Monday, June 30, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 2, Episode 9

If the shots they use in the opening credits are anything to judge by I was right in thinking that Episode 8 was the half season. There were a couple of captures I hadn't seen before. I've seen a lot of the credits for this and I notice when they're different.

Viewers get to see exactly what Carla can do when she decides to play nasty. Michael should have known that she'd work out he'd found the building they were planning to carry a hit out from and also that he'd used the key card. How she didn't think he'd had a copy made for himself I do not know. Maybe she and her organisation underestimated him. I don't think that would have pissed her off as much if he hadn't later tracked her to the hotel she was staying at and had Sam put her under surveillance.

In retaliation she has Nate arrested on bogus charges (yes, he's back. I really don't remember him being as big a part of the show as he is) and because he's started up a limo business which Maddie remortgaged the house to loan him the money for, she could lose her house if this isn't sorted out.

Personally, I would have taken Carla out then and there. Fiona was plenty willing. There's not much in Fi's world that can't be fixed from the barrel of a gun, and what there isn't can always been blown up.

While doing this Michael took on a job involving the attempted kidnapping of a Venezualan oil heiress for a friend of Campbell's. Aside from allowing Michael to act like a drunken, snivelling down on his luck ex Delta Force soldier and kick some arse I'm not really sure why the storyline was there. It didn't really go anywhere. I guess they needed to pad the episode out somehow.

I'm really not liking the way Fiona is using Campbell to make Michael jealous. It's not working and it's not nice.

Michael's managed to escape Carla and that's when the story takes a turn. Instead of the sniper pulling off the job he gets blown up in his house. Fortunately Sam tells Michael that just as he's opening the door to his loft. He dives over the balcony railing as everything goes kaboom.

The screen fades to black and we get the words TO BE CONTINUED...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 2, Episode 8

There's a lot happening in this episode, that and the fact that the season has 16 episodes, leads one to believe that this was probably the big half season climax episode.

Michael and Sam are going through all the Bill Johnsons in the Miami area to find the one Seymour told them got the sight from him. I find it interesting that Michael and Fiona and Sam regularly use aliases, yet they accept that Carla is using her real first name and that someone who has picked up a stolen weapon and sourced a sight from an illegal arms dealer would of course use his actual name. Going through one Bill Johnson's trash points to that person being a man who has something to hide. That something being a Russian sniper rifle.

Back at his loft as he's making his way through the nightclub crowds (glad to see we saw that again, it helps with continuity) a ghost from his past hails him. It's quite literally a ghost because Michael thought he was dead. His name is Larry and he was a mentor of sorts for Michael, they worked together in the Balkans in the early 90's. It was a pretty crazy time and Larry was a pretty crazy person. He was a stone cold killer then and he is now. However now he works for himself, not the CIA.

Larry is played by veteran actor Tim Matheson, he also directed the episode. Matheson has been a familiar face to TV and movie audiences since the 60's, but is best known for playing 'Otter' in Anima House, aside from guest appearances as Larry in Burn Notice, he also plays small town doctor Brick Breland in the dramedy Hart of Dixie.

Larry wants Michael to pull off an assassination. Michael takes the job, because he knows if Larry does it then the body count is going to be significantly more than one person and he can possibly even save the target.

The 'dead-ee' as she is described is a philanthropist, who's highly unpleasant step son wants her dead. The step son is Zachary Ty Bryan from Home Improvement, for once he isn't playing a high school or college student, but he's every bit as nasty as the characters he seems to have specialised in since leaving the show that made his name.

Michael can save the stepmother, but not the stepson. Larry kills him and then walks away, Michael warns him not to return, but you know that won't be the last time we see him.

Maddie also makes Michael attend another counselling session with her, even though it didn't work last time. It doesn't this time, either, although Michael finds out that it was Maddie who forged his father's signature on his enlistment papers, because she felt that the longer he stayed at home in Miami the more likely he was to get in serious trouble and the army was a second chance. So Maddie is indirectly responsible for his current lifestyle, which she loathes, but it's better than what he may have had.

This episode marks the first appearance of Campbell, Fiona's paramedic boyfriend. I felt a bit sorry for Campbell. Fiona used him to make Michael jealous only it didn't work, or if it did Michael gave very little outward sign of it. They regularly used Campbell's job to help them out and in the first episode he appeared in, he believed Fiona's story that Michael and Sam were soil specialists. I can't remember what she represented herself to him as.

The ending dove tailed into an earlier episode. Sam and Michael tail Bill to a building that can only be entered via a secure key card. The key card was the one that Michael procured as part of one of the first jobs he did for Carla, the one that the forger was killed over. So whatever is being planned, they're playing for keeps and they don't want to leave any loose ends. Michael Westen could be one of the those loose ends.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 2, Episode 7

I got the impression that this may be a more comedic episode than most before the opening credits, when the illegal arms dealer; Seymour, that Fiona had contacted for information about the Russian sniper rifle that Michael had helped Victor steal, got out of his car and was played by Silas Weir Mitchell. For those that don't watch the TV show Grimm, Silas Weir Mitchell plays the Bluhbot (a kind of fairy tale werewolf) Monroe, and while Monroe is a key character, he's also often comedy relief. In many ways Seymour was a similar sort of character.

Clue number 2 came when Michael arrives back at his loft to find Sam (I was sure he had a place of his own, but he spent all of his time in this one at the loft. I guess it saves on sets) knocking back beers with his old Navy SEAL buddy Virgil. Michael and Sam helped Virgil out in Season 1 (the one where the piles of money were set on fire on the docks), Virgil, much to Mike's distaste, also slept with Maddie.

It turns out Virgil needs their help again. This time it's to recover stolen medicine that should have gone to a children's mission, but wound up in the hands of some drug dealing biker types. Michael spends a lot of the episode attempting to ensure that Virgil and Maddie don't meet. He gives the reason as the fact that Virgil seems to be a bullet magnet (which is true), but the real reason is that he doesn't want them sleeping together again. At times Michael is over protective of his mother and she can well and truly take care of himself. He's a little the same with Fiona, they're broken up, he's made that very clear, but he's not happy that she's dating other men.

