willing to spy against the U.S. for Middle Eastern countries. The plan is to grab him on his way from an airplane to a conference in Miami. Michael goes to meet his team. With less than 24 hours to plan, Pearce suggests they get started.

    Sam and Fi check out the power draw on the old building in Tampa. They think someone's living there. Fi wants to sneak in and Sam agrees to do it. Fiona wants a big rig to get inside. Sam's not sure how he'll do it, but he's going to have it.

    Michael sets out on his "urban snatch and grab." Reed (Eric Roberts) is spotted landing at the airport and Michael's team is ready to hit Reed's car, then grab him. The plan goes badly when a minivan blocks the path of Michael's team member, and he crashes his own car, leaving Reed's car untouched as Reed gets away.

    Pearce is upset that the operation turned into a disaster. He says it was an accident and a panicky driver. Michael tells her they should give Reed an American source he can turn, and get that person on his airplane because Reed doesn't seem to be traveling with a security team. We next see Jesse trying to make himself look desperate at a security conference. Reed comes to Jesse at the bar and offers him a business proposition. Jesse tells Reed that if he's going to work for him, he wants to do it out of the country. Reed says he'll make the arrangements, but that if Jesse is wasting his time, he'll kill him.

    Sam and Fi break their way into the warehouse with a big rig and some huge chains that pull on pipes that are attached to the wall, and meet Jake (Luke Albright) -- Anson's caretaker. He says he doesn't know anything. Jake has an arrest warrant for three counts of sexual assault charges. Fi threatens to take Jake and everything in the warehouse to the cops. Sam and Fi lead Jake out of the building, but when the explosives start beeping, Sam and Fi realize Anson is tracking his stuff. The whole building explodes and Jake goes with it.

    Michael meets with Anson, who already knew about the warehouse blowing up. Anson tells Michael he wants him to burn his new CIA team by setting up Pearce and putting some files on her computer that make it look like she's taking money from Reed. Michael takes the chip and says nothing.

    Fi tells Michael he can't let Anson ruin all of those lives. Michael is trying to find a way out of it. Sam is upset, saying they had a way out and it's gone. Fiona tells Michael they're running out of time. Michael's desperate to come up with an alternative.

    Michael runs Pearce through the operation to get Reed at the airport, and she signs off on it. She tells Michael that if this goes well he "future at the agency is looking bright."

    At the airport, Michael and one of his team members break into the hangar where Reed's plane is stored while TSA checks some records to distract Reed's security. One of the team members, Rebecca Anderson (Kristanna Loken) is tasked with planting a gun under a certain seat in the executive jet for Jesse to use later.

    Sam and Fi strike out with Sam's cop friend, and Fiona takes off to handle it on her own. She's heading back to the loft to get the files they have against Anson. Sam calls Michael, who's in the middle of his mission, and Michael leaves to track Fiona down.

    At the loft, in an emotional scene, Fiona talks about turning herself in because she doesn't want Michael to risk multiple lives by going through with the plan to burn his team. They hug and Michael sneakily handcuffs Fiona to a pipe. He tells her he's buying time and can't let her turn herself in. He says he's sorry as he walks out the door, but Fiona goes nuts.

    Back at the airport, Michael returns and immediately gets a phone call from Anson who is watching from afar. He asks Michael if he's planted the card in Pearce's computer and Michael says he doesn't have to burn the spies. Anson doesn't see it the same way. Michael goes back to meet with Pearce in their surveillance van and she tells him never to leave for personal reasons again. (He'd told her his mom had a health thing come up and he had to help).

    Michael distracts Pearce for a moment and slips the data card into Pearce's computer. The files upload quickly, and Michael carries on with the operation, "knowing that it's your job to repair the hurt you're about to cause or the damage you're about to do -- or die trying," voiceover Michael tells us.

    Michael sees through his binoculars that Rebecca is carrying a different gun than she had before -- one he thinks is an odd choice. Another team member (Dean Cain) mentions that she also carries over-pressured rounds -- something Fiona mentioned that Anson had in his warehouse. Michael takes off, telling his team member to stand down until he gives another order.

    Michael goes through Rebecca's things in the rear of her vehicle and she finds him. They have a big standoff in which she admits she's working for Anson and Michael discovers she was going to blow up the plane with Reed and Jesse aboard. Michael tells Rebecca to leave and she drives away.

    Michael radios to the group that Rebecca was a plant to sabotage the operation. He tells his team to give him cover fire so he can get Jesse away. Asked what the signal will be, Michael says, "When the plane blows up."

    Michael uses Rebecca's remote device to blow up the plane as Jesse and Reed are walking toward it. The big firefight ensues and Michael drives up in an airport security car to get Reed and Jesse away. Michael stops the car randomly and punches Reed out cold when he asks too many questions. Michael quickly explains to Jesse that Rebecca was a plant and orders him to take Reed to Pearce and destroy her laptop. "Nobody's getting burned today," he says. Michael then rushes to take care of the Fiona situation.

    He gets to the loft to find Sam handcuffed to the pipe where he had left Fi. She tricked Sam into letting her use her phone in her purse, and she used her lockpicks to free herself. Sam tells Michael that she's headed to the federal building to turn herself in. Sam hands Michael some papers Fi left for him, and says, "I'm sorry, Mike. I'm so sorry." The last "sorry" seems like an apology for having staged and lied about this whole Fiona-escaped story.

    Michael's racing to the federal building and Anson calls him, reminding Michael of what would happen if he didn't cooperate. Michael tells Anson, "One way or another, it's over. I'll see you in hell."

    In a dramatic, slow-motion scene, Michael runs toward the federal building just as Fi walks up the steps of the building. Michael yells from across the street and she turns and see him one last time. Then she keeps on walking. An agent meets her at the top of the steps and confirms who she is. She says she's there to surrender, and is immediately encircled by more than a half-dozen agents with big guns pointed at her.

    Michael reads her letter. She wrote that she can't let him ruin anyone else's life to save hers and she has to force him to tell what he knows.

    "If you don't, you won't be the man that I love," she writes. "Do the right thing. I love you, Michael. Forever."

    Handcuffed, she's taken into the federal building.

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