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August 28, 2014

Burn Notice: Signals and Codes

by Allison Waldman, posted Jul 10th 2009 10:08AM
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(S03E05)
Michael Weston met Michael Westen. How cool was it that Burn Notice cast actor Michael Weston -- remember him as the private eye who helped House last year? As a psycho/math genius/code breaker/pattern spotter named Spencer Witawski, he was sort of a detective here, too, good enough to have tracked down Michael and become the latest client.

As integral episodes go, this was a major one. Major for Michael and his desire to return to government work and major for the status of Fiona and Michael's relationship. And did I mention that it was a major league great show, too? More after the jump.

It's not all glitz and glamour and hot sunglasses when you're a spy. You have to like the way Burn Notice shows the other side, like they did with the opening surveillance sequence. Watching planes is boring. Also, spy work comes with bumps and bruises, which Michael suffered in his window exit from the airport office with an extension that was woefully too short.

Spencer's newspapered home reminded me of Mel Gibson's apartment in Conspiracy Theory. See, he wasn't really crazy in that movie either. Clippings on the walls and ceilings have traditionally been TV/movie code for serial killer, stalker or crazy, which does make me wonder what screenwriters will do in the future when there are fewer and fewer real newspapers and magazines to clip from? Who will come up with the digital equivalent for the 21st century?

Diego Garza, a spy that's still in the company, refused to help Michael get back into the game. Garza was like Bogey in Casablanca, telling Peter Lorre, "I stick my neck out for nobody." Fortunately, Nazis didn't gun down Garza. In fact, after Michael gets him via an online auction scam, he reluctantly becomes Michael's contact to the CIA. The message he delivered to Michael from above, however, was "don't call us, we'll call you."

Hearing that the feds don't want him didn't quell Michael's fire. And it was key to the Fiona and Michael's final showdown. She was determined to get Michael to give up his quest, and finally -- FINALLY -- Michael told Fi that his need to get back in the CIA was the most important thing in his life. That hurt Fi because she wants to hold that place in Michael's head and heart. But Michael punctuated the point in a way that pushed Fiona to tears. Michael basically said that if she truly cared for him, she would want for him what he wants for himself.

In the same way Fiona was able to interpret Spencer's ramblings when nobody else did, she got Michael. She broke the code. She connected the similarity between Spencer's crazy focus and Michael's, a point that Michael couldn't deny. He recognized that it was true; he was like Spencer. He put his cards on the table with Fiona as he never had before.

That finale made this a powerful episode, and the likelihood of Diego linking Michael back into the company and becoming a recurring character, and even the possible return of code-breaker Spencer, made it powerful-plus.

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Picviewer

Coincidence? The House episode you referenced just aired as the USA rerun.

July 11 2009 at 12:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gonnabechef

You only need to look at any demo for Microsoft's Surface to see how crazy people in the future will handle their "clippings" (photos, blogs, video blogs). Think "Minority Report" on a smaller, cheaper scale.

July 10 2009 at 10:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Anna H.

Does anyone know the name of the actress that was the coporate bad guy in this episode. The blond woman who had developed the Zydeco code?

July 10 2009 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
johngaltx

Not enough bikinis---so it is a 5 out of ten!

July 10 2009 at 4:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
heyroll

i found it to be a sub-standard episode ONLY for the following reason - the character Spencer was, at times, hard for me to follow. I kept having to rewind so I could rewatch and get get to the meat of what he was saying. It got to be a bit too much.

July 10 2009 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard

I thought I had heard the name Michael Weston before. Then to see the name as the credits appeared in the beginning. We had to look up the IMBD to see who it was. It was a great part and I do hope he returns. This was absolutely one of the best episodes ever!

July 10 2009 at 11:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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