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321. "On Borrowed Time

        
 (#66) Operations decides to put an end to the romantic trysts that Nikita and Michael are arranging during missions, and approves Madeline's experiment to "adjust" Nikita so that she'll no longer care for Michael.
lfnforever briefing
It's been a rough year for Michael; he has lost Elena and Adam -- and in this episode he loses Nikita. Operations and Madeline know that Michael and Nikita have been stealing time during missions, and they conspire to send the lovebirds on a mission for the sole purpose, it seems, of "adjusting" Nikita with a technique that robs her of emotions. They also go through the pretense of sending Walter into "retirement," which, is, rumor has it, not something to be looked forward to, as it consists of medical experiments and harvested body parts. Birkoff steps up and sacrifices Dennis Giles, Walter's replacement -- by sabotaging Munitions and making it look like it was Giles' fault -- in order to get Walter back into Section, only to discover that all the stories about retirement were, apparently, wrong. Walter is actually upset that he has been brought back into the fold! We also learn that Walter has been with Section for 35 years, and that Michael has trained"a thousand operatives" (which might be a bit of hyperbole, as that would break down to over one hundred a year since he has been with Section; as you may recall, we know, thanks to "I Remember Paris," that Michael has been with Section for nine years at this point.) The final scene doesn't just tug at the heartstrings -- it rips them apart, as Michael realizes that Nikita has been turned into an emotionless automaton. He vows that "they" -- meaning Operations and Madeline -- won't get away with it. And so the stage is set for Season Four, when Section and Red Cell go to war, George and Operations play a particularly deadly (and occasionally ludicrous) form of office politics, and Michael and Nikita have their hands full staying alive since Operations seems determined to send them on what amount to suicide missions.

best dialogue
MADELINE: "You're going to be adjusted."
NIKITA: "You've done this before. It doesn't last."
M: "This procedure is quite different from anything you've previously experienced. It involves chemical stimuli combined with electro..."
N: "I'm a human being. I can't be erased, like a computer program."
M: "We'll see."
Written by Peter M. Lenkov
Directed by Ted HanlanOriginal airdate: August 29, 1999
November 15, 2001 (France); August 28, 2002 (UK)

guest stars
Elias Zarou (Damon Arel)
Andrew Kraulis (Giles)
Steve Cumyn (Kellner)

music
"This Strange Effect," Hooverphonics

locations
--


Czech title: "Vypujceni casu"
French title: "Et pendant le travail!"
German title: "Gezahlte Tag"
Italian title: "temp rubato"
Portuguese title: "No tempo pedido"
Spanish title: "En tiempo prestado"


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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
Desire seems to be clouding Nikita and Michael's judgment, for as soon as they are away on a mission Walter is sent to Retirement and Nikita is "adjusted." Michael's intuition might be acute enough to spot the Section agent at Genefex, but he completely misreads Operations' tolerance levels.
In the second part of the third season finale not one but two big questions, raised by Nikita as early as her arrival in Section, are addressed, though not entirely answered: Why hasn't she been canceled yet and what happens to older operatives who outlive their usefulness. Walter, the keeper of Section history, trivia, and gossip tells Birkoff that the prevailing myth is that Retirement is a hell of medical experiments, pain tolerance tests, and harvested body parts. That's one heck of a way to keep operatives motivated and productive! No doubt feeling more than his share of guilt over Walter's last close call, Birkoff assures Walter he will rescue him somehow. Birkoff seems to have overcome his fear of Operations, at least when it comes to saving Walter, because he enters the lion's den to enumerate the many reasons why they should avoid doing "permanent" damage. Operations' amusement is understandable when Birkoff learns the whole exercise has been a test and a means to keep Walter out of the loop. Giles, Walter's replacement, is young, soft-spoken, bespectacled, and could pass for Birkoff's brother. But having sent Hillinger to abeyance and survived Operations' plan to dispose of him, Birkoff is ready to sacrifice Giles if it means saving Walter. Quite a difference from the young man who cowered in his room begging Nikita not to kill him in "Noise."
The question of why Nikita is inside Section and why she has been allowed to live is addressed by Madeline immediately before she attempts to, at best, "adjust" or at worst remove the very quality Section claims to value in Nikita. There is something insane about Madeline's assertion that Section values Nikita's desire to "live life to the fullest" and something sad about her admission of envy. If we are to take George's word that Operations is devoid of emotion and accept Madeline's self-doubts from as early as "Gambit," then just what kind of monsters are these two? Human compassion and desire haven't been removed from their rule book; they weren't even factors in the equation to begin with.
Wilson and Dupuis end the season with one of the most painful scenes to date. Nikita in her white jacket, unkempt hair, 50-yard stare, and mindless painting looks like a candidate for the rubber room. What a difference from the angry, determined, and therapeutic apartment renovation of the second season. as though they've turned off a light, Madeline and Operations' "adjustment" seems to have taken root; Nikita has been re-made in their image as a hollow sheel without feeling. Her repetition of "nothing" echoes like a Shakespearean tragedy. Feelings, desire, connection, and even her skin don't work. She and Michael have exchanged roles: he has virtually blossomed into a tender, compassionate man (at least with Nikita) and she has become a picture of Section efficiency, a "formidable operative" and that is all. Echoing Birkoff's pledge to Walter, Michael vows to rescue Nikita. After a year of loss -- the loss of his son, the loss of his wife -- it remains to be seen how Michael will deal with this new blow.
La Femme Peta, pp 252-53