Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 The Printed Page

For as long as I've been blogging regularly I've rounded up all that I read through the year and picked out a few books that were my favourites. I hesitate to use the word 'best' as it's quite subjective and what I think is the 'best' may not be what everyone else thinks is.

This past year I was only able to find 7 works that fitted for me. Surprisingly, or possibly unsurprisingly given my love and championing of the sub genre, 6 of the 7 are urban fantasy. 5 are by female authors and the other 2 are by men.

I cheated a little with two of them. The Geekvamp series by Australian author Narrelle M. Harris is two books (The Opposite of Life and Walking Shadows) and Emma Newman's Split Worlds series (Between Two Thorns, Any Other Name and All is Fair) currently stands at 3 books, although Emma plans to do a kick starter to raise the necessary funds to allow her to publish the final 2 volumes. The reason for this is that like last year with Ian Tregillis' Milkweed triptych I simply couldn't bear to break them up into specific volumes that I liked better than each other.

So here we go, my 7 favourite reads of 2015, this isn't in any specific order, although I kind of put them in as I read them.

Every time Chuck Wendig puts out a Miriam Black book it seems to find itself in this list. I just love the way Wendig uses pop culture references and his hard uncompromising view of the modern world as seen through the jaded and cynical eyes of the cursed Miriam Black, who's 'gift' of being able to see the manner of someone's death with an instant of skin to skin contact won't let her ever live a normal life.

I had read some of Larry Correia's Grimnoir Chronicles, but despite having an omnibus of the first 3 Monster Hunter books on Mt Toberead had never actually dragged it down. I did that earlier this year, and damn it was good. They're a bit of a guilty pleasure basically being full of the hero (Owen Zastava Pitt) systematically killing anything he considers a 'monster'. The third book of the series: Monster Hunter Alpha, is a departure. It's narrated by Earl Harbinger, the head of Monster Hunter International, unlike the first 2 books, which are told by Owen using first person PoV. It also employed a mixture of first person and third person to tell the story. It largely centres around a werewolf invasion in one small midwest town and Earl's efforts to save himself and everyone else from an apocalypse by werewolf. It helps to have read the first 2 books in the series, but it does standalone quite successfully. The 4th book (Monster Hunter: Legion) returned to Owen's narration, I have to confess, that while I enjoyed it, I missed reading things from Earl's point of view.

I originally read most of Seanan McGuire's Sparrow Hill Road stories about the 'pretty little dead girl' Rose Marshall some years ago when I first encountered the writer and these were published over the space of a year on the website Edge of Propinquity. Even then I had the feeling that they'd make a nice collection in a book. Obviously others thought the same because Sparrow Hill Road is those twelve stories, edited, cleaned up, put in an order, given a connecting thread and with one added story to make a baker's dozen. Rose started life as the rather malevolent hot rodding ghost in the song Pretty Little Dead Girl and then later morphed into the rather more benevolent Rose who haunts the roads of the afterlife doing what she can to make people's passing a little easier. The cover is done by Aly Fell, and that neatly makes the connection with Seanan McGuire's InCryptid series, which Aly Fell also does the cover work for. InCryptid and Sparrow Hill Road have a world in common and it's been made apparent that Rose and the Healy Price family from InCryptid are known to each other.

Jacqueline Carey is best known for her Kushiel epic fantasy series, but in recent years she's started to write urban fantasy and Dark Currents is the first Agent of Hel book, featuring the half succubus Daisy Johansson, who works for the Norse goddess Hel keeping her small town of Pemkowet a safe place for both mortals (locals and tourists) and the various supernatural creatures that make their home in Pemkowet. There's a lot of humour in these as well as a touch of romance and Pemkowet is described and imagined so well that the reader is left with the impression that it's a very real place. It's an example of some extraordinary world building that any writer of second world epic fantasy would be proud to call their own.

