What do you think about when you think of Burn Notice? I think of witty voiceovers, explosions, and unique ways to get out of trouble. The season premiere has all those – but it’s still missing something. What’s left is pretty good, just not perfect.
After the “previously on” that reminds us we don’t get to enjoy Tim Matheson’s acting on this show anymore, we pick up almost immediately where we left off, with Fiona being searched, processed and eventually handcuffed to a table in an interview room while Michael sits in his Charger and deals with her absence. Sam finally finds him, but Michael is not exactly chummy. He grabs his old friend and demands to know how Fiona really got away from him. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe she was right?” Sam asks him, which doesn’t go over well with Michael either. “What do I do now, Sam?” he asks tearfully. This is a Michael Westen breakdown, which he is more than entitled to at this point.
The two of them head to meet up with Jesse and the CIA folks, with Jesse warning them that Anson is trying to blow out of town in a green Jaguar. He’s spotted the car on traffic cameras and thinks that Anson’s headed for Cutler Bay to escape via boat. He also has to convince Agent Pearce (a returning Lauren Stamile) that Anson is a lot more than a shrink. “For now, Michael’s on his own,” she tells him.
This means that Michael is going to steal a big rig, even if it means nearly shooting the guy who owns it. This is a man who is clearly on his last nerve, for better or for worse. (And once again, I wonder how Jeffrey Donovan hasn’t gotten more acclaim for his acting. In an action-driven show, he’s still put tremendous heart and emotion into Michael for years now.) He swipes the truck and has Sam create a traffic break so that he can jackknife the truck and block all the lanes without anyone getting hurt. As if that’s not enough, he decides to set it on fire so people really avoid it. And that’s our first great explosion of Burn Notice season six.
Back to Fiona: she’s being interviewed by Jason Bly (returning guest star Alex Carter). When she starts trying to tell him the truth about what happened at the consulate, he is some combination of confused and unimpressed. This gets him kicked under the table, which doesn’t do anything but it probably makes her feel better.
Sam and Michael are in the Charger, scanning the stalled traffic for Anson’s green Jaguar and arguing with one another. When they find the car, though, it’s empty and another driver tells them that Anson left it behind. This is his cue to call and taunt Michael from inside the chemical plant he’s now holed up in. He tells Michael that he sent a violent paranoid schizophrenic to Madeline’s house, like he just has these people on call or something. Maybe he does. Who knows.
When he can’t raise his mother, Michael wants to rescue her, but Sam points out that they have Jesse for that. Maddie hears about Fiona’s arrest on the news and is shocked; she goes to call Fiona, but grows suspicious when her phone line is dead. Looking outside, she realizes there’s a crazy dude on his way to her house. Mama Westen is no idiot, and goes into hiding just before the crazy person takes in her front door. (How many times has her house been damaged over the course of this show? Geez.)
Bly still doesn’t believe Fiona’s story. “You wouldn’t have killed Larry unless you had a good reason, like, say, protecting your boyfriend Michael Westen,” he tells her. She tries to say that she and Michael have only a “business arrangement.” He reminds her that she’s facing three counts of murder charges. Fiona stands her ground and refuses to change her statement.
Outside the chemical plant, Michael is not happy that Pearce can’t get him any backup. “If we wait for backup, we’re going to lose him,” he tells Sam. As usual it’s up to Team Westen to save the day. How are they going to flush out Anson? They don’t know, but Michael realizes Anson got in through the front door: he shot the security guard at the gate, and has now paged the rest of security claiming they did it. “I guess the good news is we found him,” Sam quips as shooting begins. Michael eventually decides to fake his wounding and Sam’s death to catch the two guards by surprise. “Believe it or not, we’re the good guys,” Sam tells them, though they obviously don’t believe it.
When Jesse gets to Maddie’s house, he realizes the cop in the squad car outside is dead. It’s Agent Porter to the rescue! He does his best to clear the first floor, but forgets to keep checking behind him (really?) and gets a huge rifle aimed at him. Jesse’s about to be ended when Maddie saves him with a shotgun blast from upstairs. “You let him count all the way down to one, seriously?” he remarks. “The longer he talked, the better my chance of shooting the right guy,” she retorts. The crazy guy ends up bound and gagged on her living room floor.
