BURN NOTICE 5.17 ‘Acceptable Loss’

Michael looks up an old adversary to get information on Anson as Jesse fulfills his friend's last request.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Acceptable Loss"

Writer: Ben Watkins

Director: Jonathan Frakes

Previously on "Burn Notice":

Episode 5.16: "Depth Perception"


After learning that Anson Fullerton (Jere Burns) murdered his father, Frank Westen, Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) and his mother, Madeline Westen (Sharon Gless) visit Frank's grave for the first time since his death. And despite Michael's doubts about Anson's story regarding Frank's attempt to protect him from Anson, Madeline confirms that one of Frank's last messages was frantically asking about his son. Meanwhile, Michael's girlfriend, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) traces Anson's newly recovered funds to a law firm in Washington D.C.; which prompts Michael and Fiona to make a quick journey there.

The duo infiltrate the law firm in the hopes of finding more intel on Anson. Instead, they find a recently updated file on Vaughn (Robert Wisdom), Anson's former subordinate who helped burn Michael. Hoping to get a step ahead of Anson, Michael makes a request to his CIA contact, Agent Pierce (Lauren Stamile) to get Vaughn temporarily transferred from Guantanamo. Meanwhile, Jesse Porter (Coby Bell) is approached by an old colleague named Ian (Gregg Henry). Ian tells Jesse that he's retiring, but he wants to bring down a diplomat named Yash who has been using diplomatic pouches to smuggle blood diamonds into the country.

Ian explains that he was complicit in the smuggling, but he wants to put things right even if it means that he goes to prison. To prevent Yash's latest transaction, Jesse recruits Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) and Fiona to rob the potential buyer, shortly before Ian introduces Jesse to Yash as a prospective new buyer. However, Yash's men hold Jesse at gunpoint as Yash demands a look at his diamond cutting facilities. Alerting Sam and Fiona via phone, Jesse stalls for time as the duo bribe and then forcibly coerce the owners of a crooked jewelry store to go along with their charade. 

Satisfied that Jesse can fulfill his promises, Yash agrees to a deal. Meanwhile, Michael meets with Vaughn at a high security federal detention. In return for a bottle of Scotch, Vaughn agrees to look at the latest financial transactions of Anson. And after reviewing them, Vaughn says that he can help Michael… but only if he is granted full immunity and his freedom. Back in Miami, Ian and the rest of the team make a plan to subdue Yash when he retrieves the diamonds and the implicating evidence against him from his safe. However, the plan goes up in smoke when Sam and Fiona realize that they will be unable to blow up the wall and give Jesse and Ian an escape route.

To warn their friends, Sam arrives at the front of the house and pretends to frantically try to reach Jesse while Fiona plants a C4 charge on Jesse's car. When the car blows up, Yash, Jesse and Ian exit the house and Sam warns Jesse against a new threat. They leave the house empty handed and without Jesse's destroyed Porsche, but Sam points out that they are still alive. Back at the loft, the operation appears to be a failure as Yash has already shipped his smuggled diamonds back to his home country. In one last desperate move, Ian suggests that they set Yash up for murder… Ian's murder. The older man explains that he is dying of incurable pancreatic cancer and that this is what he wants to do with the time he has left.

Jesse approaches Yash with evidence that the attempt on his life was planed by Ian. When Ian is summoned to Yash's mansion to answer the charges, he shoots Jesse with a round of blanks and leaves the gun with him as he runs outside. Yash produces his own gun and he kills Ian just outside his home. However, Michael and Fiona arrange for the cops to be just next door, so they can arrest Yash regardless of his diplomatic immunity. Later, Pierce meets with Michael to give him the news that his requests have gone through. She offers to help him, but Michael says that he'll let her know if it comes to that.

Finally, Michael confronts Vaughn and says that he won't be getting immunity. But when Vaughn balks at that, Michael says that he's arranged for Vaughn's transfer to his current facility, alongside some of his old "friends" like Simon, the psycho operative who would love to kill Vaughn. In desperation, Vaughn tells Michael that Anson's moves indicate that he's rebuilding the organization that burned Michael, instead of trying to slip away into retirement. Vaughn also mentions that it may already be too late to stop Anson. Vaughn then pleads with Michael to repeal the transfer orders… but Michael coldly says that it may be too late.


The primary story of "Acceptable Loss" is predicated upon Ian's turn towards a suicidal solution to bring down Yash. "Burn Notice" regularly a very healthy suspension of disbelief, but this was taking it a little too far.

I get the impression that the writer was proud of this dramatic twist and Team Westen even gives Ian props for going out on his own terms. However, I just couldn't buy it for two reasons: At no point did Ian ever believably come off as so desperate to take down Yash that he would throw his entire life away. And the other reason is that Yash seemed like an incredibly small target for Ian to sacrifice himself in the name of justice. Yash was obviously an international criminal, but he was never convincingly portrayed as dangerous as Ian made him out to be. In fact, the only time that Yash was even reasonably threatening was during Jesse's forced side trip to the jewelry store.

Fiona and Sam's unsuccessful attempt to bribe the owners of the jewelry store was fun, but that should have blown up in their faces. Also, I have to wonder where Team Westen's money is coming from and how much do they really have? At one point, Fiona's trying to talk her friend down from $3,000 to $2,000 to fix the trailer from last week's shootout and then minutes later, Fiona and Sam are offering $20,000 to the owners of the jewelry store. If they have that kind of money, why are they haggling with a guy who is supposed to be close to Fiona?

At least this episode demonstrates that Jesse can fill in for Michael during the case of the week. Coby Bell doesn't always get a lot to do on this show, but he seems to be able to handle himself well in this role. The return of Robert Wisdom as Vaughn was also a welcome touch; and Wisdom had some great intensity during his scenes opposite Jeffrey Donovan. It actually underscores some of the problems with this season. Vaughn was an effective adversary for Michael and his friends in a way that Anson has yet to live up to. It's intriguing that Anson is trying to bring back his organization again, but it feels like "Burn Notice" is starting to retread ground that's already been covered to death on this show.

Crazy theory time! Stop reading now if you don't want to see a potential spoiler for the season finale.

The previews for next week's episode indicate that someone close to Michael has been working with Anson all along. And there can be no bigger suspect than the suddenly helpful Agent Pierce. Seriously, her "I want to help you Michael" speech was probably her most incriminating moment all season. If the traitor is Pierce, I'm not sure if that will be enough to change my opinion about the way that this season has gone. And nothing in Lauren Stamile's performance to date has suggested that Pierce has any hidden agenda.

Last season, "Burn Notice" redeemed itself with a strong finish that resolved almost every storyline from that year. If the series can pull that off again this season, then a lot of the recent dramatic missteps can be overlooked. Otherwise, as Michael and Vaughn said, it may already be too late.

Crave Online Rating: 6.5 out of 10.