'Burn Notice' Recap and Review: Sam, Jesse and Michael Reunited

June 21st, 2013 9:00am EDT

Burn Notice Things still aren't going very well for Michael Westen on Burn Notice. Realizing that his old life is very much in the past, Michael burns a photo of Fiona just as he realizes that he's made the news. But there's no time for him to dwell on either issue. Burke (Adrian Pasdar) tells Michael that his next assignment is to steal a truck, and when his original choice for help gets on his bad side, Burke decides that he wants to call in Michael's "guys in Miami."
It's an unexpected development that doesn't please Michael's handler Strong (Jack Coleman), but Michael eventually persuades him that Sam and Jesse are the right men for the job. Strong also informs Michael that Burke is then going to sell said truck to another unsavory type named Serrano (that's Ricardo Chavira from Desperate Housewives), so now they've got to bring down not one but two terrorists. Sounds like any other Thursday for Team Westen.
While that sinks in, back in Miami, Madeline is approached by Al Sapienza, and not the fantastic actor. This Al Sapienza (played by Paul Hipp) is Nate's bookie, and he wants to collect on an outstanding debt, even if it means threatening Nate's son Charlie. This leads Maddie to phone Fiona, who insists that where there's one shark from the past, there will be others. She declares that "someone's going to get hurt, and it won't be Charlie."
From the moment Sam and Jesse arrive in the Dominican Republic, there are problems. They're forced to blow up the plane they arrived in to keep the police from immediately arresting them. Once that's behind them, Burke takes the crew to where the truck he wants is located, and is pleased with their plan. Sam and Jesse aren't pleased at Burke's order for Sam to shoot Michael should he fail, but they shut up about that when Michael finally reveals the terms of his CIA deal to them afterward: either he takes down Burke, or they all go back to that CIA holding facility they spent some time in last season.
Sam reluctantly keeps Michael in his crosshairs as Michael steals the truck, and is clearly unsettled by having to shoot another man in the back to save his best friend's life. Strong really doesn't care how anyone feels. He plans to take Burke and Serrano out, then ship Sam and Jesse back to Miami. Sam replies that they're staying, whether Strong likes it or not.
Fiona has Maddie set up a second meeting with Al so that they can slip him a tracking device. This leads them to his place of operations, and Maddie volunteers to help Fiona set up her explosives, because she's awesome like that. Fiona even lets her push the big red button that detonates them.

Back in foreign territory, Sam thinks that Strong's plan has some pretty serious flaws in it, but his warnings fall on predictably deaf ears. Burke meets with Serrano and reveals that he doesn't want the other man's money - he's only interested in him, and information he has that's valuable to the people Burke works for. Listening in, Strong is baffled, because he thought Burke was his own boss.
He's further wound up when a random helicopter flies in, spotting the CIA's team as it does. When the pilot tells Burke about the operatives, Burke turns on Michael. To sell Michael's story that the snipers aren't on his side, Sam is forced to shoot at Michael. Michael then shoves Serrano in front of the window so that he can pretend to call the snipers off, which Strong reluctantly does. He watches helplessly as Burke, Michael and Serrano board the chopper, leaving behind a truck that promptly explodes.
And Maddie sticks it to Al, having recovered his client list and a whole lot more from his safe after blowing a hole in his place. She's smiling the entire time.
On the chopper, Michael demands to know who Burke's boss is, and what's really going on. Burke says that "all will be revealed in time," because that's what bad guys say in situations like this.
There are a few things about "Down Range" that don't ring true on various levels. It's pretty easy to see the plot twist in the fourth act coming if you're paying attention through the episode, not to mention the tropes that surround it - yet again, the CIA doesn't listen to Team Westen and gets egg on their face because of it. Burke having a boss is also not a shocker, because Burn Notice veterans know that the bad guys in this show always have organizations - the guy you meet in the season opener is almost certainly not the one pulling the strings. And so it is again.
Then there's the whole subplot, which while seeing Sharon Gless putting someone in their place is always entertaining, feels like old material. We've been over all the various trouble Nate got himself into, and this isn't the first time someone in the Westen family has had to deal with it. The whole thing comes across as more of a way to give Fiona and Madeline something to do, rather than something that actually adds to the episode.
Another minor tic: USA putting the preview of next week's Burn Notice not at the end of the hour, but in the middle of Graceland. It's obviously a move to coerce Burn Notice fans into watching Graceland, and it's not great. Yes, it's just a preview, but there are fans who love those little sneak peeks, and they shouldn't have to sit through part of another show to see them.
Having said that, there are glimmers here of what makes this show great, namely in the person of Bruce Campbell. Sam Axe might be primarily known for his comic relief, but Campbell reminds us again that Sam is a lot more than that. He plays everything so well. It's when Sam, Jesse and Michael are working together again, and we can enjoy the great chemistry between Campbell, Coby Bell and Jeffrey Donovan, that "Down Range" is at its best. Let's hope that the rest of the plotting reaches that same level of quality next week.
(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.

Related: Burn Notice, Starpulse Exclusives, Recaps, Television, Action & Adventure, Drama, USA

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