Oh, Burn Notice. How can we miss you if you won't go away? What started as a fizzy summertime cocktail of retro action and roguish banter set against an irresistible fun-and-sun backdrop soon morphed into a two-headed beast, airing new episodes not only in their natural summer habitat but also in the dead of winter. I don't know about you, but I never felt right about watching Burn Notice in January and February, when beaches and bikinis are out of sight and out of mind. Somehow, it felt like cheating.
Or maybe it's just that I don't really need that much Burn Notice in my life. Twelve episodes a year seems about right. Bump it up to 16 or 18, and the seams begin to show. Plotlines start to seem familiar, character beats are tapped out to a predictable rhythm, and one Michael Westen accent that has never actually existed on this planet sounds very much like another. Add to that the fact that the series is returning a full two months earlier than it has in the past, and … well, let's just say I had not been counting the minutes until the next new episode of Burn Notice arrived.
But that's not to say I didn't enjoy "Eyes Open" when it got here. I was pleasantly surprised to see the show shake up its long-entrenched formula, even if it was only ever-so-slightly. I'm referring to the fact that both the ongoing serialized action and the stand-alone plot carried on from the mid-season finale (which, I guess makes my use of the term "stand-alone" nonsensical, but you know what I mean), with Michael's last client, drug lawyer Adam Scott, becoming the "vengeful former client" this time around.
The episode begins three days after the mid-season finale, and this being Burn Notice, it doesn't take any time at all to sweep up the loose ends and plunge our heroes right back into the action again. Michael is in the hospital, recovering from the gunshot wound he received courtesy of Jesse (who was actually shooting the bad guy behind Michael but doesn't seem too broken up over the collateral damage). Barrett, the big cheese played by Robert Patrick in the last two episodes, is dead, his evil deeds publicly exposed. And the "NOC list", the coded roster of the big conspiracy behind Michael's burn notice, is missing (and firmly established as the MacGuffin for the rest of the season).
Within a few minutes, Michael is up and around, and by the end of the hour, there are virtually no lingering after-effects from his shooting. And it doesn't take long for Jesse to rejoin the team that betrayed him, even if he's a little surly about it. This is still Burn Notice, after all, and it's never going to mess with the formula too much. Anyone expecting to see Michael slip into a coma for two episodes and dream about being a patio furniture salesman clearly hasn't been paying attention.
There's a bit of business about Fiona and Jesse trying to track down the NOC list, which has ended up in the hands of Barrett's lone surviving henchman, but most of the episode spins off from Adam Scott's revenge on the man who kidnapped his daughter. It turns out Scott has acquired the services of a Unabomber type (played by James Ransone, who will always be The Wire's unholy fuckup Ziggy to me), who set off a bomb in a public area, killing the kidnapper along with several innocent bystanders. Michael comes up with an ingenious cover ID on the spot—what every serial killer wants most, a number one fan. (The character is named Dennis Barfield, but Sam slips the middle name "Wayne" in there to give him that serial killer flair.)
There's not much in the way of useful spy tips this time around (unless you were able to follow that business about triangulating cell phones), but it's a fairly satisfying outing nonetheless. Ransone gives good creep, and the abrupt ending to his killing spree signals that we may have a much darker Jesse on our hands the rest of the way … or maybe not. Burn Notice never really gets too dark—but then, that was a big part of its appeal in the first place.
- The Burn Notice TV Club carousel continues to spin. Todd and Zack tag-teamed on the first half of the season, but they're both up to their eyeballs in other teevee at the moment, so I'll be covering it the rest of the way.
- So just where was that little girl Michael and the gang spent the last episode rescuing when Dennis took out her daddy? Kind of an acidic little epilogue to that storyline, which I kind of admire.
- "The doctors say you're lucky the bullet didn't hit your heart. Good thing it's so small." That Fiona is a sweet-talker, even in moments of crisis.
- Vaughn shows up briefly to inform Michael that "someone new will be in touch once the dust settles." With the way this show is burning through ex-Wire cast members, maybe it will be Proposition Joe.