Division has a morbid sense of humor. In last week’s “Resistance” they had Thom involuntarily fake his own death, and this week they’ve dispatched a recruit named Robbie to carry out a suicide mission. Yes, people really are that expendable around here. You’d think they’d be a little more careful, since it can’t be easy or cheap to keep faking people’s deaths and putting them through complex training, but I guess not.
This week’s recruit training exercise is a glorified game of laser tag. Just hearing Michael explain the rules makes me think Shane West missed out on a career opportunity as a narrator. (At least, I’d listen to him read the phone book, and I know I’m not alone in that opinion.)
Flashback time! Two months before going under, Alex and Nikita are discussing how to tell the difference between your friends and your enemies. “Going through the program changes you,” Nikita tells her. “They’ve been abandoned and abused, like you. Like me. It’s hard not to sympathize.” You can guess at the point of having this flashback here already, can’t you?
Back in the present day, Alex finds her team has lost the exercise. As someone with firearms training and captain of my local laser-tag team, I can see why. They could all use some more experience. The outcome has Robbie overconfident and another recruit, Sara, fearing that she’s about to be killed as she’s just been activated for her first mission.
Michael is working out his continual anger issues on the firing range, much to Birkhoff’s amusement. He assumes that this is about Nikita (and takes a nice swipe at Michael Bay), to which Michael only replies, “Her death hasn’t been confirmed yet.” Birkhoff reminds us that it’s been two weeks since Division has noticed Nikita as Michael continues sharpening his aim. It doesn’t look like he needs much work in that department. Not to mention that he looks pretty good this week, too. Maybe the production team has finally given him a bit better wardrobe.
Alex tells Nikita about Sara, and Nikita is convinced that Sara has been activated for a suicide mission. Cut to Sara recording a video manifesto for Eco-Front, an environmental terrorist group she’ll be infiltrating. Amanda is explaining to her all the horrible things that Eco-Front has done, when Percy walks in to remind her how important the mission is. He pronounces her ready, but that’s because he’s soon discussing with Amanda the bomb that they’re sending her with. “Sara was already scheduled for cancellation,” Amanda tells him, and us. No, that’s not ominous at all.
Robbie and his ego are a little miffed that he didn’t get activated before Alex. Oh, if he only knew. Thankfully, Thom is there to keep him from getting a hole in the head. I’m starting to become convinced that Thom has a whole second job keeping all the other recruits out of trouble.
Sara is preparing for her mission outside Texpro Oil headquarters, while Nikita, Percy and Birkhoff all look on. Birkhoff notices Nikita entering the building, and Percy tries to prematurely detonate the bomb in order to kill her as well. Predictably, that doesn’t work. Nikita manages to take out a few security guards in the time it takes everyone else to notice what’s happening, and then takes off in pursuit of a fleeing Sara. She throws the explosive-laden vest Sara was wearing under the Division van and blows it up instead. Does Sara say thank you? No, she decides she’s taking Nikita into custody instead. Since, you know, people more experienced than her have done so well with that. I’m all for ambition, but not at the expense of common sense.
Sara tells Nikita to take them to Division, and she reminds the young recruit that A) Division just tried to blow her up and B) Sara has no idea where Division actually is, since we learned last week that even in transport they can’t see where they’re going. Instead, they end up back at Nikita’s mega apartment, where Sara has a very hard time accepting what’s really happening to her. “I don’t want you to go through what I did,” Nikita tells her. “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
Robbie wants to make nice with Alex. He tells her that he’s reporting to his final evaluation the coming day. “We’re not expendable,” he tells her. “Division needs us.” His life at Division is more fulfilling than the one he came from, and to him, anything other than his past life is an improvement. I can’t say that I blame him, except he skipped over the part where he either kills people or people kill them.
Nikita decides she’s going to have Sara make a new video claiming she was hired by Texpro in order to blame Eco-Front. Sara tells her a story about getting pregnant when she was very young, and how she has a son out in the world that she wants to find. Nikita advises her that as painful as it is, the past has to stay in the past, and takes her to meet a forger that drops off a new identity for the young recruit. She lays out her plan for how Sara can survive outside Division, but Sara isn’t in love with the idea and takes off for the second time. Deja vu, Nikita?
Where does Sara go? She turns up in the office of the lawyer who sold her son, beating him with a phone and demanding his whereabouts.
Robbie is excited for his evaluation, with a swagger in his step as he goes to meet Amanda in her Zen garden of an office. She tells him that there is no evaluation; he’s graduated. He’s not a field agent. He’s a security guard. There went all his dreams of being needed and seeing the world. I’d feel sad if he hadn’t already been established as so darn arrogant.
