Burn Notice (TV Series 2007–2013)


Burn Notice (TV Series 2007–2013)

Michael Westen, a seasoned U.S. spy, is suddenly "burned", i.e. discredited, without any form of procedure. He survives by doing impossible jobs for desperate people in Miami, where his mother lives. Michael is usually aided by his ex-girlfriend Fiona and trusted former FBI informer Sam.
IMDb   7.9 /10
Metacritic   70 %
TheMovieDb    7.5 /10
RottenTomatoes  88 %
FilmAffinity   6.3 /10
Creator Matt Nix
Release Date2007-06-28
GenreAction, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Content RatingTV-PG (TV-PG)
AwardsNominated for 4 Primetime Emmys. Another 6 wins & 13 nominations.
CompanyFabrik Entertainment, Flying Glass of Milk Productions, Fox Television Studios
Michael Westen 111 episodes, 2007-2013
Fiona Glenanne 111 episodes, 2007-2013
Sam Axe 111 episodes, 2007-2013
Madeline Westen 111 episodes, 2007-2013
Jesse Porter 67 episodes, 2010-2013

Burn Notice

Burn Notice is an American television series created by Matt Nix, which originally aired on the USA Network for a total of seven seasons from June 28, 2007, to September 12, 2013. The show stars Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless, and beginning in season four, Coby Bell.


The title of the series refers to the burn notices issued by intelligence agencies to discredit or announce the dismissal of agents or sources who are considered to have become unreliable. When spies are burned, their connection to an espionage organization is terminated, leaving them without access to cash or influence. According to the narration during the opening credits, the burned spy has no prior work history, no money, no support network – in essence, no identity. The television series uses second-person narrative and frequent voice-overs providing exposition from the viewpoint of covert operations agent Michael Westen, played by Donovan. The voice-over commentary is in the form of tips for fledgling agents as if for a training or orientation film.

After being "burned" in the middle of an operation in southern Nigeria and subsequently beaten and kidnapped, Westen finds himself in his hometown of Miami, Florida. He is tended to by his ex-girlfriend, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), but he has been abandoned by all his normal intelligence contacts and is under continuous surveillance with his personal assets frozen. Extraordinary efforts to reach his U.S. government handler eventually yield only a grudging admission that someone powerful wants him "on ice" in Miami. If he leaves there, he will be hunted down and taken into custody. If he stays, he can remain relatively free. Consumed by the desire to find out who burned him and why, Westen is reluctantly drawn into working as an unlicensed private investigator and problem solver for ordinary citizens to fund his personal investigation into his situation as a blacklisted agent.

Westen invites his old friend Sam Axe (Campbell) to assist him, while Fiona invites herself to join them. With the occasional assistance and sometimes hindrance of his mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless), Westen battles an array of criminals such as mobsters, gang members, con artists, murderers, rapists, kidnappers, foreign wet-work operatives, drug traffickers, sex traffickers, arms traffickers, and war criminals. At the same time, Michael must follow the trail that leads him to the people responsible for his being burned, and later finding out why.

The series juggles these two narratives: the overall series dealing with why Michael was burned, and individual episodes focusing on the cases he works for clients.

