Thursday, February 23, 2006

Season 5; Hour Nine (3:00PM - 4:00PM)

Air Date: 20 Feb 06
Reviewer: J

After leading us to wonder if perhaps Erwich was the main bad guy for Season Five, Fox cleared that up this week by abruptly ending Ivan’s reign as lead singer of the Yellow Tie Band. The man who ended that reign (and Erwich’s life, as it turns out) is a man named Vladimir Bierko, whom the Fox site lists as Erwich’s “superior.” Are the ranks that clearly defined? Because maybe when this is all over, Bierko and Erwich and guys like that can come do a lunch-and-learn at CTU around chain-of-command and things of that nature. Anyway, Bierko knifes Erwich in the gut and kills him and then turns to the remaining Yellow Tones, who are giving off that “Hey, dude, we didn’t like him anyway, anything you say” look. Bierko exposits for us that he has secured more men “at great personal expense” and he did this because he “anticipated this.” Really? Well, this makes at least three 24 bad guys who were staggeringly good at predicting human behavior. […or who have been watching ‘24’ reruns…-D.]

Bierko is PO’ed that this Nathanson guy duped them, or tried to dupe them, which continues to lend credibility to Dead Walt’s story that they really did intend to use the gas on the terrorists. What still is a bit mushy in the middle, however, is the reasoning behind the need to kill David Palmer. That storyline is unfortunately disappearing in the rear-view mirror and I don’t think it should. There has to be a better reason that the lame-o ones that Walt and Nathanson have been spouting. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, Nathanson (who remember, “went dark” when Walt tried to call him) is freaking the hell out and getting in his car. Now, I don’t know what he’s been doing the past two or three hours while he’s been “dark” – maybe taking a nap? Or maybe it just took him this long to get down to his car and ensure that there wasn’t a surprise package underneath it. Speaking of that, is anybody going to remember to go de-bomb Chloe’s Prius? Oh, hell, it’s a Prius, let it blow up. You just hope that Chloe doesn’t forget about it after working for 24 straight hours. Like she finally gets home, changes the sheets to remove the Spenser from them, and goes to make a bowl of cereal and realizes she has no milk. Then, ka-boom. Man, that would suck. For her. And whoever has the spot next to her.

Back at the CTU ranch, this is the episode where McGill begins to completely unspool. The first time we see him, he’s making a phone call to his sister, Switch. Switch’s boyfriend is the one who beat the ever-living hell out of Lynn (probably only partly because his name is “Lynn”) and took his wallet. As noted, they do have Lynn’s keycard to CTU, which Lynn is asking for back. He goes so far as to say they can have his money and max out his credit cards, but he needs his keycard back. Let’s stop a second here. For one thing, why are you asking? You’re a federal freaking agent. Send LAPD to that apartment to take back your property. I don’t see the problem here. Kick down the door, beat down the loser and take the wallet. Second, Lynn, you can cancel your credit cards. That’s fairly easy. Although perhaps not in the middle of a national security crisis. No, during those you only have time to meet sketchy relatives in shady parking lots. You know, I’m beginning to think that maybe Lynn’s parents wanted two little girls so they just named him Lynn. Then they could dress him in pink next to Jenny and send out Christmas cards that said from them “and Lynn and Jenny.”

Anyway, Lynn picks up his ringing phone thinking it’s Jenny calling him back and instead he’s greeted by President Logan screeching at him about failing at the mall. This only further compacts the stress ball that is Rudy McGill’s brain and he stalks into the conference room where Buchanan is leading another 2-minute meeting. I’m usually about two minutes late to my meetings so at CTU I’d miss everything.

Lynn openly questions why Audrey keeps defending Jack’s actions. Well, wait a minute, Lynn. You wanted to use her closeness to Jack for some asinine reason when you assigned her to question Diane. Now, it’s not okay that she is close to him? Oh, right, you’re a freak from Division, I forgot.

He snits that he wants Jack brought in for disobeying the order to allow the gas to be released. And I have to say that unfortunately I have to defend McGill on this one. Jack heard the entire discussion over his earpiece. Bill and Lynn agreed it should be released and even Logan came to that conclusion. Only Audrey was squawking otherwise. So CTU went through the right protocols and the right process and Jack, as a newly re-minted field agent, is supposed to follow that order. And he did not. So he should answer for it. Curtis tells him as much and offers to lighten Jack’s load by carrying his gun for him. The one that fires bullets, you perverts.

Meanwhile, Audrey gets a call from Nathanson, who it should be pointed out, obeys the law and uses a hands-free device. Nathanson wants to talk to Jack and does so through Audrey. Audrey puts him through to Jack who pretends it’s a personal call. To which Curtis gives him the go-ahead to get out of the car. Ummm, okay.