Seymour comes through on the sniper rifle, for some reason this one has a fibre optic sight, which makes it more lethal than usual and has all of the gang asking some very hard questions.

Jeffrey Donovan unveils a new character for the other job, this one is a nerdy, twitchy, sweaty, meth cook. We also find out that Navy SEALs can apparently hold their breath underwater for 3 - 4 minutes, a skill Virgil has to put to use. Sam gets to play Chuck Finley again (he really does love that persona and name) and Fiona plays her flirty wealthy South Beach lady.

Everything ends up happily and this is definitely a one off standalone type episode, with Carla and Victor not appearing and playing a very peripheral role.

I had a little whine about continuity in episode 6, but episode 7 kind of made that invalid by bringing Virgil back for a guest role.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 2, Episode 6

In tracking Carla down to a base of operations Michael ticked her off, and the result is that she assigned a handler to him; Victor (Stargate SG1's Michael Shanks). The two do not like each other and Michael lets; Victor know in no uncertain terms that he will not tolerate too much before things get nasty. One of the more interesting uses of a chess piece as a potentially lethal weapon.

With Sam being homeless, Michael sees an opportunity to get him out of the warehouse and look after Maddie at the same time and has his mother host Sam. When Sam first arrives at the house he finds what he thinks is an intruder, but is in actuality Ricky, Michael's childhood friend.

Ricky becomes the client. Since running with Michael he's straightened himself out and is working as a financial advisor for a hip hop mogul (played by actual hip hop artist Method Man. I guess it's not as silly as the characters name of Sweet Valentine), said mogul is being ripped off by another manager and trying to blame it on Ricky. Ricky offers Michael $10,000 to help out. Even though you know Michael will take on the job he won't accept the money at the end. (No idea how he pays his bills or even covers costs on the jobs he does. I guess it's all part of knight in shining armour part he's trying to play).

Richy's one of those characters I;m not mad about in shows like Burn Notice. He's got history with Michael and they were close as kids, yet we've never heard about him before and I'm betting we'll never see him again. The convenient reunion. Overused and it's lazy writing.

Michael decides to rip off the embezzler and expose him in the process, but has to play a money launderer to do it and that provides another opportunity to give Barry the money launderer a guest spot. Aside from the main cast, Barry was one of the show's best and probably longest running guest actors.

Michael pulls it off, but Victor nearly derails it and shows that until Michael can find a way to get rid of him he is going to be a constant thorn in his side. He's also a loose cannon who thinks nothing of collateral damage as long as the job gets done.

I was wondering if Sam and Maddie may take their relationship to another level when he was 'babysitting' her, but they didn't, and in many ways I like that. She also knew what he was doing and why he was living there, too. He moves out into a place of his own by the end of the episode.

This one ends with the hook for the next episode being that Michael has helped Victor, and by extension Carla, get their hands on a powerful Russian sniper rifle for reasons unknown.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 2, Episode 5

They went all out on the guest cast list this time. As well as semi regulars Tricia Helfer (Michael's nemesis Carla) and Audrey Landers (Sam's sugar mama Veronica) they also had Oded Fehr and Robin Givens as guests.

I felt this episode highlighted something else that Michael should have also expected, it's surprising that it's taken this long to do it. When he arrives home after tracking Carla to what he believes may be a building she works out of, there's someone waiting for him.

The guy is a small time criminal, trying to go straight, but a mastermind he often works with wants him to act as a wheel man for a new job. He's heard about Michael and is even offering him a fairly expensive piece of jewellery in exchange for his assistance. Michael really doesn't want the job, it's going to interfere with his attempts to investigate Carla, but he really does have a heart of gold and accepts it anyway.

I have to admit that now Fiona knows Michael doesn't want to become entangled romantically she's not taking it laying down. She still works with and for Michael, but makes it pretty unpleasant for him a lot of the time. She's rather irritating at times to be honest.

As part of the job Michael and his team make sure that the safe cracker for that heist is no longer available and that brings Michael into the job. I do like the way Jeffrey Donovan plays these parts. He doesn't use disguises as such, just alters his voice, mannerisms, facial expressions and mode of dress. It works wonderfully, especially if he doesn't try for anything exotic like the ridiculous British accent earlier in the season.

Doing this job does cost him his first crack at Carla's building. However he does the job well and turns the rest of the crew on the boss. That ties everything up neatly and as usual he refuses payment. I wonder exactly how he lives, because he rarely takes payment and if he does I doubt it even covers his costs.

By the time he does break into Carla's building she is unsurprisingly gone, but leaves him a present of mylar balloons and a crossword puzzle, which is his next move.

To Sam's great surprise Veronica asked him to get married. Now viewers would have thought Sam's initial reticence would have come from his desire to play the field and I'm sure that plays a part, but he tells Fiona in one of their heart to hearts while on surveillance that the real reason is that he's still married. Fiona tells him to tell Veronica the truth, which he does, and she promptly kicks him out.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 2, Episode 4

Michael thinks that his investigations into Carla have drawn attention, this isn't really surprising, because he does insist on discussing it in public and flashing the dossier around (at least twice in this episode) and runs from what he believes is pursuit, but which turns out to be his ne'er do well little brother Nate.

Nate has now returned from Fort Lauderdale and is actually working a legitimate job as a limo driver. In the course of his duties he encountered a pretty Russian girl who requires the specialised sort of services Michael and his friends provide. Her sister was lured to the US and Katya believes that she's been taken by some sort of white slavery outfit with links to the Russian Mafia.

Because of Nate's insistence Michael takes the gig on. Katya turned out to be on the level, but given what's happened to Michael recently I did find it surprising that he didn't do some sort of surveillance or background check, Nate's also not the best judge of character, and I found myself wondering if Katya wasn't drop dead gorgeous would he have extended the offer of assistance?

To accomplish the task of finding out where Katya's sister and others are stashed they take one of the Russian's hostage and put him through some psychological torture. What Michael often does is try to make people think they're compromised. He doesn't much like what is generally thought of as torture. He believes it's like shopping for groceries with a chainsaw, it's unnecessary and counter productive.

