Thursday, June 18, 2009

Burn Notice, "End Run": Smarty-cat and mouse

Spoilers for tonight's extra-special-y awesome "Burn Notice" coming up just as soon as I park eight inches off the curb...
"You're not this good. Nobody is this good." -Brennen
Actually, he is this good, Brennen. And in episodes like "End Run," so is "Burn Notice."

Jay Karnes' first appearance as Brennen in "Sins of Omission" was one of the highlights of season two. When you have a hero whose brain is his greatest weapon, it's always more fun to pit him against an adversary who's as smart -- or almost as smart -- as he is, and to see how the hero reacts when his usual tricks won't work. Because Brennen more or less knows what a guy like Michael is capable of, and because Karnes plays him with such confidence, it's a lot more fun to see Michael triumph over him than it is to see him outwit some of the other people he's scammed over the years.

Brennen did, of course, get over-confident in allowing Michael to operate without being watched, and in underestimating Michael's ability to hack a cell phone using nothing but a potato chip can, a hanger and some metal washers. The Cantenna may be my favorite bit of improvised "Burn Notice" technology to date, and not just because it got its own chyron in an episode full of good chyron humor (see also Brennen quickly going from "Arms dealer with a grudge" to "Michael's new boss"). One of the things that got cut from the Matt Nix interview (because it gave away too much about the plot of this episode, which he also referred to as the show's homage to "Collateral") is that their tech advisor, Michael Wilson, had been telling them about different methods of Bluetooth snarfing for a while, and they'd been waiting to find the perfect story to use it in. This was that, and it was great to see how that one maneuver gave Michael enough intelligence to carry the day.

And while he was waiting for Sam, Fi and Barry the money launderer(*) to help him out on that front, we got to see him do his usual Michael Westen thing, switching into different identities (alcoholic custodian, d-bag aging frat boy) to handle each situation, then efficiently taking out all the security guards, just because he could, before confronting Brennen and getting his brother back. As Nix says, the show never tries to hang an episode on whether Michael can win a physical battle, because we know he'll win every one of those, but it's still a pleasure to see him do it so easily, even when it turns out to be non-essential to winning the day.

(*) Best Barry episode ever? Not only does he go to a salon near Madeline's neighborhood, but he's now hired both a life coach and an intern.

My only real concern is that Detective Paxson is still not that exciting. Also, wouldn't she find out about Nate showing up in a hospital with a bullet wound? Or is that another counter-intuitive spy lesson that got cut for time? ("A lot of people think that if you go to the hospital with a bullet wound, the doctors have to call the cops. But if you happen to coat the wound with lime and salt...")

The rest of it, though, rocked. Hard.

What did everybody else think?


Jordan said...

That was pretty awesome. My only problem is his prints are all over the city. I don't, however, mind the cop. If she were his equal, she wouldn't be a cop. But still, one hell of an episode. Loved the titles and Mike's invention.

"That move only works before you're in a choke hold."

Anonymous said...

Barry's British accent was another highlight for Paul Tei too, but Alan is right - this was a great episode and was pretty riveting throughout.

The fact Michael screwed up Annabelle's name when confronting Brennan was nice to see since we don't get to see Michael vulernable during a confrontation that often. Jeremy Donovan kicked butt on this episode throughout.

Bobman said...

I've taught a friend of mine the game of narrating every-day activities a la Michale Westin, and we have been having way too much fun with it.

This show rules.

Matt said...

What a wonderful episode. I could've easily seen that stretched out to another hour, watching Brennan and Michael play cat-and-mouse. And good on Nix for actually shooting Nate.

Two minor complains (that only stick out because everything else was so great); Alan, like you in your first review this season, the chyron jokes are a little too cute. When each and every single thing, animate and inanimate, gets a "straight" chyron, then a cheeky one.

I also noticed how all four of Detective Paxton's scenes have put the same point across: I don't know your deal, but I know you're up to something, and I'll catch you sooner or later. I don't think the problem's with Bloodgood, I think it's with the writing. But I have faith in Nix and Co. to resolve this and move the storyline along soon.