Anyway, Nathanson tells Jack where he wants to meet, which is apparently on the list of places the terrorists will look for him. Jack agrees to meet him there (in “ten minutes,” in LA, as we approach rush hour) and hops back in with Curtis. As they’re driving, Curtis brings up Audrey and how she’s a good person (though I don’t know how Curtis knows this) and kind of intimates… something. Though I’m not sure what. Maybe that Jack and her should try again? I don’t know. And I don’t know what interest it is of Curtis’. Regardless, at the next stop sign, Jack jacks Curtis in the noggin and puts him in a sleeper hold. Well, that’ll teach Curtis to ever bring up Audrey to Jack again. Yikes.

Oh, wait, that’s right, Jack just wanted Curtis’ car. How come Jack talks his way into getting people to listen to him sometimes but other times he just beats them up to get his way? Curtis has always shown loyalty to Jack so wouldn’t it be worth trying to be diplomatic?

He removes the hulking (and now sleeping) Curtis from his SUV and lays him on the side of the road. I thought sure Jack would call for someone to come find him but he didn’t. He did, however, leave Curtis with his cell phone and, presumably, cab fare.

Back at CTU, McGill is spending all his time trying to prove that Audrey is working against him. Way to focus, Lynn. Audrey, of course, realizes that he’s snooping and asks Chloe to incriminate herself by erasing the log of the call to Jack. So much the “clean” line Nathanson asked for, eh? Chloe, bless her heart, tells the technically-inept Audrey that all the calls are indexed and there’s no way to remove just one, at least not quickly. So Audrey has her erase all of her phone calls for the entire day. Lynn glances down at Audrey from her office and sees her on the phone. Then he sees there are zero calls in the log for her workstation. Lynn then looks down towards Audrey again and thinks to himself, “No wonder the Department of Defense has such spending issues. Raines has been here all day pretending to make phone calls.” Or he realizes something is up. But I like my version better.

Around this time over at Camp David Palmer (tm, reader Bill), Mike Novick comes to the President with Walt’s cell phone. There’s a terrorist on the other end – Bierko – and he’ll only speak to Logan. Much to my disappointment, Logan does not respond “Fuck that noise!” He really should, though, because there’s no way that anyone should even be answering that phone and if they are, they shouldn’t be bringing it to the President. It’s kind of…. what’s the word? Ridiculous. Nevertheless, Logan takes the call and is told he has to provide Suvarov’s motorcade route back to the airport so that they can attack him; otherwise, they’ll release the gas on US citizens. Logan immediately begins to consider this as an option which, despite his inability to make decisions, is indeed the lesser of two evils. However, this entire exchange illustrates the point of why we don’t negotiate with terrorists. So what if they blow up Suvarov? What next? They’ll still have the nerve gas. There’s no good ending here and Logan would see that if he could see past the next 15 minutes. But he cannot, despite Mike’s prodding.

At CTU, McGill is turning nuttier than a fruitcake [I’m thinking it’s that magic ring in his pocket that’s doing it…-D], which makes it hard to believe it was just a few hours ago that he not only saved CTU’s ass by recognizing Jack’s distress call at the airport, but he also gave the okay to disregard Logan’s order to stop the investigation while Logan was under Walt’s influence. McGill was an okay, albeit annoying, guy back then. Now he’s just going off his rocker with conspiracy theories. He confronts Bill about Audrey and Jack, and Bill acknowledges they were bumping uglies but never invited him to join. Mainly because he wanted to hump Michelle’s leg. But that’s another story. What I found amusing was when McGill showed Bill that Audrey’s phone log was erased, Bill casually suggested it was a “glitch.” Yeah, nice to see how nonchalant we are about glitches in the communication and technology arenas of a national security division.

At this point, Jack is arriving to meet Nathanson, who is still somewhat calm. However, this all changes as Jack notes a helicopter landing with men jumping out who do have machine guns and don’t appear to have handcuffs. Jack astutely deduces that Nathanson is in deep el shitto. Nathanson quickly realizes the whole game of making sure Jack wasn’t followed is moot now since it appears he himself was followed. They agree to meet on the roof which makes zero sense to me [‘Let’s meet on the roof where a confrontation with a helicopter will be much more photogenic.’ –D]. Nathanson survives several shootouts on the lower floors of the warehouse, thanks to pillars he can hide behind and whatnot. Meanwhile, Jack is taking an awfully long time to get up a flight of stairs to where Nathanson is (the second floor). Or wait – Jack said to meet on the roof, right? But wasn’t Jack already on the roof when he saw the chopper land? What’s going on here? Did Jack fall back into the alley or something?

Naturally, they get to the roof and Jack aerates the two shooters just in time to save Nathanson’s ass, but then the chopper is back and shreds Nathanson. Jack is able to disable the chopper with his pistola and gets over to Nathanson who, with his dying breath says “my pocket.” He’s wearing a suit, though, and doesn’t specify which pocket. Maybe he just wanted a hand job? Regardless, Jack finds a computer chip (presumably Nathanson’s dry cleaning ticket was in the suit jacket) but Nathanson dies before telling him what it is. So Jack plugs it into his cell phone/PDA/waffle iron.