Fiona does get to hit Michael a few times to make it look like he's a fellow prisoner and as he speaks fluent Russian it comes out as believable and accomplishes their ends.

Meanwhile Sam is wining and dining a low level bureaucrat (played with relish by Larry Miller) for information about Carla. They do eventually get something out of him, but not before he's managed to eat and drink his way through $1300 worth of food and drink. Her cover is as an irrigation specialist and her business card has her name as Carla, so it may not be an alias or it may be a frequently used one like Sam's beloved alter ego of Charles 'Chuck' Finley.

It's been pretty clear from when he first appeared that Nate hero worships Michael to a degree and Maddie reveals that when Michael left Nate really went off the rails. This makes Michael want to help Nate, but at the same time the worst thing he could do is bring him into the fold. He's not like Fiona (a former IRA operative, who would have made a top notch MI6 agent if she didn't have connections to a known terrorist organisation) or Sam (a former Navy SEAL).

The net however is closing around Carla and she doesn't seem to be aware of it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 2, Episode 3

No Tricia Helfer in the guest cast list, which was a little disappointing as I really like her as a character to hate on.

Just because Carla isn't there, doesn't mean that she's not part of the episode. To that end Michael heavies the head of security at the Pakistani embassy to give him information on her. The reasoning here is that the head of security at an embassy is usually secret service. Geographically the region known as Kurdistan, where Michael believes Carla has worked in the past, hence why she speaks Arabic with a Kurdish accent, does not share a border with Pakistan, but he sees them as the best secret service operation in the region. In any account they are able to provide with a heavily redacted dossier that does give him a little more idea what he's looking at with her.

The main focus of the episode is Fiona wanting to help a friend of Maddie's. Her son borrowed $200,000 to invest in a dodgy night club scheme, which was actually a scam, to provide for her in later life. The money is gone and now the loan shark he borrowed it from wants his money back and if he can't have that he'll take it out of the hides of the borrower and his mother.

I do have to question how smart this loan shark is. He sees Michael incapacitate two of his goons with a rolled up magazine and still wants to go to war with him. Just Michael's insane grin when he announces his intentions would be enough to put most people off.

Zeke, the front man for the scheme was actually played by Peter Fabian (familiar to me as Veronica Mars criminology professor in the 3rd season of the show), the characters were both dodgy so shared something in common.

Michael not only took this guy for what his client lost, but everything else he had in the safe as well.

Next he'll start to leverage Carla. A more formidable opponent may be the double team of Fiona and Maddie, who despite Michael's protestations to the contrary, want the two together.

Just an aside, Fiona used an over the top British working class accent in her role of charming Zeke and introducing him to Michael's gung-ho oil heir, for which he affected a heavy Texas accent. Gabrielle Anwar was raised in England and this was less grating than her Irish accent, but it still didn't sound quite right. My advice would be to ditch the accents unless it's absolutely necessary.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 2, Episode 2

Definitely setting Carla up to be this seasons Big Bad. Tricia Helfer went from playing a manipulative Cylon in Battlestar Galactica to playing a manipulative covert handler, with possibly less emotion than her Cylon character in Burn Notice. It is a crying shame that she was never cast as Cersei in Game of Thrones.

She won't let herself be photographed, she breaks into Michael's mother's house and leaves a very real threat to him in doing so, nasty piece of work. The only things Michael really knows about her is that her love of authentic Yemeni coffee and the fact that she speaks Arabic with a slight Kurdish accent hint at time spent working and living in the Middle East. She does play well and gives him a lot more to go on than most of the people he dealt with in Season 1 and still deals with in his side job as a knight paladin now.

Carla wants Michael to act as a go between to get a Tunisian counterfeiter to produce electronic key cards for some job she's running. That creates an opportunity for another appearance from Barry the money launderer, he meets Fiona this time.

In the meantime Sam has picked up a job trying to get a stalker to leave a latino restaurant hostess alone. The guy packs a big gun under his coat and doesn't take no for an answer.

It turns out the stalker is running drugs and the hostess is an undercover DEA agent. Fiona gets to shoot at people and blow something up. As soon as Michael mentions a sniper rifle and C4, she says things are looking up.

There is a lovely moment where the stalker gives himself up, because Michael has managed to convince the cartel that he's after the boss, and the woman whose life he has made a misery walks into the interview room and flashes her badge at him.

Carla shows her true colours when she has the counterfeiter murdered as soon as Michael pays him and picks up the cards. He's got himself into something very very messy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 2, Episode 1

Yes, we're into Season 2, so a new pic to illustrate the posts.

The episode picks up where the end of Season 1 left off, with Michael locked in the car in Sam's cadillac. This must have seriously sucked for everyone who watched it as it was screened and had to wait. I fortunately didn't as they showed the first two seasons back to back.

Occasionally Michael gets phone calls from this sultry sounding female, who apparently either burned him or represents someone who did. He gets one in the truck after hearing shouts, gunshots and an explosion outside. She tells him it's safe.

He's on a small airstrip with a merrily burning small aircraft nearby. His 'job' is the weedy looking, terrified guy trussed up near a car and few dead people. He's also called the cops and the girl (gives her name as Carla) has taken his wife and child. Michael needs to get him (Larry) and himself out of there pronto.

He puts Larry in the boot of the cadillac and then goes on a nice high speed pursuit. The voice over does something I really like about the show. It explains one of those little points that tend to bug people in action films and TV shows. Most modern cars have airbags, which as Michael says are great if you get in accident, but if you want to run through a stand of trees to avoid pursuit you're going to wind up trying to drive with a face full of nylon. To get around this he goes through the undergrowth backwards, it stops the airbags from deploying, but it throws Larry around a fair bit.

Larry is a computer expert who was hired by Carla, or whoever she represents, to steal data from a private security firm (code for mercenaries) and when he tried to run they kidnapped his wife and daughter.

