(#28) Michael's assignment is to kill an arms dealer, but when his target kidnaps Madeline, Operations decides to use all of Section One's resources to prevent Michael from completing his mission.
This is an action-packed episode that, on a superficial level at least, is quite satisfying. Michael displays his prowess as an operative who can elude all of Section One's resources to complete a mission, and Madeline shows just how formidable she can be when, about to be tortured, she instructs her captors on the proper technique and, later, flatlines in order to turn the tables on her enemy. Operations, on the other hand, shows us that there is one chink in his armor -- and that's Madeline, for whom he is willing to order the execution of his best operative and risk failure in his assignment to stop the villain, Dorian Enquist. Unfortunately, "Mandatory Refusal" lacks plausibility in several crucial respects. During the ambush of Michael at Sonia Martine's apartment building, Mowen claims he has "ops down" before, in fact, that happens. A case of sloppy editing? And how does Nikita manage to track Michael to the abandoned building, even though he's been able to elude all of Section One? And why does Michael, having proved himself so skilled at staying out of Section's reach, expose himself so foolishly in the climactic gunfight at Enquist's stronghold, so that he escapes being killed by a Section sniper only because Operations calls off the "hit" at the last second? Perhaps the most subtle error of all is in the interplay between Michael and Nikita. In the beginning of the episode, Michael tries to repair the relationship by asking Nikita out to dinner. She refuses. At the conclusion, Nikita -- because she had come so close to losing Michael -- has a change of heart, only to be rebuffed by Michael, whose excuse is that she might become his weakness. It rings false; Michael has already been willing to risk everything for Nikita. She is his weakness; he knows this, and has accepted it. It's a case of writing Michael completely out of character for the sake of a playing on the viewer's emotions. This episode is replete with moments of high drama, but all too often the glue that would hold it together -- namely, credibility -- becomes "acceptable collateral".
MADELINE: "Do you know why you're here, Nikita?"
NIKITA: "I acted autonomously. I broke regulations."
M: "I thought we'd been through this enough times. We serve a greater entity. We're not here for each other. In no scenario do we put ourselves before the unprotected public."
N: "You've got it backwards. Had Michael been allowed to proceed, none of this would have happened. Enquist would have been killed, and so would you. It was Operations who acted on emotion. Because of you he tried to stop Michael."
M: "His mistake doesn't justify yours."
Written by David Ehrman
Directed by Ken Girotti
Original airdate: March 8, 1998 (USA)
December 21, 2000 (France); November 5, 1999 (UK)
Gregory Hlady (Dorian Enquist)
Roman Podhara (Mowen)
Christopher Clements (Stillman)
Chantal Quesnel (Sonia)
Eduardo Gomez (Arcola)
Kelley Grando (Girlfriend)
Jake Simons (Cameraman)
"Skin Against Skin," Krush featuring Deborah Anderson
"Chinese Burn," Curve
Czech title: "Povinne odmitnuti"
French title: "Situation de refus"
German title: "Einsame Entscheidung"
Italian title: "Fermate Michael!"
Portuguese title: "Negativa obrigatoria"
Spanish title: "Rechazo obligatorio"
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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
"Mandatory Refusal" is the story of two couples, each trying to save their respective partners and breaking the rules to do it. Operations, fresh from his near-death experience of "New Regime," shows signs of tenderness toward Madeline that concern her rather than pleases her. As it turns out, she has every reason to be worried, for when she is kidnapped (how did that happen?) the rule book goes out the window. Glazer is wonderful as the inconsolable Operations, and Watson beautifully portrays Madeline, whose courage in the face of torture is astounding. Not only does she issue corrective instructions to her torturer on how to use the equipment, but she exhibits the physical control to rival her psychological and emotional control when she conciously stops and restarts her own heart! The incident helps build the character's mythology.
Michael, too, exhibits near superhuman prowess when he fends off the attack of his peers, shaking off the effects of a tranquilizer dart and remaining one step ahead of all of Operation's resources. Only Nikita comes close to catching up with him. Like Operations, she acts autonomously, effecting Madeline's rescue and consequently saving Michael's life. Unfortunately, the parallels don't end here: the dynamics of the relationships reveal the hard realities of life inside Section. While Nikita and Operations are just happy to have their other half safe, Madeline and Michael only see the threat to stability. Michael delivers the cruelest blow of all when he tells Nikita he cannot allow her to become his "weakness." It is a central emotional question of the series: does strength lie in ruthlessness or in compassion?
La Femme Peta, pp 159-160