Kameron Hurley's The Mirror Empire (the opening book of her Worldbreaker Saga) blew me away. It's almost impossible to describe in a few words, it's a truly epic story with an ambitious vision. The words original and unique get thrown around a lot when people review fantasy, especially that of the epic variety. I find that they very rarely apply, they do with The Mirror Empire. I believe that Hurley has broken new ground with this one. Not just the concept of gender fluidity, which has given the book a lot of press, but for things like living sentient flesh eating plants and the idea of two worlds, that while different, are mirror images of each other, even down to containing identical people. I'll be fascinated to see where the author goes with this in the future.

Despite being a regular listener to Emma Newman's podcast (Tea and Jeopardy, not sure if that makes me a 'bless poppet' or not) I hadn't actually read her Split Worlds series. After seeing the author read the opening chapter of Between Two Thorns (the first book) at Worldcon in London, I decided to rectify that. I couldn't tell you which book I preferred the most, so I put in all 3 that are currently published. It's a very different type of urban fantasy. The central character is a member of the faery world who has fled her otherworldly home of Aquae Sulis (what the fae call Bath) for Mundanus (our world) and it's 18th century society of parties and oppressed gender for an independent life in our world which allows her freedoms that her own family and society would never allow. It is wonderfully realised and written and gives the reader characters that they can really care about.

As often seems to happen with this list, two books that I read late in the year managed to slip in. The Opposite of Life and Walking Shadows are urban fantasies and yes they do feature vampires. Unusually they're both set in Melbourne. I only know of one other urban fantasy author who sets her books in my home town (Keri Arthur, a Melburnian, like the author of the Geekvamp books, has set some of hers in the town, although they tend to be more paranormal than anything and I've never really been able to come at paranormal's mix of fantasy, romance and erotica), so it's quite exciting for me to read something featuring the city and the people that live there. Narrelle Harris nailed both the city and the way her central characters acted and spoke. I found them very real and relatable and the next time I wander down Little Bourke Street I'll be keeping a watchful and worried eye out for the alley that locates the vampire club Gold Bug. Huge amounts of fun and if anyone was thinking of writing an Australian character in a book they could do worse than read these for research. It was also nice to see a book in this vein feature an entirely platonic relationship between the human and the vampire.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's Christmas!

Isn't that an awesome tree? Mind you I don't think I could find space to fit that one, let alone afford the electric light bill it must generate. Still and all it is a stunning Christmas Tree.

It's the 24th of December down here and that means Christmas Eve, which I always find an odd term to use when it's morning the sun is shining brightly.

It's been an odd Christmas for me. It took until about 5 days ago before it really felt like Christmas. For some reason although the stores were advertising like mad on TV and everywhere else and there were Santas at the shopping centres and I'd seen Myers windows and had Cadbury Christmas Elves in the refrigerator it just didn't seem right.

No one seemed to acknowledge it much this year. Even a local centre's decorations were pretty naff, then again it's a rather dodgy centre at the best of times.

No Christmas episodes of favourite TV shows, then again a lot of the shows I watch don't lend themselves to Christmas themed episodes. I shudder to imagine what The Walking Dead or Sons of Anarchy would do with a Christmas episode.

Something just kind of clicked on the 19th.

It's certainly Australian Christmas weather down here. Low 20's, sun shining, Santa will probably stop the sleigh on a beach somewhere, take off his boots and dangle his toes in the water.

Merry Christmas to everyone, everywhere. Take time to stop, relax and just enjoy life.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 18

Finally found out what Vaughn's real issue with Michael's list is. If it goes public or winds up with the government then his whole covert mission and involvement with Simon and Management is blown open, and he and everyone else on the list go down.

So the result of that is that he and whatever he can muster are coming for Michael with all guns blazing and he tells Michael that until he gets that list and can destroy it or bury it then he, his friends and his family are all fair game. Nate doesn't appear in this episode, nor does Barry, but they would have been included in that threat.

They have to outmanoeuvre Vaughn before he can mobilise and they go at it from two angles. One is to get Maddie and Sam to work the congressman they saved from the Russian death squad and see if they can get him to shut down Vaughn, the carrot there is that doing so could very well make him the most powerful man in US intelligence.

Plan B is to put the list somewhere even Vaughn will have trouble getting to it, and a heavily guarded  nuclear waste plant seems like the ideal location. Only problem with that is that Vaughn anticipated it.