Michael's in the poo with everyone by this stage. Sam for trashing the cadillac (a bit of a cut and polish and it will be fine), Fiona for not calling her and telling her he wasn't dead, his mother for not telling her what he really did and because Nate decided to stay in Fort Lauderdale on the grounds that it was safer than Miami (pointing out that Nate has a tendency to stay away for years anyway, does not help).

He does however get everyone's help with the Larry job. For some reason they had Michael pose as a British mining speculator with interests in Africa that he wanted the mercenaries to help him protect. Jeffrey Donovan does a great range of American accents, his inner city British is awful. To think that the mercenaries, who work all over with a range of people, wouldn't spot it as fake stretches credibility just that little too far.

Using his skills and that of his associates Michael gets the data, gets the mercenaries arrested and has Larry's family returned. Fiona's relatively happy because she got to blow some stuff up.

Carla promised a meeting if he pulled off this job, his audition apparently. She never shows.

However while Michael and Sam are enjoying a drink at a favourite place, Sam flirts with a very attractive lady (Tricia Helfer) at the bar. He says that if Michael didn't have a girlfriend he could go after her. Michael replies that he doesn't have a girlfriend. Sam doesn't say anything, but his expression says, 'Is Fiona aware of that?' He then gets a call from Carla and realises that she was there and he let her go. She was the lady at the bar, she leaves a further clue in the form of a crossword puzzle. This is going to be one fun ride.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 1, Episode 11

The first season of Burn Notice closed out with a double episode. I'm certain this was screened on two separate nights as while it's numbered Episode 11 1 & 2, they were written by different people and also had different directors.

For a large part of this double episode Sam and Fiona are working independently of Michael, who is still trying to get to who burned him and why.

The episode opens with Michael working out in his warehouse (I'm sure that this scene was included so that female viewers could get a good look at Jeffrey Donovan's chest) and Sam entering with a bucket of fried chicken and a job offer.

There's a rather amusing exchange about the relative lack of nutritional elements contained in Sam's bucket, although Michael probably shouldn't really talk, because all he ever seems to have in his refrigerator is yoghurt and beer.

Sam's lined up what he thinks is a fairly easy job to get a girl out of a smuggling/blackmail deal that is going on at her workplace. Michael can't offer much help because he's trying to arrange a meet with Phillip Cowan, the guy he believes burned him.

The smuggling blackmail deal that Sam is working on with Fiona (and she insists that he pay her for her work, too) turns out to involve double blackmail and large quantities of heroin, as well as some very nasty people who don't care what they have to do or who they have to kill to import and shift their drugs.

When Michael does finally meet Cowan, he claims that he may have written Michael's false history, but he's not the guy who burned him, that's about when he gets shot.

By this stage the original blackmailers and smugglers have been blown up by the people controlling the operation, Sam has been taken as a hostage and Fiona only just got away. Michael winds up blowing up his brother's truck and having to hide his mother and brother in the new build Nate is squatting in and then going after the drug importers to get his best friend back.

Sam did get seriously roughed up and I did wonder if Bruce Campbell had a one season deal with the show. Michael saved the day and then while he was driving Sam back home got a message through the car's sound system and coordinates on it's GPS. The people who burned Michael had come out to play at long last.

The show closed with Michael driving into a truck on a bridge and faded to black as the back door of the truck shut.

Cliffhanger! Clearly they knew they had a Season 2 by this stage.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 1, Episode 10

For some reason the first season of Burn Notice was only 11 episodes long, although the final episode was a double, so episode 10 was definitely ramping up to the finale.

After narrowly escaping an attempt on his life Michael decides that Miami is too hot for him and he needs to go somewhere else.

The problem with this plan is that he can't move states as Michael Westen former spy, he's a security risk.

He tries to get a false licence and passport, but the guy he goes to has his wanted information and is about to hand him over to the FBI when Fiona arrives in the nick of time and loses her brand new shoes getting him out of there.

This leads him to Lucy (when I saw the name China Chow in the credits I knew she was in it) and she agrees to provide him with false documentation as long as he does a job for her.

The job involves a woman (Lucy 'Xena the Warrior Princess' Lawless as a blonde. I wonder if she and Bruce Campbell enjoyed working together again?) on the run from an abusive husband and trying to get her son back.

Of course nothing in Michael's world is ever what it seems. The woman in trouble is in fact a contract killer trying to use Michael to lead her to her target.

The resulting firefight means Michael's painstakingly restored Charger gets trashed when he flings an improvised explosive device at it.

Unfortunately the killer knows about Michael's mother and Fiona and Sam. Fiona can take care of herself, and so can Sam to a point. He goes to Maddie's to make sure she's safe and this is where we get the first sight of the friendship between Sam and Maddie. It's entirely platonic, but it does make sense. They're probably closer in age than Michael is to Sam and they both care deeply about Michael. We also find out that anyone who thinks Maddie is just a little old chain smoking lady is in for a shock, she knows how to use a gun.

The killer goes after Lucy (she really should have worked this out beforehand being a Michael Westen trained former agent) and Michael saves her. Together they all manage to deliver the target into witness protection and stop him from being killed (he tends to stay too close to windows). Michael tries to take the assassin in, but she dives off the building rather than be captured.

Lucy delivers him false documentation as promised and offers to cover the repairs to the car. Before Michael can do a disappearing act he gets news that the man who burned him is on his way to Miami, so he's staying put for the immediate future.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 1, Episode 9

I preferred the side story about Michael's burning in this one to the motw.

The motw was very standard. Nerdy young Asian slacker has a job house sitting these amazing houses in Miami for people that only use them once a year for holidays and someone observing him thinks that he owns the houses he lives in and the cars he drives, so they kidnap his girlfriend and hold her for ransom.

Somehow Sam's lady friend, Veronica (remembered her name!) knows the guy and puts him in touch with Sam and by extension Michael. When Sam talks about how his girlfriends reward him and how lavishly it does often beg the question 'What exactly do you do for these women?' It's asked a few times and it's always funny. It also plays on Bruce Campbell's fictional heart throb image.

The client (Luke) is worse than useless because he doesn't understand the first thing about how his team need him to act. He gets Michael made early on and he has to alter the plan, taking one of the kidnappers hostage then playing some psychological warfare, something that both he and Sam are quite good at. Fiona prefers the direct approach: torture, shooting, blowing stuff up. The three of them do tend to complement each other in that respect.

