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La Femme Nikita: Spec Ops

Nikita: "I'm tired of being careful."
Michael: "Get over it."

What a wicked web we weave. As Nikita dealt with her new mentor, an enigmatic man whose loyalties and motives were unknown, Michael scrambled to cover their tracks.

Nikita was very much the recalcitrant child here, and who could blame her? She made the ultimate sacrifice for Michael, and he was actually brushing her off. The initial scene in the white room showed her pacing and fidgeting like an angry adolescent; her training with Jurgen strongly resembled going back to school. And in her scenes with Michael, when they argued about having sex (or not having sex), she practically pouted, and acted like he had taken candy away from her. In one of them, she was even wearing kid clothes: shorts, crew socks, and athletic shoes.

Michael, in the meantime, had to be the grown-up, despite what it cost him. Nikita was ready to risk her life for an affair, but Michael was not. Jurgen's tirade about Nikita being Michael's slave was apt. Nikita would certainly kill for Michael's sake, and I bet Jurgen was right that she would go even further – if it didn't compromise her core principles, that is, and Nikita does have principles. But I think Jurgen was wrong about Michael, at least to some extent.

Don't get me wrong. There was certainly a germ of truth in it, and Jurgen may even believe it. I don't doubt for a minute that Michael has manipulated women out the wazoo... in the past. But Michael's actions toward Nikita here didn't appear to be motivated by self-interest. Michael was so distracted with worry about her that Operations noticed he wasn't paying attention during a briefing, something that never happens ("When Nikita was missing, you had a rough time. Now that she's back, you're having another"). And Michael offered to get Nikita out of Section a second time, an action that almost certainly would have resulted in his own death. I think Michael needed to be near Nikita, and he accepted that it meant he couldn't sleep with her without arousing suspicion. He places less value on sex, which is certainly something he can get whenever he wants.

Bruce Payne usually plays villains, and it was easy to assume Jurgen was a bad guy. And in fact, by the end of the episode, we still didn't know what was going on with him. I'm guessing that Jurgen's motivation for what he did was a simple one: Nikita is a very attractive woman, she came on to him, and he was interested in her. Most male guest stars don't measure up as competition for Michael, but Jurgen does, mostly because it's clear that he does not fear Section. Whether he'll turn on her – on them – in the future, as Michael suspects, remains to be seen.

This episode introduced an uncomfortable but necessary plot element: secret conversations in Section. Michael used a device in the white room to blank out surveillance... but there were a lot of other un-blanked-out conversations going on here in different areas of Section that would have gotten Michael, Nikita, and Jurgen cancelled immediately. I think we just have to suspend belief, and trust that surveillance in Section can't be perfect. After all, how could Section possibly have enough people in the background to watch all of their agents twenty-four hours a day, even with electronic shortcuts? And who would watch the watchers?

Bits and pieces:

— The nasty holodeck training thingy was back, with an added attraction: a treadmill.

— My favorite Michael moment (and there were lots of them here) was him channeling James Bond in the Hong Kong scene. Yeah, he's bad.

— One of the clandestine Michael/Nikita scenes was filmed through cage bars, making them look trapped and imprisoned, which, of course, they were. Section itself was looking a lot starker and more maze-like in season two, with the cages and bars and glass. Even Madeline had a new stark and scary-looking office.

— Michael must be pretty good in bed for Nikita to suggest risking death to do it again.

— So much for the Freedom League. They lasted longer than most: three episodes.

— Michael's "mission hair" made its debut. The only other actor I've ever seen who could get away with that little top-of-the-head ponytail was Adrian Paul in Highlander.

— Roy Dupuis had another blackened fingernail. Roy, my dear, please be more careful with hammers and power tools.


Jurgen: "You think you're the first? Manipulating beautiful women is his specialty."

Nikita: "He's different."
Michael: "Different from what?"
Nikita: "Different from you."
Nikita was implying that Jurgen was a better man than Michael. Wow, was she pissed.

Walter: "I've seen him help people. I've seen him destroy people."

Another classic Madeline interrogation: "Mr. Gudren, you've had a rough couple of days. The doctors say you're going to live. That's the bad news. (pause) There is no good news."

Jurgen: "In Go, every move is a cover for something else."
Nikita: "I'm sure it's the Section's most popular pastime."

Terrific episode. Four out of four stars,

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


  1. A powerful follow-up to the season opener, dealing with the fallout of Michael and Nikita’s deception. Both the production designer and the director outdid themselves to create gorgeous sets, and striking, stylish visuals. The highlight of the episode is the frenetic, pulse-pounding Hong Kong chase scene, which rivals anything shown at the cinema. As the episode progresses, both the camera angles and the score are used to effectively build suspense as layers of deception pile atop each other, and the risk of discovery mounts. Character development continues as Michael and Nikita navigate separately through a maze of Section intrigue, once again proving that they are polar opposites, even when striving for the same goal.

    This otherwise excellent episode is marred by the strange performance of the guest star, whose lagging delivery and weird accent completely undermine the credibility of the Jurgen character. Thankfully, the script is strong enough that I was able to mostly ignore this annoyance.

    Spoilers follow...

    Nikita’s return to Section is not without suspicion. She is assigned to a special operative, who is tasked with determining the details of her supposed incarceration. When a surviving member of the Freedom League is located, Michael must find a way to silence him before Madelaine can find out the truth.

    Set to a pulsing soundtrack, the stellar chase scene through Hong Kong back alleys shows off the creative skills of every member of the LFN team. The sets have incredible depth and detail, and are lit with vibrant colours and rich contrast. As the actors run full tilt down the narrow alleyways, the camera records nonstop action which is then flawlessly edited together with iconic visuals, such as Kudrin’s reflection in Michael’s sunglasses, and the red targeting laser strafing across the camera view. I was on the edge of my seat the for this entire action sequence, especially since we are very aware of Michael’s personal stake in the outcome of this mission. When Kudrin unexpectedly survives, Michael is left with the almost impossible task of finding a way to get him to lie to Madelaine about Nikita.

