Friday, July 31, 2009

Burn Notice, "Friends Like These": Thrilla in the villa

In the interest of getting discussion going about last night's "Burn Notice" even as I head out to cover all things press tour, here are a few quick thoughts of mine: 1)Is Callie Thorne now going to be on every show on cable? And how much better is she these days (or, at least, how much better is the writing she gets) than when she was on "Homicide"? 2)The bit with Sam's stolen gun was wonderful, and a nice contrast to Sam whining about the villa. 3)I'm glad to see that Michael's quest to get back in is turning out to have some major personal (and, for that matter, professional) drawbacks.

What did everybody else think?

30 comments:

Phil Freeman said...

I was really glad to see Thorne not playing a victim (as she did on "Royal Pains") or a crazy slut (as most folks probably know her for at this point). And yeah, seeing Sam be more than just the witty drinking buddy for a few seconds there was great.

Jon Delfin said...

Perils of guest-casting with stars. I was only 99% sure that Callie Thorne was the mastermind because I reserved the possibility that we'd see Debi Mazar again.

Hatfield said...

I loved the misdirection, and when she was in full-blown evil mode at the end it was awesome. Can't wait for Fi to settle up with her at a later date. And Sam had another great episode, but can someone tell me what the point of him letting that guy steal his gun was? It was pretty clear he was pretending to get riled up, but what did that accomplish, exactly?

This season has been very strong, and I find myself annoyed that they cut it in half again. It's a bonus in that we basically get two seasons a year, but I hate the wait.

Mario said...

And Sam had another great episode, but can someone tell me what the point of him letting that guy steal his gun was? It was pretty clear he was pretending to get riled up, but what did that accomplish, exactly?

Breaking the captive's spirit. Dude thinks he stole the gun and can get away, only to learn he was setup and give up hope.

Stealth said...

but can someone tell me what the point of him letting that guy steal his gun was? It was pretty clear he was pretending to get riled up, but what did that accomplish, exactly?

My take was that Sam made a mistake in letting the guy steal his gun, but that he was smart enough to anticipate that this might happen and use an unloaded gun.

R.A. Porter said...

I'm actually on the fence about whether Sam let Milovan think he'd riled him and gotten one over on him or if he actually did let Milovan under his skin but was saved by proper protocol. I lean toward the former but not by much.

If it was a setup, in addition to what @Mario said, it helps to quickly show Milovan that he's not dealing with amateurs.

I...took something interesting away from this episode - really this whole run up to the summer finale - in my review. The 2 1/2 year process of Michael opening up and becoming more human has coincided with the humanizing and rounding out of those around him. As he's pulled back in from the cold, I wonder that we might perceive those around Michael differently as he begins the process of shutting them out.

dez said...

As he's pulled back in from the cold, I wonder that we might perceive those around Michael differently as he begins the process of shutting them out.

I'm already perceiving Fi differently because his actions have brought out a different side of her. Her leaving him at the end and his look of sadness when he saw the woman who looked like her is rounding out both characters in a very nice way. It's amazing how much this show has grown in its relatively short run, and it excites me to see where it will all wind up (probably with Michael sticking with his new operation vs. becoming a spy again, as many here are predicting).

Great to see Barry as a client, too. And I guess he's not gay as some here speculated :-)

JanieJones said...

R.A. Porter said:
I...took something interesting away from this episode - really this whole run up to the summer finale - in my review. The 2 1/2 year process of Michael opening up and becoming more human has coincided with the humanizing and rounding out of those around him. As he's pulled back in from the cold, I wonder that we might perceive those around Michael differently as he begins the process of shutting them out.

I agree with you about Michael shutting people out and there was examples of that last night-Fi telling him off and not participating in the job, Sam even questioning Michael's involvement with Strickler, etc.
I find that the episodes just continue to get better by expounding on the character's and their juxtaposition of lifestyle. For example, Michael allowing a heist to occur and take pictures without doing anything was not the Michael (who would have acted to stop the heist) a year ago. Michael was creating a life in Miami, whether he wanted to or not, and his relationships were being built/rebuilt. Now, the sly Strickler (played by Ben Shenkman) is dangling the golden key in front of Michael and he will not stop at anything to get back into covert ops. Michael's code (moral) seems to be slipping a bit. Fiona asked the right questions to Strickler and she was dismissed by him and Michael. Michael's tunnel vision is blinding him from the fact that he has built a life in Miami and he has done so much good with the heavy support of Sam and Fiona and even his mother. I was happy to see Fiona tell Mike that she no longer had a reason to stay in Miami.
Bruce Campbell had some of the best lines last night. He is just wonderful as Sam Axe. It was nice to see Barry as a client. I like Paul Tei so I'm always happy when he is in an episode.
It was a fantastic episode. I can't believe one more episode until winter break. I think next week's episode is going to leave me with my mouth hanging open. The episode was well-written, directed and acted.

alex s. said...

