Thursday, June 28, 2007

Burn Notice: And you thought being an active spy was hard?

Burn Notice, USA’s latest summer offering, is a clever, well-acted, generally awesome summer drama. You’ve got action, you’ve got comedy, you’ve got sarcastic narration, and you’ve got Bruce Freaking Campbell. What’s not to love, right? We begin with Michael Westen, a contractor for the CIA who is having a Very Bad Day. You see, right in the middle of arranging a big deal with a warlord wannabe in Nigeria, he gets a “burn notice” from the CIA. Blacklisted. Can’t work for them anymore. Ruh roh. Being the super bad-ass spy that he is, he just barely manages to escape with his life. You know, after a fight, a motorcycle chase, and a semi-conscious plane flight back to the States.

We rejoin Michael in Miami (his hometown), where he wakes up to find himself under the reluctant care of his ex-girlfriend Fiona (who used to rob banks for the IRA), and under surveillance by the FBI. After giving the feds the slip, Michael checks into a hotel…or at least tries to, until he discovers that his accounts have been frozen. When the CIA fires a spy, we learn, they remove all avenues by which the spy does his or her job, since the CIA can’t really remove the spy’s skills. Michael tries to contact his case officer by payphone (do those really still exist?), but the CIA operator refuses to connect him. One fake pipe bomb in the mail later (works for me every time), and Dan the case officer gets in touch with Michael, instructing him to lay low and stay in Miami. Dan can’t give him any information on the burn notice, other than to tell him that whoever issued it really wanted to shut him down.

After giving his watchers the slip again, Michael goes to see Lucy, an ex-spy. She doesn’t know why he’s been burned, but calls the awesomely named Sam Axe (BRUCE CAMPBELL!!!), “The Buddy,” to see if he’ll share a job with Michael so’s Michael can get some cash. Sam, apparently, is a drunk womanizer who also used to be a spy.

The job is for a rich businessman’s caretaker, Javier, who seems to be in a spot of trouble. The businessman was robbed of $22 million in jewelry and paintings, and only the caretaker had the security code. The businessman seems pretty sure the caretaker is innocent, and a quick trip to Barry the Money Launderer gets Michael in touch with an art dealer, who puts him on the trail of the real thief. Javier’s boss. Who robbed himself for the insurance money, only to set Javier up as the fall guy. Apparently, the rich guy is something of a crook. With a little bit of blackmail, a jury-rigged listening device, a carjacking, and a foiled kidnapping attempt, Javier is safe.

In the midst of all this, Michael finds an apartment with a Russian expatriate landlord who is well-familiar with Michael’s reputation. The apartment is apparently above some sort of underground club, and in an angry drug dealer’s turf. I smell a prank war! It’s all fun and games until someone’s knees get shot, man. So yeah, not so much with the drug dealer anymore. Michael’s also got a nagging, hypochondriac mother, but I doubt he’ll deal with her in the same way.

So basically, we’ve got a spy who’s not allowed to spy anymore (or know why he’s not allowed to spy anymore), with three true allies in Miami: Fiona, Sam, and Lucy. Oh, and apparently Sam and Lucy are talking to the feds, but hopefully just enough to keep them off Michael’s back. Anyway, seems the feds can be kept happy if Michael keeps his head down and stays out of trouble. Anyone see that as a possibility? No? Okay. Let’s all get psyched for next week’s episode, then, because Jeffrey Donovan is rockin’ this show hardcore. Thursdays at 10 on USA, baby.