Jack’s next move is to call Audrey, who has McGill literally breathing down her neck. Audrey thinks quickly, I must admit, and pretends someone was trying to reach IT and accidentally dialed her extension. How she knows all this after not having been in this building in 18 months I have no idea. However, my thought was that I would have completely frozen up at that point. Audrey didn’t and sent the call to Chloe as McGill furrows his brow and thinks “People dialing wrong extensions leads to a lack of productivity – I’m putting that in my report.”

When Jack gets to Chloe, he’s all, “What the fuck is Audrey’s deal?” And Chloe fills him in and round and round we go. Now we’ve got the same deal as in previous years, with Jack, Audrey and Chloe (and eventually Bill) playing the roles of Michelle, Tony, Jack, etc. and McGill playing the role of the outfoxed man from Division (usually Chappelle). You know, CTU’s job would be a lot easier if they could all just do whatever the hell they wanted all the time because it usually seems to work out. Following a structure just seems to get in their way.

Anyway, this leads to Bill distracting McGill from Audrey’s desk so that Audrey can get Chloe a DoD password to de-encrypt the file Jack sent her. McGill catches on, though, and flips his shit. However, when Buchanan has McGill offscreen, you can hear Buchanan talking about the missing call log from earlier and how they can review it in McGill’s hijacked office. You can also hear Buchanan say something about using McGill’s keycard. Very subtle, but it was interesting to me.

Back to the aforementioned shit-flipping being conducted by McGill. His psychosis and paranoia (while actually accurate) lead him to tell Audrey he’d throw her bony little ass out of the building if her poppy wasn’t the Secretary of Defense and that he doesn’t have the same problem with Buchanan since his dad is…. retired and playing golf in Boca Raton, I would imagine. Anyway, he tosses Buchanan in a holding cell while Audrey tells Lynn she’s going to tell her daddy (with “her” referring to Audrey, not Lynn, for those who aren’t yet familiar with the names and the reality that McGill has a girl’s name). And then he’ll be sorry. Lynn assures her that she doesn’t want to threaten him. Really, you little puke? Why is that? God, Lynn’s making it really hard for me to defend him by being a complete asshole.

Anyway, during all the commotion, nobody notices that Chloe is not being her normal nosy self and is instead busily working away at her station. She lets Jack know that the chip had info from a company that developed some isotope that has something to do with the nerve gas. I’m not getting any more into it than that since I struggled with high school chemistry and only went to my college chem class because there was an incredibly hot girl who sat next to me in lectures and even agreed to study with me.

Jack somehow knows that a guy named Christopher Henderson is an exec at Omicron, the company that is responsible for this isotope. Something tells me this will be important later on. In fact, I already know why it’ll be important but I’ve gotten flak from readers for revealing “spoilers” and, while I don’t really care, I can avoid it on this one so I will.

Toward the end of the hour, we’re back at Camp David Palmer where the first lady has been pleading with Logan not to sign the death warrant of the Suvarovs by turning over their motorcade route. He again points out that it’s not so simple and that if it’s them or American citizens he’s got to choose them to take the bullet. Or bullets, as it were. Martha seems to come around to his point of view and then has to go out and cheerily say goodbye to the Suvarovs. So Mr. and Mrs. Russia flew into America a few hours ago and are now heading right back out? Wouldn’t the President offer to let them stay the night or for a meal at least? That’s a hell of a travel day.

Anyway, Martha keeps trying to get Logan to do something to stop the motorcade from leaving. When he does not, she does the logical thing – she hops into the motorcade with the Suvarovs. Oh, wait, no, that’s not logical. My bad.

Aaron, who to me is like what it would be like if one of us were actually in the 24 world, looks at her wearily and tells her they’re not detailed for her to ride with them. She says they can follow if they like and he relents and says he’ll just ride up front. Martha is clearly freaked by this because she, too, likes Aaron and doesn’t want him killed. But one would also assume she doesn’t want herself killed… right? I mean, am I wrong here? Does this think that by her being in the motorcade that Logan will call it back? Maybe that’s her thinking but that’s an awfully big risk to take.

As she jumps into the seat across from the Suvarovs, they look about as pleased to see her as someone whose mother-in-law just jumped in right when they thought they were rid of her. Mrs. Suvarov seems somewhat pleased but the Russian prez seems hesitant. He probably wanted to do it in an American limo on their way to the airport. His wife is rather attractive, after all.

As we roll to the final seconds of the hour, the multiple split screens show just how badly things are coming apart at the seams. Curtis is walking back into CTU after having been ambushed by Jack and you just know McGill is going to accuse him of being complicit with Jack’s rogue-ness. Buchanan is stewing in a holding cell, still standing and not even loosening his tie. Jack, still off the reservation, is on his way to Omicron to talk to Christopher Henderson. And Mrs. Logan is about to make the President have to make another difficult choice. She should know by now that that’s not his strong suit.

