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Michael Westen

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"My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy."
—Michael in the opening sequence.

Michael Alan Westen is the main protagonist and narrator in the television series Burn Notice. He is portrayed by Jeffrey Donovan.


Early HistoryEdit

Michael was born in Miami (01/07/1967). He is the eldest of the two sons to Frank Westen and Madeline Westen. He suffered a dysfunctional childhood due to his father beating him and his brother Nate Westen repeatedly as a measure of obedience, as well as taking advantage of them for his own gain (In one instance having Michael fake a seizure inside a Mr. Goodwrench store so Frank could steal spark plugs for his custom-built Charger). Frank died two years after Michael became a spy, but Michael missed his funeral stated "The last time I saw him he said 'I'll see you in hell, boy', so I figured we had something on the books."

However, after being burned, and persistent persuasion from his mother, Madeline Westen, Michael did visit his father's grave; eight years after missing the funeral. He stated the "Beloved" term placed on his gravestone was "a bit of a stretch", he nevertheless gruffly thanked his father for the Charger, which his mother claimed Frank wanted him to have.

The gift of the Charger turned out to be a ruse concocted by his mother because she wanted Michael to have something to remember him. His response was to rub the scar beneath his left eye and say 'Oh, I have this to remember him.'


Michael enlisted in the United States Army at the age of 17, wishing to get away from his father. Leaving with nothing but $50 and a change of clothes, Michael never turned back, and vowed to never return to Miami. He was an Army Ranger, and served in Special Forces. After a stint in the Army Combat Applications Group, Michael became a Covert Intelligence Operative for the CIA eventually becoming a high level field agent. He later claimed that he was happiest when he was in a different hemisphere from the rest of his family.

For the next 10 years, Michael served the United States of America in covert operations all over the world, though mostly in Eastern Europe and the OPEC countries. He was also known to have conducted operations in Africa and Ireland, the latter of which being where he met Fiona Glenanne.

Over the course of his career, Michael was very proficient as a covert operative. It was revealed in Past & Future Tense by a Russian operative named Alexi that his name was known by everyone in Russian Special Forces and was described as "like the boogeyman: Not real."

Although the details of most of his operations are still unknown, one of them was in Kiev in 1993. At this time, a team of Spetsnaz, the top Russian operatives, tried to sell a warhead. During this operation, Michael shot one of the team and no one ever saw them again.

Michael believes his unhappy childhood, mostly his father's responsibility, has helped make him into a natural covert operative, though as a result, it has made relationships difficult for him. With time, Michael became a cynic hardened by experience, though also soon reveals he has a soft, and sometimes vulnerable side.


While on assignment in Nigeria, Michael was paying off a Nigerian warlord. During the money transfer Michael's CIA contact informed him the mission was off, they had a burn notice on him. The warlord he was dealing with did not like that Michael wasn't able to provide what he had promised and proceeded to beat him. Michael narrowly escaped from him. He was severely beaten before escaping to the airport where he caught a plane. Once on the plane, he passed out and was then effectively dumped in his hometown of Miami without money or resources, unable to leave or risk "disappearing" completely.

Having been burned, his bank accounts seized, and his assets frozen, Michael is cut off from all of his contacts and flagged on every government list. Every spy's worst nightmare.

Life in MiamiEdit

Michael now has to find work that suits his unusual skillset and knowledge. He counts on longtime friends like Sam Axe, who informed on him to the FBI until midway through the first season, and Fiona to help him perform such tasks, while fighting with his mother Madeline Westen and trying to find out who burned him and why. Michael lives in a decrepit loft situated over a nightclub, with a bed, workbench, some barbells, a punching bag, no air conditioning, an oven, a few chairs, a mid-90's era computer, and a refrigerator filled with yogurt and alcohol. He obtained the loft in the pilot episode, when he assisted his Russian landlord and club owner by ridding a drug dealer Raymond, nicknamed "Sugar" who also lived on the premises. He also spends time at hotels in Miami, as well as his mother's house.

Upon returning to Miami, Michael was watched by the FBI. It was revealed that he was burned in order to be recruited by a mysterious organization and is contacted by a woman named Carla. After Carla was killed by Fiona, Michael received an offer to replace her by a man referred to as the organization's "Management." He refused to take the job and lost the security detail and personal restrictions he had been under to protect him from the countless enemies he made as a CIA operative, choosing to be free from the organization's hold. It is later discovered that the organization was also protecting him from the rest of the world who were hunting the name Michael Westen.

Michael continued to work toward removing his burn notice and being reinstated in the CIA. Michael then approached CIA agent Diego Garza, who became his point of contact for the CIA. Michael was also approached himself and later threatened by Tom Strickler, an "agent to the spies" with powerful connections. Tom had tried to remove Fiona from Michael's life, and Michael subsequently killed him. With Tom dead, the incident sparked a chain of events that led Diego to be murdered by Mason Gilroy, a former MI6 spy and freelance black ops psychopath. Michael ended up working with Gilroy in order to find out his plan. Michael eventually found out that Gilroy was working on securing the release of a high risk fugitive named Simon Escher. Gilroy succeeded in freeing him but is later killed by Simon. In another revelation, Simon was the one responsible for the actions that got blamed on Michael when he was burned. Simon's profile was transferred to Michael. Simon forced Michael to bring Management to Miami but ends up being recaptured again when Michael overtook him.

After initially being taken away by the authorities, Michael is taken into Management's custody by use of their high level government contacts. A high-level member of Management named Vaughn, convinces Michael about a group of people in the world who are plotting assassinations, political coups, funding terrorist organizations, genocide and are using the terrible effects of such actions to greatly profit. Michael agrees to help Management in order to stop the organization that broke Simon out of prison. During the process of investigating, Michael accidentally burns a spy named Jesse Porter.

Despite the objection from Fiona and his own mother, Michael kept secret to Jesse about his role in destroying his life. Later, Jesse discovered Michael's deception and vowed revenge. Just before Jessie found out, Michael found a close link to the organization behind Simon and a mysterious book code contained within an out of print Family Bible, a power-broker and billionaire CEO of Drake Technologies, named John Barrett. Michael offered to trade him the stolen bible in exchange for shedding some light on who he's up against and what the Bible as a book code decrypts - the true identities of the organization that burned Michael. Management – the people who burned him – are hidden within the United States government, private-military corporations and various other powerful organizations. Barrett planned on recruiting Michael to help him eliminate them. During the exchange of the case, Michael was shot by Jesse during a confrontation of Vaughn's and John Barrett's team. Michael, bleeding, was taken by John Barrett. Michael then caused the car he was in to crash, leaving John Barrett dead. Michael survives the accident and manages to crawl out of the wreckage. With Michael bleeding out and unconscious, someone steals the case.

Michael eventually recovered from his injuries. With the help of Fiona, Sam, and Jesse, Michael was able to recover the information on Management. Michael and Jessie turned over the flash drive to Marv - in exchange for Micheal testifying to everything he knows about the organization, Jesse's old CIA handler. Seconds after the handoff Marv is killed by men posing as Homeland Security agents and the flash drive is stolen by Tyler Brennen, an enemy Michael makes during the second season, who dislikes him even more after their next encounter in season three, and is one of the most intelligent villains he has encountered. Brennen, threatening to expose Michael's betrayal to Vaughn, blackmailed Michael into killing the people who on the list who burned him. Brennen is murdered by Larry Sizemore who was recruited by Brennan to be Michael's partner for the killings. Michael was able to defeat Larry, but Vaughn found out of Michael's betrayal. Vaughn and his team goes after Michael and those around him but is arrested. Michael was then taken by two mysterious men to Washington, DC and was met by an unknown acquaintance. The unknown acquaintance turns out to be Raines, Michael's former recruiter, who helps Michael hunt down every member of The Organization

