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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Burn Notice: Its Awkward When You Mix New Friends and Old

Burn Notice
Season 5, Episode 1
"Company Man"

I'm so excited for the return of Burn Notice; its serves as the official start of my summer! Lets get right into it.

Michael (Westen, in case you are silly and have never watched this awesome show) is now working with the CIA, not yet as an Agent but rather as a CIA asset (the USA Network missed an opportunity to have Annie Walker serves as his contact but whatever, I'll let it slide). And what is he doing for the CIA? Oh you know, the regular. Travelling the world, hunting down parties to the massive conspiracy (or covert network as Michael v/os) that led to his, and I guess many others, burn notice. He wears lots of suits and shoots lots of guns and we see lots of people rounded up. We'll soon find out that its been a busy 6 months since the last mini finale. As we finish the ass kicking montage, Michael, along with Max, his CIA contact (played by alleged heartthrob Grant Show - my sister had a poster of him on her wall from his Ryan Hope days ... he looks much more bloated here than I remember him), head in to some nondescript building to round up the 31st of the conspirators. A quick first impression on Max, he is clearly jealous of Raines' (the "boss", played by awesome H!ITG! (Hey! Its that Guy!) Dylan Baker, who I loved best in Kings - a great NBC show that should have aired on SyFy and not broadcast TV, sporting a horrible beard) affection for Michael and I think this will be an issue down the road. After some banter about how Raines is grumpy, the clock is ticking and Max clearly has an inferiority complex about Michael's skillz that killz (rarely), we get to the first useful spy trick of the season to put towards your future criminal behavior (this show really is a fun textbook for burgeoning thieves and spies). We learn that RFID security is easy to get around if you have a gecko (again USA Network missed a perfect product placement by not having the GEICO mascot v/o this scene). The gecko is a piece of "complicated electronics but a simple principle, any key can be copied, even a digital one." Good to know Michael. Thanks!

The latest bad guy's name is Hector, Hector Oh (Oh? Oh realllly) though he denies it, he says he's Tim. Michael gives him the choice of the "easy way" or the "hard way" -- you will always wind up hurt or unconscious with Michael and the "hard way" (though rarely killed). Hector plays dumb (poorly. And being all sweaty and shifty doesn't lend you credibility "Tim") but then tries to come at Michael and Max with a knife ... has he never watched this show before? -- Michael will eat you up like a big cup of yogurt and spit you out -- but rarely kill you. Michael kicks Hector's ass and Max subdues him with some sleepy time injection. Michael calls in a medical emergency and we see them using the old, "CIA posing as an ambulance" trick to get Hector out of the building they just broke into. Hey, Raines' command center is in the ambulance, convenient. Raines tells Michael, over Michael's protestations and pleas that he needs answers, that he is going to be sitting out of the interrogation of Hector. Also, he's sending him home for a rest!

MIAMI! We've missed you .. though, wait, where is the Miami beach/beautiful people sunbathing?!?!?! What is this nighttime building shots bullshit? I thought when we didn't get it at the beginning of the episode, they'd at least give it to us after the first break. I feel uneasy, like some bad juju crept into the room. Anyway, Michael is v/oing about how a spies defenses are down and he is most vulnerable after a job, opening himself up to attack by his enemies or his ravenous, sometimes Irish brogued girlfriend Fiona. She likes it rough ... for both parties. After some rough sex establishing shots, we cut to Michael and Fi post-coitally discussing where Michael has been and how hard its been for Fi and those that love Michael to not be with him on his wacky world adventures these last 6 months. Michael also can't share what he's been doing exactly and FI does not like that shiz one bit.

