Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

La Femme Nikita: Before I Sleep

Darius: "What do you want out of life?"
Sarah: "I'll be happy if I can finish my drink."

I can't say enough good things about Juliet Landau, one of my favorite actresses from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She did a fabulous job here playing the outrageous Jan and the terminally ill Sarah, total opposites. Sarah was an easy character to like, and her choice was a brave one; it was surprising and touching when she rose to the occasion.

What was even more interesting than Juliet's fine performance as Sarah was how the other characters reacted to her. Nikita predictably went into protecto-mode and was outright angry with Section for exploiting Sarah. But Madeline was a surprise; she was outright kind and understanding with Sarah. And Michael's response to Sarah ("I like her") was also much gentler than we would normally expect from him, as well as more supportive of Nikita. Michael seems to be softer and more human these days. I like it.

My favorite Michael moment was his reaction to Sarah when he was assigned to make her more comfortable with men. (Putting Sarah with an intimidating man who looks like Michael? That was definitely Madeline throwing Sarah into the deep end.) I really liked Sarah's involuntary tears, her brutal honesty about herself, and her dead-on pocket analysis of Michael. She nailed a critical characteristic of his: that he knows he's attractive to women, and isn't very nice to them. What was frustrating was that we didn't get to hear Michael telling Sarah about the woman he loves.

Nikita's heart, as always, was in the right place. I really wanted her to be right about Section inducing Sarah's illness, but she was wrong. She was also wrong throughout the episode about what was best for Sarah. She should have let Sarah go out, literally, with a bang.

Bits and pieces:

— When we first met Sarah, she was painting china. This week's Most Obvious Symbolism, since Sarah was very fragile.

— The title, "Before I Sleep," makes me think of "if I should die before I wake."

— Birkoff referred to Sarah as a "wet duplicate."

— During the working breakfast, you can see a photo of Valentine operative "Russel Burke" as Madeline and Operations were discussing attrition in Housekeeping. They weren't planning to transfer a Valentine op to do body removal, were they?

— Both European and North American license plates this time.

— During Sarah's trial run mission, there were mannequins hanging in chains from the ceiling. Common LFN dehumanizing theme.

— There was a photograph of a blonde woman in Sarah's apartment. I wonder who it was. Juliet is the daughter of actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. Could it have been Barbara Bain?

— Everyone in Section, including Sarah, wore black or dark colors. Nikita wore white and blue.


Nikita: "They're going to make an innocent woman spend the last days of her life working for us?"
Michael, the master of the understatement: "Yes."

Madeline: "I know how difficult it is for you."
Sarah: "It won't be, if everyone here is as nice as you."
Picture about ten exclamation points here. Nikita almost made a face.

Sarah: "You're handsome. You probably get everything you want from women. Which means you're not very nice."
Michael: "You're right."
I loved everything about this scene. He even smiled at her.

Devo: "I didn't expect that last one to lose his hair. It must have been the extra sodium."

Three out of four stars,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. An enormously entertaining and well-structured character-driven episode. The guest star is thoroughly engaging, and brings out the best in our Section regulars: Nikita demonstrates her compassion and heroism in trying to protect Sarah, Madeline astutely manipulates both Sarah and Nikita, and even Michael shows rare kindness. The audience gets to have (dare I say this about LFN?) tons of fun as we root for Sarah to live the remainder of her life to the fullest by embracing her inner “bad girl”.

    Spoilers follow...

    Wish fulfilment doesn’t come easily, as Sarah is put through Section’s painful and brutal crash course to become a functional operative. But the honesty with which Sarah admits to her own character faults is quite admirable, and as she finds the courage to face each progressively more difficult challenge, she endears herself to the audience more and more. In fact, Landau does such a remarkable job in the role that both Nikita and the audience become hugely attached to this character in a short time, resulting in the final scenes becoming almost unbearable in their poignancy.

