Burn Notice "Over the Line" Review: Frenemy of the State

Burn Notice S06E13: "Over the Line"

Michael made peace with Maddie, and the Westen crew executed a daring combination escape, rescue, and capture, prepping for a life of hiding from senior CIA officer Olivia Riley (Sonja Sohn). Picking up directly where last week's episode left off, "Over the Line" was a certain kind of Burn Notice affair—one without an external client that instead focused on the group's survival as a cohesive unit. What amounted to a drawn-out game of cat and mouse kept the singular thread of Card's murder-aftermath lively by establishing a swift new threat in Riley while invoking the larger theme of Michael's questioned patriotism moving forward. On a show that thrives on expertly laid-out action, seeing Westen take a turn for the vulnerable makes his chance of getting out of this mess that much more uncertain, and more fun to watch.

So, fresh after Card's murder, a disappointed yet faithful Sam was able to throw the feds off Michael's scent long enough to allow Westen to pull off an escape that involved riding on top of an elevator and slamming through a parking garage wall (classic Westen jams). However, "counter intel legend" Riley held Axe captive to aid in tracking down Michael, while Fiona, Westen, and Jesse concocted a scheme to rescue Sam despite the impossible odds against them. Meanwhile a box-packing Maddie played dumb in order to protect the Burn Crew, and the whole to-do wrapped up with the narrow apprehension and release of Riley—which bought some time, but did little in the way of clearing Michael's name. Though on the nation's literal shit list as "an enemy to the United States," as his new rival put it, Westen finally got some much-needed support from his mother, who applauded Michael's shooting of Card and vowed to remain in Miami as a contact to Jesse, Sam, Fiona, and her dear, beloved son.

At this point it's safe to say Michael Westen has a torrid, on-again/off-again relationship with the CIA to rival that of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton: First he was burned out of working for the agency; then he regained its trust, only to become a suspect in the murder of his own partner; then he cleared his name, only to have an attempt made on his life by the very man who trained him AND ordered a hit on the person who burned Westen in the first place. Now he's back on the outs after killing a CIA director and briefly taking another one hostage.

After all these crossings, double-crossings, and triple-crossings, it's likely there's someone still connected to Card and his shady dealings who specifically wants Westen dead or in custody for discovering the unauthorized missions. Either that's a brand-new baddie to look out for, or—in some circuitous way—a hidden remnant of the Organization. Heck, it takes a village to run covert ops under the nose of the CIA.

And sure, the agency has a workforce of over 20,000 so there's plenty of chances for information to get lost in the shuffle, but it's going to be super frustrating if Michael has to prove to yet another skeptical operative that there are shady transpirings at work within the organization (not to be confused with The Organization). Like, damn, CIA, whoever's the bad apple over there, it's time to suss them out, if not for integrity's sake, then for us viewers who are becoming a little tired of never knowing whether such employees are dumb, evil, or just plain aloof. Riley boasts an immediately commanding, no-nonsense presence, but we need to know very soon what category she falls into (evil or aloof). There's a difference between plot-driven twists and turns, and plot-serving, shapeshifting villains.

Burn Notice at least recognizes how tedious Michael's search for the truth has become, and has supplemented his journey with character development that provides a possible blueprint for how this could all end. Throughout the past six seasons, Michael has made great strides in forming a healthy relationship with his mother, found love with Fiona, confirmed a long-term, "ass-on-the-line" friendship with Sam Axe, and helped out countless clients along the way. Westen's final obstacle to surmount going forward will be clearing his name as a patriot, settling down with Fiona, and giving his mother the sort of restful old age someone like Maddie deserves. Either that, or exploding the Pentagon (not really, there are good people there doing good things).

Considering there's only five episodes left in this season (four if the final two-parter were to count as one), fans can expect efficient storytelling on this race to the finish line/next cliffhanger. Olivia Riley's able to contend with Westen because she's smart, and that makes the chess match between the two that much more exciting. I'd really like to see this same level of adversity continue.


DEBRIEFING:


– Based on the "Previously On" part of this show alone, I've seen Seth Peterson killed about 125 times by now. I hope the dude gets royalties.

– Michael seemed like a pod person with the disaffected way he told Sam about Card's shooting.

– Riley knew about Gray's death in the hotel; I wonder much more she knows about his involvement with Card.

– Poor Norm the hotel worker, but why didn't he say anything on the elevator ride down?

– The Hyundai Genesis again! I'm all for making this ride the official K.I.T.T. to Michael's Knight Rider.

– It's as good a time as any to cite how Michael calls Maddie "Ma" like Donovan's real-life Massachusetts self probably would.

– Clever usage of tablet reflections, Riley. I imagine her Westenism voiceover for that would be all, "Tablets have shiny surfaces and in the right light can work like mirrors..."

– "Sam would drink it if it was laced with cyanide." True, Jesse, Sam likes beer—but no one would drink poison on purpose.

– Kind of mad that Riley didn't want to close in on the detonators herself, though she felt comfortable shaming her employee into doing it.

– "This isn't a chase anymore Mr. Axe. This is a standoff."

– As soon as Jesse landed in that sewer water, I knew he was going to say something all Jesse-like. It was kind of letdown that it was something boring: "I don't even want to know..." blah blah. Steeee-rike, Jesse.

– Sugar makes me so happy. Hopefully the Burn Crew survives off the grid by calling in favors from a who's who of past clients.

– Didn't know C4 was essentially "flammable clay." No more dousing Play-doh in gasoline.

– Fuller totally could have taken the shot.

– "So this is what becomes of the great Michael Westen..." If that's not a villain line, I don't know what is.

– "I'll hunt you down to the ends of the Earth if I have to." "Then I'll see you there..." Cool.



THREE QUESTIONS:


1. Will Patton Oswalt in the next two episodes be a better celebrity guest than Method Man? Burt Reynolds? Gavin Rossdale? Someone else?

2. Is there a chance, with all this "dad talk" recently, that Michael's father is still alive and trying to burn Michael out of the spy business?

3. Sam laughed at the idea of Michael getting married; is that definitely how the series will end?

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