A few things were noticeably absent from the Season 6 Premiere of Burn Notice last night. There were no covers, no over-the-top accents, and no smiles from Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan). What few jokes Sam (Bruce Campbell) and Jesse (Coby Bell) threw out went over like lead balloons, because there was simply nothing to joke about. Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Sam saw Michael compromising everything he stood for, burning fellow spies, deleting government files; he was doing Anson’s (Jere Burns) work at the snap of his weasel-fingers. Fiona and Sam had enough and came up with a plan that would snap Michael out of his funk and fight back–they might have snapped him a bit too hard.
It was Michael Westen unleashed as he put the Charger into overdrive and showed a side he rarely shows. He lost his cool, and dropped his normally steely-eyed, calm focus. Michael became so unhinged that he threatened Sam at gunpoint when he wouldn’t get his way. And that would be top of the list of uncharacteristic things Michael did to Sam because he had no other way to act out his anger, no way to cope with the possibility of Fiona behind bars for three counts of capital murder or even worse yet, death row. So when Anson’s latest escape went kablooey, Sam looked like a goner, for about two whole seconds. The thought that creator Matt Nix would kill off Sam to further torture Michael crossed my mind for a very brief moment–and then that long pause became longer and longer, and sure enough Sam emerged with the bound scientist.
“Scorched Earth” was the change-up I was looking for. Will it be the game-changer to break up the repetitive Burn Notice pattern? We’ll find out. Seeing Michael channel a PG-13 Paul Kersey on everyone who got in his way was mighty intense. It didn’t matter if it was Sam, Jesse, Agent Pearce (Lauren Stamile) or some random truck driver, Michael was acting first and thinking later. I don’t know if viewers could handle 18 episodes like this, but it was nice to see Michael go on the offense for once as opposed to always playing defense. Anson sent a trigger-happy special forces schizo to Madeline’s (Sharon Gless) house to kill her, so you know that he is playing for keeps and while being smart prevailed, Michael could learn a few things from Jack Bauer and just snap Anson’s neck already. At least he got a few punches in, right? We got a taste of the dark-Michael that Larry used to talk about and even though it almost cost Sam’s life, amongst others, I’d like to see him retain some of those qualities moving forward.
What was also cool was seeing Michael rattle Sam enough to get the information out of him. He knew that Fiona couldn’t knock Sam out, much less catch the former Navy Seal by surprise. He practically beat the truth out of him with an array of pissed off glares until Sam admitted that he and Fiona knew that Michael would never go for their plan, that’s why they didn’t ask him.
Michael wasn’t the only perceptive one. Fiona properly surrendered and confessed to only the bomb that killed Larry Sizemore back in Season 5, but refused not the bombings that killed the security guards, nor would she incriminate Michael of any involvement. Fiona’s “Not Favorite Person,” Agent Jason Bly (Alex Carter) made an appearance from Seasons One and Two to try and connect Michael, and even went as far to tell her that he died in the roadblock fire Michael created to stop traffic and smoke out Anson. Fiona had the big “gotcha” moment of the night by smelling the stink of Bly’s lies.
Fiona looking at photo: The sides of the cab would’ve been blasted off in a pressurized explosion… this wasn’t an accident, this looks more like a roadblock…. you’re a liar, Michael’s alive.
Bly: How can you tell all of that just by looking at a photo?
Fiona: I know explosions, I know Michael, and I know that we’re done here.
It’s apparent that even without a gun, car or bomb, and handcuffed to a desk, Fi can still claim the episode’s best moments. But is Bly working for the government, or for Anson? Will we see him again? Either way, the fact that he’d lie to her just to get Michael involved in with the British Consulate bombings is enough reason for Michael to fear the network against him is either growing or reforming. They were able to get the photos of the roadblock almost instantly, falsified papers and came up with some cockamamie story about Michael being “burned” in the semi cab. Is this some symbolic gesture to suggest that Michael is on a new Burn List? How deep does Anson’s new network go? Will it even matter that Anson has surged to the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted list when he has that many connections?
While Fiona’s out of commission, Nix and Donovan will have to get creative with their reliable formula which has worked for the last two seasons. Maybe we’ll see the three boys do more independent work, or maybe Maddy gets involved more. Will Michael get more help? Considering how much smarter Anson is, he could use some reinforcements, although I do like the idea of changing the format from what Nix and Donovan have been putting out, even if for just a handful of episodes. It’s not that Burn Notice hasn’t been entertaining, it’s just that a curve ball every now and then goes a long way in pitching a complete game.
The audience is at the point where they want a change in game plan too. Who knows, it could net different results? Hopefully Fiona’s in jail longer than an episode or two just so we can see how Michael adapts and how resourceful he can be without Fiona. She did a lot of heavy lifting as his right hand woman and Burn Notice is always at its best when Michael and company overcome the odds when their best laid plans fall through.
You also want to feel like there is a real threat to the core of the group and that’s why episodes like “Scorched Earth” worked extremely well. Sam nearly died, Jesse nearly died, Maddy feared for her life, and Fiona has been pulled away from the group. For the first time I prepared for a loss. It could have been easier to the start the season with a death and pull viewers’ attention away from Anson, but I’m glad they didn’t–at least for now. Anson’s too despicable to forget or tuck away in the background. Michael needs as much of the team as he can get and end this before Anson can regroup.
• Something tells me that even though Anson is at the top of the Most Wanted list, Michael will not get much backup from Pearce. Michael could come clean to Pearce, but unless he actually gets some resources when he asks for it, it’s probably the Burn Notice crew sans Fiona for at least a few episodes.
• Sam did some great stunt driving to slow traffic down before Michael’s created the road block.
• I’m trying to determine if Jere Burns is more of a weasel with or without the mustache. Thoughts?
• Who else noticed the update in the opening credits? The fans voted for the more subtle tummy tuck rather than the drastic facelift and I think that was the right choice.
• No I didn’t forget about Madeline blasting a hole through her attic floor to save Jesse. It was probably one of the best scenes of “Scorched Earth.” This scene had a great payoff and what was great was Maddy deducing she was in trouble; love that she’s retaining the knowledge gained from previous seasons. What was ridiculous though was Maddy trying to find a hiding spot with a lit cigarette in hand! A better soldier could have followed the scent of smoke, but who else imagined Maddy sneaking around her house puffing away at the cigarette?
9.0 / 10
Next week’s episode of Burn Notice, “Mixed Messages” could see Fiona thrown in jail while Michael, Sam and Jesse track Anson down. Which man makes the next move? Tune into USA on Thursday night at 9pm ET/PT to find out.