Title: Abort, Fail, Retry, Terminate
Air Date: July 16, 2000
Synopsis: Birkhoff builds a supercomputer with AI as his backup in Section. But faces some dire consequences.
Birkhoff is working with a supercomputer he has programmed with artificial intelligence (AI) to take over Comm in the event of his absence. He’s discussing Section logic with its holographic face. Then starts to go over a personnel file. As Birkhoff mentions Nikita the AI inquires, "You like her?" They discuss it a bit more, but Birkhoff skirts the issue saying she’s just a friend. After awhile Birkhoff disconnects the sensors he’s wearing to interface with the AI and leaves the room.
Michael arrives in Section. Nikita stops by Birkhoff’s desk to thank him for the flowers he sent (but Birkhoff didn’t send them). Munitions, Walter is working with a high-tech explosive device that will detonate below a certain temperature. Birkhoff goes to talk to him, looking forward to his down time at the end of the week. Walter mentions going to see his brother, Jason. Further he says he still feels guilty about how things turned out. Birkhoff implies that he should. Walter gives him an old compass, "To find your way home." It has great sentimental value for Walter but Birkhoff is not impressed. Operations informs Birkhoff that due to elevated activity his down time is cancelled. A short time later at a briefing Birkhoff appears inattentive and disinterested.
Mission. Birkhoff is in Comm and Nikita has Tactical. However, Birkhoff’s readings are off and he sends the team into a trap. Madeline and Operations question whether he did it on purpose and Madeline questions him. After his meeting with Madeline, Birkhoff talks to Nikita about the accusations and why the readings were off. Realizing the supercomputer might have done it, he takes off down the corridor. Birkhoff finds evidence that the AI did sabotage the mission because the mission was why Birkhoff’s down time was cancelled. He makes some adjustments to the program. The AI tries to debate with him but Birkhoff cuts the power and walks out of the room. Moments later the power comes back up and the AI is back online.
The AI monitors Madeline and Operations as the review the mission data and reveal that the readings were deliberately masked. Operations pages Birkhoff but before Birkhoff can meet with him the AI locks Operations in the Perch with Madeline. Michael steps out of his office and goes somewhere with a thoughtful expression. Birkhoff realizes his AI has re-routed power and is back online. Michael and Nikita arrive in the computer lab where Birkhoff is working to figure out why his program has gone awry. Nikita asks, "What is that thing?" as she walks in and views the holographic display. Birkhoff starts explaining that the AI is acting on its own. Informs Michael that he can’t shut it down without shutting down the whole mainframe. The AI continues to talk to Nikita and Birkhoff about their relationship. Birkhoff shuts off the mic and tells Michael that it can read lips, so Michael whips a screwdriver across the room and takes out the video camera. Then Birkhoff explains that a controlled charge in the mainframe will cut power to the AI. After Michael leaves to take care of it, Birkhoff realizes the AI is looking for Michael and plans to kill him. Nikita starts to go after Michael but is trapped in an elevator. Birkhoff walks out of the room and the AI follows him on terminals telling him that he can get his freedom but confused why Birkhoff is upset. As Birkhoff passes a portal the AI opens the door. Then activates a complete lock down of Section One and cuts oxygen. "You’re free to go." Birkhoff goes out. Meanwhile, Madeline and Operations are discussing why Birkhoff might be behind the current actions. Madeline states, "He’s capable of it, but I’m not sure if he knows that."
While riding up in the elevator, Birkhoff tells the AI to let him back into Section so he can delete some gene-coded files. Nikita, still trapped in the elevator, starts getting hot as the AI raises the temperature and begins peeling off clothes. Birkhoff re-enters the lab and starts typing at a terminal. The AI shows him Nikita as she’s undressing in the oven-like elevator, Birkhoff tells it to turn the picture off. Elsewhere, Michael enters the central computer core and calls Birkhoff when he needs an access code. The AI appears on Michael’s panel and sets off a self-destruct charge trying to kill him. Then the AI drops the temperature suddenly. Munitions, Walter gazes through a gate at the bomb and runs for cover as the temperature drops below its threshold and it explodes taking down a large portion of the Munitions area with it. Michael finishes his work in the computer core and the lock down is released. Madeline and Operations hurry out of the Perch. Walter is pulled out of the rubble and taken to the Infirmary. Birkhoff explains that the AI took over to Madeline and Operations, but as he informs them, the AI starts the self destruct sequence. Birkhoff works to override it, everyone else goes to the Infirmary where the AI can’t reach so they can plan. Walter reveals some intel on Jason, which Nikita was not cleared to know, believing that this was part of what is affecting Seymour. Madeline conjectures that the AI has no conscience to keep it in check like people have. The AI is neurally linked to Birkhoff so its acting out his thoughts unchecked by emotions. She concludes that the only way to stop the AI is to convince it that stopping is in Birkhoff’s best interest.
Nikita enters the computer lab and tells Birkhoff that Walter wants to see him Seymour goes with her. At the Infirmary they explain the situation and their plan to get the AI to disengage. Nikita takes Seymour back to the lab at gun point. She engages in a debate with the AI, but both Birkhoff and the AI decide she can’t kill Seymour if it comes to that. Birkhoff disarms her and makes her step outside while he locks the door. She watches through the glass as Birkhoff wires himself to the machine with his sensors. "Now you’re me and I’m you." Birkhoff walks to the side of the lab and disconnects two large power conduits. Holding one in each hand, he tells the AI to disengage. It argues it needs time to think as the last minute counts down. Michael rushes from the Infirmary, the others follow him. Michael tries to get into the room but can’t. Nikita watches horrified. Birkhoff continues to debate with the AI, "I want my freedom. But not at this cost. These are my friends." With a few seconds to spare, Seymour presses the sparking cables to his chest. Everyone watches through the glass as Seymour’s body convulses with the current draining away his life. Seymour took his own life, to save his friends. The AI blinks out. Nikita rushes to Seymour’s side and cradles his head in her hands crying. Michael says simply, "Its over." Everyone is grief stricken.
Next day, Nikita walks to Birkhoff’s desk and sits down in thought. Michael leaves her to herself. Walter approaches, "Its gonna be ok sugar." "No, Walter. Its never going to be okay." Walter leaves her alone. Operations pages Madeline for a Tripoli sim. She replies, "I’m gonna need some more time." as she stares ahead in thought. Operations doesn’t reply. Nikita gets up from the desk and walks out. Operations gazes into the distance, lost in memories, then blackens the Perch windows.