Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Season 5; Hour Nineteen (1:00AM - 2:00AM)

Air Date: 24 Apr 2006
Reviewer: D

That Dr. Romano – he’s even worse than I thought!

But first – for a show where the body count has often run into the dozens, 24 is suddenly awfully coy about the ultimate disposition of some key people. In the hours previous, there were Evelyn and her daughter, presumably dispatched by Henderson. I figured we were spared that scene just because it would have been… um, what’s the word… oh yeah, cruel. Random security detail personnel and the occasional bank manager can catch a bullet and no one flinches, but a do-gooder damsel and her innocent daughter? Off them and someone sure as hell would’ve raised Cain. (Which reminds me: I hope Wayne and Jack dumped the bank manager’s body or else that squad car is going to be getting a bit oogy smelling by the morning.)

Then in this ep Pierce has mysteriously been “taken care of” and we have Heller’s “Thelma and Louise”-ish launch into the big blue. The vagueness is of course intentional. You may have noticed that there really isn’t any ticking bomb time pressure left in this season’s plotline right now to keep the more resolution-oriented viewer tuning in. But that type of viewer – which is not me, I obviously just keep tuning in for the show’s music – will tune in to see whether either of these beloved characters has really bought it. The Fox website, which stated the finality of Tony’s death unflinchingly (of course, how exactly does a website flinch?) is purposefully vague about Heller, stating that the car “lands in a lake” and then “descends into the water.”

Then there’s also the possibility that the writers didn’t really know whether to keep these guys around or not. Both are great characters to have in your back pocket and 24 is running out of those so they might have just hedged their bets. Speaking of which, if I had to bet, I’d say that Pierce is alive and Heller is dead. Keeping both of them around would be too corny and an embittered Audrey is a better Audrey.

(Hey, also on the missing in action list, just where are the Russian president and his wife? Have they just slept through this whole thing? Bierko has returned from unconsciousness it seems – let’s see if he lasts another hour in the Death Clinic…)

So beyond the baffling body business (boy, alliteration is the bomb!), another kick-ass episode, I thought, with only a few mild annoyances, a good heart-stopper near the end, and the first peak into the conspiracy behind the conspiracy that lurked behind the original conspiracy. Man, any more layers on this cake and it’s going to topple right over.

I thought the interaction between Jack and Heller was great. Heller realizes he fucked up but his “please forgive me” was delivered in as defiant a tone as it could have been. Jack is relatively respectful – in that he stops short of saying ‘I told you so, I told you so, nyeh nyeh nyeh…” – and also spares Heller from the knowledge of how close his daughter was to being killed (but that her very fancy jacket was not so lucky…no way those stains are coming out…)

Jack wastes no time in contacting his new lapdog Buchanan and his old lapdog Chloe who do their computer magic to zero in on Henderson. This satellite wizardry multiple computer linking network subnet node bullshit was annoying me this episode. I know it’s always humming along in the background but we’re reaching the ‘Star Trek’ zone here wherein technology is used – or made up if necessary – to conveniently shore up messy plot holes. As I’ve probably mentioned (ad nauseum) I work in IT and know at least a little about the crap they spew. You know, shows like “House” and “ER” have actual doctors working as consultants who work with the writers to get the lingo right and also point out that, for instance, decapitations can rarely be reversed. It sometimes seems like the ‘24’ computer tech consultants are actually a bunch of monkeys who rip pages out of an IBM manual at random to put together the techie jargon Chloe and Miles ramble on about. Particularly Miles “checking the binaries” and “machine coding” some such bullshit to track down Chloe. Why not just employ some dilythium crystals and blast a temporary wormhole into hyperspace, reversing the time phase resolution so you could go back to the minute before Chloe snatched your keycard and stop her from escaping?

So that’s my one rant of the episode. From now on I’ll be a good little ‘24’ watcher and just take it on faith that Chloe can tap into anything anywhere that allows her to see anyone. And then send it all over to Jack on his PDA (where he never gets one of those “buffering…” messages that go on forever…) Omniscience comes in handy on television; the “Medium” uses ESP, Chloe use technology. It’s all good.

I’d mention that cute bit of Chloe dialogue in there – calling Buchanan’s computer pathetic and apologizing for bossing him around – but plenty of other folks will have mentioned that by now and, though I never thought I’d say it, I’m a little Chloe saturated at this point. Still love my Chloe, but her relentless pinched look as she types frantically on the computer is getting old. Chloe, dear, Mom always warned us that if you kept making that face it would stick and I’m afraid she may have been right.

