Burn Notice: Back to Normal – Whatever the Hell That Is!

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Burn Notice [USA, Thursdays, 9/8C] returns for its fifth season with a big change – Michael Westen is no longer a burnt agent. He is, once again, working for The Company – albeit as an asset rather than an agent – and looking to capture the last remaining person behind his frame-up.

Company Man finds Westen [Jeffrey Donovan] being assigned the task of tracking down and capturing a man called Kessler – the last remaining architect of his frame-up. To that end, he is teamed with a CIA agent named Max [Grant Show]. When information gleaned from the only other remaining member of the group who burned him leads Westen and Max to Caracas, Venezuela, he demands his team – Sam [Bruce Campbell] and Fiona [Gabrielle Anwar] be brought along.

Written by series creator Matt Nix, Company Man serves up the requisite action, suspense and tidbits of spycraft – complete with hitches in plans; Sam and Fiona playing husband and wife, and the kind of improvisation that has enabled Westen to plague organizations with infinitely more resources.

Since we last him, Raines [Dylan Baker], has grown a scraggly beard but is otherwise the same thin-lipped, dour guy we expect a CIA director in Westen’s world to be. Between him and Max, we get a picture of a CIA that seems a bit at odds with Westen’s desire to return. Surely these bozos aren’t representative of the CIA that Westen was a part of. Our suspicions are furthered by a complete lack of the official CIA team’s ability to achieve their objective – and the need for Westen’s team to pull their butts out of the fire.

Nix’s script is unusual in one major way from the Burn Notice to which we’ve become accustomed – there is no real B-arc. Except for a brief appearance by Jesse – during which he drops a bombshell that will definitely play into the rest of the season – and a few moments featuring Madeline [Sharon Gless] – the episode is entirely concerned with the apprehension of Kessler.

Maybe it’s because there is no B-arc, but Company Man feels just a bit off. That’s not a bad thing – surprise keeps things fresh. It’s just that with only one goal to be achieved, the episode feels top heavy.

Fortunately, director Stephen Surjik makes the most of the character beats in the ep – especially Westen’s anticipation and Sam and Fiona’s disdain for the CIA team – fill the void left by not having a civilian to help. There are also a few extra stunts and some Sam and Fiona generated mayhem to add to the proceedings.

As the first episode of Burn Notice to feature an unburnt Westen, Company Man is more than an amiable time-waster – and it sets up a new and unusual base situation for the new season. Since it makes me curious as to what will happen next, it definitely does what it needs to do.

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Photo by Virginia Sherwood/courtesy of USA Network.