The next morning, we see Christine Cagney sitting at a breakfast table smoking and reading a newspaper; she must be waiting for Lacey. Oops, its Madeline, Michael's mom. And Sam's there too ... Sam is ALWAYS at Madeline's -- I have always wondered why Michael wasn't more curious about these two knocking boots, especially given how we know Sam likes the ladies. Sam takes "Mikey" into the garage and shows him a tarped-over Charger (Michael's pride and joy which was basically destroyed at the end of last season and had been a faithful member of the team, like KITT without the talking and smart ass remarks). Jesse pops into tell us he's still on the show (this will be the last time you see him this episode and you know, I didn't miss him; not a huge Jesse Porter fan), that he quit his Washington DC government job and is working private security/surveillance in Miami. I guess that means we'll be seeing more of him when we inevitably get back into the Miami client of the week flow. Jesse, is also responsible for getting the car back ... he is looking for some gratitude from Michael, who is giving off an off vibe at best. The juju I spoke of earlier is in this scene, its very uneasy, even between Michael and Sam -- Michael seems closed off. Then, he gets a call from Max and scurries out of the garage. Turns out, Raines DOES need him to help with the hector interrogation so it is so long Miami and back to DC. Sure show, give us DC view shots -- that's like a nun dressed in her habit compared to Miami shots.

Hector holds the key to getting to Kessler, the man who got his hands dirty on all of the spy burning and conspiracy building. Michael needs to break Kessler and Raines expect shim to exact a pound of flesh or whatever he needs to do in order to get Hector to speak. Michael goes in and deactivates the secret camera that was supposed to be left for Raines and max to eavesdrop. Next Michael gets down to calmly talking to hector about how he gets the allure of working outside the system but that Kessler needs to be taken down and Michael is Hector's best bet to staying a live (and keeping Hector's family alive too). Not a punch thrown or yogurt eaten in that whole scene (Michael is not the man Raines remembers recruiting, though I think that is a testament to Michael being better at his job than he used to be -- helping the victims of Miami has helped him too!). Anyway, Kessler is south of the border, we're going to Caracas!

Ok Fi and Sam, you just got a free trip to Caracas try not to bitch about the several connecting flights and the shared room. Sam is on board once Max throws in the minibar; Fi is re-incensed when she and Sam are not to be briefed directly on the operation details. This is not going to go well ... Fi packs too much ammunition and likes blowing up stuff too much to be a sideline player. Here's the basic plan, Kessler never leaves his house except via one secure route manned by national police. Michael is going to be a Russian FSB (the new KGB) Agent speaking to the checkpoint's commander, a Cuban ex pat trained by the Russian in the 80s about needing his help to get Kessler inside. For a nice sum of money, all Comrade Checkpoint has to do is get Kessler away from his men; Michael will do the rest. Sam and Fi, posing as husband and wife on vacation with a busted car, provide the distraction for Comrade Checkpoint's men while Michael sneaks into Comrade Checkpoint's office to have his chat about becoming a double agent. As the trio scout the area, Sam's ire is piqued when he learns he cannot use his Chuck Finley alias (the only one he has, which makes you think the man must be wanted the world over) as Max has already backstopped fake aliases for the both of them and rigged the car to fail at the gate. Sam and Fi continue to be annoyed at the lack of input they are getting to contribute. Michael continues to do a nice impression of a mom trying to mediate a fight between her kids.

Game time, Fi and Sam start with the whole bickering husband/wife routine they do so well (its interesting to note Fi's headlights in this scene -- sorry they are hard to miss, it must be colder than I thought under the sun at the equator). Meanwhile, Michael is starting his negotiation with Comrade Checkpoint. This results in Michael using his rather amusing "Russian accented English" accent and a date to meet later if Comrade Checkpoint is in. Russian Michael promises to make this worth Comrade Checkpoint's while.

Cut to the Caracas cafe where Michael is on the verge of being stood up. Oh wait, here comes Comrade Checkpoint now. He looks, off. Turns out CC has checked up on Russian Michael and his contact at FSB has never heard of Russian Michael. While Max wants to abort at this point, Sam and Fi convince him to stall and let Michael work his magic. Using some info from FSB Google and his own water treading skills, Michael convinces Comrade Checkpoint he is legit and that he needs to chill the fuck out with the gun pulling and threatening. Comrade Checkpoint is sold and Operation Get Kessler is on like Donkey Kong!

