Burn Notice "Over the Line" Review: Frenemy of the State

By Ryan Sandoval

Nov 16, 2012

Burn Notice S06E13: "Over the Line"

Michael made peace with Maddie, and the Westen crew executed a daring combination escape, rescue, and capture, prepping for a life of hiding from senior CIA officer Olivia Riley (Sonja Sohn). Picking up directly where last week's episode left off, "Over the Line" was a certain kind of Burn Notice affair—one without an external client that instead focused on the group's survival as a cohesive unit. What amounted to a drawn-out game of cat and mouse kept the singular thread of Card's murder-aftermath lively by establishing a swift new threat in Riley while invoking the larger theme of Michael's questioned patriotism moving forward. On a show that thrives on expertly laid-out action, seeing Westen take a turn for the vulnerable makes his chance of getting out of this mess that much more uncertain, and more fun to watch.

So, fresh after Card's murder, a disappointed yet faithful Sam was able to throw the feds off Michael's scent long enough to allow Westen to pull off an escape that involved riding on top of an elevator and slamming through a parking garage wall (classic Westen jams). However, "counter intel legend" Riley held Axe captive to aid in tracking down Michael, while Fiona, Westen, and Jesse concocted a scheme to rescue Sam despite the impossible odds against them. Meanwhile a box-packing Maddie played dumb in order to protect the Burn Crew, and the whole to-do wrapped up with the narrow apprehension and release of Riley—which bought some time, but did little in the way of clearing Michael's name. Though on the nation's literal shit list as "an enemy to the United States," as his new rival put it, Westen finally got some much-needed support from his mother, who applauded Michael's shooting of Card and vowed to remain in Miami as a contact to Jesse, Sam, Fiona, and her dear, beloved son.

At this point it's safe to say Michael Westen has a torrid, on-again/off-again relationship with the CIA to rival that of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton: First he was burned out of working for the agency; then he regained its trust, only to become a suspect in the murder of his own partner; then he cleared his name, only to have an attempt made on his life by the very man who trained him AND ordered a hit on the person who burned Westen in the first place. Now he's back on the outs after killing a CIA director and briefly taking another one hostage.

After all these crossings, double-crossings, and triple-crossings, it's likely there's someone still connected to Card and his shady dealings who specifically wants Westen dead or in custody for discovering the unauthorized missions. Either that's a brand-new baddie to look out for, or—in some circuitous way—a hidden remnant of the Organization. Heck, it takes a village to run covert ops under the nose of the CIA.

And sure, the agency has a workforce of over 20,000 so there's plenty of chances for information to get lost in the shuffle, but it's going to be super frustrating if Michael has to prove to yet another skeptical operative that there are shady transpirings at work within the organization (not to be confused with The Organization). Like, damn, CIA, whoever's the bad apple over there, it's time to suss them out, if not for integrity's sake, then for us viewers who are becoming a little tired of never knowing whether such employees are dumb, evil, or just plain aloof. Riley boasts an immediately commanding, no-nonsense presence, but we need to know very soon what category she falls into (evil or aloof). There's a difference between plot-driven twists and turns, and plot-serving, shapeshifting villains.

Burn Notice at least recognizes how tedious Michael's search for the truth has become, and has supplemented his journey with character development that provides a possible blueprint for how this could all end. Throughout the past six seasons, Michael has made great strides in forming a healthy relationship with his mother, found love with Fiona, confirmed a long-term, "ass-on-the-line" friendship with Sam Axe, and helped out countless clients along the way. Westen's final obstacle to surmount going forward will be clearing his name as a patriot, settling down with Fiona, and giving his mother the sort of restful old age someone like Maddie deserves. Either that, or exploding the Pentagon (not really, there are good people there doing good things).

Considering there's only five episodes left in this season (four if the final two-parter were to count as one), fans can expect efficient storytelling on this race to the finish line/next cliffhanger. Olivia Riley's able to contend with Westen because she's smart, and that makes the chess match between the two that much more exciting. I'd really like to see this same level of adversity continue.


– Based on the "Previously On" part of this show alone, I've seen Seth Peterson killed about 125 times by now. I hope the dude gets royalties.

– Michael seemed like a pod person with the disaffected way he told Sam about Card's shooting.

– Riley knew about Gray's death in the hotel; I wonder much more she knows about his involvement with Card.

– Poor Norm the hotel worker, but why didn't he say anything on the elevator ride down?

