Burn Notice: Friends and Family

bn301-04burnnoticeMichael Westen is back for his third Miami summer of explosions, gun fights, covert operations, cover identities, tumultuous relationships and helpful how-to narration as Burn Notice begins its third season on USA. The premiere picks up right where last season ended, with Michael being forced to jump out of a helicopter into the ocean after choosing to disregard the warning from the people who burned him that they had been holding his enemies at bay but would cease to do so if he didn’t play ball. Consequently, Michael has a nice five mile swim back to shore he must contend with.

He makes it and collapses onto the sand. Hell, just watching it I felt exhausted. But Michael doesn’t even get a break after that! Nope, nearby cops look at him with suspicion (he is after all swimming in a suit) and Michael is forced to run from them. He eludes them and holes up in a nearby hotel while they swarm outside. He calls Fiona through some spy voodoo with wires in the hotel basement. She’s happy that he’s still alive but tells him that she’s been listening to the police radios and knows that he is utterly surrounded. Michael then tells us via voiceover that just because you can escape from a situation doesn’t mean you always should. Thus, he surrenders to the cops. What a day.

In jail, proudly displaying a snazzy neon orange prison jumpsuit, Michael gets a visit from Sam. He tries to turn Michael’s frown upside down so to speak by telling him that although he is still as burned as he ever was, the people who burned him have ceased keeping Michael out of the police computers. “So the good news is I’m being investigated by the cops and the Foreign Intelligence Agency,” Michael asks. “It’s a change,” Sam replies. Sam also informs Michael that his mother Madeline is okay, but she’s a little pissed about having part of her house blown up (as you’ll recall, that was Sam’s doing at the end of last season as he was trying to save Madeline from armed thugs). For a moment, Michael wonders if he’s safer in the slammer. At least his mother can’t get to him in there.

But Michael isn’t in jail for very long because a figure from his past arrives to bail him out. This is Harlan, an old comrade. But just like anyone else, Harlan has an ulterior motive. He tells Michael that he wants his help with a girl named Marta (it’s always a girl, isn’t it?). The mission is not wooing however. It seems that a man named Rufino Cortez is scamming Marta’s father out of their land. Why and how I didn’t quite get.burnnoticenup_134433_0130

After a failed break-in at Cortez’s nightclub, Michael has his associate Barry package him as Tom Wellington, a lawyer representing some cronies interested in making a deal with Rufino. The plan is to ambush Rufino at the meet and kidnap him. But of course Michael doesn’t just get to meet with Rufino. First, he has to meet with the middleman, a sleazeball named Falcone, who dislocated Michael’s arm to show how tough he is (Michael can’t fight back because he has to hold up his cover identity as a whiny lawyer). From there things go awry, and there’s a significant twist that changes the stakes and Michael’s position dramatically.

From there we get some signature Burn Notice action, including sequences like a good hand-to-hand fight (though it was edited a little fast for my taste) and jumping through glass windows into the ocean, only to have the ocean set on fire by a fuel drum. To be honest, not all of the A storyline plot elements really gelled for me, but the episode does set up that Michael still wants to find his way back into his agency and his old career because he’s a patriot, but doing so will jeopardize his relationship with Fiona. And she’s not happy about that. And she’s always armed. Not a good combo. Jeffrey Donovan and the rest of the cast continue to be in strong, charismatic form, and they seem like they’re having almost as much fun making the show as viewers are watching it.

Season 3, Episode 1: Friends and Family (originally aired June 4, 2009)

For more on Burn Notice, click here.

Thursdays at 10/9c on USA

Photographs courtesy of Glenn Watson, NBC Universal, and USA

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