We often joke about Burn Notice being stuck in its formula but we’ve noted that Season 6 has been superbly different with a more serious tone and a focused Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) risking his own life and limbs to get Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) out of jail. TV spots warned us that episode 606, “Shock Wave” would bring death to the show and the inclination is to suspect Agent Pearce (Lauren Stamile) or Agent Card (John C. McGinley) would take the fall because most viewers don’t expect to have a significant death this early in the season. But we didn’t get one big death, we got two.
Agents Pearce and Card would certainly give Michael a duty of loyalty to fulfill, to see to it that their killer would be found if their time was indeed up–we saw how Michael reacted to Max’s death, even though he was framed for it. But both agents were relatively out of harm’s way in “Shock Wave,” and he wouldn’t be driven to another level had they died. We also knew it wouldn’t be a major player like Mike or Fi, so even though Sam (Bruce Campbell) was separated from the group and later helped Barry (Paul Tei) in a fun side mission, it would have felt hollow to kill either of these characters away from the others given their history–yes, I’d mourn for Barry much more than Pearce, and especially more than Card, who creeps me out.
Of course with Sam forced to help Barry, that left Madeline (Sharon Gless) all by herself and thankfully the show didn’t go there–not yet anyway. So that left Jesse (Coby Bell) and Michael’s brother, Nate (Seth Peterson) who joined Michael, Pearce, and a throng of CIA agents on a sting operation to get Anson Fullerton (Jere Burns), which felt like another wild goose chase. Either character’s death would have given Michael another gear to go to for an eventual end game. You didn’t want to believe they’d kill of a guy who had a kid, but once Nate ordered those four pizzas you kinda knew he’d get smoked, and you could just see Michael’s guilt unfolding before him as he discarded Nate from the mission like a burn phone.
Michael delivering the bad news to his mother was going to be rough, he’s allowed her to be put in harmful situations, but there was none more crushing to see him walk into her kitchen and respond to the question she’s asked so often, “How’d it go?” Madeline has tried so hard to be a part of Michael’s life, she endured the beatings of her husband to protect her children, and had to learn the hard way that Michael was always going to do his own thing; he had his reasons to be detached. But she loved Nate so much, and now every time she sees Michael or Fiona she’ll associate his death with them.
Despite all of his shortcomings, Nate always had good intentions and Maddy saw that in her son. In some ways she’ll feel responsible too because she told Nate he could come back with them after Ruth left him and took the baby with her. Madeline encouraged Michael to keep Nate busy and influence him positively because Nate has a tendency to get into trouble when left alone.
The worst part of Nate’s death is that he wasn’t even the intended target. It was Anson. And with one shot, a sniper got both of them, eliminating the only lead that Michael had in finding Nate’s killer. Yes, Fiona was set free. Yes, Anson finally got what was coming to him, but Michael will be paying for the rest of his life, but honestly, it was bound to happen eventually. Dating back to Season 4 and 5, the closer Michael got to the top of the burn list, the more stubborn he got. The more consumed he became with it, sacrificing a slow, normal life. Fiona tried to make him forget about it, run away and never look back. Everyone around Michael was always at risk but building up to this season, the danger escalated to a peak with Anson. Michael thought he reached the top of the mountain, but not even having Anson to question or torture, has to be so dissatisfying. And now he lost his brother and irrevocably damaged his relationship with his mother.
I didn’t think we’d be at this spot, six episodes into this season. Let’s applaud creator Matt Nix, Donovan, and the writers for taking Burn Notice to this place, for keeping Fiona in jail for the right amount of time instead of resetting the game at the season premiere. Fiona had her share of threats inside the penitentiary, and perhaps it’s best to stay with Michael because her homeland is looking for her too. She may even have an ally in Ayn (Zabryna Guevara) for the future, because it’s always good to know someone who can get things, especially with Fiona turning in her gun suppliers to Card. But the friction within the group will most certainly be felt. Sam and Jesse probably felt like Supermen because they always came out of the other end okay. Maybe Nate’s death places some hesitation from either of the guys, certainly Maddy, to help out Michael the next time he asks. Meanwhile Fiona will want to be on every major job because she’ll feel in debt to Michael and Nate’s death.