Michael said...

Seriously? You can hack a bluetooth phone with a hanger, some washers, and a Pringles can?

What's a "chyron"? From the context it sounds like it's the caption, right?

Alyson said...

I think the Cantenna is my favorite chyron ever. And that's saying something, since they use up to 10 of those things each episode.

Can't wait to see more of Madeline interacting with Barry; also, nice to see her remind her sons that she is not only paying very close attention, but that she can make 2 and 2 equal four, and that while she may not need to know the whole truth, she knows when she's been lied to.

I also really enjoy Seth Peterson and Jeffrey Donovan's chemistry. While I don't know that I would want Nate to become the permanent fourth member of our merry little band, he is already sort of their de facto wheelman, so it might be nice to see his limo business do well enough that they can use him when they need legit modes of transportation.

Jeff Metzner said...

Having Detective Paxson after Michael also made me think about all the fingerprints he left behind in this episode.

Anonymous said...

What is the consensus on Moon Bloodgood? I can never get past the fact that she has had two series in recent years about men traveling through time to be with her... She always comes off as another Maxim model who decides she wants to be an actress. I don't know, though. Is it enough for her to be passably adequate? Tricia Helfer managed to be both hot AND menacing last year. I wish they had gone two for two on female nemeses (nemisis's?).

That said, she was a small part of a dynamite episode. My favoirte line was Michael telling the guard "That move only works BEFORE you are in a chokehold."

Nice to see they haven't forgotten Nate, and I love how Michael's universe seems to keep expanding with guys like Barry and the arms dealer with the crazy eyes becoming occassional assets.

Love that they got a little Chyron happy this time around. Everyone's subtitle was special.

BK said...

I watched the scenes twice, and I still couldn't hear the gun-nut say "one" or "seven".

Anonymous said...

The chyron is the caption that shows up with the swoosh noise ("The Client", etc.).

Cantenna's can extend the range of a Bluetooth device (and hence pick up Bluetooth at a greater distance, as Michael was trying to do). The show naturally makes it sound a _little_ too easy -- but I thought you would need a soldering iron and an appropriate connector, but I'm no expert -- and it doesn't really address the hacking part, but still: Cantenna! With a chyron! Who can resist?

Mapeel said...

Barry and Madeline sharing hair gel, having a product night was very funny.

Myles said...

Loved the heck out of this episode (I'm fairly certain that a good 10% of the words in my review are some synonym for awesome), and outside of a few nitpicks (Barry said "this morning" during his phone call with Brennen, when he was supposed to be in England and the transfer would have been afternoon there) it just all came together so well that I can't imagine the show topping it this season.

And I thought that it did one interesting thing with Paxson, which is demonstrate the problem that she has. Note that she has Michael's number, just as Brennen does: they both go after Nate at exactly the same time, and both know that the brother is a source of some meaning to him. Of course, Brennen is in a position to hold him hostage, while all Paxson can do is question him - I'm thinking there's a time where she will start to stretch things a bit more as she continues to realize that the normal means aren't enough to catch him, and it's a worthwhile complication as long as we eventually see that evolution.

Anonymous said...

Myles, Barry said a few seconds later that the transfer came at 11:00 AM "local time." He was using Miami time.

fgmerchant said...

The cantenna use was about 90% accurate. You can get a passable cantenna without soldering, but the quality would be nowhere near as good. If you are using a bluetooth dongle with an external antenna it is easier to plug the cantenna into there even without soldering.

The lack of a bluetooth dongle was the most glaring omission, Michael just plugged in a USB cord to the side of the cantenna! I'm sure he could have found a bluetooth dongle in an office, without too much difficulty, and been able to make the cantenna "legit"!

The other mistake was that there is no need to call someone before you break into their phone. Just point the antenna at the persons phone, look at the list of bluetooth phone signals and see the strongest one (it would be strongest because you are pointing a directional antenna at it) and then start cracking!

