Burn Notice Season 6 Episode 16: Odd Man Out
Burn Notice has been filled to the brim with annoying characters this season. Tom Card (John C. McGinley) was rightfully shot in the head in the mid-season finale, “Means & Ends” and whenever I see Agent Olivia Riley (Sonja Sohn), her one-note overacting makes me want to yank my television off my wall, climb up a flight of stairs to “clean and jerk” it out of my third-story window. I know, I know, Sohn was on The Wire, but can we give her a little more range to work with here? Oh and by the way, we get two hours of her tough girl act in the season finale. But the award for the most annoying character this season – and perhaps all of the seasons – has to go to Colin Schmidt, played by comedian Patton Oswalt.
One of Burn Notice‘s staples is seeing Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) rely on a civilian, usually the client, endanger themselves to go undercover, or outwit the bad guy they answer to, and rise above any fears they may have to help out the BN gang. Not Schmidt. He did everything he could to exemplify the lazy, sniveling piece of turd he was designed to be. Another common twisting device on the show is has the civillian at some point gives away a tell or two that they’re sabotaging the mission; or Michael is able to deduce it. Of course, Schmidt was working against them because he had nearly a dozen tells, where ever he dragged his heels at Michael’s requests or by filling my television with nervous gestures. Never at any point did Michael or Sam (Bruce Campbell) suspect the reasons things were going awry. Now, we’ve seen these guys outsmart everyone short of Anson and somehow, out of all the scum they’ve encountered, Schmidt stumped all of them–weeeeak!
Last night’s episode, “Odd Man Out” was saved by the great Kevin R. McNally (Supernatural, Downton Abbey) who played Schmidt’s rival smuggler, James Vannek and resident bad guy for the night. McNally reminded me of a toned down version of Alan Ford’s character, Brick Top in the movie Snatch–A grisly, gnarly British bastard with a big bone to pick. Thankfully, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) had the right idea to give up Schmidt to Vannek (see picture below), thus getting the gears in Michael’s head turning. Never have truer words been spoken by Fi. Vannek was a fun villain though, and even though he got the short end of the stick, you could commiserate with him, especially when Schmidt alerted the authorities on him, who would in turn, flag all of the new identities Vannek made for the BN gang.
I’m a lukewarm fan of Oswalt and respect his comic book acumen, but here he’s a victim of his own success and his seemingly ubiquitous guest-appearances because I never ceased thinking during last night’s episode, “Why in the hell is Patton Oswalt STILL on Burn Notice?” In other words, he never sold me on Schmidt. His performance never made me forget who he really was and the veil of the show was lifted, you know, the one that keeps me from thinking more about the actors than the characters. I got that same feeling with Card and Riley too. One of the charming things about Burn Notice is that it’s usually cast well. You could believe that a lot of the players in this endless tail-chasing spy tale belonged there. I’m not saying that it’s an accurate portrayal, but in this glamorous, comic book version of the spy world set in sexy Miami, I haven’t had many problems–until this season.
Maybe it’s a sign the show has gone on too long, because it appears that they’ve run out of shlubby and shifty actors who can play the Burn Notice goons and CIA adversaries. I know I’ve run out of apologies. I’m hoping we see the last of Oswalt on Burn Notice, because Schmidt was one of the worst characters the show’s produced. I’m praying for Riley’s end too. Lauren Stamile (who played Agent Dani Pearce), if you’re out there still, come back and bring some sense to the CIA!
The bar was raised early this season with the crew hot on the heels of Anson Fullerton (Jere Burns) and it’s unfortunate this season is crawling over the finish line like a wounded soldier. The season was re-energized with Fiona in jail, Michael hunting Anson and risking the lives of Sam and Jesse without much remorse. Nate’s death in “Shock Wave” did indeed change the direction of the show, to shove Michael off once linear path to a personal revenge story.
Burn Notice has been renewed for a seventh season but can anyone tell me what the end game could be that would string us along for another round? One of the best villains got assassinated with no resolve and Michael will eventually clear his name, most assuredly, but can he really go back to working for the CIA? Has 18 more episodes in Season 6 gotten him any closer to finding peace with what’s been done to him, or has it only given him new motives to be angry and act stupidly? Lately it’s been more about diverting Michael from moving forward and they’re not even hiding it well.
The only thing that would absolve Michael from killing Card would be proof that Card hired Tyler Gray (Kenny Johnson). Someone in the CIA has to come to his defense to call off the dogs. Death always seems to propel the show in new directions, so I wonder if the show stops with Nate or they continue to strip Michael his support. Anyone else taken away would rob the show of either its heart, humor, honor or passion.
We’re left with another morsel of information, a phone number this time, to a mysterious friend who could help bail them out. Could it be Pearce? She seems to be the one person connected out there on Michael’s side who would be caring enough to reach out to them by laying flowers at Nate’s grave. It’s definitely not Agent Bly (Alex Carter) Outside of Pearce, this could be just the next trail of bread crumbs that lead us into the seventh season. We’ve all been here before. I’m sill certain that Raines (Dylan Baker) is a character that still has some deeper involvement to Michael’s current situation.
The one subplot that keeps me interested is to see the rest of the gang show their disdain with Michael.
• Fiona has put all of her chips in for Michael, went to jail for him and Michael continues to be distracted or unwilling to go that extra mile to ensure survival or low risk. Jail time only made her more fierce and lovable. Whenever Michael should’ve crossed the line, he pulls up. And the one time he did (killing Card), has had major consequences for everyone. It’s hard not to feel caged in by Michael’s actions.
• Sam has been interrogated, beaten, and nearly killed for Michael this season. He’s lost another cushy relationship and now has to change his full identity to Charles Finley, full-time. He looked like he was fed up for an episode or two.
• Jesse was a spy burned thanks to Michael and was sucked back into his world despite making another life for himself in private security. He has since become an afterthought–a glorified personal assistant at Michael’s beckon call.
• Now Michael’s mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless) has to change her identity too and leave behind everything she knows. Her favorite son was killed and she’s put herself in harm’s way on too many occasions when Michael swears to keep her safe.
• Even Barry Burkowski (Paul Tei) got some of the shrapnel.
By the way, the material between Michael and his mom has been always top notch and that has never let me down, this season especially. I like that everyone is starting to second-guess Michael and his motives, or wonder if it’s worth it to sacrifice their lives for his happiness. Michael’s only answer is, “I’ll make it up to you. I swear.”
How much longer can this group accept that answer? More importantly, how much more can the viewers accept that? If this two-hour finale fails to satisfy, will Matt Nix make it up to us in Season 7?
Tune in to the 2-hour Burn Notice Season 6 Finale on USA Thursday, 10pm ET/PT.