Despite having what is sometimes referred to as a blue sky filter, the USA Network has a number of programs that really stretch that description. Foremost amongst them is Burn Notice [Thursday, 10/9C]. The series returns this week with Eyes Open, an episode that picks up with Michael Westen [Jeffrey Donovan] in far less than his usual top condition – but there’s a missing bible and a coded list of the persons responsible for burning him and, well, he can’t let a little thing like a hole in his clavicle [his words…] keep him from taking care of business. And then there’s this seemingly unrelated explosion…
The question is this: how does a physically challenged Westen get back on track when a former client [Danny Pino] seeks revenge for the kidnapping of his daughter by giving the names of the people responsible to a mad bomber? And isn’t it time Burn Notice had a genuine mad bomber as a villain?
When Sam’s [Bruce Campbell] investigation leads them to the home of Dennis Barfield, the injured Westen is unable to clear the scene and winds up – at gunpoint – convincing Barfield he’s his number one fan [Barfield is legitimately nuts, diagnosed as a paranoid classic narcissist, with delusions of grandeur]. Barfield is not just crazy, he’s ambitious – Westen learns he has four more bombs planted and ready to be detonated.
On the plus side, in spite of being more than a little miffed at Westen for burning him, Jesse [Coby Bell] agrees to help. A little animosity isn’t going to keep him from doing the right thing.
Burn Notice pretty much set the template for USA’s action shows. There are always enough action scenes to keep things from stalling in exposition, but enough character moments that we really get to know the characters. Somehow, on Burn Notice, though, we can still be surprised by the characters and Eyes Open allows us to see how Westen faces the challenge of doing a job while partially incapacitated.
Thanks to a smart script from Jason Tracey and deft direction by Dennie Gordon, everyone’s behaviour is consistent with their characters while giving us fresh perspectives on them. We get to see sides of Jesse [Coby Bell] and Maddy [Sharon Gless] that we haven’t seen before – but they completely fit into what we already know about the characters. It’s that kind of balance that keeps fans coming back for more [well, that and the crazy stunts!].
Eyes Open sets the goal for the second part of Burn Notice’s fourth season: find the coded list that contains the names of the people who got Westen burned. As the series progresses, and the more that Westen, Fiona [Gabrielle Anwar] and Sam learn, the narrower the focus for each season. With the events of this season, that focus is narrowing to laser-like intensity.
Final Grade: A