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Friday, 5 of March of 2021

Burn Notice – “Neighborhood Watch”

This is just a harmless game of cat and mouse between me and a professional killer.”

Maybe it’s because of how self-aware the episode was, but I thoroughly enjoyed “Neighborhood Watch.” Easily a standout episode of the season thus far (though, if you’ve been watching, you know this isn’t a huge accomplishment since this season has been kind of “Meh” so far), it’s a script filled with solid quips (“Better to have Michael Westen than a 2×4.”), a strong CotW story, and interesting development of the arc (though I figured Vaughn would like to know that Michael’s making headway).

The episode is also elevated by some solid guest work from the always great Benito Martinez and Navi Rawat, shedding her NUMB3RS character with nary a regret and providing a legitimately fun dynamic to the show as Kendra, the professional killer responsible for killing that guy in the airplane the crew discovered last week who was in turn responsible for something else (it’s getting a bit muddled right now).

So, yes, “Neighborhood Watch” is fairly self-aware. From lines like Fi’s “I’m the impulsive one.” to Sam noting that a drug supplier running his operations through a strip club was “classy” (I would’ve gone with “cliché”) or jokingly pointing out that Sam should have no problem getting a delivery truck compared to everything else he can do,  the show seemed willing to admit that by now, these hardened spies, SEALS, and IRA operatives have seen not only everything, but that they’re starting to get a little restless in how ordinary-seeming this has become.

I don’t suspect this will be a recurring trope on the show. Should the show becomes too self-aware, it’ll feel the need to occasionally dip its toe into parody or, worse, decide to do a dream episode where everyone is different in some way, but still kind of doing the same things. Part of Burn Notice‘s charm is its throwback nature that manages to innovate on the same old plots we’ve seen time after time (it’s Human Target‘s job to play those plots straight and prove how fun they are as is).  So while an occasional self-aware script is a positive thing, the show should avoiding making it a habit, or at least leave the comments to Sam, whose character (and Campbell’s star persona) allows these types of comments to work within the narrative without breaking it.

The CotW story of drug deals making life miserable for a community clinic/center was standard, but Martinez manages to elevate the material in both his stubbornness and his blatant dislike of Michael. The episode allow’s Martinez’s David to elevate the story as well, by making him out to be the one who is protecting his community, not Michael and the crew. It’s a nice variation on the plot, and Martinez has the chops to make David’s threat of the drug dealer feel authentic (in large part because they are, David just lacked the resources (and the will) to do this sort of thing).

But Kendra is providing the most interesting bits. The episode does a nice job of creating a sexual banter and tension between her and Michael, largely through editing and Fi’s observations. It sells the idea that Michael may not just be acting, but allows room that he is. And, thankfully, she provides a face for the on-going arc. Michael going through documents, or in this episode, tape drives (“How’s Operation Boring Tape Drive?”) can be interested through the voice-overs, lacks the character interplay the show does so well. And while we’ve seen the “take someone captive and interrogate him/her” plot before, Rawat has given Kendra enough chops to hopefully provide a varation.

But we’ll have to wait 2 weeks to find out!

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Who uses tape drives? Really. I mean, I know thought Salt using Russian spies as a plot device was kind of obsolete and silly, and then that Russian spy ring got broken up making me look very foolish, but tape drives? C’mon. [Cue someone very sensitive government documents being discovered on a tape drive in a yard sale.]
  • Jesse can’t even shut up while a victim is trying to tell their story. Dude needs to learn to zip it.

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