I'm having a hard time with the Strictland character. He showed up out of nowhere, and suddenly Michael believes Strictland is the only one who can help him? And that Strictland will actually help him, rather than string him along. I'd buy it more if Michael was saying things like "it's worth taking a chance to see where this leads" instead of acting like this was the his only way out.

I thought the gun loss was accidental, based on the later scene with the ice pack and Michael's "think you can handle it" dig.

R.A. Porter said...

@alex s., Michael tested Strickler's credentials indirectly through Diego a few weeks back. He's confident the guy's connected.

Owen said...

From the moment I saw Callie Thorne, I couldn't help thinking that she was the mastermind. I'm so used to the detective show rule: famous actor is always the murderer. But I kept telling myself that just because I'm a big Callie Thorne fan doesn't make her a "famous actor". That she was probably just taking work where she could get it, and that I was bound to be disappointed if I kept thinking that her character would turn out to be any more interesting that she seemed.

So of course I was pleased at the outcome. I guess I should trust my instincts. And I guess I don't have a good feel for what "famous actor" means on cable.

And even better is the implication that she and Fiona will meet again in the future. I hope they'll write some really evil stuff for her. I'm thinking Franka Potente's character in The Shield. (Though there are probably better examples.)

Chuck said...

Is anyone else as disappointed as I am when Alan doesn't tag his posts with an "as soon as I..." line?

Trying to guess what Alan is going to "as soon as I..." is part of the fun, no?

Anonymous said...

I went back and forth over the whole episode about whether Callie Thorne would be the bad guy or not. I'd say nice job on both the writing and acting to keep the pretense up for so long.

I went with Sam making a mistake but protocol saving him. But it was definitely a bit uncertain which they meant it to be.

Am still surprised Barry has a special lady. Or had, I suppose.

Finally, does anyone else think it's odd that Fi's the one telling Michael he's going down the path of the dark side? I mean, she's a gun runner who met Michael when she was a member of the IRA. Don't want this to get political re: the IRA, but doesn't seem to me that Fiona Glenann is the most moral of people. Now she's certainly shown a soft spot for children in the past, so no problem there, but some of her concerns ring false coming from her. Unless she's just using things she knows Michael will care about to achieve her goal of keeping him here with her.

Hatfield said...

Thanks for all the responses to my Sam question, guys. R.A., love your observation about the character development. Very subtly, Nix is making us look at Michael a little differently, a little skeptically. That's a bold move, and I like it, and it's giving new depth to Fi, Sam and Madeline, as you said. Man, I love this show. Kinda makes the time of Silk Stalkings seem like forever ago, eh?

Grunt said...

Anon:

I had absolutely no problem believing that Fi would be the one to make that judgement call. I think she loves the fact that Michael is such a good guy and it's killing her that he's turning into someone like her.

I have no idea who Callie Thorne is, so the twist was very surprising to me and I enjoyed it. I also thought Debbie Mazar would have had a bigger part.

M.A.Peel said...

You have to love that both Sam and Monk are Marmaduke fans.

alex s. said...

@R.A. I realize Strictland came back as "connected" and I understand that the show does a certain amount of shorthand to set up characters or move the plot along. But what didn't work for me is the way Michael just seemed to accept it. Why not go after Strictland directly, or expend more effort trying to figure out who he works for?

I'm not trying to nitpick, but on a show where everybody wants something and everybody works for somebody else, it feels like an unsophisticated response. I wish the show had done more to show why Strictland is different from the other villains besides the fact that he's showing up at the end of the season (/mid-season, whatever).

R.A. Porter said...

@alex s., your distinction is understood and I agree with your point. It might be interesting to see Michael try to investigate Strickler at the same time he's dipping his toes in with him, similar to the way he dealt with Carla.

Heather said...

Agreed on the progress this show has made in such a short time. It will be interesting to see what will happen if Michael goes back to the spy business and closes up again. Great performances from the entire cast. Broke my heart when Fiona broke up with Michael.

I hate to wait until January but this is much better than having only a handful of episodes each year.

This season has been quality.

Anonymous said...

Michael slapping Fi was over the top, the scene didn't need it.

FYI - this is the only female Michael has ever hit, and it was his good friend, and ex-girlfriend. Out of character for Michael, over the top, and did I mention in no way necessary for the scene? I think the writers or whoever put in that slap needs some therapy, BADLY. This is not one of those shows that "shows everything" they are supposed to be smarter than that and Michael slapping Fi for any reason is out of character for him and the show. It was a deal breaker, and I'm a huge fan of equality. If Michael Westen hits females, he's not Michael Westen, he's a guy with female issues, and domestic issues. Which will lead to a down turn in fans. Guaranteed.

