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La Femme Nikita: Mandatory Refusal

Michael: "I can't allow you to become my weakness."

In every relationship, so we're told, one partner loves more deeply than the other. Here, it was Operations, who was frantic to save Madeline. So frantic, in fact, that he went too far. It was fun that he was at cross purposes with Nikita, who was doing pretty much the same thing: betraying Section to save Michael's life.

It's difficult to tell exactly how Madeline feels about Operations. Yes, her devotion to him is unquestionable because of what she did in "New Regime." But is it romantic love? Are they lovers? There was an early scene here that showed definite sexual vibes between the two of them, but it felt like it was only coming from one direction: Operations. Madeline didn't reciprocate. And isn't that interesting?

Michael is another matter. Although he acted machine-like here, he still deviated from protocol because of Nikita ("If it were anyone else who came after me, I would have killed them.") Nikita is already his weakness. It's too late, Michael. Give up the fight.

It's hard to imagine a torture scene being amusing, but I just got such a charge, pun intended, out of Madeline dissing their equipment and instructing them on how to torture her correctly. Did she actually make herself die in order to manipulate Enquist? It sure looked like she did. Madeline is such a gem of a character. You have to love her.


— "Mandatory refusal" meant that Section was breached and you have to go black and complete your mission before reporting in.

— "Green-listed" appeared to be what Section calls bad guys that they use in order to get worse guys.

— Enquist was a fun character, mostly because of his interest in Madeline. The two of them had a little moment here, didn't they?

— Nikita again recruited Walter to help her circumvent Section. How has Walter made it in Section for so long? He's way too human.

— Roy Dupuis got to tool around quite a bit on a motorcycle here. Or his stand-in did. Probably both, because we couldn't always see his face.

— European license plates this time.

— Did Nikita go on vacation after the previous episode? If so, where?

— In Section, nearly everyone wore black. Nikita wore white.


Michael: "We should go out. Have dinner."
Nikita: "I'd love to know how your mind works. Are you really that arrogant that you think you can just turn me on and off at will?"
Well, yes.

Madeline: "We serve a greater entity. We're not here for each other."
Unless you're the boss, that is.

Another lesson in Section terse:

Michael: "Do you have it?"
Enquist: "You Section people are all the same. Right to the business. No 'hello, how's the family.' Come on, Michael. Kibbitz a little."
Michael: "Do you have it?"

Three out of four stars,

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


  1. I nearly like every episode, but i thought they took this 'mandatory refusal' a bit too far and made it unbelievable. It's like the entire section says to Michael in unison that he should just give up - but he refuses. I found this one annoying and completely (even for this show) unrealistic... One star from me.

  2. I remember one thing about this episode. "i can't let you become my weakness" that was it. I think she should have slapped him away/swatted him or something. its just him being honest and yet so mean at the same time. I remember just feeling sorry for the girl because guess what? michael has control of the relationship and all the cards right now. AND there's nothing she can do about it.

  3. An entertaining, plot-driven episode that showcases some exceptional action sequences while introducing us to fun new Section jargon. Both Nikita and Michael get to show off their superhuman abilities, Birkoff and Walter put in their usual excellent supporting roles, plus we get to witness Operations at his hypocritical best, betraying Section’s principle of “personal sacrifice for the greater good” for Madeline’s sake. As for Madeline, she goes up yet another notch on the scary scale for her amazing control of her autonomic functions.

    Spoilers follow...

    A dense plot full of surprises, plus seriously high stakes as Michael, Nikita, and Section all race to get to the finish line first! Enquist turns out to be a worthy enemy, cleverly manipulating Michael’s comm channel and sending him into a trap. Thankfully, Birkoff figures things out quickly enough to warn him, but the ambush that follows must have blown the budget with that enormous explosion. And the shots of Michael escaping on a motorcycle, riding through flaming debris, are gorgeous.

    I love new Section-speak, and the “mandatory refusal” protocol actually makes sense, since no communication from Section can be trusted when security has been breached. We get more of “superspy” Michael, as he hacks into Section computers and eludes numerous Section operatives, even when hit with a tranquilizer (okay, he had some help from Nikita). But apparently it takes half of Section to even get a bead on him after he infiltrates Enquist’s house right under everyone’s noses.

    Thankfully, Nikita is just as impressive. She surreptitiously plants a tracker on Mowen, escapes through some drywall when cornered, and plans ahead to use night-vision goggles to take out the bad guys and rescue Madeline after infiltrating Enquist’s house, also right under everyone’s noses. Most impressive of all, she ends the episode by standing up to Madeline!

    Continuity Issues:
    How the heck did Madeline get kidnapped in the first place? Seems like ultra-covert Section leaks like a sieve if a mere “green-listed” bad guy can get Madeline’s address.

    Yes, Operations is willing to betray Section protocols and Section operatives for his own personal agenda (see “Missing”). But Operations has also been consistently portrayed as a highly-skilled strategist and chess-player. I doesn’t make sense that he wouldn’t even try to anticipate Enquist’s moves. Though Operations is given dialogue admitting that he can’t trust Enquist not to harm Madeline, the script still requires him to throw every resource into stopping Michael, without any contingency plan at all for rescuing Madeline or acquiring control of the Semtex. This is completely out of character for Operations. Having Walter point this out in the dialogue does not excuse the writer from being lazy enough to do it in the first place.

