Burn Notice, “Where There’s Smoke”

For the most part, despite their quality on an individual level, the last few episodes of Burn Notice have totally ran together for me. I watch them, I’m entertained and then it just completely seeps away from my brain. For most USA series, that’s fine, but I expect a little more from this one.

Thursday’s episode, “Where There’s Smoke,” tied the vagueness of the last handful of weeks together in a way that has me more interested for what I think is the mid-season finale this coming week. Per usual, the ongoing story was lost about four episodes in, as Michael and Jesse chased files, digital data, ghosts, etc. through a series of hoops that were created just to lull us into some sense of mythology progression. And even though the small beat with Jesse’s feelings for Fiona was totally obvious and kind of cheap, it reminded me of how personal this thing is going to get between Michael and Jesse when it actually comes to a head. The problem is, I’m not too sure that it’s going to come to a head next week and waiting until January sucks.

The series did a lot of legwork in the first two or three episodes in attempting to convince us that what Michael did to Jesse was horribly awful and that consequences could be coming and they could be drastic. However, amid a series of more standalone episodes and the aforementioned dilution of this story, it was all lost. Thankfully, this episode reminded us that Michael is lying to Jesse despite his good intentions and it’s getting tougher and tougher to cover his tracks the closer and closer the two of them get to Michael’s past. I would love to Jesse completely lose it when he finds out that Michael was the one that burned him and become the big, bad villain for the whole second half of the season. Jesse did say that he would kill the person that burned him, after all.

Additionally, this episode was probably the most exciting on a procedural level as well. It’s easy to bait the audience in by putting one of the team members’ lives at stake, but we haven’t had an episode with Michael scrambling to rescue Fi since the S3 mid-season finale, so I’m okay with it. I’m especially okay with it because the series really works when Michael loses his cool, starts yelling and is clearly out of control. He’s always so in control that the change of pace is a welcome one. The situation also gave Fiona more to do, and frankly, she hasn’t had a whole lot this season.

However, just as Jesse’s feelings for Fiona felt forced, so did the re-ignition of the flame between she and Michael. I know that’s how the series works — just as Madeline says they love each other, they hate each other — but that whole dynamic is only examined or brought to the forefront when the series needs to add an actual layer of drama. I’m not asking for them to be all over one another each week, but to not mention it for seven episodes and then have them fall back in love just because the story calls for it rings a little false to me. Again, I understand how the series works, just don’t insult my intelligence.

Either way, I’m ready for the mid-season finale — are you?

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