103. "Love"

(#6) Nikita and Michael pose as married mercenaries to recover a canister of deadly nerve gas from an international arms smuggler known for his strange sexual appetites.
lfnforever briefing
Red Cell is introduced as a rogue faction out of North Korea; evidently it expands into quite a bit more than just a rogue faction -- it will become Section One's most troublesome enemy, popping up all over the globe as the series progresses, and defined as "sophisticated" and "global" in "Half Life." Walter outdoes himself in the gadget department, providing the operatives with a bomb the size of a golf ball that has a very big bang. We see the romance between Nikita and Michael begin to take root -- and sense just how complicated it's going to be. And we also get a taste of how ruthless Section is, since it allows innocent people to die when the villain, Bauer, releases the deadly L Virus in the DeAnza Building. Nikita's humanity getting in the way of her doing her job, not to mention threatening the entire mission, becomes a recurring theme in the series, and it's seldom more tellingly displayed than when she bitterly condemns Section for letting innocents perish, all for the "greater good". It's interesting to watch Peta Wilson transform Nikita from a gum-chewing ne'er-do-well in an early scene to a very business-like operative at the end. "Love" was actually the very first episode to be filmed. (The first three episodes were filmed in reverse order.) Some of the leads have not yet fully formed their characters; for example, Michael still hasn't learned not to smile, and he still has some inflection in his voice. But Alberta Watson has captured Madeline's character splendidly; just watch her classic performance in an early scene set in the White Room. And veteran character actor Tobin Bell skillfully turns Bauer into one of the series' great villains.

best dialogue
Nikita and Michael are in Madeline's lair, picking up the rings they'll wear on the mission, since the mercenaries "Peter" and "Sage" are married.
MICHAEL (sliding the ring he's picked up onto Nikita's finger): "Here, this one is yours."
NIKITA: "Do I have to love, honor and obey?"
M: "Just obey."
N: "Okay. There's no need for 'till death do us part'."
Written by Michael Loceff
 Directed by Jon Cassar
Original airdate: February 17, 1997 (USA)
June 21, 1998 (France); October 17, 1997 (UK)

guest stars
Tobin Bell (Bauer)
Valerie Boyce (Stephanie)
James Gallanders (Ornett)
Blaine Joseph Bray (Andy)
Ryan Green (Peter)
Alisa Wiegers (Sage)
Marqus Bobesich (Bomber)
Frank Tiefenbch
Marie Cruz (Lina)
Dominic Fung (Terrorist # 1)
Ho Chow (Terrorist # 2)

 "Night Of The King Snake," Big Rude Jake
"Expression Of Loneliness," Moonsocket
"Hey Man Nice Shot," Filter
"News," Clove
"Still Waitin'," Big Sugar
"Standing Around Crying," Big Sugar

Toronto's Union Station is the setting for the climax, as Nikita and Michael race against time to find the L-Virus; The rear of 11 King Street West (Melinda Street) served as the "DeAnza Building."

Czech title: "Laska"
French title: "L'amour"
German title: "Giftgasanschlag"
Italian title: "Amore"
Polish title: "Milosc"
Spanish (& Portuguese) title: "Amor"
guest reviews
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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
This fan favorite was the first episode of the series to be filmed. According to producer Joel Surnow, the first three episodes were filmed in reverse order to shake up the cast and crew and to work out any bugs before the pilot was shot. What he got was strong performances all round. Wilson and Dupuis' s chemistry was immediate and palpable.
With a great script from Michael Loceff, peppered with "Section speak" and gadgets that would make James Bond's Q jealous, many of the supporting players got juicy scenes. Alberta Watson nails her character, Madeline, from the get go. There is no question that Madeline is a ruthless yet insightful judge of human behavior, and Watson's quick circle of the interrogation room is almost humorous in its efficiency. Don Francks imbues Walter with humanity and warmth as he and Wilson connect in the ongoing flirt-a-thon. Guest actor Tobin Bell, well known for his portrayal of villains in both film and television, proves Bauer to be a worthy adversary for Section and gives the audience one of the series' most memorable villains.
Among the many standout scenes, director Jon Cassar gives us two particularly memorable ones. Cassar and director of photography Danny Nowak create a powerful tag scene in which a disgusted Nikita aims her gun at Section's shocking new bedfellow, the loathsome Bauer. Nikita's schoolgirl outfit belies her feral impulse to exact revenge. But the eal gem is a still moment for Peta Wilson, as Nikita waits among the trees outside Bauer's compound. She visibly relaxes and steals a moment to feed her soul as she closes her eyes and turns her face sunward. The series is punctuated by moments like these where Wilson offers us a glimpse inside Nikita's reality and the price she pays for her life inside Section.
Peta Wilson is great in this episode and rises to the challenge of exposing many facets of her onscreen alter ego. Whether it's playing the gum-cracking brat of act one, the capable operative with feline moves taking on Bauer, or a woman conflicted, she proves herself to be astute, versatile, and vulnerable.
La Femme Peta, pp 96-99

Ted Edwards' "behind-the-scenes" look at this episode
"Love" was actually the first episode shot and in comparison to the way that the show looks now it is radically different in its approach. First of all, there was a lot of action written into the script, as the producers feared a new ensemble cast might not be able to carry the load of the show. It is obvious their fears were unfounded. This group of actors instantly gelled on camera, as though they had been working together for years. Most important, it established an instant rapport between Peta Wilson and oy Dupuis, whose Nikita and Michael would ultimately become the core of the series.
Joel Surnow has admitted that he had some initial concerns about the way that Dupuis was playing Michael: understating just about everything and allowing his eyes to do the acting. "He's just so calm and so cool," Surnow told RetroVision Online. "I started to fight him on that show to convey a little more urgency, because he took everything in such stride. Now I look at it and I realize that he was right. He's not a skittish character, he does everything in his measured doses. In terms of the learning curve, that's where I came out on that."
La Femme Nikita X-Posed, pp 55-56

Joel Surnow's POV

This was actually the first show we shot. We shot out of order. We shot "Love," "Charity" and then the pilot. It was difficult to shoot that way, but we also felt that we should shake down the crew, the cast and let everyone get comfortable before we shoot the pilot. We figured if we'd make mistakes, we'd make them on the first two.

I happen to be a huge fan of [this] episode. That's a real rock and roll, down and dirty show. If you look at that show in comparison to what we do now, it's completely different. Stylistically it had five pieces of music in it, it had her in a wig, it was a real sweaty episode. I love the villain. I love some of the moments between Roy and Peta....I was really excited because there was chemistry there. I think we've done much better and bigger since, but it established the fact that we could do a ton of action, which we don't do nearly as much anymore. It was pretty good action for a small show. I have affection for that show just because it's the first one. I see the problems in it now. I don't know how it holds up to some of our other shows that I consider better. It didn't have a lot of Section stuff in it; it was just them out in the field. Again, it had more of a Wiseguy influence than other shows -- a Michael and Nikita undercover show. That's not really Nikita, per se. There are those elements, but we're kind of bigger than just that.

The actors went right into it right from the gate. There was an extreme quality to the show that I liked. Roy is just such a natural. He's so calm and so cool. Again, I started to fight him on that show about, "Show a little more urgency," because he took everything in such stride, but now I look at it and I realize he was right. He's not a skittish character. In terms of learning curve, that's where I came out of that.

La Femme Nikita Episode Guide
Edward Gross, Retrovision # 6 (1999)