'Burn Notice' Recap and Review: Michael's 'New Deal,' Fiona's New Boyfriend
June 6th, 2013 10:55pm EDT
Burn Notice is back for the final time, and returns with a season premiere that while not the most exciting episode on its own, certainly generates plenty of excitement for what should be an ambitious swan song.
After making his mysterious deal with the CIA at the end of season six, Michael Westen is now operating solo in the Dominican Republic, and looking a lot worse for wear. He's drinking, has grown an unflattering beard, and is brawling in an underground fight club. His bad luck's been around for awhile: nine months earlier, we see why Michael made that deal in the first place, as a suit (that's Jack Coleman from Castle) tells Michael that every intelligence organization hates him and his friends. The suit says there's a terrorist leader based in the Dominican, and Michael's their new man on the inside, since he used to work with the bad guy, whose name is Randall Burke. Adrian Pasdar has gone from playing the President of the United States on Political Animals to a terrorist on Burn Notice. Does that qualify as a downgrade?
Michael then tells us via voice-over how difficult deep cover work is, just before he comes face-to-face with Burke for the first time in about a decade. His "old friend" is skeptical about Michael's competency, and elects to break into his apartment later that night. He then tells Michael he's offering him a "new life" with "no second chances."
Back in Miami, life has moved on for the rest of the team. Sam is hanging out by the pool, only to have his quiet evening interrupted by a French intelligence operative asking about his old partner-in-crime. He says his agency has been working in the Dominican Republic, they've spotted Michael, and they want to know what he's doing there. Sam realizes quickly that this guy is not French intelligence, which is confirmed when the visitor pulls a knife on him just before leaving.
This sends Sam running right to Jesse, who's having a bad day even before Sam breaks the news. The same guy paid a visit to Jesse with a different cover ID, leading Sam to declare that "It's time to circle the wagons." That means calling Fiona, who's working with a new guy that she's also making out with. "If I'd known this was about Michael, I wouldn't have come," she declares when she meets the guys at Carlito's. Obviously Michael's departure put their relationship very, very much on ice. Sam and Jesse agree to go it alone, but convince her to keep an eye on Madeline (and her grandson Charlie) while they do.
Their first stop is what they believe to be the residence of their mystery man, which they decide to invite themselves into. Unfortunately, there's a Claymore mine on the other side of the door, and Sam trying to open the door activates the device. He narrowly escapes being blown up. As if that's not bad enough, the bastard they're looking for is now posing as the supervisor meeting with Madeline when she goes to pursue custody of her grandson. When he puts the squeeze on her, she says too much, including revealing that Michael made a deal with the CIA. By the time Sam, Jesse and Fiona figure this out, it's too late: the mystery man is gone, and much more well-informed.
Burke puts Michael to the test by sending him with one of his men to plant charges inside a target building, although he's tight-lipped as to why it needs to explode. The two don't play well together, although they manage to get the job done (barely). As they head for the rendezvous point, Michael begins to suspect that his cover has been blown, and he confirms it when his new partner pulls a gun on him. The two end up blowing through a security checkpoint and rolling their car in the resulting shootout. Michael is the sole survivor of the crash, and takes the opportunity to escape. He keeps the meeting with Burke and sells him a different story, but doesn't get any more information on what the other man is planning.
All of this does not make Suit happy, and he admits that when it comes to Michael's cover, they have a "serious problem" in the form of their mystery man. Suit has decided it's time for them both to go back to Miami, but obviously, doesn't want either of them being seen by Michael's old friends while they're chasing the spook. "I understand it's him or me," Michael says, and ominous music plays over the end credits in case you weren't sure that he's serious.
"New Deal" plays a lot like a part one, rather than a full-fledged premiere. It accomplishes the basic season-opening goals of bringing the team back together (mostly), introducing the new important players for the season, and raising a few questions that we need to answer. Adrian Pasdar and Jack Coleman are interesting additions, so far better than some of the characters we met last season (with the exception of Lauren Stamile's Dani Pearce, who would be lovely to see back even if that probably won't happen). And our enigmatic villain is just creepy enough for us to want him gone, which is the point.
Like ABC's Rookie Blue, the show uses its time-jump to hook one of its leads up with a new love interest other than the person we know they're meant to be with. The idea doesn't work as well here as it did on Rookie Blue, for a variety of reasons, like that we don't really have a clue who the "third wheel" is or what entirely contributed to the downfall of the old relationship. Considering all the things Fiona and Michael have endured, it seems like there should be a bit more of an explanation than her just being upset over his decision to get back into the CIA. Yet as their romance is a huge part of the show, it's safe to expect we'll get that answer and some resolution, too. It would be shocking if the show ended without Michael and Fiona back together.
The only two things that are disappointing about the premiere are that it lacks the usual Burn Notice humor (this might be the first episode in the show's history without a witty title somewhere), which for this series is like having half a show, and that we don't get a lot of information as to where all this is going. There's a difference between maintaining suspense and being too tight-lipped, and "New Deal" tilts a bit toward the latter. The show doesn't need to give away Burke's entire game plan in the premiere, but not having the faintest clue what he wants makes it hard for us to legitimately be concerned, or even afraid of him. The only reputation he has is being an ex-colleague of Michael's. It's not the best introduction to a villain Burn Notice has ever had. But the important thing is that it all pays off in the end.
Speaking of the end, it's not that surprising that this is Burn Notice's last season. USA has been launching more and more original series over the last few years, and we saw last season how there just isn't room for all of them (rest in peace, Fairly Legal and Political Animals). From a business standpoint, networks tend to axe older shows when things get crowded. That aside, the series has also been on the air about five seasons longer than most TV programs, and next week it hits the one hundred episode milestone that's crucial for syndication, so it doesn't have much left to prove, either. Add that to the fact the show's stretched its mythology about as far as it can, and all signs have been pointing to the end. The good thing is at least we know the finish line is coming, and can brace ourselves. Here's hoping there's a strong ending to a show that's been good to its fans, its network and TV for a long time.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
Photo Credits: USA