Nikita: Falling Ash

In “Falling Ash”, another one of Oversight’s covert operations comes back to bite them in the ass. Nikita and Michael are reluctantly sidetracked in their mission to take them down – opting instead to clean up Oversight’s mess and save lives.

Years ago, Oversight built a program called P9, designed to create assassins. Hmmm … sounds familiar. But unlike Division, the candidates were subjected to neuro-hypnotic reprogramming so they would obey orders. They were all housed in a compound run by Dr. Joseph Mars, who developed the technology. But when Oversight decided to scrap the project, Division burned it to the ground (Operation Falling Ash) to hide the evidence. To the outside world it looked like an FBI raid on a dangerous cult.

So why, in 2011, does an innocuous ice-cream man suddenly go postal and take a shot at Senator Charles Irving in broad daylight with his own father and a park full of by-standers looking on? Michael thinks it stinks like P9.

Nikita and Michael start their investigation at the scene of the fire, where they run into rogue guardian Owen who is on his own personal mission. Owen was part of the strike team that torched the compound. Under separate orders from Percy, he extracted Dr. Mars and ensured his safety. No one knew more about the human brain than he did, and Percy never passes up an advantage. Dr. Mars went to work for Division and developed the Regimen, which Owen is still addicted to. But after two years, he disappeared completely.

Knowing that whoever ordered the attack on the Senator wouldn’t quit after one failed attempt, Nikita, Michael and Owen get all prettied up and sneak into a black tie gala for the Read & Unite charity.

Meanwhile, back at Division, Amanda is equally irked by P9’s reappearance. Another inconvenient stain on her new reign! She orders Alex to poke at Percy some more and he trades info on Dr. Mars for the promise of a daily cup of tea. Wow … covert secrets come cheaply these days!

Alex, still recovering from her gunshot wounds, arrives at the charity event with her cane in tow. She spots Nikita and has a clear shot at her, but doesn’t take it. Instead she pounces on the Senator and knocks him to the ground as the next P9 victim takes aim. She lands herself in a holding cell on suspicion of corroboration.

Nikita, Michael and Owen snatch the would-be assassin, a young woman working at the event, and take her back to Birkhoff’s. The shaken young woman, Alicia, has no recollection of the event or any clue why she would take aim at the Senator. A recovering drug addict, she recently went through a cutting edge treatment program at The Vory Clinic, run by someone called Dr. Francis. By monitoring her brain waves, he supposedly rewired the feedback loops in her brain to remove the desire for a fix. Or … maybe he was planting a subconscious trigger to force her to kill on command. OOPS!

Michael wants to pose as an addict to scout the rehab centre, but Nikita tactfully points out that no one will buy his stiff, uptight, ‘Jag Officer’ persona as a junkie. Luckily Nikita knows her way around a heroin trip and volunteers her own services. Her weak and vulnerable act gets her in the door and she sneaks into the back rooms where she discovers long rows of treatment rooms filled with addicts wearing headphones … GULP! The jig is up when she’s caught snooping on the computer and she once again has to kick her way out of captivity. I’m starting to realize that she’s not actually a very good spy. She has the ‘getting in’ part down, but on almost every operation her cover is blown and she has to stage a butt-kicking escape. She deserves more credit for dropkicks and elbow knockouts than she does for espionage!

Owen and Michael bust in to help take Dr. Francis/Dr. Mars down. Owen tries to extract the regimen info at gunpoint, but Dr. Mars activates his assassins with a high-pitched computerized noise. Fortunately none of them have orders yet. They’re all just wandering around in a zombified state. Except one. Birkhoff and Alicia were plugged into the video feed from The Vory Clinic and the signal re-triggers her original mission. She knocks Birkhoff out and takes off.

While inside the clinic, Nikita discovered that Dr. Mars was being funded by a high-powered group of Venezuelans. But why would they be targeting a U.S. Senator? It turns out the target was actually another member of Read & Unite, who was at both events. Judge Cathy Bridges is about to rule against oil companies for price fixing … against the Venezuelans.

So the race is on to Judge Bridges’ house in Greenwich where Alicia is on a gun-toting rampage. Birkhoff is trying in vain to talk her down when Nikita and Michael arrive and stop her.

The news coverage of the story makes it look like Dr. Mars and the Venezuelans were working alone – no ties to Oversight or Division.

