Burn Notice "Tipping Point" Review: Simon Says

By Ryan Sandoval

Aug 23, 2013

Burn Notice S07E11: "Tipping Point"

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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  • Goqklf56 Sep 03, 2013

    What I find interesting is that Ansons never mentioned James and James never mentioned Anson to Michael which I believe is mostly because the creators don't care about that connection but it's possible neither of them knew about each other or they did but stayed away from them. While Ansons was more of the typical stay in the shadow, pull the strings kind of Big Bad James seem to be a much more sophisticated Dragon (tvtrope) that has a lot of money and likely know a lot of people.

    1) Because he wants to believe that Michael is a believer, that Michael actually want to try and do some good in the world without resorting to working with bad guys like Simon. How James excludes himself from this I don't know but I suppose he thinks the means justifies the end just like the CIA. I suppose James, since he's a private worker, can do more than what the CIA can but they employ off-the-books agents as well so I don't know. It's probably about belief in this stage.

    2) She'll in time but it will take time. It would suck if she just snaps and runs away or do something drastic.

    3) I don't know, I hope not. I hope they all survive or Michael kills James and takes over his organization. :P

    4) By taking over James organization. There's no normal life with Jessie, Sam, Fiona or Madeline or any CIA option anymore. He should evolve. Take over James's organization or join him and use him to do better than what the CIA did.

  • shocker713 Aug 25, 2013

    The promo last week said Michael sees the last person he expected to see alive...not sure why that would be Simon, since he's actually one of the few enemies Mike didn't kill. Mike should always assume that if he didn't kill somebody or otherwise see them expire, they're not dead.

  • LaurenLS Aug 25, 2013

    Maybe I missed it but why exactly does the CIA want James? Is it just because he is operating his own private spy group and competing with the CIA or did he actually do something bad? With the exception of the guy he kept locked up in a mental hospital for 15 years he seems like the good guy doing the jobs the CIA should be doing.

    Also consider the CIA has lied to Michael in order to use him several times so even what they told him might not be true.

  • Goqklf56 Sep 03, 2013

    He killed his entire team for not obeying orders to kill a village full of people where they actually thought they were enemy combatants. I suspect that to prove this the CIA will have to pay for more than it cant though but Michael's current boss (or former..) said he had been chasing this guy for 10 years so it's possible James have been running his organization for a while.

  • Writerpatrick Aug 24, 2013

    I get the impression that the show could end with the death of Weston. It's sort of like the "Death of the Hulk" ending. He can only be free when he dies.

  • opensky Aug 24, 2013

    Nix is a master mind. The only way that he could really resolve the issue between Michael and Fiona was to 1) make Fiona stand in Michael's shoes for a moment so she can see why he has felt he had to work for the CIA and 2) have Michael see that Fiona was always right about the CIA being bad guys. In the first instance Fiona experiences new empathy for Michael when Carlos is tortured and rescued. She realizes that she had to do something she didn't want to do to save Carlos, just like Michael has been doing all along in trying to save his family by working for the CIA. Now for Michael's realization. Michael eventually had to see that the CIA were bad guys and didn't deserve his loyalty.
    Here's how I imagine the next two episodes wrapping things up.
    James has a monumental mission coming up to stop a terrorist group that is planning to kill thousands. Michael will agree to help him but not agree to accept his brutal methods or join forces with him permanently. He makes a deal with James to save his family. Jesse, Sam and Fiona just think Michael is 'lost' and step in to confront him. Fiona risks Sonya shooting her. Sam will then fight with Michael and they fall into the ocean together and almost drown. In my fantasy of how this will end - James respects Michael's virtue and sense of honor and tells him that he will save Michael's family if he will help him do this last mission. Michael is still trying to do both, the good thing (ie. the mission) and save his family. The gang gets on board with Michael and James to stop a deadly terrorist attack.
    James sets up a ploy so that the CIA will think that Michael and his whole family have been killed so they can leave the country. However we find out that Maddie has inoperable cancer and can't go with them. She and Michael are completely reconciled and she gives Charlie into his care. We already know by the end of episode 12 that Fiona is with Michael. In Episode 13 the whole family fights their last big battle against evil together and share an intimate moment with Maddie before they are freed from both James and the CIA forever.
    I have loved Burn Notice and am going to be sad to see it end. I haven't minded the intensity of Season 7. Yes, it has become more of a drama then a light hearted feel good show, but the core of the show has always been about Michael being a man of strength, truth and integrity who had a family who stood by his side no matter what. The show has raised moral and ethical questions that has shaken all of its viewers. It is also an epic romance. I have never seen the kind of chemistry that Michael and Fiona have on screen. They are both amazing actors. He is a true Hero and she is his perfect match.

