Burn Notice: “Fearless Leader”


And so the saga, nay the tragedy, of Detective Paxson comes to a close. I’m surprised she didn’t literally whimper as she trudged off the screen. For a show that rarely missteps, Paxson was a rolled ankle, stubbed toe, and nail fungus wrapped in a somewhat pretty package. ((If you think that metaphor’s tough to parse, you should see the convoluted mess it was *before* the edit.))

After the first two episodes of the Paxson arc I thought Bloodgood and her character showed some promise; seeing how the arc played itself out I’ve had to reconsider my position. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Imdb only has Bloodgood listed for the three episodes in which she’s already appeared, indicating this arc is complete, though I expect we’ll see her later this half-season or sometime in the following half as an ally to Michael and the team. I do not look forward to her return.

At least we had some fun moments with Nick Turturro, my favorite being Fi’s lobster/bug line and the whole of the bush league smash and grab at the dry cleaners.

The Recap

Not a super episode but there was some fun to be had. Michael’s got a tail – which he can lose seemingly at will ((I’d like to comment here on how silly Paxson’s approach is. It’s trivial – really frighteningly so in most jurisdictions – to get a legal warrant to secretly install a GPS tracker on a vehicle. After all, when your car is on the road it’s in the public and you’ve “given up your expectation of privacy.” It’s less exciting than the mano a mano scenes of cop and suspect we’ve all come to expect but it’s better police work. A real detective would have quietly gotten the warrant and would keep track of Michael’s wherabouts from afar. Which could have led to an interesting hack from Michael to jam the GPS or trick it or remove it undetected. Oh well.)) – making life difficult and dangerous now and for the future. In order to permanently lose the tail and cool Paxson’s interest in him he decides to help her take down the other guy she hassles non-stop. ((Yeah, it would be pretty easy for Michael to convince the department that this cop – who already has a complaint for harassing a suspect – was harassing him as well. More unusual sloppiness from the writers.))

Michael gets in with Tommy to get close to the public enemy, Matheson. In the process he realizes Tommy’s a decent human being in way over his head with a ruthless thug. Bringing Tommy under his aegis is the natural reaction from this Michael. The Michael of three years ago might not have cared about Tommy’s survival, but his time in Miami and out of the spy game has returned a bit of humanity to him.

After the twists, turns, and setbacks of last week’s superior episode, this week was pretty humdrum. The stakes never felt particularly high and Matheson never seemed particularly dangerous. In the end he wasn’t this big bad Paxson and Tommy had made him out to be; he was just a smalltime hood running a little gang. As an anonymous commenter noted on Alan Sepinwall’s review, big bad Matheson is so smalltime he’s bagging meth on this big heist. A gangster should be sending in his henchmen while he sips mojitos on the beach.


As if we didn’t already know Sam’s a great guy, we get confirmation in the guise of Stacey Conolly, IRS. It takes Sam a while to figure it out but an old baseball card amongst Stacey’s files triggers his memory of the young son of a woman he used to date. ((And I’ll say it for the third and final time tonight…Stacey’s mom has got it goin’ on.)) Of course Sam wanted to keep hanging out with the little guy after the breakup but mom wanted nothing to do with Sam; Stacey’s been going through life without a father figure or drinking sensei since.

If this is a one-shot it was a weak C-story ((B prime?)) for Sam. If Stacey is going to recur it could prove to be an interesting development. I’ll reserve judgment.

On the Fi front, things are cycling through a pattern we’ve seen before. Michael is out, free, unencumbered, and unwatched. Fi wants him to stay that way even though Michael knows full well someone else will surely be coming after him next without an agency’s protection. She’s not thinking of consequences, only of her wants and needs. Something’s got to give.

Chin Bits

  • “It’s been building up for a while. Something about deducting mojitos.”
  • “Alrighty! Can you bring us another spoon? You’re not going to eat that cherry, are you?”
  • “Time to deploy the Sam Axe arsenal.”
  • “There was this thing…and then the gun didn’t have an owner anymore.”
  • “I have a headache in my eye.”
  • “You were the little boy with the girl name.”
  • “By standing in between them?”
  • “It’s called a fuzzy navel. It’s not really my kind of thing but we’ve got to start you off easy. Work your way up to the good stuff.”

Important Lessons in Spycraft

  • “To the educated eye, a prison tat tells a story. Where you did time. Why you did time. And who you did it with. It’s a little like a job resume for criminals.”
  • “Every kid who ever went to a new school knows the secret to fitting in: copy everyone else. Spies do the same thing.”
  • “If you really need to make a point, sometimes there’s no substitute for a good shiner.”
  • Placing a bug on someone is easier “if they always carry something you can reproduce.”
  • “Superglue is cheap, quiet, and powerful. Lay it on thick and force dry it with canned air and you can cut bonding time to less than a minute.”

Final Thoughts

Wow. You know sometimes I’ll watch an episode a couple of times to put together one of these recaps and on the second or third viewing I’ll start to appreciate it a lot more than on first viewing. A good episode will suddenly reveal itself to be a very good episode. Tonight is a first. I actually think this episode was worse now that I’ve rewatched and written this. Why? Easy enough to figure out. Take a look at the lessons in spycraft. Michael’s voiceovers, usually so entertaining and interesting, could not possibly have been more banal and boring. What’s worse is that they’re not even well written.

Every kid who ever went to a new school knows the secret to fitting in: copy everyone else.

Really? Every . . ever . . . . . everyone? If it had a nice meter to it I could excuse the repeating pattern but it doesn’t. It’s begging for a red pen.

Oh well. There have to be duds to make us better appreciate the brightly glowing gems like last week. But what a fall, to go from the Cantenna to “superglue is sticky.”

On a personal note, sorry about taking last week off. I’ve been slammed at my paying gig of late and needed a little break. I’ll do my best not to miss any more of the summer’s great offerings, especially not ones as phenomenal as “End Run”. If you want my take on it, think how much you enjoyed it triple it.