Burn Notice season 1 episode 6 review

There are Unpaid Debts in the latest issue of the continually impressive Burn Notice...

6. Unpaid Debts

Time for another sun soaked dose of violence and happy endings in Unpaid Debts, as Michael Westen takes on some dirty cops, some fashion conscious smugglers, and his mum’s libido…

The new G-man in Michael’s life is already causing trouble, and he’s only been in town a day. Breaking into the ex-spy’s apartment, before smashing up mommy Westen’s very tasteful bamboo furniture, as well as impounding the beautiful car means that Mike needs some quick cash. Bamboo furniture doesn’t buy itself, you know. Step forward Big Sam, who just happens to have a job. An old friend of his, Virgil, owner of a repo business, needs a little help with a particularly resistant owner. All Mike and the crew have to do is take the boat and drop it off at the designated repair shop. Easy.

Except the resistant owners – resplendent in more white than you’d generally think sensible for a swamp – are armed to the teeth. After successfully grabbing the boat, thanks to some creative uses of the good folks at 911, they attempt to drop it at said repair shop. When they get there, though, it’s clear they were never meant to leave – the place is rigged with enough C4 to blow a hole in the world. Not only does our brave trio get out alive and unscathed, they get out with the boat.

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While searching the boat and asking Virgil exactly what he sent them into, Mike reveals that the guys trying to blow them up are dirty cops – apparently the hip holsters were a dead giveaway. At which point Sam discovers why the men in white were so reluctant to give up the boat – there’s $10million under the floor. So much for that easy job.

Having stashed Virgil at Mrs. Michael’s house, where they bonded over absentee offspring and deceased spouses, he and Maddy are behaving like teenagers while Mike sets up meetings with dazzlingly dressed smugglers and dirty cops. Against Westen strict instructions, Virgil and Maddy sneak out of the house to go on a date, and are followed into Miami by the smugglers – Virgil might be an ex-navy seal, but he’s no match for the men in white. As is always the way with these things, the smugglers now have leverage, and it looks like the money is now going to them. The dirty cops will not be happy.

Of course, Mike is ready for all eventualities, so when the cops make an uninvited appearance at the money/Virgil handover, our trio is more than prepared. Pouring petrol over the enormous pile of money, Michael makes the introductions, after which the gun battle can begin. In the chaos that follows, our crime-fighting trio not only get away clean, but they set fire to the money just because they can. And they say spooks have no sense of humour. Although the immediate danger has been taken care of, Mike thinks that Virgil’s still not safe in Miami, and recommends he get out of town for a while. All of which has absolutely nothing to do with burgeoning romance between Virgil and Mrs. Michael. Two birds, one stone – he loves it when a plan comes together.

Aside from righting wrongs and standing up for the little guy, Michael loves nothing more than messing with the government, something his new G-man surveillance finds out first hand. Apart from taking care of the bugs planted in his apartment with a vibrator, and wiping the guy’s laptop with a magnet and a lamp, Mike even has the tenacity to pick his pocket and relieve him of his official government identification. The government has no idea what it’s got itself into.

Another hugely entertaining episode from what is fast becoming the most reliable show on the box; Unpaid Debts is funny, slick, and charming as all get out. This show might be all about fun, but it’s never dumb – not for Burn Notice the CSI-style ‘We’re the smartest people in the country, but it takes us 55 minutes to work out what took you 5′ stretching of a paper-thin idea.

Each of the Burn Notice episodes is meticulously detailed, and not just in regards to the DIY spook stuff that has proved so effective. CSI also pays close attention to the science, but where it falls down is the sketchy nature of everything else. What Burn Notice has is an understanding that the spook stuff is only part of the story, and without a kick ass script and some decent characterisation, all you’ve got is some shiny toys. Making the most of some beautiful art deco locations in Miami, with Unpaid Debts, the series has hit its stride far earlier than most, and basks in the confidence of a much longer-established show.

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Series-wide praise aside, once again, the appearances of Maddy Westen were fleeting but fabulous, particularly the morning when Michael discovers that Virgil is not sleeping in the guest bedroom. His obvious discomfort opposite to her obvious glee at his discomfort was hilarious. Jeffrey Donovan and Sharon Gless have a superb chemistry as mother and son, and it’s one of the best relationships in the show. Woefully, if understandably underused, the Westen family dynamic is nothing if not interesting. If only Nate was this well written.

Seemingly unable to put a foot wrong, Unpaid Debts is another example of why Burn Notice should be on your TV must-see list. Drop whatever you’ve got to drop, but start watching this show. You’ll be glad you did, if for no other reason than you’ll know how to turn your TV into an oscillator… 

Check out our review of episode 5 here.