Oh, and the terrorists, now with frontman Vladdy Bierko, are planning to intercept the Russian motorcade and kill all those inside.

And it’s only 4 PM. Will the CTU staff be able to make it to the happy hour at TGI Friday’s at 5? We’ll see.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Season 5; Hour Eight (2:00pm - 3:00pm)

Air Date: 13 Feb 06
Reviewer: D

As time goes on this season, I'm starting to really appreciate the nearly insurmountable task the writers and directors of 24 have. It gets harder and harder to surprise us and, as J detailed excellently with Hour 7, more and more plot elements/twists start to feel like old news. In this latest hour, I felt this most distinctly at the end of the ep. I was convinced ole Erwich had rigged the garage to go boom. I was actually physically bracing myself for the explosion. Instead, we get just another terrorist suicide (ho hum). One question here: do Chechen rebels really have the same suicidal fervor that our Muslim friends have? I mean, "Dosvedonya" doesn't have the same poetic ring that "Allah Akbar" has.

Anyway, before I get too deeply into this episode, which was OK I guess but for 2/3 of it's duration didn't do much to divert me away from, I'd like to offer my 3 simple suggestions to 24 management. These may never be read by anyone above the level of Joel Surnow's pool boy, but it'll make me feel better to get them out there. At least I'm taking action instead of sitting idly by while things go to hell. And after all, Hollywood producers need a little help once in a while too. To whit:

1. Leave Jack outside the system. This season started with the promise that Jack would be somehow wilder and crazier since he no longer had to adhere to strict CTU protocols (short aside here: CTU protocols seem to primarily involve hiring only those with a propensity toward being a mole or having an unstable relative, disrespecting the chain of command, and never allowing anyone to leave the CTU clinic alive). But so far, with very little exception, Jack's done what he would have done as a CTU agent which of course means whatever the f*** he's wanted. The only time he hasn't is when it has served the plot, as in when he was forced to back away from a promise to a subsequently homicidal sex slave.

Now Jack is apparently in some quasi-reinstated mode, though it seems like he's soon going to plummet quickly from President Logan's best buddy to an aggravated zit on the Commander in Chief's ass that he can't quite reach to pop. Do us a favor: keep Jack on the outside. It complicates the relationship with Chloe, makes the internal dynamics at CTU more interesting (smackdown between McGill and Buchanan, anyone? I imagine this as a "Bluto-Popeye" type matchup with Buchanan throwing McGill through a wall whereupon, instead of spinach, Lynnie finds a magical golden ring and is thereafter able to thwart all who oppose him...), might eventually provide a good way to get Tony involved (once he's conscious and out of that death trap of a clinic), and brings out the McGyver in Jack, which makes it almost like getting two shows in one.

2. Develop an interesting parallel story. Who knows, maybe the blink-and-you-missed-it plot development of Lynn getting mugged by his sister's thug pal will lead somewhere. But, given the ability of interesting things to develop from 24's wacko relative side plots in the past, rabid llamas are more likely to fly out of my butt. In the past, we had true parallel stories in 24 land, ones that had their own complicated dynamics and where the links to the main story weren't so clearly delineated. Remember Kim's kidnapping the first year? Behrooz's family drama last year? Anything involving Sherry Palmer? (OK, strike that last one.) These were plotlines that had internal drama of their own, separate from the central action. I'm not seeing anything like that this year so far.

3. Make us care about someone else. OK, we all love Jack, even as troubled and brutal as he can be. But who else are we supposed to root for this season? Dianne and Derek have been the only other moderately human characters with whom we could identify with and the only place they seem likely to re-emerge is as nerve gas fodder maybe somewhere down the line. Chloe? Be serious. I think she's entertaining and all but unless sleeping with Spenser eventually transforms her into a raging nympho, she doesn't exactly touch my heart. Audrey, aka, Twiggie? Brittle as a stick and just as cuddly? Nuh-uh. The First Lady? I pity crazy people, don't love them. Edgar? Get thee to Jennie Craig! McGill? Hobbitt boy wants to kill everybody at the food court? Not terribly endearing. Curtis? Sure, he's tall, dark and handsome but also a little chilly. The best bet at this point is Evelyn, the first lady's moderately inept keeper but I'm thinking she might have killed Cummings (call me crazy) so I'm not investing a whole lot in that relationship. Who else is there to love? Nada, zip, zilch. Sorry but all adrenaline all the time gets a little old if it's not balanced by a human moment once in a while.

There you go, Surnow. Ignore me at your peril.

So, on to the action, such as it was. We get our nicely inserted situation recap thanks to Lynnie coming back from getting his ass whupped. Can't believe Buchanan doesn't say anything to McGill, like for instance, "long pee break, huh Lynnie?" Or possibly, "off on same quest, hairy toes?"

