307. "Love and Country"

 #50) Section One suspects a popular politician, Markali, of ties with a terrorist group, and Operations is willing to manipulate his emotionally-unstable ex-wife, Corinne -- who is now Markali's spouse -- in order to destroy the target.
lfnforever briefing
One of the attributes of LFN writing is that not all the questions will be answered by episode's end, or all the loose ends tied up with nice little bows. That's certainly the case with this entry, as viewers are left to judge for themselves whether Operations has an ulterior motive in destroying the target, Markali, in a way that also destroys Markali's wife -- and Operation's ex-wife -- Corrine. One of the show's recurring themes is that the past will always come back to haunt you. Call it karma, if you will, and this episode is heavily laced with it. We learn that after his ordeal as a POW in Vietnam, Operations allowed Corrine (then his wife) to believe him dead and proceeded to work for Section. Both Madeline and Nikita suspect that there's something personal in Operations' willingness to see Corrine manipulated into killing Markali. But what could the reason be? Resentment that she did not remain forever the grieving widow? It's more likely that the scenario gave Larry Hertzog a golden opportunity to show just how ruthless Operations can be. Is that a glimmer of remorse in Operations' face as he watches Corrine, in the final scene, being taken into the sanitorium? For her part, Nikita puts up an uncharacteristically token resistance to playing her role as the seductress who sets Markali up for the quite cunning "biographical leverage" used to push Corrine over the edge. It seems she's becoming more and more like Michael, adopting the "ours is not to reason why" maxim as her own. We don't learn until the end that Markali was, in fact, closely associated with the terrorist group called Badenheim; it might have been more fun if we were left to wonder if Markali had been innocent. Second unit director Ted Hanlan does a credible job in his first go at directing, and Gene Glazer does his usual fine job adding layers to the character of Operations and leaving us wonder -- is he really one of the good guys?

best dialogue
NIKITA: "Markali doesn’t seem to fit the profile we have on him."
MADELINE: "In what way?"
N: "He's not particularly sympathetic to Badenheim. In fact, he hates them."
M: "And you know this because....he told you?"
N: "I know this because you trained me to read people."
M: "You like to believe in people, Nikita. Resist that temptation."
Written by Lawrence Hertzog
Directed by Ted Hanlan
Original airdate: March 21, 1999
July 26, 2001 (France); May 1, 2002 (UK)

guest stars
Cherie Lunghi (Corrine Markali)
David McIlwraith (Nikolai Markali)
Silvio Oliviero (Caspi)
James Binkley (Charles)

Original score by Sean Callery


Czech title: "Laska a venkov"
French title: "Amour et patrie"
German title: "Eine Politische Affare"
Italian title: "Nikolai"
Polish title: "Milosc i Ojczyzna"
Portuguese title: "Amor y pais"
Spanish title: "Amor y patria"

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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
In keeping with La Femme Nikita's tradition of open endings, we get an ambiguously motivated tale to the end. Operations is uncharacteristically forthcoming with the team about his personal connection to the mission right from the beginning. Even Madeline is unsure that Operations' motives are above board and by the episode's end, it remains unclear what his motivations have been, even though it is determined that Markali's ties to the Baddenheim group are deep and long-lived. With nothing more to go on than his gut instinct, Operations takes on George (with whom he seems to be constantly having a phone argument) and Madeline.
Cherie Lunghi guest stars in the less-than-fulfilling role of Corrine, a woman driven nuts by Section trickery. She has a great time chewing up the furniture (and kicking it down and cowering behind it) as she takes Corrine on her descent into a chemically-induced homicidal madness. It is a rare treat to see Madeline in the field outside Section, aptly posing as a shrink. Unfortunately, the promise of seeing these two fine actresses together is never particularly fulfilled. In the final analysis (no pun intended), however, it's a rather tawdry tale (typified by Madeline's assertion that "every man is interested in cheating on his wife") that leans more towards Harlequin than Hitchcock.
Writer Lawrence Hertzog (creator of the excellent but short-lived series Nowhere Man) tightens the tension between Madeline and Operations, and Watson and Glazer have a field day as the bickering couple. Second Unit director Ted Hanlan takes the helm as director for this episode and does create some wonderful moments while generating a claustrophobic and uneasy mood for the episode. One of those great moments occurs when Nikita verbalizes to Birkoff what everyone is wondering about Operations' motives. Operations shoots her a look from across the Great Hall that is virtually demonic.
That Operations was an intelligence officer in the military when he went MIA comes as no great surprise, and it's a nice little bone to throw the audience. But once again we are left with more questions than answers. Is Operations' willingness to sacrifice Corrine done in the name of political rectitude or as a punishment for not remaining the dutiful "little woman"? The episode is an interesting, albeit dubious, essay on domestic fidelity. What is Operations feeling as he observes his incspacitated ex-wife from afar? Does he need to satisfy himself as to the results of [his] manipulations or is he hoping for more than the glimpse of recognition he seems to get? These unanswered questions go a long way towards shoring up the mystery of Operations' power and unworldly strength and mitigating the potential damage of seeing Operations and Madeline as middle management (vulnerable to attacks from everyone from Oversight to Birkoff.)
La Femme Peta, pp 208-210