Thursday, June 25, 2009

Burn Notice, "Fearless Leader": Stacy's mom has got it going on

Spoilers for tonight's "Burn Notice" coming up just as soon as I deduct a mojito...

After the awesomeness of last week's Westen-Brennen II rumble, a letdown was inevitable, and while I enjoyed parts of "Fearless Leader," it played to disappointing type.

Detective Paxson remains something of a dud character (and I think that's on the writing as much as it's on Moon Bloodgood), so an episode in which she was more central wasn't as much fun as I suspect the producers were hoping. And for a character sold as being so tough and smart, Erik Palladino's Matheson made a real rookie mistake by letting Nick Turturro's Tommy (whom he viewed, rightly, as an untrustworthy loser) and his random new crew play such a big role in his next heist. (I assumed at first he was setting Tommy up to be humiliated or worse while he went off and did a job elsewhere.) And because Michael had such an easy time evading the police tail, we had an episode where neither of Michael's adversaries were nearly as potent as they were being sold as.

And yet there was a real charm to Michael's interactions with Tommy, to seeing Michael have to carry this guy while making it seem like he was buttering him up, and then to see him realize that both he and Tommy were better off if he turned Tommy from sap into ally. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Nick Turturro due to his time as Flying James Martinez on "NYPD Blue," but I thought he and Jeffrey Donovan worked well together.

But the real highlights of "Fearless Leader" were the personal subplots, both the comedy of Sam suffering through an audit from what turned out to be the grown-up son of one of his old flames (though was the headache in his eye from the audit, or from Madeline's inedible cookies?), and Fiona's frustration at everything Michael has been up to, from screwing up the gig at the start to his insistence on getting back in the spy game. When you see what a soft touch Michael was with a guy like Tommy, you understand where Fi's coming from. He's not cold enough to be a spy anymore, not that he seems to realize it.

What did everybody else think?


rosengje said...

Moon Bloodgood's character was the main detriment to the episode. I get the feeling that she really is a terrible cop. Not to compare the two, but on The Wire Season 5 David Simon kept saying that the newspaper employees just weren't very good at their jobs and kept missing the important stories. I get the same sense here. She keeps making all of these vague threats to scare Michael, when in reality if she knew anything about him she would be aware that she is probably the most cuddly adversary he has faced.

I agree that it was a lackluster set-up, but I loved Michael's interactions with Tommy. It showcased both Michael's professional assets and ability to form interpersonal connections.

elizs said...

What bothered me was the strange dubbing/looping. It felt like there was more in this episode than usual.

Also, I was hoping Moon Bloodgood would grow on me, but I am still not feeling her character. So, agreed, this was the weakest ep of the season so far.

Brandy said...

The Fiona at the end is my least favorite Fi. She didn't seem like she was worried about Michael being happier, doing more good if he wasn't in the game.

To me when they are together she gets really needy and it was all about how it would play for her fi he went back to the old life.

And given that she's a practicing arms dealer, it doesn't really play for me.

I hadn't liked Fi's neediness in season 1 and the first part of season 2 but since she grew up I'd been good with the character.

I hope this isn't a trend to come.

Anonymous said...

So... The Moon Bloodgood subplot is over? I hope so, cause it went nowhere. The tail was never an issue. He spent the entire episode free and clear of them...

And how does the Impala being at the meth lab with C4 in the back link to Matheson? They called it the "getaway car" but there was a big van parked right by the back door, right? Isn't it being nearby circumstantial? And what kind of stupid crime boss decides to go on the job himself? When his entire role consisted of putting meth into boxes?

That said, I did enjoy the stuff with Fiona. She has put herself on the line time and time again for Michael, and all he wants is to get back his old life, which was without her.

I feel like this was an episode that was a big step back, storytelling-wise for BN. The caper of the week, while more connected to the master plot (sort of) was just too easy. While it is great to see Team Weston do their thing, I always prefer to see them have to improvise a bit more. Seeing them perfectly execute a perfect plan is only so entertaining, but it is when they are backed into a corner that this show boosts the pulse rate. Last week was a phenomenal example.

