319. "Any Means Necessary"

 (#63) Operations sends Birkoff to infiltrate a terrorist cult specializing in computer hacking, but when Birkoff is exposed, the leader of the cult forces him to steal information from Section's computers.
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best dialogue
[After Nikita met with Birkoff and walked into an ambush] OPERATIONS: "You acted in violation of Section protocol."
NIKITA: "He said there was a problem. He thought he’d become a security risk. He was afraid to contact you."
O: "So you took matters into your own hands?"
N: "I did what I thought was best for Section. I thought that I could keep his mission on track."
O:"We’ll talk about that later. In the meantime, it’s fairly obvious that his mission has failed. He’s gone over."
MICHAEL: "How do you want to handle it?"
O: "The Soldats de la Liberte needs to be taken out of play."
N: "What about Birkoff?"
O: "Birkoff has become a liability. Bring Jean-Marc in for debriefing; we’ll proceed tonight."
N: "You can’t do this. Birkoff couldn’t...."
O: "He’s gone over Nikita. Now do you see any other way that we can deal with this?"
N: "I see that you set him up for this. You knew he was in over his head. You knew he couldn’t handle it, and when he fails, you send Michael after him."
O: "We have an operative who’s turned. I see no further need to discuss it."
Written by Lawrence Hertzog
Directed by David Straiton
Original airdate: August 8, 1999
October 25, 2001 (France); August 6, 2002 (UK)

guest stars
Kris Lemche (Greg Hillinger)
Colombe Demers (Mia)
Andrew Gillies (Jean-Marc Lesaux)
Christian Potenza (Reuben)

Original score by Sean Callery

Birkoff's undercover apartment was located in one of the buildings at the Gooderham and Worts Distillery (used before in "Rescue"); the "Dockside Bar" was located in an alley on the west side of #6 Adelaide Street East (a scene also used previously, when a disguised Nikita rescued Julie from killers in "Friend").

Czech title: "Boj o zivot"
French title: "Tous les moyens sont bons"
German title: "Der Uberlaufer"
Italian title: "Birkoff"
Portuguese title: "O que for necessario"
Spanish title: "Pour cualquier medio"
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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
Matthew Ferguson really shines in this episode as he takes Birkoff on a voyage through hell. Under the pressures of fighting Hillinger on his own, Birkoff loses it big time. Strangely, he has isolated himself, not asking for Nikita's help in spite of all the help he's given her in the past. It seems Nirkoff has a battlefield no less dangerous than the operatives'. Director David Straiton joins the series and make a stylish debut here, particularly during Birkoff's "meltdown" scene. Straiton employs an effective and eerie technique, switching between video and film and using slow motion for just a couple of beats to convey Birkoff's disorientation.
Operations has been gunning for Birkoff since the beginning of the season but surely his reaction is overkill. Why would Operations put someone who knows Section's systems so intimately out in the field, so exposed? If Birkoff were to be turned after being abandoned by one father figure and "nurtured" by another, he would be a liability of the first order. Ironically, under better conditions the mission might have been tailor-made to Birkoff's skills.
Good blocking, as Birkoff brings Nikita up to speed from opposite doorways, emphasizes the lack of privacy in the fish bowl environment of Section. It also points out the adaptability of its inhabitants. Birkoff seems to understand absolute power, absolutely. He had no illusions about Michael when he took control of Section and here again he proves himself well able to process extreme scenarios, Section politics, and Operations' capriciousness.
The action sequence in the bar and even the phone call between Nikita and Birkoff contain some nice touches. Ferguson does a lot with his eyes. Birkoff telegraphs the ambush to Nikita with his eyes, giving her the split-second she needs to survive. When he phones her to set up the meeting he is wearing glasses to talk to Nikita, and he takes them off to talk to Rousseau. The move can be read as a cue to believe in Birkoff (one face for Nikita and one for Rousseau) and it can be read as remorse (Birkoff doesn't want to see himself in the mirror after he sets events in motions). The glasses also act as a toolto control Birkoff. Rousseau returns them like a gift when he's sure of Birkoff's compliance. Unfortunately, Jean-Marc Rousseau, the self-styled father figure and dapper, smooth villain, never proves particularly charismatic. Ferguson does all the work selling the question of wthether or not Birkoff's gone over to the other side.
Lawrence Hertzog's last script of the season is an essay in how to fight a superior foe and survive -- Birkie style. Birkoff is emerging as quite a dark horse this season, but his fair-play treatment of Hillinger is coming back to haunt him. It is fascinating to watch Birkoff map out the logic of how he has done his job and why he shouldn't be canceled. He has a faith in what he knows best: logic, literalism, and straight lines. He believes they will save him and they do, and he is able to match Operations move for move ("My orders were to get in and stay there....You gave the order to take me out, sir") like a chess game. And he wins the game of semantics and logic, never once making an appeal to sentiment. Where Nikita or Walter would have argued fairness and humanity, Birkoff argues outcome and orders because at some level he puts his faith in the same things Operations does. The whole experience changes his sense of survival, as we will see.
La Femme Peta, pp 243-46