Then it's off to recently perferated sex creep's apartment where his lack of a pulse ends up not impeding the situation. I loved that after Jack picks up the phone and Erwich just blurts out the plan for the meeting, Jack says "I think we caught a break." Only Jack Bauer would call having the opportunity to meet up with homicidal terrorists armed with nerve gas "catching a break." Jack, honey, catching a break is a dud grenade, two packs of Oreos out of the snack machine for the price of one, or a false positive on a pregnancy test. What you are about to get into, Jack, is a break in the same way that Wittington scoring a gig hunting with the Veep was a break. (C'mon, you knew that was coming...)

From the terrorists, we find out that they are figuring out how to release the happy gas without the fancy remote control doo-hickeys. But they drop the little detail that they'll have to be onsite with the cannisters. Did you see all of the suicidal henchmen start to salivate over that one?

Back at Camp David Palmer (west coast Presidential retreat), Mike Novick has recovered from being put under arrest by his supreme leader nicely and is now working at guaranteeing that the president will never have sex with his wife ever again. Vindictive much, Mike? No, really, his effort to get Logan to cover up Cummings' plot certainly seems sincere just as much as it certainly seems liable to fail. If Mike is all calculating and stuff, why not keep the option open to use Cummings' death later as an out for the administration? And is there any real reason to say anything at all definitive about Walt's death?

Meanwhile, the First Lady is using her Apple to surf the Internet looking for other crazy people to have IM sex with when Evelyn asks her probing questions about Walt's suicide. Call me suspicious but between the lines I heard her asking, "Does anyone suspect that it might have been some inconsequential Secret Service chick behind Walt's death?" Marty collects her marbles long enough to blow a viable smoke screen.

And I'll just interject here that I think J and I are on the road toward a confrontation about ole Marty. I actually like the First Lady. Because she is crazy, the writers can use her to say all those decent, wholesome things that we want to believe our leaders actually would do, like you know tell the truth and stuff. She also gets to haul off and smack Logan once in a while which certainly puts her up a notch or two in my book. Plus, she's a wild card, dammit, and for all we know may start rending garments and speaking in tongues any minute. While the terrorists keep doing the expected, I'll take my wild cards where I can get 'em.

Was it just my mother-in-law's TV or was the music particularly intrusive in this episode? On the way to the mall, there was a persistent melody in the background that sounded like a Doors song to me. It wasn't "Break on Through" either, though that would've worked nicely during the airport raid a few hours ago.

At CTU, Lynn finally gets to say out loud that his dick is bigger than Buchanan's during which moment Chloe looks like a pre-teen whose parents are fighting (not that I've ever seen that look before. Really. Never. Or at least, not much.) [A friend of mine is convinced there's another dynamic we've yet to see with those two... such as Lynn blurting out, "Dammit, Dad!" - J] Lynn once again puts Jack in the position of doing something unsavory, the second time in less than an hour so I'm thinking our Jack has no great love for Lynnie right now. At around the half-way point Chloe has broken into the mall's internal monitoring system which is more than likely completely ridiculous. Those systems are more than likely closed, not even attached to the Internet or anywhere else that could be hacked into, and plus, it would be impossibel to get the bandwidth you would need to get all those video feeds to draw over a hacked line. If I suspend my disbelief much longer it's going to go the same route as my moral fiber and sense of decency and blow town altogether.

Since we never would suspect that a terrorist attack on a mall would kill scads of innocent children, we are subjected to happy, celebrating children who can't hold on to their balloons. So sad that some child may grow up thinking that terrorists attack whenever he/she loses something. That would be one OCD kid, my friend.

CTU has to confer with the Wussy in Chief about allowing some 800 or so folks to go all frothy at the mouth which gets Audrey's morality meter squealing. And sure enough, Logan ends up looking like the bad guy. He obviously didn't see the whole thing with the balloon.

One positive note here: I love the way Jack wakes up from getting knocked out cold: a little twitchy like he's having a bad dream with a little flinch thrown in because he's probably got a goose-egg the size of Elisha Cuthbert's left one on the back of his head. More kudos for Kief. We now have the somewhat predicatible escape and thwart scenario with Jack the only unknowns being: a) will the gas actually get to anyone and b) why does it automatically retract when it's electonics are all ripped up? Is that a special safety measure built into cannisters of deadly gas? Those weaponizers are so thoughtful! [I loved how Jack went running through the mall with a gas mask and a gun. Almost like: "I know I'm usually invincible, but screw the potential panic, I'm not taking this circa-WWII thing off!" - J]

So finally we end the episode pretty much in the same state we were in about two hours ago, waiting for some lucky clue to drop in from heaven to point CTU's way to the cannisters. Are these little interludes going to continue to run on two hour shifts? Did they establish some kind of two hour pattern at the season's beginning and now can't break out of it?