The ensuing chase cuts Michael, Fiona and Jesse off from Sam and Maddie. Jesse also gets some rebar through his leg. My initial thought was 'damn lucky it didn't pierce a major artery'. Fiona echoed it seconds later by pointing out that he would have been dead if it had gone through the femoral artery. They manage to hole up in a hotel, but they're pinned down and trapped in there. People on that list are prepared to help Vaughn take Westen out and get the list. We also say goodbye to an old friend, Michael is forced to blow up the Charger to try and escape. It's a tough old car, but I don't think even it can survive that, although I kind of hope it does. Sticks out like a sore thumb, but its given good service and it isn't any more noticeable than Fiona's electric blue sports Hyundai.

The congressman dithers and dallies and Vaughn gets Maddie as another bargaining chip against Michael, while Sam tries to convince the guy to do the right thing.

Fiona and Michael pledge their true love and are preparing to detonate an explosive device that will probably kill them, but it will also ensure that Vaughn will never get his hands on the list. That's when the cavalry arrives with Sam. The congressman did the right thing and called in the army to act against Vaughn. I have to hand it to Vaughn even with a gun in his face he still bravadoes it out with a 'do you know who I am?' kind of attitude.

Just after he's been led away to more than likely face charges of treason and probably never see the light of day again Michael is approached by a clean shaven, broad shouldered individual in a dark suit. He can't say who he is or where he's taking Michael, but he strongly suggests that the former spy accompany him.

We don't know exactly how much time elapses, but Michael is next seen in the back of a car with blacked out windows, facing the man who took him away and one other. They're clearly CIA. They don't say anything, but their manner and the way they dress may as well have them wearing large signs on top of their heads with red flashing lights. The car stops and just before Michael exits, he's handed an overcoat, suggesting that wherever they are is rather colder than Miami.

Michael stares at the building in front of him as he puts on the coat and then a man emerges. I didn't recognise him, but Michael knew him. He smiles, offers Michael his hand and says, 'Welcome back!'
The camera pans up and out, we see the exterior of the building and a street or two away the distinctive shape of The White House. They may have to change the opening of the show to 'My name is Michael Westen. I'm a spy.'

This is the last one I'll do for a while before moving onto Season 5, which from memory is very good and has one the nastiest villains in the whole run.

It's almost Christmas, and that and New Year will kind of get in the way, plus I'll be watching cricket and tennis and won't have as much time to post the write ups.

I'd also like to undertake a special little project like I did last year with the Disney films. More on that when it happens, but I hope people will like it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 17

Unfortunately because Michael needs that list and now Brennen now has it, he has to deal with the slime bag.

Brennen's prepared to play, because he knows how dangerous Michael is (he still won't have forgotten the threat Michael made against his daughter, and that is referenced briefly in this episode), but unless Michael and his crew do what Brennen wants he will bring Vaughn and his organisation down on him. That also goes if Brennen dies, so Michael can't just kill him, much as he wants to. I thought that may be a hollow threat, because Vaughn gave me the impression he was backing off, but then again he's also rather slimy and duplicitous as well as ruthless, so maybe you can't trust anything he says.

To do what Brennen wants, Michael is going to have to work with someone. This is insurance, Brennen knows how slippery Michael can be (I do occasionally wonder if Matt Nix based Michael Westen on Harry Harrison's master thief Slippery Jim 'The Stainless Steel Rat' Di Griz), and wants someone to keep an eye on him and his friends and make sure that they don't get up to any tricks. He says that the new partner is a big fan of Michael. That makes the viewer wonder exactly who it is, and as Jesse and Michael turn around to see, in walks Larry.

When Brennen got the list Michael described him to Jesse as their worst nightmare. He was wrong. Michael's amoral former partner Larry in partnership with Brennen is their worst nightmare...squared.

Jesse is sidelined for a lot of this, he's going through problems after losing Marv. It appears during a conversation with Maddie, that Marv was more than just a handler, he was a form of mentor/father figure to Jesse, and he was one of the few genuinely good people that Jesse encountered in his line of work, so for him to die the way he did seems terribly unfair and wrong to Jesse.

