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Burn Notice: "No Good Deed"


Burn Notice

"No Good Deed"

Season 5 , Episode 4

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 Scott's still on vacation, so I'm back here again this week. I wouldn't want to make it sound as if I'm confusing getting paid to watch the USA network with digging ditches, or even telemarketing. Still, covering Burn Notice two weeks in a row is a quick way to heighten your respect for the person who gets to cover it on a more regular basis. It is, what's the phrase, a formula show, and when the spotlight hits you, you may have trouble thinking of much to say about it beyond reporting that the formula worked this time or that it mostly didn't. Last week, the formula pretty much worked for me. If it had worked again this week, I'd have been that much more hard-pressed for something to say, so I guess I can consider myself lucky, though that wasn't the first word I'd have applied to myself while I was watching this.

Tonight's case comes to us thanks to Barry, the chunky sartorial nightmare and money launderer who has reluctantly pitched in to pull Michael's nuts out of the fire on more than once occasion. It turns out that Barry has a brother, and someone liked the idea of people responding to this news by saying, "There are two of them?" that it happens here twice. But Barry's brother is actually an upstanding citizen and family man who's played by a clean-cut actor whose jerky, nervous-nerdy mannerisms could get him classified as the Cliff's Notes to Ed Helms. He disapproves of his brother and wants no truck with him, but he manages a teachers' retirement fund, and someone has obtained the means to hack into and pilfer it. In his desperation, he has come to Barry for help, and Barry thinks that Michael is his man. In the course of the evening, Barry's brother will come to better respect and appreciate his black sheep sibling, which I think is supposed to give me the warm and fuzzies. As of this writing, I have yet to feel my interest in Barry's standing in his family stir to life, but maybe after I've had the chance to sleep on it I'll feel differently.

Anyway, Fee, Sam, and Jesse set out to find a contact who can hook them up with the hacker who's trying to break into the retirement fund account. The contact turns out to be played by Paul Donald Wight, the seven-foot-tall, 485-pound professional wrestler who performs under the name "The Big Show".  That's how he's listed in the opening credits, and, not having previously been familiar with his work, I was relived to learn that he was The Big Show, because my first reaction to seeing that name flash on the screen was that Grant Show must be having a midlife crisis. The Big Show brings Michael to Eve, a professional hacker who--well, let Voiceover Michael take it from here. "Criminals who specialize in hacking," he explains, "are a special breed. They have the skills to find legitimate work, but they choose to steal instead. They're all about using their brains to dominate and control. That's why crafting a cover that will succeed with them is a challenge. They're not looking for an equal partner. They're looking for another loser to sneer at."

I know, right!? Every week, Michael Weston encounters all manner of killers, terror operatives, hustlers, sleaze merchants, and outright psychos, and though he sometimes has harsh words for them, seldom has he employed such a thoroughly sneering tone at an entire class of criminals. I especially like that part about how hackers could use their technical skills to work for a living, but instead choose to steal. This, mind you, is coming from a sometime professional assassin whose vast array od technical skills could, at the very least, get him his own HGTV show, who is doing a favor for an accounting whiz who works as a money launderer. The thought actually crossed my mind that maybe, just maybe, this speech was the work of someone who's gotten a little tired of hearing that Burn Notice isn't as good as it used to be and for whom hackers stand in for anyone who  writes about TV on a message board or a blog or a [kaff-kaff] much-loved pop culture web site. 

Those less paranoid than myself may prefer another explanation, which is that somebody contributed to this script after settling down with a Stieg Larsson novel and ending up sending it windmilling though the air into the nearest wall. Eve, a young woman who is a master of computer intrigue, and who wears raccoon eye makeup and blue nail polish and appears to have pronounced sadomasochistic tendencies, is a   half-assed rip-off of Lisbeth Salander, but repositioned as a charmless villain. This doesn't seem meant as parody, either. It's more as if the show decided to steal a character from a massively successful, international book-and-movie franchise, adapt her to its own purpose, and just kept its fingers crossed that nobody would notice. 

Michael, trying to court her by providing her with that aforementioned "loser to sneer at", disguised himself with a damp, fungusy-looking hairdo and a Sylvester Stallone accent, which sure did the trick. She double-crossed him, though, took him prisoner, and tortured him to get him to tell her what he was really up to. Confusingly, and disappointingly, though, even as she was trying to get to the bottom of what he was working on, she continued to buy that his Jerry Lewis-of-the-lower-depths persona was who he really was. I kept thinking that, if she was as smart as she was supposed to be, she'd begin her interrogation by ordering him to recomb his hair and stop talking like that, but I may have been selfishly thinking of my own needs. 

After Michael had finally wrested himself from the dominatrix's clutches, he made his way to CIA headquarters, to learn that somebody had thoughtfully given the ongoing story line a kick in the pants by plugging Grant Show and leaving him for dead, framing Michael in the process. The episode began with a shot of Michael, in a tux, making his way in slo-mo through the crowd at a charity auction; for me, it summoned memories of Patrick McGoohan in Danger Man, still the gold standard in realistic, believable yet sophisticated espionage series. It ended with Michael, stranded on a rooftop, being rescued by Fee, who drove up out of nowhere in Stuntman Mike's car from Death Proof and fired the Bat-rope up to him using what looked like the world's deadliest T-shirt cannon. Say this for Burn Notice: it'll never bore you by caring too much about consistency of tone.

Stray observations:

  • I'm not having too much trouble containing my grief over Grant Show. That said, I really enjoyed his last non-dying scene here, where he and Michael made slightly awkward small talk during a brief lull in an otherwise tense mission. Something about it reminded me of those moments in the old Warner Bros. cartoons where the coyote and the sheep dog shoot the shit together when they're not on the clock. 
  • Great Sam Axe moment of the week: being manicured while sunning himself by the pool (thus giving Bruce Campbell the chance to show off his slimmed-down, toned torso): "Ilsa's coming in on the G6 and I've got to prepare the vessel."