BURN NOTICE 4.13: Eyes Open

BURN NOTICE has returned to our screens – and not a moment too soon (Thursday at 10 p.m. has become a virtual wasteland, since THE MENTALIST is total crap this season). Welcome back, Michael, Fiona, Sam, Maddie and Jesse!

If you recall, BURN NOTICE left us with a cliff-hanger back in August: Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) had been shot through the chest by Jesse (Coby Bell), who was still smarting from the revelation that Michael burned him back in the season premiere. The season’s purported Big Bad, John Barrett (Robert Patrick) was shockingly killed, and…someone…walked off with the briefcase containing the NOC list that identifies everyone involved in burning Michael.

First of all, I was disappointed that we did not truly learn who has the briefcase. Sam (Bruce Campbell) and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) figured that one of Barrett’s men, a soldier called Mark Sweeney probably walked off with the case after discovering it in the car wreck. There is something innately unsatisfying in believing that the NOC list was lost to a crime of opportunity. I still hold out hope it wasn’t Sweeney (who wasn’t even seen this week). I say, let Michael spend an episode or two chasing this Sweeney, make him a red herring, then tell us that sinister Simon actually has it (like I predicted).

The episode opened with Michael in a hospital bed. (I loved how his wake-up scene paralleled the beginning of the series: Michael awakens in a bed, dazed and confused, asking where he is; Fiona drolly replies, “Miami.”) Michael has been in a lot of tough scrapes and gotten plenty hurt, and while his healing process was once again accelerated, he didn’t have a healing factor that rivaled Wolverine this week. Michael was in pain as he ran around with his arm immobilized in a sling. And he also seemed to be a lot more thoughtful and philosophical. Now, he didn’t go running around trying to check off a bucket list, or turn over some new leaf. He just seemed to be taking stock. He had been growing closer with Fi all season long, and now Fiona has turned down the snark and gotten more touchy-feely him. The whole back-and-forth between the erstwhile lovers seemed to grow deeper, following this literal wakeup call. The relationship felt amped up by her concern for his welfare – and she was not playing it cool. All thoughts of her canoodling with Jesse seemed banished.

Not that Jesse himself was banished. Michael still asked Jesse to help out the team, and Jesse agreed (because he felt it would get him closer to accomplishing his own agenda). But he didn’t exactly do it with a smile on his face. He was still plenty bitter and broody, and when he had to go undercover with Fi, they played a squabbling married couple.

There’s a “case of the week” every week, and this week was no exception: Michael had to take down Dennis Wayne Barfield, a serial killer with a Travis Bickle-style delusion of cleaning up all the human filth in the world – by killing people. Barfield’s preferred methodology was bombs, which meant he wasn’t too discerning about collateral damage. Michael’s damaged left arm even played a role in the plot: The bum wing kept him from climbing a fence to escape Barfield. But Michael talked his way out of a bullet to the brain by pretending to be a groupie of the madman and his mission.

Jesse put his own lethal spin on Michael’s mission. Whereas Michael works to take down the baddies, Jesse is more than willing to abruptly kill, noting, “Sometimes you gotta put the rabid dog down.”

The Michael/Fiona dynamic was not the only one to receive a boost: Maddie (Sharon Gless) demanded to know what Michael does what he does; why does he put his life on the line? “I wish I understood,” he sighed. “I just don’t.” Like so many adrenaline junkies, Michael just wants to feel the trigger on his finger. “Whatever!” Maddie scoffed. “Maybe you have some repressed crap,” she intoned, “or maybe this is just how you fit into the world.” She didn’t care, because is clearly one of the good guys. And she is finished trying to talk him out of the life he has chosen. In fact, now she’s enabling him: She gave him a new pair of sunglasses to replace his lost specs. His uniform is complete once again. “Now, go do what you do,” she commanded, sending her boy off into the big, bad world. That NOC list is still in the wind somewhere…

This week’s Spy Tip: People generally don’t shoot the messenger, so making a fake delivery is a great way to get close to a target who is heavily protected.

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Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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