There are some episodes of Burn Notice that might as well be reruns, if not for the few minutes of screen time devoted to whatever season-long arc happens to be in progress at the time. "Dead or Alive" was one of those episodes for me. Too much of it was as familiar and predictable as the taste of a cold mojito must be to Sam Axe, without any of the pleasurably intoxicating effects that go along with it.
Once again Sam presses the team into action on behalf of one of his old buddies or in this case, the wife of his cop friend Kevin, who has gone missing. It seems Kevin has been accused of shooting some drug dealers and stealing their product, something neither Sam nor the grieving widow can believe. If you didn't guess within three seconds of meeting him that Kevin's twitchy partner Pete was the real culprit, well, maybe you were watching The Mentalist instead.
Pete is in business with Ted, a scumbag drug dealer played by Leo Fitzpatrick, an actor who was born to play scumbag drug dealers. (Fans of The Wire will remember him as Bubbles' protege Johnny.) After roughing Ted up a bit and getting a confession that he's killed Kevin on Pete's orders, the gang uses him as a go-between to set up a meeting between Pete and Jacksonville drug dealer Ray … and if you were already cringing when you heard this in anticipation of another wince-worthy Westen cover identity, well, join the club.
I honestly couldn't tell you if Michael has used the Ray persona before. He's basically a jamoke with an unidentifiable accent who yells a lot, which doesn't really distinguish him from any number of other cover IDs. He gains Pete's trust by trapping him inside a circle of burning napalm, which doesn't seem like the best way to make friends, but hey, at least we learned how to make napalm! The hour wasn't a total loss.
Pete's not much of a worthy adversary. He does try to blow Michael up on a boat, which shows some initiative, but he falls too easily for Sam's ruse that Kevin is still alive and talking to Internal Affairs. After that, it's a simple matter of arranging for the police to show up and catch Pete in the act of planting the drugs in Kevin's house.
So that was all pretty boring, but what about the NOC list storyline? After last week's semi-cliffhanger, Michael makes his decision pretty quickly to turn the thumb drive containing the list over to government in exchange for his and Jesse's reinstatement as agents. They decide to use Jesse's ex-handler Marv as their conduit to the feds, but the hand-off goes awry, poor Richard Kind gets whacked, and the list winds up in the hands of one of Michael's recurring foes: former agent and arms dealer Tyler Brennan (Jay Karnes). He's been an entertaining antagonist in the past, so hopefully that's a good sign for next week's finale. After these last couple of episodes, the show could really use a shot in the arm.
- The big two-hour finale promised for next week is actually the last two regular one-hour episodes of the season airing back-to-back. I'm not sure exactly how I'll be covering them, but I'm guessing it will be a 2-for-1 deal, rather than individual reviews of each episode.
- As much as I love Bruce Campbell, I'm never really a big fan of "serious Sam" episodes. You could tell this was one of them when he refused a mojito in favor of a glass of water.
- I did get a chuckle out of Sam's admission that he'd kept a daily yogurt tally on Michael during his informant days.
- Sorry to be so cranky this week, but I really just thought this was a blah episode all around. Did anyone like it more than I did?