111. "Rescue"

(#11) Michael is wounded and left behind during a mission in Eastern Europe. While Nikita and Madeline attempt a rescue, Michael must prevail on a lonely nurse to help him in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with ruthless security police.
lfnforever briefing
The opening scene of "Rescue" is a stunning tour-de-force. Without dialogue, and played out to the surreal strains of Enigma's "Beyond the Invisible," this well-choreographed action sequence ha Michael leading a Section One team in a nighttime raid on a petrochemical plant. Michael is wounded and left behind -- and the stage is set for what should have been one of the first season's finest entries. Alas, despite a stellar performance by Alberta Watson and an award-winning one by guest star Nancy Beatty, the episode can't live up to the promise of the teaser. In a series that would earn a well-deserved reputation for highly original plotting, this story is too conventional -- and predictable. While Michael, with the help of spinster nurse Angie (Beatty), tries to elude capture behind enemy lines, Madeline and Nikita are dispatched on a mission to rescue him. Reasoning that, in his condition, Michael would take the risk of kidnapping a doctor or nurse, Madeline endures a drug-induced heart attack so that she and Nikita can gain entry into the local hospital, where, with ease, Nikita accesses personnel records and discovers that Angie has called in sick -- a fact that escapes the security police until it's too late. But then, slow-witted security police are an old spy-flick cliche. In the meantime, Madeline's cover is blown by yet another cliche, the concealed radio -- concealed, this time, in a case of cosmetic samples. Still, it's a pleasure to watch Nancy Beatty work, and Watson molds Madeline into a formidable and mysterious masterspy, establishing her character as an essential player who could be nowhere else but at the very center of the Nikita Saga. And "Rescue" humanizes Michael by showcasing his compassion for Angie. That the mission to rescue Michael was just a ruse to extract a deep-cover Section operative is a nice twist.( If Operations, Madeline and Petrosian are representative of a previous generation of Section ops, it's little wonder that the organization enjoys such an enviable reputation.)

best dialogue
MICHAEL, to Angie, after having made contact with Section: "It's going to be alright. My people are already in the city. I'll be gone soon. (Angie looks sad)  You can't be disappointed. This hasn't exactly been convenient for you."
ANGIE: "Sometimes, a little inconvenience is not such a bad thing. I am in forties. I have no family, no husband, no child ... Not much chance of either. I have a job, but a job is not a life. That's not self pity. It's plain speaking. Since you...you have been here...I have been confused, worried...scared out of my wits. But I have lived more in the past twenty-four hours than I have in seven years since my father die. It is not just for his sake I help, but... for mine. I...I am glad you will be safe. Very glad and, as pathetic as it sounds, I think when you go, life will go with you."
Written by Peter Bellwood
Directed by Ken Girotti
Original airdate: April 14, 1997 (USA)
July 26, 1998 (France); November 21, 1997 (UK)

guest stars
Nancy Beatty (Angie)
Nigel Bennett (Petrosian)
Diego Matamoros (Major Frankel)
Waneta Storms (Nurse)
Slavko Ilochevar

"Beyond The Invisible," Enigma

The Hearn Thermal Generating Station served not only as the petrochemical plant targeted by Section One, but also as the hospital where Angie worked. The old Gooderham and Worts Distillery was used for the street outside Angie's apartment building.

