Thursday, July 09, 2009

Burn Notice, "Signals and Codes": Michael Westen vs. Michael Weston

Some quick thoughts on tonight's "Burn Notice" coming up just as soon as I lie about ice cream cake...

The meta-joke aside, Michael Weston the actor fit in very well with the world of Michael Westen the character, and it was fun to watch our usually super-cool, ultra-rational Michael struggle to keep his temper under control while dealing with a client who's anything but rational -- and, for that matter, to see a situation where Fiona gets to be the one keeping a cool head.

I'm still taking a wait-and-see approach on Michael's quest to get back in with the CIA, but swapping out Detective Paxson for Michael's reluctant new government contact seems like an upgrade so far.

All that, and Sam Axe leading a team-building seminar. How can you not like that?

What did everybody else think?

34 comments:

Alyson said...

Loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it. I will never get tired of Sam in Chuck Finley guise. Ever.

Also, good to see Fi and Mike at least on the same page about Mike getting back into the game, even if Fi's not terribly happy about the whole idea.

The captions sure were extra-cheeky this week, weren't they?

Michael said...

I really like the Fiona/Michael scenes. She really doesn't want him going back inside, does she? Gabrielle Anwar is doing a great job.

"Probably not an alien." Heh.

Andrea said...

I love Michael Weston, so I was excited to watch this episode. He didn't disappoint. Here's hoping Michael finds a way to work with Spencer again sometime.

Henry said...

Damn! Fiona/Gabrielle Anwar looked gooooood in this episode, especially her first appearance.

And I found it hilarious that a show that has a character named Michael Westen actually gets actor Michael Weston to guest star.

Sara Ann said...

I couldn't shake the feeling that Spencer was very much like a character Michael would play to get someone to do something for him (which would have made the fact Spencer was played by actor Michael Weston that much more meta). The writers are probably smart not to have every stranger Michael meets this season turn out to be a spy, but since, from what we saw, Team Westen only had Spencer's Rain Man act and that one paramedics word for Spencer's identity...it just felt a lot like a cover. Made all the more covery by the fact I was having trouble buying Weston as schizophrenic.

Grendel said...

I also thought Spencer seemed like a cover rather than a real person.
I didn't much care for this ep, you know, comparatively. I thought the main plot was a bit boring, though parts were very clever.

The Michael/Fiona scenes just bummed me out.
Also, though its always been pretty plain that in some ways Michael is a self-centered jerk (you know, everyone is expected to help him with his stuff, while he bitches and moans and tries to avoid helping them with their stuff?), I thought this really highlighted it. Aside from putting Fiona in her place, he once again showed how willing he was to screw people over (like he did last season with the spy at the foreign embassy) to get what he wants. I mean, these aren't even people who have jerked him around! Sometimes he doesn't look much like a good guy.

Jason Cohen said...

Guess the SAG name change finally definitively worked for Mr. Rubinstein

R.A. Porter said...

I thought it was a solid, mid-pack episode with another potential semi-regular guest star who could be a lot of fun. I'm a little tired of the trope of the schizophrenic mathematician but I won't hold that against the writers.

A couple of things really struck me about this episode:
- Michael's spycraft narrations were significantly longer than usual. When I was writing my review and including the spycraft I liked, I found myself eliding fairly long sections and still ending up with bigger quotes than usual.

- The production team threw in a new look in a few shots, heavily processed and desaturated images with a lot of noise. I'm impressed the show is still willing to tweak its successful formula that way.

Diego was definitely a step up from Paxson. Not as cute but more interesting in his two scenes than Bloodgood was in her three episodes.

bsangs said...

Sorry, but it only took about 10 minutes to realize this would be a tough episode. Couldn't stand listening to Spencer - his delivery was fingernails on a chalkboard grating.

Since he played such an integral role - coupled with the continued resurgence of whiny Fi - this was one of my least favorite BNs ever. I hope Spencer isnt a recurring character, even though I appreciated the casting gag.

Do like the new spy though, especially the way he introduced himself.

pgillan said...

