Nikita: Pale Fire

“Pale Fire” was the episode we’ve all been waiting for. Finally our bad ass girls are back together again! They plotted, they had each other’s back and they tag teamed a bunch of annoying Russian thugs. And after the intense emotional experiences they suffered through, I don’t see them going their separate ways again anytime soon.

Operation Pale Fire was the name assigned to the mission to assassinate the Udinov family and it became a pivotal moment for many of the characters.

For Alex, Pale Fire was the day her whole life imploded. She went from being a happy child to an emotionally damaged train wreck. We pick up where we left her at the end of “Guardians”, stunned and teary-eyed and staring straight at her dead mother. Our fierce assassin becomes a little girl again, running into the arms of her mommy who at least looks genuinely surprised to see her, exclaiming, “My baby girl!” and asking her how she survived. Alex tells her mother all about being pulled to safety by Nikita. Apparently Mrs. Katya Udinov was knocked out during the attack, woke up in the hospital and was told her whole family had been killed.

Now … there are several things not right here:
1) Katya is played by Sarah Clarke and there’s no way I’m trusting Nina from 24!
2) She’s asking Alex to explain how SHE survived? I think the better question is what the hell is Katya doing living in her old house with Sergei Semak?! Was she offered asylum in a familiar setting after the tragedy she suffered? Is she Mrs. Sergei Semak now?

Alex retreats into the laundry chute when she hears someone approaching and watches in disgust as Sergei enters, makes kissy face with her mom and sweet talks her into swallowing some medication. After he leaves, Alex comes back out and declares that she finally understands. Sergei was just jealous of her father and she could care less if he has Zetrov, but he can’t have her mother! She tells Katya to wait for her and runs off. What I find really frustrating is that Alex doesn’t even ask her mother if she’s aware that Sergei killed her husband. It’s almost like she assumes her mother is being held against her will without any evidence to support that. There’s clearly something ‘off’ about the entire situation. Why weren’t her spy senses tingling?

As she exits the mansion to formulate a plan, Alex comes gun barrel to gun barrel with Nikita who is tracking down the black box. She shares her big news and Nikita immediately abandons her own mission and pledges to rescue Katya at all costs. For Nikita, Pale Fire was the mission that shook her blind faith in Division. Being ordered to assassinate a young civilian girl was too much for her. It kick-started Nikita’s never ending quest for redemption and justice. Nikita and Alex formulate a plan together, but when Alex sneaks back into her mother’s room, she’s ambushed and captured by Sergei and his men. Nikita manages to free her as she’s being transferred to a vehicle but Alex’s hands are cut-up during the escape. Nikita makes sure she’s safe and goes back to free Katya solo.

But Katya isn’t interested in being rescued. She tells Nikita that her daughter is sick; brainwashed by American baddies who have turned her against her own people. Nikita forces the truth about her husband’s murder down Katya’s throat, insisting that Sergei gave the orders and identifying herself as the assassin. Katya vehemently denies it and admits that she and Sergei were already ‘together’ before her husband’s death. What’s not clear is how much Katya knew beforehand. Nikita seems like she’s looking for confirmation from Katya that she was spared as part of Sergei’s deal with Percy. Maybe Katya wanted her husband killed so she would be free to love Sergei? But delusions aside, she didn’t seem to want Alex dead, so was she unaware that Alex was also a target? Poor Alex, listening in on the entire conversation through Nikita’s com, is crushed. I guess Katya isn’t an evil genius as I first suspected. She’s just a weak-willed coward and a horrible mother.

Owen and Michael remain on the trail of the Guardians, finally managing to take one down in an alley behind a café. It’s hilarious that it takes the combined energy of the two of them to best him and they’re still both sore and sweating afterwards. A superhuman regimen does have its upsides. They are rewarded for their perseverance with a black box and the location of the secret Guardian meeting.