Sam makes his displeasure with Larry known at Michael's apartment and threatens to joke him with a piece of rebar. Larry laughs it off and says that Sam is a wet rag, keeping Michael from being himself. To Larry, Michael should be the killing machine he was when they worked together. That is the real Michael Westen as far as Larry is concerned, and all the others in his life: Sam, Fiona, Maddie, even Jesse, they're just holding the real Michael Westen back.

It is fun to see Larry and Michael working together and you see how good Larry could be as an agent, if he weren't a complete and total psychopath.

They get the job done and turn the tables on Brennen, then Larry throws the monkey wrench into the plan by killing Brennen. He doesn't care about Vaughn and Co, he thinks that he and Michael can fight them off and ride into the sunset. Larry may die gun blazing, but he doesn't really care, he has nothing else in his life. No family, no friends, he doesn't call anywhere home. He's an empty shell of a person, brilliantly played by Tim Matheson, too. In the end they leave him to take the rap and explain Brennen's body to the police, but Team Westen will be busy dealing with the aftermath and trying to survive. Should be a cracker of a season finale.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 16

In the end they decide to do the right thing with the list and give it to the government in the form of Marv. It makes sense. Marv may work for the very organisation that burned Michael and Jesse and in many ways created Simon, but he's a straight shooter and will do the right thing with the information. He also went out of his way to get the money that bought them the list, so it is only fitting that he get it.

Marv and Michael meet for the first time and Marv makes no secret of the fact that he doesn't like Michael. He's read the doctored file and believed it. Michael does point out that it's lies, but Marv brings up things like Fiona and Sam's past and that all makes it more believable. Despite his personal feelings Marv does agree to take receipt of the list. Even more so after he puts Michael on a polygraph and Michael begins the interrogation with the words: 'My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy...'

Neither Fiona or Maddie are happy about Michael possibly getting his old job back, but Fiona clings to the hope that once his name is cleared, his feelings for her will rise to the fore and he'll turn it down. Having lived through it once, Maddie fears that Michael will disappear like he did before. He was gone for a decade then, and it took 3 months before she even knew he was still alive.

While that's happening with Michael, Sam is trying to help a friend of his in the force. He was accused of going bad and disappearing with drugs from a bust. Michael believes he was crooked, Sam doesn't.

He meets with the man's wife and his former partner and manages to get a lead. Michael goes along for the ride and when the drug dealer they want to talk to runs, they know they're onto something.

It turns out that Sam's friend wasn't crooked, his partner was and now he's getting away with it. He even arranged to his have friend killed to hide his own wrong doings.

Because the partner didn't do the job himself and never saw the body it's not all that hard to make the partner believe his old friend is still alive. He panics and tries every trick in the book to make it all go away. Jesse and Fiona impersonate internal affairs. Sam has alerted the real internal affairs to what's going on and promises to deliver them a crooked cop. Michael's shoulder injury appears to have healed, because he dives off a boat just as it's about to be blown up and suffers no ill effects afterwards.

Once that's all wrapped up it's time to meet Marv and give him the list. Marv is accompanied by 'Homeland Security' and at the last moment begs them not to give him the list, he was threatened, his wife was threatened. That's when they open fire and kill Marv, as they drive away Michael sees Tyler Brennan (listed as part time spy, full time sociopath) in the back of the car. Jesse asks who it is, and Michael replies; 'Our worst nightmare.'. Brennan is bad, and he's evil, but I think Simon is more dangerous.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 15

There was a character that's sort of Team Westen who hadn't really been seen this season, and that's Michael's little brother Nate. I guess with all that was going on with Jesse, Nate kind of got lost in the shuffle, although Maddie mentioned him occasionally, and he was in Vegas with his wife.

So while Michael continues to recover from his shoulder injury (a nice bit of continuity to keep that in our mind and at least they don't do it by showing the bandage on the outside of his clothing, ala Julia Shumway's leg injury in Under the Dome) he sends Jesse and Sam on a road trip to Santa Domingo to bid for the list from a former intelligence security expert, turned secret seller. This kind of gets Jesse out of the way and enables Michael and Nate to spend some brother to brother time Westen family style.