Cast and characters

  • Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen: A former U.S. Army Ranger and Green Beret working as a freelance spy for the CIA, who has been burned (identified as an unreliable or dangerous agent) and now finds himself in his hometown of Miami, unable to leave. With his assets frozen, he is forced to live off his wits and any small investigative jobs he can find while he searches for answers about who has burned him and why. Highly skilled and extremely clever, he can think on his feet, often improvising electronic devices and using ordinary items ranging from duct tape to cake frosting in highly unorthodox ways to complete a job. He has two black belts, or as he puts it in one episode, "30 years of karate" and is "rated with anything that fires a bullet or holds an edge". He has an uncanny ability to assume cover identities, working in numerous regional dialects and international accents; however, he cannot speak Spanish fluently (although by the final season he demonstrates being capable of speaking and understanding Spanish, likely to maintain his cover while working in the Dominican Republic). He believes that his unhappy childhood, largely at the hands of an abusive father, has helped to make him into a natural covert operative, while also making close relationships difficult for him. He has a younger brother, Nate (Seth Peterson), who appeared in several episodes before being killed by a sniper in season six. Michael presents himself as a cynic hardened by experience, but occasionally reveals a soft, and sometimes vulnerable, side. His favorite food is yogurt, which is featured or eaten by at least one of the characters in each episode. He has a romantic relationship with Fiona. In the series finale, Fiona and he are living in Ireland raising Charlie (Nate's son) as their own child.
  • Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne: A former IRA operative, she is Westen's ex-girlfriend. Fiona re-enters Michael's life when he is dumped in Miami, and she decides to stay, quickly making herself valuable to him. Aside from serving as his firearms and explosives expert, she provides support to him on his investigations, and at times, assists him in missions to find out who burned him. In the pilot episode, she speaks with an Irish accent. In the second episode, she changes to an American accent, along with a change in her style of dress, in an effort to distance herself from her past and blend in, showing her own ability to adapt. She is both a complement to Michael and his match in many ways, both intellectually and tactically. Series creator Matt Nix has said about Michael and Fiona's relationship:
  • Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe: An aging, semi-retired covert operative and former Navy SEAL. With a low amount of cash-on-hand to his name, Sam spends most of his time sleeping with rich, older Miami women in exchange for food and shelter. Westen and he are old buddies; Sam is also Westen's last, tenuous contact in the official spy community. He presents himself as "the guy who knows a guy", and Michael frequently relies on Sam's seemingly inexhaustible list of contacts. Sam also uses the alias "Charles (or 'Chuck') Finley" frequently during jobs. In the pilot, he is also an FBI informant, reporting on Westen under duress. Knowing this, Westen is able to pass false information to the FBI through Sam, who is glad to become his double agent. At some point in the past, Sam foiled Fiona's attempt to sell a large shipment of weapons to a Libyan arms dealer, costing her a good deal of money. As a result, Fiona initially is very hostile towards him, but the two eventually become very antagonistic friends. Sam occasionally asks her for advice concerning his relationships with women, and Michael has said that the two of them make a good team.
  • Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen: Michael's mother, "Maddie", is a chain-smoking retiree. Although attempting to keep a sense of gravitas and self-importance, she is family-oriented and fully supports both of her sons in times of need, as well as helping Michael with his clients. In the midseason finale of the third season, she considers leaving Miami, but realizes her significance to his business. Until the events that start the series, she had only infrequent communication with Michael, noting in the pilot that Michael has missed his father's funeral "by eight years". During the first few seasons, Michael does not relish her company, but he gradually grows to appreciate her strength and love. Her appeals for help are Michael's one great weakness, and she has the ability to persuade him to do as she wishes.
  • Coby Bell as Jesse Porter (seasons four to seven): A counterintelligence expert unwittingly burned by Michael during a search for classified files on a terrorist about whom Jesse has information. Jesse comes to Michael for help, hoping to find and kill the people responsible for burning him, and gradually becomes part of Michael's team. He briefly considers killing Michael after discovering that Michael was the one who burned him, albeit unintentionally, but instead grudgingly continues to work with the team; he and Michael eventually reconcile. Though eventually reinstated, Jesse finds he can no longer tolerate the bureaucratic aspects of government work, and takes a job with a private security firm while remaining a vital component of Michael's team.