    Meanwhile, Nikita is discovering that Jurgen is not easily fooled. He immediately surmises that Nikita is hiding something, and pushes every one of her buttons to get her to reveal her secret. During their climactic confrontation, Jurgen’s assessment of Michael’s character has just enough truth in it to resonate with Nikita’s own insecurities, and her emotional response gives her away. In spite of the danger, though, she can’t change who she is (recall her words in “Mercy”), and chooses a different path than what Michael expects.

    By the final scene, the lovers are more polarized than ever. Michael has taken huge risks to preserve their secret, including lying to Section, thwarting mission objectives, and committing murder – no wonder he feels betrayed by Nikita’s decision. But what he fails to consider is that Nikita’s methods have often proven to be just as effective, and sometimes even more effective, than Section’s methods. Michael has mastered Section’s ruthlessness and paranoia so well that Nikita is left wondering if he has been completely assimilated, and is no longer capable of behaving any other way.

    Continuity Issues:
    I know the budget was very tight, but using a nightlight as a “high-tech surveillance-jammming” prop was just so cheesy that I was jarred out of my suspension of disbelief. Thankfully, it was a temporary aberration.

    I also found Nikita’s “sex-starved” attitude to be rather childish, but I think this was a fault of the script. Just one more line would have made it clear that what Nikita really wants is reassurance about Michael’s true feelings. Perhaps Michael thinks that the risks he has taken on her behalf speak for themselves, but Nikita needs to know that she hasn’t been duped again.

  2. I don't know how to describe how I felt watching this story arc unfold.

    I deeply resented the character Jurgen when I first saw this arc. Billie, your subsequent reviews helped me reconcile the character's place within Michael and Nikita's story. So thanks for that.

    Nikita irritated me as well with her "sex-starved" attitude. I think this is mostly because Michael was doing everything he could to avoid being caught in the lie they wove. Intellectually and emotionally, I knew what Nikita wanted from Michael but I think there was something missing for me to empathize with how she was externalizing what she was feeling. At the same time, I also remember being irritated with Michael's somewhat callous attitude with his words, "Get over it."

    Tortured is the word I'm looking for. That's what Michael and Nikita's relationship was. It's how I felt most of the time while watching the show. I never knew torture could be this good. ;)

  3. Michaell appeared to be shooting the computer screen during the 2nd mission, can this really destroy the hard disk? I'm no computer geek but i'm sure Birkoff would have been able to recover the data.

    I miss this show, it was really good. I love reading your comments.

  4. This was the first episode where I was genuinely impressed with the aesthetic. I'm watching La Femme Nikita for the first time right now, and the first season was painfully low-budget.

    However, I reminded myself that Buffy's first season was sort of embarrassing, and that's my favorite show of all time.

    Moreover, I'm a huge Alias and Nikita 2010 fan, so I wanted to check this show out. Billie has said such wonderful things about it, and I'm enjoying myself.

    During the first season, I loved the little scenes inside Section. The actors are all great. However, the missions were often tedious and boring, and the villains were usually one-note.

    I'm hoping LFN pulls a Buffy and blossoms in season two.

  5. Mikey, I think LFN was seriously better in season two and three -- tighter, more subtle, more tense, more romantic, and even darkly funny at times. It's not a perfect series, but there was something I found very special about it.

    Thanks so much for your comment! As I probably already mentioned, when I initially wrote these reviews, there was no way to comment. I absolutely love seeing comments on the classic shows. Hey, I love comments on the new shows, but we tend to get more of them. :)

  6. Nikita did act a bit too clingy for my taste… I kept thinking how much she needed Michael to actually spell it out and how wrong she was in doing that. She should know by now how charming, manipulative and deceitful Michael can be when he’s working the case, so why on earth she needs words from him, she just needs to look at his actions….

    I remember loving Bruce Payne as Jurgen, that didn’t change.

    Loved Madeline saying “… That's the bad news…. There is no good news."

  7. "He places less value on sex, which is certainly something he can get whenever he wants."

    Yes, a thousand times yes. ;)

  8. I spent the episode wishing Nikita and Michael would just talk to each other, admit what they are doing and why, and be a bit kinder to each other.

    Jurgen's words about Michael were pretty close to the truth, but I think he has his own motives.

  9. I'm just watching the whole LFN show for the first time and enjoying every episode!
    Jurgen sounds a little spooky to me, though.

    The comments are great, too, BTW.

  10. Billie, I loved your review! 


    I think Michael acted impulsively that night on the boat. It seems to me that he always tried to be faithful to Elena, despite everything, but that night the passion was stronger... Maybe that's why in the following episodes he rejects Nikita a bit. He hold Nikita back not only for fear of being discovered but because he feels confused about having a relationship outside of his marriage. He did not love Elena but felt a responsibility and a commitment towards her and her family. He went ahead and showed his feelings after his relationship with Elena ended and he felt free.

    All of this is seen in the conversation between Michael and Nikita at the end of Psychic Pilgrim (episode 2x11 - Michael and Nikita as a married couple on an undercover mission): 

    Nikita: "How do you feel about it?"
    Michael: "Conflicted."
    Nikita: "Well, maybe I can help. We could talk about it."
    Michael: "I'd love to, but what you need to hear I can't tell you yet."
    Nikita: "Yet?"
    Michael: "You know a lot about me, Nikita, but not everything. There are things that have to remain hidden. It has nothing to do with how I feel about you."

    Greetings from Argentina!


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