Three Birkhoff Moments of Goodness from Nikita “Set-Up”
Usually I’m the first to scream and shout about a fakeout promo, but since Nikita proved that to be a lost leader fairly out of the gate, I’ll let it go. Instead, the big reveal was that Birkhoff didn’t want to out the NSA guy as a double because the man is his father, whom he hadn’t seen since he faked his own death at the age of 15. That reveal and its ramifications were three Birkhoff Moments of Goodness in “Set-Up.”
Birkhoff is Birkhoff
Nikita calls out Fletch on being twitchier than normal and when he tells her his theory that Birkhoff might not be Birkhoff because he’s hiding intel, Michael and Nikita don’t believe him, but Nikita says she can find out pretty quickly whether Nerd is Nerd. He’s sulky and weird but she marches right up to him anyway and dives in that she needs somebody to talk to, and she can’t talk to Ryan because of the wall of crazy and she can’t talk to Michael because it’s about Michael. He leans in and says he needs to tell her something, and he confesses that he’s not Seymour Birkhoff.
Her hand immediately goes to the gun in her waistband, and then he clarifies that his true name is Lionel Peller, and as a kid, he found his way to computers as an outlet from a fractious family childhood. At 15, he faked his own death in a sailing accident to get away from his dad. She relaxes her grip on the gun as he tells her the rest–the NSA double he’s found, Ronald Peller, is his dad, and despite the man’s shortcomings, he doesn’t want them to kill him. Ryan, who’s been working on breaking into Birkhoff’s laptop while Nikita talks to him,Â discovers the NSA double and comes in with his gun drawn. It’s a Mexican standoff as both Nikita and Birkhoff draw theirs, too, and suddenly the truth is all over the plane, and Nikita talks them all down that they’ll figure it out.
Birkhoff talks to his dad
Nikita and Birkhoff kidnap the double (played by Judd Nelson) with the intent of confirming that Ronald is still alive and to bait Amanda a bit. It’s sort of a hilarious interrogation as Ryan, Birkhoff, and Michael are miked to Nikita, and Ronald and Amanda are miked into the double. Nikita pseudo-confirms the double isn’t a double when he correctly answers Birkhoff’s questions about things only his dad would know.
Back in the lair, Amanda hasn’t caught on to the deception. Ronald is parked in front of a computer trying to track where the double is while Birkhoff is hacked into the same feed. At Nikita’s prompting, he sends his dad an encoded message–Lovecraft Lives–referencing the beloved tarantula (which his father had killed) found on the boat when he “died,” and the penny drops for Ronald that his son is alive. Being a jackass, Ronald’s return message condemns Birkhoff for being Shadow Walker until Birkhoff sets him straight that Shadow Walker is what will save him.
Ronald asks Amanda for a picture of the hacker he’s talking to and she shows him a picture of Birkhoff and he doesn’t let on anything until he quietly asks the picture how “Lionel” could do this. Amanda hears him and suddenly puts the pieces together and aborts the mission. Then the double tries to kill Birkhoff and Nikita drops him.
Nikita comforts Birkhoff
Once they’re safely back on the plane, Birkhoff mourns his dad, as he’s sure Amanda has now killed him, and Nikita comes in to apologize. She sits down next to him and Birkhoff tells her that his dad was a son of a bitch but he didn’t deserve this. She tells him that she wanted to keep her promise that they’d get him out alive and she’s so sorry that she wasn’t able to do that. He thanks her for making him talk to his dad, and he asks her to promise him that she will take her own advice and stop running. “What you run from, you run into,” he says. She rests her head on his shoulder and holds him a little closer and tells him that he never ceases to amaze her. When she stands up to leave, she promises him that their mission isn’t over.
Of course we find out soon enough that Amanda’s going to keep Ronald alive and work on him to try to get the heart of Birkhoff, who she could never crack.
The other half of the episode had Alex getting away from the CIA (with Michael and Sam’s help) after learning what she needed to from them, and I’m glad that didn’t drag out, and that she was almost shruggy about the whole thing because she knew they couldn’t break her.
I love that Aaron Stanford got to have a solid Nerd-focused episode before we wrap up and that we got some solid Nikita/Nerd time. Once of the beauties of this show is the small relationship moments in the middle of the bigger construct of the show, and Maggie Q and Aaron Stanford have always delivered. When the second season kicked off with “Game Change,” and Michael and Nikita found Birkhoff in his motel, she called him out immediately, “Oh, nerd. Youâ€™re lonely…Youâ€™re lonely, and you have no friends, and you missed us, so you saved us. Thank you.” And then they were family. And they’ve stayed family.
One of the things I’ll most miss about this show is all of these actors working together. As meta as it may be, Twelve Monkeys is using Noah Bean, so they better find something to do with Maggie Q, too. Just saying.
Only three episodes left! Nikita airs Friday at 9/8c on The CW.
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