Speaking of that final scene, it was crafted exceptionally well. I gasped when the sniper bullet hit; you really felt the weight of the situation, especially when Nate’s last words were, “I’m scared.” As the camera panned back, seeing Anson bleeding out was another shocker; I don’t think anyone would have been surprised to see him stretched out as the boss villain for the entire season. He was an excellent adversary who was never a physical match for Michael, but because he remained several steps ahead and could play mind games with the team, that made him just as formidable as Carla or Vaughn.
Anson always felt like he was levels higher than them though, and seemed to have unlimited resources to Michael and his history to lead viewers to believe he was the end of the line. I suspected that someone was moving Anson across the chess board, but who could it be? My surest bet is still on Raines (played by Dylan Baker) or someone related to any of the fallen villains from before. Anson appeared out of nowhere so someone out of the blue would not be an unprecedented reveal. It’s official though, whomever he or she is, Anson was going to be killed at all costs and not worry about the collateral damage.
I’ll tell you one thing, and this is a wild and crazy theory, if you dare drink this SPOILER FLAVORED KOOL AID:
We took Anson on his word that he posed as Madeline’s shrink, but have we ever seen the two of them in a scene together? We’ve seen Michael, Sam, Jesse and Fiona all confront Anson, and Michael just told his mother that Anson was the bad guy to protect her, and perhaps I’m remembering wrong but I don’t recall him ever telling her that Anson was her old therapist. I always wondered why Michael never spoke to Maddy about this, because she could have given Michael clues about their sessions, no matter how small they were.
Michael internalizes so much it’s hard to remember and someone please correct me if I’m wrong because I’d hate to think any of this has some real plausibility. But if you take that idea, think about the details Anson knew about Michael’s childhood and run with the idea, it’s not so crazy to think she’s behind it all, except you’d have to believe that Maddy had motive to put Michael through this psychological torment and kill her other son, unless Nate was purely at the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe she resented Michael for putting his work before family. I’m struggling to find more motive. She’d have to have access to all of these resources to carry out these heinous acts, or know people willing to carry out her actions and protect her and she would have to be one helluva convincing, soap watching, casserole-cooking, beer drinking I’ve-never-killed-a-man-before-before-using-my-shotgun-from-my-attic kind of mother who had to get involved in Michael’s good deeds every once in a while. It would be Shakespearean! It would also have to be revealed in the final episode because that would just rock the audience.
Now, if there is any truth to this wild guess, I would have a newfound respect for the Burn Notice gang for being one sick ass twisted show to take it there. I hope I’m wrong, in fact I am most certain I am wrong, but curiosity is starting to kill this cat.
• It was fun to see Sam do the McGyver act, holding off Barry’s assailants with beer, kitchen cleaners, bacon and a motion light. Now Barry and Sam were tracked to a home that kept some of Barry’s books in lock and storage and it was supposed to be an easy grab and go mission. Of course nothing is ever easy, but once Sam opened all of the interior gas lines and hid with Barry underneath a porcelain bath tub– All I could think of though was this poor guy coming home to see several dead or injured men littering his pool area and his entire million dollar mansion scorched through from the inside. Lesson learned, never do favors for money launderers.
• ”Shock Wave” was Tei’s 16th episode, the most by a non-main cast member. It was Peterson’s 14th, and that appeared to be his unlucky number.
• William Mapother made a nice guest-star as Garret Hartley, the leader of the operative out to get Barry.
Think I’m wacko or do you think my theory has some merit? Got a better theory on who’s behind it all? We’re listening. Share your thoughts below and catch the new episode of Burn Notice, “Reunion” Thursday on USA at 9pm.