Michael pretends to be a hard ass kidnap negotiator and buys time for Fiona and Sam to rescue the hostage. The kidnappers also get arrested into the bargain.

The side story involves someone coming down to Miami to look into Michael's burn notice. The guy is represented as a bureaucrat and Michael makes him jump through hoops to see if he really is what he appears to be, refusing to meet with him until he's satisfied.

They got a little too cute with that I felt. Even if I hadn't already seen this and known that the 'pen pusher', played nicely by Arye Gross, was an assassin, I would have figured it out. He was just a little too perfect, too inoffensive.

However as Michael reflects just before the assassin tries to garrotte him, you can't be on your guard ALL the time, you have to trust that sometimes things are what they seem. Interesting that this unassuming, meek appearing character came closer than anyone else has to taking Michael Westen out. Fortunately Michael had the home ground advantage and being highly suspicious plants guns all over the place and managed to reach a hidden one.

It's going to get very nasty real quick now.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 1, Episode 8

This episode is all about Michael and Fiona. They slept together and Fiona seems to think this means that they're a couple again. Michael's not so sure. In fact he appears to be more interested in his file than he is with Miss Glenanne.

Some of this seemed to happen in Fiona's place. It certainly wasn't Michael's spartan loft. This was where viewers first found out about Fiona's snow globe collection. Whenever she goes anywhere, and her work takes her most places on the globe, she buys a snow globe as a memento, but she does seem to have a childish fascination for the tacky little ornaments. Little quirks like these help to flesh out a character nicely.

The motw involves one of Fiona's other jobs as a bounty hunter. Her bounty is wanted for his part in the theft of a valuable piece of jewellery (a diamond spider brooch that would fetch about $2,000,000 on the open market). He maintains his innocence and offers Fiona double his bounty if she'll help him out. Of course Michael and Sam get dragged into it.

The real thief is a cash strapped hotelier, played with some sleazy panache by Brett Cullen (if you don't recognise the name, you will recognise the face and the voice, he specialises in playing businessmen, the soul patch was new, though).

Sam got to dust Charles Finley off again and played a go between acting in the interests of a wealthy collector; Michael. The three of them conned the thief and had him picked up by the police holding the brooch, and this in turn got Fiona's 'client' off the hook.

Michael used some contacts in the Libyan secret service to flush out the NSA pen pusher who wrote most of the outright lies that formed his dossier. In fact the Libyans were so impressed that they offered him a job. That is one slight hiccup in the story. The CIA have been horrible to Michael, they ruined his life while he worked for them and then cut him loose. Why does he want to go back there? It's not just about clearing his name, it's about being accepted by the US secret service again.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 1, Episode 7

As Michael says in the voice over that most episodes begin with, characters like Jason Bly don't like anyone knowing their real name, it ticks them off even more when you broadcast it publicly and give details of the department of the secret service (in Bly's case the CSS, a division of the NSA) out as you do it.

Once Michael's had his fun, Bly turns the tables and starts talking about Sam and Fiona (he knew about her, although I think it's recent knowledge) and how Fiona is driving a stolen car with illegal weapons in the trunk and the cops are on their way.

A high speed pursuit that wouldn't have looked out of place in any big blockbuster action film follows.

Bly then turns up at Michael's house and lays down the law to him. He will take a job they find for him and become another anonymous untermensch or they will have his brother arrested, let some of Fiona's enemies (from her IRA days and her current gun running) know where she is and cause trouble for Sam too. In fact he's already in dire straits with Audrey Landers (cannot remember her character name) for having CIA come to her house and threaten her because of his past.

Michael doesn't do or say anything then and there, but you just know he's not going to take this lying down.

He takes a job to help a local Cuban business owner who is being shaken down along with his fellow business owners by a criminal gang operating in the neighbourhood.

We've seen Michael the smooth spy and Michael the redneck, now we get to see Michael Westen psychopath. He would be a scary individual. At one point he blocks off a car full of gang members, drills a hole through their engine block, then drills holes in the roof of the car and pours petrol all over it and threatens to send the whole thing up in flames. Shocking how easy it was and makes you wonder exactly far someone who simply didn't give a damn about consequences could go.

This gets him in with the gang, who interestingly enough was run by a woman. I kept having flashbacks to Salma Hayek's drug lord/lady from Oliver Stone's Savages, although that came out in 2012.

When he's given orders to kill the man who hired him as well as his family he knows things have gone far enough and this lady has to be taken down. He forms an alliance with her second in command, who wants out, and they bomb her house with a device that Fiona and Michael put together. As the bomb is planted and exploded, killing the woman in the blast, Michael's voice over talks about doing the right thing for the wrong reason or vice versa, which leaves the viewers to decide whether killing someone to stop them from doing more bad things is justifiable or not.

While all this was happening, Michael was also using Barry the money launderer (Barry returned, he was one of those peripheral characters that just kept popping up now and then) to set Bly up.

So when Bly gives him the employment contract for a job as a security guard at a local bank Michael gives him a dossier about his new company which Michael set up, his car upgrade, also arranged by Michael and some pictures of he and Michael looking very friendly. Back off and get me my file or I will end you is the message.

Michael and Fiona fight. I mean really fight. Judo, kick boxing, karate, some krav maga, I felt Michael was pulling his punches, but they wound up blowing off some steam and ended up in bed together. They're in bed when Bly arrives with Michael's classified file.

Michael has got some of what he wants, but Bly's not the type to go away that meekly.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 1, Episode 6

Six episodes in the one thing Burn Notice lacked was a Big Bad. The motw episodes were just that, the mystery of the week. Michael and Co tracked the bad guys (they had all been male to this point) down and served them up justice, then we moved on. There were over arching stories that held it all together (who burned Michael and why, the relationship between Michael and Fiona, his relationship with his family, initially his mother, then younger brother), but it needed something else.

I get the term Big Bad from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Unlike many shows that came before they didn't have one villain or even one villainous organisation, it changed from season to season. It's become a term something uses when trying to identify or explain a villain in a TV show since.

