I have been waiting all winter for BURN NOTICE to return to USA for the second half of its second season, and it was worth the wait. Former spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan, ex-Dwayne, ANOTHER WORLD) survived the bomb planted at his door in the midseason finale — but only just barely. The story wasted no time propelling the wounded Michael directly into a car chase, and then he was back to his old tricks in no time: While running for his own life, he took time out to save a man from committing suicide! Michael’s brush with death really affected him this time. He decided to stop running and surrendered to Carla (played by Tricia Helfer, Six, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), and the two of them got into an uncharacteristic screaming match. We never saw Michael get so emotional last season; normally he is as cool as the other side of the pillow. But there he was shouting at Carla, demanding, “I want my life back!” But Carla clearly had her own problems. She was back on her heels (and not the fashionable Jimmy Choo kind); she seemed to be on the run from someone (probably the people who tried to blow up Michael), losing her power (running out of henchmen) and clearly frightened. Still, a hero is a hero, and Michael took the case of that would-be suicide, who was despondent after being taken in a medical scam. The fake-drug operation involved head baddie Rachel, played by Stacy Haiduk (ex-Hannah, ALL MY CHILDREN), and her enforcer, Todd, portrayed by Graham Shiels (Cody, GENERAL HOSPITAL; Liam, TRUE BLOOD). In contrast to tough-guy Cody, Todd had a practical streak for avoiding physical harm during interrogation. In one of this week’s “how to” spy lessons, Michael explained to viewers the methodology behind effective torture: “Violence perceived is violence achieved.” Meaning, it’s better to keep your victim scared and guessing what you’re going to do rather than having him screaming in pain from actually doing it. Sam intimidated Todd into talking by cutting his own finger with a big knife. (Which is typical of this show: Sam was the one who ended up needing a Band-Aid after “torturing” a guy. Another cool thing we learned is that chlorinated water conducts electricity well enough to short out listening devices — which is why Rachel insisted on meeting Michael and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) in a hot tub. In addition to foiling surveillance, the scene also gave Haiduk and Anwar an excuse to show off their rock-hard abs in a bikini catfight. Did I mention I’ve been waiting all winter for this show to come back?
You know I would never miss an episode of SUPERNATURAL that featured a magic tarot deck! Barry Bostwick played the Incredible Jay, a washed-up magician who appeared to be using real magic to stage a comeback. A death-transference spell keyed to tarot cards was helping him survive fatal stage tricks by…er, “transferring” the death to someone else. In the first case, Jay was able to survive being stabbed by sharp spikes because a rival magician suffered the wounds after being slipped the 10 of Swords tarot card, which depicts a man pierced by…well, 10 swords. The 10 of Swords is the closest thing to a card that predicts physical death. (Remember, the actual Death card refers to a transformation and/or change in circumstances, not physically dying.) After Jay survived an onstage hanging, another rival was found hanged to death with the Hanged Man card nearby. Interestingly, The Hanged Man (which shows a man hanging upside down, suspended by his right foot) indicates that a person will receive knowledge/achieve a goal only after a great hardship. In other words, it has nothing to do with death, even though it features a guy hanging from a noose. Even more interestingly, the show chose to use a version of the tarot known as the “Rider-Waite” deck, however, they could have selected the “Tarot of the 78 Doors,” a deck in which the Hanged Man is illustrated by a magician hanging upside down to perform a water escape! Jay’s fellow magician Charlie was revealed to be using the spells on Jay without his knowledge. Charlie died holding the Magician card, which can indicate a charlatan or deceitful person; Charlie certainly was a con man! In the end, it was unclear if the cards themselves were powered or just the means Charlie used to focus his spells; probably the latter, otherwise Jay never would have left them with the barmaid, right? Talk about a tip!