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104. "Simone"

        
(#3) Nikita infiltrates Glass Curtain, a terrorist group responsible for a midair plane crash. She discovers that Simone, a Section operative -- and Michael's wife -- believed killed during a mission several years ago, has been held captive by Glass Curtain ever since.
lfnforever briefing
Birkoff's computer skills are highlighted in this episode, as he not only locates a hacker who is a Glass Curtain recruit, but also kills a program that will make two jetliners collide in flight. Nikita makes much use of the comm-set in her glasses, and a tracking device in a cigarette case, and also demonstrates how easy it is to foil a DNA-scan access security system. We are introduced to some Section terminology, including "close quarter standby" and "acceptable collateral". We have to wonder if Operations suspected that Simone was alive and in Glass Curtain's hands -- why else would he warn Michael just prior to the assault on the group's facility to "be prepared for anything"? From what we learn later about Operations, it's certainly possible that he would do something like that. One shortcoming is that very little time is spent developing Simone, so we can only speculate on why she chooses suicide over returning to Michael. Clearly she is a proud and intelligent woman; she obviously knew that it could never be as it once was, and after years of imprisonment at the hands of someone like Errol Sparks, her desire for revenge must have been very much stronger than her feelings for Michael at that stage. Julian Richings provides LFN with one of its most memorable characters -- so memorable, in fact, that he's resurrected for a Season Three episode ("I Remember Paris."). And this is your one and only choice to see Michael go completely out of control.

best dialogue
(Because it so deftly sums up the characters of Nikita and Michael)...
MICHAEL: "If it wasn't for the Section none of us would have a life. What right do I have to feel cheated?"
NIKITA: "You have a right to feel any way you want."
Written by Michael Loceff
Directed by Jerry Ciccoritti
Original airdate: January 27, 1997 (USA)
May 31, 1998 (France); September 26, 1997 (UK)

guest stars
Mung-Ling Tsui (Simone)
Julian Richings (Sparks)
Ingrid Veninger (Siobhan)
Lyon Smith (J.B.)
Marc Cohen (Hester)
Anais Granofsky (Carla)
Edward Roy (Ray)
Alisa Wiegers (Jade)
Barry Kennedy (Pilot)
Robin McCulloch (Controller)

music
"Act 2, Scene 1: What Intrepid Spirit Is This," Christophe William Gluck
"Red Zone," Mark Stewart
"Act 2, Scene 4: O You Shades Whom I Implore," Christophe William Gluck
"Recitative," Christophe William Gluck
"Slacker Boy Blue," Kat Rocker

locations
The Playdium entertainment complex in Mississauga is where Nikita and Michael search for the Glass Curtain recruiter.


Czech title: "Simona"
German title: "Tod einer Fruendin"
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Dawn Connolly's commentary on this episode
Michael Loceff gives us another strong story line, this time filling in back story on Michael and offering one of the more eccentric villains of the series, Errol Sparks, (Julian Richings revels in his over-the-top character.) Director Jerry Cicoritti and director of photographer Danny Nowak experiment effectively with several new looks. The four-square split-screen effect works nicely to convey the noise and chaos of the video games room. The stretchy-cam technique used in the episode's climax communicates both the urgency of the operatives' race against the clock as they evacuate the bunker and the surreal horror of Michael's second loss of Simone.
Unfortunately, there is no depth given to Simone or the effect of her loss and no time spent establishing why she'd choose suicide over freedom, so it is left to Dupuis to do all the work. The episode gives him the opportunity to flex his dramatic muscles as we watch Michael's control begin to unravel. His best moments are with Wilson as Nikita plays friend and therapist. The actors take the spaces between the words and make a dance out of the silence. Dupuis has a remarkable capacity to communicate volumes with just his eyes, and his stillness is frequently the perfect foil for Wilson's activity. Early in the series, the producers and Dupuis disagreed on just how much emotion Michael would convey, but by the third and fourth episodes, feedback indicated that the audience got it, and the actor was vindicated.
Although it's not explicitly stated, one is left with the impression that not only does Operations know Simone is being held captive by Glass Curtain but has known all along. It's a notion that, for the audience, serves to expand the scope of Section's machinations. Michael may be the golden boy, but Operations will not flinch at using his loyalty to serve his own ends.
The episode is framed by scenes with Nikita and her neighbor Carla, a relationship that provides a healthy contrast to Nikita's other, dysfunctional, female-female relationship, with Madeline -- and with her own mother, as we will learn. This girl-pal friendship does much to normalize Nikita's life and to round out her frames of reference. Although there are surprises in store for the audience, the relationship gives Wilson and the writers room to humanize Nikita.
La Femme Peta, pp 100-101


Ted Edwards' "behind the scenes" look at this episode
The primary reason "Simone" was written was to give an answer to fans of La Femme Nikita who wanted to know why Michael and Nikita weren't getting together romantically. As Joel Surnow has mused elsewhere, the concern was that the audience might think Michael was gay or something, because it wasn't as though it would have been illegal for them to have a relationship. At the same time, events of the episode in some ways brought the duo closer together, though the ending -- as is the case at the closing of many an episode -- is rife with ambiguity.
Surnow mused to journalists, "I think the reason people tune into our show is for the [unexpected] element that runs through a lot of the episodes, and the fact that we aren't afraid to take the left turn at the end of a show. When I did The Equalizer, people wanted to see him kick ass and win. That was the show. It's the same way that people want to see our show not be about the good guys beating the bad guys, but that the good guys beat the bad guys and are worse than the bad guys. That's us."
Another accomplishment of the episode was the fact that by having Nikita do what she does for Michael and Simone, it conveys the depth of her feelings for him. Surnow felt it showcased the complexity of their relationship. "You don't know where it's going," he told journalist Bill Planer. "It's not clean, it doesn't tie up anything. You're just left with a 'feeling,' which our show does when it's working. It's never about closure."
La Femme Peta X-Posed, pp 56-58


Joel Surnow's POV

....Real style show. We tried going really wacked out with our villain and played things bigger, even a little campier, but at the core of it was a great emotional Michael story, and I think we really scored on that episode. It was another down and dirty, sweaty episode with a lot of music and style, but that was not the stuff that made that a memorable episode. Again, in those earlier episodes I think our action was better than it is in our later episodes, because we were spending money because it was the beginning, so we wanted to do bigger action and we weren't as confident in our characters carrying the show. We still felt like we had to provide fairly big set pieces.

Nikita was undercover again, but this time it had the inside/outside quality, where the Section is outside and she's inside. It really helped establish Michael's [back]story. We did that story to establish why Michael doesn't commit himself to Nikita. We were asking ourselves, "Is the audience going to think he's gay or asexual? It's not illegal for them to have a relationship. What's stopping them?" That show provided that for us. We also got to see Nikita be very heroic in this episode because of what she does for Michael's wife. It dealt with a lot of [the] complexity of their relationship. Like at the end when she asks him out for a cup of coffee and he says, "Yes, I'd love to." You don't know where it's going, it's not clean, it doesn't tie up anything and kind of just leaves you with a feeling, which our show does when it's working. It's never about closure. We have no closure on our show. One of the things I think the audience tunes in to our show for is...the fact that we aren't afraid to take the left turn at the end of the episode. When I did The Equalizer, people wanted to see him kick ass and win. That was the show. In the same way that people want to see our show not be about the good guys beating the bad guys, but that the good guys beat the bad guys but the good guys are worse than the bad guys. That's us. These people are cold at the core, almost without souls. Except if you look at them deep enough, you think, "They do have souls, they just repress them."

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