I liked the concept of the episode ("some sort of pattern-obsessed weirdo stumbles into the spy-world by connecting seemingly unrelated stories in the stories in the newspaper"), but The Client felt way too much like a Rain Man parody. At one point he even delivered a "definitely, definitely" line. Fortunately they turned it down as the episode progressed, but I still found it distracting. The actor's normal delivery is already a little "off", and I think it probably would have been more effective if he'd just played it straight.

Overall, though, I liked the episode.

Ingrid said...

I did not like last night's episode that much. It was dominated by the Spencer character, and his Rain Man/Beautiful Mind crazy savant thing was just too much.

It reminded me of a quote from Tropic Thunder: "never go full retard."

Mike said...

Bruce Campbell was fantastic yet again. Is it weird that I aspire to be as cool and collected as Mr. Axe? So wish I could meet him at SDCC coming up.

I understand that Fi loves Michael and wants him to love her back but this storyline is starting to get old. She is constantly putting herself out there and I think it's putting Mike in a bad light by constantly causing her pain. I think it's time to move on to them just being friends and nothing more.

More foreshawdowing with the whole how lucky Mike is to have people in his life he can trust. I think it's pretty obvious were they're going with this.

Spencer was a little annoying but I think I just need to remember that was the point.

All in all, an ok espisode, not bad, but not the best so far.

Mrglass said...

The 'Rain Man' character was very distracting. I would say that the actor was bad, but then again I didn't even like Dustin Hoffman in that role. Although I wouldn't mind seeing him come back to help the gang, if he keeps taking his medication (we all know this is going to happen).

But the plot of the series is starting to make less and less sense; what is keeping Michael in Miami now? The CIA won't talk to him, and the shadow organization that framed him has let him go, for now.

So he doesn't have to stay in Florida anymore? And he has strong incentives to leave, given his current situation as a sitting duck. Don't get me wrong, I love Miama as a set for TV shows, but the overall plot is getting very thin.

Oh well, the actors are still excellent and the characters interesting. And this new handler promises to bring much more than the awful and useless Bloodgod cop.

Mrglass said...

Oh, and I couldn't get enough of Sam as as Chuck Finley. His moronic coaching saved the episode.

This kind of scene has been done hundreds of times, but it just worked; unlike the crazy mathematician, also done countless times.

Brandy said...

I've always wanted Weston to do another episode of Psych. Like the ending of this ep his episode there left open the possibility of return.

I liked this episode but Spencer is a lot to take so I'm less sure about his recurring.

But I did enjoy the episode. Needy Fi was scaled back at least enough for her to listen to him. Which is good.

Sam is a good guy who got Spencer a job. Plus teamwork seminars. It could be a whole other career for the man. :)

Alyson said...

But the plot of the series is starting to make less and less sense; what is keeping Michael in Miami now? The CIA won't talk to him, and the shadow organization that framed him has let him go, for now.

Mike is still officially burned, and until the notice is lifted, he is basically a non-entity. Plus, since "Management" has abandoned him, if he tries to set foot outside the state of Florida using his real name, he ends up in jail. Those seem like good enough reasons to stay put for the time being.

Anonymous said...

Pure fun. Pure, unadulterated, fun. You can tell the actors are having a ball with this show. It's great.

DeeTV said...

I enjoyed this ep. When I first saw "Guest Starring Michael Weston", I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know that was an actor's name (I also didn't know the spelling of Michael Westen, the BN character) - although I've seen that actor in shows before I didn't know his name. And I think I remember J. Donovan saying in an interview that his character was named after a real spy. I was waiting for something to happen around a special guest star, but then I looked in imdb and saw it was just a regular actor's name...

Anyway, I thought the ep was fun. I'm not that bothered by the Fi/Michael stuff. It may seem to some that he's being cold, but I see it as him being honest. True, it's not what Fi wants but he's not stringing her along, he's telling her "this is how it is, you can decide if it will work for you or not."

I don't see him as someone who uses people to get what he wants. In most ep.s he's helping someone "The client" and we don't always know if he's getting paid. Many times I think he's not, e.g., getting his dopey brother out of a mess, or helping one of his mother's friends.