Michael knows something is up when he meets Nate at the airport and he has no luggage, it was weird enough he just flew in out of the blue the way he did. Before they even go home he wants to meet a couple of friends who run a car hire and mechanic business.

When they get there one of them is beating the hell out of the other, coincidentally, or maybe no, they're brothers. The full story is that the business was going to the wall, so one of them used some of their cars to help a local drug lord transport his ware. Now one of his cars has gone missing complete with $2,000,000 worth of heroin.

Nate immediately offers to take them on as a client. Michael counsels turning it down, but Nate won't let him, so he's drawn into the whole mess, as is Fiona, but she kind of enjoys it.

Despite Michael's continual protests to the contrary, Maddie believes Michael pulled Nate into this. Maddie's very protective of Nate, partly because he's her youngest and partly because she knows Michael can take care of himself and there's some rather dire threats made to Michael from her if Nate gets hurt. It later comes out that this is driven by Nate about to become a father.

For once Michael and Co don't have to convince the head bad guy that one of his lieutenants is betraying him. Well, they do, but this time they're not planting evidence, because he actually is doing it.

We don't get to see the aftermath, but it's made pretty clear that he's going to get a bullet to the head and unmarked grave and won't be mourned by anyone.

Michael also gets himself free mechanic work if he wants it. Along the way we also got to see Michael reconnect with a former enemy/ally to help he and Nate find the car. This was a recall back to a previous season episode where Michael protected Miami's king of stolen cars from a bunch of mercenaries out for blood.

The show does that well, brings minor characters in and out across seasons and it helps set up a sense or reality and shows that Michael and Team Westen are building up a strong network in and around Miami.

We got occasional scenes in Santa Domingo with Jesse and Sam, but that was only to remind us about them and to reference the season arc. This was mostly about the Westen Brothers taking down the bad guys and bonding, as well as setting up a complication with Nate's impending fatherhood. In a show like Burn Notice when a character like Nate reveals he's going to become a daddy, it's a kiss of death. Nate will die at some point, it's just a matter of when.

Once Michael has the list he has to decide what to do with it. Who can he trust with it? Does he give it to the government? Who can be trusted with this sort of information?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 14

There are a couple of interesting guest appearances in this one and it's largely a standalone episode, although there's still some stuff about the Bible to continue the season arc.

One of the guest appearances comes about as a result of the Bible. It's going up for auction and while Jesse and Michael have some money (they must, they never seem to get paid for what they do, but also never seem short of money), they're not in the league they need to be to even get an invite to the auction. That's when Michael comes up with the idea of Jesse hitting his old boss Marv up for some seed money.

I knew they couldn't stop at one appearance from Richard Kind, he's like peanuts in this sort of role, you can't stop at only one. Because he likes Jesse and because he's believable and Marv is essentially a good bloke, he comes up with $5,000,000 for Jesse, just don't ask where or how he got it.

The actual mission centres around a character on a boat who claims his younger sister is being held against her will by a corrupt diplomat. Once Jesse has done some surveillance and worked out how to get in, Michael, much to Jesse's chagrin and obvious annoyance, takes over the job. Maddie says she wants to get the two of them together and have them be friends again, I thought she may suggest banging their heads together, but she didn't go that far.

It turns out their client is lying and while they're meeting with him, he ends up being shot. The killer is Natalie, a ruthless and amoral thief that Michael, Sam and especially Fiona have crossed paths with before. Natalie is played by Callie Thorne and that for me is weird, because I know Callie Thorne as the caring therapist Dani Santino in the dramedy Necessary Roughness, and that character is about as far from Natalie as one can get, to Thorne's credit she actually pulls it off.

She says the real reason the client wanted them to go into the embassy was to have a chemical weapon stolen. She wants them to help her get it, and if they don't she'll nail Fiona for the guy's death, she used one of Fiona's guns to do it.

