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La Femme Nikita: Gambit

Nikita: "It was an accident, right? You didn't mean to."
Madeline: "I wanted the doll."

And it was Madeline versus a low-rent Hannibal Lector. Not that I'm dissing Harris Yulin, mind you; he's a fabulous actor and was probably first alternate for Anthony Hopkins.

Madeline loves her job. Pretending to be evil in virtual reality was actually fun for her, and at one point, she acted like working on Kessler was something akin to a hot date. Was Madeline up to the challenge of out-thinking and out-maneuvering a man so deeply nuts? Clearly, she was. And we learned something very interesting about her: as a child, she killed her own sister. Madeline a bad seed? She couldn't have gone to jail as a child, so did she kill someone else, too, as an adult?

This was the first time we got an indication that Operations and Madeline were very fond of each other. "I can't allow it. You're too valuable." "Thank you." She actually kissed his cheek, too. I wasn't quite sure where they were going with the scene at the end, though, when Madeline visited Nikita's apartment in order to "remember who she was." (Madeline, not Nikita.) Was Madeline a young operative like Nikita once? Did this experience make her wish she was relatively young and innocent again? (Not that she's a hag now or anything.)

Bits and pieces:

— Two episodes ago, we learned that Birkoff also killed his sister. We have a little theme going.

— As soon as I saw the retina scanner, I knew we were going to get a disembodied eyeball.

— Was this the first time abeyance operatives were discussed? Disposable agents. How Section.

— The whole thing about Toronto and "get the plane ready" had to be an inside joke, since this show was filmed in Toronto. Big hint, though, that Section was not in Toronto.

— Michael in drag as Madeline. Loved it.

— When Nikita was alone in her apartment this time, she was reading a book instead of creating plastic fish sculpture.

— Nearly everyone in Section wore black. Nikita wore a beige jacket in one scene, and blue stripes in another. And interestingly, in all of Madeline's final scenes, she was wearing green. We were seeing Madeline as a human being, after all, so that fit.

— Silly hair again. Nikita as security guard had a modified Princess Leia with kinky bangs.

Good episode. Three out of four stars,

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


  1. This episode is very difficult to for a squeamish person (like me) to enjoy, so it ranks at the bottom of my list. Objectively, it is a well-structured episode, with a unique terrorist threat, some clever deductions to locate Kessler, and many plot reversals following his capture. However, I found the final ploy to defeat Kessler rather weak, and his scenes with his daughter and the abeyance operative unbearable to watch.

    Spoilers follow...

    Favourite scenes:
    The humanization of Madelaine and Operations was a real treat. We know these two are ruthless, but now we get to see that Operations actually does care for Madelaine, and that Madelaine has to steel herself to be this tough. We finally find out her job description (“My primary function is to get inside the enemy’s head.”), and that her job affects her (“Sometimes I don’t know if I’m still strong enough to do this.”). This is the first time I, as a viewer, actually felt sorry for Madelaine as she had to immerse herself in Kessler’s psycho mindset. Her visit to Nikita to “remember who she was” was quite poignant.

    Also, there were several good hand-to-hand combat sequences, especially when Michael overcomes the abeyance operative with very little effort. I guess this means that Michael is even more proficient than Section’s martial arts instructor?

    Continuity issues:
    How did Kessler get his hands on the top-secret classified personnel files of Section One to find out about Madelaine’s past? I also did not find the story about Madelaine’s sister to be very affecting.

    Most annoying, however, is that, in the “near future” world of Section, latex masks look exactly like real faces. Even if I accept that, masked Michael would not have Madelaine’s body type or walk, so this substitution seemed like a cheap “fool the audience” trick to me. And why would Kessler actually have the Cobalt 60 on hand? He’s clever enough to figure out a way to get his revenge and fulfill his contract. This final “gambit” to defeat Kessler was the weakest part of the script by far, and very anticlimactic.

    One of the few Season One episodes I'd rather forget.

  2. spoiler!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Wait, did Birkhoff kill his sister?

    Later writers told us that he was born in the Section One and Walter chose him to stay in the Section while his brother was supposed to live a normal life.
    I guess it was a joke from Birkhoff or writers changed their minds later.

  3. This is also an episode I did not like, although I did find the story of Madeleine's past compelling, even more so when it's brought up again in S2, the episode where they bring her mother into the White Room.

    To Zdenka: shows like these get rid of original writers and new ones come in who have neither seen the show before nor familiarize themselves with it well. The continuity girl not doing a good job I guess, unless they didn't have one? So I don't think it was a Birkhoff joke, just unfortunately lazy writers' amnesia!

    Yes I agree about the body type/height of Michael vs Madeleine. I didn't recall this episode too well (and for a reason) so I thought it was Nikita. At least he had the brown eye color.

    I'm so glad that this show didn't decide to go the gore route. Back in 1997, this was unheard of on TV, well cable had Tales from the Crypt and this ended up on USA. Still, the fingers torture of the previous episode and this was as bad as it gets. Don't want to keep having to hide the screen, it's bad enough I own these scenes on DVD! Directors should know that suggested violence is often more effective than graphic and more terrifying. People get used to seeing that garbage and they want more. I don't know how sick one has to be to watch gore and shows like Dexter but I'm glad LFN nipped this early in the bud. Still not a favorite episode for the same reasons as Serena!

  4. Fun moment : Watching Michael and Nikita pose as daytime security guards. Something about seeing them perform mundane duties behind a desk is gold. I


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