Burn Notice "Down and Out" Review: Fugitivity

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Burn Notice S06E14: "Down and Out"

So Michael and the Burn Crew enlisted career smuggler Calvin Schmidt, played by guest-star Patton Oswalt, to help them flee the country while Maddie fended off advances from the steely nerved Olivia Riley (Sonja Sohn) and her CIA minions. Sam struggled emotionally with leaving Elsa in the lurch and Fiona acted as go-between for her lover and his mother while the crew performed a job for the reclusive smuggler that was necessary if they were to get the heck out of Dodge. "Down and Out" smartly used Patton Oswalt (of Ratatouille, Young Adult, and everything hilarious under sun) as much as possible, with verbose lines like ""I could smuggle the Queen of England wearing the crown jewels as a bikini." It will take more than a few beers to scrub that image from my mind. While Burn Notice has seen its share of special guest-stars, Oswalt's turn on the spy-go-round felt especially tailored to give the comedian-actor a sampler plate of espionage life. He chucked a flash grenade, fired automatic weapons, got tortured in the back of a Syrian restaurant, and even legally died for a few minutes. Also he had two of the funniest jabs on Jesse, separately referring to the hair-challenged cohort as "Sinead O'Handsome" and "Black George Clooney," nicknames the writers must have thrown at Oswalt as giddy fans. An outspoken "nerd," he even got to off-handedly refer to Bruce Campbell's Sam Axe by the legendary horror actor's real-life moniker "The Chin."

All in all, the episode largely succeeded because of the comedian's ability to realistically play along with the normal Miami action format: team needs something, they call in a favor, that favor has strings attached, they formulate plan, that plan gets screwed up, and they barely succeed by thinking on the fly. This is nothing new for Burn Notice or TV in general. However, without Oswalt's strong performance, "Down and Out" would have been a ho-hum, mission-client adventure—though one that at least pulled out some emotional depth in Sam and provided viewers with a little backstory on Jesse (he once had a girlfriend from Antigua?).

Olivia Riley positioned herself as Maddie's opponent in a game of deception that found mother-Westen pulling secret rake signals on her garage and zooming past speeding trains with the same reckless abandon as her son. So this is where he gets it from! Riley as a character seemed to bug more than a few folks in the comments section with her introduction, and she hasn't done anything to stand out as a unique individual beyond her ability to make people sign forms in an intimidating manner. One thing that had me scratching my head was how she's supposed to be some legend in the CIA, yet failed to block off the surrounding streets to the harbor in the episode's cold opening, but one does not dissect gossamer, I guess.

As far as spy facts learned, who knew curling irons could be used to simulate electrocution by car battery? I know what I'm going as next Halloween (torture victim). Also, I wish that when Fiona told Schmidt, "There are at least half a dozen things in here that I could use to blow you into little bitty pieces, and I would use the dust to powder my nose," (brilliant line) she'd gone on to detail those things. Refrigerator magnets? Couch cushions? DVR Remotes? Just curious.

,p> A faked torture situation and one daring poison later, Michael successfully duped the former Syrian Intelligence Officer (well, he was still Syrian, just not an ex-intellig—never mind), but Sam still came away with a case of the blues. Squawkin' romance, I found myself a little concerned about the bad guy's ex-girlfriend whose cover had been blown and, even though he had other things to worry about what with being carted off to jail and all, his former flame still risked having her door kicked in at any moment by global cronies. Oh well, every plan has its casualties. Speaking of which, I hope Westen honors his mother's request to say goodbye before he splits for the underground, but by the looks of next week's promo Michael won't make it far.

Same goes for Sam, whose cliffhanger this episode lost all impact when we saw that basically no one makes it out of the country. Luckily though, we'll get a little more Patton Oswalt as he continues to make a strong case for the inclusion of a geek-type in the Westen Crew. Or no? Maybe he would just slow everyone down. Eh, he had such a big presence (in a good way) that the rest of the gang kind of looked stale going through their normal mission-formula motions. I didn't mind this, but I'd like to see Burn Notice shake up the plug-and-play elements of each outing a little more going forward.

BURNING QUESTIONS:

1. What could be done to improve Riley as a character?

2. How will Westen make things right with the CIA?

3. Will Riley eventually break Maddie?

4. How did you find Oswalt as a guest?

5. Will Maddie go to the big house?

6. How do you think this season will end?

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