YMMV: Burn Notice

  • Anvilicious: The writers take pains to point out in almost every episode that physical torture just doesn't work. Psychological torture, on the other hand...
  • Base Breaker: Fan opinions of Fiona are split down the middle. She is just as resourceful as the guys and gets some of the best lines... but she is also the one nagging Michael about letting go of the Myth Arc and quite often tries to raise his blood pressure just because it's fun.
    • And then there's the Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters angle. It's a little jarring, for UK viewers at least, to accept a wackily trigger-happy ex-IRA bomb-maker as a good guy.
    • Finally a few fans are a little uncomfortable that she plays so many Oirish stereotypes completely straight.
    • With the sixth season, opinions have shifted quite a bit in Fiona's favor. Many fans like her storyline in prison more than Michael's storyline. It helps that she sacrificed herself to ensure Michael's freedom from Anson.
      • Season seven may shift back against her as she dumps Mike and finds a new guy after/because he made a deal to go into a deep cover mission to keep everyone from being locked up forever. It doesn't help that Mike seems to be falling apart a bit due to the deep cover.
  • The Chris Carter Effect: Very arguable, given how the producers keep shuffling villians in and out seemingly willy-nilly, and how, when one is taken care of, lo and behold there is another one to take his place. Conspiracies within conspiracies, seemingly without end.
  • Complete Monster:
    • Simon Escher was a Psycho for Hire for Anson's organization who had been betrayed by them. When he got out of jail in seasons 3 and 4, Simon embarked on a one man terrorism and murder spree, killing anyone in his way to get to Management, innocent or not. Simon's first appearance has him in a TV store, having shot the employee on duty dead and hacked all the Television in the store to show his grisly crimes, which includes bombings and shootings, and he forces Michael to help him by threatening to bomb a tourist hotel. The CIA later recruit him in the season 7 finale and brings him in on an op to bring down a terrorist network. After eliminating both the extraction team and most of the enemy's men, he tortures the one prisoner they had and kills him in cold blood.
    • Anson Fullerton, from seasons 5 and 6, is the leader of the Organization that burned Michael, which he founded with the old man known only as “Management.” He resurfaced after Max and Michael began researching evidence of more agents, killing the former and framing the latter. With the cover-up foiled, he then orchestrated a plot to gain leverage on Michael: tricking Michael's girlfriend Fiona into thinking she killed two innocent people and recording her confession to blackmail Michael into continuing to work for him and later disposes of a useless asset by blowing the man up in front of his family. Anson eliminates and manipulates more people, even revealing he was the one behind the death of Michael's father. His ultimate moment was trying to bomb a plane to kill one passenger. Anson thinks of everyone as an asset, and there's only one response a ruthless man like him has to one he deems useless.
  • Crazy Awesome: While it may not be accurate to call Michael crazy, a lot of his plans are downright insane. Not that it stops them from working.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Fiona off-handedly and somewhat sincerely hopes Michael gets beat up or shot during a job because she had to cancel a date. That sounds even more inappropriate when you see it for yourself.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: "Brotherly Love". Through a series of events, a drug lord kidnaps a man who owns an auto shop with his brother. Said drug lord blames the brother on stealing drugs from a stolen automobile when it was actually the drug lord's second-in-command. Said second-in-command tries to frame the brother for stealing the drugs and the car, but Michael, Nate, and Fiona manage to steal back the car and reassemble it in the second-in-command's yard. Unfortunately, the second-in-command already got rid of the drugs. So it ends with Nate getting the money he needs to support his wife and unborn child, the auto shop brothers being saved from the drug lord's wrath, but the money came from the drug dealer, who is still out there, and the second-in-command already managed to sell off the $2 million worth of drugs onto the street.
    • Though to be fair, many of the episodes end like this. Michael generally doesn't wholesale dismantle organizations unless it's required; usually, he just gets people to safety or what have you.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Carla and Kendra. A number of the one-shot episode villains as well.
  • Foe Yay: A lot of people read into this with Tricia Helfer's flirty portrayal as Carla, and in an interview the question was even asked to the actress. But Detective Paxson is acknowledged in universe.
    Fiona: "Was that flirting or does she hate you?"
    Michael: "I am not her type."
    • Michael and Victor could veer into this too, especially with Victor's overly-chipper Ax-Crazy personality complementing Michael's dour practicality remarkably well. With lines like
      Victor: What's going on in that pretty head of yours?
    • Also:
      Michael: Victor, we have so much in common, so much to talk about. We should meet.
      Victor: I love it! Let's do it!
      Michael: Just name the time and place.
    • Michael and Jason Bly sure liked to invade each other's personal space.
    • When Brennen was controlling Michael, he took away his Cool Shades because "I want to see those pretty eyes." Probably actually done because it's easier to lie with your eyes hidden, with the accompanying dialogue being mere Terms of Endangerment.
