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October 7, 2015

Burn Notice: Friends Like These

by Allison Waldman, posted Jul 31st 2009 3:02AM

In the latest Michael adventure, our hero was hell-bent on getting back into intelligence work – nothing new, really. However, that meant dancing with Strickler, a foxtrot that Fiona was reluctant to take part in ...

More on Fiona's vulnerabilities after the jump. Meanwhile, another job popped up when Barry, money launderer and occasional member of the Michael troupe of operatives, called in all his favors and became the client.

Whoa! Was that a product plug? Granted, the Burn Notice episode was sponsored by MGD 64, but during the show, to cut to a huge close-up of the bottle was overkill. I expect something more ingenious than that from Nix and company.

Kind of like Sam explaining that the cleaner was staying at the Wages Motel at the exact moment that William Wages credit was flashed on screen as the director of photography. See, now that's ingenious.

It was a nice surprise to see Debi Mazar as Amy! She's the epitome of TV tough chick (have you seen her curse like a sailor on Entourage?). Fiona showed her what tough really was by throwing a brick at her car and setting off the bomb. Amy wound up weeping like a baby. Sadly, when Michael told her to get out of town, she did. That was Debi's only scene. I'm hoping she'll come back in the future when she and Barry reconnect ...

The show was full of great Sam stuff. His new undies for a getaway with Mrs. Reynolds for starters. Calling the rendezvous "Sam's love-capade" ... Sammy-time. He even contributed his love nest into the location for a double interrogation. Taking on Natalie's interrogation, Sam again turned romantic, saying, "She's a delicate flower. Luckily, I have a green thumb."

Two scenes felt funky to me, and one was pure bait-and-switch. Sam getting emotional with the Serbian prisoner was off. Sam's too experienced to let a guy get under his skin. And while Sam did get bashed in an exchange with the guy, he bested him with the pistol. Good for Sam. On the other hand, I was disappointed that Fiona fell for Natalie's act. Fiona's soft side is one of her most appealing features, but her instincts in a scam usually are sharper than shown here.

But there was a reason for exposing Fiona's underbelly. That slap on the face that Michael delivered to save Fi from Natalie was the straw that broke her back. Michael was sincerely sorry that he hit her, and he meant every word of the apology, but Fiona was pissed beyond reason. She managed to finish the case, but the hurt was real.

Michael's references to playing poker played out in the end. Fiona put all her chips in the pot and told Michael that if he chose to stick with Strickler, she was leaving Miami. She walked out of the loft and, perhaps, out of Michael's life. So Michael went to the Strickler assignment sans Fiona.

In the end, Michael got what he wanted. Diego called to say important people were looking into his burn notice. Despite the news, Michael didn't look happy. It was a hollow victory. And next week it looks like Fiona's fears about working with Strickler were on target. Snap!

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I agree with Carrespondent. As Michael explained in the voiceover, he feigned anger to hide the tell of an adrenaline rush provoked by fear. I bought it when the Serbian slapped Natalie, and it would have been necessary to convince a murderer like Natalie. True, all the characters have been hurt worse, but this was unrehearsed. Fi was pissed not because she was slapped but because she didn't see it coming, exactly the reaction I would have expected from the fiery ex-IRA guerilla. I love these brief moments of raw emotion. BN is a drama after all, albeit with a light touch. If this is a clash in writing styles, I applaud it because that's what keeps the show fresh and unpredictable.

August 06 2009 at 3:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm having trouble believing in the Strickland character.
The agencies he's supposed to be well connected to would view him as a double or triple agent, and a complete loose cannon. People like Strickler may be able to compete with BlackWater, Dick Marcenko, et cetera, on small contract-Op jobs, but he would have no means to effect a change in Michael's burn status. The people have the juice to un-burn Michael would have nothing to do with Strickler.

Guys like Strickler are high-ranking bottom feeders, and are not likely to convince the CIA (or whomever) that they should re-tread Michael when they have ranks of up-and-comers who are much like Michael. For those who will cry, "But Michael is special!" then why did they burn him?

If it was always the plan to bring Michael back, then they don't need Strickler. If it wasn't, then what leverage could Strickler have on the folks who burned Michael? They have more money and power than Strickler, and so are not bribe-able. I doubt Strickler could blackmail them, because Strickler could easily be dead, with reciprocal retaliations included.

I'm just not buying the premise / concept of the Strickler character. If Strickler is just a cover identity for a high ranking NOC agent or manager at the CIA, then it may work, but that would still strain the incredulity of the informed viewer.