IMDB says this is Moon Bloodgood's last episode, so it needs to be said: She was not good. Admittedly, the writers didn't give her much, but a better actress could have turned a nickel into a dime. Bloodgood turned a nickel into a penny. She only ever had one emotion: Bemused annoyance. No more excuses or half shrugs. She was BAD.

Mo Ryan said...

I also have a problem with the Fi neediness. They've tended to dial that down since Season 1, but it just doesn't make sense to me. The way I see Fi -- she knows what Michael is. I'd love it if they played it this way: Fi knows what Michael is and what he wants, she accepts him BUT she knows that in the end he will realize that the spy life is not for him. They've made her seem much more aware and smart as the show has progressed, and when they call back to this "Oh, my boyfriend won't quit his dangerous job" stuff, it just grates. I mean, she's an arms dealer who likes to blow stuff up! Who are we kidding here??

anyway, I think it'd be cooler if they had Fi confident in the knowledge that eventually, her predictions about him will prove correct and Michael will realize that the spy life is no longer a good fit.

Word verification: grate.


also Moon's character was a total waste of time. Ah well. Good Sam/Madeline scenes forgive a lot. Not all, but a lot.

R.A. Porter said...

I tried to appreciate Paxson, sure that she'd turn into a worthy adversary, but I'm with every other person here. She was a dud. Shame, really. It wouldn't have been too hard to make her a real threat to Michael in the end.

And since no one else has said it (and I'm shocked a Jersey boy like Alan let this one go) I'll repeat what I said on Twitter:

Just ask Sam Axe: Stacy's mom has got it goin' on.

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

I agree with what everybody else has said about Moon Bloodgood. She has been the weakest part of the series so far this season. Thank goodness that's over! And I love the look on Fi's face as she's blowing everything up. Also agree with what rosengje said about the interaction of Michael and Tommy as well as what Mo said about Sam and Madeline. When they keep the focus on Sam, Fiona, Michael, and Madeline (she's grown on me a lot since the beginning), those scenes are the best.

Myles said...

I think it's important to stop saying "Moon Bloodgood's character," because I think she was ultimately given nothing to work with. This episode cut her off at the knees the second Michael turned her into an unknowingly client, a well meaning cop (on the "right side") who Michael too easily thwarts.

There was potential here, there really was: she seems like a good cop trapped in a system that doesn't appreciate her rather forceful techniques (sidenote: how did that not come up in Sam's initial search of her record?), so there was a point where we could have seen her frustration boil over. Instead, we get the cliche funeral scene, and only the most generic "she's a good guy" to help sweep her under the rug.

Sure, it was a letdown after "End Run," but it was more disappointing that it showed the character was a waste of time, especially in this episode where those lifeless scenes kept us from getting more time to know Matheson, more of Michael's great interactions with Tommy, and more time to make those various scenarios a bit punchier.

Also, won't lie: found the Sam storyline kind of off. There were some strong lines, but in the end I think I'd rather they have taken that time to craft a better overall story for Paxson's exit rather than as a caveat for the episode's quality.

Kevin said...

The show is fantastic and I really enjoyed this episode...

If Sam ever loses his government connections it'd be cool to see him instead utilizing a vast army of people made up of guys whose mom he's slept with. He'd be unstoppable.

bsangs said...

Not a single mention about what may have been Michael's greatest improvisation ever with the dry cleaning conveyor? That was fantastic! I'll be internally muttering that the next time I drop off my shirts.

I loved seeing Nick Turturro also. His astonishment over the cash register and pad lock were great. What a criminal genius.

Can I assume there is no new episode next week because of the proximity to July 4?

Mapeel said...

The final dinner scene "at a nice place" with Fi and Michael was lovely. And Bruce Campbell was at his warmest, most appealing making the Fuzzy Navel for Audit Guy.

Boricua in Texas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

While it's true that the character of Paxson was not well-written, Bloodgood did little to make her more compelling. She seemed to have exactly one facial expression when talking to Michael: a theoretically menacing smile. Continually smiling while making threats--threats that never actually become threatening--doesn't make for much dramatic tension. That Michael was able to evade his police tail during the dry cleaner heist was particularly pathetic.

So I'm glad to see her go. Neither the actress nor the character brought a damn thing to the table.