SeasonTimeslot (ET)# Ep.PremieredEndedTV SeasonViewers
(in ones)
(in millions)
(in millions)
1Thursday 10:00 pm (June 28, 2007 – September 13, 2007)
Thursday 9:00 pm (September 20, 2007)
June 28, 2007
September 20, 2007
2Thursday 10:00 pm (July 10, 2008 – March 5, 2009)16
July 10, 2008
March 5, 2009
3Thursday 9:00 pm (June 4, 2009 – August 6, 2009)
Thursday 10:00 pm (January 21, 2010 – March 4, 2010)
June 4, 2009
March 4, 2010
4Thursday 9:00 pm (June 3, 2010 – August 26, 2010)
Thursday 10:00 pm (November 11, 2010 – December 9, 2010)
Thursday 9:00 pm (December 16, 2010)
June 3, 2010
December 16, 2010
5.1120106.69 million
5Thursday 9:00 pm (June 23, 2011 – September 8, 2011)
Thursday 10:00 pm (November 3, 2011 – December 15, 2011)
June 23, 2011
December 15, 2011
2.8920116.21 million
6Thursday 9:00 pm (June 14, 2012 – November 8, 2012)
Thursday 10:00 pm (November 15, 2012 – December 13, 2012)
Thursday 9:00 pm (December 20, 2012)
June 14, 2012
December 20, 2012
7Thursday 9:00 pm (June 6, 2013 – September 12, 2013)13
June 6, 2013
September 12, 2013

Season 1

The first season, consisting of 12 episodes, follows Michael Westen's investigation into the identity of the man who burned him. It also introduced the main characters: Fiona Glenanne, Michael's ex-girlfriend; Sam Axe, a former Navy SEAL and Michael's best friend; and Madeline "Maddie" Westen, Michael's hypochondriac mother. The season had many appearances by Agents Harris and Lane (Marc Macaulay and Brandon Morris), two FBI agents sent to keep tabs on Michael, but were eventually replaced by Jason Bly (Alex Carter), all are in turn removed from Michael's case. By the end of the season, Michael has discovered the identity of the man who wrote his burn notice, Phillip Cowan (Richard Schiff), only to see him killed. Michael later is contacted by a mysterious woman, ending the season on a cliffhanger.

Season 2

The second season, consisting of 16 episodes, depicts Michael's struggle to discover more about his new "handler" and use her to get to the people who burned him. The season begins with Michael meeting Carla (Tricia Helfer), the woman on the phone from the previous season. He begins a professional relationship with her, which consists of Michael doing a series of different tasks. Despite Fiona and Sam's protests, Michael completes the task under the duress of Carla going after Michael's family and friends, which she demonstrates by breaking into Madeline's house several times and having his brother arrested. Meanwhile, Maddie begins getting closer to learning about Michael's secret life. While attempting to figure out Carla's plans, Michael is almost killed when his loft is rigged with explosives. Michael eventually learns that Victor Stecker-Epps (Michael Shanks), Carla's wrangler to keep Michael in line, was the one who tried to kill him. Michael captures Victor and discovers Carla had Victor's family killed as part of his recruitment and that Victor had enough evidence against Carla to use as leverage. By the season finale, Carla kills Victor and is ready to detonate his boat with Michael still on it. Fiona kills Carla, and Michael meets "Management" (John Mahoney), the leader of a professional black ops syndicate. After telling Management that he wants out, Michael leaps from a helicopter and into the ocean, effectively ending their relationship, as well as the "protection" that Management had secretly been providing for Michael.

Season 3

The third season, consisting of 16 episodes, shows Michael in his quest to have his burn notice lifted. The season begins where the previous left off: Michael swims back to Miami, where he is met by Michelle Paxson (Moon Bloodgood), a Miami police detective who is intent on bringing Michael down. Paxson's sudden interest in Michael is the direct result of Management lifting Michael's protection. After he finally convinces her to stay away, Michael is approached by Tom Strickler (Ben Shenkman), an agent to the spies. Strickler claims that he can have Michael's burn notice lifted, but at a very high cost. Michael eventually must kill Strickler, instead, to save Fiona's life. In the meantime, Michael begins meeting Diego Garza (Otto Sanchez), a CIA agent who gives Michael information about his burn notice. However, after Strickler's death, Garza is murdered, and Michael is nearly back to square one. Later, Michael is confronted by Mason Gilroy (Chris Vance), a freelance psychopath who once worked for Strickler and confesses to the murder of Garza. Gilroy asks for Michael's help with an operation, and Michael, not wanting to let Gilroy get away with anything, follows. He discovers that Gilroy is attempting to break a high-risk felon out of prison. After Gilroy's murder, Michael learns the identity of the prisoner: Simon Escher (Garret Dillahunt), the man who committed the crimes for which Michael was framed. In the final scenes of the season, Michael is arrested and taken to a mysterious room.