August 01 2009 at 6:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

FYI - psychology of a guy (anyone) in a domestic situation who will hit someone in the face in particular is not just a "hit" but has emotional and degrading implications to it. "Keeping you in your place," a real man never hits a woman (we're not talking about a scene where they're training as equals), or Fi's altercations with Sam, we're talking about a scene where Michael's character could have convinced Natalie that Fi was somehow "incompetent" to save Fi that didn't include that kind of a move. They know each other well and have worked together for years. Note the monologue at the end of the show in the park when he's talking about that exact thing...the best friend who has your back and Trust being the most important part of it, etc. etc.

It's a writing team, but it's as if two completely clashing "styles" are at work here. One set of writers who have a clue and have helped to make the show what it is, and some guys on the team who wish they could hit their girlfriends so they decided to have Michael hit Fi. They've officially stepped outside of what this show is all about.

FYI - I also think there is a fine line between great well known guest star actors, and stunt casting that is distracting and takes away from the strength of the show, it's core actors, and distracts the fans (audience) during the scene (pulls focus) and has them thinking "where have I seen her before" instead of being in the moment. This season is all over the map and generally disappointing, they need to get back to the roots of what made the show good, get so much attention in the first place.

August 01 2009 at 8:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I totally disagree with the comments here on Michael slapping Fi being o.k., it was over the top, the scene didn't need it.

FYI - this is the only female Michael has ever hit, and it was his good friend, and ex-girlfriend. Out of character for Michael, over the top, and did I mention in no way necessary for the scene. I think the writers or whoever put in that slap need some therapy, BADLY. This is not one of those shows that "shows everything" they are supposed to be smarter than that and Michael slapping Fi for any reason is out of character for him and the show. It was a deal breaker, and I'm a huge fan of equality. If Michael Westen hits females, he's not Michael Westen, he's a guy with female issues, and domestic issues specifically and not the character up until this point. Which will lead to a down turn in fans. Guaranteed.

August 01 2009 at 8:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Judy's comment

The slap has zero relevance to Michael or his "female issues." It was in-character as part of the con, of course. While stung, Fiona recognized it was an improvised act to further their scamming the guilty parties. Michael, San and Fiona have all been hurt worse -- by each other -- in their missions. Let's not go calling Michael a domestic batterer, now.

August 04 2009 at 10:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I understand why Fiona would be mad about the slap but I also think her leaving was more about Strickler and Michael's stubbornness to get back into the business.

Next week! Can't wait! I wonder how they'll wrap up the season. It has been mostly fantastic except for little Paxson issue.

July 31 2009 at 8:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Strickler is a great addition and I thought the Fi Michael problems was really great. The season has gotten way better in the last few episodes. I have a full review of the episode on my blog.


July 31 2009 at 7:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

On the season two commentary for the final episode, Matt Nix stated that the OnStar plug, when Micheal was looking for a hardware store via OnStar, actually paid for the entire episode and since they where at the end of the year the budget was tight and never would have allowed for the various stunts that were pulled in the episode.

This comment brought to you by: OnStar. (I will be looking for my check in the mail...)

July 31 2009 at 4:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Man, this series is only getting better with each episode. I think what this episode really brought to the forefront is the effect Michael's obsession with getting back in with his old bosses is doing to those closest to him. He's willing to use and abuse no matter the cost to their friendship and personal lives.

As for the slap, sure I think Fi was angry -- very angry -- but I don't think that had anything to do with her reaction in the end. She doesn't trust Strickler and Michael's too obsessed with getting back in to even consider her opinion. The walkout has been building for quite some time. I think the restaurant scene a few weeks ago was the beginning of this whole thing for Fi.

Great episode!

July 31 2009 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ed Venture

I thought Fi got way too irritated about the slap. She's done as much during an op to cover things. When she and Sam were caught on a boat planting bugs, for example. After they were discovered she smacked Sam around a good bit.

July 31 2009 at 9:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

About Sam getting emotional... It seemed to me that it was a set up and that it was all planned to get the russian to talk. What they were doing wasn't working, so try to give the interrogated a huge let down when their own escape plan doesn't work would make them more likely to talk... Kinda like saying, you can try whatever you want, but im always going to be a step ahead so just give the info!

July 31 2009 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Martin's comment
John Heltsley

Martin, I think you're right on the money. That whole scene was a set-up, because the Serbian thought he was better, and Sam showed him who was REALLY in charge.

Allison, if this is the first time you've noticed BN throw in a MGD64 spot, you've missed a few other ones. A few episodes ago, Sam ordered one at a restaurant, while Fi and Michael looked at him oddly, and he commented how he was watching his weight. They've done a few others as well, but that one stuck out at me. I don't think they're over the top (Psych last season had some BAD ones), it's just how it goes. Cable shows now are needing the sponsorship to stay on TV. And as long as they keep good shows like BN, Psych and Eureka going, I'm all for it.

July 31 2009 at 12:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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