Somewhere in here, Henderson has a terse little conversation with the leader of the free world where he mentioned Cummings’ quote suicide unquote. Sometimes I just forget how red Logan’s hands are at this point…We are to find out the Henderson has handed off the all-important recording to someone else which is convenient because it will give Jack someone else to chase later on. Heaven forbid he just bury it in the woods somewhere. It opens the door to the introduction of another special guest star, whoever it is on that diplomatic flight. Who would you like to see? Michael Douglas maybe, in a nice little piece of cross-promotion for “
The Sentinel.” I’m rooting for someone hot instead, like maybe Douglas’s impossibly gorgeous wife.

Anyway, thanks to the 47 satellites that apparently survey every road in southern California, Jack is able to zero in on Henderson and he takes off in pursuit. (A detail I loved: as Jack pulls away you see the “To Serve and Protect” slogan on the side of the LA Police car, an appropriate message as Jack goes off to save the free world again…) Eventually Jack is able to run Henderson off the road, apparently into that barn where he met Wayne and Evelyn a few hours ago. Recycling is good! Even if it’s just the locations in television shows… In fact, this barn might have been the same one that Jack’s wife and Kim were holed up in all the way back in Season 1. Who knows? The Fox website – apropos of absolutely nothing – calls the location an outdoor nursery.

Jack finally nabs Henderson only to find out that his ever clever recruiter has henchmen on standby ready to get rid of Heller. The business of the laser sight on Heller was a nice touch. There are few things that I can think of that would be more terrifying. Some mild carping here though: shooter is in a helicopter, Heller is in a speeding car. Wouldn’t some evasive maneuvers be worthwhile before pulling a
Toonces the Driving Cat? Hell, Wayne got away from Henderson’s creeps and they were driving right next to him.

Here’s another random thought: maybe Heller did one of those “open the car door and jump out at the last second” things before the car went over the cliff? Hmmm… seems unlikely. Is there any reason for Heller to go into a lake instead of burst into flames – except to keep hope alive that he made it? Final note on Heller: it reminded me that we’ve gone many hours without a terrorist suicide and it was refreshing – well, no that’s not quite right but something along those lines – to see a scene where a patriotic American will also make the ultimate sacrifice in support of a bigger cause. That the bigger cause is exposing corruption within his own country – and not some vague jihadist quest – makes it that much more valiant.

Back at the barn, Henderson still won’t cave even with Heller apparently out of play. It’s funny to me that Jack seems continually surprised that Henderson won’t give up the goods. Remember Jack – you threatened his wife (JoBeth Williams!) and he didn’t cave; you tortured him to the point of death at CTU and he didn’t cave. This man is NOT caving! Though you still haven’t tried waving a Butterfinger candy bar in front of his nose…mmmm…love them Butterfingers.

Back from commercial, Logan contacts what has got to be the ultimate big bads because we only have five hours left in the season, for god’s sake. And we’ve already gone over the leader of the free world’s head; much further and we’re going to be reaching the realm of either God or the devil or quite possibly, aliens.

The leader of the big bads is
the actor who played Dr. Romano on “ER”, Paul McCrane,who was such a delectable bad guy, hopefully even when they tried to humanize him by cutting off some of his body parts or something (sorry to be vague on details – I’d stopped watching by then). These big bads – shall we call them the Graham Group for now? – apparently have better monitoring of the situation than Chloe could even imagine, knowing that Martha is still curious and that Pierce is less mild-mannered than he used to be. What could these guys be about? A bunch of oil execs is a little too obvious, though that would make the most sense given the line Cummings (first) and then Logan (now) seems to be pushing. They haven’t yet pushed Logan all the way over to the dark side (as per below) so there has to be something in all of this that he believes is good. Here’s an idea: it’s a cabal of radical environmentalists who really wanted the nerve gas to get piped through natural gas lines all along to highlight the problems with fossil fuels! Or maybe it’s a bunch of Internet execs who want people to be so terrified of the danger in the world that they won’t do anything except sit inside and surf the net all day? I gotta say – beyond the oil execs, you really have to stretch to find something that makes sense (a stretch I’m obviously not up to today).

As per the instructions of Graham, Martha is found and thrown into a locked room to await a showdown with the Prez himself. Nice way to soften her up for the upcoming conversation…the scene that follows is another winner, our boy Logan treading so tenuously on that line between pleading and threatening. Martha does her hysterical thing pretty well too and wins the exit line of the day award with her “the country shouldn’t suffer, you should.” I couldn’t imagine that Logan was going to put her down but I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had shipped her off to the looney bin. Instead, she remains free to roam the halls and, particularly if she ever finds out what happened to Evelyn, I think she’s primed to go postal soon. Hey, if Chloe can have her chance with a machine gun, why not Marty?