  • USAFan Aug 27, 2013

    That would be great if that was the ending!

  • bradchambers11 Aug 24, 2013

    Well put. You should be a writer.

  • JT_Kirk Aug 24, 2013

    You know what? I forgot how annoyed I was with a few little things in this ep. People reading ambushes that shouldn't have been readable, CGI flames, James' crew buying weak sauce red herrings, that sort of thing. The ep was good enough to get past them, but they were still there.

  • tnetennba Aug 24, 2013

    Yes, but there's stuff like that in all the episodes. Last week was much worse for example.

  • JT_Kirk Aug 24, 2013

    I think what bothered me about this episode was that it telegraphed the change a little too early, that Westen wore these feelings on his sleeve for a while now. But it's probably a bluff because the CIA didn't swoop up Maddie and CHARLIE (holy crap am I sick of this kid despite him doing nothing wrong on his own, it's all the writers' fault kid, I promise) and Sam and Fi and Jesse, and that's the thing weighing on Michael's mind most, so there's simply no excuse for him leaving that all open to chance with James, a man he KNOWS FOR A FACT is a cold-blooded murderer at least as bad as the agency holding him hostage. IMO, if that's not part of Michael's endgame, then it's a goddamned plot hole, a very specific character arc that gets flushed down the crapper to serve a pointless plot twist.

    You stash a knife in your shirt down your side, Maddie screwed that up and slid it down her front, then had to play Twister with her own body, but it was forgivable given the circumstances. The fact that Maddie can spot Fi's sniper rifle while James' guys can't is less so.

    Not entirely satisfied with Simon/Michael, not enough talk of reflection despite them dressed the same in different shades, not enough all-out throwdown to the death about it.

  • tnetennba Aug 24, 2013

    I don't think Michael is bluffing. He thinks the CIA is no better than James's crew, and he had to think that there was a good chance that James would kill him there. He was willing to put himself in a 60% chance of dying situation to ensure that Sonya wouldn't be executed because of him.

    How do we know for a fact that James is far worse than the CIA? That's not at all how I have interpreted the situation. I think the CIA is at least as bad. Unfortunately for Mike, James and Sonya are also far too willing to kill everyone around the bad guy just to get the bad guy, so it's not just a simple matter of choosing the "right" side. There is no right side here. That's what makes it so interesting. I have no idea what he's going to do.

    I can't imagine that Michael takes down James and Sonya now. Maybe the show ends with him finally denouncing the CIA and taking over James' operation. Maybe it ends with a drone strike that kills James and Sonya, giving Mike a chance to slip away and let everyone think he's dead. Maybe Sam, Fiona and Jesse will take down James and Sonya, making it look like Mike did it, and then Mike finally quits the CIA. This seems to be the only way everyone can live sort of happily ever after in Miami.

  • JT_Kirk Aug 25, 2013

    James is worse than the CIA because we know of his brutal methods and we know he answers to no one. We don't like the CIA on the show because of their choices, but that they have limits and goals that answer to someone, and that's a big difference. Considering how clear Michael has been on where things stand in his spy world in the past, I think it's clear that this shift is unreasonable in any other way than a trick to take down James' whole operation.

    The idea that he could be playing both is interesting, but asking a lot of strategizing in a situation that is clearly beyond Michael's control, the CIA is not being terribly predictable or careful, you can't plan around a wild card that easily.

    The idea that he's really turned, that doesn't fit the bill.

  • MorbidSpy Aug 31, 2013

    It does fit the bill. Michael has had to give up a lot for the CIA. He had to kill his friend for the CIA. Sure, James asked him to, but so did the CIA. The CIA has a lot of bad people in charge. Management, Anson, Tom Card, Riley. Who else is bad? Is Strong? And what had James actually done? Other than what that guy said he did, but at the same time we don't have James side of the story. Maybe James has his reasons. He is an extremist. He doesn't always do things the Michael way. But he knows Michael and knows he doesn't want to be a monster.

    So yes, in a world where killing an innocent for the greater good, I can see Michael loosing his way. I've actually seen this day coming. I didn't see him giving up his cover though.

  • JT_Kirk Aug 31, 2013

    James killed 7 innocents on a whim, James killed his whole platoon, James is a monster whose claim of doing the right thing so far haven't amounted to anything of the sort, and James answers to no one.

  • tnetennba Aug 25, 2013

    The only thing that wouldn't fit the bill is if he starts using James's methods. But maybe he can convince James to do things his way. Maybe James will die and he can take over the operation after James.

    I strongly disagree about this being a trick. I think it can't be a trick. I I would be very disappointed if it turns out that it is.