– The Hyundai Genesis again! I'm all for making this ride the official K.I.T.T. to Michael's Knight Rider.

– It's as good a time as any to cite how Michael calls Maddie "Ma" like Donovan's real-life Massachusetts self probably would.

– Clever usage of tablet reflections, Riley. I imagine her Westenism voiceover for that would be all, "Tablets have shiny surfaces and in the right light can work like mirrors..."

– "Sam would drink it if it was laced with cyanide." True, Jesse, Sam likes beer—but no one would drink poison on purpose.

– Kind of mad that Riley didn't want to close in on the detonators herself, though she felt comfortable shaming her employee into doing it.

– "This isn't a chase anymore Mr. Axe. This is a standoff."

– As soon as Jesse landed in that sewer water, I knew he was going to say something all Jesse-like. It was kind of letdown that it was something boring: "I don't even want to know..." blah blah. Steeee-rike, Jesse.

– Sugar makes me so happy. Hopefully the Burn Crew survives off the grid by calling in favors from a who's who of past clients.

– Didn't know C4 was essentially "flammable clay." No more dousing Play-doh in gasoline.

– Fuller totally could have taken the shot.

– "So this is what becomes of the great Michael Westen..." If that's not a villain line, I don't know what is.

– "I'll hunt you down to the ends of the Earth if I have to." "Then I'll see you there..." Cool.


1. Will Patton Oswalt in the next two episodes be a better celebrity guest than Method Man? Burt Reynolds? Gavin Rossdale? Someone else?

2. Is there a chance, with all this "dad talk" recently, that Michael's father is still alive and trying to burn Michael out of the spy business?

3. Sam laughed at the idea of Michael getting married; is that definitely how the series will end?

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  • jojodice Nov 19, 2012

    I really enjoyed this episode. It's a cool show that I watch with my son. Michael is one of the "good guys" even if it's more complex than that. And Sam? He'd be any guy's best friend.

    This episode had nonstop action and suspense. It picked up well from the opening episodes. Look, no show can ever be perfect when dissected too finely. They have 44 minutes to tell the story in an entertaining way. I'm with you, JustinJohnson. Burn Notice is unlike any other current show, and it's a blast (and not just because of Fi!).

    Yeah, Riley was / is a bit of a cliche, can't argue there, but she's a sub-character and not the reason we love the show. Someone below mentioned that Brennan was a good villain -- totally agree on that.

    I figure pretty much all of us here reading this review and comments section are fans of the show. Like all good things this too shall run its course. Maybe that will be after the shortish 13 episode season 7. But whenever it does end, I will be both bummed it's over and appreciative of the hours of enjoyment. Till then, I never miss an episode. (DVRs have to be up there with the wheel as one of man's best inventions.)

  • angeleys151 Nov 18, 2012

    I liked Riley because it was getting a bit unbelievable that Weston and crew could walk away from almost everything without getting caught except when they decided to. She's smart and made them really work for their escape this week. I still love the show (maybe a little better now that it isn't all about hunting down Nate or getting Fiona out of jail) but the dialogue is making me laugh. Some of the things/ways Donovan says are just so cliche, I would associate them with a parody of a spy movie.

  • CrazyAsian1080 Nov 17, 2012

    I don't like Riley at all. She seems angry for angry sake (or she is evil because that will make us all feel better when the Weston Crew gets the last laugh somehow). You know who was a good "villain"... Tyler Brennen. Sure he was a narcissist but he didn't over act everything. He wasn't too perfect of too angry or too smug (he had his hand he knew what it was and he played it and when things went sideways he realized they were going sideways. Larry was also a good villain for many of the same reasons. However, Hansen and the likes were all LOOK AT ME I AM SUPER FANTASTIC AWESOME AND ALWAYS RIGHT SO MUWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I feel like Riley is going to be the same way plus ANGRY. Because honestly, that's the only thing I got from the character. Not how smart she was or how good she was at her just, just ANGRY for ANGRY sake.

  • JustinJohnson9 Nov 17, 2012

    I loved everything about this episode, including Riley. The best episodes of Burn Notice have come when Michael has to work his butt off to live, and she clearly had him doing that. I really hate seeing Michael go through this, cause he's a real good guy, but it makes for terrific television. Its episodes like this that make Burn Notice, to me, one of the best shows on television. Been on my top 10 list since its beginning.