Jack leaves Audrey at “the nursery” and says the ominous line “I don’t feel right about this.” Did you think Audrey was a goner at that point? I know I did. I’ve got to applaud the subsequent setup with Henderson waking up and trying to get Audrey to make a call to save her father’s life. She’s lost a lot of blood, suffered numerous shocks, is still probably recovering from sleeping with Walt Cummings, and Henderson plays to her weakest point – the possibility to save her heroic dad. Kim Raver keeps getting better as Audrey, enough that I’ll once again suspend any “too skinny” jokes this week (even though I was yelling “just turn sideways” at the TV once Henderson’s men showed up…)

And since I’m talking about Henderson’s hechies, welcome back Curtis and thanks for providing the one “spill your popcorn” surprise in this episode. And what a relief that this was a good surprise. I know ‘24’ is supposed to be a tragedy not an adventure but still, it’s really nice when the good guys win one once in a while. And I was almost as relieved that Curtis’s guys got Henderson as I was that he saved Audrey. Let’s give RoboChris a little something else to do besides drive around chatting up the President on his cell phone, ay?

As satisfying as this interlude was – I actually yelled “Yay!” at the TV set, waking my wife and pissing off the cat – I’m a little confused on chain of command here. Curtis takes an order from Buchanan, no longer the head of CTU which is being run by Homeland anyway. But Curtis is still on the government’s dime, isn’t he? He didn’t need to call in to anyone and say, “by the way, just taking a quick jaunt over by the nursery – tulip bulb sale, you know – and I’ll be back at CTU in an hour or so.” [And with his tac team, no less. –J] I guess he could justify it as following up intel on Henderson’s whereabouts, but still, aren’t some folks going to be a little surprised when he shows up with Audrey in tow as well?

Also, did anyone else get a little nervous when Jack talked about Audrey getting the medical attention she needs at CTU? I think I’d stop at the local animal hospital first – good medical care and yummy kibble snacks too. [Yes, let’s put Bierko, Henderson and Audrey in the same clinic, shake it all up and see what kind of cocktail it makes. –J]

Speaking of CTU, it takes Homeland more than a half-hour to figure out that Chloe’s gone missing. If these guys are this slow on making these kinds of discoveries – and this is someone who was in the same building, for god’s sake – it doesn’t bode well for them making any progress on much of anything else. Shari proves to be an entertaining interview, particularly her closing line “…and people think I’M crazy.” Second only to Martha for line of the night.

Karen finally shows that she isn’t completely a company drone and smartens up to something nefarious going on, though it’s taken everything short of a direct memo from the devil (“Dear Karen, Just thought you’d like to know that Charles will be joining me down here soon…”) for her to get the hint. It’s a heads-up play for her to call Buchanan though I think Bill is going to have a heck of a time ‘splainin’ to the hulks in the combat gear where Chloe got off to.

Karen calls Mike who I’m afraid may not be long for this world either if he keeps asking questions like Martha’s been doing. He says “It’s been a strange night” prompting my next installment of ‘24: The Musical,’ to the tune of “I Only Have Eyes For You”:

Is the loon actually right?
I can’t tell if Logan’s alright
‘Cause it’s been a strange night
For me…

We have another scene with the Graham Group in here, I guess just so we know that these really are the folks pulling the strings. Dr. Romano utters the phrase “11th hour” during this scene which frankly should just be banned from ’24.’ We’re almost at the 20th hour, dipshit; get with the program!

So now we’re down to Jack back at the airport. As semi-ridiculous as it was, there wasn’t ever any doubt that he’d end up in that plane. As implausible as it might be that he’d make it past all of that security without a second look, we are compelled to give him a pass in order to set up next week’s mayhem involving Jack coming off very much like a terrorist. Once again, ‘24’ sets up a situation that poses a bit of subconscious tension in light of the world we live in. Next week, we may have to wonder whether a hijacker could actually be a patriot. Hmmm…

In the meantime, we can savor the sweet setup we have going into the home stretch of the season. Early on, I made some comments about the need to set up multiple compelling stories, not just focus on whatever Jack’s doing. Now we have so many things going on, it’s hard to keep them all straight, with the fate of Pierce and Heller still in doubt, Bierko possibly soon to re-enter the fray, internal strife at both Camp David Palmer and CTU/Homeland, and a whole new crew of bad guys to get familiar with. Now the challenge is whether they can even get close to wrapping this all up by 7:00am in 24-land. Who needs a ticking bomb when you’ve got all of these other messes to mop up?


