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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Burn Notice: "Bloodlines"

Illustration for article titled Burn Notice: "Bloodlines"

Burn Notice gets gritty this week—or as gritty as the USA Network gets, anyway—as Michael and company attempt to take down a human trafficking ring, stirring up some bad memories in the process.  Yes, even though he’s now got a regular gig with the CIA, it only takes those four magic words, “people are in trouble,” to nudge Michael Westen back into the freelancing game.  The nudger in this case is Jesse, whose new security job is likely to bring him into contact with all manner of potential clients. This week it’s Ryoko, a businesswoman whose sister has gotten mixed up with a Yakuza gang of human traffickers operating in Miami.

Once Fiona and Sam have managed to injure and capture Takeda, one of the Yakuza gangsters, Michael swoops in from his current CIA job (more about that later), posing as a rival trafficker. The twist is that Sam and Jesse have recruited Maddie to pose as a nurse, tend to Takeda's wounds, and slip him a shot of a drug that will get him talking. Burn Notice had begun to move in the direction of integrating Maddie into the team last season, giving Sharon Gless more to do than stand around smoking and fretting for a few minutes each week. “Bloodlines” continues that progression, taking the show into some darker emotional territory than usual in the process.

In an effort to encourage a sympathetic bond between Maddie and Takeda, Michael is forced to take on an antagonistic attitude toward his mother in the gangster’s presence. He yells at her, shoves her, and eventually smacks her in the face—a prearranged smack, yes, but one that packs a wallop nonetheless. The routine is effective, but it takes a toll on both mother and son, as unhappy memories of Michael’s father are stirred up by the emotional violence. Sharon Gless does some of her best work on the series to date in these scenes, as Maddie uses the very real pain she feels at seeing her son act this way to effectively gain Takeda’s trust. The show does go a little overboard in the end, as Maddie suddenly turns into The Transporter while driving Takeda to the warehouse where the trafficked girls are stowed, but maybe that was the Burn Notice way of saying, “Sorry we got so serious on you for a minute there.”

There’s no danger of taking the B-plot too seriously this week, as Michael’s CIA gig entails keeping an eye on nuclear engineer Carson Huxley, an asset who also happens to be a serial philanderer. Worried that Huxley will fall into bed with a rival spy, Max and Michael take shifts babysitting him—and then Fiona takes Michael’s shift while he’s dealing wit Takeda. I must admit, I was at first skeptical of Fiona’s plan to flirt with Huxley, then drive him 130 miles an hour down a busy roadway and scare him so badly that he flees the car in terror.  That didn’t really seem to qualify as “keeping an eye on him,” but Fiona has her own ways, and as it turns out, she scared Huxley straight, sending him back into the loving arms of his wife.

Fiona also now has her own shelf for her snowglobes at Michael’s place, as he’s certainly changed his tune about their relationship over the past season and change. Frankly, I found it more believable when he was blowing her off all the time, and I’m not sure how I feel about warm-and-fuzzy-boyfriend Michael, but hey, let’s give it a chance and see where these crazy kids end up. As it is, the episode MVP is Sharon Gless.  I definitely wouldn’t want Maddie on board for every case, but it makes for a nice change-of-pace now and then, and if it gives Gless a chance to do more than nag and smoke, I’m all for it.

Stray observations:

  • Is it just me, or does Gabrielle Anwar’s British accent sound even faker than her American one these days? Poor lass probably doesn’t know what she sounds like anymore.
  • I’m not sure whether this episode was originally scheduled to air third or what, but both IMDb and my cable company had “Mind Games” listed for tonight. That’s actually next week’s episode, featuring the return of brother Nate. Yay?
  • Wondering exactly how Michael spent his time between the end of last season and the beginning of this one? Wonder no more, as the new Burn Notice webcomic will tell all. I’ve read the first chapter, and, well, let’s just say I’m probably not curious enough to keep up with it.