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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Burn Notice: “Unchained”

Illustration for article titled Burn Notice: “Unchained”
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I’m often left with lingering questions after an episode of Burn Notice, questions about plot holes or character motivations or the logistics of a particular action sequence. But this week, the troublesome question is this: Shouldn’t Jeffrey Donovan be able to do a better Boston accent than that? He was born and raised in Massachusetts, he’s a lifelong Red Sox fan, and yet his Southie voice isn’t much more convincing than Fiona’s. Or maybe this is a clever bit of stealth acting, and it’s actually Michael Westen who can’t conjure up a believable “How ya like them apples?” or “Hit it outta the pahk, chief!” Let’s choose to believe that and move on.

The reason Michael is called upon to channel his inner Boston Rob has to do with Nate’s murder a couple of weeks ago. The case still hasn’t been solved, and in fact, there’s been very little movement on it at all. When Michael decides to investigate (by pulling a gun on an FBI investigator on his way to the men’s room), he learns that the investigation has been shut down, and the file is closed.

Sam, who usually has a buddy in the FBI who can help out in these situations, has a buddy in the FBI who can help out in this situation. The season’s videogame structure clicks in again, as the team first has to agree to complete another mission before receiving the next clue—in this case, the file on Nate’s murder. This is where the Boston accents come in. Sam’s FBI contact is zeroing in on Quinn, a Whitey Bulger-esque mob boss on the lam in the Florida. Michael and Fi go undercover as a couple of townies in order to gain the confidence of Quinn’s lieutenant Jimmy Boy. (One big reason Michael’s accent doesn’t quite ring true is that Jimmy Boy is played by actual Boston actor Billy Smith, formerly of Showtime’s Brotherhood.) They do so by helping him escape custody, and dangling the carrot of Quinn’s former number two-turned-rat, who has agreed to testify against his boss, even though he only has days to live. I’m not sure how that works, but let’s move on.

The B-plot finds Jesse and Pearce following up a lead from the now-dead FBI file on Nate’s murder. The plan is to blackmail the “party animal” sales rep from the gun manufacturer that sold the sniper rifle to whoever killed Nate. What this storyline proves is that, given the right circumstances, Jesse is a much smoother con artist than any of the original members of the Burn Notice team. Sure, the right circumstances entail schmoozing up a salesman, getting him drunk, and buying him a lapdance, but Jesse’s brand of bro-ness is just douchey enough to pull it off. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Michael’s plan develops enough complications to shine a spotlight on his post-Nate fears about putting his loved ones in danger. When Fiona is left alone with a couple of goons, he worries that his choices will once again result in collateral damage—and they do, but not in the way expected. As usual, Fiona can take care of herself, even while dressed in the full Adriana La Cerva (complete with six-inch heels), but it is Pearce who takes the fall after the CIA gets wind of her extracurricular activities. She’s reassigned to the Mumbai desk, presumably in time for Lauren Stamile to get a new gig this fall. This means that Michael’s team, which had been in rapid expansion mode for much of the season, has now shrunk back down to the core four. That’s kind of a shame, as I’ve enjoyed having the characters team up in various combinations and seeing what kind of sparks might fly (or not, in some cases). Still, it does go to show, once again, that Michael can hand out burn notices with the best of ‘em.

Stray observations:

  • Fiona in prison orange: Not bad. Fiona in trashy, form-fitting animal print: Yes, please.
  • Those were some helpful tips on running another car off the road, but are we meant to believe Sam's FBI pal is some kind of stunt driver? Or does he just practice rolling his car over without getting hurt?
  • No Maddie this week, which means I'm still living in dread of the inevitable "My son is dead!" histrionics. They're coming.