Friday, April 21, 2006

Season 5; Hour Eighteen (12:00AM - 1:00AM)

Air Date: 17 Apr 2006
Reviewer: J

[A quick shout out to J for being a mensch, watching my back, and writing up this week’s ep. Life – real life – got a little too crazy for me this week to ramble on at length about the best show on television so instead I’ll just be interrupting his typically sterling commentary with more than the usual amount of snarky side comments. Thanks, boss! –D]

We kick off Hour Eighteen with Logan still being a shifty bastard and calling Henderson to confirm Bauer’s been killed. I find it interesting that Logan has totally crossed the line and is now openly discussing Bauer’s murder – quite a shift from the limp-wristed Logan we’ve come to know and more great acting from Greg Itzin, who shines in this hour.

Henderson prattles on about how CTU is the best resource for catching Jack. Clearly, Henderson has been away from CTU for a while since catching Jack has been nearly impossible for them for years. Jack gets caught when he wants to get caught, okay Henderson? Logan seems to agree with me as he says “You’re putting an awful lot of faith in their abilities.” Yeah, especially since you and the Vice President have been fucking up CTU by firing everyone and replacing them with Homeland Security people. Nevertheless, Logan immediately calls Karen Hayes to lean on her a bit more and, in my opinion, nearly tip his hand. When she says they’re still looking for Bauer and Henderson, Logan snaps that he wants Bauer to be a priority. See, if I were Logan, I’d try to suggest Bauer might be helping Henderson and point to their history and how they were friends at one point. It’s not like CTU/Homeland is going to just forget about Henderson, so why not play up the relationship of those two and further deflect suspicion? As we’ll soon see, there isn’t a
Wonder Woman bracelet big enough to deflect what will be coming at Logan this hour. In the scene where Logan is pestering Hayes again, I think it’s interesting to note that Miles, in the foreground, is shaking his head as he hears Hayes’ side of the conversation. I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll eventually come around, too, and begin to be suspicious of the President’s motives. For now, though, he’s not and simply wants to follow them.

A few minutes into the hour, we see Jack and Wayne (and presumably the now-dead bank manager) waiting for someone. A car approaches and it turns out to be Buchanan (still wearing his tie, mind you). Bill drives a Toyota 4Runner. Vanilla, yet rugged. Yes, that’s Bill. Anyway, Jack introduces Wayne and Bill and Bill immediately extends his condolences about David Palmer. I really liked this touch – despite the franticness of the moment, Bill doesn’t forget his manners or to say something he clearly means. Wayne looks choked up all over again, or perhaps just sickened by all the death he’s been around today. Jack fills Bill in on the evidence implicating Logan and asks him (Bill) to look after Wayne and keep him somewhere safe. And presumably not in a motel room.

Speaking of which, has Jack sent anyone to check on Evelyn? And let’s not forget about the Bank Manager’s wife, who is still tied up to a chair with her deceased husband’s neckties.

Anyway, Bill agrees to look after Wayne and they run off together. No, not that way. And I hope you enjoyed seeing Wayne because that’s it for him this hour. Thanks for stopping by, DB! Maybe Bill will hide Wayne in the same place that Curtis has been hidden for the past two hours.

Over at Van Nuys Airport, security is fairly nonexistent. Why do I say that? Well, Audrey was able to park on the tarmac as the Secretary of Defense’s plane arrived. […inconspicuously wearing a shiny white full-length coat to boot…-D] She lets Jack know and then she goes to her pops who greets her warmly. I really like these two together as father and daughter. They maintain a professional relationship most of the time but allow themselves to clearly love one another in private moments. I supposed
nearly being killed together does that.

As the Secretary is asking what the Heller is going on, Jack screams up in his boosted patrol car. Like, nice and inconspicuous, Jack! Why not run the lights and siren as well? As he jumps out, Heller gets agitated and refers to him as a fugitive. There’s probably a joke here about Jack’s former partner Chase being the one-armed man, but I’m not going to try to make the connection.

Anyway, Jack turns on the velvet and convinces the Secretary of Defense to not only listen to him, but to do it inside the hangar while his security detail stays behind. Wow, Heller really goes with his gut, huh? And I bet those security guys (likely Secret Service) aren’t supposed to allow that sort of thing, but hey, who’s going to argue with the SecDef?

