Back in July when I had talked with Aaron Stanford (Seymour Birkhoff) at Comic Con, he was rather excited that Birkhoff would finally be getting a backstory in the season’s third episode.  I got very excited too, because the mystery behind Birkhoff was always worth exploring.  Now that I’ve seen it in “Set-Up,” I’m one extremely happy camper. 


For one, Judd Nelson is his father!  I love Judd Nelson, being the child of the 80’s that I am.  I’ve always thought he was an underrated actor compared to those other famous names from The Breakfast Club, and he got a chance to shine here.  I can’t believe how well he and Aaron interacted without even being in the same room.  Just two hackers, sending encrypted messages to one another the way geeks do, but both of them reacting with each message like their hearts had just dropped into their stomachs.  I was engrossed every second, and it’s quite extraordinary to see something from the page play out so well like that.  

But I’m getting ahead again (I tend to do that when I’m gushing).  How did we get here?  Well, Birkhoff was acting strange.  Ryan, because that’s his job as the paranoid “last time I didn’t notice the warning signs I got shot and almost died” dude, realized Birkhoff hasn’t been using his console computer in days, just his laptop.  Birkhoff was also a trite moody, something guys just don’t do.  But when Birkhoff got bested in the hacking department by an NSA mole with mad skills as great as his, Ryan assumed the worst.  Birkhoff failed because he’s a double!  


While Ryan was going through his paranoia by digging up proof on Birkhoff’s deception, Nikita decided to have a heart to heart with Nerd and find out what was wrong.  “I’m not Seymour Birkhoff,” he answers and Nikki goes for the gun.  Birkhoff instantly figures out what was going on in her mind and clarifies.  No, that name has always been an alias.  Back when he was a teenager he got involved in this hacking group, and that pissed off his old man since he had to bail him out of trouble.  When the words “Military School” came up, Birkhoff came up with a better idea.  Why he’ll fake his own death!  All it took was a tarantula and an empty boat at open sea and the new life was his.  Sorry, but that is twisted with a capital T if you ask me, but then again if you think about it, Birkhoff found his true path because of that.    


Except…and this quote by Birkhoff was perfect, “What you run from you run into.”  Remember the dude from last episode that Birkhoff found online and kept from the team?  Yep, it’s Daddy.  His name is Ronald Peller and he’s been switched with a body double in the NSA.  Birkhoff’s real name is Lionel Peller.  Good thing Ryan really sucks when handling a confrontational gun (no wonder he’s always near death), because once that little embarrassment was cleared up by Birkhoff disarming the boss (I still think you’re adorkable Ryan), the plan goes into action. 


Nikita and team engage the fake Peller to get to the real Peller, who’s communicating on the other end.  They interrogate the fake Peller, asking personal questions and so the real Peller coaches him.  Judging by the hesitation in the answers, the team confirms this guy is a fake, but pretend that he passes the test so to not tip Amanda.  


That sets up the afore mentioned brilliant scene between Birkhoff and his Dad.  Birkhoff sends clues through the computer to his real Dad, and the dude easily figures out it’s his supposed late son Lionel, especially when he sees the photo of Seymour Birkhoff.  He doesn’t let on to Amanda what’s happening UNTIL the team starts leaving with the double.  Peller’s grief gets the better of him and he says out loud, “Why Lionel?”  Oh yes, Amanda is no dummy, and quickly figures out Lionel is Birkhoff.  That’s when the fake Peller attacks Birkhoff, and Nikita shoots him to protect her Nerd. 


Birkhoff now thinks that his Dad is dead, since Amanda has this history of killing the real person when the fake is discovered or killed.  While Nikita consoles her very sad friend on the plane, Amanda gets a tongue lashing and demotion from Mr. Jones of The Shop because she was played successfully by Nikita and team.  She decides to get her revenge by keeping Peller alive so she can learn all about Shadownet.  You know what this means…more Judd Nelson!  I’m liking this twist.  


On the other side, Alex proves to some overzealous CIA “Accountant” (yeah, and I’m a Forest Ranger) that she’s a survivor and can withstand torture.  She claims all the evidence against her has been manufactured, although photos of her and Nikita at the same event in Toronto were pretty damning.  No matter, Owen comes back to help because he owes some thugs 25 million and rescuing an heiress might work to his advantage, but he doesn’t tell them that.  He just pretends to be a team player.  So he and Michael rescue Alex, and CIA interrogator probably wished she was an Accountant a split second before she was shot dead.  Even Alex commended her on being a great one, so it’s kind of a waste, isn’t it.  Oh well, not a first for this show.   


What did we learn from this story?  Birkhoff rules.  That is all.  That story alone was enough for me to really love this episode.  Also, Birkhoff and Alex can get by with a little help from their friends.  Learning much Nikita?  Also Alex is definitely right, Nikita does wear too much black.  More red.  Even the CIA chick got it!  Great seeing Sonya too, even if it was only to pull a gun and act tough on Owen/Sam.  I’m so glad you’ve got a new gig on Sleepy Hollow.  We really love that show.  


There’s only three episodes left to wrap all this up and aside from rescuing Judd Nelson, Mikita has to happen, and Amanda must meet her end.  There’s a lot of build up left and not much time.  Strap in, it’s going to be bumpy.

Here are the promo photos for “Set-Up.”  Everyone’s got their angry faces going.  It’s too priceless!

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