    • In "Signals and Codes" with the first appearance of Diego, a new agency contact for Michael.
      Michael: I had to fight off some Russians who were buying up everything.
      Diego: Yeah, the boys upstairs noticed your name handle.
      Michael: "Michael Hearts Diego"... that is so embarrassing.
    • And now we have Gilroy, who gropes Mike's hand on their first meeting and is very happy that Michael doesn't "kiss and tell".
    • And giving him (and a one-shot accomplice) synchronized wristwatches. Apparently, your resting pulse tends to sync up with the ticking of your watch, "so by the end of the day, our hearts will beat as one." Extra points for gratuitous chest-touching for both recipients.
      • This last case is so blatant, even in the following episode Michael remarks to the guy "Ya know, I like you as a friend and all..." Gilroy's reply? "You're cute, but don't interrupt."
      • In the opening of the same episode, Gilroy insists on meeting with Michael in a hot-tub to insure that he isn't bugged. As Michael gets into the tub, Gilroy gives him a lecherous once-over with his eyes.
    • So basically, Michael and any recurring (male or female) foe. As well as Lucy Lawless's character in "False Flag." Jeffrey Donovan has serious chemistry with a lot of people.
    • Larry (yes, dead Larry) gives a Not So Different speech to Fiona about how hard it is to be in a relationship with Mike and how he needs the things they both have to offer.
    • Sharon Gless (Madeline) noted she would like for Maddie to get into a relationship with the FBI agent that interrogated her about Mike and whom she slapped.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: At one point, Narrator!Michael remarks that spies are basically criminals with a cause. As of "Burn The Line", Team Weston are considered traitors to the USA and they have no cause other than survival. And they're pursued by the relentless Olivia Riley who doesn't care what the truth or circumstances are, only that Michael killed Tom Card in cold-blood.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In Friendly Fire (3x11), super spy Michael puts on an extra-mysterious persona. In the end, he's called the man in the suit.
  • He Really Can Act: The series was designed partially as a vehicle for Jeffrey Donovan. However, the main cast often gets to show off their acting chops, as well as guest stars.
  • Ho Yay: Sam has broken dates with rich and beautiful women, gotten himself beaten up, sacrificed brilliant cars, and once attempted to get himself killed, all for Michael's sake and with only the barest twinges of regret. While less overtly demonstrative, Michael frequently trusts Sam with his life, going so far as to allow himself to back one of Sam's gambits completely blind and nearly be executed for it as well as staying with Sam in a dangerous hostage situation that could have gotten him arrested.
    • Sam and Michael are at it again in "Hard Time", lampshaded by Jesse. Sam wants to go undercover in prison to help an old asset of his; Michael refuses to let him go because he was already clocked by the gang:
      Michael: Sam, you can't. Listen, I'll do it.
      Sam: You'd do that for my friend?
      Michael: I'd do that for you.
      (Sam makes a "seriously?" face, and Michael nods. Jesse looks uncomfortable.)
      Jesse: Okay, I hate to break up this beautiful moment between you two ...
    • Seymour clearly has a massive (and massively one-sided) man-crush on Michael.
    • Sugar also seems to have this for Michael and Sam.
    • Most of the rival spies do it (see Terms of Endangerment), but Gilroy seems to be actively hitting on Michael. The first thing he does when they meet is to talk about his hands. Not to mention their "date" in a hot-tub.
      Michael: You know, I like you as a friend and all...
      Gilroy: You're cute, but don't interrupt.
    • Word of God on Larry: "Part of what's fun about Larry for us is that he's a guy who's primarily motivated by his love of Michael, which is a really odd thing for a bad guy. He's sort of like, 'I love money and I love killing people, but mostly, kid, I love you, let's just hang out.'" It also answers the question of why Larry (with his Kill Them All mentality) puts up with Team Westen foiling his plans: Michael's one of the few people he actually likes (and thus won't actively try to kill).
    • A little of this between Jesse and Sam in 4x06.
      Jesse: Is it weird that I kinda miss you?
      Sam: Yeah, it's a little weird.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: It's a safe bet a fair number of viewers only initially tuned in because of Bruce Campbell.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Anson, the man who was behind everything that happened to Michael so far. He not only was responsible for Michael's burn notice, he created the organization Michael was a member of in the first place. He burned Michael so that he could use him and his spy training without any kind of government restriction. He survived Michael's rather considerable rampage against his organization. He released Larry from prison and led Larry to him so that he could play the role of hostage, manipulating Fiona into killing Larry, along with a bunch of other innocents, giving him leverage over Michael. And least of all... he helped create Michael the Spy in the first place by killing Frank, Michael's father. And through all of that, he was never even a blip on Michael's radar. In fact, Michael didn't even know he existed until the middle of season five! Feel free to applaud his genius at your leisure.
  • Memetic Mutation: "Yes, dead Larry."
    • The Gabrielle Anwar Scale. A scale on how good something is depending on if there is too many Gabrielle Anwars or not.
    • "Guns make you stupid . . . duct tape makes you smart."
  • Mind Game Ship Michael and Anson. Anson enjoys torturing Michael with his insights way too much.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: The door to Michael's loft has been making the same low-pitched squeaky sound for the last five seasons. You learn to recognize it in the pilot.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In the season six premiere, Michael goes from cold blooded (almost) killer to smiling in zero seconds flat and it's fairly disturbing. Note, this is not him playing a persona, this is him in a high stress situation.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Ian, the soon-to-retire State Department official and friend of Jesse in Season 5's "Acceptable Loss".
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Madeline. In the pilot episode, she's little more than The Load to Michael, a whining hypochondriac who constantly demands things of him. The writers addressed this early on, however, and she's since become much more sympathetic and even supportive of her son. (See Crowning Moment of Heartwarming and Took a Level in Badass.)
    • It also helps that Madeline gradually stopped trying to get Michael to mend fences with his dead father. Her constant claims about how they used to be a decent family turned into bitter acknowledgment of what a Jerkass her late husband was.
      • Which oddly enough may have made her a bigger scrappy in later seasons as she blames Mike for leaving and letting the family fall apart, blames Mike for his emotional problems caused by said abuse, openly compares Mike to his father, puts almost all of Nate's death on Mike, and actually starts hitting him when she's pissed at him. Knowing how she was in season one makes it even worse in hindsight.
  • The Scrappy: Between his Honor Before Reason personality, his open and unwarranted dislike of Michael (culminating in him obviously enjoying an opportunity to punch Michael), and the fact that Michael's friends and family all side with him over Michael, its kinda hard not to feel that the doctor from Neighborhood Watch doesn't fall under this trope. Sugar comes off as smarter and more useful than him, and he got Sam beaten up during that episode because he lost his cool. It also didn't help that The Aesop of the story fell somewhat flat since he would have died horribly if it wasn't for Michael and friends doing almost all of the work.
  • Seasonal Rot: There's a contingent of fans who were not pleased with season 5 for killing off one of the most popular antagonists and filling the gap with new and far less impressive ones (Anson and Pearce) and for taking a Status Quo Is God mindset rather than following through on big story developments.
  • Special Effects Failure: In the season 4 premiere, the Predator UAV attack just looks plain awful. The CGI explosions were particularly jarring since the other explosions in the show used actual pyrotechnics.
    • The puffs of "breathing in cold air" at the end of season four were just awful.
    • Did you know that when you blow up a boat, everything boat-like simply disappears without leaving any rubble or sending pieces flying through the air? C4 vaporises boat.
  • Stop Helping Me!: Because Michael's methods tend to make things worse before they get better, multiple clients have said this around the middle of the episode. They are appropriately grateful when things work out in the end.
  • Strawman Has a Point: A head of security for the CEO of a software company is portrayed as obstructive for treating team Westen with the suspicion that rightfully should be given to two people who come up to you randomly and tell you you are going to be robbed by the real thief who happens to be the CEO's executive assistant and the person he's shown spending most of his day with.
    • Michael himself said the guy was supposed to be suspicious, so the amount of straw necessary is debatable.
    • In Season 5, Maddie and Fiona take turns scolding Michael for endangering the other characters with his CIA missions. We're clearly supposed to agree that these criticisms are warranted, despite the fact that (a) Fiona was previously loudly complaining that Michael was keeping his friends at arm's length from his CIA missions, (b) the people he's endangering all volunteered to participate and knew the risks beforehand, and (c) we never heard a peep about how selfish he was for taking similar risks when he was acting for his own benefit in previous seasons, as opposed to his CIA missions, which are intended to protect national security.
  • Stupid Sacrifice. From the finale, Maddie suicidally detonating C4 to cover Jessie and Charlie's escape. All because they don't have radio detonators and the cord from the big red button is too short. They could have easily spliced in some wires from the wall or some appliances.
  • Tear Jerker: "He's wrong. I didn't raise my son like that."
    • The entire end of "Blind Spot", where Madeline is packing for Tampa, to visit a friend she doesn't even like because she can't stand to live with Jesse when she knows who burned him and she can't stand to watch Michael lie so easily about it and Jesse is waiting for Fiona at Michael's loft with a gun to her head - he knows Michael burned him and he's taking her involvement personally. He comes within a breath of shooting her, but doesn't, letting her live so she can tell Michael and Sam he's coming for them.
    • "Bread Pudding".
    • Gabriel the Doctor's story about how his daughter died.
    • Most of the scenes in "Bloodlines" where Madeline poses as a nurse to get information out of a Yakuza boss, with Michael basically pretending to be his father. He verbally and physically abuses Maddie, even going so far as to hit her, all with the subtext that this was exactly how Frank used to treat her.
    • Sam and Mike's conversation in S06x01, when they're too late to stop Fi from surrendering to the FBI. Michael has tears in his eyes as he tells Sam that Fi was the only thing he had left to fight for.
      • Even Sam sounded close to tears as he pointed out to Michael that he was about to betray his friends and country.
    • Michael visiting Fiona in prison in "Last Rites", with the both of them in tears. Michael reminds Fiona of the bar in Ireland where they met, and uses his "Michael McBride" accent from that cover.
    • Nate in 6x2 revealing that his wife left him and took their baby. Given that we know his father was abusive and the Thousand-Yard Stare Nate has, you can tell that Nate was thinking "Did I become Frank? Is that what drove her away?"
      • And then in 6x6, Nate gets killed by a sniper taking out Anson.
      • Season 7 reveals Ruth was a recovering alcoholic. So from alcoholic father to alcoholic wife. And worse, after Nate's death, she falls off the wagon and Maddie is fighting for custody of Charlie.
    • The entire scene between Tom Card and Madeline in "Desperate Measures", when Maddie begs Card to let her see the file on Nate's death, along with the bottle analogy (Frank "broke" both Michael and Nate; Nate smashed into sand, Michael shattered into a jagged edge) capped with Card's reminder that Maddie is responsible for all the good that came out of her sons.
      • Which is completely shattered by the revelation that Card has betrayed Michael and very likely ordered Nate's death.
    • One in combination with an Oh, Crap moment in the season six two-parter. They have to bust a crooked cop who has it out for Ayn. It's hinted at with his habits, but half-way through the episode; the cop decides to reform himself, implying that he was in a depressed rut for being unable to cope with his partner's murder. The Oh, Crap comes in when he decides to head towards an area against a team of fully armed gangsters with the intent for getting them arrested for killing him which will screw up any hope of keeping Ayn free from jail.
    • Michael and Sam's interaction at the end of "Down and Out." Sam realizes that his loyalty to Michael has basically cost him everything, including the woman he loves, and all Michael can do is offer an inadequate-sounding apology. Sam's been pissed at Michael ever since he decided to shoot Card, and now he's looking to be at the end of his rope.
    • Did everyone just forget the end of the season 6 2 part finalie? Fi is pissed not wanting to answer anymore questions and wanting to know where Michael is only to be led right to him, she asks him if it's really finaly over and they can finaly be together in peace. Then he tells her that he made a deal, watching her completely break down made me completely lose it. I cried twice as much over that then when Nate died, don't get me wrong that was sad too but Fi crying kills me.
      • Made even worse in season seven when it's revealed that Mike was actually underselling how bad the situation was before he made the deal. The CIA was basically going to put everyone in a hole forever unless he made that deal, which was a deep cover gig that is gradually tearing Mike apart as a person.
    • In "Down Range," Maddie is forced to denigrate Nate's memory in front of his bookie as part of the plan, admitting that yes, Nate was a screw-up who couldn't be relied on. Later on she privately admits to Fiona that a lot of it was true. Nate was her baby boy, but he was not without flaw, and she feels it reflects as much on her failures as a parent as on his as a person.
    • Michael's breakdown at the end of "All Or Nothing." Sure, some of it was played up to fool Sonya, but not much...
The series finale Maddie's heroic sacrifice and Michael and Fiona's funeral. Thankfully we learn that they live.
  • Too Cool to Live: Victor - For an example of how cool he was, Michael was crying when he was forced to shoot him; despite the man having tried to kill him several times before.
  • Values Dissonance: A TV program screening in the UK featuring an IRA terrorist as a hero.
    • Which can be even more of an issue as Fi is an explosives expert who works as a freelance gun runner and who is the cast member who is almost always the first to want to resort to violence, often eagerly and in situations where it would only cause more problems. Identifying with her when she then tries to lecture Michael on the moral greyness of his former work becomes difficult when her prime character traits and past after the IRA suggest she was unlikely to have been a restrained member when she was fighting in Ireland, tragic backstory or not.
    • This is likely intentional. From the beginning the show has stated that spies have to work with people no one in an official capacity would trust. Just working with people you personally don't like is expected, finding the lesser evil in Evil Inc. is required to survive.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Casting 29 year old Alona Tal, who looks even younger, as a highly seasoned Russian spy was... ill advised, to put it mildly.
  • The Woobie:
    • Though you wouldn't think of it now, Nate's backstory probably qualifies him for it. When he wasn't getting beat up by his abusive father, he was getting beat up by bullies at school.
    • Jesse counts as this to Maddie, mainly because she does not think kindly of the fact that Michael screwed him over, even if it was inadvertently.