115. "Obsessed"

(#15) Michael is assigned the task of seducing the emotionally vulnerable wife of a powerful hitman who possesses "The Book," top secret information that could prove very embarrassing to certain governments.
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best dialogue
MICHAEL: "What is it, Nikita?"
NIKITA, referring to Lisa: "Michael, she's a nice woman. She loves you. You? -- you're going to destroy her."
M: "She's not in love with me. She'd feel the same way about any man that treated her well."
N: "I see. So that makes it okay?"
M: "If you feel so concerned about her, tell her to break up with me. She trusts you. She'll listen. But first make sure you're willing to watch more innocent people die while we stand by and do nothing. Because that's what will happen if we don't get the Book."

Written by Robert Cochran
Directed by T.J. Scott
Original airdate: July 20, 1997 (USA)
September 4, 1999 (France); December 19, 1997 (UK)

guest stars
Yvonne Scio (Lisa Fanning)
Douglas O'Keeffe (David Fanning)
Tommy Chang (Lollar)
Kelly Fiddick (Thorn)

"Number One Crush," Garbage
"Woman," In The Nursery


Czech title: "Pozedlost"
French title: "Obsession"
German title: "Besessen"
Italian title: "Obsessione"
Portuguese title: "Obecado"
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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
T. J. Scott's sunny and light-filled episode is a real change of pace for La Femme Nikita. It gives Roy Dupuis the welcome opportunity to drop the stylized persona of Michael (not to mention his somber black clothing) and further establish his leading-man status and his considerable sexual appeal for the show's female audience. Michael's character is also given some room for growth. He is aware of the emotional paradox of exploiting Lisa's vulnerability in order to protect it. All too often he is Section's puppet, but here he makes a dangerous and private decision to balance the books by skimming some money from Fanning's accounts for Lisa. Not only does this act reveal a sense of justice previously unseen; it also reveals his professional acumen in embezzling the funds without leaving tracks for Section to follow.
Yvonne Scio fully captures the delicate nature of the abused and childlike Lisa. Low-angle camera shots of Fanning's heavy shoes reinforce the idea of a child's perspective, or at the very least that of a subservient. "#1 Crush," Garbage's song of obsessive love, sets the stage for Fanning's abusive, possessive relationship with his wife. Scott takes full advantage of Scio's beauty in the computer-theft scene, but it is a little overdone. She glides through the endless halls in flowing robes, every inch the romantic heroine in peril. We don't escape reality for long; Lisa's beating in the second act is brutal and all the more affecting because it is off-camera, allowing the viewer to imagine the worst. Lisa's pain is registered in the eyes of Matthew Ferguson and Roy Dupuis as they listen from Section's command center. Her suicide attempt is entirely consistent, as Scio makes it wholly believable that Lisa thinks she somehow deserves the abuse she is suffering at the hands of Nikita and Michael.
Nikita takes a back seat for most of the episode, but even she is not immune to Section manipulation. The mission also seems designed to provoke a jealous response from Nikita, doubtless a handy secondary benefit for Section management. But what fan doesn't get a huge kick out of Nikita beating the snot out of Fanning? One of La Femme Nikita's great attractions: wish fulfillment by proxy.
La Femme Peta, pp 128-130

Ted Edwards' "behind the scenes" look at this episode
Director T.J. Scott, who recently helmed his first feature film, the forthcoming Legacy...was at the helm for this episode and described online his experience. "I was able to do what I wanted with the episodes as far as creating a little bit of a different look and feel for each one that I did," he explained. "They didn't hold me back, they let it be edgy, they let it be a little bit European. It has a European feel to it in terms of Rocco Matteo's art direction. It's a little bit retro but also into the future. The reference point(s) we used when they were creating the sets and costumes [were] France and London. What's hip in Europe right now? What's going on over there? Let's see what the Europeans are doing and bring it into the show. What they did differently from the movie is that you don't know where Section is. You think you're in North America, so here's this sort of retro and hip European feel in North America, and it really throws you off balance and you don't know where you are.
"We set up this real cold, high-end, wife-beating hit man named Fanning, played by Doug O'Keefe. Nikita bypasses the security team posing as fitness trainer to his wife. Meanwhile, Michael is seducing his wife and gets incriminating information from her. The episode deals with mental and physical spousal abuse, in a really ballsy way. We showed the abuse; we feel for the woman through Nikita, but then she stands by and watches. The Section uses the abuse to their advantage by working Michael in. Michael comes off as this cold, manipulative kind of guy, and it's tough having your star do that. The characters on that show, including the guest stars, really got into their parts. Because the writers have given them so much to bite into, so much true stuff, they seem to really -- more than any show I've been on -- jump in....[In] one of the abusing scenes between Doug O'Keefe and Yvonne, the performance[s were] so riveting and believable when we watched it, we as the crew members got totally caught up in it and we thought that we'd...seen almost the real thing....
"The technique I used in that episode, knowing that's what we wanted, we went handheld on a lot of it. We tried to keep it real edgy and off-kilter and really feeling like you've never got your feet firmly on the ground....In an episode like that, the characters are off balance, too, because Nikita just wanted to do something and couldn't. I always tend to direct an episode from one of the character's point of view. We sort of take what they're feeling and use that in the camera techniques. So really it was coming from Nikita....This is getting to her so much, the fact that this woman is being abused in front of her. And the camera just pulls away...because Nikita has to pull away from it to preserve her own sanity...."
Part of the intent of this episode was to expand Michael's ability to be a leading man....As Joel Surnow told Cinescape, "It exploited two things: Roy's sex appeal and his ability to really attract women who watch the show; and it showed how ruthless he is in terms of Section One. We had T.J. Scott direcyt that one, and he's got a stunning eye. He gave us a show that looked more Miami Vice than the episodes at that time. We had been getting more down and dirty and gray and grim. We shot this episode when spring was breaking out, so there was like an explosion of color."
La Femme Nikita X-Posed, pp 76-78

Joel Surnow's POV

We wanted to expand Michael's ability to be a leading man with other women. Quite honestly, there was a Miami Vice I did years ago with Bruce Willis called "No Exit" that had a similar story structure, which is you go undercover with someone and find out along the way that this person is being abused, or is an abuser of his wife. It was reversed in that one. In this one, it was preying on a vulnerable woman to get to her husband. Again, it showed the depth of Michael's commitment to the job. It exploited two things: Roy's sex appeal and his ability to really attract women who watch the show; and to show how ruthless he is in terms of his devotion to Section One. We had T.J. Scott direct that, who's one of the real stylish directors of Toronto and is on his way to a major feature career here. He gave us a show that looked more like Miami Vice than the episodes had been going at that time. We've been getting more down and dirty and gray and grim, and we shot this episode when spring was breaking out and there was kind of an explosion of color. [T]here was great music. Nikita was sort of secondary to it, but crucial.

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