When a network spends a week hyping something as a hugely important episode, expectations are naturally raised. USA has promoted "Shock Wave" quite a bit since last week, but that's perfectly all right, because the installment is worthy of the attention.
Fiona meets Arthur Meyers, who is a stereotypical MI6 agent that expects her to confess to the consulate bombing or he'll leak that she's in British custody and bad things will happen to innocent people. This leads her to look for a way to quickly disappear, even if it means hiding in the walls like Bob from Bob's Burgers. Once Meyers has given up, Fiona lets her prison confidante confess her whereabouts, in exchange for helping to hide her in the first place. She's finally free at episode's end, which means the show is back to its usual working order.
Michael takes the lead on Anson he got from Rebecca to Agent Pearce, who tells him to bench Sam from the resulting operation, much to Sam's annoyance. Everyone else - including Nate - heads to Atlantic City, where they wait for Anson while Nate orders pizza and gets kicked out of the room by his older brother, which doesn't bode well for him. Michael, Jesse and Pearce go from one location to the next looking for Anson, but when Michael realizes his brother is near where the sociopath might be, he sends Nate to keep his eyes on the target. That's an ominous assignment, and just when everything seems to be just fine, both Anson and Nate take bullets and die on the scene. Who shot them? I'm sure we'll find out, because there's always another bad guy lurking on Burn Notice.
Sam, tasked with keeping an eye on Maddie, finds a wounded Barry (Paul Tei) on the doorstep, claiming that he was shot after he "saw a gaggle of Fiona's old gun buddies," who weren't too happy about Greyson getting busted next week. Barry wants Sam to go with him to a client's lake house to pick up some incriminating documents, making him "the client" for this episode. What seems at first to be a simple retrival operation goes wrong when Sam sees a suspicious SUV outside, and several heavily armed people emerge from it, including Garret Hartley (William Mapother). It's up to Sam to protect Barry, which involves amusing things like the creative use of bacon. This is as close as the episode gets to a comedic subplot, but it's certainly not played for laughs because there's a legitimate question of how these characters are going to get out alive. The answer is in typical Burn Notice fashion, of course.
On to the episode's big talking point: the death of Nate Westen. I'm of two minds on this; on one hand, the character of Nate had clearly gone as far as the writers could take him, and was also the most expendable (aside from, perhaps, Agent Pearce, but she has more story value as a CIA contact). However, he'd gone as far as he could because the writers didn't develop him further. I appreciated last season how they had him grow up (albeit off screen) by getting married and starting a family...and then this season he loses all of that and is right back where he started from.
There was a lot else that could've been done with Nate, but it seems like season five was just setting him up for an inevitable demise. (One could argue the departure of his wife and child was to make his forthcoming death just a bit easier to swallow for the audience, so perhaps we'd not be dwelling on Nate's baby growing up without a father as well.) The question now is if or for how long the writers will allow his death to affect Michael, Madeline and the team.
This brings me to a small sidebar that does not only apply to Burn Notice, and that's TV marketing. Nate's death was saddening, but almost certainly would have been more impactful if we hadn't been told to expect a character death in the promotional spot for this episode. There is an understandable need to draw viewers into watching shows, but more often now we're seeing that result in series giving away too much. This was certainly one of those circumstances.
There are plenty of other things happening in this episode, whether it's Fiona's jailbreak or another solo mission for Sam, and all the subplots are intriguing for various reasons. It's watching installments like "Shock Wave" that have me convinced Bruce Campbell could still have his own TV series if he ever wanted another one; we know that he's effortlessly funny but he's also capable of getting serious when it counts and holding his own in shootouts. I'm not sure he gets enough credit for how much more than comic relief he brings to the table. (I would have loved to have seen a tag after this episode where the owner of the lake house arrived and saw what was left of his home.) And last but not least, Anson's part of the storyline has finally ended, and in the only fashion that would have been satisfactory after everything he's done in his time on the series.
All of the characters are in play this week, and all of them have legitimately significant things to do, which is an efficient episode as well as one that's worthwhile from an entertainment standpoint. This could be the building block to another great arc on this show...but we'll have to see how Burn Notice plays it.
For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my Starpulse writer page and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.