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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Burn Notice: “Scorched Earth”

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Previously on Burn Notice: Wynn Duffy from Justified turned out to be Anson, the latest (and presumably greatest) puppet master behind Michael Westen’s burn notice. By framing Fiona for blowing up a federal building, Anson was able to blackmail Michael into doing his bidding, even as Michael re-established himself as a working agent with the CIA. When Anson tried to get Michael to burn his own new team of agents, Fiona surrendered to the FBI.

Tonight’s sixth season premiere, “Scorched Earth,” picks up immediately after the events of last year’s finale. As some of our astute commenters deduced, Sam was not entirely innocent in Fi’s escape from Michael’s apartment, where our hero had handcuffed her to prevent her from turning herself in. Because he’s a super-smart super-spy, Michael figures out pretty quickly that Fiona didn’t actually overpower Sam as he’d claimed. Nevertheless, Sam maintains that Fiona’s surrender is the only sane outcome, given the alternatives.

That doesn’t mean Fi is out of the picture, however. Our favorite Irish weapons enthusiast is perp-walked by a heavily armed FBI contingent, processed and fingerprinted, and locked up for interrogation. Her inquisitor is someone we’ve met before, Agent Jason Bly (Alex Carter). (If, like me, you have to run to Wikipedia every time this show brings back someone we haven’t seen since the second season, let me save you the trip: When last we saw Bly, he and Michael were blackmailing each other, but they developed a grudging mutual respect after foiling a bank robbery together.) Nothing much transpires here, aside from a failed attempt by Bly to convince Fiona that Michael has been killed in an explosion. Obviously, Fi isn’t going to be locked up for more than a few episodes, but if we don’t get a juicy women-in-prison storyline out of this turn of events, I’m going to be sorely disappointed.

As long as she is locked up, though, Michael is going to be in single-minded-vengeance mode, and that can’t be a good thing. I’ve heaped my share of mockery on Jeffrey Donovan’s goofy voices in my time covering this show, but every time Burn Notice leans too heavily in the “Dark Michael” direction, I start yearning for him to pose as an insurance salesman with a Kennedy accent. He’s in full-on “I’m getting my way, and I don’t care who gets hurt” mode here, although, of course, no innocents are harmed in the course of his revenge spree, even when he blows up an 18-wheeler on a busy freeway bridge.

The good news is Jere Burns is back as Anson. The bad news is he didn’t bring his mustache, thus immediately rendering Anson 25 percent less creepy. (This turn of events is so notable that Sam is saddled with some awkward expository dialogue about Anson shaving his mustache. If Burn Notice fans haven’t launched a Save the ’Stache campaign within 30 minutes of this episode ending, I don’t know what to believe in anymore.) Still, the cat-and-mouse game between Anson and the team appears to have a little life left in it, even though Michael has finally convinced Pearce (Lauren Stamile) and her CIA superiors that his nemesis is no mere government shrink.

“Scorched Earth” is a serviceable, if hardly stellar, season premiere, but it’s telling that my favorite part of the episode involved Michael and Sam going all Smokey And The Bandit on the bridge. Burn Notice has done “gritty” before, but now that even Maddie is gunning people down, maybe it’s trying a little too hard to go dark. If that’s the direction Matt Nix and the creative team want to take it, that’s certainly their right, but there are at least a dozen shows that do this sort of thing better. It’s summertime, and I’ve got a taste for a fun, effervescent action/comedy cocktail—and at its best, Burn Notice used to hit the spot.


Stray observations:

  • Hey, look, they’ve finally updated the opening credits! Well, sort of. Jesse has been added as “a down-and-out spy you met along the way,” but the explanation of the show’s premise is still several seasons out-of-date.
  • Jesse informs Michael that Anson is driving a green Jag.  More good publicity for Jaguar this television season!