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

Burn Notice: “Split Decision”

Illustration for article titled Burn Notice: “Split Decision”

“Split Decision” is an apt title for an episode that finds Michael Westen’s ever-expanding crew breaking up into multiple mini-teams, resulting in a swiftly-paced hour that never lingers too long on any given scenario. Burn Notice at its best usually allows for a little downtime, but this change of pace works well enough. At least it’s not boring.

Last week, Rebecca spared Sam and Michael on the promise that they’d help her find her brother Trent before Anson could kill him. The search for Trent hasn’t panned out, so Michael hits on an alternate scheme: infiltrating the mobsters who are searching for Trent and convincing them that he’s not the one who sold them out. Michael really hasn’t gone into full-fledged character mode yet this season, but he gets his chance this week to work on his bumbling, not-so-bright criminal type. Posing as an ex-cellmate of mobster Wes’ late father, Michael tries to sell Wes on the idea that the real traitor is identified in a secret file hidden in a police lockup.

Jeffrey Donovan is pretty good at selling these doofus-like characters, although I always wonder why successful criminals like Wes are so quick to go along with plans hatched by dumb guys. But there’s not much time to think about it this week, just because there’s so much else going on. Among the odd couple pairings are Jesse and Nate (who only appears in the episode long enough to get zapped by his own Taser—a turn of events I can totally support), Fiona and Maddie, and my personal favorite, Sam and Rebecca. It’s funny—last week’s episode spent a lot of time with those two, and it was easily my least favorite of the season so far. But there’s a different chemistry between them in “Split Decision,” a kind of snappy banter that goes down smoothly. I’m not saying I see romance brewing for the two of them, but I wouldn’t mind seeing this pairing resurrected in the weeks ahead.

On the Fiona end of things, Michael’s old training officer Case (John McGinley) wants the ex-gunrunner to prove herself a friend of the CIA by flipping on one of her suppliers. Fi is surprisingly quick to do so, I thought, but it turns out her contact is only willing to deal with her or Michael. Since she’s not getting out of her orange jumpsuit anytime soon, this requires Michael to multi-task—first helping Wes to retrieve the file and escape from the police facility, then going along with the mobster when he concludes that only his wife could have betrayed him. I appreciate that the show didn’t go soft here, with Michael figuring out a way to get the wife off the hook, too. Burn Notice is guilty of that sort of back-pedaling on occasion, but here it seemed Michael really didn’t care what happened to her, as long as Wes dropped his search for Trent.

In the end, Michael makes the meeting with Fiona’s contact, thus allowing the CIA to capture him, thus making Fiona an official CIA asset. That’s not enough to get her out of jail, so the hunt for Anson continues. Here’s hoping the show sticks with the current format, exploring different pairings of the Michael Westen super-team members, at least for a little while longer. It’s fun to see what kind of sparks the different combinations produce… and it’s also fun to see Nate get tased, so more of that, please.

Stray observations:

  • I never would have pegged Jesse for a Queen fan. He seems more like a smooth jazz guy.
  • “For all I know, the guy wandered into the wrong section of Bed, Bath and Beyond.” Now that would be some episode. Maybe the season finale.
  • I’ll be in Vacationland next week, and I’m not sure who will be filling in for me on the Burn Notice beat, but I am sure whoever it is will do a fantastic job.