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Burn Notice S07E09: "Bitter Pill"


James is one charming son-of-a-gun. His syrupy drawl, his kind eyes, and his dedication to family values make for the kind of cool dude who takes a good time and makes it a great one. James is the river-rafting tour guide who learns everyone’s name right away, he is the picnic guest who mans the grill and gives you the ice cold beer he just opened for himself; he is the boss who invites employees to his nice cabin and wants to know about your life outside of work. But as previously hinted at, and as confirmed tonight in "Bitter Pill," there’s a dark side to this mythic chillness. Or as James would say, "Every yin has its yang, brotherman." This was a serviceable episode, one that did the bare minimum in advancing this final season toward its end. For every standout moment of interesting character development or thematic exploration, there were three scenes full of interchangeable Burn Notice action. The result was something that approached importance, but took the normal route getting there.   


So Michael and the gang found themselves rounded up by James for another mission involving the whole crew. I feel like I’m missing something in this mastermind’s inability to sniff out what Jesse, Fi, and Sam know about Michael’s real reasons for being involved with him, but whatever. He trusts Michael, and by extension the crew. Anyway, the task this time around: Protect Dr. Omar Hamed (Christopher Maher), a pro-democracy, peace-seeking reformist in the Middle East and the target of an assassination plot. Joining the gang was Ben Snyder (David Meunier, Justified’s Johnny Crowder), a man in James’ employ with a real attitude problem. Right? This guy was getting snappy with the gang right away for no good reason. Maybe it's that thing where, when you’re around a super chill dude, and you yourself happen to be a little tightly wound, the comparison exaggerates the differences. 


Security detail went off without a hitch, except for the part where Hamed grubbed down a poisoned crab cake courtesy of a helpless waiter (R.I.P.) and some hater-ass Libyans. What’s so bad about peace, hater-ass Libyans? (PSA: Hot all Libyans are haters, just hater-ass ones like in this episode and Back to the Future). The gang needed to find an antidote to the poison (classic poison), while Hamed was on death's doorstep in the same tent that was used in E.T. Luckily, that poor waiter’s payLo Virgin mobile phone had received a call from this guy named Khalid Mazik, a guy who makes synthetic drugs and does business at a waterfront strip club. Wasn’t there a scene last season where Jesse was in a strip club? Must be a Burn Notice tradition to sit Porter down in the middle of some purple curves. 


To get close to Mazik, Jesse and Fi (who had yet to be spotted by the Libyans) made the druggist an offer no apothecary could refuse: $100,000 cash and a chance to look at a bunch of ecstasy in a bag. Unfortunately, Fi broke out her piece, Mazik lost his cool, and next thing you know they were jumping into that dirty strip club water. Oh, the body-glitter pollution! Mazik was like, "Shoot me and you'll never know where the antidote is." Then Ben Snyder kicked his bad attitude up a notch and injected Mazik with the very poison circulating through Hamed, who at that point was practically being fitted for angel wings. Now this chemical bro had no choice but to take them to the antidote. Which he did and then everyone hugged and jumped up and high-fived and then checked their cell phones for messages.


ACTUALLY Snyder shot Mazik in cold blood, barrels of Aqua-Net hairspray exploded the whole warehouse into a towering inferno, and Snyder ditched Fi to save himself. Ultimate bad-attitude move. In retrospect, he was doing Michael a favor, presenting him with the chance to rescue Fi and show her how he really, truly cared. The two shared a beautiful moment, and came THIS close to an Irish flashback. But James was livid about Snyder's piss-poor attitude and punished via a fatal gunshot, confirming that the leader was in fact a bit of a nut-job.


Maddie barely had a story this week, just basically being freaked out by James’ dudes and then sharing a tense gunpoint sitdown with the guy before he crushed her cigarettes. It was the kind of speech where there's a threatening subtext, like if I were to pick up a cotton ball and be all, "The funny thing about cotton balls is they ALWAYS SQUISH." My question is, what was James doing before confronting Maddie? Thumbing through her Better Homes & Garden mags? Enjoying a catnap? Using the bathroom? In any case, this was a pretty standard episode that missed the chance to use this show’s imminent ending to go above and beyond the regular procedural aspect. Oh well!   


BURNING QUESTIONS:

– Are you bothered that these final episodes are just basically regular Burn Notice episodes?

– By rescuing Fi, did Michael win his way back into her heart?

