By John Keegan and Edmund Boys
For "Burn Notice", it’s two steps forward (knocking off Anson and Nate), one step back (returning to a client-of-the-week). While folding Sam Axe’s personal life into that client keeps things entertaining, the show is still gun-shy about straying too far from its established formulas. The fallout from Nate’s demise is confined to the periphery, just as the arc elements used to be. While the plot-lines are more continuous, opportunities are being lost to deepen the character depth and dynamics.
The acknowledgments of Nate are literally the bookends. Michael and Fiona have their moment on the beach, before suspicion falls on Rebecca and they shift into pursuit mode. Maddy isn’t taking calls, so the most anticipated reaction is shunted to the end. That closing funeral was surprisingly passive and inert. While shutting down in the face of such a tragedy isn’t unsurprising, it’s still a huge waste of Sharon Gless’ talents.
Sam’s contribution to the Rebecca chase is getting her phone records from his much-mentioned main squeeze, Elsa. Sam’s sugar mamas have been an off-screen presence since Audrey Landers camped it up back in season one. Elsa’s appearance shows he’s certainly found a keeper this time. Beauty, brains, fabulous mono-chromatic fashion sense, and access to crucial records. What more could an ex-spy ask for?
Unfortunately, she also has a rebellious son, Evan, who’s stolen a valuable bracelet. Sam agrees to help out, because, hey, it won’t take long, right? He ropes Jesse in and, next thing you know, they’ve agreed to steal a semi to appease Evan’s loan shark. (I must admit my brain crossed the TV streams when Richard Burgi first appeared. I wondered what the CIA was doing there, until I remembered he’s only CIA on “Chuck”!)
What follows is some fairly standard "Burn Notice" hijinks, with diversionary car crashes, SUVs chasing the semi, and Jesse making truly improvised explosive devices. Michael gets into the act, deploying another indeterminate accent to sic the truck’s original owners on Richard Burgi’s guys. A close escape and some off-screen gunfire later, Evan is returned safe and sound. Sam even encourages some mother-son bonding, if only through their shared perplexity at his tequila-fueled approach to conflict resolution.
Rebecca shows up back at the loft, but only to protest her innocence. Michael decides to believe her, but maybe just to make sure he doesn’t run late for Nate’s funeral. As a follow-up to an episode that introduced such major shifts, both Nate’s death and Fiona’s return, this was sadly lack-luster. Admittedly, "Burn Notice" has never made character reflection and development a priority, but this was the one moment that cried out for it.John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision. Edmund Boys is Critical Myth's reviewer for Burn Notice.