While on assignment in Nigeria, covert operative Michael Westen learns that he's been "burned." For a spy, it's the equivalent of being fired. A burned spy is blacklisted from all government agencies and resources; his bank accounts are frozen and his credit is trashed. Michael barely escapes Nigeria and wakes up, battered, in a Miami motel. In order to survive and fund his own personal investigation, Michael enlists the help of the only two "friends" he has: Fiona, an ex-IRA operative who also happens to be an ex-girlfriend and Sam, a washed-out military intelligence contact who the feds have keeping an eye on Michael. He's also forced to deal with the family he went halfway around the world to get away from - particularly his mother, who couldn't be happier to have her son back in town.
Through a former associate Michael gets a lead on a small investigation job: a caretaker of an estate, Javier, has been accused of stealing valuable art from his employer, Graham Pyne. All evidence points to it being an inside job and Javier, with very little money to offer, has nowhere else to turn. When Michael begins to dig around he quickly discovers that it was in fact an inside job: Pyne orchestrated the robbery and framed Javier in order to collect insurance.
Michael confronts Pyne with the incriminating evidence. When Pyne and his bodyguard come after Javier and his son, Michael is already a step ahead of them and has set up a trap at Javier's house. After the smoke clears, Pyne has accidentally shot his bodyguard, and Michael has enough evidence to send both of them to jail for conspiracy to commit kidnapping. With the mounting evidence hanging over his head, Pyne agrees to clear Javier's name and provide financial support to Javier and his son.
Meanwhile, Michael keeps trying to get in touch with his old government handler, Dan Siebels, who won't accept his calls. Deciding to get creative, Michael resorts to mailing Siebels a fake bomb in order to get his attention. The ploy works, and Michael finally gets to confront Siebels about the burn notice. Siebels believes Michael's probably been framed, but there's nothing he can do to help him. He tells Michael not to leave Miami, unless he wants an FBI manhunt after him. To top it all off, Michael returns home to find his door open and the floor covered with surveillance photos. It's not the FBI, but whoever it is, they've been tracking his every move. And they've left a message: Welcome to Miami.