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Burn Notice: Devil You Know

Creator Matt Nix wrote and directed last night’s third season finale of Burn Notice. He did an excellent job on the latter duty, especially since he has only directed one other episode in the show’s run. The writing was mostly solid too, but more than a couple of things left me scratching my head rather vigorously (at least until my scalp got sore, then I stopped).

The episode picks up right after last week’s. Gilroy, after hoodwinking Michael and succeeding in diverting the plane with the mysterious prisoner, was double-crossed and killed by the aforementioned mysterious prisoner. How a prisoner on a maximum security transport plane managed to get a gun and shoot a devious black ops psycho like Gilroy and then attach a bomb to him is one of my head-scratchers. Maybe we’re not meant to know. Maybe the point is that all we need to know is that this mysterious prisoner—who we learned is named Simon—is even more formidable than Gilroy. Simon is played by Garret Dillahunt, who I swear to God has played a villain in just about every show and movie released in the last couple of years, including Life, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Road, Damages, White Collar, CSI, and Lie To Me…I’m almost sick of him.

Michael dodges the explosion that eviscerates Gilroy and takes off on foot, the cops hot on his trail. He gets away on a jet ski…and yet, immediately after, Feds show up at Michael’s loft and at Maddie’s house, demanding that she deliver Michael to them. How do they know who Michael is if they didn’t catch him? Cops just saw some random white guy running away. I mean granted, the people who burned Michael did withdraw their protection of him at the end of season two, and a local cop named Paxson was after him at the beginning of this season, so it’s likely that Michael is on some local law enforcement lists…but it still seemed a little flimsy to me. Head-scratcher #2.

Michael regroups with Sam and Fiona at their “emergency emergency spot.” Michael thinks that Simon (whoever he is) must have had some local explosives expert in Miami help him set up the bomb that took out Gilroy (though again, how a guy stuck in a deep prison in Poland could set all this stuff up in Miami is hard to believe). Fiona volunteers to use her many connections to help track the bombmaker down in hopes that if they find him, they can find Simon.

Except Michael doesn’t have to find Simon, because Simon finds him. He lures Michael to a local tv store by blowing up an adjacent food stand and then displaying Michael’s mug on all the tv screens in the front display of the store. Michael walks in and sees even more tv screens. These screens have images of past operations that, Simon explains, he was responsible for. The catch: apparently, the people who burned Michael transferred all of the incidents from Simon’s file to Michael’s. They determined Simon was a loose cannon and locked him up, and gave his reputation to Michael so that they could burn Michael in hopes of recruiting him to come work for their nefarious organization.

I think. I think that’s what the deal is. But I gotta tell you, it’s driving me crazy at this point that we have no idea who these burnmasters (yes, I’ve decided that is a word) really are and what they are grooming Michael for. I hope Matt Nix and his team give us some answers sooner rather than later and don’t emulate the ridiculously amorphous and underdeveloped dastardly organizations that are an unfortunate hallmark of NBC’s Chuck.

At any rate, Michael understandably wants to slam Simon back in…well, the slammer. The problem is that Simon has set up another bomb, this one in a hotel. If Michael doesn’t follow his instructions, he’ll detonate and kill a whole bunch of innocent souls. Simon wants Michael to get “Management,” the people who burned the both of them, back into Miami to have a little chat. “Management,” is once again represented by Frasier’s dad…er, ah, I mean John Mahoney. So once again, Michael has to play ball with a lunatic. I have to say, though, that Gilroy was a much more charismatic baddie than Simon. Maybe it was the accent. Dillahunt was better on Life.

There was a rooftop escape that involved a way too convenient garbage chute, but plenty of highlights make up for it. Some of them include: Sam and Fiona driving their car through the bombmaker’s house, defusing the hotel bomb, Michael swimming for his life and breaking into his own loft, flipping cars, a helicopter explosion, and finally, an inventive, brutal, and surprisingly bloody fight scene between Michael and Simon that showcases Jeffrey Donovan’s considerable choreography skills. Fiona doesn’t have a great deal to do, but Sharon Gless has some of her most intense scenes yet, and she nails them.

The cliffhanger is the darkest and perhaps most puzzling season ender yet. Part of me is happily impressed and intrigued by it, while another part is pissed that I have to wait another three months to see what happened.

Season 3, Episode 16: Devil You Know (Originally aired March 4, 2010)

For more on Burn Notice, click here.

Thursdays at 10/9c on USA

Photographs courtesy of NBC Universal and Glenn Watson.

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