Current StatusEdit

After taking down The Organization, Michael is, officially, still burned but he is unofficially working with the CIA as a freelance spy. Another spy Michael had been working with, his handler, Max, is murdered and Michael is framed for the murder. Agent Pearce, who's been sent by the CIA to investigate Max's murder and serve as Michael's new agency contact. Michael must do what he can to aid the CIA's investigation while keeping the evidence from leading to his own doorstep. After he finds the killer is a Russian named Tavian Korzha the CIA lets Michael go to talk to him where he throws himself off a 5-story, unfinished, parking structure. Larry comes back and kidnaps Anson Fullerton, holding his wife hostage, forcing Michael to help him breaking into the British consulate, frame several British government personnel, and gain two million dollars. Larry reveals that he plans on killing Michael after Fi and Sam find Anson's wife had been blown up. Fiona plants a small explosive to kill Larry. The building suddenly explodes from the bottom, killing 2 security guards inside. It turns out that Anson planted the bomb and framed Fi and he is the founder of Management and threatened to have the CIA and MI6 after Fi if Michael does not do his dirty work. Eventually, Fiona grows tired of Michael working for Anson and turns herself into the FBI when Anson tries to get Michael to burn a CIA Operations team for him. Michael arrives at the Federal Building as Fiona is turning herself in. Michael becomes extremely angry and chases Anson to a chemical plant in the Florida Keys. Anson outwits, rigging the building explode and attaching the detonator on a dead man switch. Michael yet again despite the support of Agent Pierce and the CIA with Michael vowing to go after Anson dead or alive.

After having worked with Rebecca, Anson's partner, who was also blackmailed by him like Michael, he tracks Anson down to Atlantic City and goes after him to take him with Jessie, Pearce and Nate. Michael's life takes a turn for the worse when a Barret M82 .50cal (even though the gun's assembly and diagram labeled it as .950cal) sniper rifle, shot by Tyler Grey, kills his younger brother, Nate as well as Anson. As such, Michael, Madeline, Sam, Fiona, and Jesse are all hell-bent on exacting revenge for Nate's murder.

Eventually, Michael, with his former mentor Tom Card helping him, tracks Nate's killer, Tyler Grey, to Panama. After Michael successfully captures him, Grey reveals Card was the one who pulled the strings behind Anson's death, since Card had been working with Anson and Card decided to kill Anson to keep him from talking. The mission to Panama was supposed to be a suicide mission for Michael and his friends. After barely escaping Card's air strike, Michael and the others attempt to get back to Miami, all the while learning that Grey had been lied to by Card about what he was told about Michael. After realizing Michael wasn't the person he was told, Grey agrees to help Michael take down Card.

Returning to Miami, Grey assists Michael in gathering intel on Card, but when Card discovers Grey's betrayal, Card kills Grey, makes it look like a struggle and tries to convince Michael that they can do "great things" and has always been proud of him. However, Michael, unable to forgive Card for what he did and knowing what he's capable of, shoots Card through the head. After killing his mentor Tom Card for hiring a hitman to kill Michael, Michael has made a deal with the CIA to go to the Dominican Republic and help the CIA track down a terrorist in exchange for the freedom of his friends. If he does not do so then he and his friends will be sent back to the CIA holding facility forever.

Michael Westen is struggling to ensure his friends and family remain free of the agency's grasp on what the show has hinted is his final mission to clear his name. Slowly but surely Michael begins to lose himself and a firm grip on his morals, succumbing to the mission. He proves this by sleeping with Sonya and killing an old friend of his. When Michael discovers that the CIA put Simon Escher in charge of the capture team, he begins to question their beliefs. After escaping the boathouse with James and Sonya, Michael told them the truth, that he is working with the CIA. James didn't believe it was all a lie, since Michael saved him from being captured, double crossing CIA in the process. Michael said that he wasted his life for a 'lie' since he saw that CIA went too far by hiring Simon. James began trusting him again and Michael became a real member of James's organization.

When Michael and Sonya put a plan (to let the CIA capture James, getting them of their backs) in motion, Fiona interrupted the plan by coming to the building trying to convince Michael to change his way. Sonya snapped at the sight of her and moments later raised a gun on her, but Michael killed Sonya before she could pull the trigger, betraying James's organization and changing sides. James witnesses this from a helicopter orders his men to kill Michael and Fiona. Sam and Jesse help Michael and Fiona escape, and they go on the offensive, tracking down a data center used by James's organization and stealing data that they could then use to unravel the entire organization. James arrives to confront them, threatening to have Madeline killed; however, Madeline sacrifices her life to kill James's hit squad and protect Jesse and Charlie.