I also think Fox has a great gimmick available to them now: terrorists have 19 cannisters and each week, they'll target someplace new while CTU tries to track them down. The terrorists will have to double-up to make it under 24 hours, like maybe dropping a couple at the Simpson's house, one for Ashley, one for Jessica. It could be kind of a twisted reality show, or the inverse of "My Name is Earl" -- instead of trying to generate good karma, the terrorists will try to generate horrendous karma. If the karma gets bad enough, Logan's presidency implodes; if it doesn't, when the cannisters are all accounted for, Jack gets his choice of comely sweethearts from previous seasons.

Come on now, Surnow, admit it. It doesn't sound much worse than some of the stuff you all are cooking up lately as '24' heads into the potentially troublesome middle hours. Why not give it a shot?


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Season 5; Hour Seven (1:00PM - 2:00PM)

Air Date: 6 Feb 06
Reviewer: J

Welcome to 24’s first letdown episode in quite a while. I was wondering rather excitedly if they’d be able to keep up the action quotient that they established in the opening four hours and I actually held out hope that they’d be able to. 24 always seems to come through and I expected this time to be no different. While I’m still very much intrigued and into this season, some of this is starting to feel a little too recycled, which is something that sometimes happens in a fifth season of a TV show. (For example, look at The West Wing, a show that was a media darling for the first four years and then absolutely fell down the stairs in season five. The show never really recovered and was ultimately cancelled last week.) But this particular episode seemed really oddly edited and sort of bumpy in plot details.

Let’s talk about what felt kind of tired this week.
  • The casualty projections. We heard Lynn “Rudy” McGill on the previews telling us breathlessly about casualties “in the hundreds of thousands.” Whoop-dee-doo, Lynny, you shoulda been here a couple years ago when a frickin’ nuke went off in California! Oh, yeah, and a weaponized virus was released in an LA hotel just three years ago.
  • Spenser Wolff’s playing the “Honorary Agent Who Is Reinstated After Being Uncovered As A Mole” role. He’s apparently the only one who can hack into something or other that Chloe babbled about. But I thought Chloe could do everything? Nevermind. But this was done several times in past seasons, right down to someone being fired and sent home (see, O’Brian, Chloe) only to be brought back a few hours later. In fact, sometimes agents are tortured and then put back to work. When Spenser is sent packing, we are treated to Edgar smirking at his computer screen. I think we’re to assume that he’s psyched at Spenser’s firing but he could just as easily be looking at the Little Debbie Web site.
  • A crazy periphery character related to a main character but who probably has little or no input on the overall plot (nor any of the pointless plots). Playing this role is Lynn McGill’s sister, Jenny, who reminds me a lot of Switch from the original Matrix movie. Remember Michelle Dessler’s crazy brother from Season Two? Remember Chase’s bastard child? We’ve been here and done this. [And who can forget Erin Driscoll’s twitchy, suicidal daughter? The only family members they’ve used that were moderately successful were Jack’s in Season One. – D]
  • Conflict between the first lady and the President. Granted, it’s a little different, but I didn’t like Sherry Palmer and I don’t like Lady Martha.
  • Heartless bad guy who ruthlessly kills people he promises not to hurt. Did anyone think Erwich, formerly of Yellow Tie fame, was going to let that motorcycle mechanic live? Come on, 24, don’t start fading on your ability to surprise us.
  • Wronged woman shooting a vital bad guy after CTU busts their asses to get him into custody. (See Saunders, Stephen.)

Let’s not pretend I thought it was all bad, though. Let’s also talk about some of the things we learned this hour. Well, for one thing, Lynn McGill is not a field agent. His junkie sister, whose name is Jenny but I must call Switch, calls him up on his cell phone to hit him up for money. When she first called, I thought he was banging her and then he expositioned for us that she was his sister. Weren’t you then expecting him to whine, “I’m telling mom!” at some point along the way?

McGill tells her that he’ll meet her in a shady, poorly visible, perfect-place-to-kick-someone’s-ass-discreetly parking lot across from CTU. Only he doesn’t add in all those descriptors. He does tell her that he’ll meet her in 20 minutes and then proceeds to not meet her for 40 minutes. I thought this anal freak was punctual? This tardiness apparently pisses off Sister Switch who stalls for a few moments, giving her previously unseen hoodlum friend the chance to mug Lynn from behind. Yes, this is a great idea – assault a federal agent. Why not just knock over a 7-11? Isn’t it more likely that you’d get more cash that way than by mugging McGill? Either way, I hope they didn’t take his access card for CTU. I know what a bitch it is to get a replacement in my office.

Getting back to my point, Lynn just takes his ass-beating and heads back to CTU. Wouldn’t even the pencil-pushing-est of CTU agents have some weapons and/or hand-to-hand combat training? Kim Bauer claimed to have weapons training two seasons ago and we know Chloe can fire a gun and defend herself. I remember how much of a puissant our old friend Chappelle was right up until the end. In fact, the only division agents I remember having any sort of ability to act as a field agent were George Mason and Michelle.