    Good to Sonja Sohn again btw!!! Her dialogue was direct and angered like it should've been to me, not cheesy. The complaints about her character, honestly, are pure bullcrap to me.

    I seriously hope Michael gets the happy ending he deserves despite murdering Card, cause that SOB had it coming. Yeah, I said it. What Westen did was poetic justice to me. I knew he'd be in a world of trouble for killing Card, but like Maddie said, Card deserved it. Good riddance! Hey, I root for Dexter and rooted for Jack Bauer, and to me Michael is in the same boat. So hopefully through some miracle, Westen can get the happy ending Bauer unfortunately didn't get.

  • DavidJackson8 Nov 17, 2012

    I generally liked everything about the episode, except for Riley. It saddens me to have my memory of Sonja Sohn go from the awesome Kima Greggs to the compleeeeetely over-acted and cheesy-dialogued Riley. I HATE Riley -- I hate her dialogue, I hate Sonja's acting of her, I hate her decision making. I can not, for the life of me, take that character seriously. "I'll never stop, Westen! I'll hunt you down to the ends of the Earth if I have to." Sometimes I feel like the overly-dramatic stuff is done on purpose by writers to be kind of funny... Riley, and with that line in particular, just made me want to kill myself.

  • apostrofa Nov 17, 2012

    I loved this episode. And it also showcases why I love this show as a whole. There are two things that make it work at all times: we have competent heroes who are good at their jobs, who know what they are doing. And we have competent antagonists (if not always enemies) who are equally competent and good. This episode's Riley showed this very clearly. Look at shows like Revolution, where the bad guys are basically there to do nothing in particular. On Burn Notice there are real obstacles that make our heroes work really hard. And that makes for some damn exciting TV!

  • RustyOne Nov 17, 2012

    Seems like we've hit "The Fugitive meets The A-Team" here. Not terribly promising.

  • JT_Kirk Nov 16, 2012

    One who thinks he can slowly build up a tolerance to poison would drink it on purpose, and then use that tolerance in an inconceivable plot to rescue his beloved.

    I had three problems with this episode. The first was that the escape went by so quickly, and is the easiest to dismiss.

    The second is that Sam's reaction to Michael shooting Card was right on the money, here's a character we've been empathizing with for a long time, and now he's turned cold-blooded killer, but we're still supposed to want to watch him get away with it. Maddie has no problem with what Michael did, but she's always been cold like that. The show eventually tries to justify the choice, but letting Card holster his weapon was obviously past that point.

    The third is Riley, which felt like such a forced portrayal, the overly-tough, "wrote the book" character that hunts our heroes. She didn't work for me on any level, every line sounded like a gallon of acting shoved through an eyedropper of a part. It didn't feel like a real character as it was written, just a catchin' & killin' machine. The whole CIA tactical team idea is pretty goofy to begin with since the CIA has no jurisdiction on US soil, but to have an expert - and THIS particular one at that - immediately materialize on the scene took me out of every single moment of this episode. If she's the driving force behind the rest of the show, I'm going to have a hard time stomaching it since the only goal can be to run as she doesn't care if Card is a traitor or not.

  • RyanSandoval Staff Nov 16, 2012

    Here's hoping Riley will flesh out more in the remaining episodes. I'm confident Nix and company know they can't delve back into CIA-as-enemy territory again without acknowledging the motions we went through with Pearce et al. I agree with your eye-dropper analogy though.

  • lsbloom Nov 16, 2012

    The Genesis is Fiona's car.

    I didn't like Riley--she was completely idiotic in the "standoff" with Michael, if he'd wanted them to die he'd have killed them like five times over. It was just silly--like Jeffrey Donovan trying to act serious and dramatic. I kinda wish they'd go back to the case of the week with Michael talking on funny con characters and helping people.

  • RyanSandoval Staff Nov 16, 2012

    Ha - true about the Genesis. Fi and Hyundai are a lethal combo.

    I like the funny con characters in moderation, but there's always going to be a balance of overall story and one-off missions. Now that Westen's entered more dramatic territory though, it's going to be weird knowing he shot a man in cold blood while pretending to be a frozen banana salesman in the future or what have you.

  • estella87 Nov 16, 2012

    To the Ends of the Earth? Please tell me at least one other person here thought of The Finder! (I'm a little ashamed to admit it because it was one hell-of-a-bad show but I watched it.)

  • RyanSandoval Staff Nov 16, 2012

    Didn't think of that, but curious about this Finder biz

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