uSa! uSa! Thursdays, June 11

Really enjoying USA’s thursday lineup, despite its flaws. Burn Notice and Royal Pains both seem to be featherweight shows, but they accumulate goodwill through the likeability of their characters. Every once in a while, that goodwill pays off when more genuine threats emerge.

This week’s Burn Notice was not its best hour. Ex-spy Michael agrees to rescue a kidnapped child for a divorced couple. To do so, he and Sam set up a “reverse interrogation” with the culprit, in which the heavy beats up Michael (impersonating a junkie who has heard a little bit about the kidnapping) and slowly gives up the vital information himself. It’s a shame the show used up the “reverse interrogation” tactic on this baddie, as he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. Michael and Sam only required patience to win the day. Michael’s cover really stretches and rips plausibility–the built and iron-jawed Michael would never be mistaken for a junkie. And the episode was marred by some leaden dialogue, such as Patricia’s line about waterboarding.

But the caper of the week did provide a barely-sub subtext for Michael and Fiona’s relationship. The divorced couple, Howard and Patricia, used to work together, got in heated arguments about Howard’s career direction, and are brought back together by the mission. They’re clearly stand-ins for Michael and Fiona, especially given Fiona’s stated wish last week that Michael would realize there’s a life outside of spywork.

So far, the “masterplot” scenes between Michael and Moon Bloodgood’s cop feel awkward, but this unease may be intentional.

After a fun first week, Royal Pains meanders in its second episode. Again, I don’t mind much, since Hank is pretty likeable. Still haven’t really warmed to the other characters, and I’m not sure they’re being used in proper proportions yet. This week Hank saves a ballerina, does pro bono work for a fisherman, doesn’t kiss Jill, and gets fired by Andrew McCarthy’s blender tycoon. All of this rolls off of Hank like water off a duck’s back. The plotting for this episode lacked urgency, even with the ballerina collapsing every so often.  I want to see where all the pieces are moving, but the show needs tightening. It should be relaxing, not aimless.

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