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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Burn Notice: “Damned If You Do… ”

Illustration for article titled Burn Notice: “Damned If You Do… ”
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If it seems like only a few weeks have passed since Burn Notice went on hiatus… well, that’s because only a few weeks have passed since Burn Notice went on hiatus. You may recall that the mid-season finale introduced the delightfully slimy Anson (Jere Burns), the latest thorn in Michael’s side, the guy who has secretly been pulling the strings all along, and all that good supervillain type stuff. Anson has evidence in his possession indicating that Fiona is responsible for the deaths of two security guards—a crime of which she is actually innocent, although that’s beside the point. Michael still must do Anson’s bidding until he can figure out a way to turn the tables on him, which should happen six episodes from now when this season wraps up just in time for Christmas.

For now, however, let’s enjoy Burns and his creepy brand of malevolence as the all-seeing, all-knowing Anson. Even as Michael is undergoing a security review in order to obtain a higher clearance at the Agency (while still remaining off the books), he’s forced to take on Operation Voidbot, for which he’ll have to fly to Puerto Rico and obtain a piece of malware that will scrub all evidence of Anson’s existence from the CIA computer system. The creator of Voidbot is Oswald, a schlubby programmer commissioned by sleazy drug dealer Xavier to invent just such a virus for the princely sum of $10 million. The FBI got to Oswalt before he could he pass Voidbot on to Xavier, however, and the virus is now in the Bureau’s possession.


This scenario sets up a nice assortment of complications, as Michael and company must:

  1. track down the key cards that will allow them access to the vault where Voidbot is stored
  2. convince Xavier to enter the vault himself, as whoever uses the key cards is immediately marked with micro-RFID tags that stick to clothes and hair, allowing the FBI to track the intruder, and
  3. somehow get a copy of Voidbot for Anson between the time Xavier leaves the vault and the time the FBI catches up to him.

And while all of this is going on, Sam and Jesse must enlist Maddie in an undercover mission inside police headquarters to find out whether or not Fiona is already a suspect in the bombing that killed the guards.

We’re not exactly in uncharted territory here, as drug dealers, missing computer programs, and evil puppetmasters are some of the basic Burn Notice building blocks. But after a few weeks off, “Damned If You Do… ” is a mostly entertaining reminder of what the series does best. It’s not that everything in the episode works—I could happily live without seeing Maddie do her “You want me to do what?” routine every time the gang recruits her for a task, and Jesse’s “Gee, which soda do I want?” diversion reeks of amateur hour—but I’m long past the point of expecting startling originality at every turn with this show. Give me a breezy tone and a caper with plenty of wrinkles and reversals, and I’m basically a happy Burn Notice viewer.


I wasn’t crazy about the way the Anson character was revealed in the mid-season finale, as I felt he was one mastermind too many, but even then I was looking forward to watching Burns work the role. So far he seems a worthy adversary, and with any luck, we’re in for a satisfying chess match for the rest of the season. That’s really all I ask.

Stray observations:

  • I wonder if they’re ever going to update the series’ intro. Michael isn’t really burned anymore, Fiona isn’t his ex-girlfriend, Jesse isn’t even mentioned… anyone watching this show for the first time wouldn’t get a whole lot of useful information out of the intro, is all I’m saying.
  • “It’s official. The guy’s a dick.”
  • So Michael has his security clearance, but he’s already lying to Pearce, and now he’s got to slip the Voidbot virus into the CIA computer. Odds he’ll be re-burned by the end of the season increasing.
  • That Jeffrey Donovan is in J. Edgar doing his ridiculous Kennedy voice makes me laugh every time I see the preview.

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