“What am I supposed to do now?” Robbie asks Alex when she finds him hitting things in frustration later. She tells him to wait and appreciate that he’s about to be exposed to a lot of secret information that he might be able to use to his advantage. Obviously, she’s taking pity on him. He doesn’t find her pep talk encouraging, however. “There’s no future for me,” he says. “This is what I deserve, and I accept that.” Somehow, I don’t think that’s true.
Michael decides that if he wants a job done around Division, he has to do it himself, and goes in search of Sara. Likewise, Nikita turns up to chat with the lawyer after Sara leaves, wanting to know where she went. It’s not hard for her to track the girl down outside the house where her son now resides. Nikita is in the midst of explaining to Sara why kidnapping is bad when a pair of typical black Division SUVs interrupts their conversation. Michael has arrived, along with several of his armed and trigger-happy subordinates.
Back at Division, Robbie has a mental break and starts shooting his new colleagues. I told you he hadn’t really accepted anything. He starts shooting up the place. This means Michael has no choice but to abandon the fight with Nikita and Sara, and get back to Division before Robbie completely destroys the place. Robbie’s mistake is taking Alex as a hostage. She tases him and knocks him out cold, and we find out later that he’s been cancelled.
Michael meets with Percy in his office, where he tells his boss that he saw Sara’s body in the back of Nikita’s car. We know that Sara was hiding, so either Michael bought that or he’s intentionally lying. I’d like to think he’s lying, because that’s the more interesting option, and more in line with what we’ve seen of his character thus far. “She doesn’t get to join in Nikita’s petty victory,” Percy says, to which Michael replies, “What victory?” Percy shows him Sara’s second video, the one Nikita had her record. Meanwhile, Sara is finally getting to see her son, albeit at a distance, before Nikita takes her to start a new life, again.
As for Robbie? He’s not dead. Ominous music swells as Amanda informs him that in the light of his murderous rampage, he’s been reassigned as the next Owen. That’s right, he’s going to become a cleaner. Maybe we haven’t seen the last of him. In fact, I have a theory.
It may be light on the major plot points, but I find myself endeared to this episode of Nikita, because it directly addresses something I’ve long talked about: it makes me care about the recruits. By giving us an episode about two recruits and their divergent stories, in which our heroes are basically supporting players, it elevates the usually supporting recruits and gives them identities. Robbie might be an arrogant, generally unlikeable guy, but at least we feel something for him, and we get to see him take a journey. If Michael does eventually turn sides and Division needs a replacement for him in the hunt for Nikita, Robbie might be a decent choice, albeit inexperienced; at least I buy him as committed to Division and being willing to kill anyone to get what he wants.
Likewise, we see in Sara what Nikita might also have seen in Alex, and we care about what happens to her. Alex gets more depth from her unlikely bonding with Robbie, and how she’s forced to do him in for the greater good. Even Thom gets more developed as we see how he seems to save everyone’s behind when they need it. That last part comes just in time, as next week we’re about to see the relationship between him and Alex take a big leap. Now if the show can continue to flesh out these recruits – the recruits that we should be invested in because Nikita is working so hard to free them and Michael has stayed in a position he no longer completely believes in to protect them – it’s going to be an even more complete series.
There is one thing we do learn with Michael, and that goes back to his final scene. I wasn’t able to tell with what we saw if Michael did see Sara hiding in Nikita’s backseat and presumed that was her body, or if he’s smarter than that and was intentionally lying in order to let Sara go free. I’d like to think it’s the latter; it’s been established that Michael is, to use a familiar phrase, “the smartest guy in the room.” Even smart guys make mistakes, but it would still be a little weird if he got duped by something that simple. It’s more interesting if he’s lying, which fits perfectly with what we’ve seen of his character so far. If his primary interest is to protect the recruits, of course he’d rather let Sara go free than have her hunted down by Division. (I wonder if he had a hand in helping Nikita escape.) Sara was already scheduled for cancellation anyway, so he knows that they have nothing to lose and she has everything to gain. He’s doing a very noble thing if he lies, and there’s a lot of nobility in Michael.
Yes, I’m missing Michael this week, but I didn’t mind so much because for once, I was engaged with these usually forgettable characters. This was an episode about Sara, Robbie, Alex and Thom (in that order, and surprisingly no Jaden), and all the actors involved used that to the most potential. They made me believe in the recruits as people, not just as pieces. Believing in them makes me understand why our heroes are so concerned with their fates, and that in turn gives the whole show more credibility. It might not be my favorite episode overall, but it’s a necessary and very welcome step forward to fleshing out the complete series.
For more Nikita, check out my feature this week, where Michael’s fate tops the list of five burning questions I want to see answered. I’ll see you next week for “Phoenix.” Try not to trip over the (fake or real) bodies on the way out.