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204. "Approaching Zero"

        
(#26) Michael warns Nikita not to get too close to Jurgen, but she pays him no heed -- and becomes an unwitting pawn in a potentially deadly power play between Operations and Jurgen, who has blackmailed Section into giving him a degree of autonomy.
lfnforever briefing

best dialogue
MICHAEL: "You weren't home when I called."
NIKITA: "I went out to dinner. Why, is that a problem?"
M: "No."
N: "All right, Michael. So what is it? So I went out to dinner. Why do you care?"
Michael doesn't respond.
N: "Patented Michael answer -- the blank stare. If you're jealous, just be jealous. Tell me not to see him."
M: "Is that all it would take?"
N: "Maybe. Maybe not. But at least it would be something real. An emotion instead of this cryptic game of twenty questions."
M: "You're right. I shouldn't have asked."
Written by Michael Loceff
Directed by Rene Bonniere
Original airdate: February 1, 1998 (USA)
December 7, 2000 (France); October 22, 1999 (UK)

guest stars
Bruce Payne (Jurgen)
Farzad Sadrian (Arka)

music
Gaze," Sweetback
"Burn," Sister Machine Gun
"Caroussella," Les Jumeaux

locations
The St. Leonard Hotel is the setting for the scene in which Nikita and Jurgen collect Arka.


Czech title: "Nulová prístupnost"
French title: "Zero absolu"
German title: "Eine Liebe Zerbricht"
Italian title: "A un secondo dalla fine"
Polish title: "Punkt Krytyezny"
Portuguese title: "Aproximacao zero"
Spanish title: "Acercandose a cero"
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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
Nikita's apartment gets a new look this season. It is colder, more modern, less personal, and less revealing than her previous one. As Nikita grows this season and begins to fit into Section, her personal physical space begins to reflect the repression of her eccentricities. In fact, she goes so far as to bring a piece of Section home with her: the white tulip chair from the Observation Room. She is entertaining the idea of a relationship with someone from Section. Nikita's real attraction to Jurgen seems to stem from the special arrangement he has whereby he retains some control over his timetable and his life. He has a modicum of freedom within Section, and can say no to certain things. It's a power and freedom Nikita wants for herself.
It will take the writers several episodes to bring Nikita's behavior back on an even keel. For now, her "maybe, maybe not" attitude is childish and her hope that Michael is jealous is repellant. After the conflicts of "Third Person," her physical shyness with Michael as he pretends to pull off the transmitter is believable, and speaks to the cost of their failed conspiracy to exclude Jurgen from their secrets.
Dupuis is marvelous as Michael listens in on Nikita and Jurgen's initial stages of lovemaking. Madeline at least has the discretion to leave him to his barely disguised humiliation. Michael later uses Nikita again to achieve another objective: in this case to secure access to Jurgen's house and thereby destroy the intel Jurgen is using to hold Operations ransom (again proving that Section is not as invincible as it portrays itself). Caught in the middle, Michael maintains his loyalty to Section, but the urgency with which he prevents Nikita and Jurgen from having sex indicates a jealousy of Nikita, and also shows that he is fighting to protect her within the political system that controls them both. It is a tension that will begin to wear Michael down over the course of the series.
Peta Wilson and Roy Dupuis are terrific in the pivotal scene -- their face-off in Section -- where each offers a silent, barely detectable gesture of assent to a private discussion. The exchange is as revealing of their connection as if they had continued to sleep together. The change in Nikita is visible in her level of control and her adoption of acceptable Section behavior. In the category of "too little, too late" comes Michael's revelations that he keeps his feelings separate from the job, living his life as a person split in two. His final confession, that he lied to further the case against Jurgen, may rank as Michael's first indisputably guileless admission. Unfortunately, the emotional implications inherent in killing off his mentor -- a father figure of sorts -- are left unexplored.
La Femme Peta, pp 155-157
Joel Surnow's POV
What we wanted to accomplish with Jurgen was Nikita would have an experience and meet someone, inside Section, kind of a Zen-like character who managed a life inside Section. Who wasn't in prison, had an inner life and richness and transcended the incarceration. And that she would be able to take that with her in order to survive inside the Section. Because the chemistry wasn't really there between them, it ended up being nothing.
I think where we started to fail in the second season, and this is a general overview as opposed to a specific episode, is that in some ways the attitudes we gave her in the second season would have been more appropriate in the third season. What we decided after Jurgen was that she was going to come to terms with her life inside Section -- do her job, stop whining and complaining and rebelling like she did in the first season, and try to have a life. We were thinking, "How many more times can we have her bitch and moan and all that?" I think we should have done another season like the first season. We could have done the same episodes, but the attitude would have been a little different. In [the] third season, we've gone back to what we think is best of the first and second seasons and put that in the show. One of our strongest elements is a person trapped. The template was that Section One is a workplace, and she's like any other person who works in a job. She's stuck and she hates the people she works for, and thinks she's smarter than everybody else she works with. We lost some of that [in the second season]. If you lose that, then you become a straight-forward action show.
Also, the look of the show changed in season two. We changed Madeline's office and [Nikita's] apartment, so the whole look of the show has gotten meaner and leaner. There was no more warmth or warm tones. It became the ultimate oppressive atmosphere. What we really all fell in love with, and I think our fans did too, is just how cold Section is. And how in the name of good they can do the most vile, despicable things, get away with it and still remain "protagonists." So we beefed up the Section and made it a lot more muscular and intense.
La Femme Nikita Episode Guide
Edward Gross, Retrovision # 6 (1999)