Jack plays the tape for Heller and William Devane does a great acting job of looking just about like you’d expect him to. Shocked, but able to take it all in within a second or two. He questions the veracity of the recording, to which Jack replies “I trust the source.” The source, of course, is Evelyn, who Jack had never met before a couple hours ago and who he left bleeding to death in a motel room. And who, by the way, is surely dead now, courtesy of Henderson’s pistol handiwork.

Heller agrees to take the tape from Jack, who wants him to go to the Attorney General to take down Logan. Jack even uses the sappy, “You’re the only one I could trust,” and it appears Heller is moved to trust Jack. He walks out of the hangar and Jack and Audrey do a little sweet exchange where there’s some smiling (even by Jack!) about how things will be okay now. […clearly not aware that there are still 6 hours left in this season…-D] Suddenly, Heller re-enters with his security boys and walks up to Jack saying he has to tell him one more thing. With Jack not expecting anything, Heller hits him with a trachea punch that puts Jack on the floor. I love it. Heller is such a crusty veteran (remember, he’s a retired Army captain) that he takes it upon himself to use the element of surprise on Jack. Somehow, I think these two would be a fair fight, despite the age gap. While Jack is gasping on the ground, both hurt from the punch and also utterly flabbergasted, Heller lectures him and Audrey about destroying the country if they openly take down the President. I don’t know about you, but I felt like Jack and Audrey were the kids and Heller was the lecturing parent in this scene. He’s probably right, in the long run, but it’s not the kind of justice that Jack and Audrey had in mind. Heller decides to leave the recording with one of his men and he takes a car (with no security) to head to the President’s retreat to confront him and insist that he resign. Jack and Audrey are tied up (which seemed odd to me) and held there. I mean, doesn’t Heller understand the kind of danger this could put his daughter in? Or is he unaware of the level of threat that Henderson warrants?

While all this has been going on, Miles and Hayes have hatched a plan to trick Chloe into leading them to Audrey who will hopefully lead them to Jack who theoretically might lead them to Henderson. Got all that?

Anyway, Shari is involved in the setup and Miles and Hayes listen in as Chloe realizes what is happening and heads off to call Audrey. Remember, though, Audrey took the batteries out of her cell phone so as not to be tracked so Chloe calls the pay phone near Audrey’s car. Naturally, Audrey, who is tied up with Jack, does not answer. Miles is undeterred, however, and he hones in on the location of the pay phone at Van Nuys.

What happens next begins the unraveling for Logan. Hayes calls him to report their findings and that they’ve dispatched a team (with Curtis?) to Van Nuys. Logan tells her to back off and that he’s sending in the military since the situation with Jack is “sensitive.” So send in a battalion rather than domestic field agents? That doesn’t even make sense and Karen feels the same way, yet she agrees since it’s the Prez giving the orders. She decides not to just take this yo-yo treatment, though, and she calls Mike Novick who has apparently arisen from his nap. Novick even says “I’ve been in on some other things, but I’ll look into it” when Karen fills him in. [I loved this “other things” line. If this was '24: The Musical,' Novick would break into a song about the “other things” that he might have been doing, to the tune of “My Favorite Things.” “When the gas kills / When the blood spills / When I’m feeling sad./ I simply go work on some other things and Logan doesn’t seem so bad…”-D] So now Logan has Novick and Hayes questioning him and he had the VP asking questions last hour. And this is to say nothing of his wife, Martha.

Novick checks with VP Gardner, who is unaware of why Logan would make such decisions, but being a good company man, backs the President up. Novick’s next call is to the general who is heading up military ops in Los Angeles. The general received no call from Logan, so now Novick is really beginning to think his boss is a liar. This leads him to confront Logan, who pulls rank on Novick and reminds him that he doesn’t answer to Michael Novick. However, he quickly comes up with an interesting lie, and that is that he used a covert task force because he doesn’t want the Chinese to find out that Jack is still alive. Ah, yes, the Chinese. I’m glad we’ve at least mentioned them this season, seeing as how they’re the reason Jack had to fake his death and disappear at the end of last season. Novick clearly thinks this is bullshit, but what can he say? He was there when all the BS at the Chinese embassy went down and so he can’t really argue. Point to Logan.

