Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Burn Notice: “Desperate Times”

Illustration for article titled Burn Notice: “Desperate Times”

By now we know what to expect from a Burn Notice finale, whether of the mid-season (as in the case of “Desperate Times”) or season-ending variety. Michael and company will wrap up their current mini-arc with a high-octane barrage of mayhem, but the last five minutes of the episode will introduce them to their latest, biggest, baddest threat ever. This was guaranteed even before Michael gave Fi the always ill-advised “one last job” spiel. As these things go, “Desperate Times” is disappointingly by-the-numbers, although the final twist does offer up some enticing possibilities for the back half of season six.

Michael’s first mistake is bringing his CIA contact Card (John C. McGinley) in on the plot to track down Tyler Gray, the man who killed Nate. Card is initially helpful, setting Michael and the gang up with agency analyst Brady (Chad Coleman, formerly Cutty on The Wire), who feels responsible for blowing an earlier opportunity at taking down Gray. Equipped with an arsenal of the latest high-tech weaponry, the team is set to head down to Panama and ambush Gray at his munitions warehouse. But first, they must get through the Maddie scene I’ve been dreading for weeks.

To her credit, Sharon Gless is excellent at conveying Maddie’s emotional tug-of-war between blaming Michael for her son’s death and fearing the same will happen to him. Even so, the scene plays a bit like an obligation Matt Nix and company put off for as long as they could. We’ve been down the road of “disapproving Maddie” so many times, it’s hard to get invested in another iteration of the same scenario, no matter how strong the performances might be. And we’re not done with Maddie yet! After Michael and the gang depart, she heads down to CIA headquarters to further work through her feelings with a visibly uncomfortable Card. The Agency man puts her mind at ease with a clumsy metaphor about two bottles breaking in different ways…but isn’t there something just a little suspicious about this guy?

Hold that thought, because down in Panama, Jesse has lost his shoes. Instead of getting the drop on Gray (now revealed as The Shield’s Lemonhead, Kenny Johnson), Gray and his team get the drop on our heroes during naptime. They’re forced to improvise an escape, leaving behind most of their souped-up gizmos (and Jesse’s footwear, in a running gag I enjoyed more than I probably should have). Now it’s time to do what they do best—make homemade flash grenades out of soda cans and aluminum shavings. Michael and Fiona sharing a tender moment while shoving ceramic fragments into shotgun shells is about as romantic as it gets on this show.

Several explosions later, Michael finally has Gray right where he wants him. All that’s left is to wait for Card’s extraction team to arrive. But Michael, who just can’t get betrayed often enough, has once again been played for a patsy by an agent of the United States government. Gray informs Michael that Card intended this op to be a suicide mission for the Burn Notice gang, a turn of events Michael confirms with a phone call that brings in a strike team in lieu of a rescue squad. Given that Brady had only a few minutes earlier given a backstory speech about his father being killed, it doesn’t come as a huge shock when he takes one for the team, drawing the fire of the jet fighters while Michael and company make their getaway.

So here we go again—another Big Bad and yet another layer to the onion. But here’s hoping the show is able to get some mileage out of the notion that Michael and his pals are believed to be dead. It’s a game-changing cliffhanger that could lead to some entertaining developments when the show returns this winter…or it could turn out to be the most far-fetched twist Burn Notice has tried to pull off yet.

Stray observations:

  • The scene in which our heroes jump from one building to another featured some of the least convincing stunt-doubling I’ve seen since Face/Off. If that was Bruce Campbell, I’m a monkey’s uncle.
  • Is it just me, or was Gabrielle Anwar’s accent all over the place in this episode? I mean, even more so than usual?
  • While I’m picking on actors, it looks like Cutty from The Cut hasn’t been spending much time sparring down at the gym lately.
  • “Mr. Chin, whatever his name is.” That’s Chuck Finley to you, mister!
  • “You’re not the one trying to outrun a sniper in hobo shoes, Sam.”