'Burn Notice' 5.11 'Better Halves' Review
Tonight's episode was the last Burn Notice before the summer finale. With momentum to build, the show gave us...the tired premise of a show's two leads going undercover as a married couple? It's above average, but you'd be forgiven for any deja vu.
We've seen this before. The X-Files did it well. Nikita didn't do it so well. I'm sure there are others I'm not currently thinking of. In the versions I've seen, it's a way to make commentary on the real relationship (or lack thereof) between the two characters via the fake one - and it usually comes off far too obvious for my taste. Burn Notice gives the premise a little extra bite, but there are parts that are still a little too on the nose, complete with long looks and score cues. The bigger sin is that they don't show us anything about Michael and Fiona's relationship that we don't already know or can't deduce.
The ever-determined Agent Pearce sends Michael and Fiona to a couples' resort in Venezuela to extract a biological weapons engineer and his wife. This isn't Fiona's ideal vacation, but Michael enjoys hacking into the hotel database ("and free pay-per-view in the process"). We get plenty of expected banter between the two before they finally locate Kevin Skylar and his wife Nicki (Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel star Charisma Carpenter).
Fiona befriends Nicki, and soon they're BFF's, at least until Michael intentionally semi-blows his cover and calls Kevin out on his dealings with the Russians. (Are there Russians on TV not involved in something illegal? Or stock bad guys who don't wear all black?) Watching our heroes help the Skylars escape the Russians is entertaining enough, but Burn Notice has done better when it comes to action, and the tension just isn't there. Even some of the dialogue sounds flat.
Having tracked down Stigler, a Romanian banker known as the "ATM to the Eastern Bloc," Sam and Jesse pay him a visit to ask about his dealings with Tavian, the man who killed Max. Stigler is a friend of the late Lucien (from "Eye For An Eye"), so he warily decides to be helpful, telling them that Tavian is due on Tuesday.
Sam and Jesse have to plot a very quick abduction of their own, and it blows up in their faces when Tavian kills Stigler, gets the drop on them and demands a meeting with Michael. "I have answers to questions he doesn't even know to ask," he says cryptically. It's clearly a moment we're meant to wait for, but we don't get it - which would be a downer except for it's delayed for the other moment we've been waiting for: Pearce's wrongfully fingering Michael as Max's killer. The final three minutes of the episode are the best of the hour.
In the wake of last week's fun and action-packed "Army of One," this episode seems slower and less engaging by comparison. There's less novelty, and the premise is just worn out. Even the usual wit and charm of Burn Notice can't elevate this beyond an average episode, which wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't the one right before the summer finale.
This is the kind of episode you'd see in the middle part of the season, not one that you want to lead into a finale with. Let's hope that said summer finale brings the energy back up and sends the show out on a higher note.
(c)2011 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved.