Burn Notice "Odd Man Out" Review: Warehouse Party!

By Ryan Sandoval

Dec 14, 2012

Burn Notice S06E16: “Odd Man Out”

By now it’s got to be common Westen knowledge that nearly every client brings with him/her a surprise liability that usually pops up at the most inopportune time during any given mission. Rather than fit every Burn Notice episode with a narration along the lines of "About three quarters into any adventure, the person you’re helping is going to screw things up somehow," it’s best to just assume this is the case and look surprised when the inevitable plan-wrench gets thrown. With "Odd Man Out," an embittered colleague of Calvin Schmidt’s named James Vanek (Kevin McNally) made it super hard for the crew to do anything but be trapped in a random warehouse, all because of some bad smuggler blood. Meanwhile Jesse landed himself on Maddie duty as everyone continued to wrap up preparations for new identities (ugh, and I thought getting a legal passport took a long time). No longer depending as much on Schmidt/Patton Oswalt to liven up the usual motions, the episode maintained a steady, assured pace, and while the action was primarily restricted to a single location, "Odd Man Out" demonstrated how less can be more. Think of this outing as an hour-long version of The Poseidon Adventure (the Rutger Hauer/Steve Guttenberg one) but on dry land, and instead of capsizing, the threat was a jaunty Brit with a bevy of bullets.

Emotionally speaking, we got three instances of those dumb inside-itchy things known as "feelings": First, in the opening scene with Maddie expressing shock at how ultimately cut-off she’ll be from Nate’s child, and every current contact in her address book, which is definitely something an old lady would be concerned about. Unfortunately there were no surprises here, or new angles on going undercover, but I appreciated this as a moment of acknowledgement, and also how casually Fi, Michael and Maddie chatted around the sink fire like flames in that part of the kitchen weren’t even a thing.

The second emotional moment came a little later, when Jesse had to keep Maddie from heading out to Nate’s grave one last time, which was a downright painful scenario to imagine: not only dealing with the death of a son, but knowing that in the immediate future, his grave will be that much lonelier. Using Maddie’s experience as she's been introduced to the world Michael's been living in for most of his adult life is a great angle for her character development going forward and I wouldn’t mind seeing her pushed to the limits of life off the grid. But not, like, waterboarded. So maybe pushed nearly to her limit. Ultimately though, Mama Westen is the source of Michael’s boldness-gene, and she found her way to Nate’s grave (emotional moment #3). Whenever Westen’s mom does something ill-advised like this, Michael is always careful to give Maddie her space, but this kind of nonsense is going to have to stop if the team is going to sneak out of the country at some point (P.S. we all know they’ll definitely never make it out of the country).

As an outspoken Oswalt fan, even I have to admit his character’s whining finally started to get on my nerves this episode, but thankfully his enemy, played masterfully by McNally, was around as a possible solution (however violent) to Schmidt's grating acts of wimpitude. We didn't necessarily want to see Calvin get poked and zapped or what have you, but it was nice to have the equivalent of a threateningly raised hand to say "Pipe down, mate." Despite his unpleasantness, the puny smuggler still managed to break out fun asides, like "Maybe he broke his hand on your unnaturally large jaw..." This was one example of a healthy balance present throughout the entirety of the episode, with Michael doing just the right amount of leading and Fi, Sam, and Calvin pairing up in varying combinations. Plus, even the Jesse/Maddie storyline satisfied in its brevity. (Favorite quote came from Sam: "This torch here's kind of a flaming dead-man switch. You take us out, we're all going to be extra crispy.") Another nice touch was this guy, who seemed straight out of The Dukes of Hazzard:

Much like Michael Westen, the strength of Burn Notice is its ability to shift personas while still delivering an array of familiarity. Which is to say, there are different types of episodes—client-centric, escape-heavy, undercover-focused, etc.—so it's hard to settle on a "best kind" of plot. Rather, you have to treat them all like a team, and judge whether or not the most effective type of story was used at the right part of the season. Heading into the finale, I approve of the smaller, realistic adventure in "Odd Man Out," even though it amounted to people being stuck in an unfamiliar building, because it'll make the usual conclusive fireworks pop that much more. The only moments that stood out as minor implausible nuisances were when the gang just happened upon the diethyl ether barrels, but didn't think to use the fluid as an advantage until a little later, and then how Jesse and Maddie swindled possession of a dump truck without the foreman's authorization, which seemed a little convenient at the time. However, more complications in this thread would mean more Jesse and Maddie, and they were used just enough this week, so I can't fault this detail too much.

Marching Schmidt out at gun point, Michael displayed the same eerie tendency to go against the team that long ago landed a bullet in Card's frontal lobe. "All anyone needs to know is that I didn't want you to die, and you didn't die," explained Westen to Schmidt, with an atonal sureness that hinted at the side of Westen that isn't afraid to put others in danger. Going forward, this does not bode well for the team who'll need to be cohesive as hell if they expect to sneak over the border undetected (which the preview for next week confirms will never happen). As we come to another close, I'd like to see Burn Notice take a real chance, and have Westen's creepy self systematically drive away Fi, Jesse, Sam, and Maddie as he realizes it's too late to change the kind of person he has become, and then disappear into Bangkok as an animal fighter or something. But this isn't really that kind of show, so I'll be happy with cool explosions and a sizable cliffhanger.


BURNING QUESTIONS


– What is your favorite "type" of Burn Notice episode?

– Did you miss Riley at all this episode?

– How was Jesse this episode? Sam? Fi? Michael? Maddie? Dixon?

– Does it bother you that the show ends with cliffhangers that are immediately answered in the forthcoming episode's preview?

– How do you want the season to end? How do you think it will end?

– How will Maddie improve or damage the team?

– Would you be in favor of Dukes of Hazzard-style freeze-frames in Burn Notice?

  • Comments (13)
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  • harve Dec 26, 2012

    I like the series, but for the apparent authenticity that seems to be integral to the story, there were some unforgivable flaws in this episode - e.g. the diethyl ether barrel that they tipped over, they would have been overcome with fumes, let alone a lit torch being a few feet from it without it all exploding. Have the writer's changed? it seems uncharacteristically careless.

  • DavidJackson8 Dec 16, 2012

    I sometimes feel like the writers purposely make every side character outside of the Gang of Four, including Maddie, really annoying just so that Mike, Fiona, Sam, and Jesse seem more level-headed, reasonable, tolerable, etc.

    I get really annoyed by Riley, so I was glad she wasn't a part of this episode. While Schmidt had been okay his first two appearances on the show, he was insufferable this week. And I may be in the minority, but I've never been a fan of Maddie's... she's okay most of the time, but I've definitely found her annoying more often than I've found her appealing or particularly likable. I particularly hated her antics in this one. I get it -- she's not a part of the spy world and she's an old lady -- but she's still an adult grown-ass woman. Stop acting like a baby and potentially jeopardizing yours and your son and his friends' lives for emotional-but-technically-pointless desires, and get with the program already... It's been six seasons.

    Although, I will say that despite Schmidt's annoyances and stupidity in this one, when he was drinking at the end and talking with Mike, Mike had this expression on his face that I thought was so douchey, I wanted to punch him through my screen. It just oozed of douche and jerk. If that was the intention, congrats to Jeffrey Donovan for some terrific facial acting.

    Oh, and yes, I pretty much agree with Muderboy's comment below regarding the quality of the show at this point. I basically only still watch because of the love I had for the show during it's first... three? seasons. Since the fourth or maybe fifth season, it's gotten really overly dramatic, filled with bad acting and bad dialogue, with this tedious style of being more obvious than the most boring procedurals or sitcoms. I'll probably continue to watch though, with maybe the hope that they pick it up a bit before it eventually ends.

  • JT_Kirk Dec 15, 2012

    I had some some problems with this episode. It starts out with a negotiation for passport chips, and the price jumps from $200k to $400k in the blink of an eye. Yet the prior episode made a big stink about scrounging up a million bucks to escape the country - how does one go from that to tossing aside $200k extra casually?

    Patton Oswalt's character is supposed to be a master smuggler, yet increasingly his skills as such keep falling apart as each episode goes by. Dropping a bottle of booze to alert guards? Narking on your competition before your smuggled compatriots and yourself are out of harm's way? And offering nothing but complaints when it all blows up in his face? His treachery was sure to earn him nothing in the short term, there was no ticking clock that would gain or lose him anything, yet the writing gives him a foolish move which serves ultimately only to further destroy his own empire.

    Having Mr. Gibbs from Pirates of the Caribbean run around shooting everything, making big chases and even having things literally light ablaze in his face all seems over the top for someone whose motivation is merely revenge. He makes all this public noise and yet no police are ever called to any of these scenes? Plus he's got an awful lot of loyal, order-following henchmen for a mere smuggler, it's all pretty hard to accept.

    And of course, Maddie just running around gathering whatever unneeded attention necessary simply to see a grave was asking too much, not under these conditions.

    Anyway, not a terrible episode and it was an interesting change of pace, but ultimately it felt unfulfilling and the concept of trapped in an unfamiliar factory stretched thin.

    Answers: I don't have a favorite type of episode, just a mix so it's not repetitive is alright with me.

    I couldn't have missed Riley less if they had never included her in the show. She's such an artificial driving force and so hammy, so one-note.

    Jesse was underused, Sam and Fi were a touch overwrought, Michael was cool as usual even when he decided to splash his little buddy, Maddie was a little far-fetched after taking more care just to touch her son's hand last week, and I don't remember Dixon even in this one so not that great.

    It is a bit frustrating that they have so many cliffhangers resolved so quickly in the next episode, once in a while it's a fun twist but too many gets stale.

    I would have said Maddie would improve it until her foolish emotional reaction here, she's too unpredictable, too anchored in old ways in a manner I'd not though her to be prior.

    Freeze frame gags without a fade-out? I dunno, could be funny but most of those were cliffhangers that resolved just after the commercial break, if you tire of the next-episode ones you'd really feel it with them after each break in the most corny fashion.

  • JustinJohnson9 Dec 15, 2012

    Love the episode, love the show. I would've done exactly what Michael did to Schmidt near the end, given that pudgy bastard had the audacity to call the Feds on Vanek, getting Michael and his team into way too much trouble. Good for Michael manning up that way! Honestly if it were me, I would've thrown him to the wolves, but that's just me.

    I don't have a favorite "type" of BN episode. I pretty much like or love them all. This show is just so well-written and fun to me.

    I for one don't think forthcoming episode previews answer cliffhangers, they just do what they're supposed to do: give an idea of what's to come. As for what actually happens, nothing is given away there, at least to me.

  • Televisioneer Dec 15, 2012

    Yep. Sadly have to agree with Muderboy. Very painful to watch any more. I think the show's creators lost their way after Michael's reinstatement to the CIA. Been tyring to burn him again ever since. Getting kind of tiring. My favorite type of Burn Notice is the team helping a really desperate client while thwarting a plot, finding a mole, or some other job they could be doing for the CIA. The Pierce episodes were really enjoyable. And the Fiona-Ayn prison episodes. The Riley ones this season hardly worth it. And that whiney, always screwing up Schmidt character, OVER 4 EPISODES! a definite WTF entry. That's whose brain someone needs to put a bullet in.

  • SoLiOZuZ Dec 15, 2012

    Riley is the most annoying character on the show. I've been waiting and counting down the episodes til her demise. I'm also hoping that side of Westen surfaces and puts a bullet hole in her frontal lobe. Worst character ever.

  • LilyGabrielle Dec 15, 2012

    Less (no) Schmidt, more Vanek. That is all.

  • DaiTryon Dec 15, 2012

    Please make the whiny crap-tub (PO) go away.

  • smorbie Dec 15, 2012

    I hope and pray we are done with Patton Oswalt.

  • adamonfire Dec 15, 2012

    I'm a Patton Oswalt fan, enough to click on the link of this article due to the photo of him. With that being said, even he can't get me to watch another episode of this horrible program.

  • Muderboy Dec 15, 2012

    Yep, it's gotten pretty bad. The goal has become to get away and live out their lives in hiding because of Michael's ridiculous cold-blooded murder - but why is Jesse going? Are they gonna need a Gilligan when they get to that deserted island. This show jumped over a big ol' shark over a year ago and it's sad to see such a good cast floundering this way...

  • smorbie Dec 15, 2012

    Here's another question. Why is Sam going? He didn't do anything wrong, either.

  • DavidJackson8 Dec 16, 2012

    I think Sam has more incentive than Jesse to go along with this because he had directly lied and spun stories to Riley to try to help Mike. Aiding and abetting a fugitive for killing a CIA guy is some really serious shit.

    I guess the same applies with Jesse. I don't think he's been as visible to Riley as Sam has, but if I remember correctly, Jesse (and Fiona) both showed themselves to her when they took her at gun point to get Sam free. I guess that seems like it'd be enough to run from the CIA.