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317. "Third Party Ripoff"

        
(#62) Hoping to force Michael to choose Section One over his romance with Nikita, Madeline convinces Operations to strip him of his Level 5 status, but when a mission goes awry Michael is called upon to take charge of it.
lfnforever briefing

best dialogue
[Walter and Birkoff quarrel over Valerie]
WALTER: "Something happening this weekend?"
BIRKOFF: "Valerie. Things are really working out. I canít believe it took me this long to discover older women. I mean, sheísÖ."
W: "When this weekend?"
B: "What?"
W: "What night?"
B: "Sunday."
W: "Not Saturday?"
B: "No, she has plans. Dinner with a girlfriend."
W: "Dinner with a girlfriend. Thatís what she said?"
B: "I think so. Whatís the problem?"
W: "Youíre the problem! Valerieís going out with me on Saturday night."
B: "What?"
W: "Just like last weekend and the weekend before that."
B: "Walter, I didnít know that."
W: "No, of course not. Youíve been so busy with your little techie toys in there, you could even see that thereís something between me and her right underneath your nose."
B: "Well, IÖ"
"W: "You what?"
B: "Iím sorry."
W: "You should feel sorry for yourself, because you havenít got the chops to hang onto her."
B: "What the hell does that mean?"
W: "Look, save yourself the letdown and just take it like a gentleman."
B: "Oh, you think sheís going to dump me for you?"
W: "Youíre not even there for the dumping. Seymour."
Written by Michael Loceff
Directed by T.J. Scott
Original airdate: August 1, 1999
October 11, 2001 (France); July 30, 2002 (UK)

guest stars
Lawrence Bayne (Davenport)
Mike Beaver (Mills)
Soo Garay (Valerie)
Mark Lutz (McDaniel)

music
"Release," Afro-Celt Sound System with Sinead O'Connor

locations
Exteriors for the "ripoff sequence" were filmed outside Toronto's Union Station.


Czech title: "Tresti do hry"
French title: "L'arnaque"
German title: "Degradiert"
Italian title: "Il terzo incomodo"
Portuguese title: "Um terceiro ladrao"
Spanish title: "El tercero que roba"


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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
In this second of two tales of power, ambition, and identity, writer Michael Loceff offers us a brilliant character study of the enigmatic Michael. (Other members of the cast come under the magnifying glass -- quite literally as T.J. Scott frames several shots through the ubiquitous monitor lenses.) Even more fascinating than Loceff's second season "Not Was" -- in which Michael, stripped of his memory, exhibited humanity, insecurities, and a personal value system eerily similar to Nikita's -- this episode pares away Michael's worldly trappings and reveals a man struggling with how the world sees him, how he sees himself, and how he is perceived by Nikita. With the lessons of "All Good Things" behind him (Nikita's distaste for him in a power position) he seems willing to give it all up in order to hold on to his lover. It is believable that his true goal is to do whatever he does well, including loving Nikita. But it is also clear that, status aside, Michael's creativity in the field is second nature and he can no sooner deny it than stop breathing.
It is chilling to learn the statistics on Madeline's concerns about a dropping "efficiency rate." It must have come as something of a blow to the ego for Nikita to learn that Michael's rate has dropped less than 1 1/2 percent! It does, however, speak to Michael's indisputable discipline and control. Nikita should realize by now that the alliance is seen more as a political threat than an operational one. Madeline plays it out like a game, even naming her strategy the "hard wedge." The fact that it's even named implies that such an eventuality has been anticipated and planned for. One might well wonder if the "hard wedge" is also Madeline's reaction to or revenge for being administratively castrated by Michael in "All Good Things." Once again, it seems doubtful that she can see the world except through the lens of her own reality of power politics.
In a parallel subplot Birkoff and Walter experience a softer "wedge" in the form of Valerie, the new Section profiler. When the sexual competition commences, the two friends lash out at each other using technical and computer prowess and their age difference as darts. Birkoff redeems himself when he defends Walter's honor, ignorant of the fact that Walter has already moved on to greener and even younger pastures. Walter is definitely ready to earn Madeline's observation (in "Playing With Fire") that he is "a sixty-year-old teenager"!
T.J. Scott is ready to make full use of another one of Rocco Matteo's ever-creative club sets. Nikita in copper hair, a copper dress, sparkles, and lucite shoes enters the '60s/'70s plastic pop wonderland filled with transparent and peek-a-boo dance tubes, lit tubular tables, and retro furniture; distracting the bad guys with a little shimmy and shake.
"Third Party Ripoff" is also notable for its introduction of a substantial and, so far, likeable secondary cast member, Davenport (played by Lawrence Bayne). Davenport, in the thankless role of Michael's replacement, is apologetic when Michael makes a rapid descent through the ranks to backup team. Davenport is an interesting choice for the job when you think about it: he is careful with Michael and doesn't make a fool of him in front of McDaniel (in the surprising alpha dog contest). He makes rather a soft play in the so-called "hard wedge," f inally deferring to Michael mid-mission without ego or protest.
With the love scenes discreetly played out off-camera, the audience at least gets the bubble-bath scene. Tenderness more than heat is evident as Nikita and Michael talk shop after a long day "at the office." The dramatic choice is intriguing, and it eventually pays off in the season's final scene.
La Femme Peta, pp 240-43