While he’s still the Nerd we’ve come to know and love for the past four seasons on “Nikita,” his real name isn’t Seymour Birkhoff. It’s Lionel Peller … a.k.a. the son of NSA official Ronald Peller, who is the double Amanda planted. Birkhoff was only hiding Ronald’s identity because he didn’t want Nikita to kill the double since Amanda would then kill the real Ronald as she did with FBI director Matthew Graham. Birkhoff didn’t have any warm feelings towards his father, but he also didn’t want to see him die, and here’s where “Set Up” quickly became one of the best episodes of “Nikita” so far.
We finally got to learn about Birkhoff’s past, from way before he was a Division agent. When he was 15, he found out his father Ronald was planning on sending him to military school (they didn’t have the greatest relationship), so he faked his own death and became Seymour Birkhoff, Shadow Walker. Throughout the entire series, we’ve come to learn everyone’s tragic back stories, from Nikita to Michael to Alex to Owen and even Amanda. But Birkhoff was always just Birkhoff, the resident nerd, who could hack any computer system imaginable. And so in a way, he was less of a real character. Seeing him finally reveal and confront his past humanized him in a way we didn’t even know we needed.
So how did Birkhoff confront his past? Nikita figured out how to use the double to find the real Ronald, save him from Amanda, and ultimately take Amanda down, without Amanda knowing that they figured out he was a double. Nikita and Birkhoff kidnap the double under the guise of making him their ally and they actually fooled Amanda. She used the real Ronald back at their base to feed the double the right things to say, and we watched as the father/son hacker duo conversed in code and sent each other messages. Birkhoff revealed to Ronald that he was still alive, but it was obvious that finding out the notorious Shadow Walker was his own son was painful (he is an NSA agent, after all).
Here’s the part we don’t get: it was SO STUPID for Ronald to talk out loud, asking, “Why’d you do it, Lionel?” in front of Amanda. The operation worked, Amanda had been fooled, and by saying that one sentence he ruined everything. Why on earth would he give everything away and say that out loud in front of Amanda when he could have just waited to talk to Birkhoff in person about faking his own death? It was so stupid and unnecessary and screwed everything up, as Amanda had the double attack Birkhoff, and Nikita was forced to shoot him.
Since Amanda was made to look like a fool, Mr. Jones took control from Amanda for their big plan, which obviously pissed her off and gave her an idea. Is she going to use her needle to make Ronald believe that he’s Lionel to figure out the password for Shadownet, thus giving her control over the system?
Back in Mumbai, Alex is being held by the CIA due to Amanda’s false information that she’s the third party funding Nikita. Although the CIA does have photos of Alex at the G24 summit with Nikita, essentially tying her to the assassin, so oops. While this story line was a bit slow, it was great to watch as she didn’t break during her interrogations, because she’s finally come into her own. She owns her past and her status as a surivor, and we’re proud to finally see her this strong.
We are worried about Sam, though, as he owes some guy lots of money and is planning on using Alex’s money to get out of his hole. We seriously can’t trust him, so thank goodness that Michael joins up with Sonya and Sam in Mumbai. They rescue Alex, but she’s on her way to withdraw what’s left of her money in a Swiss bank, so Sam’s still a wild card.
What did you think of “Set Up?” We’ve totally missed the Nerd/Nikita bonding, although we wish it was under better circumstances than Birkhoff’s father’s life being in danger.
“Nikita” airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.