This week’s Nikita is slightly reminiscent of last week’s episode: after chasing a Cleaner down to Mexico, now Nikita and Owen are in pursuit of another one, who really can’t let his ex-wife go. No, literally, he’s holding her hostage.
Nikita is wandering around an art gallery, snarkily remarking on how its entire inventory is stolen, before she introduces the art dealer Angela to her boss – who happens to be played by Owen. While he attempts to distract the art dealer and struggles at it, Michael directs Nikita elsewhere, so that she can break into a safe.
Unfortunately, Owen’s horrible conversation skills mean that the art dealer notices her phone is missing, and she alerts security just as Nikita is cracking the safe. Thankfully, she emerges just in time, claiming that she found the art dealer’s phone in the ladies room and ushering Owen out before he can do any more damage.
When they return to Division, Michael takes Owen to task for his inexperience working undercover, and Nikita jumps to his defense. “Would it be insensitive if I gave him the finger?” Owen wonders aloud, while Michael goes to have Robo-Hand looked at and runs into Sean. The two have an awkward moment of male bonding before Alex interrupts, and it’s clear that things are still weird between Alex and Sean. “You haven’t seen her in what, a month?” Michael asks Sean, advising him to “let it go.”
Apparently Ryan has the day off, because someone else provides the exposition this week. Birkhoff explains that Angela also deals in stolen military technology from China, and that she got it from a former Division agent named Ray (guest star Matt Bushell), who traded it for a bunch of nasty weaponry. Nikita wonders what or who Ray is targeting. Cut to Pennsylvania, where a young woman named Kate (guest star Anna Hopkins) is worried that her ex-husband Ray is stalking her. Yes, it’s the same guy, and he’s sitting in her living room. Ray shoots Kate’s new boyfriend before he abducts her. At least he lives, because apparently he was an off-duty cop still wearing his bulletproof vest.
The next day, Nikita and Owen stroll up on the crime scene pretending to be FBI agents, knowing that since Ray was supposed to be dead, if they don’t keep things quiet, Division will be exposed. Kate’s boyfriend, Jason (guest star Josh Braaten), wants to know what they’re doing there and Nikita tries to convince him that Ray isn’t behind it. Owen opens his mouth again to retort that Jason shouldn’t even be on the case, causing Michael to do his “are you kidding me” expression that Shane West is so good at. After that, Michael tells Nikita to keep Jason close, so she asks him to stick with them as a “special advisor.”
Meanwhile, while Ray plays Johnny Cash in his SUV, he tries to explain to Kate how he’s not dead, and how he’s changed from the control freak he used to be, but it doesn’t go over well. When he stops the car to pick up a few things, she uses her credit card at a nearby vending machine, which immediately alerts Birkhoff as to where they are.
Also back at Division, Sean attempts another conversation with Alex, who thinks he bailed on everyone. “I’ve never run from a fight in my life,” he retorts. “Until you left Division,” she replies, unimpressed.
Michael tells Nikita and Owen to pursue Ray, but she doesn’t think they’ll catch up to him in time on their own, and turns to Jason to set up a roadblock. When they do catch up with the SUV, along with a chopper and a bunch of new friends, they find it empty and realize that he’s fled into the nearby woods. There’s an ominous shot of just how big an area they have to cover before the commercial blackout.
It’s spread across two states, and when Birkhoff tries to joke about that, he gets Owen’s seriously angry face. “Owen versus bear would be pretty sweet,” Birkhoff quips anyway. Owen gets another scolding from Michael, who then has to listen to Alex talk about how she should be out in the field. She’s even less thrilled when she finds out that Sean is on Nikita’s backup team.
Nikita asks Michael what his problem with Owen is, and Michael retorts that it’s about making sure Owen is ready, because he’s not going back into the field. He doesn’t think Robo-Hand is good enough for him to be a field operative. “Things have changed, and I accept that,” he tells her. “But it is why I need to make sure Owen is ready for this job. He’s your partner now.” Sad piano music accompanies his walking away.
Ray takes Kate to his hideout in the woods and chloroforms her so she doesn’t get away while he’s working on a few things, while Nikita tries to make Jason feel better, even though she’s down after Birkhoff has told her there’s nothing more that can be done for Michael. The two of them, Owen, and some nameless troopers set off while Sean and his team are already in the woods, uncovering Ray’s various booby traps meant to keep them at bay.