And Bruce Campbell is great. He's such a great supporting actor. He really "supports". He's integral to the story but he doesn't try to overshadow or outdo the real star (Westen/Donovan).

Alyson said...

I enjoyed this ep. When I first saw "Guest Starring Michael Weston", I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know that was an actor's name (I also didn't know the spelling of Michael Westen, the BN character) - although I've seen that actor in shows before I didn't know his name. And I think I remember J. Donovan saying in an interview that his character was named after a real spy. I was waiting for something to happen around a special guest star, but then I looked in imdb and saw it was just a regular actor's name...

Dee, if it helps any, "Michael Weston" is a stage name .... the actor's given name is Michael Rubinstein. You might recognize him from a few guest spots here and there. More than likely, you'll recognize his strong resemblance to his dad.

I've decided that Fi should just bag the whole idea of trying to get Michael back, and take up with Sam instead. How funny would that be?

Andrew said...

I, for one, enjoyed actor Michael Weston playing against character Michael Westen. If he was annoying, that was sort of the point of the character-- for Michael et al to have a client who is a bit of a free agent.

I'm easily entertained by things like the "(probably not an alien)" chyron and the icea cream cake commandment. (Well, everything about Sam Axe, corporate consultant.)

pgillan said...

I, for one, enjoyed actor Michael Weston playing against character Michael Westen. If he was annoying, that was sort of the point of the character-- for Michael et al to have a client who is a bit of a free agent.

My problem wasn't that he was annoying, it was that he felt like a blatant Rain Man parody. It was an unoriginal cliché that, at least for me, detracted a little from an otherwise entertaining episode.

Anonymous said...

I really can't decide if the writers are starting to lose sight of show's central premise or not...so far, they haven't had Mike come out and say what, in my view, may be his strongest, and in the end, maybe his only true motive for getting "unburned" -- that being a spy is the only life he's ever known...

Also, if they are going to make Mangagement's threat of bringing Michael's world down around him in flames because he no longer has their protection, they better turn the heat up pretty fast, because so far, they haven't done much except put one mediocre cop onto him and give Sam some "tax problems" that were resolved rather clumsily. To me, for the show's premise to hold up, Mike needs a new, worthy adversary that will force him, against his will, to work for Management...and answer some of the questions remaining from the first season...who was the passenger on the ferry they were trying to kill? Who are the factions that Cowan alluded to just before he was shot? What's the bigger game that Mike has become involved in by virtue of being burned? To get at this stuff he needs some powerful motivation, which means that Sam, Fi, Nate or Mike's mom have got to be put into some serious jeopardy.

I like the clients of the week (and the catchy subtitles) as much as the next guy, but if they become the focus of the show, it's going to get a lot less interesting.....

R.A. Porter said...

@Anonymous, I don't agree with your assessment that the show is less or more interesting depending on the course of the overarching mythology, though I enjoy that aspect of the show, but that's a matter of preference and temperament.

However, Michael most *certainly* said last night why he wants back in. You might disagree with his self-assessment and believe there is some other underlying reason, but he was pretty convinced and convincing:

You know what, I am like Spencer. We both see the world a certain way and we both have skills to make it a better place. That’s not a bad thing. I don’t want to keep ducking this so let me be straight with you. This job, what we just did, saving American lives, this is the type of work I was made for, Fi. It’s what my old job gave me a chance to do every single day. So no, getting back in isn’t just a way to survive, to protect the people I love, it’s what I want. And if you truly care about me, you should damn well want for me what I want for myself.

pgillan said...

You know what, I am like Spencer. We both see the world a certain way and we both have skills to make it a better place. That’s not a bad thing. I don’t want to keep ducking this so let me be straight with you. This job, what we just did, saving American lives, this is the type of work I was made for, Fi. It’s what my old job gave me a chance to do every single day. So no, getting back in isn’t just a way to survive, to protect the people I love, it’s what I want. And if you truly care about me, you should damn well want for me what I want for myself.

Porter, I'm glad you included this text. It reminded me what I thought while I was watching that part: Michael is already doing what he loves right now- spy stuff, helping people, yadda yadda, without actually being in CIA. I can see him realizing this just before he gets what he thought he wanted, then spending the next season trying to get out of the CIA.

