All season, Burn Notice has teased a major death and this week’s episode (“Shock Wave”) was hyped as vitally important. Putting two and two together wasn’t a difficult task, but guessing who’d bite the bullet was. In the end, the death wasn’t as “major” as implied, but it still made an impact.

The Players:

  • Director: Renny Harlin
  • Writer: Jason Tracey
  • Cast: Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless, Coby Bell

Episode Title: “Shock Wave”

In “Shock Wave,” most of the central characters split up for various reasons. And each is put in their own brand of peril. Michael has a solid lead on Anson and takes Jesse and Nate with him on the case. Sam is nixed by the CIA for the mission and ends up looking after Maddie. In prison, Fi is threatened by a nasty MI6 agent who wants her to take the fall for the consulate bombing. And Maddie, well she’s home smoking a pack of cigarettes and being vulnerable. In the end, it’s (SPOILER ALERT) Nate who bows out this episode. After apprehending Anson, both men are shot by an unseen gunman and die on the scene. What follows are the most heart-wrenching moments of Burn Notice ever.

The Good:

  • Fi’s Non-Escape: Fiona can’t bust out of prison, so she opts for the next best thing. She hides long enough to make Mr. MI6 think she escaped. She strikes a deal with a fellow inmate: if they help her hide, they’ll get the honor of ratting Fi out, which can be leveraged for early parole. Somehow, they bust a Fi-sized hole in a wall and cover it with a bookshelf, all without being noticed or caught on camera. If you don’t think too hard about the specifics, it’s a pretty cool plan.
  • Sam Takes the Lead: When the CIA vetoes Sam as part of Michael’s hand-picked team, no one is happy. Michael wants Sam around and Sam wants to be in the action. The upside is that everyone finally sees what Michael has all along. Sam is an absolute badass who can really think on his feet. “Client” of the week, Barry, even says as much, quipping “Forget Michael!” when Sam pulls off the near-impossible as the two struggle to make it out of a house guarded by four crazed gunman.
  • Sibling Rivalry: What really gets Nate in a position to be shot is the spat he has with Michael. Nate orders several pizzas to their hotel room, a decision Michael says will give them away and make the stakeout obvious. Michael kicks Nate to the proverbial curb (or in this case, the casinos in Atlantic City, where the sting is going down). This allows Nate to get his eyes on Anson when no one else can. Like a prototypical little brother, Nate really just wants Michael’s approval. Therefore, he stupidly disobeys orders and apprehends Anson instead of just keeping a visual. He looks like the hero for a few seconds before the mystery gunshot kills them both. All of the death and destruction unravels in front of Michael, just as he hits the scene.
  • Devastation: One of the best things about “Shock Wave” is the emotional response it elicits. Burn Notice is usually all about the action and explosions and Michael can start to seem like a Jason Bourne-esque programmed killer at times. After Nate’s death, he breaks and we see the man behind the training. The scene where he gives Maddie the news is almost painful to watch, but in the best way.

The So-So:

  • Fi is Free: It’s great to finally have Fi out of prison, but it’s hard to care after what happens to Nate. It’s bittersweet and entirely meant to be, but it doesn’t pack the punch you’d like it to.

The Bad:

  • Sam’s Case: Sam’s case with Barry is boring to the point of forgettable. It doesn’t provide the level of comic relief it intends to and the tension of the episode doesn’t need to be broken up with this throwaway plot.
  • Fi’s Eyebrows: It might be nit-picky, but what the hell? She might get a pass for being in prison (tweezers probably aren’t on the approved list), but they look the same in the previews for next week. Unacceptable.


“Shock Wave” completely redeems the utter banality Burn Notice slipped into last week. It’s emotional, but not manipulatively so and the entire cast shines in their respective roles. Giving the team some time apart is just what the show needed to keep things fresh.

Rating: 9/10

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

What did you think of this week’s episode?