It was nice to see Michael with Tommy, especially early on as he subtly directed Tommy in how to be a crook. And the scenes with Sam and Stacey were fun until the revelation of Stacey's mom--then it just got sappy.

But mostly I just love all these regular characters so much I can forgive the show a LOT.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Stacy's mom has got it goin' on.

Dammit. Dammit, dammit, dammit. How did I not think of this. Forget the Jersey thing: FoW is one of my favorite bands, period.


I'm changing the subject line, anyway.

dez said...

And the scenes with Sam and Stacey were fun until the revelation of Stacey's mom--then it just got sappy.

Aww, I liked the sappiness. Sam was so cute "fathering" the boy by teaching him how to drink. I'm still wondering what Sam considers the "good stuff" since he tends to drink mostly beer, though :-)

I think my favorite part of the episode was Michael's hairdo and overall look for this week's cover identity. Jeffrey Donovan looked extra hot that way. Oh, and I also enjoyed Paxson's exit. Hope she stays off the canvas for good. Bloodgood wasn't quite as bad an actress as the chick who played Michael's ex-fiancée, but she was close. Ugh.

Fi's neediness doesn't bother me as much as it does other people since she is still somewhat crazy, so her flipping back and forth between different modes of being doesn't surprise me.

Hatfield said...

You know, I was fine with this episode. It wasn't fantastic, but I really liked all the stuff with Michael and Tommy, and Sam and Madeline were also great. I agree, Paxson was awful, and I hope this really is her last episode, but I can forgive this show a lot. And it's not like Jay Karnes can guest EVERY week, right?

To the person who asked, the previews for next episode said they're indeed skipping next week, coming back on July 9.

R.A. Porter said...

@dez...MOJITOS!!! :)

olucy said...

I liked this ep more than others here, I guess. It was an average ep of BN, which is always good. Any ep that followed Brennan was bound to suffer by comparison.

Needy Fi has *always* bugged, but I didn't find Fi annoying this ep. During the date, she seemed genuinely pained that Michael hasn't "seen the light" that he needs to get off this track. Usually she's whiny or petulant or obnoxious about it, but this time she was just...sad. That didn't bother me.

Everyone seems so sure that this is Moon's last ep. Why is that? I can see where she'll be taking a break, but she did say she'd be keeping an eye on. Maybe she and Michael are taking a little Ross'n'Rachael break.

Next ep: Michael Weston vs Michael Weston!

R.A. Porter said...

I watched twice last night in writing my review and it was much worse the second time around. The Turturro stuff was great and the Sam/Stacey parts were a nice mix of sweet and funny but overall the episode was pretty weak.

Consider that one of the ways we judge the quality of a BN is Michael's voiceovers. We went from the Cantenna to "superglue is sticky."

Word Verification: 'calgor'. "Calgor, take me away!" Missed it by *that* much.

olucy said...

And for a character sold as being so tough and smart, Erik Palladino's Matheson made a real rookie mistake by letting Nick Turturro's Tommy (whom he viewed, rightly, as an untrustworthy loser) and his random new crew play such a big role in his next heist. (I assumed at first he was setting Tommy up to be humiliated or worse while he went off and did a job elsewhere.)

At first, I was ready to call shenanigans on this obviously inane move, but I think that Matheson was signing them all on because he knew they'd accomplish just what he needed them to do, then be killed in the process. So he'd get what he needed and then be rid of this stupid albatross and his new crew. You allude to some of that in your comment, but I think Matheson thought he knew exactly what he was doing.

Kathie said...

Good episode, I liked how Michael had to defer to Tommy when they were ripping off the dry cleaner- Michael is so clever!

Didn't anyone else think that there really wasn't that much of an age difference between Sam & Stacy........what, about 10 years? Or maybe Stacey just looks & acts like an old man...

olucy said...

I think Stacy just acts old.

I know this isn't an absolute indicator, but the actor who plays Stacy is 34-35 and Campbell is 51. So I think it fits the scenario.

Brandy said...

And I'd suspect that Sam, especially when younger, would have had some cougers. A younger woman couldn't afford him.

Word verification: guntout!

Seems appropriate for Fi.

