I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I think Burn Notice needs to tone down the narration. Now hear me out. The Michael Westen School of Spy Craft has always been one of the most consistently entertaining elements of the series, no question. It gives you the illusion of access to a much stranger and more complicated world, it reinforces Michael's credentials as an expert in, well, everything, and the voice over lines can be mordantly funny or moving, juxtaposing crisp, calmly delivered instructions against their often chaotic on-screen results. But the past few episodes, I've started to notice how an over-use of the device can cause the tidbits to blur together. You get so used to hearing Westen explaining something that you're not looking forward to it as much as you used to. Plus, the longer the series runs, the more difficult it's inevitably going to be to come up with tips that aren't just slightly rephrased repeats of information we've heard half-a-dozen times before.
It's not a deal-breaker yet, and "Partners In Crime" had some good bits (I liked the reasoning behind Sam posing as a low-level crime scene techie), but it was something I've been thinking about. As Noel mentioned in his recap last week, watching this series as a critic forces me to consider it in ways that probably wouldn't occur to me if I didn't have to come up with a thousand words each week. Like how we could stand for a little less narration. Or how maybe the show really does need the over-arcing plot after all, because despite the fact that the Wonderful World of Gilroy didn't yield much pay off in "Partners," it at least gives the show something more to work towards than an endless series of reshuffled story elements.
This episode was an odd one, because it had a few surprises I wasn't expecting, some great jokes, and delightfully little Maddy, but it also didn't really hold together all that well. Sam brings Michael in on an what looks like an open and shut embezzling case. The client, Isabella, runs a fashion house, and she believes that one of her associates, Tim Hastings, is robbing from her. Michael and Sam go to work, and everybody's ready to send Tim away, when Isabella turns up dead, and Tim winds up framed for it.
That was a decent twist, wasn't it? There's not a ton of death on this show, at least not for the good guys, and bumping the "client" off before the halfway mark is a strong, stake-raising choice. The problem is, Isabella's death never really seemed to mean a whole lot to anyone. There were a few sad looks and so forth, but considering how hard Michael drives himself, it's odd that he didn't acknowledge the depth of the team's failure here. Obviously these guys have seen their share of bodies, but "Partners" lacked a sense of shift, post-shooting, to make that shooting justified. As villains went, Damon was a loser--a bad liar (despite Michael's narration to the contrary) and a worse idiot. His partner, Rick, was a little more threatening, but we never got a sense of why he was involved with this, and as a character, he didn't do enough to really register beyond yet another grim-faced dude with a gun.
In fact, this whole episode seemed generic and random at the same time. The fashion house setting adding hardly anything (is it just me, or are we getting a lot more extended bikini montages lately? it's almost padding-level), and Rick and Damon's plan to kill Tim via a bomb was bizarre, a Batman villain moment in a series that usually tries to at least be within shouting distance of plausibility. Even Michael's cover, the drug dealing creep "Max," didn't have the usual Westen flair. "Partners" had a lazy, cobbled together feel, not a complete mess but difficult to really get a handle on.
And the super-plot? Fi turns a Polish bureaucrat into an asset after Michael screws up the approach. I'm not really feeling the suspense here that these sequences should have. Gilroy has potential, but so far he doesn't seem like an immediate enough threat to matter. I'll admit I was interested in finding out who's on the plane--it's a little disappointing to discover that Gilroy is just the cover for another, presumably more evil guy (I guess if the show runs long enough, Michael will end up battling a shark with Hitler's brain), but both Fi and Michael were terribly concerned about the whole thing, and I trust them well enough. We're moving to the end of the season (two episodes left!). Here's hoping we get another game changer like last year.
- Sam's two CSI: Miami jokes were the highlight of the episode: "Looks like murder... is in style this season." and "It looks like our killers' plan... is coming apart at the seams."
- The coin flip exchange was also good: "Call it." "Heads." "Cheater."
- But man, was Michael's "Whoever killed Isabella sure did their homework" terrible. I generally don't worry too much about the dialog on Burn Notice; when it's good, it's good, and when it's not, the actors usually do okay. But that one stuck out.