222. "End Game"

 (#44) Adrian orders Nikita to steal Gemstone -- a file she says proves her claim that Operations is keeping Saddam Hussein in power, while Michael leads a team to destroy Adrian's group.
lfnforever briefing
In many respects this episode sets the stage for the remainder of the series. As ruthless as Section One has been in the past, at least the ends seemed to justify the means, considering the villains they brought down. But now we have to wonder, because it's revealed that Section is supporting butchers like Saddam Hussein. Operations claims it's because "experts" say the alternative to Hussein in power is even more unpalatable than the status quo. But Adrian argues that it's a simple matter of Operations craving power. Who's telling the truth? We can't be sure. And so the ambiguity of the organization deepens. As does the ambiguity of the Nikita/Michael relationship. While he gives Nikita the opportunity to run when, seemingly, she faces certain cancellation after he has destroyed Adrian's network, Michael's loyalty to Section prevails. Future revelations regarding Michael's double life make his loyalty to (one might substitute dependency on) Section, at this stage, quite logical, just as future revelations about Nikita's true agenda (i.e. what happened to her during her prolonged absence from Section at the end of Season One) make her betrayal of Adrian palatable. There are several unanswered questions. How long did Section know that Carla was Adrian's agent? (Madeline tells Adrian they picked Nikita for the job, but it certainly has seemed all along that it was Adrian who did the picking.) And as dangerous as the Gemstone File is to Section, didn't Operations take too great a risk allowing it to fall into Adrian's hands? Finally, if the idea all along was to let Adrian have the Gemstone File, why was Ames cancelled? Or was he? Perhaps Michael telling Nikita that he had been was meant for Adrian's ears.

best dialogue
(Michael confronting Nikita, in her apartment)
MICHAEL: "Now listen to me. If Adrian succeeds, every operative will be cancelled, no exceptions. They will roll up Section like it never existed. And if you think Adrian can protect you, you're wrong. Where's Adrian?"
NIKITA: "I don't know."
M: "Where's the file?"
N: "I don't know." M: "You're lying."
N: "I don't know!"
M: "Why? Why? This is your last chance. Our last chance. Where's Adrian?"
N (almost in tears): "I don't know."
M: "Then you leave me no choice."
Written by
Robert Cochran and David Ehrman
 Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
 Original airdate: August 30, 1998 (USA)
May 10, 2001 (France); March 24, 2000 (UK)

guest stars
Sian Phillips (Adrian)
Anais Granofsky (Carla)
Jim/Geoff Murrin (Steven)
Roger Honeywell (Ames)

Original score by Sean Callery

The scene in which Nikita is about to hand over the Gemstone File to an outside contact, only to find that he is being wheeled out on a stretcher, was shot at Toronto's City Hall and the adjacent Nathan Phillips Square

Czech title: "Koneena hra"
French title: "Fin des jeux"
German title: "Alles Oder Nichts"
Italian title: "Partita finale"
Polish title: "Ostateczna Rozgrywka"
Portuguese title: "Jogo Final"
Spanish title: "El final del juego"

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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
Nikita is taking bigger risks all the time. When Walter comes across her it is startling, but when she trips an alarm there is a heart-pounding sequence as Nikita (directed by the cool-headed Adrian) dispatches one colleague and frames another for her crimes. Her poker face remains intact throughout, but Michael's uncanny instincts kick in and his suspicions are raised. The deceit puts him in the impossible position of having to turn her in to Operations. It could be a moment that turns the audience against him but the visible pain he endures because of Nikita's lies, his repeated offers of help or escape (on no less than three occasions), and his final public display of affection more than redeem him. They serve to humanize him even further and deepen the tragic proportions of their relationship.
Peta Wilson and Roy Dupuis do some great work in this episode. The scene in Nikita's apartment is heart-breaking. Wilson is perfect as Nikita's words deny any knowledge of Adrian while her eyes betray the pain of her lies. Dupuis is even better as Michael rides an emotional rollercoaster as he shows anger (at Nikita's lies), disbelief and puzzlement (at her motivations), shock and wonder (at the revelations of the double- and triple-cross), interest (in Operations' explanations for Section's alliances), relief (at the resolution of the stand-off), and tenderness and resignation (as Nikita stands her ground and awaits her fate). The actor plays the emotions in a highly controlled manner and the tension is hypnotic. Finally, Michael's statement that Section "sent me but they don't control me" is a surprising insight into how Michael sees himself and prepares the way for the trials of the next season.
Patterns of threes emerge throughout the hour. Michael's three offers of help, three operatives are originally suspected of treason, there is the triangle of the old guard (Adrian, Operations, and Madeline) and of the newest collusion (Nikita, Operations, and Madeline), and there is, of course, the overriding triple-cross. Nikita penetrates the very core of Section to retrieve the "Gemstone" file, but there is a touch of humor when she takes advantage of her access to check up on where Michael lives. When she first enters the room and scans the databanks she reads a scenario marked the "invasion of Canada." It is a clever industry wink acknowledging the proliferation of U.S. shows that shoot in Canada (including this one) and it is particularly funny for Canadian viewers (sensitive to the impact American culture has in Canada) who will recall from high school history lessons that Canadian soldiers sent the Americans packing in the War of 1812!
Nikita's final decision to side with her overlords is swayed by personal experience rather than the somewhat specious political argument that Hussein's presence in the Middle East is preferable to the alternatives suggested by Section's "sims" and forecasts. It is a decision that is consistent with her personality and creates the rich dramatic possibilities of the Season Three opener. More importantly though, it does not remove the shadow of doubt cast by Adrian upon Operations' motives.
La Femme Peta, pp 193-195
Joel Surnow's POV
To get Shaun [Sian] Phillips was wonderful. I had worked with her in London and I think she's one of the greatest living actresses on the planet. I was fortunate enough to work with her in London in 1992 when I was doing the show Covington Cross. We knew each other from that. She was doing a one-woman show about Marlene Dietrich and she agreed to come over and do a couple of episodes for us, and I was just thrilled. Her character of Olivia [in Covington Cross ?] was kind of where we got inspired for Madeline and some of the Section deviousness and manipulations. To have someone who is more powerful than these people who we have set up to be all powerful, was great. I thought it was a terrific episode. It spoke to the legend of the show, we got to learn a lot about what this place is, why it is, and put Nikita square in the middle of it. You got to see Operations and Madeline sweat for once, which was great. I thought it was a hell of a way to end the season.
La Femme Nikita Episode Guide
Edward Gross, Retrovision # 6 (1999)