Reputations are like shadows: Everyone has one. Also, they are literally created by the absence of light. Yep, perfect analogy right there. BOOM. Once in a while each season some cohort, villain, or villain-cohort will step forward and be like, "Ah the great Michael Westen, I learned about you in villain school" or some such. It makes sense that Michael would achieve "living legend" status after all his many years operating in and out of the field—though I think technically his entire life is now "the field." The only difference with the elusive Sonya saying it this episode is that she, along with the late Burke and whoever else may pop up this close to the end, storytelling-wise, should represent the potentially most important of the impressed. Save the best for last, right? Now's the chance to sum Westen up for good, and the perspective of a "fan" would offer a vital angle on such a spy celebrity.
Either that or the writers are just repeating themselves. Look, whatever the hell is going on here, "Exit Plan" focused almost entirely on the escape of mystery character Sonya (Alona Tal) and her equally stunning huntress Oksana (Marina Benedict from Torchwood), which didn’t offer the most complicated story, but had plenty of gorgeous cheekbones and explosions to distract from Fiona’s weak—though momentous—B-story back home.
Hmm, maybe "weak" isn’t the right word here. It did what it needed to do: address how Fi’s Michael-related secrets affect the relationship she shares with Carlos. Emotion has always been a low priority for Burn Notice; characters feel feelings solely to drive action, which is fine in a show that’s 90 percent spy tips, josh-offs, Hawaiian shirts, and intrigue, but the result is a bit of a schizophrenic world where matters of the heart don’t so much propel the cool stuff as does the need to escape this paced-down schmaltz. Thankfully, Fiona’s storyline erred on the side of efficiency, finally exposing her to the terms of Michael’s CIA sacrifice, while putting her relationship with Carlos on ice as she dealt with her past. His reaction was mostly honest, if a little too helpful in the reunion of Michael and Fi. He didn't like the separation idea, but he was okay with it happening. This guy has no clue what charms Westen has on Fi. See you again in seven episodes! Seriously, Carlos has been gone long enough as of late that I thought they switched out actors, but some soft IMDB gumshoeing revealed that her lover tonight was indeed Stephen Martines. I guess I hadn’t remembered Fi’s beaux sporting so much turquoise and silver wristwear.
We got a little more this episode about Michael’s destiny being revealed, with Sonya joining in the "Well, well, well Mr. Westen himself. As children we heard tales of your cunning and prowess..." Have we had enough of the semi-existential chatter? "Journey" this, "all will be revealed" that—Westen's not going to be following a damn Chickasaw Shaman through a dreamscape and into the Sun anytime soon, although if that's exactly how this series ends, I won't complain. Also, I don’t know if I’ve been brainwashed to view every male/female pairing as a possible romance, but this widely sought-after Russian operative certainly seemed like Michael’s type: beautiful, tough, and smart. She even called his anti-kill policy "weak." Who knows, maybe Westen's influence on the young woman will have a positive effect. Maybe he will use his reputation for good. I'm open to anything outside the normal options of death, incarceration, CIA employment, or escape. Sonya's got an authentic spark to her, and she deserves more than some of the stock endings this show normally doles out to its rogues.
A sense of familiarity is no small feat, considering we once again only have the hearsay of familiar characters by which to judge her reputation, and that's never as effective as witnessing the actual dangerous legacy. We know even less about Oksana, the Russian colonel who vamped and twinkled her eyes like each tense standoff was a Dior fashion shot. One cold-blooded move against Sonya’s smuggler friend (who judges smugglebility in terms of pineapples) was enough for Michael and company to see she meant breathy, pursed-lips business, and presented the main obstacle between them and freedom. Hats off to Benedict for playing her part well, but I fear her sort of character is the kind fans complain about: there to be ruthless and not much more. But seriously she sounded like the Kremlin's answer to Marilyn Monroe, right?
Sam and Jesse were fun as bounty hunters Chuck Finley and Virgil Tibbs, the latter of which proved Oksana was no fan of Sydney Poitier (who made this character famous in cinema). I particularly enjoyed Sam getting to feign shock at his partner's death, then fake his own as well. Campbell is always game, and represents what's remained so attractive about this show for so long: The leads all seem like they're having fun. Though I do miss the days when Jesse, Sam, Michael, and Fi put a little care into their fake identities, what with thoughtful accents and body language. I swear, it makes the villains seem that much dumber—and that much less threatening, when Jesse's smirking while talking about how badly he wants to nab Westen. By the time Michael coordinated with his inside guys via fake attack, though, I was having some good old-fashioned Burn Notice fun and couldn't care about much except how Michael "I am everywhere" Westen is one of TV's great badasses, despite whatever cheesy circumstances surround him and his ilk.
Perhaps it was the introduction of two new characters, few complications in the development of the main thread aside from "we still can't get off the island," and a light B-story that gave the episode a hefty feeling. But there was still space for an extra something, whether that was a micro-mission for Fi and Carlos, or Charlie annoying Maddie so hard she takes up smoking again. What'd you think?
– How funny would it be if Carlos was just some regular Yogurtland manager and still had to deal with Fi's spy baggage?
– "Mike we’re talking about someone who was just tortured in a black site. She’s still drugged up." Then why did you let her attack you, Jesse?
– Burke left clothes for Sonya. How thoughtful. (Not a question.)
– Do you trust Sonya?
– How will Oksana prove herself different from all the other past baddies?
– "I call it 'Shoot Intruders on Sight' it explores my feelings about having the CIA break into my house repeatedly." (Also not a question.)
– Did you like "Exit Plan"?
AIRED ON 9/12/2013
Season 7 : Episode 13