Burn Notice: “Long Way Back”


For two seasons, I’ve found myself in the awkward position of complaining when my second favorite event on the annual sports calendar comes around because USA would preempt Burn Notice for two weeks. When USA lost the broadcast rights to the US Open to ESPN, the knowledge that Michael, Sam, and Fi wouldn’t be interrupted was the only comfort. You see, ESPN does shitty tennis coverage whereas USA has done kickass work for twenty years.

And then I found out the summer finale was in August anyway. Aarrrrgggh!

Alright. That’s out of my system. The gang will be back in January-ish so tonight’s episode, the episodes I have saved on the Tivo, and seasons one and two are all I’ve got to tide me over. Will it be enough?

Tonight’s episode alone might do it.

Back in early June, Jeffrey Donovan tweeted about playing Michael McBride in the summer finale so I was prepared for it. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of awesome on display. From the smallest moments – Sam saying, “I’m getting Fi out of there no matter what,” to Michael’s revelation that Fi is not his past before plugging Strickler, this episode went deeper into these characters than we’ve gone in a long time.

Fi knows she isn’t the same person she used to be as well as Michael knows he has to find a middle path that will keep her in his life. Even Madeline realizes she has a place in her son’s life, different from what she’d like though it may be.

I don’t think there’s much I can offer in terms of analysis beyond what anyone can see: the family was stressed tonight by outside forces conspiring to tear it apart and hurt it. Under that stress, its bonds strengthened and it fought back. Strickler, in the hands of Ben Shenkman, proved to be a far worthier foil for Michael than Moon/Blood/Good/Stone/Detective chick. He was clearly competent and dangerous and carried himself with the cool confidence that comes from knowing you have the upper hand with an adversary. He never threatened, yet was always threatening. Likewise, Paul Blackthorne was a believable badass. That he and his team could succeed was a given.

Until Michael and Sam got eyes on the boathouse I could not guess whether the episode would end in a cliffhanger or a rescue and denouement, an advantage for writer Craig O’Neill that doesn’t offer itself but once or twice a year on Burn Notice. Because of the uncertainty – would Fi be shipped to Ireland and season 3.5 start overseas with an extraction and rescue mission or would it resolve tonight – the tension remained higher throughout than had this been any old episode. It wasn’t obvious that Fi’s brother wouldn’t die even after surviving the initial shooting. It wasn’t obvious Diego was going to die.

But for all the tension and all the excitement – explosions, a wickedly awesome stunt with Ms. Reynolds’ Buick, the standoff with Strickler – this episode was about these people we’ve grown to care about and the way they’ve grown as we’ve watched.

That’s storytelling at its finest right there.

What did everyone else think?