– What will the confrontation between Michael and James look like?

– What happened to Sonya?

– How does James rank among all the many big bads of Burn Notice?

– What did you think of "Bitter Pill"?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 9/12/2013

Season 7 : Episode 13

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Of course Fi's heart is back with Mikey after she... noticed... his... burn. Oh my god, they really did that! They REALLY DID THAT!

What's with the vaseline-looking screencaps? I hope you didn't have to watch this episode in such poor quality.

Thank you for explaining why I couldn't stop feeling like I had seen Ben Snyder before, that was driving me nuts! Cousin Johnny, someone's typecast as a sniveling semi-incompetent little bitch who is likely to get his in the end. They did an ok job with his character here, but I felt like James' faith in Ben didn't really show any expertise in picking the right man for the job, Ben had the tools but none of the talent.

I also thought of the Libyans from BTTF while they were talking about these guys in this episode!

I was shocked Fi didn't shoot Mazik in the leg or something when he mouthed off, but his little bitch attitude when being thrown into the water was a good second, and Ben's ploy seemed semi-reasonable in theory.

James shooting Ben down seemed somewhat reasonable to me, what he did was unconscionable in the scheme of things, I was surprised they didn't play up Michael's on-the-fence feelings about that guy leaving Fi to die in a fire.

Growing really sick of Maddie with Charlie, it's just... ugh.

Yeah, it is a bit slow having so many regular Burn Notice episodes.

James is "big bad number 73" to me, he's nothing special despite them playing him up as the big supercheese.

I liked the episode but didn't love it.
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I agree that they have made Madelaine rather naive in this season. However I can see a good reason for the focus on her at the beginning of this episode. Michael always tried to protect his mother. But he never followed her without her permission or showed up in her house uninvited the way that James did. He would never have taken Maddies cigarettes away from her even if he knew they were bad for her. Maddie sees things like they are. She accepted James protection but let him know he had gone about it wrong, that she would 'shoot him on sight' if he showed up in her house again. Now we all have to hope that Michael has been influenced by her clear vision. As I mentioned in my other commentary, Michael has to see it isn't his job to save the world no matter what the cost. It isn't okay to do a good thing in a bad way. He isn't like James.

There are lots of unresolved things in the whole season that I'm afraid we are never going to understand. Why hasn't James investigated Fiona and Sam? Where did Strong go, it seems he could already have taken James down by now? How about a few words from Carlos? What did sleeping with Sonya really mean to her, was that just a ploy to test Michael? I saw an interview with Jeffrey Donovan where he says the is season is divided into two parts. This last four shows we should have the question resolved once and for all about Michael and Fiona.

This show has always been an epic love story to me and that's why I've loved it. You only have to watch some of the Michael and Fiona songs on youtube to see the chemistry between two incredible actors. I hope Donovan doesn't just go from here to producing. His true talent is as an actor! I've loved all of the character acting he did on the show to play various bad guys, scam artists, etc. He came to TV from doing New York Theatre and it shows.
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Im interested in how they will tie it all up in only 4 episodes. My main question is how do these people get the funding to start these organizations in the first place and how do they not seem to know about each other. I mean really think about it. The CIA did not know of Hanson's organization who apparently did not know about Jame's organization... THESE ARE PROFESSIONAL SPY AGENCIES WHO BASICALLY SPY FOR A LIVING!!!

Also, does anyone else feel the writers are just really forcing the fact Maddy is the "weak link"... I mean she was shot, assisted in several missions and knows her son basically works for people that will kill EVERYONE first and ask questions later for the last 5 years and now all of a sudden she seems to have forgotten all this because there is a child...

Overall I still liked the episode, but it was a bit predictable and meh. Also, it did nothing to convince me Mike and Fi should end up together. Im not sure what it is but I really just do not care one way or another about that story line.
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Exactly. Why is Madelyn acting as if she's brand new to this whole situation because now Charlie's in the picture?
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The importance of this episode was to highlight the burning problem Michael has experienced for six years, -- his need to be the savior of the world. James was created in season 7 to show us what can happen when you take justice into your own hands. Fiona left Michael because he was obsessed with the CIA and his 'cause'. Michael often did good things that hurt his family and friends. James as a character ups the anti on the question: Is it okay to do a good thing in a bad way? We see that zealousness creates fanaticism.