    After Nikita saves Michael at the Marteen site, she follows him using a tracking device. When did she have the opportunity to plant a tracker on the motorcycle, when she had to stay behind Mowen’s team?

    In the final scene, Nikita actually seems to take Michael’s statement (“I can’t allow you to become my weakness.”) calmly, and then she glances up at Operations. Recall when Michael originally asked her out to dinner, and he explained that he was being “careful”. Maybe Nikita's catching on that it's not too healthy to get noticed by Operations, since their attachment will likely be used against them.

  4. To the Anonymous commenter: Control is Michael's by-word. He doesn't realize that he's slowly losing it. Nikita doesn't realize the power she holds over Michael. Michael saves her and Nikita thinks he's just doing his job. He sprinkles some truth within his lies and she thinks he's manipulating her. She doesn't see it yet but Michael does love her. Their relationship is convoluted, it's torturous watching them navigate their way to each other. But that's the beauty of it.

    "Michael is another matter. Although he acted machine-like here, he still deviated from protocol because of Nikita ("If it were anyone else who came after me, I would have killed them.") Nikita is already his weakness. It's too late, Michael. Give up the fight."

    Billie, you took the words right out of my mouth.

    Ah, Section-speak - I love 'em, too. One of the many things about the show that I love. It'a always nice to learn new Section jargon.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode despite the continuity issues raised in Serena's review.

    I highly doubt Madeline was kidnapped from her home mostly because hacking section's computers is supposed to be impossible and also because we learned from a season one episode that no one knows where madeline goes when she leaves section (she' never told anyone and probably never will).

    However, Enquist did say that whenever he dealt with Madeline's subordinates / other section staff, they often depicted her as an iron maiden, i'd like to think that these members of her staff let slip a few more details like what time she comes in or leaves section, he therefore could have found a way to spy on her.

    On the other hand Enquist does complain that section people are all the same 'No hello, how's the family? come on michael kibitz a little!'

    Like Serena, i have no clue as to when Nikita planted the tracker on micheal's bike. Furthermore how did she know which bike was his and if she did know that, how could she have been sure he hadn't ditched it and chosen some other means of transport.

    Infact after he left the building just before he got hit with a tranq, he was walking towards the parked cars, across the road and not towards his bike which seemed to be on the side of the building to me.

    I can understand Michael's hesitation in rekindling his relationship with Nikita because from this episode it is plain to see how emotions can blurr judgement and especially if you are as powerful as Operations since the consequences are felt far and wide by all in section.

    But why on earth did he have to put it that way, it was soo heartbreaking and harsh!

    Thank you again Billie and Serena, as always great reviews!


  6. Thank you for your explanation, it helps a bit. I am watching this episode now and I have NO idea what's going on. Why did Michael go rogue? WTF?? That's unbelievable in itself but, 1) if he's rogue and Section tries to kill him, why is he not in Hawaii by now? 2) what does Michael have to do with Madeleine being kidnapped!? I have the feeling like I'm watching 2 different episodes plots that they're trying to string along. 3) Why is Michael trying to shoot Nikita!? WTF??

    I think I need someone to explain this entire episode a bit better to me. It's like I need a manual to watch this show, I'm always so clueless I feel like Barbara Walters watching the Hunger Games except I don't have 4 assistants.

  7. To 1eclecticviewer:
    "Nikita doesn't realize the power she holds over Michael. Michael saves her and Nikita thinks he's just doing his job. He sprinkles some truth within his lies and she thinks he's manipulating her. She doesn't see it yet but Michael does love her. Their relationship is convoluted, it's torturous watching them navigate their way to each other. But that's the beauty of it."
    Yes, the stakes of the writers and producers of this series are to make us feel painfully the sweetness of this torture. We know it and we accept to be leaded this way. Though, I must say, it is more or less unbelievable that a woman would be so blind about a man's love. It is frustrating to watch it, but we are under the spell of their twisted, narcotic, fascinating "navigation" "to each other"...

  8. To "Clueless in Not Seattle":

    In answer to your questions:

    1)Michael did not go rogue -- he was actually following Section protocol (called "mandatory refusal") for when Section security is breached. Since Section has been compromised, the protocol requires the operative to go dark (no communication at all because it cannot be trusted) and complete his original mission by himself before re-establishing communications with Section.

    2) It is actually Operations who "goes rogue" after Madelaine is kidnapped -- he orders Section to target Michael in order to prevent Michael from completing the original mission in the hopes of getting Madelaine back from Enquist. Michael has nothing to do with Madelaine getting kidnapped -- Operations is trying to thwart Michael in order to comply with the kidnapper's demands.

    3) Michael is following the "mandatory refusal" protocol in continuing his mission while not trusting anyone from Section. This means he has to suspect everyone from Section of being a traitor or at the very least of delivering misinformation(including Nikita). He cannot believe anything they say. Michael also cannot allow anyone to interfere with his mission, which is why he injures his fellow operatives and shoots in Nikita's direction to keep her away. He is not actually trying to kill Nikita, he is simply trying to finish his original mission.

    Operations explains all the details of the "mandatory refusal" protocol at 11 minutes into the episode after Michael's initial mission is compromised -- it really helps to have LFN on DVD ;-)

  9. Great episode one of my favourites


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