After the break we are in the operations details meeting; seems like a pretty straightforward snatch and grab job, though with Kessler and his black ops skills they need to be careful. Also, they need to speak Russian or be quiet. Outside Sam and Fi are bitching about being on bag detail at the airport and not a part of the actual snatching and grabbing. Michael, I think quite correctly, points out that they have already been involved and seen and now they have to sit out. When ever the pulled job in Miami, they only played one part and then were done (because they are otherwise identifiable and risk blowing everything) ... not sure why its different down here. Guess who also isn't really at the snatch and grab? Michael and Max -- they are manning the command vehicle, which is not near the action? Why wouldn't Michael be involved in the snatch and grab -- he is the face that Comrade Checkpoint is looking for. Luckily, when Kessler predictably baulks and everyone opens fire, the whole plan goes to shit fast and Fi, who along with Sam never went to the airport but rather to the action (color me shocked), is able to call Michael and explain to him what she is seeing. This includes Kessler high tailing it back to his Fortress of Solitude. Michael and Max jump into the oldest SUV ever and give him chase, busting through the Fortress of Solitude's front gate. This leads to the most boring gun fight ever,but one nicely peppered with quips between max and Michael about how Michael is kind of winging and this and wondering aloud how Michael has survived for so long. After Michael takes out the two remaining guardsmen, they storm the castle ("have fun storming the castle!" - love a good Princess bride quote, BTW, RIP Peter Falk) only to be ambushed by Kessler who runs and makes it to his safe room. I do not hear him shout, "olly, olly, oxen and free" and so I am not sure he is actually safe in there. yeah,see what's happening here is that Michael is going to blow a hole in the safe room with a grenade from a (maybe) dead guard. Meanwhile, Fi and Sam buy Michael some time by blowing up their car at the choke point on the road back to the Fortress of Solitude. BOOM! The grenade make a big ass hole in the safe room (this seems to be a flaw in the safe room's design -- it should be able to withstand grenades I would think). Ruh-roh, Kessler is dead, he done shot himself. Michael is not pleased by this and begins yelling at Kessler and shaking him violently as if it will cure his massive head wound. he is upset to have come all this way for no answers. I hear ya brother, but, seriously, dude is dead. I mean when you need max to sober you up, you need to check yo self before you wreck yo self.

While Michael was abusing the corpse, the policia have arrived and now Michael and max need to MacGuyver their way out of the Fortress of Solitude. An oscillating fan tied to a gun with a hair pull trigger provide the exact level of suppression fire needed for them to escape unseen. Well done Oscillating Fan -- maybe you can take the Charger's place as the new inanimate team member?

Wrap Ups! Ah, there is a little of the Miami shots we expect from our show! The revised-name Operation Get Kessler to Kill Himself has made the newspapers and Max is happy with how things worked out. Sam is equally optimistic about the new beginning for Michael, since the whole conspiracy ring has been taken down. Michael does not seem ready to clink his beer bottle, he is clearly down about Kessler being dead. Last scene, Michael is with his (still covered) Charger. Madeline walks in and they have a little heart to heart about closure and hot its overrated. They also discuss what's next for Michael. Madeline suggests the Charger, Michael thinks its beyond saving. Madeline sagely and metaphorically says that, "nothing is beyond saving." Last image of Michael uncovering the damaged Charger -- not that we get to see what it looks like (I thought the big reveal was going to be that Sam had already restored it - guess fail on my part).

I am very happy this show is back and I understand this episode had to wrap up the loose strings from the last season but, I do not like deviation from the Miami-victims, Michael do-gooder theme -- that's what this is about at the heart. The CIA/Burn Notice mythology has just always been an important but background player. I wonder how this season will play out since Michael will clearly have continuing dealings with Raines and Max. Also, more helpful spy tricks please (I think we only had the one gecko trick early in the episode; I need at least 2 or 3 per episode to keep me going). I guess we'll see how the season unfolds.

Join me next week for episode 2!

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