Burn Notice "Tipping Point" Review: Simon Says
Michael Westen has always had a love-hate relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency, dating all the way back to his early days of being burned. Since then, he’s made and broken deals with the government group for one reason or another, but he's never lost faith in its overall ideals: bring bad guys to justice. In the action-packed "Tipping Point," Westen found himself smack dab in the middle of surprise in an hour that succeeded by having our hero once again question the true nature of the CIA alongside his own. Were this just another end to another season—and not the whole series—his decisions might be seen as a routine lead-up to another cliffhanger. But with only two more episodes left, Michael Westen’s endgame is as mysterious as ever, even to himself, and Burn Notice is reaping all the benefits.
So let’s just talk about the main thing that was cool here: Simon Escher was the leader of the Alpha Team! Simon "crazy man with the Family Bible who committed the crimes that helped frame Westen" Escher. That Simon Escher. Unless you’ve had your head in the sand, you knew Garret Dillahunt was scheduled to appear this season, but the question was how he’d come into play. His talk with Westen about guys like them essentially being "weapons" at the mercy of the CIA ended up being a real eye-opener for Westen. Ostensibly, the CIA Westen joined way back when was one that supported his moral goals, but if there's one realization that keeps bonking Westen over the head like a Whac-A-Mole mallet, it’s that the spy business thrives on gray areas. He and his team seem to be the only trustworthy hearts involved with espionage, and that responsibility has taken its toll.
One cool-ass fight sequence later (honestly, it was very rad), we were treated to another shocker as Westen slowly sank a knife into Simon’s chest. A real "hi/bye" situation. On paper, the deal to bring down James and save Fiona, Sam, Jesse, and Maddie looked good, but up close, the kind of cavalier brutality demonstrated by Simon and supported by the CIA really rubbed Westen the wrong way. As Westen discovered long ago, and illustrated in James' mind meld, hapless murder as a means to an end is something he cannot abide by. It’s a shame and a blessing that Burn Notice is so close to an end just as all this is coming into focus, because as a result Westen, is compelling in way he’s never been before. Part of the reason is that he’s on his way out, so the writers are of course going for broke in the motivation department, but still it's the kind of introspective sendoff a one-man force like Westen deserves.
Elsewhere, Maddie and Fi back home got just enough of a story to remind us what’s ultimately at stake for Westen, representing his threatened loved ones (though I’m still trying to picture how you stash a knife in your shirt). The question now is whether or not James and Sonya have found their way into Westen’s heart as well. With Westen finally confessing his CIA arrangement with Kendrick, and then shutting his eyes tight and preparing for death, he seemed like a real goner, and someone right out of ideas. Or was he? It was this very honesty that compelled James to let him live on into the next episode. Why had he gone through so much trouble to preserve James this close to victory? Because Westen can't help but think for himself, especially when forced into a position where that's barely an option. It's how he's built.
A "confused" Michael Westen is the most entertaining kind of Michael Western there is, because it's thrilling to witness him get his head together and kick butt. Thinking on the fly with little resources is Westen’s bread and butter. Even though we know he'll come out on top, it’s commendable of Burn Notice to call into question what "on top" would even be at this point. James is a monster to some, but a hero to others. Same goes for the CIA. Both happen to stand in the way of Westen’s friends living (period, but also) peaceful lives, and both have the power to kill Westen’s world.
– Why did James let Michael live?
– Will Sonya forgive Michael?
– Will Sonya rescue Michael by killing James?
– Were you satisfied with Simon vs. Michael fight?
– How will Michael get out of this sticky situation?
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