Back at CTU, Chloe has been locked up and Miles is in the holding cell lecturing her. Chloe runs to him as he’s leaving and puts her hands on him, ostensibly to turn him around, saying “Miles, wait…” As she does this, she smoothly pickpockets him and palms his keycard. [A couple of eps ago, I was thinking Agent Pierce and Wayne Palmer should get a show of their own. It’s clear that Chloe – computer hacking, machine gun toting, pickpocketing Chloe – should be in on this as well. It could be the 21st century’s answer to ‘The Mod Squad!”-D] Using this keycard (and man, aren’t keycards just the prop of the season) she exits the holding room and makes a break for it. Shari catches her and they squawk at one another briefly, with Chloe winning out by mentioning that she knows Shari lied about Miles’ sexual advances and that she’ll recommend Shari for a psych counseling. That is, if she’s not in jail. [One question: do crazy people know they’re crazy? – D]

Over at Camp David Palmer, Logan is pacing around, waiting for word from Henderson when his wife comes in and tries to coo him to bed. Logan promises to be in soon but gets a call from the Secretary of Defense, who is driving towards the retreat. Logan takes the call and there’s a fairly brusque exchange between the two. At one point, I love how Logan says “Perhaps you’ve forgotten that you’re addressing the President of the United States.” Heller knows exactly who he’s talking to and says he’ll be there in 5 minutes. Good thing he knows his way around LA. By the way, Heller, watch out for random killers on the road into the retreat. Oh, and shut off Wayne’s headlights if you get a chance. Thanks.

Martha then goes to Aaron Pierce and asks him what’s going on. He agrees to tell her outside and suggests they meet “near the south stables.” You know, Martha, that location where Pierce caught you cowering in a stall twelve or so hours ago?

Martha agrees to meet him there and when she does, Pierce is absent. Martha pulls out her celly and dials Aaron’s number which, to the continuity staff’s credit, is a “202” number (202 is a DC area code). In a moment that made all loyal viewers and fans of Aaron feel a pin in their stomach, she hears Aaron’s phone ring on the ground near her. She finds it and picks it up and sees her own name and number on the caller ID, thus confirming it’s Aaron’s phone. Incidentally, Martha has a 310 (Los Angeles) area code and the
same number that Debbie’s mom had last season!

So what happened to Aaron? We don’t find out this hour but I’m thinking it’s not good. Are we losing yet another five-season mainstay?

Inside while this is going on, Heller has arrived and Logan walks out to greet him. What an outstanding scene between these two. Logan dismisses the security personnel and hesitantly puts out his hand for Heller, who makes not one move to take it. The way Greg Itzin semi-sheepishly recoils his hand is just terrific. I doubt it was written that way but more likely was played up by Devane and Itzin. Very small thing but very nicely done. […and another moment that adds to Itzin’s growing treasure trove of Emmy-worthy scenes…-D]

Heller gets right to the point and references the recording that he listened to. Logan looks to deny it at first but his poker face is for shit and he caves in when he talks about protecting the interests of the country. Basically, he knows that if Heller has the tape the jig is up, so why not try to reason with him. At least that’s the plan. Heller asks if the interests are oil and Logan says yes twice – once rather quickly and then again more forcefully, almost as though Heller sort of inadvertently reminded him of what this was all about to begin with. Logan comments on how the people who put him in office won’t be able to afford to heat their homes or drive their cars. I’m not sure if the people put him in office at all, actually. He was Keeler’s VP and he took over for Keeler less than 18 months into Keeler’s term, which was 18 months ago. So no, there hasn’t been an election yet but there should be soon. [I think he was talking about Keeler (or at least his widow), Mike Novick, and the shady bagmen Logan seems to associate with, all of them probably SUV drivers…-D]

Anyway, Heller keeps pressing Logan, who comes right back at Heller, telling him, “Until you’ve sat in my chair, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

Heller responds, very evenly, “Your chair is not a throne, Charles.”

Ah, the first name! If ever there’s a way to show a lack of respect towards the President, it’s to call him by his first name. […and then drop your pants and crap on his desk, but I don’t think Devane would go for that one…-D] Logan seems to completely miss this since he’s all worked into a lather at this point. He realizes his goose is cooked and he asks Heller what he wants. Heller responds with his appetizers: Back off of Jack and leave Audrey alone. I wasn’t aware Audrey was in any danger from Logan, but okay. Logan seems to show some hope here (another great performance by Itzin) and says, “Anything else?” It was as though he was ready to agree to anything if it was going to be that easy. And that’s when Heller drops the bomb – resignation. And he agrees to keep the recording secret, which almost seems to pacify Logan who, as we all know, has never really been able to handle being President and is more concerned with his public image than anything.