Michael will have to decide once and for what camp he is in. Is it okay to murder a man on your team because he is a coward? What if that coward was responsible for someone you loved almost dying? All of Season 7 has been examining Michael and deepening our understanding of his character. James is another sick villain like psychologist Anson trying to co-opt Michael. Ethic questions came up with Anson too. For example: Was it okay that Anson murdered Michael's father? After all didn't he deserve to die after being so abusive. Are we beyond the law, able to dispense our own brand of morality on others? James believes he is. Michael has to see that he and James ARE NOT THE SAME.

It is clear to me that this issue has to be resolved before Fiona can be with Michael again. Michael is struggling with his personal demons. James has been 'getting to him' and pulling him along because at heart Michael is a lot like him. Michael is determined to save the world even if it hurts those he loves. Then he feels this incredible guilt and tries to separate from them. Larry got to Michael because he represented Michael's anger. James represents Michael desire to somehow fix things no matter what the cost.

Michael has freed himself from Larry, Anson and now he has to free himself from James and then he'll truly be free to be in a healthy love relationship.

I hope the network with give us five more shows to help Fix work this all out.
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Fi (Gabrielle Anwar) should stop wearing bra's (again)!!!

Who is with me??? :-D
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Could be character development. Now that she's keeping house with Carlos, perhaps she wants to dress with more decorum.

Or maybe it's part of the general dress-policy of the show. Everyone has to dress in dull, workaday style, just to show they are EARNEST people (so important when you're saving the world). It's one with the gray-yellow photography that drains the color and excitement out of the show.

Overall, the general slackness and lack of commitment may be a product of the aging of the production team. After all, fighting in the trenches of the TV-entertainment machine can't be all that different from covert operations.


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I like Burn notice anyway, but i get "scared " that i won t get my mind blowing final season that I was calling for. Sonya will be back next week, kinda miss her ( ok Alona Tall) presence.
As a bad guy he could be number 1 (in front of the guy who burnt Michael). I like him as a bad guy and wish that he would have been present before. He is so dual he could have been one of the greatest anti hero with Tony Soprano. We don't know yet what are his interests, what he is aiming at. We know he is a nut case and will goto the extreme to defend his core values. We learnt a few of them today and how he will deal with anyone who does not follow them. See today he defends a guy for peace because war would be against his interests, but what are they and how does he fund his activities. Is there someone else backing him up because he is sparing no expenses ( house destroyed just after one" meeting")

Well in short so many questions, not so many episodes left to answer to those . I would have signed up at least for another season with just one big bad guy as James
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I think keeping a Procedural-of-the-Week vibe in the show is an effort to not lose the many fans of the show who began liking it for that very construct. I myself would rather see the show move in to a more long-form, over-arcing story at this point and dispense with singular episode plots, but I know of tv.com users right here who like the Adventure Of The Week format and wouldn't want it to change, and I imagine the producers know that they can't stray too far from the formula that got them this far. My biggest problem with an episode like this one is even keeping a Caper-of-the-Week thing going, there's still a chance for more exposition on the overall picture. Like the former associate of James they got out of the mental institution last week. His reveals on the James character made that episode feel much more complete. We learned nothing new in this one, and that's a missed opportunity.

Two things aren't working for me, the first is an overall thing, the second is episode-specific. First....it makes no sense to me how the show has gone to great lengths to characterize James as someone who you absolutely don't get next to without first being sussed out by many levels of his operatives, and when you do, you'll still be subjected to massive psychological interrogation by James himself. He burns multi-million dollar mansions to the ground just to avoid being detected. But yet Sam, Fi, and Jessee are just suddenly okay by him? Michael passes his inspection, so everybody gets to automatically tag along and meet the man and be a part of his missions? That seems WAY out of line with everything we're told about him and what we've seen Michael have to go through to get in with James. Second thing.....it was not plausible to me that their security detail in this episode did not see the poison coming. It's the first thing I thought of when I saw people eating at the after-party, and it's something that Weston-and-Gang has been characterized for years now to be above missing. Seriously....these characters all have extensive security training to go along with their military backgrounds.....suddenly they overlook food poisoning? It felt like the writers sacrificed years worth of characterization for the sake of moving the plot in a pre-determined direction, because they are either not capable of coming up with something else or were too lazy to. Either way, the "We didn't see poison coming" thing didn't work for me.