After capturing James (wounded), he pulls off a dead man's switch and lets it go, causing the whole building to explode, apparently killing Michael and Fiona. Strong said that Michael would get a star on CIA memorial as a hero to his country. Funeral is held for Madeline, Michael and Fiona. Later it's revealed that Michael and Fiona are alive, having escaped the building moments before it exploded. They took Charlie and settled down in a unknown location (presumably Ireland).


"Spies live in the shadows, but they dream of the light. When you're working covert ops for low pay and life threatening conditions, the idea that your work won't remain secret forever keeps you going. One day, the world will learn what you've done even if your name is never known. Some of the sweetest moments come when the job ends and the bullets stop flying. That is unless, one of those bullets rips through your chest."
— Michael[src]

Having endured a horrible childhood which also involved him suffering regular beatings at the hands of his deceased father, Frank, Michael has become something of a distant character, afraid to commit to a long-term relationship or to let anyone get too close to him.

Michael demonstrates indomitable will and resourcefulness to accomplish his goals. He virtually lost everything he worked so hard to build as a spy when he was burned such as his official CIA position, finance, reputation, and freedom having been confined to Miami. Yet he does not douse in self-pity or any destructive behavior but immediately starts building himself to works towards ascertaining the truth behind his burn notice which would take a very long time and many set backs and failures. 

Despite, or perhaps because of this, he's a very skilled spy, using his abilities to help others in trouble. Unlike any fellow spies he's met who kill for profit, Michael has a strong sense of empathy and refuses to kill anyone unless it's really necessary or if he's been pushed to a point which is shown when he shoots Tom Strickler in "Long Way Back". He's also extremely protective of his friends, family and clients, looks after their interests, and is unwilling to let anyone endanger them even if it does mean giving into his enemy's demands sometimes, although he did almost make one exception: when he and his friends needed help from smuggler Calvin Schmidt to leave the country, he almost handed Schmidt over to be tortured and killed by a rival smuggler after learning that Schmidt, knowingly, almost indirectly sent the feds after them, but he suddenly revealed it was a ruse so they could escape. It was later implied that, although he didn't want to, he would have handed Schmidt over.

Michael also has been shown to not be quick to let go of a grudge with someone, especially if they endangered his friends and family and even if they were on his side. A perfect example is when Virgil Watkins returned to Miami for Mike's help. He told Virgil to stay away from Madeline and not call her until he's back in the Bahamas, showing that he still hadn't forgiven Virgil for putting her life in danger last time he was there. He also was distrustful towards Simon after seeing him again even though they were on the same side.

Skills & TalentsEdit

Michael is highly skilled and extremely clever, displaying his abilities by quickly thinking on his feet, improvising electronic devices from commonly available commercial equipment (e.g. radios, cell phones etc.) and using ordinary items (ranging from duct tape to cake frosting) in highly unorthodox ways in order to complete a job.

Michael also became an expert martial artist, with around 30 years of training and experience in karate. Westen has also demonstrated proficiency in the Russian martial art Sambo. He has received special operations training, has combat experience on 5 continents, and remarked that he holds "a rating with any weapon that shoots a bullet or holds an edge".

Michael speaks several different accents that help him act out different persona, including Southern accent, Boston accent, Irish accent, New Jersey, and etc. He has shown proficiency and fluency in Russian, Farsi, and Arabic. Throughout the series, Michael has, ironically, shown little to no knowledge of Spanish, but by the time he was sent to the Dominican Republic, he had learned to fluently speak Spanish.

Michael has profound knowledge in the art of war that helps him create strategies and tactics in various combat situations such as seizing, breaching, defending, high-speed chasing, and capturing enemies. Almost more than half of his preformed plans often has to be altered due to unknown factors such as intrusion of new enemy personnel, reduction of collateral damage, or entering unfavorable terrains. He has demonstrated incredible improvisation skills that often turned the tides of the battles.

