Burn Notice "Down and Out" Review: Fugitivity

By Ryan Sandoval

Nov 30, 2012

Burn Notice S06E14: "Down and Out"

So Michael and the Burn Crew enlisted career smuggler Calvin Schmidt, played by guest-star Patton Oswalt, to help them flee the country while Maddie fended off advances from the steely nerved Olivia Riley (Sonja Sohn) and her CIA minions. Sam struggled emotionally with leaving Elsa in the lurch and Fiona acted as go-between for her lover and his mother while the crew performed a job for the reclusive smuggler that was necessary if they were to get the heck out of Dodge. "Down and Out" smartly used Patton Oswalt (of Ratatouille, Young Adult, and everything hilarious under sun) as much as possible, with verbose lines like ""I could smuggle the Queen of England wearing the crown jewels as a bikini." It will take more than a few beers to scrub that image from my mind. While Burn Notice has seen its share of special guest-stars, Oswalt's turn on the spy-go-round felt especially tailored to give the comedian-actor a sampler plate of espionage life. He chucked a flash grenade, fired automatic weapons, got tortured in the back of a Syrian restaurant, and even legally died for a few minutes. Also he had two of the funniest jabs on Jesse, separately referring to the hair-challenged cohort as "Sinead O'Handsome" and "Black George Clooney," nicknames the writers must have thrown at Oswalt as giddy fans. An outspoken "nerd," he even got to off-handedly refer to Bruce Campbell's Sam Axe by the legendary horror actor's real-life moniker "The Chin."

All in all, the episode largely succeeded because of the comedian's ability to realistically play along with the normal Miami action format: team needs something, they call in a favor, that favor has strings attached, they formulate plan, that plan gets screwed up, and they barely succeed by thinking on the fly. This is nothing new for Burn Notice or TV in general. However, without Oswalt's strong performance, "Down and Out" would have been a ho-hum, mission-client adventure—though one that at least pulled out some emotional depth in Sam and provided viewers with a little backstory on Jesse (he once had a girlfriend from Antigua?).

Olivia Riley positioned herself as Maddie's opponent in a game of deception that found mother-Westen pulling secret rake signals on her garage and zooming past speeding trains with the same reckless abandon as her son. So this is where he gets it from! Riley as a character seemed to bug more than a few folks in the comments section with her introduction, and she hasn't done anything to stand out as a unique individual beyond her ability to make people sign forms in an intimidating manner. One thing that had me scratching my head was how she's supposed to be some legend in the CIA, yet failed to block off the surrounding streets to the harbor in the episode's cold opening, but one does not dissect gossamer, I guess.

As far as spy facts learned, who knew curling irons could be used to simulate electrocution by car battery? I know what I'm going as next Halloween (torture victim). Also, I wish that when Fiona told Schmidt, "There are at least half a dozen things in here that I could use to blow you into little bitty pieces, and I would use the dust to powder my nose," (brilliant line) she'd gone on to detail those things. Refrigerator magnets? Couch cushions? DVR Remotes? Just curious.

,p> A faked torture situation and one daring poison later, Michael successfully duped the former Syrian Intelligence Officer (well, he was still Syrian, just not an ex-intellig—never mind), but Sam still came away with a case of the blues. Squawkin' romance, I found myself a little concerned about the bad guy's ex-girlfriend whose cover had been blown and, even though he had other things to worry about what with being carted off to jail and all, his former flame still risked having her door kicked in at any moment by global cronies. Oh well, every plan has its casualties. Speaking of which, I hope Westen honors his mother's request to say goodbye before he splits for the underground, but by the looks of next week's promo Michael won't make it far.

Same goes for Sam, whose cliffhanger this episode lost all impact when we saw that basically no one makes it out of the country. Luckily though, we'll get a little more Patton Oswalt as he continues to make a strong case for the inclusion of a geek-type in the Westen Crew. Or no? Maybe he would just slow everyone down. Eh, he had such a big presence (in a good way) that the rest of the gang kind of looked stale going through their normal mission-formula motions. I didn't mind this, but I'd like to see Burn Notice shake up the plug-and-play elements of each outing a little more going forward.

BURNING QUESTIONS:

1. What could be done to improve Riley as a character?

2. How will Westen make things right with the CIA?

3. Will Riley eventually break Maddie?

4. How did you find Oswalt as a guest?

5. Will Maddie go to the big house?

6. How do you think this season will end?

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  • bradm11 May 19, 2013

    Patton Oswalt Sucks in this show. He looked at the camera, also almost laughed during his lines. I like him, but he seemed so out of place. He did not fit and did not seem believable in the least.

  • smorbie Dec 02, 2012

    I think Oswalt is over rated

  • apostrofa Nov 30, 2012

    1) She needs some background ASAP!
    2) I guess he could manage to convince them that Card was a badguy and that Michael killed him in self defence. Which he sooorta did, in the sense that if Michael let him go, he'd go after him sooner rather then later. Despite Michael's motivations at that particular moment, it WAS a kill-my-enemy-before-he-kills-me sorta thing.
    3) Nah. Maddie is unbreakable.
    4) Want more of him.
    5) That'd be interesting to see. Fiona's time in the joint was fun and I think Maddie could do just as well.
    6) I have no idea. I never do, which is what makes BN such fun every time!

    Ad to point 4) - where's Barry? We haven't seen Barry in ages. I miss Bad Check Barry...

  • smorbie Dec 01, 2012

    Maddie would be much tougher in the clink than Fi was. l She wouldn't keep mooning over Michael and trying to get out. She would just take charge!

  • apostrofa Dec 01, 2012

    LOL, yeah, she'd have run of the place in a matter of hours. :P

  • Mate Nov 30, 2012

    Probably the strongest episode of the season.

    Questions.
    1. Make her more than 1 dimensional would be a start.
    2. Not sure, there always seems to be a new layer to the Michael Westen tragedy. So I am sure there is someone out there that knows something.
    3. Sure, it is easy. Maddie is addicted to nicotine, deprive her from her cigarettes for a week and when she gets coughy and shakey. She will be a little more obliging. Also, lock her in a room and feed her random snippets of intel about Mike dying. etc.
    4. I liked him. I like Oswalt in pretty much everything I have seen him in.
    5. Probably.
    6. Likely with Michael in prison.

  • DavidJackson8 Nov 30, 2012

    I don't think there's any hope for much improvement in Riley. I guess they can always improve the writing -- giving her a little depth, not giving her such overly dramatic lines, etc. -- but I don't think they will... she seems to be a standard one-note spy catcher, who isn't as smart as she acts like she is. Maybe a casting change, but that would probably make it very odd -- I love(d) The Wire, but I kinda can't stand Sonja Sohn at the moment. I don't remember hating her this much when I watched The Wire, so I guess the writing is the bigger culprit.

    I'm a fan of Patton Oswalt and I don't think his appearance here disappointed. I think the writers wrote him in well... although I will say that "Black George Clooney" doesn't make sense to me. I know it's just a way of saying Coby/Jesse is handsome like Clooney is handsome, but on a handsome celebrity resemblance scale, I think Clooney would be waaaay on the other side. Almost any other widely-seen-as-handsome celebrity would've been better. Then again, I seem to have put too much thought into such a small line, hehe.

  • smorbie Nov 30, 2012

    I think the show has shown a new leash on life the last couple of weeks. Yes, we had a client of the week this week, but the fact that he was supposed to help them escape and that he was so funny made it seem different.
    I'm glad they are allowing Maddie to show what I always suspected was there. I knew Michael got his talents from her. She's just one tough, sharp lady. I'm glad she didn't leave.

  • RebeccaDemers Nov 30, 2012

    1. What could be done to improve Riley as a character? Not Much. Perhaps opening up to Maddie about how she is dedicated to justice no matter what blah blah...maybe someone will try to take her out and Michael will save her thereby changing her opinion of him. She is set up to be a pretty boring character though.

    2. How will Westen make things right with the CIA? I'm sure someone will show up with proof that Card was dirty and that will help but I would kinda like a little bit of realism here-at least kick him out of the CIA for good. Card was a bad dude who really did deserve a bullet to the brain pan BUT Weston did shoot him in cold blood and that is murder and he should have to pay a price for that.

    3. Will Riley eventually break Maddie? Hell no. That woman has nerves of steel. She wanted Card Dead as much as Michael so she probably won't mind taking some heat for his decision.

    4. How did you find Oswalt as a guest? He was great. He added just enough comedy to make it enjoyable but not so much that it felt silly or forced.

    5. Will Maddie go to the big house? Probably for a little while. That is, unless Michael gets her out of the country first.

    6. How do you think this season will end? Probably with Michael in custody like we saw Fi last season. Whether he is there on by his own choice or not will make a difference and whether or not he is alone. Burn Notice has a pattern and I am okay with that. But eventually it has to get a shake up right?

  • JT_Kirk Nov 30, 2012

    Totally right, for an episode coming off of the big escape last time around, this one really was Burn Notice as usual except for Oswalt, and Sam getting moody for longer than usual. I didn't take Jesse's girlfriend as backstory, it felt more like throw-away gags-manship.

    Good point about Riley, they could have chalked it up to her not actually having any legal ability to do... ANYTHING she's been doing in the US (the CIA is forbidden from operating on US soil), but instead they just play her like another mean baddy after Michael and friends who has the customary 3 to 5 henchman to back her play.

    Riley is ruined as a character, she's already set up via dialogue to be nothing more than a bloodhound, uncaring and uninterested in the nuance of the situation, unwilling to consider the possibility that a vital part of the CIA was a traitor. The only thing that can make her work now is if Michael is able to go over her head, have a higher-up force her back on the leash and then to actually work WITH Michael instead. But I doubt they'll go that route. Riley sure as hell won't break Maddie though.

  • JustinJohnson9 Nov 30, 2012

    I loved the episode. Patton Oswalt was hilarious and like you said, did a good acting job with his character. I also like Riley. She makes for a good antagonist. She's like a pitbull that simply won't let go, which is exactly what I would expect given Michael murdered a CIA director. Hopefully, he won't have to pay the full price for that director's conspiracy.

    I definitely felt bad for Sam this episode. The pain in his face leaving his beau behind like that was hard to look at. Him questioning whether to tag along or not was completely understandable.


    1. Keep her the way she is now. Her character is just fine to me.

    2. He needs hard evidence to prove the conspiracy, which will take a near miracle to find.

    3. Maddie is like titanium: very hard to break, and no freaking way will Riley ever do that.

    4. Oswalt was great in his guest role. Hope to see him again.

    5. I think she will, but won't be there for long. Riley has nothing on her and Maddie knows how to keep it that way.

    6. Not sure, but I hope it works out for Westen and his crew in the long run.

  • jojodice Dec 01, 2012

    As usual I'm with you JJ9. I enjoyed the episode immensely and the roller coaster ride that is BN was fun this week and didn't disappoint. Yeah, a couple of leaps of credibility were required, but that's ok, the ability to suspend our disbelief is directly correlated to our ability to enjoy pretty much any standard TV fare. The crew seems to be finding the walls are closing in -- and different from prior seasons, the walls are moving in around ALL of them, rather than just one (or at most two) of them. I tip my hat to Matt Nix and the whole BN outfit. They have created and continue to create really enjoyable entertainment. Long live Michael Westen! And his buds too, of course.

  • smorbie Dec 01, 2012

    I'm especially enjoying the dynamic between Michael and Sam. Michael wants it to be business as usual, but Sam is really torn. He doesn't want to leave Miami, he doesn't want to leave Elsa, and he has doubts about what Michael has done. I hope they continue to explore this as I've often wondered how Michael would do without Sam to help him.

  • JT_Kirk Nov 30, 2012

    Titanium is very easy to break, actually. It's extremely brittle, so while it's strong in a head-on impact, if you attack it from the side it shatters. That's why most uses are an alloy. Maddie is less vulnerable than that, although she has broken a few times.

  • JustinJohnson9 Nov 30, 2012

    Oh, my bad. But when it comes to Michael, Maddie is very hard to break.

  • KateSullivan Nov 30, 2012

    I enjoyed the episode but it was a little odd because it was sort of, I don't know exactly how to put it, but most episodes, even if he isn't in them see to either be from Michael's perspective or maybe Sam's perspective of what Michael is doing. This one didn't really seem like it was from anyone's point of view.

    1. I think maybe some background on her would be good, just to make her seem maybe a little like pre being burned Michael or even pre being burned Jesse.

    2. I don't know, it really depends on how crazy they want to make their shortened season 7.

    3. No, but I wonder when Maddie will join the team...I mean Nate is dead, his daughter his in the weeds with her mother, why wouldn't Maddie join Michael and Fiona?

    4. He was fun, but I worry that because his arc will be right in a row will be too much. It is too bad they couldn't use him like Zoe or Leon on POI.

    5. No, but that would only be fun if Ayn was with her.

    6. Well, was Card the end? If he wasn't the end of the whole thing...then, I have a weird feeling, Olivia will get a phone call just as she corners our team reporting that she has been burned.

  • JT_Kirk Nov 30, 2012

    Thumbs up for a lack of a character for this episode to follow, great point.

  • KateSullivan Nov 30, 2012

    Thanks, the scene I really noticed it was when Dixon and Fiona were at Schmidt's door and the boys came around, I was kind of like, that is weird.

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