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Recap: Burn Notice S 1 E 1 Pilot
Michael is in the midst of negotiating with a Russian expat over the security for a Nigerian oil field when, out of nowhere, he's informed that a burn notice has been issued on him and he's out of the game. Unfortunately, the Russian takes this poorly. Michael manages to kill the men taking him to the money and escape the country.

Woken by a kick in the back, Michael finds himself in his childhood home, Miami, Florida. He finds that he's being followed by the FBI, his bank accounts are frozen, and he's on all the government watch lists. He takes a job to scrape together a little cash, and ends up working with his ex-girlfriend, former IRA bank robber Fiona Glenanne, and an old acquaintance, ex-Navy SEAL Sam Axe.

The pilot quickly establishes many of the staples of the series. Michael has family issues, Sam has buddies, Fiona's violent. Michael could just shoot people, but prefers MacGyvering. The bulk of the episode is spent dealing with the Monster of the Week, while making a small amount of progress with the Story Arc.

Tropes include:

  • Air Vent Escape: Michael broke out of his room to go see Star Wars when he was six.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Southern Nigeria isn't my favorite place in the world. It's unstable, it's corrupt, and the people there eat a lot of terrible-smelling preserved fish."
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Michael is in an exquisite suit from word one.
  • Blatant Lies: "Sometimes the truth hurts. In these situations, I recommend lying."
  • Boxing Lesson: Michael teaches the client's son how not to get beaten up.
  • Break-In Threat: The mysterious people behind Michael's burn notice break into his loft and leave photos of him all over the floor.
  • California Doubling: Well, Miami doubling. All the scenes ostensibly in Nigeria were shot in Miami. Mostly in back alleys.
  • Characterization Marches On
    • Gabrielle Anwar's Irish accent really is terrible. Fortunately, this is the only episode to really feature it.
    • Michael is a lot colder in the pilot than he is by the fifth season.
    • The pilot implies that Michael and Sam weren't as close as, by the fifth season, their backstory has made them.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: "Fighting for the little guy is for suckers. We all do it sometimes, but the trick is to get in and out without getting involved. That's a trick I never mastered."
  • City of Adventure: Southern Nigeria is the gun-running capital of the world, which apparently means driving your car into a market means having every shopper pointing an automatic weapon at you.
  • Combat Pragmatist: "That's why I like bathrooms. Lots of hard surfaces."
  • Conspicuous Consumption: What's the point of being a Nigerian warlord if you can't wear heavy gold chains?
  • Don't Tell Mama: Michael keeps his mother in the dark, a status that won't change for several seasons.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Losing a tail means driving like an idiot.
  • Dysfunctional Family: It becomes clear right away that the Westen home was not a happy one.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Fiona's Irish accent and Madeline's hypochondria both disappear after this episode, with the former only showing up in the third season and the latter just acting as set dressing. Fortunately, Maddie's wig never comes back.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Michael's first scene involves him being gang beaten, devising a lie to prolong his life, beating up and killing the guards restraining him, racing away on a stolen motorcycle (promising the guy that he could pick it up at the airport) and escaping Nigeria on a plane.
    • Fiona shows up by kicking Michael awake and being someone Michael trusts enough to distract some FBI agents. An additional moment occurs later when she suggests just shooting them.
    • Sam's first line has him explaining that he is already known as a drunk womanizer so he had nothing to lose by talking to a burned spy, highlighting his Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass tendencies and his friendship with Michael.
    • Madeline is introduced by Michael being absolutely terrified to see her again, and her bullying him into taking her hypochondriac tendencies seriously.
  • Establishing Shot: To demonstrate that Miami is full of beautiful places and people.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Michael drops everything when his mother calls him, though not without screaming into a pillow.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: The art dealer offers to show him some Greco-Roman nude wrestling sculptures...
  • Frame-Up: The client is being framed by his boss.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Michael's beating in Nigeria makes him less of a badass in Miami.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Michael beats the crap out of a few guys in a bathroom. The camera cuts away to the exterior and we hear a few gunshots.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: Michael makes it clear right away that he doesn't work for anyone directly. That's why he can do what he does.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Mike gets to the airport by stealing a dirt bike from some guy. He also steals several cars throughout the episode.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Dexter's Angel Batista is the client of the week.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Made particularly egregious by the fact that Michael's just stuck the barrel of his gun into a tin can.
  • Hyper Awareness: Sitting in a sushi restaurant with Fi, Michael easily spots the three FBI agents tailing him.
  • Hypochondria: Madeline's initial characterization. It disappears.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: "Fi, violence is foreplay for you, it's not for me."
  • It's Always Spring: The hotel Michael stays at is full of beautiful young people in bathing suits, but his mother tells him it's almost Christmas.
  • MacGyvering: Michael improvises a few things.
    • He makes a fake bomb to get his handler's attention.
    • He makes a listening device using a few cell phones.
    • He gets rid of Sugar using duct tape. And a gun.
    • He deals with the fight at the end using flares attached to a pistol.
  • Made of Iron: Averted right away.
    Michael: It doesn't matter how much training you have; a broken rib is a broken rib.
  • The Mafiya: The show opens with Michael dealing with a Russian warlord in Nigeria.
  • Mr. Exposition: Michael does a little show and tell with Pyne at the end.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Madeline's chain-smoking habits show up right away.
  • Narrator: Michael begins narrating the show right away.
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: "I never run around the bushes in a ski mask when I'm breaking in someplace. Somebody catches you, what are you gonna say? You want to look like a legitimate visitor until the very last minute. If you can't look legit, confused works almost as well."
  • Oh, Crap
    • Michael's in the middle of a deal when his burn notice goes through.
    • Also, when his mother calls him.
  • Once an Episode: Michael's love of yogurt makes its first appearance.
  • Perma Stubble: Sam doesn't sport his, which upset the producers.
  • Pet the Dog: Michael giving tips to a kid on how to fight bullies.
  • Playing Sick: Michael fakes nausea to get into the bathroom.
  • Post-Victory Collapse: "If you're going to collapse on a plane, I recommend business class."
  • Renegade Russian: The episode opens with Mike bribing a Russian ex-pat to protect an oil field.
  • Retired Badass: Ladies, meet Sam Axe.
  • Safecracking: Made easier by laziness and modern technology.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Michael insists he's not hooking up with Fiona. That's not what's happening.
  • Staring Kid: Michael screaming into a payphone while a shocked kid stares at him from a nearby water fountain.
  • State The Simple Solution: "Should we shoot them?" Made it into the opening credits.
  • Strictly Formula: The pilot introduces the formula. Story A) Michael helps someone in Miami so that he can continue Story B) dealing with his burn notice.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: The photos at the end are from throughout the episode.
  • Sweet Tooth: Over coffee with the FBI guys. Look at how much sugar Michael puts in his coffee.
  • Those Two Guys: Michael's FBI tail make their first appearance.
  • Title Drop: "We got a burn notice on you. You're blacklisted."
  • Totally Radical: The skater kids Michael gets to talk to the cops to deal with his FBI tail. "All right, dog."
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: As soon as Michael gets to Miami.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: Sam spends some time telling Michael that getting burned wouldn't have happened in the 80s. There were rules back then.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Pyne sends his bodyguard after Javier's son to get some leverage.
    Recap/Burn NoticeBurn Notice S 1 E 2 Identity

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