The psychology of a guy (anyone) in a domestic situation who will hit someone in the face in particular is not just a "hit" but has emotional and degrading implications to it. "Keeping you in your place," a real man never hits a woman (we're not talking about a scene where they're training as equals), or Fi's altercations with Sam, we're talking about a scene where Michael's character could have convinced Natalie that Fi was somehow "incompetent" to save Fi that didn't include that kind of a move. They know each other well and have worked together for years. Note the monologue at the end of the show in the park when he's talking about that exact thing...the best friend who has your back and Trust being the most important part of it, etc. etc.

It's a writing team, but it's as if two completely clashing "styles" are at work here. One set of writers who have a clue and have helped to make the show what it is, and some guys on the team who wish they could hit their girlfriends so they decided to have Michael hit Fi. They've officially stepped outside of what this show is all about.

I also think there is a fine line between great well known guest star actors, and stunt casting that is distracting and takes away from the strength of the show, it's core actors, and distracts the fans (audience) during the scene (pulls focus) and has them thinking "where have I seen her before" or "oh look who it is" instead of being in the moment. This season is all over the map and generally disappointing, they need to get back to the roots of what made the show good and get so much attention in the first place.

Anonymous said...

"Friends Like These" indeed! How about ex-boyfriend/friends like these (who needs enemies), they can hurt you so much more.

Oh well, a flop for the show, it could have been great to have a show with their favorite money launderer as a client, and they flubbed a duck.

Otto Man said...

Callie Thorne's appearance finally made me remember where I first saw Jeffrey Donovan -- way back on an episode of "Homicide," where he played a serial killer traveling up the interstate.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0604441/

R.A. Porter said...

I wonder that people have watched this show for two and a half years and don't draw a distinction between "Michael Westen" and "characters played by Michael Westen." I understand Fi not seeing the difference in the heat of the moment, however.

A man who'd kidnap and kill people over money and threaten the life of the (it turns out fictional) child of one of them is exactly the sort who would slap an underling for screwing up.

Michael said...

By favorite part was near the beginning after Michael beat down the Serbian and the woman started crying. Sam just points the gun vaguely in her direction: "Oh, hey lady, no. Don't, don't don't, just stop that..."

Anonymous said...

If Michael Westen hits females, he's not Michael Westen, he's a guy with female issues, and domestic issues.

Really? Female issues? Lets see, throughout history woman have used the idea that men should never, ever, under any circumstance strike them to get away with all sorts of egregious behavior. Woman do not deserve to be on a pedestal. They are no better than men, just as deeply flawed.

Anonymous said...

To follow up on the Annon's above, where were your comments with respect to the previous episode when Fi was kick boxing and Michael was her sparring partner and she was giving it a lot extra because in her mind he was being a jerk. So it's ok, according to you, for women to strike men when she believes he's behaving badly but not vice versa? Have I got that right?

Karen said...

"Michael slapping Fi was over the top, the scene didn't need it."

I dunno; I thought Michael's voiceover made it very clear why he hit Fi. It was really a measure of just how worried he was about what "Natalie" might do to Fi that he had to come in and do something that would camouflage just how freaked out he was.

I also didn't know Callie Thorne from Adam's off ox, so the twist came as a lovely surprise. I was even more surprised, though, that gun-happy Fi wasn't confident enough to drop Natalie no matter how many kids were around her.

It was weird to see Michael allow the Strickler-related crime go down without a quibble. It says a lot for Fi's reservations about Michael's return to "official" spy-dom that a genuine low-life like Strickler is plugged in enough to get Michael back where he wants. Unless the "movement on the burn notice" is something Strickler's engineered to keep Michael on his string.

I thought it was a great episode. Lots of complexity from all the characters.

OldDarth said...

A solid episode but the trend continues of the show not using the unprotected Michael storyline from the S2 finale and using it to push the characters in new directions.

Contrast with S4 of SuperNatural which took the S3 finale and ran with it. The Winchester brothers have literally been to hell and back. They have been changed for good but not always in good ways.

Too bad Burn Notice is on cruise control and running the same it was before when Michael was protected.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said "I'm a huge fan of equality."

Then you should be celebrating showing a scene where a female finally gets smacked up. It's hugely the other way around that a female on tv is allowed to smack, hit and generally degrade a male but no way does the male get to retaliate in any way. It's very UNequal in terms of airtime.

I agree that it was unnecessary for the scene however, which is something of the whole point. Michael is slipping back into his not caring mode.

-EmeraldLiz

Anonymous said...

Just a quetion for personal clarification. At the end of this episode Fiona indicates to the character played by Callie Thorne 'what about the money' which I think is about $5 million. This was the money paid for the ledger. Doesn't this mean they are sitting on a few million? Is this brought up in later episodes (im behind)?