[WARNING: Spoilers for 'Strike Back' Season 3, Episode 9.]
The attempt to recover intel and strategic information from a human source can only be successful so long as the source remains alive. If the individual(s) in question continue to die – either by the hands of those attempting to extract said information or another party desperate to keep them quiet – then the chance of an operation running without all of the necessary information increases dramatically.
In the penultimate episode of Strike Back season 3, Scott and Stonebridge learn the hard way that completing a mission isn’t just stopping the bad guy by whatever (usually lethal) means necessary; it’s also gathering intelligence, building sources and cultivating associations with (read: menacing) people privy to certain sensitive information. Sometimes – like with Locke and the Russian scientist – it’s just a straight up interrogation with the threat of imminent death. At any rate, when an attack like the one Al-Zuhari has planned on the horizon, it’s generally considered a strike against the mission when all the bodies from the other side turn cold before they can be questioned.
And it’s not for a lack of trying. Scott and Stonebridge put forth considerable effort to bring their boss a live one so that he might extract whatever information is lurking within their nefarious minds. Trying to save Ester turns into a fun-filled afternoon of shootouts and knife fights in a place most people generally like to enjoy some cotton candy, a rigged game of chance or a quick spin on the merry-go-round. As a result, Stonebridge’s sliced-up captive winds up dead before he can utter a single word. Later, two key targets manage to get killed before they can be extracted from the compound Section 20 just raided, and finally, after a terrific and intense train sequence, the team’s Russian objective, Novotny, doesn’t fare quite as well as everyone else when it comes to a risky deboarding procedure.
The episode does a great job of illustrating the importance of having good intel, and how without it, even a resource-rich operation like Section 20 is flying half-blind. And though the team manages to secure a few harddrives and some slightly burned documents to help Richmond decode the tags intended to identify the “clean skins” that were uploaded to the NATO database (by the way, with her potent mix of computer and soldiering skills, is Richmond the VIP of Section 20 or what?), they still miss out on the most valuable intel of all: that their dearly departed friend, Leo Kamali, isn’t dead after all.
The revelation certainly seems to suggest that Leo Kamali was a cover for Al-Zuhari, a kind of clean skin for hiding the world’s most wanted terrorist in plain sight. There may still be another explanation for Kamali’s sudden ressurection, but the first guess sure feels right, even if it is a bit Keyser Söze-esque.
Besides, it would explain why the only footage we’ve seen of Al-Zuhari was on video, and it definitely goes a long way in validating the episode’s use of repetition with regard to potential interrogation subjects ending up dead; it bordered on hilariously tragic before becoming a portent of doom.
Strike Back season 3 concludes next Friday @10pm on Cinemax.