407. "Sympathy for the Devil"

 (# 73) Operations dispatches Nikita and Michael to protect Willie Kane, the man who rescued him from a POW camp in Vietnam, while Birkoff tries to find out why he has no recollection of life outside Section One.
lfnforever briefing
We have Gene Glazer to thank for the fact that Operations is the multi-faceted character he's turned out to be; initially, the producers had no intention of providing the head of Section One with a backstory. Glazer, having long been interested in the story of American POWs in Vietnam, persisted and prevailed -- and in this episode, one of the best of Season 4, we learn of Paul Wolfe's experiences in Vietnam. It goes far in explaining why Operations is the tough-minded, ruthless and resourceful "defender of the realm" that he is. As if that isn't enough to mark "Sympathy for the Devil" as an especially important entry, the subplot is equally as revelatory; Birkoff not only learns that he has a brother, he also discovers that Walter is the man responsible for his spending an entire lifetime within Section. It seems Section opted for conducting a psychological experiment, comparing Birkoff's development within the organization to that of his brother, who was given a normal life "outside". And it was Walter who chose which of the children would stay and which would be set free. While both Matthew Ferguson and Gene Glazer have opportunities to show off their impressive dramatic talents, it's Don Francks who shines most of all. If he has learned anything in his 30-plus years in Section, Walter knows how to survive. He also knows that in the shadow world of Section One, the truth will not set you free. While he cannot prevent Birkoff from learning the shocking truth of his own history, Walter is able to preserve Operations' 25-year-old illusion that he owes Willie Kane for saving his life in Vietnam. And Walter demonstrates that he can be as ruthless as the best (or worst) of them when he guns Kane down before the drifter can shatter that illusion. Thanks to on-the-mark writing and crisp directing, there's plenty of time devoted to both of these emotionally-charged storylines, and a good bit of action besides. In short, the episode works on every level. And yes, there is a Paul Wolfe on the wall at the Vietnam Memorial. A coicidence? Perhaps. But we wouldn't be surprised if giving Operations that name was Glazer's tribute to the heroes who never came home from the war.

best dialogue
[Operations confronting Mafia boss Bonaventure] OPERATIONS: "You have capos in New York, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles. Failure to comply will result in their elimination."
BONAVENTURE: "Failure to comply? Up yours. (To one of his men) Make sure nobody finds this mook."
O: "Your nephew Francis is living in Sicily, avoiding the police. When was the last time you spoke to him?"
B: "Nobody -- nobody! -- could get to Frankie. I got twenty guys watching him. They move him around every other day. Hell, even I don't know where he is most of the time. All I got is a cell phone number."
O: "Before you dispose of me, maybe you should give him a call."
B, on the phone: "Yeah. Yeah, it's me. Put Frankie on the phone.... (He lowers the phone, shocked)  They popped Frankie four hours ago. Twenty guys guarding the place didn't see a damn thing. That was my baby brother's kid. Who the hell are you?"
O: "You have two hours. This dump might be your house, Carlo. Everything else -- everything outside this door -- that's mine."
Written by Lawrence Hertzog
Directed by Brad Turner
Original airdate: March 5, 2000 (USA)
February 7, 2002 (France); November 28, 2002 (UK)

guest stars
Stephen McHattie (Willie Kane)
Russell Yuen (Tran Van Lin)
Bonaventure (James Purcell)

"In-A-Gadda-da-Vida," Iron Butterfly


Czech title: "Nikdo nezije vecne"
French title: "Sympathie pour le diable"
Italian title: "Patto con il diavolo"
Portuguese title: "Simpatia pelo diabo"

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