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So what the hell was that?

If tonight’s summer finale of Burn Notice made sense at any point, I must have missed it. You’ll recall that last week’s episode ended on a cliffhanger, with Agent Pearce set to put Michael away for Max’s murder. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from “Dead to Rights,” but I definitely didn’t anticipate this situation being resolved before the first commercial break. That’s what happened, though, as Sam and Jesse managed to crash a CIA convoy and helped Michael convince Pearce that they actually have set up a meeting with the real killer, Tavian. It’s hard to say exactly what Tavian hoped to get out of this meeting, because after Michael shows up wearing a wire and coaxes a confession out of him, Tavian takes a header off the top of a parking garage.


Naturally, the testimony of some random guy who just jumped to his death is good enough for the CIA, so Pearce lets Michael go. And suddenly, “Dead to Rights” turns into a Larry episode. You remember Larry, of course; he’s Michael’s psycho ex-partner, played by Tim Matheson, who shows up once a season or so to cause some havoc. Tonight’s scheme entails breaking into the British consulate so that Michael can plant a report in a diplomatic pouch, which will in some way result in Larry getting rich and ridding himself of some enemies. In order to convince Michael to cooperate, Larry has kidnapped Anson, a psychiatrist to the spies who has the access codes to the consulate, including its vault, for some reason. Larry is also holding Anson’s wife hostage and has her rigged up to one of those exploding collars from the Saw movies, so Michael is forced to go along with the plan.

At some point during the long, convoluted sequence in which Larry and Michael pose as biohazard workers, fake a chemical spill to ensure their privacy, and tunnel into the consulate from the floor below, I began to wonder if Burn Notice had, on some level, just given up. Not that there’s anything wrong with a Larry episode—Matheson usually has fun with the role—but why was it happening now? They could have done this caper at any point during the season as a nice break from the “Michael was framed” arc, but instead, they wait until the climactic episode of the summer, wrap the arc up in the first 10 minutes, and give us this? Is anyone in charge here?

Ah, but of course, that was before the big revelation at episode’s end. After Anson makes his escape (thanks to a knife Michael slipped him) and recruits Sam and Fiona to help, Fi sets an explosive charge, lures Larry to the window with sniper fire, and blows him up real good. (Although we never see a body, of course, so I’m guessing Matt Nix hasn’t torn Matheson’s number out of his rolodex just yet.) But a larger explosion goes off at the same time, killing the two security guards left in the building. Fiona is consumed by grief and blames herself for their deaths… which, it turns out, was Anson’s plan all along.

Having captured Fi’s “confession” on tape, Anson reveals himself to Michael as the Big Ultimate Really Bad Final Boss, We Mean It This Time. Admittedly, this isn’t a complete surprise, since Anson is played by Jere Burns, so delightfully creepy as Wynn Duffie on Justified. But while the prospect of watching Burns tear into another mustache-twirling role holds some appeal, this was one big revelation too many for me. How many times is this show going to pull the rug out from under us like this? The black-and-white montage of all of Michael’s previous handlers, including Management, Vaughn, and the rest, made this twist particularly annoying. It’s as if the show is saying, “Hey, we were just kidding all those other times. This here is the real man behind the man behind the man.” Sure he is. Until the next one.

Stray observations:

  • Another thing that made no sense: Why did Anson arrange to have Michael framed for Max’s murder? How was Michael supposed to work for him if he’d been locked away for the rest of his life?
  • It’s not really great timing to have one of the main characters blow up a building during the week everyone is memorializing Sept. 11 (even if she wasn’t really responsible for the larger explosion that killed the guards) .
  • Michael’s “dumb guy” character is definitely one of his most convincing impersonations.