Anyway, on the subject of odd editing, we had the President apologizing to Martha and her seeming to accept his apology and kick his ass at the same time. Martha comments that she thinks Logan will need her help and in the split-second where you can tell Logan thinks he’s forgiven Martha hits him with a vicious, open-handed right cross. Wow, what a crackling slap that was! You wonder how much fun they had doing that scene. (“Okay, Greg and Jean, let’s do it again… from the slap!”) Anyway, Martha wants to help him out and finally we see Mike Novick reappear, showing no ill effects of whatever was used to subdue him last hour. I sure hope he watched the previouslies.

Mike wants to cover up Cummings’ involvement in the assassination of Palmer, but Martha has a mini-freak out and says that they cannot lie to the American people. Right. Martha, this is Earth. Earth, Martha. Have you two met? More to the point, her husband has risen, however questionably, to the highest political post in all the land and she doesn’t think you can lie to the American public? Okay.

Either way, Logan concurs with his wife’s suggestion that they draw up a press statement (there’s Logan focusing on PR again) as Mike looks as though he wishes he had a belt to hang himself with. Mike is then dismissed by the Prez to look for such a belt.

On the Erwich front, he knows that Cummings was trying to screw them over and so he is trying to figure out how to use the canisters at his own disposal. We’re to believe that the man Cummings had on the inside spilled the beans on the plan to remotely detonate the canisters. So Erwich, somehow, is put in touch with this man Rossler, who officially ups the creep factor of 24 to previously unseen levels. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Erwich learns he must get into the canteens of death somehow and to do so he needs some way to cut through metal. Carefully. So where does he go? Right, to a motorcycle shop. The dude there confirms he has metal cutting tools and Erwich puts him to work, not for one second showing any concern that there’s a margin of error of only millimeters. A lot of confidence in motorcycle mechanics, eh, Erwich? I guess he likes Orange County Choppers.

The point of cutting those canisters open is so that he can reset them to function at his whim. And he needs Rossler to help him do this. CTU uses some of their stealthy technology to track a phone call between Rossler and Erwich. Never mind that if they’re using a frequency that easy to check, there must be thousands of other phone calls also within earshot of their equipment. Regardless, Jack and Curtis move in on Rossler’s lair, which is guarded by armed security guys who are ready to shoot visitors as soon as their security monitors fritz out. Well, somebody warn the UPS guy. I’ve never lived in a building with a doorman or a front desk but if this is what it’s like, sign me up. Ain’t nobody gonna piss me off again.

Anyway, Curtis has moved on from having only one line in last week’s episode (and from delivering pizzas) and is part of the two-man team that consists of him and Jack. As they approach the guards on Rossler’s level of the building, the guard simply open fire, apparently not for one second caring if they’re shooting at a federal agent. Consequences, schmonsequences. It proves irrelevant for the guards, however, as Jack and Curtis take them down. They use decidedly different methods, though. Jack shoots the guards while Curtis – apparently in an attempt to save ammo – tries to bounce the guards’ bullets off his chest and back at them. This doesn’t work and Curtis goes down in pain. Fortunately, he’s wearing a bulletproof vest. Jack proceeds into Rossler’s penthouse, thanking his lucky stars that Curtis is so much bigger than him and, thus, an easier target.

In the apartment, Jack takes a shot at a now-armed Rossler, hitting him in the leg despite appearing to aim at Rossler’s chest or head. Now that’s a magic bullet. I’m telling you, go back and watch it again. Jack never aims low.

Nevertheless, Rossler is injured and gives up his gun while Chloe tells Jack that someone else is in the apartment. D speculated a lot last week as to who this might be and it turns out to be no where near as suspenseful as it was made to seem. It’s just some dumb whore. Literally. A mail-order sex slave named Inessa who was imported from Russia perhaps a month or two ago. Let me ask this – where did she think she was going? Or are these girls kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery? And how does it all work? Is she yours forever? Is she ever repossessed if you don’t make payments? I think the reason nobody knows the answers to these questions is because it’s just all too creepy and disgusting to try to learn more about. The fact that it goes on is enough to make my lunch come back up. I’m all for sex with young girls, but when I say “young” I mean like 22. This girl is reportedly 15. For that, Rossler should have his nuts stapled to one end of the coffee table while Curtis sets fire to the other end.

Instead, Rossler demands a deal in which he gets immunity and his sex slave and walks away in return for giving them Erwich. Jack has no interest in this and in full view of Buchanan, Audrey and McGill he and Curtis grind boots against Rossler’s gunshot wound to try to make him talk. And given how quickly Rossler seems to be coming around, I would think a little more would have made him talk. However, McGill – pissant that he is – steps in and orders Jack to accept the deal. Which is interesting, given that the deal to set Mandy free last year had to be approved by the President. Apparently now McGill is senior enough to dole out federal immunity. Whatever.