  • JT_Kirk Aug 25, 2013

    I don't think there's an avenue they can take where there won't be some disappointment, but the signs fit and the character arc really wouldn't make sense this late in the game if Michael were to make such a drastic change of heart - especially sacrificing his friends to the CIA - for a relatively small thing that he was already well aware of.

  • dref22 Aug 25, 2013

    There is no way they will make CIA a baddie at the end of the show. I feel like Strong will be shown as the sole reason why CIA did questionable things and I believe that would be a cheap solution, eh.

  • tnetennba Aug 25, 2013

    I don't know. I feel like they have never made the CIA look good, so it wouldn't be that much of a change. It would be more of a clarification. But you may be right. If you are, then I'm really curious about what will happen to James and Sonya, and what Mike's part in it will be.

  • dref22 Aug 25, 2013

    It's always easier to put the blame on individuals rather than an institution and if I'm right, Sonia and James might get redeemed, well, at least we are wondering about the ending and this is a good sign for a show. :P

  • ltcomstella Aug 23, 2013

    sorry no sale:

    Mike doesn't turn or waver under duress and mind bending drugs, friends and family under threat from two sides, has to to questionable stuff for months nope he still the cia agent, but as soon as strong gets simon out of jail and a new job mike owns up and gives in...begging for death..

    seriously...that's some bullshit.

  • MorbidSpy Aug 31, 2013

    It's a combination of it all. Michael has had to do a lot for the CIA. He gave everything up for them. They burned him. They killed his brother. They made him public enemy number one. They sent the cartel after him and his family. They made him choose all his friends and family go to jail or him giving up Fi. They made him kill his friend. His friend who was seriously worried for Michaels life. And so far, the only questionable thing James asked Michael do is kill a friend. And, we don't know what the plan is. If the plan James has is to save millions of lives, and Michaels friend looking into Michael and finding James, that could be a bad thing. There are other ways to solve the problem, but James isn't that type of person. If Michael wasn't working for the CIA and thought James was a monster, maybe Michael would have suggested another way. Maybe James would have accepted it.

    And yet, the CIA is using people like Simon, while James is using people like Burke and Michael. People who have values. So really, who is more of a bad guy?

  • bradchambers11 Aug 24, 2013

    Idk why but I replied to you and it isn't showing up so I will try again... He realized he dedicated his whole life to a lie. That is a big shot to his pride. That is enough to make most men commit suicide. Without pride you have nothing. So quit trolling and trying to find something wrong with every little thing so you complain about and then you might enjoy watching it and be happy for once. Otherwise don't watch if you do not like it.

  • zornwil Aug 24, 2013

    The fundamental problem I see is that Michael has been doing this for his friends (and of course, that his own inner demons love the life, true, but his key trait getting him through all has been loyalty). Sure, he hates the CIA, perhaps even more now, but to give up on his friends just because the CIA throws Simon is ... bizarre. Granted, we may find out it's another Michael trick, a way he can get away from the CIA AND James...but I really have given up caring now.

  • MorbidSpy Aug 31, 2013

    I don't see him giving up on his friends. In that last moment, I believe part of him wanted to die. It would protect his friends - the CIA doesn't know what he has done. At the same time, part of him wanted to live but he knows if he does, it will endanger his family and friends.

    But he hasn't given up yet. In the end, he will choose his friends. He killed for Fi. He killed the guy who ordered the kill of his brother. His family and friends are everything to him.

    But everyone has times when they feel the way Michael did. Just shoot me now.

  • ltcomstella Aug 24, 2013

    i loved this show prior to the last season and this one..

    so much treading over old ground with the added cliche of closure.

    but they killed nate off just to add some shock value give mike some grief and then introduce yet another big bad for an even bigger bad person who then is teased and kept out of the entire season but they have to deal with yet another 'dirty agent' the show is stale now.... nothing can redeem it for me i fore see mike and fi dying 'heroically' to save jesse and sam.. or some other massive cliche let down..

    now if the writers had of just made card the bad guy and no one else and had him be bit more of a elusive mark instead of just being in his office and mike shoots him... he leaves the building picks up fi kisses her and they disapear behind a passing vehicle show ends. i'd be happy but no they returned to another 'anson' guy yet again, but no it's not him, wtf ? another guy is behind these ops... but wait he ain't the boss man either !! now we FINALLY GET the bad ass dude responicible and he's kinda moral and just and fair and actually gives a shit but the cia want him dead ???

    oh not to mention the old tired stupid 'love triangle bullshit... of a lame one dimensional 'carlos' who was a random 'bounty hunter' who should of been a mole.. but no they just make him a total pussy whipped fool in love with a woman who is clearly not his type...and he gets a bit messed up from his own past suddenly saving his life is a problem when it involves drug king pins losing family ??

    but what ever... just my opinion, no need to get personal if you don't agree.

