Burn Notice is back, and the burning (pardon the pen) question on my mind was how the show will follow one heck of a fourth season. The answer? It’s not shabby at all.
At the end of last season, Michael was welcomed back to the CIA by Raines (Dylan Baker, sporting a beard since we saw him then). We get a quick rundown of all the things he’s been doing since that handshake, complete with spiffy graphics. All that work has led Michael to Canada, where he’s looking sharp and meeting Max (Melrose Place‘s Grant Show). Michael’s burn notice hasn’t been officially lifted, so he’s just a lowly asset, and Max is his handler. They get their man, sedate him, and sneak him out in a fake ambulance, but not before Michael reiterates to Raines that he needs answers. It’s a brisk but pretty straightforward opening for the show.
Some time later, Fiona is causing a lot of unintentional property destruction in her desire to get her hands on Michael. In fact, she ends up throwing him around too. “I think you broke a rib,” he deadpans in the afterglow. She would rather talk about how his new gig has sidelined their little team for the last six months. “When you got burned, it wasn’t just you,” she tells him. “These last four years have been hard on all of us.” Michael insists that they’re almost done, after which he can move on with his life.
Said life involves stopping by his mom’s house, where Sam is hanging around with a surprise for him: he’s salvaged the Charger. Jesse walks into his garage, and Michael wants to know why Jesse isn’t back at his old job. Jesse explains that after his stint with Team Westen, he couldn’t do “the government thing,” and we find out that he’s gone into private security. The three of them exchange only a handful of sentences before Michael is called and told to get back to Washington, where Raines tells him that they know the last man they need is named Kessler, but they have to find him first. Michael’s job is to interrogate the guy he picked up earlier to find out where Kessler is.
Rather than go for the jugular, Michael decides to be civil, humanizing his adversaries as he talks about how he knows the group that burned him is just a bunch of people. He then makes an emotional appeal for the man to trust him, if only for the sake of the guy’s family, and comes out with the million-dollar answer: Kessler is at a compound in Caracas. He even has the address. And he’s insistent on bringing Sam and Fiona with him to visit it.
Thus our three heroes arrive in Venezula, meeting Max, who sets them up in a hotel and warns them not to drink the water. He then pulls Michael aside to give him the specs on Kessler’s digs and start talking about how they’re going to get to the man. His bright idea is for Michael, as Vasily Andropov, to make a new friend at a nearby military checkpoint. Sam and Fiona are unimpressed with how Max has already set everything up for them so that they can play the typical bickering, clueless tourists and cause a scene at said checkpoint. While that’s happening, Michael makes contact with his new buddy, claiming they have mutual friends and asking about Kessler. The guy appears to take the bait, but shows up later and pulls a gun on Michael, demanding to know who he really is. Some fast talking and quickly researched (and dropped) names save Michael’s bacon.
With that aside, Michael explains to everyone that he’s made arrangements with his new ally to separate Kessler from his convoy and eventually get him out of the country. Fiona and Sam are not pleased that they’re on bag-watching duty at the airport, but Michael points out that they’ve already been established as tourists, and says he’ll see them back in Miami. He and Max roll out to finish the operation. Unfortunately, their equipment fails and forces them out into the open, where a shootout has broken out between the CIA and Kessler’s team. At least they have Sam and Fiona for backup.
Michael’s new plan is to pursue Kessler back to his compound, with a very confused Max in the passenger seat. The CIA veteran asks Michael how he’s still alive, and our hero replies cheekily, “I eat a lot of yogurt.” (Side note: from the outside, Kessler’s compound looks really familiar. I can’t help but think I saw it in season four.) The unlikely partners chase Kessler inside, and Michael is not happy when Kessler locks himself in a panic room. He asks Fiona to buy him some time (which she does by dropping a power line on a burning rental car) while he tries dropping a grenade into the air vent. This blows a hole into the room, but Kessler has already shot himself. Needless to say, this makes Michael even more unhappy.
He doesn’t have time to brood, though: he and Max still have to escape the local police, which he distracts by rigging up a fan and a gun so there’s a handy spray of gunfire in their direction. Back in Miami, Max shows Michael, Sam and Fiona the newspaper headline that results, and thanks them for their help. Michael isn’t as content as everyone else, and ends up in his mom’s garage, telling her that his chance to make sense of the last four years ended up in a body bag. Mama Westen informs him that she doesn’t believe in closure. “Somebody blasts a hole in your life, it tends to stay open,” she tells him, and before she leaves, encourages him to repair the Charger. Our last shot sees Michael taking the tarp off that beloved car.
In my eyes, “Company Man” can easily be summed up by the teaser. It is not the fastest-paced or most involving episode of Burn Notice, but when you look at its place in the bigger picture, it would be unwise for it to be anything different. The episode has to give us a refresher on the final moments of season four and catch us up on where all our heroes are, while establishing the new situation and new characters that we need to know moving forward. And when you devote so much time to exposition, you have considerably less time for a plot, so ideally your plot has to be something fairly simple, or otherwise you’d risk shortchanging your audience. “Company Man” gives us a good look at what season five will be, while telling a good if not spectacular individual story.
Based on this small sampling, season five should shape up to be interesting. Grant Show works well in the role of the experienced CIA veteran who’s used to playing by the rules; he doesn’t let Jeffrey Donovan steamroll over him. We’re already getting glimpses of how Michael’s methods and philosophies don’t mix with his former job, in which I’m sure there’s plenty of stories to be told and issues to chew on. I’ll be a little more content once the show gives us more of our regulars and really starts unraveling some of those plot threads, but this is a good start.