Unsurprisingly Natalie tries a double cross, but they turn the tables on her and eventually leave her with little option but to turn herself over to the authorities for her own safety. It is nice to see Fiona go up against someone who can get her goat. I doubt we'll see Natalie again, which is a shame, because she's a fun villain to hate.

Worryingly they've kind of sidelined Maddie and Sam recently and that's not something I remember. Happily I know they both play large parts and get to do some really good acting in future seasons, even if they're pushed to the side for a good chunk of Season 4. Be surprising if this isn't the last standalone episode for the season.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 13

Episode 13 is very much like part 2 of Episode 12.

Barrett, as I had expected, was killed in the car accident. I found that a little odd, for a couple of reasons. It was an almost criminal underuse of Robert Patrick (a fairly popular actor in genre TV), and with his business interests and attitude as well as resources, Barrett could have been a serious thorn in Michael's side and a worthy adversary.

Someone, unknown at this stage, got hold of Simon's Bible, and that to Michael is a major problem, because that coded book is a recipe for disaster on a major scale.

For about the first time I can recall in the series Michael wound up hospitalised for more than a few hours being patched up. He was actually unconscious for a few days. He releases himself early, and the only real concession he makes to his injuries is that he allows Maddie to move him into her place and mother him a little.

As Michael walks out of the hospital there's an influx to emergency to an explosion down town. It's reported as a gas leak, but Sam and Michael know better. When they find out who is caught and almost killed in the blast the pieces fall into place.

It also killed off my fanfic idea involving Merle Dixon. He died in the blast (although we never saw the body, so he could have changed his identity and gone to ground in Atlanta. Merle was a great survivor until the zombies got him).

Who wanted Dale dead? Adam Scott, the slippery lawyer, whose daughter Dale kidnapped.

Michael confronts Scott and finds out that he put a mad bomber by the name of Dennis Wayne Barfield on the case, with instructions to blow up everyone involved in the abduction of his daughter.

Barfield, even if the name doesn't give it away, exudes serial killer. James Ransome's performance made me think of Finn Wittrock's Dandy Mott in American Horror Story: Freak Show, and he's also a serial killer.

Initially Michael pretends to be a worshipping weasel, it doesn't really do a lot for him, but he does find out a few things. Barfield isn't particularly good at the bombing, he's not mentally stable and he uses substandard equipment and methods, which means he doesn't care about collateral damage as long as he gets to blow things up. He's also fairly sure that Scott has lost control of him.

Despite that he does try to convince Scott to call him off, and when he does that Barfield kills his employer, Barfield is a trust fund kiddie, so doesn't need the money and has never worked in his life, that's another thing that makes him very dangerous.

Jesse rejoins Team Westen, he still hates Michael and that will be looked into down the track, but getting that Bible back is very important and has further ramifications than Jesse's personal feud with Michael.

Vaughn (apparently I've been spelling his name wrong) also wants the Bible, but Michael makes it very clear that he won't work with him anymore and he agrees to back off, although I doubt he will.

Barfield is stopped, although I was a little disappointed that Scott got killed, because I felt he had potential to be a frenemy down the track in future seasons even.

There aren't too many episodes left and the end game has been set firmly in motion.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 12

The fall out from Jesse finding out that he had been betrayed by his new best friends continues. Having Jesse Porter on your back is not a good thing. The guy is a trained counter intelligence operative, who has put in time in the field, so he's got that skill set, and having worked with Michael and his 'posse', he knows how they operate and a number of their tricks. Factor in Sam's eventual liking of Jesse and Fiona's conflicted romantic feelings and it's a great big mess.

Michael continues to set up a meet and greet and possible exchange of the Bible with Barrett, and keeps Vaughan in the loop on that. I'm not entirely sure what game Michael is playing there, but I don't think he plans to give Barrett the Bible or Vaughan Barrett.

While he waits for that to happen he takes on a job involving a highly paid lawyer, who does work fro drug dealers mostly. The lawyer's daughter has been kidnapped and he wants her back. Michael is one of the few people who can do this for him. The daughter is listed as the client, not the lawyer. If it weren't for her being young and helpless Michael wouldn't have taken the job.

