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La Femme Nikita: First Mission

"This is not a scout troop, Nikita. There are no merit badges for fair play."

Nikita got a promotion and a chance to prove herself "three years ahead of the usual curve." Of course, she did run a mission before in "Noise," but this time she was the big cheese, and wholly responsible for its success or failure. And she succeeded. She worked her butt off to get it right.

This episode was full of delicious character interaction, with Operations and Michael both giving Nikita leadership training. (I kept thinking of one of those touchy-feely seminars, but with Section kill-or-die principles instead.) Michael again threw Nikita to the wolves, but at least he coached her this time, especially on how to be ruthless with her operatives. "The best thing that can happen to a team leader is to have a rebellious operative," he told her, and revealed that it was why he kept putting Nikita on his team when she was new. What makes Nikita a good leader, but Michael an exceptional one? Is it ruthlessness?

Poor Vizcano. I thought at first that Michael had slept with her and discarded her, but it was nothing so overt. She was in training and he was just around acting god-like and infallible (being Michael, in other words). Vizcano suggested that Section wanted their operatives to fixate on someone, to imprint, like an animal. She was right. Just look at the way Michael manipulated Nikita in season one.

Vizcano told Nikita that Michael needed a quest, and advised Nikita to stay just out of his reach. But she was wrong. This is pretty much the opposite of what Nikita has done from the beginning. Nikita has never played games with Michael, has never hidden her feelings, and I think that's one of the reasons he has difficulty resisting her.

Bits and pieces:

— There was a tidbit about Michael's early days in Section: Operations said that Michael was promoted early, and that "there aren't many like you."

— Operations was again arguing on the phone with "George," and suggested George "use the agency." As in Central Intelligence?

— Nikita and Vizcano replicated the Nikita/Michael scene in the pilot, where Vizcano thought Nikita was going to kill her, but instead, Nikita shot the guy behind her. And Nikita got a karmic reward, because Vizcano almost immediately saved Nikita's life in return.

— The revolting Peter Stark was greenlisted. Too bad.

— No Madeline again. Alberta Watson was not in this episode.

— Nikita wore black throughout, symbolizing that she was in sync with Section for a change.

— There was one instance of silly hair, when Nikita was working late and alone in Section.


Michael: "It's best to be ruthless. But if you're not, it's essential to appear that way."
Nikita: "Is that your secret, Michael? You just appear to be ruthless?"
He didn't answer her. Typical.

Michael: "Tell them only what they need to know. Establish dominance."
Nikita: "In other words, treat them like animals."
Michael: "Animals with guns."

Walter: "You get the fuel rods, all is forgiven."
Nikita: "And if I don't get the fuel rods?"
Walter: "All won't be forgiven."

Walter: "Personally, being in love always made me want to live."

Nikita: "Sometimes I don't know if you're incredibly wise, or just really full of crap."
Walter: "Yeah, I have the same problem myself."

At least three stars, and possibly four. This was a very interesting episode,

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


  1. Despite a thin plot and lacklustre action sequences, this episode does feature some satisfying character development, plus we finally get a “behind-the-scenes” look at the job of team leader. It is enormous fun watching Nikita struggle when all her ideas about leadership backfire. However reluctantly, Nikita must have developed greater respect and understanding for Michael’s position, even if she doesn’t want to admit it.

    Spoilers follow...

    The teaser is fantastic: a rapid-fire delivery of crisis after crises. With Section suffering huge losses, Nikita is pushed into the position of team leader three years ahead of the usual curve. The geek in me is thrilled to have Operations spell out in detail the duties and responsibilities to Nikita: “You’ll be leading a mission: assess, plan, prep, field command... I need a mission profile by 7 tomorrow morning: staffing, logistics, probabilities, contingencies.” Though she is warned by Operations, and advised by Michael, Nikita typically ignores them both and tries to run things her way. The fun part is watching all of her efforts at “humanizing” the process fail miserably.

    Nikita starts out by ignoring Michael’s advice to “establish dominance”, instead treating her team as comrades, and trying to encourage their co-operation. This results in Vizcano disobeying a direct order, causing the primary mission to fail. Though furious with Michael when he explains his reasoning, Nikita nonetheless adopts his methods to ensure the success of the second mission. Then she continues to act ruthlessly, torturing the captive herself until he coughs up Stark’s location. Step by step, Nikita is losing the battle to resist acting like Section – she is finding out the hard way that their methods are often the most efficient and effective.

    The only fight Nikita wins is in keeping Vizcano out of abeyance, in spite being taken to task by Operations. Even Birkoff and Walter warn her that she can’t afford another mistake, but Nikita heroically persists in valuing the life of a fellow operative above that of a bad guy. Unfortunately, she makes another rookie mistake by letting the target of the final mission know that he is to be taken alive.

    Wilson does a marvellous job portraying Nikita’s grief, guilt, and anger when Vizcano dies. She carries these emotions into the most powerful scene of the episode: when Operations informs Nikita that Stark has been released, and she walks out on him and walks right by Michael, completely wrapped up in her own fury.

    Favourite Scenes:

    We learn quite a lot from the exchanges between Michael and Operations. First, that Michael has been exceptional from the start, having been promoted early (Operations admits that “There aren’t many like you.”) It’s quite clear as to why: Michael’s precise psychological analysis of how to control a team is extraordinarily insightful and, of course, effective. Michael always has a logical reason for every one of his actions, including his apparent ruthlessness. As Vizcano says, Michael seems to “know [people] better than [they] know [themselves]”, which is particularly useful in indoctrinating recruits.

    Which brings me to the second thing we learn from Operations: that Michael has succeeded in crushing out the feelings of many other operatives he has trained (poor Vizcano), but not with Nikita. Michael says “she’s strong”, and Operations confirms “With most operatives, self-preservation takes over, compassion is the first thing to go.” Obviously, Nikita is the exception.

    Continuity Issues:
    Again, Madeline does not appear in this episode because Alberta Watson was undergoing treatment for lymphoma at the time of filming.

    I found Kidder’s performance oddly stilted while confessing Vizcano’s jealousy of Nikita and undying love for Michael. Still, it makes me curious as to how many other trainees of Michael’s are hanging around – and how many of them have committed suicide ;-)

  2. I do love episodes with character developments and glimpses of their backstories. This is one of them.


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