Season 4

The fourth season, consisting of 18 episodes, follows Michael as he begins working once again for the people who burned him. As with most other seasons, the fourth season begins immediately after the events of the previous. Michael, still in prison, is visited by Vaughn (Robert Wisdom), a high-ranking member of management. He serves as Michael's new handler, bringing Michael various jobs and even participating in some. Over the events of the season, Michael inadvertently burns a spy himself, Jesse Porter, a counterintelligence operative. Michael eventually discovers their mutual target - a telecommunications magnate named John Barrett (Robert Patrick). After luring Barrett to Miami, Michael discovers that a coded Bible contains a complete list of the people who burned him. Jesse soon discovers that Michael was the one who burned him, causing a rift between them. Michael later is forced to kill Barrett to save himself, but loses the Bible in the process. Eventually, Sam and Jesse are able to reclaim the list, and decide to give the list to Marv (Richard Kind), Jesse's old handler. However, Marv is killed by Tyler Brennen (Jay Karnes), one of Michael's old foes. Brennen, now in possession of the list, hires another of Michael's enemies, "Dead" Larry Sizemore (Tim Matheson), to help track down the people on the list. Instead, Larry kills Brennen, which signals Michael's betrayal to Vaughn. Vaughn returns to Miami to have Michael, Fiona, and Jesse killed. However, Sam and Madeline are able to track down Congressman Bill Cowley (John Doman), whom Michael had previously strong-armed into helping protect a Cold War spy, to call for help. Michael is finally taken to Washington, DC, where he is met by an unidentified man (Dylan Baker) who proclaims, "Welcome back."

Season 5

The fifth season, consisting of 18 episodes, begins six months after Michael successfully rejoins the CIA as a consultant. The man from the final scenes of the fourth season has been identified as Raines, and along with Max (Grant Show), Michael begins hunting down and arresting all of the people on Simon's list of "Management" agents. While pursuing the final man on the list, however, Max and Michael hit a dead end when they discover that the man is dead. This leaves many mysteries unsolved, perhaps forever, and these "inconsistencies" still consume Michael.

Michael continues to work under Max until the latter's murder, which is executed in such a way so as to frame Michael. Michael, however, avoids the frame by both leading Agent Dani Pearce (Lauren Stamile), Max's replacement, away from the faked "evidence", and frenetically pursuing the actual killer through layers of "cut-outs". After at last clearing his name by forcing the killer to confess (before he commits suicide), Michael finally comes face to face with the man behind Management's still-active syndicate, Anson Fullerton (Jere Burns), who blackmails Fiona to get Michael to do what he wants. After Michael and his team are repeatedly forced to commit crimes and complete increasingly dangerous missions on Anson's behalf, Fiona turns herself in, freeing Michael to pursue Anson without concern for her.

