Burn Notice [USA Network, Thursday, 10/9C] creator Matt Nix cranks things up for the series’ mid-season premiere with Michael’s CIA security clearance, a powerful – and selective – computer virus and a kidnapping. And that’s just for starters!
Damned If You Do picks up from Burn Notice’s summer finale with Michael Westen [Jeffrey Donovan] facing his CIA security clearance, but before the teaser is over he’s learned what the affable Anson [Jere burns] wants in return for not getting Fiona [Gabrielle Anwar] put away for the rest of her life.
There’s this computer virus – Voidbot – that is capable of infiltrating any computer any selective removing any and all information about a specified individual away without leaving a trace. Anson wants it – and Michael has to go to Puerto Rico to kidnap Oscar [Ptolemy Slocum], the hacker who write it, so that he can retrieve it from a classified government location.
Obstacles include the small army guarding Oswald in his new home; the actual government lab that needs to be broken into, and Xavier [Ian Anthony Dale], the drug kingpin for whom he created it [and left hanging after absconding with five million dollars].
Meanwhile, Sam [Bruce Campbell] and Jesse [Coby Bell] have figured out a way to find out if the police investigation into the explosions from the summer finale have led to Fi. The problem is that they need Madeline [Sharon Gless] to help pull it off.
And, while nobody’s said anything, I have to note – in passing – that we never actually saw Larry’s [Tim Matheson] body after the events of the summer finale. So there’s always the possibility that we could see him again –and if anyone would be steamed at Anson, it would be Larry. Just sayin…
So, Damned If You Do is a typical episode of Burn Notice – there’s the voiceover bits of spycraft; the caper that doesn’t go quite as expected; the B-arc that provides most of the episode’s humor, and there’s the array of possible and definite villains who fail, spectacularly, to prevent things from working out. There’s also the tag that lets us know that it’s not quite happily over, yet.
Why, then, does the ep entertain? Well, it’s because even though we’ve grown to know and love the core cast, they are still capable of surprising us; it’s because we see them interact with interesting characters – characters who range from very good to thoroughly nasty, and every shading in between, and yes, it’s because the stunts are spectacular, the gunplay cheeky, and the sheer verve of the writing is often exhilarating.
Series creator Nix provides most of these elements in Damned If You Do [will the winter finale be called Damned If You Don’t?]. Michael and Fi’s ability to MacGyver essential equipment on the spot; Michael being motivated by his love for Fi; Oswald’s ability to recognize that Michael is not the bad guy; Xavier not being stupid, even Maddy’s willingness to learn to do something she’d never have been expected to learn – all these things make the formula on which Burn Notice relies seem fresh.
Director Stephen Surjik keeps the action and emotion bubbling at a high temperature and allows the final sequence to play out at exactly the right pace to communicate Michael’s distress and add just that extra bit of impact that it needs to make us think, ‘I really need to know what happens next!’
There’s a reason that Burn Notice holds an audience not just through summer, but through November sweeps. It’s just consistently that good.
Final Grade: A-
Photos by Quantrell D. Colbert/courtesy USA Network