Anonymous said...

@R.A. Porter

The reason that Mike's "helping people" motivation for getting unburned doesn't work for me is that he's already helping people. If that were his true motivation, then one would think he would see that he's doing what he was meant to do and settle for that and give up trying to figure out who/why he was burned in the first place.

To me, if you don't keep the focus on the plot underlying the burn notice, then the show becomes a reboot of "The Equilizer" -- a retired spy who helps out people with nowhere else to go...which is okay, I suppose...since BN is a much cooler show. But why set up a complicated wheels within wheels premise in Season 1 only to discard it later on....

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me who the actor was that played Diego Garza? I know I have seen him before and it is driving me crazy.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe no one's mentioned the bit between Michael and Barry about the price of having to visit mom. Hilarious.

(And I still think Barry doesn't work straight -- he just comes across as awfully gay, and perhaps a bit attracted to Michael, to me.)

Heather said...

Loved it! I always love to see Michael challenged by people like Spencer (The real Michael Weston did a fantastic job as him). The meta facedown really paid off.

As for Chuck? I would not be that bored at a team seminar's for his ever... even without ice cream cake.

Alex D said...

Anonymous - is Barry meant to be straight?? I noticed that in his scene, the bikini-cam was definitely lingering on some guys as well, and I assumed that was intentional. Also, the whole "do my back" bit? You think that's meant to be straight?

Anonymous said...

@Alex: I don't know. Everything about him screams not straight (and I noticed the linger on the guy as well), but in a S1 or 2 ep, he specifically scopes out some woman when Michael meets him for lunch. I remember it really surprising me, since I'd just been assuming he was gay. (And I just thought it was cool that his sexuality wasn't a plot point or anything, just who the character was.)

Jeff L said...

swapping out Detective Paxson for Michael's reluctant new government contact seems like an upgrade so far.

Yeah, and I think it's now pretty fair to say that the problem really was Bloodgood. The new guy (I don't know his name) was given equally thin writing, but was a zillion times more interesting and charismatic.

Overall, a solid episode. It does seem like Fi & Michael are stuck in neutral, though. Hopefully we're done repeating the "I've got to do this" "please don't" conversation and can start to see how Fi (and the two of them as a couple) deal with the fact that Michael really does wants his job back.

Chris Lawrence said...

On the "why Michael wants back in" question, I think it has more to do with Michael believing (perhaps rightly, perhaps not) that in the Company what he did was important on a larger scale. Yes, he helps people in his "burned" state--but only a few people at a time at most, and usually just one. Everything Michael has done and been trained to do is to do something "big," and accepting that (a) perhaps "big" isn't all it's cracked up to be and (b) "small" has its own rewards is going to take him time to figure out.

And the interaction with Fi obviously comes out of her losing her illusions that what she did was important (what did the PIRA actually accomplish in 25+ years of conflict with Britain that they couldn't have gotten in 1973-74 peacefully? Not much, if anything). Getting to where she'd like Michael to be was a lot easier for Fi. It's harder to see that you don't have to be "superspy" if, like Michael, you still think your cause was just and viable.

WWWeaves said...

My heart broke that night.
First, when Diego told Michael that the CIA didn't really care that he found the traitor, and served her up with evidence.
Second, when Michael was a selfish schmuck with Fi. If he'd told her about the CIA I bet he'd have gotten sympathy sex.
Thematically I think this is all going good places. The upcoming episode about Fi's backstory should be riveting.

7s Tim said...

to R.A. Porter's comment about the various new techniques used in the cuts between scenes: Around the middle of Season 1, or maybe just after, i met one of the guys who does some editing for the show. He said one of the cooler things about working on the show was its flexibility with various editing techniques. I've always liked how they rotate through different styles. Sometimes it'll be a freeze frame that disolves into the next scene, or the desaturations like they used this week. It's been one of my favorite production aspects of the show since the start. Sometimes it can give each episode a slightly different feel-- more noir, more old school cop show, etc. Although the one constant is showing young girlies in bikinis wandering around in packs.