TV Recap: Burn Notice Season 7 - Episode 3 - ‘Down Range’

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With Michael a wanted man for last week’s daring rescue of Fiona, he ends up shedding his beard but returning to the Dominican Republic.  He and Burke are forced to participate in a dangerous arms trade there, with an assist from Sam and Jesse.  One of them experiences a moral quandary, which leads to conflict when Mike is put on the spot.  Meanwhile, Madeline is threatened by one of Nate’s old bookies.  When he tries to claim one of the debts through violence, Madeline turns to Fiona, who teaches Madeline a few tricks of the trade.

“Down Range” is something of a mess in several ways, chiefmost in that it barely serves a purpose in the overall storyline of the season.  While we get one minor reveal, it’s also padded out with extraneous foreshadowing, several pointless explosions, some severe mangling of character development and some dull moralization.

It truly feels as if everyone’s personalities have been reset to season 2 default, and the most  offensive of these resets is Madeline’s sudden u-turn back toward flailing, helpless mama who can’t function without Michael’s presence.  This is the woman who could smoothly load a pistol without blinking, a woman better at interrogation than both Sam and Fiona, a woman who served as a helpmeet and part of Michael’s team in an undercover capacity numerous times, and a woman who killed a man last season; suddenly, out of the blue, she’s turning to Fiona for help, crying and whimpering and wringing her hands that she wished Michael were here. Having her suddenly regain her previous confidence makes absolutely no sense after she loses it so intensely in front of Fiona.


This episode also continues the decimation of Nate’s character.  For the million or so of us who witnessed his transformation from ne’re do well to responsible dad and husband, his season 6 transformation back to divorcing gambling addict.  We endured his sanctification of him for the rest of the season, after his untimely death, which was just as false and untrue.  For Maddie to come to the abrupt realization that Nate is a loser, especially after spending most of season six deifying his memory,  causes the viewer intense emotional whiplash; it’s as if the writers can no longer decide if Nate’s a saint or a sinner, forgetting his humanity entirely.

It also brings about far too many questions to answer properly.  How can Maddie – wife of ne’re do well Frank, who’s been living in the same saltbox she raised Michael and Nate in for years – have over twenty four thousand dollars squirreled away in savings?  Why is Sam so concerned about the ‘honorable kill’ now, after years of working as a sniper in the military? He’s always been the show’s moral compass, but this is slightly lunatic; you can’t tell me he hasn’t shot an innocent or two for the greater good in his time – he was a Navy SEAL who saw combat action for pete’s sake!  And what about the innocents who’ve served as collateral damage throughout the show’s run?  There was an entire episode about this back in season three!

Perhaps the worst episode of the season, “Down Range” continues to show Burn Notice’s struggle with its decision to become a fully dramatic serial.  Good acting is fine and dandy, but when it has no plot to hook itself onto it’s like stapling tinsel to a cardboard tube and calling it a Christmas tree.


  • * Madeline continues to pursue custody of Charlie, as established in episode one of this season.  Looks as if she’s prepping for another  hearing, or perhaps a full switch-over of legal custody.
  • * Sam again mentions the existence of ‘Sammy time’, which he used to have with many a lady friend before settling down with Elsa.
  • * Nate’s gambling problem is mentioned; he was often in trouble with bookies and loan sharks before straightening up in season three and marrying Ruth.  Michael learned Ruth was expecting in season 4, and they had baby Charlie in season 5.  After falling off the wagon and again straightening himself out, Nate nearly succumbed to the temptation to gamble once more in season 6 before taking a semi-heroic exit via bullet to the chest.
  • * Next week, Michael rescues a fellow female burned spy from a Russian black site in Cuba, while Madeline and Fiona blackmail a corrupt bureaucrat as part of their plot in “Brothers in Arms”.

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Staff Television Critic: Lisa Fernandes, formerly of, has been watching television for all of her thirty-plus years, and critiquing it for the past seven. When she's not writing, she can be found in the wilds of the Northeastern United States.
  • Bryan Murray

    Still one of the better shows on tv