(#51) Red Cell kidnaps Nikita and replaces her with a genetically-engineered duplicate who infiltrates Section One. Nikita must help her doppelganger convince Section personnel that she's the real thing -- or Michael will be killed.
The evil "doppelganger" replacing the hero is a spy story convention that nearly every series has succumbed to. But it's doubtful that any have succeeded so well as this episode. The brilliant Dominic (aka The Inquisitor), last seen in "War", is back. Consigned to a wheelchair, thanks to Nikita, he's had two years to bio-engineer a perfect replica of his nemesis. Orchestrating a cunning switch, he sends his creation, Abby, into Section, and forces his captive, Nikita, to guide her through various pitfalls so that she can convince Section's denizens that she's the real thing. If Nikita fails, or tries to tip Section off, Abby will kill Michael. Of course, the audience fully expects Nikita to find some way to expose Abby before too much damage is done, and indeed she does, but at considerable cost -- she has to watch Michael and Abby make love. Abby also uses sex to beguile Birkoff, creating some awkward moments for our favorite cybergeek when he realizes he's been had. For all its predictability, the episode's denouement, in which Abby is exposed and Nikita rescued is very dramatic. The final scene, as is so often the case with LFN, is enigmatic; is it Madeline or Nikita who executes Abby in the White Room? And it's a nice touch when Michael has to look away -- he can't bear to watch the execution, even though he knows it isn't the real Nikita strapped to that steel chair. The fear that one day it will be the real Nikita must be a burden he cannot lay down. Faulkner, of course, is splendid as the urbane but menacing Dominic.
[Birkoff finds Walter after being seduced by Abby]
BIRKOFF: "Walter, I've got to talk to you."
WALTER: "I'm listening."
B: "I think I love Nikita."
W: "Yeah. Yeah, everyone loves Nikita."
B: "No, no, no. I mean really love. And I think it's mutual."
W: "Nikita's falling for you."
B: "She came on to me in the Ready Room."
W: "What? She stroked your hair?"
B: "We made love."
W: "I don't believe it."
B: "Neither do I. But it happened, I swear it....You think I should suggest moving in? Or is it too early? Maybe I should just play it cool."
Written by Ed Horowitz
Directed by Terry Ingram
Original airdate: March 28, 1999
July 19, 2001 (France); May 8, 2002 (UK)
James Faulkner (Dominic/The Inquisitor)
Czech title: "Kocka a mys"
French title: "Le chat et le souris"
German title: "Katz und Maus"
Italian title: "La replicante"
Polish title: "Zabawa w kotka i myszke"
Portuguese title: "Gato e rato"
Spanish title: "El gato y el raton"
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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
The Inquisitor returns. It's great to see James Faulkner again but one has to wonder just why he's been brought back. Lacking the menace of his first appearance in "War," he seems rather toothless in his little wheelchair issuing threats against Michael's life. (Although it is interesting to get Inquisitor's "outside" observation that Nikita is "becoming more confident in [her] work.") As fun as it is to watch, this episode is not particularly tense. By now the audience knows too many of the personal "secrets" that can only, and inevitably do, trip up the impostor and her mentor. Let's not forget that the Inquisitor's files are two years out of date; he was fooled by the relationship two years ago and again here when he, humorously, assumes a normalcy between Nikita and Michael that has never been there. The idea of creating a duplicate Nikita (Abby) and replacing the real one is an intriguing idea -- so fitting as a Red Cell plan -- but the episode airs too soon after the cloning themes of "Imitation of Death."
Still, it really is a fun episode to watch. Writer Ed Horowitz, playing with the all-too-familiar "evil twin" convention, gives us, perhaps, more of a "shadow self" for Nikita as Abby acts out behavior in Nikita's place that is not such a huge stretch of the imagination. Her roll in the hay with Birkoff is a wet-dream-come-true for him that is very sweetly resolved in the final act by Nikita. Abby's night of pleasure with Michael is appropriately upsetting for the viewer and creates an awkwardness for Nikita and Michael -- the effects of which remain unclear in the final scene.
By remaining within the confines of a credible storyline, the episode gives "Abby," and consequently Wilson herself, little room to explore a distinctly different character. Abby's deception allows for only subtle betrayals of character such as the occasional sly grin to remind us that she is very pleased with herself. It is a shame that Wilson is not given the same opportunity to play against type as Dupuis had in playing an amnesiac Michael in "Not Was."
Rocco Matteo's simple yet visually striking set is shot from above affording a full view of Nikita (on a leash!) within her circle of movement and creating a visual metaphor for her life inside Section. In the final showdown, she uses her restricted motion effectively as a weapon to lash out and disarm her captor (yet another metaphor for Nikita's current penchant for working within her boundaries). The snappy editing from Richard Wells, as our point of view shifts between Nikita and Abby, is admirably seamless.
And we are treated to another classic La Femme Nikita open ending. Does Nikita follow Madeline's advice and execute Abby and, therefore, her alter ego/shadow-self/self (a sight we've already had in another form when Abby shoots Nikita with the dart)? And what will be the lasting effects of such an experience? Abby's presence was not merely a displacement and a violation, but also a possession of sorts which Madeline proposes can only be exorcised through violence (this of course says more about Madeline than the possession). And what of Nikita's torturer? One thing is certain: The sight of Abby/Nikita's cancellation is more than Michael has the stomach for as he averts his gaze in the final shot.
La Femme Peta, pp 210-212