Entertainment Magazine

Review #3606: Burn Notice 6.5: “Split Decision”

Posted on the 25 July 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Edmund B.

Written by Ryan Johnson and Peter Lalayanis
Directed by Scott Peters

After shaking up its format, “Burn Notice” reintroduces some familiar elements in “Split Decision.” Rebecca becomes essentially the client-of-the-week. Michael gets to go undercover and take his local yokel accent out for a spin again. John C. McGinley returns, ensuring we have hefty servings of ham in both story lines. (Bruce Campbell, of course, provides the other.) This is very much needed, with Fiona still stuck in prison, and Rebecca proving to be an inadequate substitute (even if, like so many shows this past season, they have discovered the power of extreme cleavage). In the end, though, restoring some old pieces doesn’t bring back the old magic. It still winds up as a bland episode of a show that’s starting to spin its wheels.

Review #3606: Burn Notice 6.5: “Split Decision”

After all the build-up of Anson leading up to the latest premiere, the pursuit has become rather desultory. Anson was never an imposing villain in person, and now that he’s crept into the shadows, his hold on the viewers’ attention is fading fast. (I suspect Jere Burn’s agent realized it’s a good career move if Jere keeps having schedule conflicts with, say, “Justified” or “Breaking Bad,” forcing them to write around him.) Rather than the chess game Anson’s hype promised, it’s feeling more like slow-motion checkers with Michael and the team jumping one or two pieces per episode.

The first piece is Rebecca’s promise to roll on Anson, if Michael can protect her brother, Trent. With Anson and Trent unavailable (I think “Justified” had Jere that week), the team targets the gangster to whom Anson is threatening to tell Trent’s location. You would think that, even on the run, the man who ran the organization that burned and then toyed with Michael all this time could just slot in someone else to target Trent. But then you’d be thinking too much, and that can make your brain hurt.

Running the con requires grilling his late father’s cellmate. This operation illustrates that, while Maddy may be belying the opening credits, Nate truly is the option to go to “only if you’re desperate.” I don’t think Jesse will let him get near a cattle prod again anytime soon. Needless to say, despite the miscues, they do get the intel Michael needs to impersonate the cellmate. Meanwhile, Sam and Rebecca are using all of Sam’s charm (and Rebecca’s aforementioned cleavage) to plant the evidence that will deflect suspicion away from Trent. Between this show and the “Breaking Bad” premiere, it was not a good week for police evidence room security.

The con itself feels a little forced. One of Michael’s common tactics has been deflecting suspicion onto someone else in a gang, letting street justice take care of the problem. Here, they’re creating the situation from whole cloth, both planting and discovering the evidence. It just feels careless not to deflect onto a specific alternate target. Getting blindsided when the gangster shifts the blame to his wife should have had fatal consequences, if this show wasn’t on the USA network. It also could have indicated Michael was distracted between Anson and Fiona’s predicament. Instead, his voice-over presents the mistake as if it was just an unfortunate, but unavoidable consequence of this type of mission. We’ve come to expect better than that from Michael.

The other piece of the puzzle is Tom Card’s insistence that Fiona prove herself to the CIA before they’ll help spring her. Apparently, his prior offer to help in any way only extends only to Michael, not to her. The gun-runner she does business with and for has been a presence throughout the show. Now, she’s asked to set him up as the price for her freedom. The wrinkle, and the very valid reason they could played Michael as being distracted, is that he’ll only meet with her or Michael. Naturally, the con runs long, jeopardizing the crucial meet, but, of course, Michael comes through in the end. The gun-runner’s in cuffs, Trent’s apparently safe, and Rebecca reveals Anson’s drop.

The episode ends with the promise that Michael can now go get Anson, which can’t happen soon enough Then the trailer again teases that the attempt will lead to the imminent demise of someone on the team. Going to that well twice in three episodes really shows signs of desperation. What’s worse is, even if it isn’t the obvious choice of removing Fiona’s stand-in just before she returns, I have too little emotional investment in this storyline to really care. They’re just playing out the string, and getting left on the sidelines might be the best move an actor could make right now.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 1/2
Directing: 2/2
Style : 1/2

Score: 5/10

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