Michael often uses psychological warfare as the key component of his missions. He often prioritizes finding out enemy weaknesses and focuses on intimidating the enemies into hiding or deceives them until they are forced to fight the local law enforcements, rival enemies, or each other. Thus he is not an unstoppable juggernaut who can take down an army on his own but more of a virus who will break his adversaries from within systematically with wit, knowledge, and unbreakable conviction to uphold justice. To orchestrate such plans, he is aware of the behaviors, structures, and rules of various types of criminals such as local drug lords and international arms dealers as well as the those of law enforcement agencies and other clandestine services such as the police, FBI, and NSA. He has also studied interrogation tactics that are effective without the use of brutal coercion.

Though not on par with a medical professional, Michael has sufficient knowledge of the human body to apply emergency treatment on the field and gauge the physiological changes of operatives in calmer situations such as stake-outs to intense firefights.

In addition to his trade-craft, Michael has also studied civilian life and behaviors such as the inner workings of night clubs. His knowledge of banking and finance has proven pivotal to his missions.

Perhaps his most important skill is his ability to blend in and lie by assuming different identities which has helped him infiltrate criminal organizations located in both foreign and domestic.

Michael is also a decent cook ranging from various ethnic cuisines like Persian.

Background Information & NotesEdit

  • Michael appears to favor the SIG Sauer P228 (9x19mm) as his primary sidearm which is known to be easy to conceal. In season four, he appears to have changed his weapon to the larger and more modern Heckler and Koch P30 (9x19mm) which has a bigger capacity and superior ergonomics than the P228. The P30 is given to him by Cole, the former US marine turned hitman in "Center of the Storm", to replace the P228 which Cole disposed of and as a reward for helping him escape from his ruthless clients.
  • Michael appears to favor Emerson knives, especially the Karambit, though which one is hard to identify. He threatens Larry with it after Larry uses Mike's name to get close with the Drug Cartels. In one episode, however, he uses a Benchmade 3300 Infidel.
  • Michael's signature sunglasses are made by Oliver Peoples, and the style is called "Victory". In the episode "Broken Rules", Michael claimed he got the sunglasses from an Algerian special ops soldier he tangled with who "didn't need them anymore."
  • Michael seems to have a fondness for yogurt (particularly Blueberry) as he is often seen talking about it and eating it in various episodes. In the episode "Broken Rules" he blackmails Jason Bly by showing him multiple embarrassing photos, one of them of the agent breaking inside Michael's home without a warrant and eating his yogurt. Later seasons have reduced the emphasis on Michael's favorite snack, but yogurt still makes occasional appearances. In the episode "Mixed Messages" we find out Michael picked up his yogurt habit from his training officer, Tom Card. While at Card's office we see him still enjoying yogurt.
  • Michael usually wears an Armani suit similar to Leonard Shelby in Memento.
  • When secretly breaking into a person's home, Michael tends to snack on food items in the person's kitchen, such as tortilla chips and yogurt.
  • Michael also tends to whistle whenever he's impressed.
  • His car is a black 1973 Dodge Charger which was destroyed in "Last Stand" when he detonates a large amount of explosives to buy time for them to get away from Management's Tactical Team.
  • Although he grew up in Miami, Michael doesn't speak Spanish. But since "New Deal", it appears that he's gotten much better at it.
  • Michael snores when he sleeps. In the pilot episode, when Fiona wakes up Michael after his flight to Miami, a portion of air movement during his breathing is obstructed. You can also find the same section in the prologue narration at the beginning of each episode.
  • Michael's activities in Russia have earned him a fearsome reputation and made him something of a ghost story among Russian operatives, which is referenced multiple times by Russian characters in the show. Oleg, his landlord, said that he heard that Michael Westen was "one name for many people," thinking that no one man could cause them so much trouble. Alexi, a Russian operative, stated that "Everyone in Russian Special Forces has heard the name Westen. He's like the boogeyman: not real." Michael encountered another Russian, Vitali, in the same episode and said, "I'm Michael Westen." Vitali gave him a look and Michael simply said. "Yeah, that one."


External linksEdit

Jonas found out that his middle name was Alan.

Start a Discussion Discussions about Michael Westen

  • Michael and Sonya Endgame

    5 messages
    • Manage the organization? Boy, has the point gone WAY over your head.
    • i believe this is called wishing to possess the egg-flour-milk-sugar delicacy and consume consume it also :) as pointed out, mike had to make ...

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