Sam Axe

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For the 17th Century English privateer, see Samuel Axe.
Samuel Axe
Burn Notice character
First appearance "Pilot"
Portrayed by Bruce Campbell
Aliases Charles "Chuck" Finley
Occupation Freelance independent contractor,
CIA civilian intelligence asset,
Former: Navy SEAL
Family Amanda, wife (estranged)

Commander[1] Samuel "Sam" Axe, USN (ret.) is a fictional character in the television series Burn Notice and TV movie Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, played by Bruce Campbell. He is the best friend of Michael Westen, the main character in Burn Notice.


Sam served over 20 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL and eventually retired with full benefits at the rank of Commander in February 2005 as part of a graymail deal reached over keeping the true events of Operation PROVIDE SUPPORT in Colombia a secret. The deal included relocation to the city of his choice (he selected Miami, Florida), along with a change of clothes and one ice cold beer.[1] He helps Michael Westen with freelance work, having known him since at least 1992 when they were doing a job together in Poland. He frequently uses the cover name "Chuck Finley" after the baseball player he frequently and successfully wagered upon;[1] coincidentally it is also the name of a coworker of Bruce Campbell's father.[2]

Though he was once one of the world's top covert operatives, Sam is now semi-retired, with a habit of dating "sugar mommas" that forms the subplot of several episodes. For the first and second seasons, he had no living quarters of his own, living instead with his "lady-friends". He eventually got a place of his own in Season Two, when his "lady-friend", Veronica, broke up with him because he married when he was younger. That marriage was done on a whim, but never legally dissolved. He later moved in with Maddie, Michael's mother, in exchange for helping her rebuild an area of her house that was damaged in an explosion (that Sam caused).

Even though Michael is Sam's friend, the FBI tied up Sam's Navy pension to force him to inform on Michael. In Season One, Sam was forced to balance his loyalty to Michael with his obligation to the FBI; he often fed the Bureau bogus information or only half-truths. Michael was aware of the situation and even helped Sam on a few occasions by providing him with information to report to the FBI. In the first-season episode "Family Business", Michael's FBI surveillance is pulled and Sam no longer spies on him. Thereafter, the show's opening with Michael describing Sam is changed to "a friend who used to inform on you to the FBI."

Despite being viewed as a slacker, Sam has an extensive knowledge regarding bureaucratic practices of the American law enforcement agencies as well as knowledge of American and international covert intelligence organizations, understanding their operating practices such as breaching perimeters and tactical plans. As well, he also has a grasp on international law, once telling a Haitian client that a criminal warrant from the International Criminal Court would not suffice as legitimate evidence in an American court.

At some point in the past, Sam foiled Michael's ex-girlfriend, arms trafficker Fiona Glenanne, during her attempt to do a deal with a Libyan arms dealer, costing her a considerable sum of money. Despite her initial desire to kill or maim him, by the end of the first season, they have entered into an antagonistic friendship. In the second season episode "Breaking and Entering", Sam is only able to name her and Michael as his real friends (Michael being the only friend who would die for him and Fiona his only female friend).

He is often seen wearing Tommy Bahama shirts, linen pants, loafers and flashy jewelry, including a pinky ring and Rolex watch, and is also sometimes seen wearing sunglasses. He is often seen drinking beer, mojitos, or other alcoholic beverages, especially in teasers for the show. Sam is often seen drinking the fictional Heisler beer, conceptualized by the Independent Studio Services. Sam has many skills that are useful to Michael, including martial arts, wiretapping, burglary, marksmanship, forgery, interrogation, surveillance, and the ability to plausibly assume cover identities. His main contribution to the team, however, is his apparently inexhaustible supply of contacts (whom he calls "buddies") in seemingly every law enforcement agency, bureaucratic department, military branch and intelligence agency from the Florida DMV to the NSA, who are willing to share information.

In addition, Sam often serves as Michael's moral compass and the voice of reason.

In Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe it has been hinted that Sam went to Analy High School, the high school of show creator Matt Nix. This would mean that Sam spent some time growing up in or around Sebastopol, California.

In two different cross-promotional ads with Royal Pains, Sam unsuccessfully runs game on Divya under the guise of seeking medical treatment, and hears out an idea for a spy-for-hire business from Evan.

