Ash Wednesday: Helpful hacks I picked up from ‘Burn Notice’


We’re starting “Ash” Wednesday, our weekly tribute to Bruce Campbell, with helpful hacks from the USA Network series, ‘Burn Notice.’ Don’t get burned.

When my editors at 1428 Elm came up with the idea of celebrating Ash Wednesday in honor of Bruce Campbell, they asked me if I wanted to take a stab at the very first article. Of course, I agreed. However, I wanted to do something different. Since I enjoy Burn Notice, I decided to pay homage to that show.

Sit back, grab a Mojito and let’s do this spy game!

The Intel

Burn Notice- Cast -Courtesy of USA Network

Whenever I visited my Mom, we would always tune into Burn Notice on the USA Network. The reason why she enjoyed this show so much was because of the “funny big guy.” I remember educating her on Bruce Campbell’s acting resume. “Oh, he’s that guy you used to watch all the time on those crazy Evil Dead movies.” Parents…

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Anyway, it is hard to believe that this little show is celebrating its 10th anniversary.  Who knew that watching a TV series about a former spy would actually prove to be beneficial?

If you are not familiar with this program, the term “Burn Notice” according to Wikipedia, “refers to an official statement issued by an intelligence agency to other agencies. It states that an asset or intelligence source is unreliable for one or more reasons, often fabrication.” This is what happens to the main character, former CIA operative, Michael Westen as played by Jeffrey Donovan.

Michael finds himself back home in Miami with a frozen bank account and no job. Fortunately, he has a supportive group of friends to fall back on which includes his one-time ex IRA member girlfriend, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), his ex-Navy Seal bestie, Sam (Bruce Campbell) his mom Madeline (the lovely veteran character actress, Sharon Gless) and Jesse (Coby Bell) a fellow spy that Michael burned. I included Bell even though he joined the cast in 2010.  Together, they try to find out who terminated Michael from the CIA while helping out the random citizen with a problem.

One of the best parts about this program is the way they give you step by step instructions on such topics as turning a microwave into a bomb to deter a contract hit or how to turn Christmas lights into effective weapons to thwart a rogue government agent. You just don’t know when you might be called upon to remember something like that in your world. This is why I decided to put together a little list of life hacks that I have picked up while watching this wonderfully inventive show.

When You’re A Spy

Burn Notice -Sam Axe as Chuck Finley – Courtesy of USA Network

Aliases are great for avoiding unpleasant situations.

In Burn Notice, whenever Sam goes undercover to obtain information on a bad guy for Michael, he always uses the name, “Chuck Finley.” No one ever figures out who he really is and it works like a charm. Just think of the possibilities.

For example, let’s say you are going to Las Vegas for a work convention or some other function. You know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? Well, if you use an alias, that will truly be the case. So, if you make some bad decisions like going to a nightclub, having one too many Jager Bombs and ending up the next day in a scene reminiscent of the Hangover, just adopt a fake name like “Charlize Theron” or “Brad Pitt” so nothing can stick to you. Also, make sure you delete all pictures from your phone.

Burn Notice – Michael and Fiona – Courtesy of USA Network

Always look on point.

The show takes place in Miami and if you have ever been there, it is hot and it is humid. It feels like you are in Guam in the middle of the summer year-round. I constantly marvel at Fiona and Michael. Somehow, Fiona manages to run around in slip dresses with massive platform heels and she never twists her ankle or has an unfortunate mishap on a staircase.

Not to mention, she is also running around shooting at people, blowing stuff up and performing Mario Andretti drifts in her souped up Hyundai. It may be 85 degrees and 150 % humidity but she looks fabulous. Her makeup never runs making her look like Robert Smith from the Cure and her hair is perfect. If I did all that activity, not only would I be trying to survive a broken ankle, I would also be contending with hair that makes me look like Jack Nance in David Lynch’s Eraserhead.

Guys, you are not immune to this phenomenon either. Michael is always doing the same activities as Fiona in a smart suit. He always looks like he stepped out of the pages of GQ.  Can you imagine if you were forced to do Kung Fu on some bad ass that wanted to kill you in the middle of a sweltering heatwave while wearing a Giorgio Armani ensemble? I think not. Either way, it is better to look good than to feel good.

via USA

Keep calm and have a Mojito.

When Sam isn’t working, he can always be found kicking back poolside or at his favorite bar downing a nice, cool, refreshing Mojito. This is a guy that knows how to relax. If ever you feel like you are about to lose your shit, count to five and think, WWSAD (What Would Sam Axe Do)?

Then go to your happy place and have your favorite beverage. That PowerPoint presentation full of useless pie charts will wait. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere and it is cocktail hour. Swipe ignore on your phone, sit back and let the good times roll, baby.

Burn Notice – Sam Axe in warehouse- Courtesy of USA Network

Avoid abandoned warehouses and buildings.

This doesn’t just apply to horror movies. If someone wants you to meet them at one of these locations, just say no. Nothing good is going to come of it. Also, don’t go inside and wait for them either. These places are usually hot as hell, smelly and are not safety code ready. You will thank me later.

Friends are important.

On Burn Notice Sam and Fiona are always being tasked by Michael to get information from their friends and associates. In Sam’s case this could be other operatives, the local cop shop or a wealthy sugar mama. Fiona, on the other hand has a cadre of weapons dealers and other assorted characters that can procure any last minute special requirements for Michael.

We all need to surround ourselves with people we can trust. You never know when you might need to flee to another country or get out of a parking ticket.

Next: Ash vs Evil Dead: The coolest horror show no one is watching?

Who knew Burn Notice could be so helpful?  Maybe I should start taking notes on everything I watch because you never know, right?

Are you a fan of Burn Notice?  Do you have a favorite Sam Axe moment? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.