I complained back in the fall that the show Burn Notice was relatively formulaic, that anyone could write a general outline for an episode and that all that had to be done to get a script was some Mad Libs-style fill in the blanks. That is, of course, the case for a ton of procedurals, in fact, that's kind of what makes them procedurals.

The problem for me was more that I didn't want to lump Burn Notice in with CSI and Law & Order and even House. The show initially seemed so different from those other programs, but had started (perhaps due to a sophomore slump) to feel like any of a number of different procedurals. I think in this second half of the second season, they've done a little bit better of a job throwing some more meat onto the procedural bones. Plus, last week, they had a great “off-template” episode in which Michael spends most of the show as a hostage in a bank heist.

That episode was as much fun as it was because they managed to finally do what they had been unable to during so much of the fall — they successfully mixed the long-term story of Michael's burn notice with the single episode plot. They accomplished this by having trapped in the bank with Michael Agent Bly, who fits into the overarching story. They can't bring those disparate elements together perfectly every week, but last week's episode showed that it can be done successfully on occasion. Honestly, I'm not even sure they should bring those elements together every week, it wouldn't be much fun if Tricia Helfer hurts and helps Michael on alternating weeks depending on whether he's cooperating or not.

Last night went back to more of a usual episode, but it still managed to keep some of the fun in it. I think that, to some extent, the success of any episode depends largely on the insights Michael gives the viewer. The show rises and falls on Michael's tips and tricks. So, last night, when Michael suggested that megalomaniacal killers are “by and large whining losers,” it certainly helped the episode succeed. That's the kind of takeaway line that causes the audience to chuckle and have fond memories once the episode ends.

Speaking of fond memories, remember when Top Gear and I were best buds, before Clarkson, May, and Hammond didn't tell me they were coming to visit?

Well, I'm happy to report that Top Gear and I are still best buds, mostly because they're complete loons and I love them for it (I could never stay angry with them, never). Plus, they want to help save the world, and I'm nothing if not a “save the world” kind of person (okay, I'm not really a save the world person; go with me, though). Insanely, oddly, loonly (is “loonly” a word? If not I'm taking creative license and making it one), Topgear.com (U.S. Top Gear-types) are going to try to build a car that's going to be superfast, super-styled, get 70 mpg, and cost less than seven grand. I can't wait to see this unfold. Here, as a little taste of wonderful heading into the weekend, check out the promo:

http://www.topgear.com/us/players/topgear-embedded-v3.swf