Bly visits Fiona again, this time with photos of the jackknifed truck from earlier and a fake autopsy report. He tries to tell her that it blew up and Michael died behind the wheel. Though the report is fairly specific, I’m surprised that Fiona believes it, given how easy it is to falsify documents and photos these days. Were I in her position, I would have questioned the veracity of the report and asked for some sort of physical evidence, not because I’d expect there to be any, but just to see what Bly said. Oh, well.
The very much not dead Michael talks to the security guards and convinces them to help, drawing the remaining security forces away from their position and getting one of them to lead him to the plant manager’s office so they can trigger an evacuation and flush Anson out. As that’s going on, Pearce arrives with some of her people. Anson makes another creepy phone call, which only convinces Michael that he’s still in the building. Surely, a knock-down, drag-out showdown is imminent?
Once Michael, Sam and Pearce think they’ve found Anson, Sam tries to convince Michael not to go after him alone, and gets a gun in the face. Thankfully, Pearce is behind Michael with a gun pointed at him. She tells Michael that he gets to man the surveillance cameras while she and Sam deal with Anson, whether he likes it or not. Yet when they (and the CIA minions) arrive at the room where Anson is supposed to be, Michael realizes they’ve been duped. In his “hyper-aware,” overstressed state, he sees an outside fence move, and guesses that Anson is outside moving it. Indeed, he is – and Michael wastes no time trying to kill him. The fight is short-lived, however, because Anson has a dead man switch that will blow up the chemical plant with Sam and Pearce inside. Michael is forced to let him go, and warns his friends to evacuate.
While Pearce and her team high-tail it out, Sam stays behind to try and free a poor lab guy who’s handcuffed inside the room. In true Burn Notice fashion, the place goes sky-high just as Pearce walks out, leaving Sam’s fate unknown for a few moments. But relax, he’s fine: he and the scientist are just a few heartbeats behind. You didn’t think they were going to write Bruce Campbell out of the show, did you? (And that’s probably what makes this particular scene not so dramatic for me.) With his friends safe, Michael tries to pursue Anson but is left watching him speed away in his boat for parts unknown.
In the aftermath, Pearce tells Michael that the CIA is willing to go after Anson, but that they can’t prove he did enough to get Fiona off the hook. “What if I caught him? Would that be enough?” he asks, and she admits that it’s a start. Michael and Sam apologize to one another and head off to continue chasing Anson. Meanwhile, back in the federal facility, Fiona reviews the photos given to her by Bly one more time, and points out to him that they don’t match up with the scenario he told her. She knows Michael’s alive. Now, why did it take her two looks to figure that out? Or was she just messing with Bly for whatever reason? Either way, she’s not buying it anymore and sits back to await whatever comes next, as do we.
Here’s where my issue lies with this premiere: it’s not that it’s a bad episode. It’s just not the great episode that past Burn Notice openers have been. When I’m watching a season premiere, I’m looking for something that’s really going to hook me, and also going to give me a sense of where the rest of the season is headed. “Scorched Earth” was an entertaining and fairly suspenseful episode by itself, but it didn’t rev me up for season six. Maybe part of it has to do with the fact that I was also watching Jere Burns on Justified, but I’m so over Anson, and I wanted to see the show move past him. Where does it go now? I’m not sure – although I’m certainly willing to wait and find out (one unremarkable episode does not a lost show make).
But to be fair, the writer in me understands why Anson is still out there, or more accurately, what he represents. This is the man who burned Michael – the last link in the show’s mythology (that we know of right now, anyway). Once the show gets rid of him, is that the end for the series’ established mythology? And would that necessarily be a bad thing? I said last season that Burn Notice can exist without its mythos, a la The Equalizer, and I still believe that. The show’s been around – and been good – long enough that I don’t think it would be hurt without an ongoing storyline. (At least not production-wise, but then we get into the business of television, and that’s not what this article is about.)
I’m not so bothered by Fiona still being in custody, because that makes a little more sense to me. The show’s already done time jumps between seasons before, and it would have been a little unfair to viewers to build up so much hype around Fiona’s fate just to have her sprung either between seasons or in this episode. There’s no doubt she’ll get out – Gabrielle Anwar isn’t going to be benched all season or the fans would riot – but there’s nothing that says Matt Nix and Company can’t mess her up before she does. The questions will be how she gets out and what state she’s in when she does.
So what we’re left with, right now, is an opening episode that’s still wrapping up the big bad from season five, and still really good at blowing things up. This was not my favorite Burn Notice season premiere ever – but I’m still glad to have it back.
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.