Season 6

The sixth season, consisting of 18 episodes, begins with Fiona's arrest. Michael does contract work for the CIA agent who trained him, Tom Card (John C. McGinley), to gain visitation rights to Fiona and eventually have her released. He is also working with Pearce, trying to track down Anson. The team finally captures Anson with the help of Michael's brother Nate, but shortly after the CIA arrives, a gunshot from an unseen location kills both Anson and Nate. Fiona is released from prison and helps Michael in his search for the man who killed his brother. They eventually learn that the killer's name is Tyler Gray, and Card sanctions an off-the-books operation in Panama to take him down. However, when Michael finally captures him, Gray reveals that the operation is a sham: Card hired Gray to kill Anson and is planning a move that will kill Michael and his team. They escape, and Michael eventually confronts and kills Card, making every member of his team, as well as Maddie, targets in a CIA manhunt headed by Olivia Riley (Sonja Sohn). They consider escaping the country, but while trying to gain leverage on Riley, they discover she has been working with a drug cartel to bring Michael down. Michael gets in contact with Bly to help get evidence for Riley's treason, but their mission fails and Bly is killed. Michael eventually forces a confession from Riley while on a boat under fire from the Coast Guard. Sam, Fiona, Jesse, and Madeline spend about a month locked up, and when released, they find that Michael "made a deal" once more in return for his family and friends being freed from lifetime imprisonment. Fiona, upon learning that Michael has another person to answer to and more missions, feels betrayed. She reminds Michael he promised it would just be the two of them after this was all over. She backs away and tells Michael to leave her alone.

Season 7

The seventh and final season, consisting of 13 episodes, begins with Michael receiving an assignment from Andrew Strong (Jack Coleman), a high-ranking CIA official with whom he made the deal that got his team and Maddie set free. Strong made the deal because he believes Michael is the only person he can entrust with a dangerous mission that involves thwarting an American named Randall Burke (Adrian Pasdar) believed to be running freelance terror operations. Fiona has moved on to a new job with her new bounty hunter boyfriend. Sam and Jesse continue to help Michael despite, or perhaps because of, intrusions on their personal and professional lives. Maddie, meanwhile, is trying to get custody of Nate's son, Charlie, to keep him out of foster care. Burke turns out to be part of a larger organization, and he sacrifices his life to help Michael rescue a woman whom Burke called "the key to everything": Sonya (Alona Tal). Michael and the team, including Fiona, begin working with Sonya to get deeper into her organization. As they do, Michael meets James (John Pyper-Ferguson), the man calling the shots for Sonya and Burke, and after passing some intense tests, Michael is welcomed into James's "family". Michael soon finds out that James works for peace and justice in the world, but uses extreme methods to get what he wants. After Michael kills Sonya to protect Fiona, James sends his men to kill Maddie, Charlie, and Jesse. Maddie sacrifices herself to protect them and Michael shoots James, intent on taking him into custody. James blows up his own building, hoping to kill Michael and Fiona. They escape, but must be presumed dead to protect themselves. Strong releases Sam and Jesse, without imprisonment, and announces that Michael will "posthumously" be given a star on the CIA Memorial Wall. While Sam and Jesse contemplate continuing helping out those in need like they had for the past several years, Michael and Fiona have made their home in a small town in Ireland raising Charlie as their own and being the family of which Fiona had always dreamed, with Michael as her husband. As the show ends, Michael asks Fiona what he should tell Charlie when he is older. Fiona says Michael should tell him the truth, but Michael does not know where to start. Fiona tells him to start from the beginning, by saying, "My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy."

Prequel and tie-in novels

Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe is a prequel movie focusing on Sam Axe and is set before the events of Burn Notice. It was first broadcast on USA on April 17, 2011. It tells the story of Sam's last days in the Navy SEALs, leading up to his retiring to Miami, and serves as a lead-in to the fifth season of Burn Notice. Jeffrey Donovan directed the film and has a cameo appearance.

Since 2008, Signet Books has published a series of Burn Notice tie-in novels under their Obsidian brand:

TitleAuthorISBNPublication date
The FixTod Goldberg0-451-22554-6August 5, 2008
The End Game0-451-22676-3May 5, 2009
The Giveaway0-451-22979-7July 6, 2010
The Reformed0-451-23200-3January 4, 2011
The Bad Beat0-451-23409-XJuly 5, 2011


The show was filmed on location in and around Miami. The show had a permanent set built in the former Coconut Grove Convention Center in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood, where most of the show is filmed. In August 2012, the Miami City Commission and Burn Notice producers reached a tentative agreement to allow Burn Notice to film at the Convention Center for one additional year, allowing for a seventh season of production in exchange for significantly higher rent. The set was torn down on August 30, 2013.

