Burn Notice has always taught us useful tidbits about being a spy (this week’s lesson: how to pry open a door with a hydraulic wedge). But the lesson about getting a “trigger happy” girlfriend out of prison is slower coming. By episode five, Fiona is still in the pen and benched from Team Westin. Luckily, there’s a potential deal on the table. If she can prove her allegiance to the CIA, she’ll be an asset and one step closer to receiving a Get Out of Jail Free card. The price: Turning in her old arms dealer.

The Players:

  • Director: Scott Peters
  • Writer: Ryan Johnson & Peter Lalayanis
  • Cast: Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless, Coby Bell

Episode Title: “Split Decision”

Card (brilliantly played by John C. McGinley) has some good news for Michael and Fiona. There’s an opportunity for her to become a CIA asset. That means she’ll be one captured Anson away from getting out of prison. All she has to do is turn in her old arms dealer, Greyson – with Michael’s help. This episode isn’t called “Split Decision” for nothing. The gig of the week soon complicates things as Michael is tasked with helping the team’s client, Rebecca, get her brother out of hot water. The brother, Trent, is being tailed by a man named Wes who’s out for vengeance after Trent turned info about his father’s shady business over to the police. Michael poses as a prison buddy of Wes’ dad and launches a complicated plan to throw him off Trent’s scent.

The Good:

  • The Little Storyline that Could: Fiona’s jail plot was a great cliffhanger and an interesting season opener, but it’s chugging along at a, um, leisurely pace. After a few attacks and some helpful lessons about prison life from Michael, it’s lost steam. Thankfully, this week gives us a light at the end of the tunnel – and it’s not even one Fi had to dig with a sharpened spoon. The CIA is giving Fiona a chance at freedom, but will it come at the price of everything that makes us love her? Turning in her arms man isn’t a good sign.
  • Finley Never Gets Old: Though most of the gig of the week was a snore, we enjoyed the obligatory Chuck Finley appearance. It may have felt a little phoned in, but suckers for the alias can take a little joy.

The Bad:

  • The Client…and Case: This week, the hot-but-scary client teams with Sam to less comedic effect than intended. The case is so bland, you barely remember it once it’s over. Michael’s attention might be split, but viewers’ was likely drifting.
  • Whiny Fi: Yes, her freedom is on the line and yes, it’s a very important CIA-requested op, but the softer side of Fi is getting old fast.
  • No Explosions?: Also, no shoot outs, major car crashes or even a feisty verbal disagreement. This might be the least action Burn Notice has boasted in a long time. It would be fine if the episode was an intellectual thrill ride or an interesting character episode, but alas, it was none of these things.


“Split Decision” continues a downward trend with Burn Notice. The action is dwindling and the characters aren’t picking up the slack. What’s more, the story seems strangely stunted (even though it felt like an episode that purported to advance the season arc). The most interesting thing about it was the teaser for later this season that implies the death of a major character.

Rating: 3/10

Burn Notice airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on USA.

What did you think of this week’s episode?