As this is happening, Chloe is arriving at Bill Buchanan’s (Safe) House to the tunes of the James Bond-like guitar music I first mentioned last week (and which was the latest comment we’ve made here that another Website’s recapper apparently liked and used as his own), where he apparently has Wayne stashed in the attic. Chloe gets set up to work remotely from Bill’s pad (hopefully, Bill sprung for high-speed Internet access). Bill’s no longer wearing his suit jacket or his necktie – it’s undoubtedly the most casual we’ve ever seen him. Fortunately, he does not have soft music playing and wine in a chiller.

Over at Van Nuys, Jack takes advantage of the fact that Heller’s security boys aren’t in the same room with them (when will TV security people learn?) and he is able to melt off his restraints on a hot pipe. He then knocks over one of the agents and takes his gun. Out on the tarmac, he sneaks up on the other agent and gets the recording back from him. Suddenly, Henderson and yet another cadre of men (who apparently multiply like the bad guys in a James Bond video game) arrive via helicopter and begin shooting. Jack tells Secret Service Agent #2 to take cover and that if they’re going to survive they’ll have to work together. He tosses him back his gun and the two fire at Henderson’s chopper, taking out many more of Henderson’s men. At one point, some of Henderson’s men actually take cover near….a tanker truck. This makes it way too easy (and probably kind of fun) for Jack as he blows up the truck and incinerates some bad guys. In the crossfire, Henderson is able to book it into the hangar (somehow knowing right where to go to find Audrey and have leverage against Jack) while Secret Service Agent #2 takes a bullet and goes down. Jack rushes over and loots his corpse of, presumably, ammunition and whatever cash he has on him.

Jack hoofs it into the hangar and, naturally, Henderson has Audrey at gunpoint and is demanding the recording. Dammit, Audrey. [We’re talking Audrey here – she could’ve hid behind a swizzle stick and Henderson wouldn’t have found her for days. I’m thinking she must have been doing an interpretive dance around the hanger – think '24: The Musical' again – when Henderson barged in.-D] Jack and Henderson yell back and forth for a while, with Henderson again being cryptic about who he is protecting. Jack says he’ll turn over the recording if Henderson lets Audrey go and he throws in his patented sweetener: “I give you my word.” Well, there’s word-giving all over the damn place today, isn’t there? We should ask Theo Stoller how much stock he puts in Jack’s word. Henderson seems to know this, too, and suggests meeting Jack halfway, to which Jack yells back, “What does that mean?” This struck me as funny for some reason.

What it means, apparently, is that Henderson nearly cuts off Audrey’s arm and then sends her strolling towards Jack. Jack realizes what is going on, as Audrey bleeds all over the floor and ruins her weird, cream-colored coat. Henderson says he cut her brachial artery and that she’ll bleed to death in three minutes. Yikes.

Audrey repeatedly tells Jack not to turn over the evidence but Jack does it anyway, sliding it over to Henderson who takes several shots in their direction but hits nothing. I suppose if Jack knew Henderson was that poor of a marksman, he might have reconsidered sending over the recording.

Back at the Presidential retreat, Heller is handing over a typed resignation letter (apparently, Logan was kind enough to allow him use of a computer and printer) for Logan to sign. Vice-President Gardner is entering the room and pleasantly greets Heller, who defers to Logan to tell Gardner what he’s doing there. Logan looks as though he has no other recourse and turns to Gardner. “Hal,” Logan begins, but trails off because his cell rings with a call from Henderson. Henderson confirms he has the recording and you just knew what was going to happen next. Logan, ever the shifty bastard, announces to Gardner that he is asking Heller for his resignation because Heller came there to accuse him of being complicit in the day’s events. Heller is pissed and tells Gardner the truth about the conspiracy, stating that he has evidence. Logan, smugly, asks to see it, which tips off Heller that the phone call Logan just got had to do with the evidence and, likely, Jack and Audrey. He leans in and begins the threat, “If anything happens to my daughter…” He doesn’t finish it, though, as security comes to escort him out at the request of the President, who barbs Heller one more time with, “I’d like your resignation on my desk by the morning.” Throughout all of this, Gardner is staring at both men with an absolutely horrified expression on his face. I thought it looked like he didn’t know who to believe and I’m sort of hoping that this accusation by Heller pushes Gardner’s suspicions of Logan over the edge. [What was with all the repeated mentions of things happening before the “news cycle” starts the next day? It’s clear that neither the President nor the terrorists are in control of the country – it’s the media twits that juice up the morning news shows every day…-D]