Michael poses as a Guardian and uses his black box to order ‘shirts’ – which is code for a package and entrance to the meeting. He’s the last to arrive, encountering Patrick Miller and another Guardian. They find it hard to believe that Percy’s high profile right hand man is suddenly a Guardian but Michael uses a lifted fingerprint trick to open his black box and confirm his status. He opens his package and follows instructions from Acid Face who is conference calling in to this little gathering. Michael is finally tripped up when he’s forced to verify his identity with a passport inside that looks nothing like him. Owen busts in to extract him and Michael blows up his black box with rigged explosives.

Owen develops a theory that the Guardians were more than just Percy’s invisible insurance policy. Maybe they were also supposed to break him out if he ever found himself imprisoned.

Ryan Fletcher made his reappearance in this episode and I’m ashamed to admit that I almost forgot he was languishing in the depths of Division! It’s been three episodes since we’ve had any word on his status. Ryan has been refusing to help Amanda take down oversight and she’s getting impatient now that Alex has screwed with her carefully constructed plans. She applies a little ‘pressure’ as an incentive, but Ryan swears he can’t be of any use unless Amanda gives him all the information she has on Oversight. She drugs him unconscious and tosses him in Percy’s plastic bubble. Apparently Percy ‘s brain is Division’s filing system. Amanda demands that Percy drop some knowledge on Ryan unless he wants to end up in a medically induced coma. As she leaves Percy hilariously sits right in front of a groggy and disoriented Ryan and comments, “What a Bitch!”

Percy and Ryan never do get around to discussing the intricacies of Oversight, other than Percy declaring them irrelevant and claiming ‘there’s always a group behind the group’. Percy mostly reflects on his reign as Head of Division and his fatal miscalculations. For Percy, Pale Fire was the beginning of the End, but not for the reasons he would have predicted. Percy made a deal with Sergei Semak to assassinate the Udinovs in exchange for the expansion of U.S. interest in Russia. But once he was in power, Sergei reneged on his end of the bargain and became uncooperative. That proved costly, but there was a far more dangerous threat developing. The day Percy sent Nikita to perform Operation Pale Fire was the day he lost her as an asset. As she became a formidable enemy, Percy’s white jumpsuit future was sealed.

What I loved:

Professor Nikita
It’s been a few months since Nikita was in any position to teach Alex something, but as they tried to formulate a plan to rescue Katya, a really adorable dynamic developed between them. Nikita stepped back and listened as Alex outlined her escape route. She had this half smile on her face, like she was proud of how far her student had come. But she wasn’t quite done teaching yet. She pointed out that Alex was missing something and waited for her to work out what is was on her own. It was a nice throwback to where they started.

Owen Laying It Out For Michael
Michael was moody because Nikita confided in Owen about their relationship, but Owen wasn’t having any of his petulant nonsense. “She needs to talk to somebody. It’s getting harder for her.” He forced Michael to realize that Nikita wasn’t as strong as she was pretending to be. “You need to make a choice before someone makes it for you.” He also put Michael on notice for being selfish because he’s not acknowledging that terrible things happen to ‘normal people’ in their world and his son shouldn’t be a part of that. He can’t have one foot in the game if he wants to be there for his family. And his family can’t be an option if he wants to fight the good fight with Nikita. Am I crazy or was he also kind of threatening to make a play for her if Michael didn’t get his act together. He didn’t come right out and say it … I just got this vibe.

Superspy Girltalk
The heart-to-heart between Alex and Nikita at the end of the episode was brilliantly scripted. So many wonderfully written lines, I’m tempted to quote the entire scene here. Alex was completely devastated because her memory of her childhood, her belief in her family, and her conviction for justice was wrenched away for her. She found herself directionless and empty again, the way she was before Nikita forced pulled her from her drug induced coma and gave her something to live for. “I’ve wasted so much time and energy avenging what? A father that loved me but wasn’t innocent and a mother that maybe never loved me at all.” But Nikita won’t let Alex give up on her mother entirely. And it’s certainly not for Katya’s sake. She knows Alex NEEDS that spark of hope, despite her mother’s deplorable actions. “People make mistakes, they make bad choices and then to make up for them they make even worse ones, but if you give them a second chance sometimes they surprise you.” It was so nice to see the girls really connecting again!

Photo Courtesy of The CW

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