Sam Axe as Chuck Finley[edit]

"Chuck Finley" is an alias used by Commander[1] Samuel "Sam" Axe, USN (ret.), one of the fictional characters from the television series Burn Notice, played by Bruce Campbell. "Chuck Finley" turns into "Charles Finley" when Sam feels that his cover needs to be more sophisticated and up-scale.[3]

Chuck Finley has also been depicted as the alter ego, con-artist persona[4] of Sam Axe.

Overview of Chuck Finley[edit]

Chuck Finley made the first appearance in the third episode of the first season of Burn Notice, "Fight or Flight" as the attorney of character Cara Stagner, a waitress at the nightclub below Michael's loft.

However, chronologically as per the series, Chuck Finley appears first in the prequel The Fall of Sam Axe. Sam Axe adopts the Chuck Finley alias for the first time at the "Secret CIA Intelligence facility" in Colombia while calling for help from military base in Santa Marta, posing as "Deputy Assistant Intelligence Director Chuck Finley" from the NSA headquarters.

On being asked by Amanda Maples of the reason of picking the name "Chuck Finley", Sam replied: "Yeah. Made a lot of money betting on him back in the day. I'm thinking it's a lucky name."[1] The scene from "The Fall of Sam Axe" at that instant shows Sam holding an undated edition of fictitious sports magazine "Sports Action" with cover page heading "Pitching Giants: Remembering Chuck Finley". Apparently, "Chuck Finley" has been named after the baseball pitcher that Sam Axe frequently and successfully bet upon.[1]

Sam has shown certain degree of affinity to the name Chuck Finley and in "Blind Spot", episode 11, fourth season of Burn Notice, declined to relinquish that cover I.D. despite the adversary also being named Charles and other characters suggesting an alternate alias.

Chuck Finley: The Character[edit]

In an interview, Bruce Campbell has stated that Sam Axe uses Chuck Finley to convince people without dragging the Sam Axe character, who has a past career in U.S. Navy SEAL, into the matter.[5]

Bruce Campbell has mentioned that, coincidentally, it is also the name of a former co-worker of his real-life father.[6]

In an interview about Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe to Darryl Morden of Buzzine,[4] Bruce Campbell has mentioned the following:

Morden: "What about Sam's con-artist persona Chuck Finley? Will we see more of him on the show or in the prequel movie?"
Campbell: "Oh yeah, Chuck is all over the place. Chuck Finley is forever." [And Chuck was also on giveaway Burn Notice t-shirts handed out to fans attending the panel.]

The real life Chuck Finley was a pitcher with the (L.A.) Angels in the late 1980s and through the 1990s. Apart from his on field activities, he was in news for being a victim of domestic violence. He had alleged that his wife, Tawny Kitaen had once attacked him with a stiletto heel.[7]

Appearances of Chuck Finley in episodes of Burn Notice[edit]

Chuck Finley has made appearance in the following 21 episodes of Burn Notice through to Season 5.

Season Episode/Series Title
  • Episode 03
  • Episode 08
  • Episode 11
  • Episode 12
  • Episode 13
  • Episode 03
  • Episode 07
  • Episode 12
  • Episode 02
  • Episode 12
  • Episode 13
  • Episode 14
  • Episode 15
  • Episode 03
  • Episode 08
  • Episode 09
  • Episode 11
  • Episode 13
  • Episode 14
  • Episode 06
  • Episode 09
  • Fight or Flight
  • Wanted Man
  • Loose Ends Part 1
  • Loose Ends Part 2.1
  • Loose Ends Part 2.2
  • Trust Me
  • Rough Seas
  • Seek and Destroy
  • Question & Answer
  • Noble Causes
  • Enemies Closer
  • Dressed to Kill
  • Good Intentions
  • Made Man
  • Where There's Smoke
  • Center of the Storm
  • Blind Spot
  • Eyes Open
  • Hot Property
  • Enemy of My Enemy
  • Eye For An Eye

In all the episodes, Chuck has taken different professions which suited the situation, ranging from a lawyer or police officer or doctor, to motivational speaker or Glades homeowners association member.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe
  2. ^ "Get Burned" DVD commentary feature for episode "Fight Or Flight"
  3. ^ Charles 'Chuck' Finley
  4. ^ a b Darryl Morden (August 8, 2010). "'Burn Notice' TV Star By Day, Cult Film Hero By Night". Buzzzine. 
  5. ^ "Burn Notice: Bruce On Chuck Finley". USA Network. 
  6. ^ Get Burnt DVD commentary feature for episode 3: Fight or Flight
  7. ^ "Kitaen Files $12-Mil Lawsuit Against Ex". People Magazine. September 24, 2002. 

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