505 "Square One" - Michael as mentor
1) Michael receives wisdom
Courtesy of Maddie, we learn something about Michael's past - specifically, about how Michael dealt with anger when he was a young man. Maddie reminds Michael that he is a mentor to Ethan. Maddie first helps Michael relate to Ethan. And to see that he bears responsibility to help the young man understand how to manage the anger that he himself has learned to control.
Maddie: "How many years of training did it take before you learned to curb your anger, Michael? The man you are today is not the boy who left home. You were a scared kid when you left. You were angry at the world, you were angry at everything!"
She then tells Michael to go pay it forward: "Someone has to teach him, Michael."
So Michael does.
2) Michael dispenses wisdom:
Michael: "You want Ramsey dead, and you don't think I have anything to say worth listening to. Oh, I understand that feeling. So, uh, you wanna compare body counts?"
Ethan is a little challenging: "All right, if it's gonna be that kind of talk."
Michael tries to put him in his place - not to belittle him, just to again remind him that he has more experience than Ethan: "Actually, it's not. I'm telling you, I know more about this than you do. You're not in a war zone anymore, Ethan."
Ethan still challenges Michael's assumptions about him : "So you're saying you think I'll regret killing the guy 'cause this isn't a battlefield? Listen to me: I won't. I want to finish this my way."
Michael tells Ethan bluntly: "You don't get to do what you want to do. You lost that right the moment your sister got beaten."
Ethan: "What's that supposed to mean?"
Michael reminds Ethan that his sister needs him: "Your life doesn't belong to you. Your decisions affect other people. You need to start thinking about Heather."
Ethan: "That is what I'm doing."
Michael has to point out the obvious before Ethan gets it: "You can't help her from jail."
He continues: "You know who acts out of selfish anger? The Ramseys of this world. And that's their weakness. And that's what you use to destroy them."
Ethan asks for advice: "What do I do?
Michael, intense: "You look Ramsey in the eye one last time. You go to bat for him. You convince him you are his best friend. And when he's ready to burn his whole life to cinders…you hand him the match."
Michael first relates to Ethan, to assure him he does understand Ethan's anger. While pointing out that he's been there, he also makes it clear that he can speak to the situation better than Ethan himself. Michael tells Ethan that justice is not about gratifying his own feelings. He emphasizes that Ethan bears responsibilities because of his relationships, so he can't be short-sighted. Ethan has to put Heather's needs above his own desires. And once Michael has Ethan's full attention with this reminder, he explains to his protege that the difference between good guys and bad guys is the priority one gives to one's own self-centered desires. He helps Ethan understand that the way he was behaving before with the sniper rifle was not noble, but base - and more like his enemy than he realized or wanted. Finally, Michael gives Ethan strategy for how to use this knowledge - and more importantly, he gives Ethan the assurance that while he can't satisfy his bloodlust, he can still find satisfaction in helping Ramsey (borrowing Fi's words) "tighten the noose on his own neck".
3) Michael assesses his career:
Mission accomplished, Ethan comes to Michael seeking one final piece of advice. He tells Michael that he's now considering the CIA as a career option. He wants to know, first, what to expect.
Ethan: "Does it ever get easier?"
Michael: "No, it never does."
Ethan: "If you had it to do over again,would you?"
Michael: "It's who I am. I don't know how to be anyone else."
He didn't exactly say "Heck, yes, being a spy is awesome!", did he? But he reaffirms that it's his calling.
The last challenge and responsibility that Michael faces in this episode is that of justice for his murdered friend Max.
Agent Pearce reminds him that, like Ethan, Michael is not acting only for his own needs: "Michael, I'm counting on you here. And so is Max's family."
While Michael doesn't need the reminder - He has a heightened sense of responsibility for seeking justice for others, already - Pearce's remark just sets that weight even more firmly upon his shoulders.
Happy Westen Wednesday.
Edited by philliesfan, 08 February 2012 - 11:06 PM.