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Yes, I agree. I actually asked myself While watching the scene between Michael and Madelyn, 'did they bring in new writers for this season or something?' The characters just aren't the same. They're not as sharp. They seem to be at the mercy of James or Strong or both and just aren't on top of situations like they should be.
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I think it was just a filler before they get going ya know what I mean?And it just kinda confirms that James be a nut case.And,if there is any kind of confrontation between them it will be more about wits I think.
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Yes, with as close to the end of the series as we now are, they should have dispensed with the mission-of-the-week stuff long before now.

I'm really not sure if the writers know how to shut down one of their Big Bads in a satisfying, cathartic manner at all. They've squandered so many opportunities to do that in the past. Pfft, I can almost picture them ending the series on a cliffhanger just because they don't know how to do anything else anymore.
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Maddie's stories are really pointless at this juncture. To me they are just keeping her around soundtrack if/when she dies it will mean more. But the problem is that it is taking time away to tell a good story about Mike.

Questions

1. Yes, we haven't learned anything new about Mike. We haven't gone any deeper with him over previous seasons. And it is still the diluted quality of the show since season 4.

2. Not just yet. She isn't going to forgive him until she is about to die or he leaves it all behind him for her.

3. I am actually hoping that here isn't a confrontation.

4. Setting up for the next mission. But she was missed.

5. He ranks up there. He does this mostly because of his ambiguity. Him being bad or good is based entirely on the person viewing him. From the guy in he asylum and his team members he would appear evil. But from the the villagers whose lives he saved if they new about it would think he was their hero. Him shooting Johnny crowter seems drastic, but he violated an oath. Guys like mike and James are big on oaths. They deal with people that have no honor and have no morals and they command those from the people hey take into their confidence. Violate that and ou might as well be dead or will be dead. He is likely their most complex "villain", in that he might not actually be the villain. He with trailing them might actually be protecting them as he says, unlike someone like Strong who is using them to make Mike do what he wants.

It was all right. But still a lot of time wasted in a dwindling series.
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I definitely liked this episode. These last episodes aren't stellar, but they're getting straight to the point, and I like that. Maddie doesn't need a story, she just needs to stay alive and take care of Charlie. James showing up to her house, unannounced, made it that much harder. She did the absolute right thing keeping that gun pointed at him cause she doesn't know a damn thing about him or what he's capable of.

Answers:
1. No problem at all. Honestly these "regular" episodes have more meaning because of the stakes at hand, given Michael needs to complete this mission or everyone goes to prison for life. That one fact alone makes these regular episodes stronger. Besides, their b storylines lately have been tying into the big picture, so there's not really any lag time.

2. No, to soon. He simply rescued her. End of story. She clearly appreciated it, but it changed nothing. He rescued her two weeks ago, when she nearly fell from the side of the building, and that didn't change anything. So why would this be any different?

3. Not sure. Michael is very mission-oriented, but with the way James has been getting to him, especially as of late, your guess is as good as mine. They could beat the crap out of each other, or they could just argue it out like crazy.

4. Sonya wasn't needed this time. No big deal.

5. James is a close second to Larry in my opinion, but he definitely holds second alone. I like him because he's a baddie that isn't screaming baddie to me. I know according to Strong he's a terrorist, but nothing about what he's done so far says terrorism. It's saying vigilante to me, and in a good way. The story of him killing his platoon isn't good (or keeping his friend in a mental institution for 15 years), but that's all the proof we have right now. Sorry, but i need more. Shooting Snyder definitely makes him a bit of a nut job, but not a bad guy.

6. Loved it. Like I said, given the stakes the gang is facing, every episode, regular or not, is that much more special to me.
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I gotta agree about James.
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I liked this episode as far as action and drama go, but it didn't do much to move the story along which is fine with me. Does cousin Johnny always going to play a "traitor"? Answers: 1. Not really because the writing has been pretty good and in "regular" episodes there is always a B plot where they are helping someone now all the B plots tie in with the main story. 2. If he didn't he should stop trying because this is the third time he saved her life this season. 3. I don't know but I really hope it ends with Michael joining him or atleast oing off the grid to really be done with the CIA. 4. I guess she hasn't beenneeded ( or is just simply playing a role for a prior engagement) but I'm glad to see she will be in the next episode she has been a great addition to the show. 5. Hard to say right now. We will have to wait to the story is done but he is already among my favorites. 6. Overall a pretty good episode.
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