Was Michael finally un-burned?

By Ken Tucker
May 27, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Pardon the dreadful grammar of that headline, but you know what I mean: Did we witness the lifting of Michael Westen’s Burn Notice last night?

You knew this was a key episode in Burn Notice’s history since it was written and directed by the show’s creator, Matt Nix. He undoubtedly wanted the tone to be just right, and I think he succeeded. After killing off Gilroy (good riddance), we got Simon, a stone psychopath right up the alley of the always superb Garrett Dillahunt. Along with the revelation that the crimes and misdemeanors Michael has been “burned” for was actually the work of Simon, and like any good super-villain, he wants full credit for his work. “I want my life back.” Both he and Michael subscribe to that sentiment, in different ways.

The Nix touch was everywhere, from the terse dialogue, to the neat details about using liquid nitrogen to freeze the detonating device on a bomb. Fiona and Sam acted as though they were performing an abbreviated intervention when they told Michael, “No more lone-wolf crap” — i.e., that he had to start sharing with his friends for the sake of his own life. For the first time in a while, Sharon Gless wasn’t used as comic relief; her scenes being interrogated by the FBI were finely shaded moments in which the actress let us guess whether her character was truly upset by what the G-man claimed was the truth about Michael’s violent past.

If John Mahoney’s Management has seemed in the past less like a human character than a plot device used to get Burn Notice to this point in its third season, he became flesh-and-blood this night, calling out attention to his age and to his power. “You have a big future? See you soon,” were his parting words, less a threat than a tantalizing puzzle.

And in the end, Nix cut back and forth between Gless’ Madeline in distress and Michael — shackled, hooded — taken down a dark hall. Final shot: Michael not in the dank torture chamber we were prepared to expect, but in a very nice, well-appointed room.

Where do you think this is? What do you think is Michael’s future? Did you like this Burn Notice season finale?