Burn Notice "Things Unseen" Review: Reaching Balance
Ah, so that’s what Carlos’s deal is. How ironic that Fi’s boyfriend took every chance he could to apologize for hiding his past, when at this point his lady’s got more skeletons in her closet than a self-employed bone collector. In fleshing out Carlos and focusing on the increasing risk of Michael’s involvement with James, "Things Unseen" benefitted from two strong, thematically linked stories. Burn Notice is beloved for many reasons, and the majority of them appeared in tonight’s well-rounded episode. Carlos's efforts to legally remove a personal, neighborhood threat paired with Michael’s assignment to kill an old friend both progressed at an assured pace while seamlessly incorporating opportunities for character development, suspense, comedy, and action.
So while Michael speechified on the dangers of going into a situation blind, Sonya/The Hand of James provided the details of Westen’s latest mission: Kill Roger Steele, a spy job broker too close to the Truth (though, more specifically, too close to a "female operative"). Yes that was Sebastian Roche (General Hospital’s Jerry Jacks and The Vampire Diaries' Mikael) welcoming Michael into his Canary Islands stead. It’s hard for any show that’s been on-air for seven years to offer up surprises, much less when it's a program that’s about 60 percent procedural. However, when Michael went through with Steele’s murder, uttering a distant "...I’m sorry" after his old acquaintance had offered him his favorite yogurt (blueberry) and $10,000 out of concern, the decision felt both characteristic and jarring. This close to the series' end would be a viable time for Westen to start fighting back, so the moment could have gone either way. Though he values his friends and family above all else, it's interesting to see how far that circle extends. Will he ever have to kill Sam to save Fi? That Michael couldn’t figure out a third option that would satisfy both Sonya/James and leave Steele alive speaks less to a weakness in his moral code and more to the challenges of this current threat.
Michael Westen has no choice but to embrace his "dark side" (or at least the side that kills more frequently) because A) James sees it as a form of allegiance, and B) this allegiance is necessary to fulfill his deal with Strong. Chilling as it was to see him and Sonya plan a murder through smiles, while poolside at the home of a wealthy host, scenes like these give audiences the best of both Westens. He sleeps with the girl and goes through with the kill, but remains anchored to a more noble code by the very friends and family who tell him he’s losing himself. Were he able to contain the damage on a solitary level, there’d be no problem, but there’d also be no Westen. Michael’s defined as much by his deep knowledge of spy tactics as he is by an ability to maintain relationships. To lose his humanity would be to lose his identity.
This season, Carlos has been less of a fully-formed person, and more of an obstacle whose sole purpose is to separate Michael and Fiona. To finally dive into "Carloco’s" history made this episode feel whole in a way Burn Notice has benefitted from in the past by giving worlds to otherwise one-off characters. Not only did Miami feel like a living backdrop again, but Sam and Jesse’s undercover trip as fake Department of Health agents offered the hour’s funniest moments. Statements like "Please read that" and "Hey, how are you sir, check that out" were just inane, while Jesse’s "loose stool" retort of "Yeah, it is nasty. It’s nasty and it’s deadly," and his convenient, accidental choke-out provided the right amount of levity in a set of otherwise serious stories.
Unfortunately, journeying to the turf of Mateo and Nando came part and parcel with Carlos’s exit, as he finally decided the cartel-attacking baggage of Michael Westen, and associated seven helicopter deaths were far too much for him to be involved with. An ex-boyfriend who keeps showing up is usually bad enough, not to mention one who can call in airstrikes. Fiona’s declaration of love wasn’t enough to sway her Latin Lover from moving out, who correctly cited that she was "traveling a path with Michael." But where is that path going?
In a series that excels most during moments of unpredictability, all the professional support, romantic sacrifice, and necessary betrayal making up Fi and Westen’s quagmire of a past together just might provide Burn Notice’s three remaining episodes with the one element necessary to go out on top: surprise.
– Was Michael right to kill Steele?
– What other murders has Michael committed that were justifiable?
– Was Carlos right to leave Fi?
– Why did Maddie’s words soften Lloyd’s heart?
– Will Michael betray his personal values in taking down James?
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