Before we get on with the explosions and the double-crosses and whatnot, I’d like to thank Phil Nugent for filling in for me last week while I completed my community service. I know no one is happier that I’m back on the case than Phil, who was overcome by existential dread at the thought of covering an episode of Burn Notice featuring Gavin “Mr. Gwen Stefani” Rossdale as Fiona’s ex. Believe me, I’m none too excited about spending time with the lead singer of what may well be my least favorite band in rock history, but fortunately Mr. Rossdale is used sparingly. And greasily. So very, very greasily.
Anyway, you may recall that last week Michael found himself on a boat with a fancy bomb rigged up to a depth finder (a trick that even impresses Fiona). As “Hard Out” begins, Michael has tracked the source of the C4 used in the explosive to the Soviet Union circa 1988, which isn’t very helpful. Fiona knows a guy who can help them trace it from there, a charmer named Armand who helped smuggle her out of Ireland back in the day. Of course, Armand is played by the aforementioned Rossdale, who spends his handful of scenes attempting to exude Eurosleaze menace. Personally, I’m rarely terrified by an international criminal who wears his hair in a bun, but maybe that’s just me. Armand agrees to help, but wants a favor in return, which means Fiona and Sam have to extract a truck full of armor-piercing rounds from a weapons facility.
Michael would love to help out, but he’s got another CIA gig to attend to, as Agent Pearce has recruited him and Jesse for an extraction mission on a small Caribbean island. This is one of those plots that takes forever to explain, but basically boils down to a group of bad guys in fatigues trying to steal top secret information in order to do terrible things. The chief bad guy is named Vanderwaal (not VanDerWerff), a mercenary for a group called Optimal Outcomes, which I think is a temp agency I once worked for. In order to get off the island alive with the top secret file, Michael, Pearce, and Jesse pose as a security team employed by the same international crime syndicate that hired Vanderwaal.
Once all the gobs of exposition out of the way, this turns out to be a generally fun mission, which basically revolves around Michael’s ability to perform Jedi mind tricks on everyone who really should have simply shot him on sight. This is especially enjoyable this time because it doesn’t require him to adopt any sort of silly persona, just a very slight variation on his usual Type-A spy self. The goings-on back in Miami are a little more standard, as Sam and Fiona recruit Maddie to dump a smoke bomb inside the munitions plant, then use the distraction to make off with the truck full of armor-piercing shells. (Surely there must have been more to it than that, but that’s all I’ve got.)
It is a little odd that Burn Notice would do an episode featuring Fiona’s ex (a fact we don’t learn for sure until the last scene, although last week’s previews and the cable guide both refer to him that way) and then keep Michael and Fi apart for almost the entire hour. With that setup, there’s usually an implied promise of fireworks between old boyfriend and new, but Michael and Armand never even share a scene together. I’m not really complaining, but I did find it a tad peculiar. Instead, we get a serviceable, meat-and-potatoes episode that doesn’t noticeably advance the story of Michael finding out who framed him for Max’s murder. But then again, not noticeably advancing the story has been the show’s m.o. since the beginning, so there’s not much point in complaining about it now.
- When all else fails and it looks like your cover is blown, nothing throws your enemies off-guard like the slow clap. It works every time.
- Did I detect some sparks between Jesse and Pearce? Or was that just the magnesium from the marine flare?
- Once again, it wasn’t a great week for fans of Sam Axe, but at least he’s got those two months worth of free mojitos coming his way.