Burn Notice "Best Laid Plans" Review: Smuggler's Cove

Burn Notice S06E15: "Best Laid Plans"

Michael and the gang performed a lucrative task for the high-strung Calvin Schmidt in order to purchase new identities, while Maddie worked alongside Barry Burkowski to throw the CIA off Westen's scent as everyone made plans for an international getaway. While "Best Laid Plans" offered legitimate obstacles in moving the season plot forward, its weaker moments smacked of time-biding on the way to more interesting, hard answers.

Thankfully, Michael finally gave his mother the comfort she'd been seeking since Nate's passing as the two resolved to stick together moving into the unknown of life off the grid. It's no small secret that I'm a Patton Oswalt fan, and just like last week, I credit the freshness of this episode to Oswalt's quips aplenty. He served as something of a viewer surrogate, embellishing predictable developments with punched-up lines like, "If I die today my ghost will haunt your children's children. It will be like one of those Japanese movie ghosts too..." Calvin Schmidt did nothing if not whine up a storm, but he was so funny doing it that he balanced out an otherwise paint-by-the-numbers excursion. Oh yeah, also the non-cliffhanger cliffhanger of Sam struggling with whether or not to sit out the journey was resolved within the first five minutes, because Elsa gave him her off-screen blessing. Seeing this scene play out would've been a nice character moment for Sam, but maybe Jennifer Taylor's got pricey demands.

The mission this episode was standard Burn Notice fare, and centered on the team's remaining need to escape the country while lacking money to purchase new identities. Luckily Calvin Schmidt had a Remote Circuit Cutter for disabling alarm systems in his warehouse, and it was worth a delivery rate of $1,000,000. So's all the Westen crew had to do was sneak past tons of patrolling heat and snag the neat gizmo. It seemed a little unbelievable that Fi and Jesse would be able to elude the cops like they did, which exposed the continued larger problem with Riley and her posse. Ostensibly she's the boss of these buffoons who allowed the slip, but is good help really that hard to find? I understand it's a fictional world that has to allow certain incompetence for plot advancement, but how much more capable would Westen and company appear if Riley's skill level was the norm for the entire organization and they still kicked butt? Instead we got a gaggle of doofuses who remained five steps behind every gate crash, IED, and what have you. At least she knew to torture Maddie via cigarette deprivation.

It's always fun to see Barry squirm, though, and I chuckled heartily at his concern over a fake "aggressive fungus in a very sensitive area" on his secret meet-up with Maddie. It's weird, I just started watching Homeland, and that show also features a meet-up in a spa. Are these writers watching each other's shows, or are spas chock-a-block with spy games? Anyway, Barry did what Barry does (i.e. worry up a storm about his ridiculous appearance), plus tricked the CIA into thinking that Michael and company were headed to three different countries, supposedly leading authorities on a tri-cornered wild goose chase (actually a good idea, I approve). Unfortunately, effed-up dude that he is, he just had to schedule a "tanning and O2" session which brought Riley crashing down on Maddie's trail. What I don't get is why Olivia Riley doesn't just trail Maddie super intensely, given that scary-ass form she made her sign. If she's allowed to follow Maddie's movements as much as she does, Riley should just follow her closer. Maybe then she'd catch Maddie drawing green Xs on bus benches or touching strange joggers in the park. That being said, it was great when Maddie hung up on Riley mid-threat.

All in all, this episode contained a heck of a lot of Burn Notice-themed fun, replete with a meaty wall crash, cool gadgetry, Sam undercover, a slimy bad guy who looked like an ex-porn star (current porn star?), and Westen and Jessie getting into a genuinely fun kerfuffle ("That's rich coming from 'Roger Dodger' who's been dead weight since day one"). It was slower than Patton Oswalt's last outing with the crew, and I'll be sad to see him go. One would think putting Axe more in the action would have spiced up the mission, but the fact that Sam had to remain undercover didn't allow for a huge interplay between what would have been a fun relationship. Sidelining Michael always proves less enjoyable, so those parts of this episode were frustrating, but maybe his indirect coaching is indicative of a transition away from the action (a.k.a. a "final" season). However, he did pull off a lot of cool stuff behind the scenes, went undercover, and shared a truly touching moment with Maddie, so I can't squawk too hard. Like any fan, I prefer Michael front and center, but for variety's sake taking him out of the action once in a while usually means a way cooler event is on the way, and for that I am always grateful.