    As a special treat, Alberta Watson must have been feeling better, because we get plenty of excellent Madeline scenes in this episode. Madeline uses her entire arsenal of psychological manipulation to prepare Sarah for her role on an accelerated schedule: she begins with positive reinforcement (which we haven’t really seen since Season One); she outbluffs Sarah to prove that she’s “not too weak”; progresses to mild torture to produce the desired responses; then throws Sarah into a “Beta run” that is designed to fail, so that she can “internally process” her horror at “how much she enjoyed it”. Of course, Madeline uses completely different tactics on Nikita to create an “incentive scenario”, as ironically, Section is for once innocent of Nikita’s suspicions.

    Favourite Scenes:
    Jan’s definitive way of turning down Section’s offer of employment – I was completely and delightfully surprised by this development.

    Sara coaxing a smile out of Michael, as she outmanoeuvres him during their conversation.

    Sara channelling Jan as she improvises a way to avoid the fingerprint check on her way to Darius. Even Birkoff is impressed (“Wow!”)

    Plenty of dark humour:
    – A naive Sarah to Madeline, as Sarah walks into Section: “It won’t be [difficult] if everyone here is as nice as you.”
    – A naive Sarah to Operations, as Nikita tries to prevent a Beta run: “I’ll do my best – no one expects more than that, right?”
    – Michael, after Sarah “fails” the Beta run and Michael demonstrates the consequences of blurting out classified information: “It’s best if you don’t mention Section One.”
    – Operations, only mildly interested, as Madeline admits to allowing Nikita to believe that Section induced Sarah’s illness: “We didn’t do that, did we?” Not this time ;-)

  2. Such outstanding reviews from both you and Serena.

    But I think my bias is showing because I love Juliet Landau's performance in this episode. It was in turns fun, poignant and revealing.

  3. ONLY 3!? 4/4 stars, Billie, this episode was AMAZING! :) (btw, why 4? I never heard of that before, it's usually as scale of 3, 5 or 10, weird!)

  4. Love this episode! I often imagine what the characters are thinking to themselves. During the delightful dual scene with Madeline and Nikita watching Sara and Michael, I imagine Nikita saying to herself, " Yipee!!! He loves me!". I love her slight smile after he admits he loves someone. After Madeline turns off the monitor, based on Nikita's face, she's saying, "Give me the damn remote!". Personally I would have tracked Sara down for some girl talk. I think Michael smiled at first because he realized he was out manoeveured, but he smiled a second time as he started to talk about Nikita. That made me wonder if he had ever told anyone about her. Like he asked in "Not Was", does he have any real friends? Nikita sometimes mentions their friendship, but their relationship is complicated, to say the least.

    When Nikita expressed surprise that Michael was going to check on Sara's health (" you don't usually stick your neck out to help"), I thought
    to myself thaf he sticks his neck out for Nikita all the time!!! Doing stuff that could get him cancelled! And he was doing it because he likes Sara, but didn't he really do it for Nikita? A big clue about how he feels about Nikita is that very fact- he does stuff for her and no one else.

  5. Would Nikita stay until the last second? Gosh, that would have been unfortunate. Given the circumstances, I agree, Nikita should have let Sarah leave on her own terms.
    But of course, she didn't know. I doubt she believed Madeline they'll let Sarah go home, but at least she could stay alive.
    Sarah was a breath of fresh air in the grim routine of Section. Not sure how she would react later, meeting even less pleasant side of it.
    Her brief romantic encounter with Marco Ashe got me thinking about how such reality would affect relationships between permanent residents. In particular, when you see people come and go, and only couple of (relatively) friendly faces are remaining a constant, an anchor. Some connections inevitably grow deeper and stronger.
    I think there is also quite a lot of factors which "helped" Nikita to initially fall in love with Michael (handsomeness probably also didn't hurt :D). And remembering how Michael's behaviour was apparently affected by Section, it again made me wonder what their relationship would be like in the outside world.

  6. The title of the episode (in its relation to the story) reminded me of the last stanza of a favourite poem.

    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep."


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.