Michael's loft was originally located at 25°46'44"N 80°12'25"W.

Madeline's house was originally located at 947 NW North River Dr. Miami, FL 33136.


The series has received generally positive reviews. Critics praised the show's brisk and witty nature, succinct dialogue, and riveting combination of espionage and crime drama presented in a charmingly irreverent tone. Donovan's performance as the lead character also received praise for his likeably lighthearted, smart-mouthed, and vengeful spirit. Burn Notice has also been praised for its strong supporting cast members, slick production values, intriguing narrative, and dry comedic humor.

Awards and nominations

The pilot episode written by Matt Nix won a 2008 Edgar Allan Poe Award, honoring the best in mystery, in the category "Best Television Episode Teleplay". Raines, Clements, and Sherry Klein were also nominated for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series for Burn Notice at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2008. Composer John Dickson won the 2008 and 2009 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards for Top TV Series. Craig S. O'Neill and Jason Tracey were nominated for a 2009 Writers Guild of America, USA award for Episodic Drama (episode "Double Booked"). In 2010, the show received its first Emmy Award nomination for acting, as Sharon Gless was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama. In 2011, David Raines, Scott Clements, and Sherry Klein were nominated for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series for "Last Stand" at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards. Burn Notice has also been nominated for Favorite TV Obsession at the 37th Peoples Choice Awards.


Ion Television acquired the rights for syndication of Burn Notice in 2013 along with White Collar. This was the fourth USA Network television series to be in syndication on Ion Television, along with Monk and Psych.

Home media

20th Century Fox has released all seven seasons of Burn Notice on DVD in Region 1. Season two was also released on Blu-ray. The TV movie The Fall of Sam Axe has also been released on DVD and Blu-ray.

DVD NameEp #Release DateAdditional Information
Season 112June 17, 2008
  • Audio commentaries
  • Gag reel
  • Audition footage
  • Characters montage
  • Girls Gone Burn Notice montage
  • Action scenes montage
Season 216June 16, 2009
  • Audio commentaries
  • Gag reel
  • Deleted scenes
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
Season 316June 1, 2010
  • Smash, Crash, Boom: Inside the Burn Notice Stunt Unit
  • 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International
Season 418June 7, 2011
  • The Stunts of Burn Notice
  • Burn Notice Roasts White Collar
  • White Collar Roasts Burn Notice
  • Sam Axe's Guide to Ladies and Libations
  • Rivalry of the Writer's Room
  • White Collar Pilot
The Fall of Sam AxeMovieJuly 26, 2011
  • Prequel set two years before Burn Notice season 1
  • Extended version of feature never before seen on TV
  • The Fall of Jeffrey Donovan
  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes
Season 518June 5, 2012
  • Army of One Extended Episode
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Villains of Burn Notice Featurette
  • Gag Reel
  • Commentary on Fail Safe
Season 618June 11, 2013
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Commentary on "Shock Wave"
  • Gag Reel
  • Matt Nix Gets Burned
Season 713December 17, 2013
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Commentary on "Forget Me Not"
  • Gag Reel
  • Final Mission: Ending the Series
The Complete Series111December 17, 2013

Contains all seven seasons and all bonus features from the individual DVD releases.

All seven seasons have been released in Australia, Region 4.

Region 4 - Australia
DVD NameEpRelease DateDiscs
Season One12December 3, 20084
Season Two16May 5, 20104
Season Three16August 18, 20104
Season Four18February 8, 20124
Season Five18June 20, 20124
Season Six18December 11, 20134
Season Seven13July 2, 20144
The Complete Series111July 2, 201428