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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Burn Notice: “New Deal”

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As the seventh and final season begins, the members of that ol’ gang of ours have gone their separate ways. In last year’s finale, Michael Westen cut a deal with the CIA that let the rest of his crew off the hook for their latest shenanigans. Per the terms of this arrangement, Michael is back with the Agency in some capacity, which doesn’t sit well with Fiona at all.

“New Deal” opens with Michael washing some metaphorical blood off his hands, but without the traditional opening voice-over establishing the new normal. It’s evident that Michael is in rough shape, however, as he’s sporting the beard of shame and fighting shirtless in a bar for money. Flashbacks reveal he’s in the Dominican Republic, where he’s been sent by his latest handler, Strong (Jack Coleman of Heroes) to infiltrate a terrorist network run by one of Michael’s old pals. After months in deep cover posing as “an alcoholic ex-spy committing the occasional crime to pay the rent,” Michael finally attracts the attention of the new big bad, Burke (Adrian Pasdar, also of Heroes).

It’s a setup we’ve seen a million times on Burn Notice, except this time Michael’s friends aren’t around to lighten to mood. Michael is firmly in dark avenger mode here, but now he’s got nothing to avenge. He’s basically a tool of the CIA forced to go along with whatever the Agency needs to use him for in order to keep his loved ones in the clear. In this case, he must partner up with Burke’s henchman Pablo to blow up some satellite decryption equipment in a Blackwater-like defense contractor facility. It’s not the most elaborate caper in Burn Notice history—it’s basically “let’s disguise ourselves as janitors and blow some shit up”—but it still manages to go awry when Pablo gets hit during a firefight with security.

Back on the home front, Sam is lounging poolside while planning a party for his wealthy main squeeze, Jesse is working for a legit security firm, and Fiona is bounty hunting. Fi also has a new man in her life, her partner Carlos. (Place your bets now: Will Carlos turn out to be dirty? Will he die in a way that Fiona will somehow be able to blame on Michael? Will he make it past the fourth episode of this season?) And Maddie is attempting to gain legal custody of her grandson Charlie. The old team is reunited when a mystery man starts asking questions about Michael in a variety of phony accents. Of course, Maddie is the only one to fall for this, and gives up Michael’s status in less time than it would take to smoke one of the cigarettes she’s apparently given up.

Michael figures out his cover has been blown in time to get the drop on Pablo, who is somehow connected to the mystery man. Again, there’s not a lot of finesse involved: Michael runs a roadblock and wrecks his escape vehicle, getting away in time to let Pablo take the bullets. His cover is safe for the moment, but it looks like a reunion with the old team is coming sooner than later, as Michael and Strong are headed to Miami to track down the mystery man.

If that’s the case, it’s sort of a shame, as it would be fun to see the dynamics of a Westen-free Burn Notice team play out over a few episodes. This being the final season, however, it seems more likely that order will be restored before too long—although at this point, the endgame is hazy. For now, “New Deal” makes for a solid if not especially inspired start to the show’s final run: a villain with potential, some decent Jesse/Sam banter, and at least two instances of people running from explosions in slow motion. It’s hard to say what would constitute a satisfying wrap-up at this point, but here’s hoping Burn Notice doesn’t spend its last season spinning its wheels.


Stray observations:

  • Reminder: We are no longer covering Burn Notice on a weekly basis. Maybe we’ll drop in again at some point during the season, and we’ll certainly cover the series finale, but henceforth the show is out of the regular TV Club rotation.
  • Even in its seventh season, this show is still supplying useful tips for your next crime spree. Always disguise your C4 in nitrogen-based fertilizer!
  • Sandino is Sam’s masseur. He knows all there is to know about the most sensitive Axe region.
  • “I left my bomb robot at home, Sam.”