BURN NOTICE DEVELOPS A CLEARER “IDENTITY” IN ITS SECOND EPISODE
The Main Storyline:
Michael cons a con artist, as part of a deal with his mother, Madeline. A trio of con artists have scammed her neighbor, Laura, by convincing her to give them all her account numbers, enabling them to wipe out all her money, and then beating her up before they leave. So, Michael agrees to help get Laura’s money back in exchange for information about Madeline’s conversation with two government agents who visited her a few months ago. Fiona and Sam join him in his con job, which leads to a lot of clever, and sometimes funny scenes.
Their target: Quentin the lead con artist, and Greg and Bonnie, his apprentice con artists. Michael’s alias is Peter Jordan, and Sam and Fiona take on a few different identities. As we would expect from our trio of burned-out spies, they hit a few snags along the way but ultimately succeed in beating Quentin at his own game and returning stolen money to hundreds of senior citizens, including Madeline’s neighbor Laura.
Things We Learned about the Characters:
- Sam apparently doesn’t have a permanent address. He’s something of a “squatter,” and since he recently had a “disagreement with a lady friend” who then kicked him out, he is going to be rooming with Michael temporarily. That should be interesting. (By the way, I liked Sam much better this week).
- Fiona and Sam have a professional history with each other. Sam apparently busted Fiona during one of her illegal activities.
- Michael and Fiona are both convincing at pretending to be someone else, complete with a different accent.
- Michael doesn’t like running from the cops, but he doesn’t mind shooting their tires out to build credibility with a criminal when fleeing a crime scene.
- Fiona either has trouble distinguishing between the electrical system and the gas tank underneath a car, or simply likes to watch things blow up. In this case, it resulted in a car exploding instead of simply becoming inoperable. Whoops!
- Michael has no problem text messaging without looking at his phone. This is an art I haven’t yet mastered.
- Although Sam and Fiona have their differences, they work well together as a team (except for all the arguing and second-guessing of each other). First they tricked Bonnie and Greg into thinking they were a couple just using the yacht for some private time, and then they returned to the yacht to reveal themselves as “Officer Cagney” and “Officer Lacey.” Nice and appropriate references to castmate Sharon Gless’ former classic detective show.
- Michael is as good an actor as Jeffrey Donovan. He was very convincing as Peter from New York, and was able to maintain his composure (mostly) even with all the snags in his plan.
- Michael’s mom believes that “family always comes first,” but Michael hasn’t lived by that idiom. By the end of this episode, though, these two seemed to be making some progress in their disfunctional mother/son relationship.
What I Like About This Show:
I had a positive reaction to the pilot episode of Burn Notice, and this second episode made me like the show even more. It’s a nice mix of action, humor, spy gadgetry, and family drama. In some ways it is similar to Alias, although it doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as that show did. Here are a few specific things I like about the show:
- The freeze frames and slow motion editing – These both seem fitting for a show that deals in part with surveillance. Michael could be being watched at any moment, so the still and slow shots reinforce the mood of paranoia and remind us of his need for constant vigilance.
- The textual introduction of secondary characters – With any spy story, it can quickly become confusing to keep track of who’s who and what’s what. So, it is useful, and also entertaining, that on Burn Notice, the audience is not only told who new characters are, but their names and occupation are provided on screen for us. A similar technique was used in this episode to show us what Michael was texting to Fiona (“Greg n Bonnie Coming. Get Out” and “Get Out. R U There?”). This is one of the reasons that this show feels more light-hearted and breezy than some spy shows. Perfect for a summer series!
- The variety of characters (i.e., aliases) that each main character gets to portray – I would imagine working on a spy show is extra fun for the actors, because they get to play so many parts. And it takes a good actor to do this convincingly. The actors on Alias did this well, and so far so are Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, and Bruce Campbell. Take Anwar, for instance. In this episode she played her “real” character, Fiona the former IRA operative, but also pulled off these identities: a Southern girl interested in learning about foil embossing, an angry date who was embarrassed to be caught on a yacht that wasn’t actually her boyfriend’s, a level-headed Miami cop giving Greg and Bonnie a friendly warning, and Michael’s all-American girlfriend at dinner with his mom.
The Mystery of the Burn Notice Continues:
Michael discovers a bug (wired, not with wings) in his mom’s house, and soon figures out that her house is being surveilled from an unoccupied house down the street. Unfortunately, by the time he arrives, the culprits are on to him, they have set their equipment on fire, and they have fled the house and driven away. By the end of the episode, Michael gets a phone number from his mom that she was given by the agents who visited her. When he calls the number, someone who fails to identify himself tells Michael, “You’ve been a busy boy, Michael. Very impressive.” Michael demands to know who the man is, to which he replies, “Just a friend. Stay out of trouble, Michael, we’ll be in touch.” Who is this so-called friend, and what kind of game are they playing with our new favorite secret agent? The mystery continues… I know I’ll be back next week to find out more.
- Related Post: Taking Notice of Burn Notice