Burn Notice "Things Unseen" Review: Reaching Balance

By Ryan Sandoval

Aug 16, 2013

Burn Notice S07E10: "Things Unseen"

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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  • ErlendJohanne Sep 12, 2013

    No, it was not right for Michael to kill Steele. It simply wasn't. And unfortunately I like him a lot less after he took that shot.

  • Junegrape Aug 19, 2013

    For some reason, Jesse's 'Have a blessed day' in this episode has turned out to be one of the funniest, best lines of the entire show for me.

  • 2muchbadTV Aug 17, 2013

    Much better than last week's ep. Yeah, like people said, a lot of this was contrived and convenient.....but that's pretty much always been Burn Notice in a nutshell. The procedural-of-the-week of the first several seasons was always full of conveniences and contrived plots with things falling just right or people showing up at just the right time. At least this episode progressed the overall plot and added some nice character development at the same time. It worked for me as an episode leading down the final stretch.

    I was surprised Michael killed Baltazhar. For the most part he's always been able to resolve things without killing and keeping his hands pretty clean. This was a dark departure, and it worked as a lead up to the series finale because it showed how things are changing and getting out of control for the gang.

  • safibwana Aug 17, 2013

    Did I miss something? Did Mike kill a friend to keep other friends out of prison? That would be completely out of character, so I must have missed something.

  • slayme3 Aug 23, 2013

    Mike's not the same anymore. This whole thing with relatively honorable James vs the corrupt CIA has really gotten to him big time.

  • marlonjones Aug 17, 2013

    Sad to say, but this was a so so episode that wasn't up to scratch with the Burn Notice standard. Ever since James has been introduced it's beenf going downhill and isn't making much sense. And it 's making for a lot lesser Michael Westen...i seriously hope they can improve for the remainder of the final season. Kill James and Sonja already and have our foursome back, true Burn Notice style! C'mon son!

  • apjccjqa Aug 17, 2013

    Was nice to see Sucre (prison break) and Newton (fringe) in this episode, this whole season has had great special guests/supporting actors. The season has been vintage burn notice, though some people may see that as played out, I'm glad they're not straying too far from the formula in the final season. I'm also glad they found an interesting way to get rid of Carlos. He had to go, and his storyline in this ep wasn't that bad.

  • dref22 Aug 16, 2013

    I think it was a pretty good episode. Michael chose a dark path and I think that's interesting and cool. I can't see him leaving CIA after all this ends. I do believe Fi and Michael will be together in the end, but it won't be a fluffy kind happy ending. I love this path.

  • renerocker Aug 16, 2013

    Why not just kill James, Sonya and the CIA guy? They´re all equally bad for the gang´s future lifes.

  • Mate Aug 16, 2013

    Way too many conveniences for me. Mike visits old friend, old friend gets attack, you would think if he was that good he would have made the connection. Mike gets home just in time to help our Fi and Carlos. Maddie has to make an unnecessary appearance for no reason what so ever.

    Now don't get me wrong, I liked the darker version of Mike. But the rest of the stuff was just kind of Meh.

  • ltcomstella Aug 16, 2013

    well carlos predictable exit falls flat for me..

    he suddenly becomes the client for jesse and sam, but everyone is out to get him whoa shocker !

    Then it all goes south when his case officer just happens to be the dirty cop.. whoa shocker !

    Then fi calls micheal, who just happens to of killed his 'friend' and got 'home' again in the nick of time to save her boyfriend...whoa shocker !

    Then this 'uber bad' group of dudes mike is trying to take down for the cia kill more people for leverage to save this idiot...

    anyone else think the writers have given up ?

    This is bullshit..

  • Muderboy Aug 16, 2013

    Yep, the writers did well through the first 4 seasons, but since then it's all been contrived bullshit. Making things hairy all the times is not good drama. These people should all be dead several times over. Luck as a premise for spies is as you said--BULLSHIT.

  • ltcomstella Aug 17, 2013

    also the fact we've had some guy controlling a 'secret' outfit/organisation that is somehow completely undetected by the government already in this show, so many times before...surely 2 times is enough but no they do it a third time.... i can understand anson was one of the guys behind 'management' but you'd think 'james' and him would of had some kind of issue with each other assuming james isn't just ansons replacement..

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