Anonymous said...

im gonna go out on a limb and say that moon bloodgood is the worst actress in hollywood. wow. a nice double whammy with this and t4.

Rae said...

Moon Bloodgood doesn't bother me nearly as much as she does everyone else but I do think they did a lackluster job with that character. The idea of the cops suddenly paying attention to what Michael's doing had such potential. I'm sad to see it wasted.

Also, other than Fi and Madeline, they seem to struggle with writing females who come up against Michael. Or finding females who can pull it off maybe.

BUT, what really bugged me about this episode was that just as Paxon was pointing out to Michael all the ways she can trace his crimes back to him... and brings up a robbery he just participated in as well, we see Michael handle multiple things at the dry cleaners with his bare hands. Does he not have fingerprints? Or are the cops too busy tracing strings and explosives that they aren't dusting at crime scenes now?

dez said...

I've been wondering about the fingerprints thing, too. Michael has left hundreds of those things around Miami.

Anonymous said...

A few quirks on my end first:
-Fi playing with her hair so gd much at the initial set-up dinner with Tommy. Holy overselling it! The accent wasn't believable either, but a noble effort on Anwar's part.
-Nate's constant on again off again appearances. His character just seems so forced. When the shows needs an adversary to have leverage over Michael or to put the gang in a sticky situation, they bring in the bumbly brother.
-Another gripe about the Paxson character: she has time to be this up on Michael AND work another high profile case--one that has lasted 8 months, which was presumably different from the Matheson ordeal entirely? How many hours in her day?

Otherwise, I liked the episode quite a bit. It furthered the developing nature of the show; Michael can no longer simply use his stored knowledge to pull things off, he's being forced to think outside the box a bit more, and in turn take more chances--which hopefully leads to a climactic payback for the viewer. For instance, even though the job itself seemed easy, the sell job on Tommy was the hard part. In season 1, Tommy would have taken the bait, and it would have been normal highlighted Weston-isms saving the day. Instead, they threw a monkey wrench in the works with Tommy refusing to bring the crew in, and Michael had to think on the fly and take a HUGE risk by outing himself--which went against all expectations, at least on my part. Personally, I enjoyed that twist.


Sam Hobart said...

Going back to what elizs said about the looping, and assuming that we're done with Bloodgood, I suspect that the writers realized that this master plot wasn't working. I don't know that the initial intention was to write her out at this point but as they started to see footage from the first few episodes Nix and co. might have realized this wasn't working and used this episode as a way to jettison the character.

pgillan said...

The gag about someone cooking inedible food- why won't that die? It doesn't seem remotely plausible, and even if it were, it's not funny. I can only hope that's the last we've seen of it, but twice in two episodes is heading into "running joke" territory.

Unlike most people here, I have no issue with Moon Bloodgood, but it really feels like the writers decided she or the story-line weren't working- this episode was a super-abrupt end to what was shaping up to be the season's ongoing story, and the ease in which he lost his police tail over and over again just seemed lazy. It was almost as if they had to end this thing right away, and thus didn't have time to the include those details.

Chip said...

Alan man, Burn Notice is great and all but you missed out on some great summer fun with Harper's Island. So good and I can barely get blog coverage on it.

Anonymous said...

I found myself humming Elvis: "a little less conversation, a little more action" on this episode.

Mrglass said...

Michael trying to get into the gang reminded of the 'Grand Theft Auto' video games, especially his hilarious pseudo-Italian accent, so I guess I enjoyed it than most.

This can't be the last we see of Moon Bloodgod, otherwise what was the point of her character?

One question: how does Michael exactly intend to get back into the spying business? I'm confused on whether he still has to stay in Miami after all this time, if he hasn't been in contact with anybody in government since the pilot.

dez said...

Alan man, Burn Notice is great and all but you missed out on some great summer fun with Harper's Island. So good and I can barely get blog coverage on it.

"Harper's" started slow but really picked up steam. I can see why Alan didn't bother with it because there were some stooopit things going on in the beginning.

@MrGlass, I don't know why Michael is stuck in Miami at this point except by choice. Maybe he figures he needs to stay visible enough for the CIA to come calling and give him back his spy credentials?