Sean Pierce eventually picks Alex up from jail, chastising her for attending the event without Division’s consent and pointing out that she once again let Nikita slip through her fingers.

Owen finds a chemical detox for the regimen on Dr. Mars’ computer and sets off to track down the remaining guardians and black boxes. But he has made allies of some dangerous people. Owen’s black box search is being funded by Gogol, the Russian ‘Division”. They want to destroy the boxes and kill Percy … and if Nikita gets hurt in the process, so be it.

What I Loved:

Birkhoff is officially on team Mikita
We got some great insight into his character and he finally got off the fence he’s been straddling and decided to put his wealth to good use.

For the first half of the episode, Birkhoff was still whining about Michael and Nikita’s prolonged stay and demanding they look for new digs. He kept insisting he wanted no part of their crusade, but they hilariously ignored him. Nikita casually asked him for $100,000 to fly to Lisbon and pay off an Oversight informer. Not only did they not get out, they kept bringing home stragglers! Owen snacked on chips and casually threatened to take Birkhoff out. And Alicia was a wanted assassin with the police on her trail!

But when Birkhoff cozied up to Alicia, things got adorkable! She hung out with him while Nikita and Michael were off scouting the rehab centre and it was a geek flirt fest! Alicia is a former IT employee and she bonded with Birkhoff over all his cool hardware. They played video games together and he offered her pizza … awww! When he hacked the security system at The Vory Clinic, she even compared his skills to infamous computer hacker Shadow Walker (who actually IS Birkhoff). Alicia confided in him about her drug troubles and how she’s finally getting her life back, only to have it stolen again. Birkhoff promised her, “Listen, Nikita and them, they’re going to set things straight. That’s like what they do. Things are going to work out I promise.” I really got the sense that he liked being thought of as a ‘good guy’. He likes to play the rebel, but when there was a damsel in distress, he wanted her to see him as a hero. When Michael calls to ask for his help at the clinic, he assures Alicia that “everything’s cool. I just gotta save their asses again”.

When Birkhoff was in Division, it was all about the game: being the best and getting it done. The lines between right and wrong were blurry. But out in the real world Birkhoff is re-discovering his morale centre. When Alicia takes off, Birkhoff tells Michael “she doesn’t deserve to go out like this”.

He tries to talk Alicia out of her mission with a speech that reveals a lot about his mental state while in Division. “I know what it’s like to get orders that feel so strong you think you’re going to die if you don’t follow them. But deep down there is a part of you that knows that this isn’t you. And that part of you can choose to stop.” Birkhoff has finally made that choice for himself. By the end of the episode he has created a computer program that will run 24 hour news feeds against every piece of data in the black box. If any story that connects to an old Division mission pops up, they’ll know about it right away!

Nikita and Michael
There wasn’t a lot of  romance in this this episode, but there were some nice moments that built on their relationship. They had their first lovers’ spat over priorities after the P9 case demanded their attention. Nikita still wanted to fly to Lisbon to meet with the informer, but Michael insisted that Oversight had to wait when lives were at stake. I like how Michael balances Nikita out when she gets single-minded and obsessive.

There was also some interesting imagery with a globe (like a snow globe with no snow) that Nikita was admiring. It was a beach scene she was starring at wistfully. Owen probed Michael about why, after he was lucky enough to get out of Division with the woman he loved, he was still fighting, “You and Nikita. Why are you still living this life? If I had a chance to do it all over again, I’d just take off with Emily. ‘Cause that’s when it happens, the threat you didn’t see coming.” Later Michael picks up the snow globe and has his own wistful moment.

That house on the beach is the dream for them; the escape plan that seems so far off it’s downright depressing. I have an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach thinking about all of the horrible things that could tear them apart before they get there. IF they ever get there!

Amanda’s Manipulations
Alex may be a ‘free agent’ but Amanda has her right where she wants her. She is using Sergei and the Russians as bait to force Alex to work for her, especially now that Percy is refusing to talk to anyone other than Alex. This week she provided Alex with list of Sergei’s top brass to persuade her to sweet talk Percy about Operation Falling Ash. Amanda senses Alex’s hunger for revenge and her desperation. She keeps scattering breadcrumbs to draw her further in.

Favourite Quotes:

-Birkhoff (to Michael): “Don’t give me the goatee of intimidation”

-Owen (threatening Birkhoff): “You’re kinda small, you’d dissolve quick”

Photo Courtesy of The CW

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