It turns out that McGill was eager to speed up the process of getting information from someone in order to stop someone else from murdering thousands of Americans because he was late for his meeting with his crackhead sister. See, this is why young people with crackhead siblings shouldn’t be in such positions of authority. I mean, really, did McGill just do what I saw? He ordered Jack to accept Rossler’s ridiculous deal and then said “We’re signing off here,” so he could get to his meeting with Switch. Of course, right after saying they were signing off, he ordered Buchanan and Audrey to make sure Jack sticks to the deal. How can they do that if you’ve just signed them off of the transmission? And what makes him think that those two would do anything he says? They’ve already proven they do respect Jack and don’t respect Lynn. Oh, whatever.

So then Lynn goes across the street and endures his ass-whipping at the hands of Sister Switch’s crack buddy.

In the meantime, Jack now has to break the news to Ivana Humpalot that she has to go with Rossler. Go with him? Where? Jack promises to follow them and perform a snatch job. He also promises to get her away from Rossler. But to my last question – where? Where is Rossler going to go with a hole in his leg? Inessa, the well-stacked, 15-year-old Russian hooker (man, imagine the Google hits I might get now) doesn’t take the news well. But Jack promises over and over that he won’t let Rossler hurt her again. Finally, she seems to relent eerily.

And shortly thereafter we find out why she relented. Jack left her alone to get dressed and in doing so she managed to arm herself with a 9MM handgun. I’m not sure if I like the 9 as an accessory with that outfit. Come to think of it, how could she hide the bulging gun under a slim-fitting outfit? (I often have the same issue with my…ahem…weapon.)

Anyway, Insexa McSexslave decides that she ain’t going anywhere with Rossler and as soon as she’s back in the room with him, she fires several very accurate rounds into his torso. Rossler goes down and dies with a shocked expression on his face. Serves the sick bastard right, although I’d have wanted to see him suffer a while lot more. Jack’s only remorse is that they’re now fucked with regard to getting Erwich to fall into their trap. He does not tell Inessa how she can make it up to him, but perhaps that happened while we were watching something else.

Over at the Hidden Valley Presidential Retreat, Logan and Martha are working on his statement. Martha is all authoritative and is sort of acting like a crazy person would act when given the chance to act like one of the rest of us. Seriously, I don’t care if she’s pissed and wants to be involved. She’s still prone to emotional freak-outs and with Logan acting as Presidential hissy-fitter, we’ve got plenty of that in the hopper already.

Speaking of which, I never talked about why Jack is still on the job, did I? After he beat down Walt Cummings and Aaron took Cummings away, Jack prepared to leave. Logan then had a little flip-out, clearly scared about being left alone to, you know, run the country on his own. Jack made it clear he wanted to disappear again for his daughter’s sake, or some such shit like that. Logan then begged him to stay on despite the fact that he knew Jack didn’t have the same sense of loyalty to Logan as he did to Palmer, even going so far as to acknowledge that they have “a complicated past.” Wait, did they sleep together once and then Jack never called? Oh, right, Logan means the way he threw Jack under the bus 18 months ago when the anger of the Chinese government came crashing down upon the President. And speaking of that, where the hell are those Chinese? And where’s Agent Bern? I’ll bet Jack wants to kick his freaking ass. I hope the whole Chinese angle isn’t completely ignored since that was reportedly the original focus of this season but was then scrapped in favor of the one we’re currently seeing.

In order to manufacture a reason to bring back Elisha Cuthbert, Jack asks Audrey (yes, of course, why not Audrey?) to try to track down Kim and bring her into CTU so that he (Jack) can tell her that he’s alive in person. Hmmmm…. I wonder how willing Kim will be to come to CTU, the place that, as far as she knows, took the lives of both of her parents. Especially with no real explanation.

Towards the end of the hour, we learn that John Allen Nelson’s arc on 24 as Walt Cummings has come to an end. Novick calls the Prez and tells him to come to someplace nearby. The Prez quite rightly asks Novick just to tell him what happened, to which Mike responds “Just come here, Mr. President.” Ah, nooooo, Mike. You could just tell him. I realize that’s not as dramatic, but what was the point of this? As Logan and Martha walk into wherever Mike is, we see Cummings dangling by the neck from his belt. I’m sort of curious as to how he managed to hang himself since the last time we saw him, he was cuffed and guarded by Secret Service. And, presumably, had his belt around his waist.

Random Observation #1 – Did everyone see John McCain’s cameo? It was actually in the upper left corner when we were in a splitscreen as we came back from commercials about halfway through the show. He brought a file into the conference room and handed it to Audrey, then left. Hey, if we don’t fix Social Security, maybe that’s the future for us – retirees being gophers in offices where technology has passed them by.

Random Observation #2 – Is Tony waking up anytime soon? Was the press announcement that Carlos Bernard was coming back for this season simply to deceive us? I wish he wasn’t injured because then he and Jack and Curtis could be tearing shit up.

As I said earlier, I found this to be the first bit of a letdown episode for me this season. As always, I definitely still enjoyed it but I didn’t feel it was up to the standards we’ve come to expect.