Episode 6 gives the viewers that Big Bad. After his FBI tail let higher powers know that Michael had somehow managed to obtain a copy of his burn notice they were removed from the case and someone else was assigned to it. That someone else is a sleazy creature who doesn't mind breaking a few eggs to make an omelette.

First he goes after Madeleine. Michael arrives before anything bad happens, but that's just a welcome. Then Michael's house is searched and bugged, his car is taken for the same treatment. Now whoever this is, he won't give Michael a name, knows about Maddie and Sam, but not Fiona. He's also underestimated Michael, despite comments to the contrary.

It's child's play for Michael to find and disable the bugs in his apartment. The lack of a car is annoying, though. Fiona tails Michael's tormentor and then Michael turns the tables. He puts a high powered magnet in the desk lamp in the guy's hotel room, which wipes the hard drive on his computer the next time he powers it on, and pisses him off no end. He's now angry and sloppy, this lets Michael needle him the next time their paths cross and Fiona takes his wallet. The id reads Jason Bly.

Ladies and gentlemen we have ourselves a Big Bad!

Bly was played to the hilt by Alex Carter. He rather reminds me of a younger, meaner version of Joe Pantoliano's Guido the Killer Pimp from Risky Business. Dealing with Bly is going to be fun. He's the kind of guy you really want to see get his teeth kicked in.

While trying to piss off and neutralise Bly, Michael still had to pay for the damage the government heavy did to his mother's house. To that end he mentioned looking up Lucy from episode 1 for a job, but was instead referred by Sam to an old Navy SEAL buddy.

The guy lived out in the Everglades and repossessed boats for a living. He'd recently had issues with a Jamaican who employed some heavy muscle.

Michael posed as a redneck yokel by the name of Homer and took the boat, but knew there was a reason the Jamaican wanted it back and it was not just because it was a nice ride. Suspicions were further tweaked when returning the boat to whoever paid Sam's friend he got shot at.

The old Navy buddy moved in with Madeleine for safety and wound up sharing her bed. Michael's reaction to that was wonderful.

Sam and Michael found $10,000,000 under the floor of the boat. It's never stated, but probably is the Jamaican's drug money. The other guys are crooked cops who also want the money. Eventually Michael takes some for himself and his friends and some for Sam's friend and stacks the rest up on a pier. He sets it on fire and leaves the Jamaicans and the crooked cops to shoot it out.

Setting all that money on fire is rather impressive. Channel 10 down here used to use it as a promo for the show, I think it was what first piqued my interest.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 1, Episode 5

In some ways this one wrong footed me at the start.

Michael in his apartment studying his burn notice isn't surprising, that he gets a call from Nate, asking him to help is.

I hadn't expected them to go back to the character of Nate quite so soon. I knew he'd pop in and out, but at this stage they had me wondering if they were trying to add him as a sidekick.

He had once again represented himself as something he wasn't and when things get nasty calls on his big brother for help.

This time he'd offered to help someone working as the security manager at a private airport being used by a family of Israeli gun runners. Before even seeing them Michael knows from the description of the patriarch that he's ex Mossad, not because he's encountered him before, but just from the gun he favours and the manner in which he acts.

This was the first time I remember seeing Fiona slip into her vacuous lady of means persona and taking a tour out to the airport and using her looks and the character she's playing to get a good look around, trying to work out what's going on. A quick look is all she needs to determine that the family are running guns and that the youngest son is the weak link.

He's the one Michael goes to work on and this time they don't even need to get all that rough before they have the family running scared and getting out of Miami. There was a nice C4 explosion, though.

A sort of secondary story centred around the car that Michael's father supposedly left him. Nate contends that as he had to put u with 'years of Dad's crap' after Michael left then the car should be his. Michael tells Nate that his father left it to him and there had to be a reason for that. Personally I think he's overthinking that. Maddie TOLD him that his father wanted him to have it, there's nothing in writing, it's just the sort of thing she'd do to try and force Michael to acknowledge that he has more than unhidden contempt for his father.

While working on the car Fiona and Michael do find a bug Sam put there. Fiona makes a very catty comment about bugging the young gun runner's car to Sam. It puts Sam's character and how serious he is about his FBI contacts and giving them information on Michael into question. Sam explains that he is under heavy heat and he was obvious about the bug because he knew Michael would find it. Michael then arranges for Sam to find the copy of his burn notice which he passes onto the feds, with Michael's knowledge and blessing. It gets kicked upstairs and gets those agents off the case, which means out of Sam and Michael's hair, but what if they get replaced by something worse?

Oh yes, Audrey Landers appeared briefly at the end of the episode as Sam's potential new 'lady'. I remembered Audrey Landers from the late 70's and early 80's when she was on a lot of shows as a 'pretty blonde'. Given that the first season of Burn Notice was made in 2007 she's held her looks well and definitely fits what Sam is looking for when he identifies a 'target;.

Almost a holding pattern of an episode in a way. They're definitely cycling through the threats in Miami; drugs, illegal prostitution, gun running.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 1, Episode 4

There's really about 3 stories going on in this episode.

Just after having a run in with a Czech assassin (story 1) Michael receives a call from his mother for assistance with her garbage disposal, at her house he meets up with his younger brother Nate (story 2). Nate has a job lined up for him, trying to track down the teenage daughter of an old high school classmate of Michael's (story 3).

The Czech assassin storyline tied into Michael's burning and he does get some information that he pissed off some very bad people, that's why he was burned and why an internationally renowned assassin is now trying to kill him. Having got what he wanted he delivers the assassin to his FBI tail via Sam.

Viewers had heard about Nate and they knew that Michael didn't have a lot of regard for him, but not exactly why. Nate's more like his father than Michael is. He doesn't seem to have uncontrollable temper or the alcoholic tendencies, but he is unreliable, he does let down those who trust and love him and he's a compulsive gambler. He basically sets a job up for Michael, and takes money for it without consulting his brother and he does it to try and pay off some people he owes money. At the urging of his mother Michael agrees to take the job and help his brother out, but he's clearly not happy about it. I had the feeling this was not the last we'd see of Nate and I was right.

