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'Nikita' recap and review: Birkhoff reveals his true identity in 'Set-Up'

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We've officially reached the halfway point of the final season of Nikita. So it's time to start putting some of these irons in the fire. "Set-Up" reveals the backstory of a major character (and it's about time!), but it doesn't have that much more to offer.

Picking up where last week's episode left off, Alex finds herself under interrogation in a CIA safe house in Mumbai. The Agency's "forensic accountant" (Rose Rollins, from NBC's short-lived Chase) is another of those 'look how tough I am' types. Nikita wants Sam to help rescue Alex, but he balks.

She then realizes Birkhoff is conspicuously absent, and he's being fairly shifty when she summons him. If that's not obvious, it definitely is when the episode cuts from that, to Amanda saying "We have a secret weapon, remember?", back to Birkhoff, who walks off after The Shop falsifies the results of Dead FBI Guy's DNA test, spoiling Nikita's plan to expose the clone army. The only thing that's missing here is a big flashing arrow pointing in his direction.

At least Ryan notices that something is hinky, and he suggests to Michael and Nikita that Birkhoff could also have been cloned. Nikita, she of the bleeding heart, calls him crazy, but reluctantly agrees to help him test his theory. When she goes to faux-confide in our favorite nerd, he confesses that "I'm not Seymour Birkhoff," and tells her about his childhood. Apparently, at 15, he faked his own death in a sailing accident to avoid being sent to military school by his father - Ronald Peller, the man that Amanda cloned at the NSA. Oh, snap.

Not wanting a repeat of the FBI Guy scenario, Nikita tells Birkhoff that they're going to save his father (Judd Nelson, yes, that guy from The Breakfast Club). The two of them locate and subdue Peller's clone, while Alex's subplot turns into an unsuccessful copy of the interrogation scenes from Zero Dark Thirty. (Eagle-eyed fans will recognize the surveillance photos as two of the promo images used from last season's "High-Value Target.") Sonya can't seem to locate the safehouse Alex is being held in. At least Sam's had a change of heart, as he shows back up to assist her and Michael with their rescue effort. This means another awesome Michael-Sam team-up.

Nikita's interrogation of Peller's clone is overheard by Amanda, who has the real Peller brought in to supply the fake one with the correct answers to her questions. Birkhoff figures this out in about twenty seconds, but Nikita pretends like they don't know Peller is a clone, so that they can manipulate him. And because this is Nikita, she also suggests that this is a good time for Birkhoff to try and talk to his dad. The nerd slips in a coded message (an insult, no less), which makes his father realize that 'Shadowalker' is his son.

Birkhoff then names someone else as the clone to throw Amanda off track, but his father blows the whole thing by piquing her curiosity. She puts the pieces together, realizes what's happening, and the clone gets into a fistfight with Birkhoff before Nikita shoots him.

Alex makes an attempt to shoot her way out of custody, just before Michael and Sam show up to claim her. Sam and Alex have another awkward moment that Michael mercifully breaks up with a phone call from Ryan. And while Birkhoff thinks his father is dead, in reality, Amanda is preparing to torture him.

Like the episode before it, "Set-Up" is another mixed bag, which is slightly troubling considering it's also the halfway point of the final season. This is like being at the top of the roller coaster's hill; we're waiting for that awesome drop down. And we're going to be left waiting, at least for another week.

It's a wonderful thing that Birkhoff finally gets some backstory, considering that just about everyone else has had their turn in that department over four seasons, and Aaron Stanford plays what he's given very well. But this episode is, for the most part, a Birkhoff backstory episode - which would've been fine if this were the middle of season three, but maybe not so much when we've only got six episodes to wrap up the entire series. When we should be moving forward, instead we're looking back.

There are other things that quibble here, too: once again - and this has been a recurring theme, especially over the last two seasons - Nikita's emotional side gets in the way of the task at hand. We know that she's a compassionate superspy, but sometimes it gets a bit much. The scene in which she suggests Birkhoff communicate with his father comes off like her encouraging him to settle his daddy issues (the score cue doesn't help), the week after she decided to unload on Michael while they were in the field. Nikita's an awesome character, but she seems to have lost the ability to separate personal and professional.

And please, can we not go down the road of a Sam/Alex romance? Alex has already gone through two love interests over the course of four seasons, so it wouldn't be adding anything new to the show. Plus, both of those guys ended up dead, and Devon Sawa deserves better than that, in our humble opinion.

We've got three episodes to go, and right now we're still essentially in the same place we began season four in - there are clones, Nikita looks like a terrorist, Amanda's pulling the strings, and everybody else is experiencing collateral damage. Something needs to move this story forward in a major way, and it's got to happen sooner rather than later.

The final season of Nikita continues next Friday at 9 PM ET/PT on The CW. You can also click here to check out our final season interviews with the cast and creator Craig Silverstein.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.


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