Burn Notice settles into a satisfying groove in its second season. The cast is cool and confident, the writers have mastered the mix of stand-alone stories and the season-long hook, and the blend of retro-70s flavor with 21st century self-awareness is delicious. Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) still hasn.t figured out who .burned. him--i.e., got him blacklisted as a covert agent and left him trapped in Miami. But he has uncovered a lead in the form of Carla (Tricia Helfer, Battlestar Galactica), a mysterious manipulator who assigns Michael unexplained tasks. But if he resists these tasks, everyone he loves is at risk--including his mom, Madeline (Sharon Gless, Cagney & Lacey), his sleek and violent ex-girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar, Scent of a Woman), and his squirrelly best pal, Sam (Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead II). In each episode, while wrestling with Carla.s ongoing schemes, Michael gets drawn into helping some hapless innocent, such as a waitress being stalked by a drug dealer, an accountant to a rap mogul with a gangster background, or a father who.s been scammed out of the money he needs for his sick son. While these smartly-plotted stories unfold, the true pleasure of the show is listening to Michael reveal techniques for forging checks, explain how to make a crude x-ray machine, or describe the active ingredients of pepper spray--all the tricks of the spy trade. Are they genuine? Who knows and who cares! They.re completely entertaining, clever enough to be plausible, and they go hand-in-hand with Michael.s arsenal of cheesy accents and cheerful quips. Burn Notice: Season Two features a good dose of deleted scenes, chatty audio commentaries by cast and crew, a genuinely charming gag reel (featuring Donovan doing a little soft-shoe), and a genuinely illuminating featurette with the show.s creator, Matt Nix, describing the process of preparing to direct an episode. All in all, it.s an excellent package, ready for delivery. --Bret Fetzer
--This text refers to the DVD edition.