I loved Barry's accent and it was great fun to see the back and forth between Michael and Brennen. Though I remember seeing Brennen before, I must say I don't remember what he was doing or why he was on the run from Miami.

When was it mentioned that Barry goes "to a salon near Madeline's neighborhood"?

Moon Bloodgood continues to disappoint, but it is not Moon Bloodgood's fault. It is the writers fault! What kind of cop keeps going to their suspect and telling them, "I'm going to get you!"? I'll be happy when they move the story along and give Moon Bloodgood something she can work with!

About the use of the word Chyron, don't worry other people who were confused! I didn't get it either, it was obvious it was referring to the subtitles from the context because Alan said "see also Brennen quickly going from "Arms dealer with a grudge" to "Michael's new boss"" But just to be sure, I looked it up on Wikipedia. The Wikipedia definition for Chyron is "any predominantly text-based video graphic as used mainly by television news broadcasts".

P.S. I know I said this last week, but Moon Bloodgood is such an awesome name! Moon Bloodgood!

Carolyn said...

@fgmerchant barry mentioned it himself when someone asked him how he got there so quickly ("my salon is in the neighborhood")

great episode, a lot of fun.

but i'm a little frustrated that we haven't gotten more michael/fiona romance action. considering his reaction when he thought she had died in the fire, i was hoping they'd be back on more than just "working together" terms this season...

maura said...

P.S. I know I said this last week, but Moon Bloodgood is such an awesome name! Moon Bloodgood!

Ha! I know. You can make several different names from it.

I think Bloodgood was more suited to her role in Journeyman, but I agree that the writing is more of a problem that she is. Jennifer Esposito has more screen presence than Bloodgood does, but I doubt she would have done any better with the material she'd have to work with. The dialogue is part of what makes this show so appealing, so I'm not sure why the writers are having a problem with this character.

Great episode. I liked that Michael was his own Case of the Week. And while I think it's often a mistake to give a minor character more screen time, I love that Barry has been around more. He's a good addition to the team.

My favorite line, if only for the delivery: "Who's the guy with the purse?" And now Madeleine and Barry are BFFs bonding over products.

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

Anonymous at 12:09 AM: "[Moon Bloodgood] always comes off as another Maxim model who decides she wants to be an actress."

Couldn't have said it better myself. At least her part in this episode was really small, so she didn't grate so much. Loved the episode on the whole, but why can't they find someone who can act as well as Jay Karnes, for example, to be Mike's nemesis? John Mahoney, for example. Or Walton Goggins. Even CCH Pounder, since I’m thinking in terms of “The Shield.”

Karen said...

@JD Michael didn't screw up Annabelle's name. "Belle Anna" was the name of Brennen's holding company, where he hid his daughter's tuition payments. Michael was letting Brennen know that he knew about both the holding company and the daughter.

Put me in the camp who found the chyrons a little too frequent and too cutesy this week. But everything else? MADE OF AWESOME.

R.A. Porter said...

This episode was made of equal parts awesomeness, ground unicorn horns, and ambrosia (not the weird deli salad kind) but I want to take a second to give a shout out to Alan who gave me the biggest laugh of my day thus far with his "lime and salt" joke.

Henceforth, I will be referring to flesh wounds as "body shots."

Anonymous said...

I'm a lurker (I assume) since I read this blog regularly without commenting. I wanted to confirm Karen's remarks on Michael's saying Annabelle. Belle Anna was the accounts name and if you look closely at Michael's expression you can see he's taking a logic leap when he says the daughter's name to reenforce what he 'knows' about her. Great episode.

DeeTV said...

Great episode. This show rocks.

My only complaint would be Moon B. I find it interesting that folks are mentioning Maxim model turned actress. Was she really a model? I don't think she has any appeal at all, zero, not even the least bit attractive. Maybe it's the part, or the writing, or the fact that I'm a straight woman??? In any case, so far her character has been a waste of time.

