310. "Under the Influence"

(#54) Nikita poses as the wife of a brainwashed terrorist, and is shocked to discover that she's falling in love with the man in spite of the horrible things he's done, while Operations must deal with the murder of his son, Stephen.
lfnforever briefing
Just when you thought Section One couldn't get any more diabolical -- here they come with a scheme to condition Nikita so that she'll feel affection for one of the most despicable villains in the series. Karl Peruze is exceeded in his villainy only by brother Simon, played with gleeful malevolence by wrestler Val Venis. They're trying to sell anthrax rockets to a terrorist called Hassan. Section One is determined to stop them. Karl is captured and his memory is "erased" so that Nikita can infiltrate "Black Sun" as his fiancee. Little does she know that she's also the subject of an alpha test of something called The Casper Project. Once again Michael plays Operations' faithful lieutenant; he doesn't seem particularly bothered by the fact that the conditioning will cause Nikita to fall in love with someone else. In fact, he electronically eavesdrops on the most intimate moments shared by Karl and Nikita without any apparent distress. Nikita gives his face a good slap for being involved in this, the latest in a series of violations visited upon her by Section. But at least Operations has to suffer in this episode, as well. He discovers that a green-listed terrorist named Martelli has killed his son Steven ("Missing"). He has his revenge, and gets away with killing Martelli in George's presence thanks to the cunning and craft of Madeline, who has planted evidence "proving" that Martelli has been embezzling funds from Section. (One has to wonder, though, if George bought that, or was just playing along for his own nefarious purposes.) Writer Lenkov has his share of cunning and craft, too, penning a fast-paced thriller that has most viewers willing to overlook a few holes in the plot logic. For example, in "Missing" Operations went to great lengths to keep his relationship to Steven Wolfe a secret from all of Section. And yet now, inexplicably, both Birkoff and Madeline know who Steven is. Nitpicking aside, this is a solid and enjoyable entry.

best dialogue
NIKITA: "You manipulated me. I slept with him!"
MADELINE: "We had to make sure your cover stayed intact."
N: "So, how long was this going to go on for, huh?"
M: "Youíll have your own emotions back when this is over. In the meantime, donít fight it. Come in, Michael."
(Michael enters Madeline's office.)
N, to Michael: "You knew it all along, did you? Donít you ever get tired of being their errand boy, Michael?" (She slaps him) Thatís courtesy of my own free will."
Written by Peter M. Lenkov
Directed by Rick Jacobson
Original airdate: April 17, 1999
August 2, 2001 (France); May 29, 2002 (UK)

guest stars
Val Venis (Simon Peruze)
Alan Van Sprang (Karl Peruze)
David Hemblen (George)

 "Eden," Hooverphonics

The Cherry Street Restaurant serves as the exterior of Karl's and Nikita's hideout.

Czech title: "Pod vlivem"
French title: "Sous l'influence"
German title: "Die Perez Bruder"
Italian title: "Libero arbitrio"
Polish title: "Pod wplywem"
Portuguese title: "Sob influencia"
Spanish title: "Bajo la influencia"

guest reviews
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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
Just when you thought you were beginning to understand the depths of Madeline and Operations' plots, along comes the "Casper Project," the hilariously named plan to tie Nikita and Michael together and indoctrinate Nikita with thoughts of love, duty, obedience, and trust through the use of subliminal images. One has to wonder whether Michael has the same influences working on his psyche. The scheme, we learn, has been in effect for over a year, so the timeline begs one question: Why bother to keep them together when so much overt energy has been spent in keeping them apart? Or is this all part of Operations' larger plan to control the pair through his threatened system of rewards and punishments? It is likely that the exercise of control is its own goal -- it is certainly succinctly telegraphed in the first shot of Nikita wearing her leash-like choker!
Peta Wilson does some wonderful work here. She is heartbreaking in her crisis scene when she awakens in bed next to Karl, distraught at the notion that she has just slept with him. The true level of her horror is not fully evident until her scene with Walter, as she tells him of her out-of-control emotions and he explains their source. For the third time in four episodes, she has become the victim of a shocking violation. It is clear that for her this violation has been the deepest yet, attacking the very core of her being, the one place she felt she was free of Section's influence and choices. Wilson also shines in the shocking and truthful scene in which she slaps Michael for his part in the manipulation. The moment epitomizes the central conflict of her free will and his obedience.
Peter Lenkov's imaginative story boldly calls into question one of the series' primary conceits: the Nikita-Michael love story. Consequently, it is easy to forgive him several serious plot holes. (How does Karl get to Simon's location? He certainly couldn't have asked him where they both have been living. And how is it that Birkoff and Madeline are aware of Steven Wolfe's identity when Operations went to such pains to keep it a secret in "Missing"?) Once again, we are treated to some classic larger-than-life villains in Karl and Simon Peruze (played by wrestler Val Venis). They are monstrous in their delight in torture, murder, and rape. Alan Van Spring is wonderful as Karl, believable both as the ruthless terrorist and the pliant amnesiac. The often touchy issue of memory loss accompanied by a personality change is handled well here. Van Spring's scenes with Alberta Watson are fabulous; particularly humorous is Karl's attack on Madeline's vanity as she is rejected by her observant prisoner in the White Room.
In the powerful subplot, Operations learns that his son Steven Wolfe has been murdered by the "green-listed" Martelli. Eugene Robert Glazer is wonderful as he wanders ashen-faced through Section while awaiting his opportunity to avenge his son's death. Hard upon the heels of the loss of his ex-wife to madness (however orchestrated by Operations himself) comes the death of his son. With no remaining family to "humanize" Operations or his motivations, his already intense and problematic relationship with Madeline runs the risk of becoming our sole window into his character. Madeline's political savvy is evident yet again as she allows Operations to have his cake and eat it too, while winning favor with George (and even keeping the budget-cutting administration at bay). Her protection of Operations is not dissimilar to Nikita's protection of Michael in "Gates of Hell." The issue of Steven's death raises one of the series' central paradoxes: how does one reconcile private sacrifice with the public good, personal revenge with political ambition?
La Femme Peta, pp 218-220