When we first meet soon-to-be-ex-spy Michael Westen, he's standing on a street corner in Nigeria, not even trying to fit in. Michael's tall and athletic, like a lot of the locals, but as played by Jeffrey Donovan from Hitch and Touching Evil, he's also white. The other thing you need to know about Michael is that he's in love with the sound of his own voice-over, and is therefore always explaining what's going on and why. In this case, he's meeting with a "warlord wannabe" named Boris from one of the Russian splinter republics, doing a deal wherein the U.S. government pays the tinpot terrorist a big chunk of money to get him to stop attacking oil pipelines. Michael can do this because, as he takes pains to explain to both us and Boris, he is not in fact an employee of the CIA. He is an independent contractor, which is why he can broker shady transactions like this. The independent contractor thing is handy in my life as well, in the sense that being an independent contractor of NBC Universal (which produces this show) rather than an employee will allow me to critique it objectively. Which is totally worth not having benefits.
Anyway, when the meeting happens, Michael gets on his cell phone to effect the transfer of funds. Instead of accepting the account number, the voice on the other end informs Michael that there is a titular "burn notice" out on him, which means that Michael has been blacklisted. Cut off. Disavowed. Set adrift. Pinkslipped. Mind you, Boris and his thugs are still waiting for their money. If there's a worse time to learn that you've lost your job, I can't imagine when it might be.
Michael then undergoes the early stages of a crunchy beating before managing to escape by wits and by force (although not by his fists, as in the first of many educational tips, he voice-overs that the last thing you want to do in a fight is break the little bones in your hands). Stealing a motorcycle, he loses his pursuers in the busy marketplace and makes it to the airport, where he boards the first plane out of the country and soon passes out in his seat from his injuries. Needless to say, Michael is no longer a soon-to-be-ex-spy. This is going to take him a while to work through, and we get to watch.
Stage One: Denial
This, then, is Burn Notice, which you've probably seen advertised on just about every available flat surface by now. In the first season, Michael and his sidekicks spend every episode working on a Job Of The Week (in which they successfully help some poor victim get free of the bad guys who are making their lives miserable) and trying to figure out who burned Michael and why (which is generally more of a baby-steps situation).