1. How will Maddie influence the group dynamic?

2. How will Riley thwart their next move?

3. Did you enjoy this episode?

4. How does this season compare to previous ones?

5. Were you happy Bruce Campbell's chin got another mention? The Chin Lives!

6. What is your ideal Burn Notice mission?

7. Was Glenanne putting the "Fi" in "fine"?

8. Did you appreciate Maddie touching Michael in the park or was that foolish of her?

Comments (8)
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Dec 08, 2012
I know of the secret-meeting-at-a-spa you speak of in the first season of Homeland, but in this episode of Burn Notice, I believe they actually met at a hospital / doctor's office. I think it said 'something Medical Center'. Granted, it seemed more lavish and stylish than any doctor's office I've ever been to, but then again, I live in Canada and get free health care, so our government probably spends as little money as possible on the buildings' appearance.

Mike (to Fiona): Take care of yourself.
Fiona (to Mike): You too.
-- Camera pans to Jesse in the backseat --
Jesse (basically to himself): Yes, and I will also take care of myself.

That got a good chuckle out of me. Jesse, always the fourth wheel. Having Barry and Schmidt, along with Jesse, makes for some pretty good humor in one episode.

As for this season in comparison to previous ones... I honestly don't really know. It's definitely not as good as the first three seasons, which I know to be my favorites. But I realized as I read this question that I really don't remember most of what went on in seasons four and five; while all I can remember in regards to my feelings about them are that they weren't as good as the first three seasons. It's as if the show's repetitive nature morphed its identity in my head and now I can't remember what happened when. Jesse first showed up in season... four... right? There was something about the guy from Prison Break and The Wire... and the guy from Life and Raising Hope... Richard Kind and Robert Patrick had a few episodes or more... did Anson or Pearce have any episodes in season 4? Bleh, I'm pathetic.
Dec 08, 2012
I enjoyed this episode, but agree that the only thing keeping it from being a throw away cliche was Oswald. I liked that he became the voice of the audience, asking things like Michael asks you to go on a suicide mission and you drop everything and do it? We know after 7 years the answer is yes, but it reminds us how dysfunctionaly-functional they are as a group.
My first thought with Maddie joining would be that she will be like a soccer mom bringing her kids to the mall) or in this case the super secret gun running meeting. Basically that she would cramp their style. Then I remembered when she has gone undercover with them, and how well she holds her own when blackmailing people, or being interrogated, and I'm thinking that she may actually be good for them. She may bring some sensibility to their more half-baked ideas. And I always love watching her and Jessie, or her and Sam interacting, so I think it will be fun for the viewers if nothing else.
Dec 07, 2012
This episode was firing on all cylinders to me. Loved Schmidt, loved Barry, loved the team working together and BARELY surviving the way they did, basically everything. Riley is doing very well as a pain-in-Michael's-ass character. I know she's just doing her job, but man, she needs to see the truth at some point LOL!!!

1. Team's gonna be slower, but still everyone will be present, which is all I care about.
2. Who knows?
3. Immensely
4. Darkest season yet, but still just as enjoyable.
5. Hell yeah!!!
6. Not really sure. Whatever they come up with, I'm down for it.
7. Fiona was looking DAMN FINE last night.
8. Definitely appreciated it. Family is everything to them.
Dec 07, 2012
Probably the best episode thus far this season. It seemed like the Burn Notice of old.

1. lung Cancer
2. Not sure,
3. Yes
4. The whole first half was horrible. Fi in the prison was bad. Michael acting like an emotional teenager horrible.
5. The chin is remarkable.
6. I still want a prequel. When Michael was the badass he was before he came back to Miami and surrounded by his family.
7. Aside from her eyebrows.
Dec 07, 2012
Barry's scheduling of those sessions isn't what brought Riley onto his trail, it was the cancelling of those sessions which did.

I was really pleased with Maddie in this episode, hanging up on Riley and throwing away the phone (man does this show go through a lot of cellphones), calling Riley out for acting on US soil against the CIA charter rules (FINALLY someone says it!) and standing by her guns with Barry and with Michael when the chips were really up against them.

My enjoyment of the overall episode though was muted, it did feel like business as usual, there was a lot of stuff that set off other stuff which required too much coincidence, and Riley continued to chew scenery without feeling like a credible character.

This season has felt very compressed, every episode is right on the backs of the previous in terms of the storyline and drawing it out week by week in episodic fashion has slowed down the pacing needed to make it seem as intense as it should.
Dec 07, 2012
I couldn't understand exactly what Fi said about Sam and then said that she would never admit to it. Anyone catch the words?
Dec 08, 2012
I'll basically just confirm that Ryan's reply is correct.

"Sam, you brilliant son of a bitch."
-- Mike and Jess look at her in surprise --
"I'll never admit that I said that."
Dec 07, 2012
I think she exclaimed that he was a "brilliant son of a bitch" for his role in making sure the van with the money would be left unattended.