The actual motw was what happened to the daughter of Michael's former school friend, although Michael asserts that he wasn't actually a friend. Michael worked for his father. It also transpires that Michael left Miami even before graduation and joined the army. Shades of John Cusack's assassin Martin Blank in Grosse Pointe Blank there.

The daughter has been 'procured' by brothers, who publicly are names in the fashion industry, but make most of their money by acting as pimps, and have a sideline in transporting innocent girls to Dubai and auctioning them off to the highest bidder. I was reminded of Taken, although the brothers were smarter and the girl's father wasn't Liam Neeson.

Using his resources and Nate, Michael gets the girl back by kidnapping one of the brothers and doing an exchange. I wondered if the brothers were going to cause a problem later on or whether they'd learned not to tangle with Michael Westen.

The first 3 episodes dealt largely in the seamier side of Miami, this one concentrating on the fashion industry was all South Beach hotels and resorts. It was quite bright and easy on the eye.

Mostly it existed to introduce Nate and show us Michael's relationship with him and further establish how much his family really does mean to him and what he'll do when they're threatened.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 1, Episode 3

Like the second episode this one too is largely an motw episode, although it does significantly advance Michael's efforts to find out who burned him. As with episode 2, episode 3 also attempts to highlight what a nice guy Michael can be, despite his past.

That was one thing that always struck me as a slightly weak point in the show. To pull off the moves he does in an effort to bring con artists and thugs and the like to justice, Michael and his team, have to outlay a significant amount of money with very little chance of return. Apparently Fiona does jobs on the side, but I don't think she spends her money on Michael's white knight for hire efforts. In episode 2 he took $300 for his efforts, he would have spent two to three times that amount. Initially he did ask for $500, but a filthy look from his mother bargained him down to $300. I assume Oleg (his landlord), who hires him in episode 3, pays him better, but it isn't covered.

Oleg has an employee; Carol, who is scared and being heavier by a local drug lord who she saw up to no good and is planning to testify. So, although it's not totally explained I think Oleg foots the bill. Michael does mutter to Carol at one stage words to that effect.

The meeting with the drug lord highlights something about Michael. He can look very menacing when he wants to, but he generally doesn't. He can however fight and some of the drug lord's underlings find this out to their regret.

We get to see Fiona improvising with Molotov cocktails and Michael turns his mother's garage into a safe house for Carol and her teenage daughter.

It's interaction with said daughter when she runs off to attend a dance at school with a boy she likes who prompts Michael to open up about how he had to leave Fiona in Dublin and never find out what might have been.

In fact the relationship between Michael and Fiona is a secondary theme in this episode. Fiona is officially Michael's ex-girlfriend and business associate as far as he is concerned, but as far as the lady herself is concerned, she wants to be back in a relationship, she even openly wonders if she should help him with his burn notice, because if he can crack that he'll be out of Miami and they'll be off again.

Another theme is Michael's abusive past with his father. Jeffrey Donovan has a small scar beneath one eye. Michael claims his father gave it to him. His father also used to force him to do things like fake seizures in public so he could steal things, it all gave Michael a strong sense of independence and made him a survivor. Where his father is concerned Maddie certainly seems to wear rose coloured glasses, or maybe she just needs to deny the truth to herself. Michael does wind up getting a pretty distinctive and high powered Charger out of it, though. He did need a vehicle, because stealing one all the time was going to become tedious.

There's something this show does that I find quite clever. It has a fairly large cast of characters every episode and, aside from the principals and recurring characters like Oleg and Barry the money launderer, they only appear once and are gone, but we the viewers still need to know who they are. So when they first enter the story a name flashes up on the screen, most of them say something like: Carol, the client or Oleg, the landlord, but occasionally get h a funny one along the lines of: Boris, wannabe Russian warlord, Quentin, small time con artist or Hector, local drug lord.

I believe this episode also marked the first appearance of blueberry yoghurt, which is a staple of Michael and Fiona's diet, although in this it's first appearance Sam is eating it, it's about the only time he ever did. It's also the first time we see Sam use the alias of Charles/Chuck Finley. It was pretty much his go to name. It was just the way he spoke and dressed when using it that changed.

The episode ends with Michael, having blackmailed an Egyptian diplomat/spy, receiving a copy of his notice and coming one step closer to finding out who issued it and why.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 1, Episode 2

After having who Michael Westen was and why he came to be where he currently is in the pilot episode, this one opens with a voice over briefly covering that. This would be the start of the show over the next 7 seasons. They only changed it after season 4 when a new character became a regular, and even then the little out cuts introducing Fiona, Sam and Maddie remained the same, so we got some of Fiona's Irish accent right throughout.

There was a little bit about the season long arc of Michael trying to find out who burned him, but this was largely a mystery of the week (motw) show.

Michael wanted information from his mother about the guys who had questioned her as to his whereabouts and bugged her house, she refused to give it to him until he agreed to help a neighbour of hers who had been ripped off.

I knew from the opening credits that Mark Pellegrino was going to be the bad guy. Honestly, has he ever played a good guy? The basic scheme that he (he played a con artist called Quentin) and his two cohorts ran was to get little old ladies like Madeline's neighbour to hand over their bank details and then steal from them. That he found it necessary to rough up this lady ensured that Fiona was going to be on board if he required back up.

Sam moved in briefly with Michael as he seemed to be between 'sugar Mommies' and this was when Fiona and Sam renewed acquaintances. Despite keeping up the fiction that they actually disliked each other intensely for some time, they got along fine and worked well together. A personal highlight was when they posed as Detective Cagney and Detective Lacey to heavy Quentin's young accomplices. The in joke with the names was that Sharon Gless (Madeline Westen) played Christine Cagney (her accomplice Mary Beth Lacey was played by Tyne Daly) in the TV cop drama Cagney & Lacey.

Gabrielle Anwar also showed some nice comic timing when she played Michael's doting girlfriend the first time she met Maddie face to face. I did enjoy her clearing the table as Michael's still desperately grabbing food from his plate.

