BURN NOTICE 6.13 ‘Over the Line’

The CIA pursues Michael and his friends as a new adversary uses Sam against them.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Over the Line"

Writer: Ben Watkins

Director: Marc Roskin

Previously on "Burn Notice"

Episodes 6.11 & 6.12

Have you ever made a mistake that was so bad that you instantly wished you could undo it? On “Burn Notice,” Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is having one of those moments.

In the long run, killing Tom Card (John C. McGinley) was probably the right decision. No matter how close he and Michael once were, Card showed no hesitation in killing even his closest allies, like Tyler Gray (Kenneth Johnson). If Card had been left alive, he would have simply gone after Michael and his friends again.

Unfortunately, Michael killed Card in cold blood and the evidence left behind suggests a more calculated murder than what actually occurred. As it is, Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) and the rest of Team Westen freak out because this isn’t Michael… At least not the Michael they knew.

As a new direction for the series, I applaud the idea of Michael essentially burning himself out of the spy business. All of the other times that Michael had the CIA breathing down his neck, he at least had the advantage of being innocent of the crimes of which he was accused. Not so, this time.
The opening minutes of "Over the Line" had some suitably tense moments as Sam and Michael realized that the CIA had them trapped in the hotel. That said, Michael did some uncharacteristically dumb things like attacking a hotel worker in full view of security cameras as a distraction.


The last time that Michael was set up for a murder, he had the presence of mind to cover his tracks and throw off the frame. This time, Michael makes it all too easy for the CIA to pin Card’s murder on him. Michael could have at least obscured his face to avoid implicating himself. 

Without Card to serve as Michael’s primary nemesis, “Burn Notice” introduces Sonja Sohn as Olivia Riley; a high level CIA operative who is seemingly ahead of Michael almost every step of the way. Riley is meant to be a formidable opponent for Michael and company, but she’s a flop right out of the gate.

The moments when Riley is meant to be outsmarting Michael and Sam felt constructed simply to build her up at the expense of our regular characters. Essentially, Riley is the Mary Sue of “Burn Notice” villains and she acts like she’s going to catch Michael and his friends just because she’s awesome.

No… she’s actually terrible. We may have been meant to hate Riley, but I doubt that it was the intent of the creative team to make her so insufferable that her scenes were difficult to watch. The combination of Sohn’s lackluster performance and the poor writing for her character make me worry about the upcoming storyline. It’s hard to believe that this was the best villain that the “Burn Notice” writers could come up with.

One last note on Riley: how the hell did she know who Tyler Grey was? I got the impression that Grey was working black ops for Card, so his identity shouldn’t have been widely disseminated among the CIA. But Riley knows who he is? Very suspicious.

Other than Michael, the episode belonged to Sam Axe. After finding Michael standing over Card’s body, Sam is obviously horrified about what his friend has done. And yet when Sam ends up in Riley’s custody, he never wavers in his support for Michael even though it would mean life in prison.

For his part, Michael realizes what Sam is doing and he almost turns himself in just to save Sam from going down for his crimes. But the compromise position is that Team Westen stages a dramatic rescue to get Sam out of CIA custody. That’s the power of Sam and Michael’s relationship. They may not be brothers, but they are that close.

The thing is, Michael ruined his friends’ lives when he killed Card. Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) at least has a stake in Michael’s well being since she’s in a serious relationship with him. All Jesse Porter (Coby Bell) has to fall back on is his friendship with Michael. So far, Jesse remains with the team. But if it was anybody else, I suspect that Jesse would be pretty pissed about having his life torn to shreds for something he didn’t do. And this is the second time that Michael has done that to him!

The one relative upside to this mess for Michael is that his mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless) has more or less forgiven him for what happened to Nate and she supported his decision to kill Card. Even so, the scene with the cops waiting at Madeline’s home felt pretty pointless and didn’t add anything significant to the episode.

As far as the action sequences, the car chase in Miami was a lot of fun and I enjoyed Michael’s “exit” from the parking structure. I was also relieved that the writers didn’t force in a client storyline for this episode as they did last week. When Michael’s actions have serious consequences (as they do here), we don’t need to check in with Fiona’s friend from prison or whomever the next victim is. This could be one of “Burn Notice’s” most ambitious plotlines and it will work more effectively without narrative distractions.

Although I have to admit that my negative reaction to Riley has me concerned about the rest of the episodes in this season and in this storyline, should it spill into season 7. Riley is just so annoying that a fun story could easily become tiresome if she gets too much screen time. Say what you will about Anson and Card, but Jere Burns and John C. McGinley were both good performers.

 I’m not at all convinced that Sonja Sohn even belongs in this series.