112. "Innocent"

(#12) Terrorists smuggle a nuclear device onto American soil, and the sole witness is a simple-minded pizza delivery man. Section One thinks he's a security risk, but Nikita is determined to prevent his cancellation.
lfnforever briefing

best dialogue
NIKITA, walking up to Birkoff at his station in Communications: "What are you doing?"
BIKOFF: "I'm trying out a new Hartley transformer on these surveillance images."
N: "Weren't you doing this when I saw you this morning?"
B: "No. This morning I was trying out a Fourier transformer."
N: "So, how did you get like this, Birkoff?"
B: "Like what? A cybergeek? Hey, technology is beautiful. You just haven't taken the time to appreciate it."
N: "No, I just prefer the real world."
B: "Which part? The lies? Or all the idiots?"
N: "Oooh. A little cynical, Birkoff?"
B: "Whatever."
N: How did you get in the Section?"
B: "I killed my entire family. (He smiles at her expression)  I'm kidding. Just my sister."

Written by Michael Loceff
Directed by George Bloomfield
Original airdate: April 21, 1997 (USA)
August 2, 1998 (France); November 29, 1997 (UK)

guest stars
Maury Chaykin (Rudy)
John Evans (Guy Maygar), Doru Bandol (Kassar)
Traci Miller (Belinda)
Derek Keurvorst (George)
Lindsay Collins (Medical Operative)
Michael J. Reynolds (General)

"Precedent," In The Nursery


Czech title: "Nevinny"
French title: "L'innocent"
German title: "Der Super-Gau"
Italian title: "Innocente"
Portuguese title: "Inocente"
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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
Loceff's script offers some interesting pairings: Nikita and Birkoff (giving us back story on Birkoff, exploiting the sibling-like relationship and developing their humorous banter), Rudy and Michael (the sharp contrast between Rudy's literalism and Michael's impenetrable seriousness in hilarious), and Rudy and Belinda (Bloomfield directs Traci Miller and Chaykin in a truly touching scene that is intimate, personal, and particular; a contrast to the series' signature high style).
"Innocent" succeeds largely because Maury Chaykin's performance as Rudy (for which he won a Gemini Award) is effortlessly funny and improvisational in style. Unfortunately, the urgency of the political and nuclear threat is never really conveyed in a convincing way. Conventional shots of a timer counting down are insufficient to compensate for a general lack of suspense. Proving the old adage that it is easier to care about the suffering of one person than a thousand, the truly tense moment presents itself when we believe, like Nikita, that Rudy is lost and the code needed to disarm the bomb has been lost along with him. That Operations would have the time (let alone that he would bother) to order Rudy's death during the "crisis" stretches believability to the limit.
Eugene Robert Glazer, however, does justice to a beautifully shot old-style spy meeting in the tradition of LeCarre or Deighton. An alley in the dead of night, the snow falling, green and purple lighting underscored by the band In The Nursery -- all evoke the Cold War era. John Evans is completely credible as the slimy, weak traitor Guy Maygar, all spit and sobs as he spills the beans.
La Femme Peta, pp 121-123

Ted Edwards' "behind the scenes" look at this episode
Of this episode, story editor Michael Loceff noted online, "The first draft of 'Innocent' was very much like the final. It had a few scenes that needed to be cut for production['s] sake, and other minor changes were made, but in the end it turned out to be one of the scripts whose first draft hit fairly close to the target. Interestingly, the original story line called for more of a streetwise troublemaker. The moment I started in on the teaser, however, I hit on the idea of a rather simple -- but 'wise' -- pizza driver, and the rest of the script came into focus very quickly. That was a fun script to write. I was very pleased with how it turned out. Our guest star, Maury Chaykin, interpreted Rudy brilliantly. On the other hand, I was a little disappointed in the first-act action, before we meet Rudy. The towing of the jet and process shots of the warhead being off-loaded were void of emotional content and I should have worked in more character during that sequence to get to the real story sooner."
There was some debate over the conclusion of the episode, and whether or not Rudy should be canceled. Ultimately, Joel Surnow, who noted in an interview that he is not a "mean" guy or writer, decided that Rudy should live, although he was surprised to see how negatively the show's core fan base reacted to this violation of Section policy. "That told us something about our fans," he said, "which was that they liked how hard and dark we were playing the show and how laser ruthless the Section was."
La Femme Nikita X-Posed, pp 73-74

Joel Surnow's POV

We had played the her-wanting-to-get-out-of-Section card for the first seven episodes pretty heavily and along the way we learned one of the best places to put her is protecting an innocent person. We loved "Friend" but "Friend" had the twist of her not really being an innocent person. So we wanted to go balls to the wall and have her protect the most vulnerable person in the world, who we made this slow guy who wasn't anything but a grown-up child. There was beginning to be too much self-centeredness in the show. One of the things I learned from Nowhere Man is that I felt it was a little too much about "me, me, me", and I think an audience can relate to that but it doesn't particularly make you heroic. At the end of the day, I think your series leads have to be heroic on some level. It's like The Fugitive in that he's on the run, but he always ends up helping people....Anyway, we got very lucky. We got Maury Cha[y]kin who is the nephew of the director, George Bloomfield, and in some ways I think it was our best script of the season. It just read really smartly. It had a really good emotional hook.

We went against our...Section policy of eliminating someone who had seen Section. We just didn't have the heart to kill this guy. Also, we don't want to become too predictable, that every time one thing happens then a certain thing is the response. Then you lose the sense of where the writers will go. Surprisingly, our core audience did not like that aspect of the show. That also told us where another strong element of our fans are, which is that they like how hard and dark we were playing the show, and how laser-ruthless the Section was. I don't think they're right. They complain when you don't get your leads together, and they complain when you do. It was observational. It wasn't anything that led us to believe we made the wrong choice, because I don't think we did.

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