  • bradchambers11 Aug 24, 2013

    Ok I do see some of your points and I can respectfully debate. I too was losing interest but these last few episodes IMO have been great. You said Carlos should have been a mole I disagree because to me that would have been cliche. Nowadays there isn't anything in entertainment that hasn't been done in someway shape or form. So I think they are doing the best they can to be "original". Now I think that is impossible but they do need to have closure to westons character so they ate trying the beat they can. I personally liked it better when they were just helping people and less of the main story going on.

  • ltcomstella Aug 25, 2013

    i was fine with the clients each week, but it got stale after a while but it was worth watching they tried to go too big too fast and any big bad just ends up being dealt with in a such a lame way untill now where they are actually doing something with them even if it is a bit convaluted and contradicts previous episodes.

  • tnetennba Aug 24, 2013

    I don't agree. Michael wants to be one of the good guys, and he finally understands that the CIA aren't the good guys. He's been totally dedicated to them his whole life, even after it cost him his brother. So to finally realize that they're worse than the people they're after, is precisely the sort of thing that could make him do what he did in this episode.

    He didn't want to die. He just decided that he would rather put himself in a situation where it's likely that he will die, than let Sonya get executed because of how he used her. Then he thought that if they're going to kill him, it's better for him if they do it quickly.

  • bradchambers11 Aug 26, 2013

    I completely agree. I understood why that made Michael change his mind about the CIA.

  • tvdiva826 Aug 24, 2013

    I believe! Simon is the guy who got micheal burned, who tossed Miami into chaos. Simon told micheal that since micheal put him away they have been using him so its not just his handler that used simon but the CIA. The ends does justify the means anymore and when simom said that the cia is using him the same way that why he help james escaped. And the reaseon he told the true was bc if he let Sonia die for his cover then he wouldn't be the man he thought he was.

  • JT_Kirk Aug 24, 2013

    Who ISN'T responsible for Michael getting burned? Simon, Cowan, Tom Card, Carla, "Management", Vaughn, etc.. It's stale, and Michael already put a bullet in nearly everybody already, there has to be some level of closure. Is this all daddy issues?

  • zornwil Aug 24, 2013


    BTW, i wouldn't mind seeing Management again, if I'm paying attention before the end.

  • dref22 Aug 23, 2013

    It was a really fun episode and it's been a fun season and I really needed my weekly Jack Coleman fix. But I can't stop asking: Is this really the first time Michael saw CIA do very questionable things? Or any other intellgince agency? Really?

  • tvdiva826 Aug 24, 2013

    It is tho if u think about it all those other times it was not the cia it was some rouge agent or organization acting outside of the cia like micheal's old mentor. This is the first time thet have done something questionable and wrong by use a monster like Simon. Simon is the first bad guy mike took down for the cia to clear his name and this whole time the cia was using him like they are and have been using michael.

  • gzeigler3 Aug 23, 2013

    No, of course not. It's not even the first time that he's had to do some questionable things. However, he could justify those things. They were for the better good. Freeing Simon could not be justified though. Uh uh. No way. No how.

  • JT_Kirk Aug 24, 2013

    This is a dealbreaker, but holding hostage everyone Michael held dear to track down a rogue agent that was actually a much bigger issue somehow wasn't telling of their true character? No.

  • zornwil Aug 24, 2013

    And that's what makes Michael's flip unbelievable; he was doing this whole gig for his friends (and, yes, the thrill he can't escape), not the CIA. Of course, we may find this is another Michael trick, yada yada, boring now...

  • dref22 Aug 25, 2013

    And I'll also ask this: So suddenly his friends aren't that important anymore? What he did was basically betraying them. Yes, I say boring or not, this must be another trick or his actions will make zero sense.

  • roystreet Aug 23, 2013

    Where does Michael's obsession with justice come from? Is it just compensation for growing up with a brutal father and with a mother who tried to smooth things over by being economical with the truth? Or is it innate, like a plant in a forsaken garden that suddenly finds the sun?

  • MorbidSpy Aug 31, 2013

    I have a feeling Michael grew up without purpose. That led him to join the army, and at some point be asked to join the CIA. He found a purpose working for his country. That's who he is. But now his country, in his eyes, are wrong.

  • bradchambers11 Aug 24, 2013

    That is a good question and great descriptions. But I think both are very good possibilities

  • tvdiva826 Aug 24, 2013

    I think its bc He was fragile when he left home. the military and the cia gave him something to believe in, made him feel like he was worth something. And then larry unleashed his dark side

  • gzeigler3 Aug 23, 2013

    I'm sure an argument could be made for both.

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