One thing I did notice that differed from later episodes in this one was that as a group they were nowhere near as slick and well practised as they later became. They made more than a few mistakes here and that was to take down someone who was strictly small time.

Another thing that altered was Fiona's accent. She had dropped the Irish accent, they explained it away as her actual accent would make her stick out too much in Miami, so at least they did acknowledge it and that they probably made a bit of a mistake in the pilot.

This may crop up again later (I can't remember), but in the pilot they highlighted some downsides to where Michael chooses to live. He regularly has to make his way through crowds of nightclubbers when trying to get to the gate in the fence that leads to his warehouse and he also gets the lights, music and noise filtering through to late into the night. That wasn't present this time, although I am sure it will crop up later as the show were relatively good about most continuity things.

Despite them taking on various aliases they rarely use elaborate disguises. Mostly it's done through clothes, glasses, maybe a little facial hair or hairstyle. Jeffrey Donovan does a few voices that he cycles through depending on what persona he wants to project.

This one ended up almost HEA. Quentin went to jail, his young accomplices escaped on his boat, Maddie's neighbour got her life savings back and Michael got the information he wanted. I found the pilot stronger, but this was solid and a good example of what to expect, it kept me watching.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Burn Notice Season 1, Episode 1

I first started rewatching TV series that I enjoyed first time around early this year with Veronica Mars. I chose that show for a few reasons.

1) I really enjoyed it and always wanted to rewatch it.
2) I wanted to do a complete rewatch it before the film came out.
3) I like following Mark Oshiro's Mark Watches site and he did Veronica Mars so I wanted to go along with him on that.

After I finished Veronica Mars I did all 5 seasons of Eureka. I still wanted to keep doing it, and Burn Notice recently aired it's final episode (yeah, we're a bit behind down here), so I picked it.

Unlike Veronica Mars, which I began watching when it first screened here, and Eureka the first season of which I actually saw on DVD from an import copy a friend had before it was shown down here, I was not an early adopter with Burn Notice.

There was something about the way it was advertised that just didn't appeal to me, it more than likely also clashed with something else I was watching. It wasn't until it started being shown from the beginning on one of the cable networks that I tuned in to it.

Once I started watching, I kicked myself for not picking it up earlier.

The premise is simple, but effective and I can't remember having seen it done quite this way before.
The title of the show refers to the practice in the espionage industry of black listing or 'burning' personnel. This is generally done when someone has crossed a line or considered to have become unreliable. It leaves the 'burned' operative with no cash or influence, according to the show's voice over they have no work history, no money, no support network, they are in essence a 'non person'. That this happens to the show's main character Michael Westen, when he's about to offer a Nigerian based Russian warlord/terrorist $750,000 to stop blowing up American oil refineries in the region makes things rather difficult for him.

The opening of the show is in Southern Nigeria and it's rather reminiscent of the pre credit sequence in Casino Royale. Given that the film came out in 2006 and the show in 2007, it's possible that this was borrowed to an extent.

Once he's been burned Michael finds himself back at his town of origin, Miami, and his only friend is his ex girlfriend Fiona Glenanne. Both her accent and name indicate that she's Irish, although she and Michael were once a couple they aren't anymore, although he had her listed as his emergency contact and she's still willing to run point for him to allow him to slip his FBI tail.

While Michael has lost his job and his back up he does still have a very specific skill set and is not without allies in Miami, they consist of ex spy Lucy, who I don't think we ever saw after the first episode and former Navy SEAL Sam Axe, who is sponging off any 'sugar Mommy' he can find and drinking heavily, while informing on Michael to the FBI in order to keep his Navy pension

There is also his mother; Madeline, but at this stage of the series she's more of a hindrance than a help and does provide some comedy relief as well as some background for Michael about an abusive childhood at the hands of his now deceased father and a deadbeat younger brother.

Looking at the show seven seasons later you can see changes, not just physical, within the cast. Michael doesn't change a lot, although he was sleazier at the start and became more comfortable with the role as he continued in it. Fiona lost her accent after the first episode, although Gabrielle Anwar does a passable Irish accent, it did kind of grate on me, and possibly the people behind the show thought so too, she also developed a somewhat maternal instinct. If you want Fiona to go after someone then just hint that they are either wife beaters or child abusers. It wasn't mentioned that Fiona was an ex IRA operative, but her familiarity with explosives and guns coupled with her background and the accent kind of hinted at that anyway without spelling it out. Sam was far more bitter and on the very edge of alcoholism. Maddie herself was less sympathetic than she later became and far less savvy.

In the show's first episode Michael's various allies didn't interact much and were barely aware of each other. The original meeting between Sam and Fiona was quite amusing as they struck sparks off each other and snarked all the time. Fiona and Sam did actually know each other before, but that wasn't made clear in the opening episode. Fiona and Maddie know about each other as they have spoken on the phone, but they had never met in person.

A lot of the show is narrated by Michael as he explains the ins and outs of the spy business, talks about some old cases and things like how you can rig explosive devices from cheap and easily obtainable objects.

Michael's motivation is finding out who burned him so he can get out of Miami and back in the saddle. While I was watching it I became aware of a couple of things. He hates Miami, he doesn't even like the region, that's why he preferred working in places like Eastern Europe. It's probably got a lot to do with despite being intelligent enough to master a number of languages and living in a community that have Spanish as a second language, he never learned it.

In the meantime he has to make ends meet so he rents a warehouse apartment next to a nightclub owned by a former Georgian politician and has a drug dealer as his downstairs neighbour. It's cheap and the Georgian is well aware of Michael's reputation amongst the intelligence communities of Eastern Europe, he is a dangerous man. He also takes on PI jobs, things that other people won't do. n doing this he and his team become white knights of a sort, it's rather reminiscent of Angel Investigations in the Joss Whedon Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin off Angel.

I wondered why I liked Burn Notice as much as I did and it hit me part way through watching the opening episode. It's largely about capers, heists and cons and I love that sort of stuff. There are definite similarities in many ways between Michael and his team and what they do to one of my all time favourite books, Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora.