After last Thursday’s intense Burn Notice premiere, it’s difficult to believe that another episode could top it, but tonight’s does just that. In the 100th episode of the series, “Forget Me Not,” Michael is forced to face the life and loved ones that he left behind.
Burn Notice‘s Creator and Executive Producer Matt Nix spoke with BuddyTV this week about season 7 and reaching the milestone 100th episode. Read on for the first part of the edited interview and check back Friday for his thoughts on the aftermath of the heartbreaking episode,”Forget Me Not.”
After six seasons of Michael searching out why he was burned, why was it important in this final season for Michael to sacrifice his life with everyone he loves and protect them by going back to work for the CIA?
Going back to the beginning of the series, there’s always been this tension between Michael’s engagement with his family and his engagement with his friends and the isolation of the life of a spy. He came into the show very isolated. He hadn’t talked to Fiona in years. He hadn’t talked to Sam. He had been completed out of touch with his mother and his brother. And over the course of the series he’s re-engaged with all of these people. He’s made a new good friend in Jesse and so in a way all of that is good for him as a human being.
At the same time, one of the themes that we’ve explored is the idea that there’s a reason he was isolated. There was a reason that it may be a good idea to be isolated as a spy. That’s to say that when you’re doing this kind of work, the cost to your family and friends can be very significant.
And, so when I think about how the series has gone, we had five seasons of Michael really engaging with Fiona [and] with his family, and then last season, Michael kinda getting a lot of the things he wanted and trying to have both his life as a spy and his family and the cost was terrible. His brother ended up dying. He ended up with his family and friends on the run. It took a terrible toll on the people he cares about and so that all came to a head in the finale of last season.
So, going into this season, I think that there’s a part of Michael has been burned by that. He’s doing this thing to save his family, but at the same time there’s a part of him that I think is atoning for what he did last season. And, everything that he — killing Tom Card and like losing his brother and all of that. What all of that meant for his family and friends, so he has gone back to living the live of an isolated spy.
So the question becomes is it too late? As he changed too much? And, that’s really what the 100th episode is about. When those two sides of his life come crashing back together and Michael realizes that he can’t let this go as easily as he might have thought once upon a time. Like is the old Michael Westen that the CIA wants even there any more? And, so that’s kinda what we’re exploring this season.
Can Michael give up the spy life?
That’s a very good question. I think that’s what we’re exploring this year. One of the things that we kind of look at a lot with regard to not just Michael, but all the characters is this idea: Is it something he does or something he is?
When we talk about — like what does Fiona want out of Michael? Does she want to like marry Michael and buy a house and watch television together? You know what I mean and mow lawns? Well, presumably not. Like there is something in them that is interested in engaging in this kind of life and that’s kinda the stuff and substance of their relationship. At the same time, is that sustainable? Can they do that together forever? What does that actually mean? So that’s a very good question and that’s what this season is about.
The 100th episode flashes back to when Michael and Fiona first met, why was this the perfect time to show fans their first meeting?
Well, I think that the big thing was Michael has left Fiona to go do this thing. He’s imagined that he’s not going to be re-engaging with her. He’s going to be off doing this job and Fiona’s moved on. And, then he comes back and he discovers that Fiona’s in this situation — first he discovers that his friends have moved on and realizes that through these flashbacks you see how much he realizes that he can’t just let go of the past that easily. The past will haunt him whether or not he wants it to. And, then ultimately, the situation arises where the only way for him to save the people he loves is to re-engage with the past in a way that works, but is incredibly personally painful for him.
That seemed to me to be a way of really dramatizing what this kinda central theme is, which is like to what extent can Michael be the old Michael. What has the last six years of the show meant? Has it changed him? Or, is he just the same guy? And, I think that this episode is all about how much it’s changed him that he can’t let go of the past. That he has these relationships and he can’t just walk away from them for both personal reasons and for practical ones. And, so that’s why it felt appropriate.
I’d also say that from the first episode the question of how Michael and Fiona met has been just something we’ve talked about and something we’ve danced around. I think it’s something really important because it speaks to this central weird aspect of their relationship which is that they fell in love when Fiona didn’t even know Michael’s real name. And, when he was pretending to be someone else. In terms of the love story, I find that idea really engaging that Fiona fell in love with Michael when she didn’t even know who he was.
And, there they are 100 episodes in and still dealing with that issue.
It’s interesting because I never thought of Burn Notice as an epic love story, but you see in “Forget Me Not” that the relationship has been and is a core aspect of the series. Now that Fiona is with Carlos, is that real? Or, is it more of a distraction for her going into the 100th episode?
It’s definitely real. Fiona had a boyfriend in season 2 — Campbell. He was clearly a distraction. He was a very good looking guy who didn’t do the sort of things that Michael does and she was sort of dating him to make Michael jealous. But, Carlos is someone with whom she can actually do a lot of the things she did with Michael. They’re doing bounty hunting together, they work well together, he can handle himself tactically. He really cares about her and she cares about him.
One of the things that I was really interested in with Carlos is the idea that as much as we’re exploring whether Michael can move on, we’re exploring whether Fiona can move on. Once upon a time Fiona would have said of a guy like Carlos, “Okay, that’s perfect. I can be with this guy who really cares about me.” [He] kinda fulfills all the things she wants out of Michael and indeed some of the things she doesn’t even know that she wants. She gets to be with someone who is up for saving people, who is a really decent guy, who can handle himself in an action situation. All of those things. Someone who knows who she really is and is comfortable with that. And, that’s what she’s wanted and now she’s got it. Now the question is, is that enough? What is her connection to Michael when she has all these things she wants?
Burn Notice has made it to 100 episodes. What did it mean to you that the show’s made it to that milestone?
The truth is — once upon a time the 100th episode was this magical number that people wanted to reach for the sake of a syndication deal. And, that is no longer quite the case. We’ve had a syndication deal since the end of the fourth season.
I guess like the larger question is: What is syndication? What is having 100 episodes and what does that mean for the show? I think that deals aside what it really means is that it’s a show that’s going to be on. It’s a show that’s going to be shown by other networks
What does it really mean to me? I’ll tell you what it means to me. When I was a little kid, every day I came home and I watched two episodes of M*A*S*H. Every day, because it was stripped on my local station when I was in grade school. It was my favorite show and I knew it by heart. I loved that show. There were other shows that I watched actually too like that. I actually watched a lot of Three’s Company oddly. But, M*A*S*H. was my favorite show.
And, what 100 episodes, what syndication, means to me is that there are kids coming home from school watching stripped episodes of Burn Notice that are on every day that become part of the fabric of your life. And, you come to know these characters and care about these characters and engage with these characters in the way that you do when something is just there all the time.
When I think about how much I cared about the characters on M*A*S*H and thought about them that was — M*A*S*H obviously did way more than 100 episodes, but that’s kinda what syndication is. You’ve entered the culture and the world of television in a different way. And, you get to stick around for awhile and be a part of people’s lives in a different way and that’s what’s really exciting.
Burn Notice‘s 100th episode airs tonight, June 13, at 9 pm ET on USA.
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(Image courtesy of USA.)