311. "Walk On By"

 (#55) Nikita discovers that her mother never believed she died in prison and has hired a private detective to locate her, while Walter meets an old flame from the days before he joined Section One.
lfnforever briefing
A highly-charged and gut-wrenchingly emotional episode, "Walk On By" is relatively devoid of real action -- save for the exciting rescue of a captured operative at the beginning -- and yet seems fast-paced because three captivating storylines are intertwined here, and must be resolved. First, Nikita discovers that her mother, refusing to believe that her daughter committed suicide in prison, has hired a private investigator to find her. Second, this information comes from Jamie, someone Nikita knew in her former life and who, as luck would have it, has been "recruited" by Section One. Nikita wants to keep her connection to Jamie a secret, and to buy his silence agrees to help him get through his missions -- easier said than done, since Jamie is prime material for abeyance. The third storyline involves Walter, who tries, on the sly, to contact an old flame in Belize. Learning of this, Operations and Madeline groom a Section op named Beverly to pose as the old flame, in order to learn whether Walter will betray Section. (If anyone doubted  the Machiavellian mindsets of Operations and Madeline, this episode should will make believers out of them.) The first and third storylines are the gut-wrenchers. In the latter, Walter does betray Section, but Operations stops short of ordering his cancellation, feeling -- get this -- a twinge of guilt over the Belinda incident. Instead, we are led to believe that Beverly is done away with, since she lies in an attempt to protect Walter. As for Nikita's mother, she's put permanently off the trail thanks to a brilliant scheme by Michael -- one that is disturbingly reminiscent of Michael's last minutes with his wife Elena. Kudos to Peta Wilson for handling perfectly some of her most dramatic scenes of the series. The moral of the story is clear: You really can't go home again. You can't recapture the past. And one reason is because you aren't the same person you were back then. Fans should note how much Nikita has changed since the first episode; now she seems resigned to the fact that, as per Section's standard operating procedure, her mother will be eliminated if she comes too close to the truth. Only then does Michael step in to save the day -- one of his greatest fears is that life in Section will change Nikita in ways he could not bear to witness. Nikita is one of two great vulnerabilities this super-agent has -- the other being his son, Adam -- and from this point on Michael will increasingly take desperate measures to keep his relationship with Nikita intact. [For trivia lovers: Janet Kidder, daughter of Margot Kidder, who plays Nikita's mother Roberta, appears in this episode in the flashbacks as a young Roberta; she also guest-starred as Vizcano in "Last Mission".]

best dialogue
[In Madeline's office, after learning that Beverly lied to protect Walter]...
OPERATIONS: "Walter betrayed the Section."
MADELINE: "What would you like to do?"
O: "Perhaps he was just purging, and it's a one-time event."
M: "Possible. Or it could be the start of a behavioral change."
O: "No. I'm not going to cancel Walter. I owe him for Belinda."
M: "What would you like to do about Beverly?"
O, on his way out: "Beverly?"
M: "She lied to protect Walter. She must have formed an emotional bond."
O, in an offhand manner: "You're right. Take care of it."
Written by Michael Loceff
Directed by Rene Bonniere
Original airdate: April 25, 1999
August 30, 2001 (France); June 12, 2002 (UK

guest stars
Margot Kidder (Roberta Wirth)
Gabriel Hogan (Jamie)
Janet Kidder (Young Roberta)
Richard Zeppieri (Parness)
Monique Mojica (Beverly)
Hayley Lochner (Young Nikita)

Original score by Sean Callery


Czech title: "Zivot jde dal"
French title: "Un element de passe"
German title: "Erinnerungen"
Italian title: "Roberta"
Portuguese title: "Seguindo em frente"
Spanish title: "Caminado por ahi"

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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
Michael Loceff and Rene Bonniere team up again to deliver a truly heartbreaking story of past lives, identity, and forgiveness. While Madeline and Operations scheme to control Walter's attempt to contact an old girlfriend, they seemingly miss Michael's efforts to help Nikita reconcile with her mother. Michael's new openness (introduced through his invitation to Nikita to share some down time) encourages her to ask for his help. It's a gift of trust and vulnerability that even he cannot turn away from. While the scene is moving, it is also extremely disturbing. Nikita seems willing to abide by the Section rules that would see her mother killed. This submission lends the drama its tragic proportions and, perhaps, influences Michael's decision to help.
Walter's need to connect with his past give us some insight into the long-term effects of working for a place "that doesn't exist." At some point, without that outside reference, he has come to feel that perhaps he also does not exist. His meeting with "Lita" reminds him of a time when he forged an identity in the outside world -- how typical of Walter that his touchstone is one of the heart: an old girlfriend. Of course, identity issues are muddied Section-style for both Walter and Nikita: Beverly poses as Lita, Lita's pictures are altered by Madeline. Nikita disguises herself as a man (with the detective) and as a coma patient (with her mother); and while we learn Nikita's name is Wirth, her worth to Section is still shrouded in mystery ("Outside the Box"). Fiction and real life intersect in the wonderful pictures of a very young Peta Wilson that serve as the few remnants Roberta has left of her daughter.
Margot Kidder is a real treat as Nikita's mother, Roberta Wirth; as is her real life niece, Janet Kidder (Vizcano of "First Mission"), who plays the young Roberta. Margot Kidder's performance is deeply moving, and in only a few scenes she paints a picture of a woman battered by life and so in need of redemption that she searches for a daughter she has been told is long dead and buried. In order to save her mother's life, Nikita must purposefully continue the lie (of her own death) that was forced upon her by Section. And in affording her mother a last chance at forgiveness, she gives up the only thing for which she has ever longed: her mother's love. Nikita's last tie with her old life is finally severed. The tragedy of the losses these two women endure is crushing as Roberta releases her daughter from life and Nikita releases her mother to life. The superlative story by Loceff and affecting direction from Bonniere make "Walk On By" one of the very best hours of La Femme Nikita.
La Femme Peta, pp 221-222
Wayne Morrow makes an interesting connection...
"For what it's worth: The detective hired to find Nikita is named Miles Raymond. Miles Archer is Sam Spade's murdered partner in The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Raymond Chandler is the author of the detective novels featuring Phillip Marlowe."
Coincidence? Or a nod to some of the great detective novels?