Jay Karnes rocks. I loved him in The Sheild. He creeps me out as a "bad guy", but that what good actors do, they make you respond to the role they are playing, not to who they are.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The show naturally makes it sound a _little_ too easy -- but I thought you would need a soldering iron and an appropriate connector, but I'm no expert -- and it doesn't really address the hacking part,

Nix has said in the past that they deliberately leave out a step or three anytime Michael is explaining how to improvise a gadget or weapon. They want it to seem realistic without actually giving people a tutorial on how to build weapons or spy on their neighbors.

A-T-G said...

Finally caught the ep. I was saving for a moment when I could truly savor it. I am so glad I did! Fantastic! This episode lives in Awesometown - and Michael Weston is the Mayor of Awesome!

Two separate "personalities", fab multiple use of a crowbar, and a cantenna?! My heart can't take that much joy! The cherry on the sundae of awesome? When Brennan says he'll spend the rest of his life hunting Michael down and Michael gets all cold and leans in "Of course you will, Brennan, she's your family" BUUUURRRN! I actually said that out loud. "BURN!".

And I couldn't keep the grin off my face!

Love it! Everything about it! Gonna' go watch it again!

olucy said...

Agree with all posts on the awesomeness of the ep.

Jay Karnes is my fave nemesis.

I'm especially grateful that they leave the door open for Brennen to return *yet again*. I infer that TPTB know that they have a good thing here, and are willing to work him into the storyline at least once a season.

Christy said...

Loved the ep.

Moon Bloodgood is a crappy name! Might as well call her Menstruation. Or Cramps.

fgmerchant said...

Oh! BODY SHOTS! Thank you R.A. Porter! I laughed at the joke about lime and salt because it just fit in with one of those Michael Westen narration moments, but I did not get that the jokes was that you were making the wound into a "shot"! Great pun Alan!

7s Tim said...

Maybe i missed somethting in those last few minutes, so if i'm way off, please forgive me. But something wasn't right...

My problem was that Brennan felt he needed Michael for the final, final step of the biometrics job. Mike had already taken out the security and obtained the two doohickies needed to get in. All that was left was walking through the door. When Mike came back after taking out the security guards, when Brennan's muscle brought Nate to the place, Brennan should have just shot Nate dead. and then shot Michael. And walked in, or sent Nunzio in for him, and walked away with highly classified government property. Because if Michael isn't on tape walking through that door, they wouldn't have been either.

I'm just annoyed that he felt he needed to use Michael for that part of the plan. It's like the anti-Dollhouse arguments: doing it this way is over complicating the job. Do you need to pay a million dollars for LA's hottest brainwash-ee to be your midwife? Do you need Miami's best burnt spy to walk into a room, pick up a box, and then walk out again?

But Brennan was cool enough, Barry was funny enough (especially his nerves at being British and his finger injury while fixing the window [and Sam's line to barry to "bring the second man to this two man job" or whatever--cracked me up]) Fiona got to blow stuff up and Sam, as noted, was also funny as hell. The detective stuff hasn't kicked into high gear like it probably will towards the end of this season, so those scenes just helped set up a theme for the episode, which worked fine for me.

dez said...

Not much to add, just echoing others in that I also floved this episode, especially the chokehold line.

I would like to see Nate show up a bit more, as the actor fits in well with everyone else and isn't a drain on the action (unlike, say, Brandy and Jinx on "In Plain Sight"). Also, I was so glad Madeline and Barry bonded over hair products instead of getting romantic, which I was fearing because she looked at him at one point like she wanted to eat him.

Jeff K. said...

Nix has said in the past that they deliberately leave out a step or three anytime Michael is explaining how to improvise a gadget or weapon. They want it to seem realistic without actually giving people a tutorial on how to build weapons or spy on their neighbors.

Isn't that standard operating procedure for most shows of this type, plus most of the reality TV stuff?

I know that some of the cooking shows when they visit a place (I'm looking at your Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) leave ingredients out as the guys are showing us what goes into their "special sauce" or whatever...

Knowing that, I never fault BN or similar for leaving out a few steps. Once he got the Pringles can I yelled "Cantenna!" and beat the Chyron by a few seconds. :-)

Todays word: STERIF. The new font in town.