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Burn Notice: “Odd Man Out”

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This week’s Burn Notice was a lot like last week’s Burn Notice, only more so. Last time I noted that this back half of the season was starting to feel like one long stall, and “Odd Man Out” only reinforced that impression. It was a bottle episode of sorts, with most of the gang holed up in a warehouse for the bulk of the hour, and it advanced the arc of the season to a degree that could only be observed through an electron microscope. In fact, I’m not even sure there is an arc at this point; its more like a videogame where each task you accomplish advances you incrementally toward the eventual goal.

To wit: Michael and company have been trying to skip the country ever since he shot his CIA boss Card in the head. Within the first five minutes of “Odd Man Out,” they’ve finally acquired the passports they need to get out safely, but of course, there’s a catch. The microchips implanted in the passports are supplied by Schmidt’s arch-rival Vanek, who holds a grudge against our favorite hobbit for various past indiscretions. Schmidt, being the petty lowlife he is, sics the Feds on Vanek before our heroes get the chance to blow town. Vanek, in turn, pursues Michael, Fi, Sam, and Schmidt to one of those abandoned factories it always seems like a good idea to hole up in under these circumstances.


Meanwhile, Jesse is babysitting Maddie, who keeps trying to slip away to visit Nate’s grave and generally being the whiny pain in the ass she’s been for far too long now. I realize that Maddie is supposed to be the conscience of the show, and that dynamic has worked in the past, but it’s just so tired at this point. At least we get a flash of the more enjoyable side of her character when she and Jesse are tasked with commandeering a getaway vehicle—in this case, a dump truck. Maddie as amateur spy is a lot more fun than Maddie as self-righteous scold.

Speaking of tired dynamics on this show, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Fiona would rather take the more expedient, violent tack in dealing with a dilemma, even if it gets somebody killed. Sam won’t hear of it and insists they pursue the noble course of action, even to their detriment. It’s a Burn Notice golden oldie, and it crops again when Vanek insists that Schmidt be sent out of the warehouse to meet his doom, lest the entire team get burned thanks to his trackers on the passport chips.

Here the show gets to have its cake and eat it, too. Michael does indeed march Schmidt out at gunpoint, but there’s never any doubt that he’s going to find a way out of delivering the sniveling smuggler to Vanek. He does so by shooting an electrical transformer and causing an explosion that gives Jesse and Maddie the window of opportunity to rescue them. Schmidt later points out that Michael couldn’t have known the transformer was there, to which Michael responds that, if not for the transformer, he would have found some other way out of the mess. But that’s the problem: We know Michael will always find some other way. So why didn’t he find some other way with Card? It’s still a nagging story point, because there still doesn’t seem to be any way to justify killing Card in cold blood. And if Michael is really that dark a character at this point, why not just give up Schmidt right away?

Maybe there’s a satisfactory answer awaiting in next week’s two-hour finale. For now, though, “Odd Man Out” played like a filler episode, and while Patton Oswalt had been a breath of fresh air, his presence has probably run its course. Schmidt still gets off the occasional wry one-liner, but his whimpering, one-note cowardice is not the stuff of a long-running fan favorite. In any case, it’s time for Burn Notice to stop getting distracted with guest star shenanigans and get down to business.

Stray observations:

  • This is at least the second time Jesse has channeled his inner Walter White, this time by using mercury fulminate to cause an explosion. This has got to be a recurring in-joke on his name being the same as Walter’s partner-in-meth, right?
  • “Maybe he broke his hand on your extremely large jaw.”

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