Czech title: "Zachrana "
French title: "Sauvetage"
 German title: "Geballte Ladung"
 Italian title: "Soccorso"
Portuguese title: "Resgate"
Spanish title: "Rescate"
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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
"Rescue" opens with one of the most beautifully constructed and most memorable sequences in the series. David Thompson's inspired editing demonstrates the power of one piece of music, perfectly employed. The show has hit its stride after some experimentation with style; the overuse of nonoriginal music in the first few episodes is now balanced by a focused use of band music to supplement Sean Callery's moody original scores.
An all-too-common flaw in North American television can be the characterization of non-Westerners. In this episode we get cartoon ussians invoking the memory of Rambo to understand their political enemy and decrying "Western decadence." As adept as Nigel Bennett (Petrosian) is at playing charming villains (his Lacroix of Forever Knight was delicious), he cannot redeem the portrayal of the ussians as one-dimensional buffoons running about in circles. (To add insult to injury, the most clever of them turns out to be a Section One deep cover agent in the end.) A more worthy and legitimate opponent most certainly would have upped the stakes and increased the dramatic tension.
Fortunately, there are real gems to be found in the scenes between Michael and the nurse, Angie. Dupuis and Nancy Beatty, who won a Gemini Award for her role, deliver performances that are relaxed, real, and subtle. Dupuis' minimalist approach for Michael is a perfect fit for Beatty's naturalism. A little dialogue goes a long way in the skillful hands of these performers, satisfying the maxim "show it, don't tell it." Angie's homespun philosophy speaks directly to Nikita's situation: the nail that stands up gets hammered. One lovely moment occurs when Madeline catches Angie looking at Michael with Nikita, but the character ultimately receives short shrift when no one even checks to see if she is dead after she's been shot!
Writer Peter Bellwood does well exploiting the dramatic pairing of Nikita and Madeline. Watson and Bellwood keep Madeline unpredictable, giving her warm smiles when she tells Nikita the mission is one to rescue Michael, humor as she hot-wires a car, and a single-mindedness of purpose as she induces a heart attack to strengthen her cover. Madeline's ruthlessness is never in question, but her focus and self-control attain new levels in one (literally) heart-stopping moment. Her self-induced heart attack prefigures her eerie command of her autonomic functions in "Mandatory Refusal."
La Femme Peta, pp 118-121

Ted Edwards' "behind the scenes" look at this episode
Joel Surnow told Cinescape magazine that "Rescue" was one of his favorite episodes of the show's first season, mostly because it was a straight-out action show with a lot of movement and very little dialogue used to tell the story. "That's sort of what I pride myself on, if anything, in terms of television," he said. "My favorite movie of all time is The French Connection. There's like no dialogue in that movie. You go through it, yet everybody is defined. It's clear who the characters are, and you know what's going on. It's just character through action."
Elsewhere, director Ken Girotti noted that conceptually they walked the lines between present day and a view of postwar Europe, and they went for an Eastern-bloc feel. "Really a Michael episode," he mused, "and it really showed a side of Michael that doesn't often get seen: his compassionate side. He was thrust into an intense relationship with this woman for an extended period of time until he got himself together, and they sort of had to develop a trust for each other. Her dreams of bigger and better things for her life and getting out of the rut that her life was in...and his just trying to get out of there. And in the end she saves his life."
Probably the most startling moment in the episode is when Madeline induces...a heart attack. Nikita's shock is the same as the audience's: What is it with these people?

La Femme Nikita X-Posed, pp 72-73

Joel Surnow's POV

For me, this was wonderful episode. A show that wasn't a standout in terms of the constraints of being in the Section. This was kind of a straight action show, it had the best teaser I've ever seen on TV. The dialogue, just these gorgeous images, repelling down oil tankers, a shoot-out, Michael getting shot, music. That's sort of what I pride myself on, if anything, in terms of television, which is using the least amount of words to tell the most amount of story. My favorite movie of all time is The French Connection. There's like no dialogue in that movie. Yet everybody is defined. The characters know who they are, you know what's going on but it's not done because people are espousing deep philosophical tracts. It's just character through action. I thought Nancy Beatty, who won the Gemini for best supporting actress in that role, was heartbreakingly real and wonderful. We got to promote Roy's leading man interest in that show. The Section twist...was that the guy they were escaping from...turned out to be a Section One operative, who we used in season two's "New Regime."....[I]t looked great, it moved great, you felt like you were in Russia somewhere and it had tons of great production value. A great moment was Nikita's reaction to Madeline inducing a heart attack....The look is like, "Who are these fucking people?" That's where we try to go a lot.

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