Unfortunately, Ray spots the new arrivals, and starts taking out a few of the generic folks. He seizes a radio and makes up some nonsense that makes Jason question Nikita and Owen’s presence, and he wants to take them back to HQ. When she declines his request, Owen and Nikita are forced to turn on him and his troopers, and set off on their own.
“What the hell happened?” Michael snaps, once again blaming Owen. When Owen talks about taking Michael’s other hand off, Nikita reveals to him what Michael said about not returning to the field, and Owen ends up consoling her instead.
While Birkhoff gripes about how many trees he has to look at, Alex helps him compare satellite images from past and present to see what’s different between the two. That leads to a possible location of Ray’s hideout, and when Michael tells Nikita and Owen to meet up with Sean’s team before approach, he’s unenthused that Owen made a judgment call and they’ve already set off alone. “Bastard,” he mutters after he cuts off communication with Owen.
As it turns out, Sean isn’t far away, but Sean’s generic team members start dropping dead from either Ray himself or some of his unpleasant surprises, including one of them that trips a land mine right in front of Sean. When Nikita and Owen turn back to save Sean, a waiting Ray shoots Owen and escapes before Nikita can return the favor.
Owen is still mobile, but Sean needs to be airlifted out with a nasty head wound, and the cops have now been alerted to the action. Nikita insists that Owen stay behind to protect Sean, while she pursues Ray by herself, which sits well with no one.
She arrives at the hideout and wakes Kate, who has no idea where her ex-husband is, at least until he attacks the both of them. Ray almost stabs Nikita before Kate hits him, and then Nikita shoots and kills him when he turns to face Kate. Nikita quickly explains to Kate what she can and can’t say, and that Jason is waiting for her, if she can put Ray firmly in the past. Jason and Kate are reunited, with Kate telling her boyfriend that Ray is dead and whoever kidnapped her “left awhile ago and never came back.”
The audience finds out that Owen disposed of Ray’s body in the usual fashion, as he and Michael try to bury the hatchet, and Alex visits Sean in Medical, ending in a steamy moment between them.
Elsewhere, Nikita and Michael have another sparring match, before Birkhoff tells Nikita that he might have something better for Michael – or something worse. He thinks Michael can get his regular hand back. Never mind where it’s been for the past couple of weeks. Is it floating in a jar somewhere like The Doctor’s on Doctor Who? That’s an uncomfortable visual.
“Survival Instincts” is a pretty by-the-book adventure for Nikita, with many of the characters still hitting the same notes they have previously: Alex wants back on missions, Michael’s uncomfortable with his new Robo-Hand, and Nikita is angsting over her relationship with Michael. The villain of the week isn’t that remarkable, so in that sense, this is an average episode.
Yet there are a few things about the segment that do stand out, mostly for their impact on the rest of the season. It’s refreshing to see an expanded role for Devon Sawa, who has been one of Nikita‘s great discoveries, and for the show to play with the idea that Owen is not necessarily fit to be a field agent – something that many other shows would’ve ignored. How he grows, and how the Nikita/Owen partnership compares to the Nikita/Michael partnership, will be fun to watch. Likewise, welcome back to Dillon Casey, but hopefully Sean will have more to do than just orbit around Alex and play backup to the other characters.
Then there are the subtractions. Noah Bean is entirely absent this episode, and while his Ryan Fletcher has been an entertaining character in the past, he’s not really missed – because most of what he’s been handed this season has been exposition. Ryan has become to Nikita what some of the supervising captains have been to the detectives on Law & Order shows.
That’s obvious watching Michael dole out orders; Michael can do the same thing just as well. They might have two different ranks, but they serve the same function within the show right now, and that creates an issue. If Michael isn’t going out into the field anymore, what is he going to do at Division that’s different from what Ryan does? Or if Michael is going to be calling the shots, what new direction can Ryan head in? They both deserve playing time, so it’s something that will have to be figured out.
In that sense, “Survival Instincts” is very much like “Aftermath”: while it’s not a groundbreaking stand-alone episode, there’s some interesting questions to be answered in it. Like how many Cleaners are there?
If you missed it, also check out my interview with Nikita star Devon Sawa about Owen in season three.
For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my official website and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.