The kidnapper is played by Michael Rooker, who is best known for his portrayal of Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead. Quite apart from the fact that Dale (the kidnapper) sounds and looks like Merle, he's almost exactly the same character, played in the same way, he even has a brother he's quite protective of (in fact he kidnapped the girl because her father failed to keep his brother out of jail), so I couldn't shake Merle out of my head. I'm sure that there's a fanfic out there somewhere that uses this episode of Burn Notice as it's premise and poses that Merle went from kidnapping and crime in Miami to finding himself in the middle of a zombie plagued Atlanta.

You know Michael, Sam and Fiona will get the girl, and they do, although Jesse shadows them every step of the way. He claims that it's not just about Michael burning him, so not sure what other game he could be playing.

As payment for recovering the lawyer's daughter Michael takes the submersible that his shady customers use for transporting their cargo. It seems to have something to do with his exit plan involving Barrett, the Bible and Vaughan.

Vaughan turns up at the meet and that throws Michael's plans into disarray, to make matters even worse so does Jesse. Believing that he's been double crossed Barrett tries to take Michael hostage and that's when a shot from Jesse rips through Michael's shoulder and takes out the guy holding him.

Barrett still manages to get a bleeding Michael into his car. In an act of desperation Michael wrenches the wheel to one side and rolls the car. He gets out. Barrett is bleeding from the head, unconscious, possibly dead and weak with blood loss Michael can't reach the Bible, as he blacks out a booted foot appears, a hand reaches down and takes the Bible. My first thought was Jesse, but I suspect that's not the case and someone else has just entered the mix.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 11

This one starts off as two separate stories which do have significant impact on each other and promise to resonate throughout the rest of the season.

Fiona and Sam take a job tracking down and gouging money out of a cold hearted British lothario for a widow he conned out of her life savings. In some ways that's rather reminiscent of the show's early days when it trod the seamy side of Miami, but this con artist runs with the rich crowd and so never really gets down and dirty.

While Fiona and Sam are doing that, and Sam tries to stop Fiona from simply shooting their mark because he's sleazy and callous, Jesse and Michael play the dangerous game of baiting the wealthy businessman and merchant of death John Barrett (played with just the right level of menace by Robert Patrick) by waving Simon's coded Bible in his face. They know he won't come and get it least to begin with, so they have to put those who do come on ice to force him out, and face him on home turf.

Both Jesse and Michael get drawn peripherally into Sam and Fiona's job, and when Jesse and Fiona are tailing their mark and get spotted, at least their car does - Fiona's bright blue Hyundai really does stand out - she has to find a way not to get shot. She puts two and two together and comes up with the answer of 'make out with Jesse'. It puts the suspicion away from them, but only serves to confuse both Fiona and Jesse and cement the growing love triangle.

The target later lets slip to Sam that the people who were tailing him weren't picked up on because when security checked it was only a couple snogging (this is later explained to Sam as making out. The occasional use of British slang is a running gag, in that Michael and Sam don't understand it. Michael also gets to use his dreadful British accent again, but this time it's okay because it is deliberately bad). Hearing that Jesse and Fiona were making out, even if it wasn't for real, bothers Sam. Now someone else knows that Jesse could prove to be a rather large obstacle between the future happiness of Michael and Fiona.

They do resolve the issue with the Brit by repeatedly drugging him and making him paranoid, they also make him think he killed his old girlfriend by blowing up her boat after one his drug fuelled blackouts. Overall the story was a little dissatisfying. It was largely caused by the actress who played Emily (Fiona and Sam's client), she came across as very unconvincing, and I was wishing they hired a better actress.

The kicker in this episode comes at the end, when Fiona walks into Michael's warehouse and has a gun pointed in her face by Jesse. His old friend Marv found some other footage of the day Jesse was burned from a different vantage point, that not many other people knew about and it shows Michael exiting the building just before the hammer came down on Jesse. He doesn't shoot Fiona, but he runs and now he's angry and he's going to target Michael. It all just hit the fan in a big way.