Last week's Burn Notice was the halfway point for season five, and it was a pretty good one. Now there's the question: what's the series going to do in the back half, to push itself to the expected next level?
What it's always done - bring plenty of action and lace it with sharp wit.
"So we're gonna snatch a murder with some magnets and a roll of duct tape?" Sam asks skeptically early on, to which Michael cheerfully responds, "And guns, Sam. Plenty of guns." The witty rejoinder is just the beginning of an opening that involves fire and shots being exchanged with the man who framed our hero for Max's murder. The teaser shows that the Burn Notice writers have mastered their pacing: they don't wait to get things underway, but they also don't feel the need to try and ply our attention with some quick, flashy start either.
Trying to lower his profile, Michael fills in for Sam on another of Jesse's security assignments, which is predictably not as easy as either of them first believe. It's actually a hostage situation leading up to the intended hijacking of a corporate bigwig's incoming plane, with Madeline being one of the hostages and the mastermind being played by The Pretender star Michael T. Weiss. (That's the second week in a row that a Pretender star has appeared on Burn Notice, following Patrick Bauchau's appearance as Lucien last time.) It's up to Michael, with an assist from Jesse and the support of his mother, to save the hostages and prevent a kidnapping. Ingenuity is at a high here; it's an episode that MacGyver would be proud of.
Back to the season-long plot: Sam and Fiona try to figure out a barbecued hard drive they recovered from the fire, with Pearce (Lauren Stamile) catching up with them. This allows for some snappy repartee between Gabrielle Anwar and Bruce Campbell, which is always a pleasure, but more importantly, it further develops their relationship. Unlike some shows, the two characters aren't solely defined by their importance to the hero - they have their own connection and their own array of talents. When Fiona gives us the name of Max's killer, it's no surprise; they're as capable and likely to find the answers as Michael is. While he may be the hero, Burn Notice has flourished as an ensemble show, where everyone stands on equal ground. To have it any other way would be doing a disservice to its talented cast.
"Army of One" is classic Burn Notice, reminding us that Michael is successful not just because of his brawn, but also because of his considerable brains - something that also applies to the show as a whole. There are some great explosions in the episode, but it's almost more fun watching and listening to how he makes them happen. What has helped Burn Notice succeed for five seasons is that while it is an action show, its core is made up of mysteries to be solved and characters we care about. All the cool stunts in the world can't save a series with no soul. Yet judging from this episode, Burn Notice has found the perfect balance in the equation.