We go to the final-minute split-screen and it’s a doozy, once again showing us how much the shit has hit the fan. We have no fewer than seven splits, including Heller walking out of the retreat, Martha wondering where Aaron is, Jack tending to Audrey, Henderson driving away with the recording, Buchanan and Chloe fretting, Novick, Hayes… and we’re treated to the President doing his bird-face routine. And if you were expecting the customary final scene after the split-screen, you’re still waiting. We’re left with the feeling that things aren’t good. And that, in itself, is what makes the episode very good.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Season 5; Hour Seventeen (11:00PM - 12:00AM)

Air Date: 10 Apr 2006
Reviewer: J

Well, I was far less excited by the twist of Logan being behind this mess than D was last week. I kept saying to whoever would listen (co-workers, friends, random people on the subway) that they had damn well better find a way to make this make sense. It’s completely – completely – clear that this was made up just recently. Logan made much more sense as a good guy. A spineless, unable-to-make-a-decision wuss, but a well-intentioned one. Well, a reasonably well-intentioned one, anyway. I mean, he is rather self-serving and more interested in his public image and his legacy and whatnot, but in the end he certainly appeared pained at the idea of American citizens being harmed. But now we have this revelation that he was “behind everything that’s happened today,” a phrase we’ve heard a lot of over the years. While being led to believe that Homeland or the Vice President or Walt Cummings or the Russians were behind it, we all assumed it couldn’t be the President. But now it is.

Speaking of the Russians, there is a mention of Bierko this hour that leads us to believe he’s still alive. What about all those interactions with the President? Did Logan fake all of that? Are he and Bierko sort of in on this, too? How connected are Henderson and Bierko? Are we back to the lame-ass, contrived plot that Walt Cummings spewed forth ten or so hours ago about how this was done to “make the country stronger”? It sure sounds like it, and if that’s the case, color me disappointed.

But let’s get rolling on this hour which, for all the complaints I seem to be leveling, was very entertaining while still being what we tend to call a transitional, or filler, episode. There was nothing major discovered in this hour (unless you count Evelyn’s ability to teleport back and forth to the bank to get a safe deposit box in which to hide secret recordings or the fact that Logan knows how to French kiss) but it has us set up for an explosive last seven hours. We see the return of one of my favorite characters, Secretary of Defense James Heller. I just love William Devane, largely because of how much he appears to just be a bad-ass. He has that look of having weathered a lot of shit over the years and he is absolutely perfect for this role. I do worry, however, that he may confront the wrong person and get a bullet for his troubles. We shall see.

We launch into this episode with Wayne, Jack, Evelyn and Evelyn’s daughter Amy driving along in a nice Infiniti luxury sedan. Where they go this car, I have no idea. Perhaps it was Henderson’s and since he made off with Evelyn’s, Jack felt it only fair to abscond with Henderson’s ride. I do find it interesting that we see them in this car several times this hour with no explanation as to whose it is. Wayne’s is upside down in a ditch right now, Evelyn’s was boosted by Henderson and whatever CTUmobile Jack was driving is back at the barn where they met up last hour. So who knows?

Anyway, Jack is trying to take care of Evelyn’s wounds and they decide to go check into a hotel for some reason. Wayne Palmer, the former Chief of Staff to the President of the United States who was just murdered that morning, is sent in to secure the room. Good suggestion, Jack. When you’re trying to remain stealthy, using a highly recognizable public figure for covert work is a brilliant strategy. Also, not to repeatedly question Jack’s decisions, but why take Evelyn to a motel? I mean, they quite rightly realize that Henderson will somehow magically be monitoring the emergency frequencies and so they shouldn’t take her to a hospital. However, I would think that keeping her in the car and, you know, in motion, would make it easier to keep her safe and away from Henderson than putting her in a seedy motel room. But then again, I’m not a secret agent for a reason.

Anyway, we finally learn that this evidence that Evelyn has is damning indeed – a recording of a phone call between President Logan and Henderson. She stashed it in a safe deposit box in a bank in LA. Okay, first of all, when? Second, does she live in LA? Her daughter is there, so unless Henderson kidnapped her in DC and schlepped her to LA, I guess so. Or she brings her daughter to places where she’ll be working 16-18 hour days. Also, if she doesn’t live in LA, what is her car doing there? Or is that a rental?

Back to the main issue, though, when the hell did she sneak away from the first lady to bring that recording to a bank? Obviously, it had to be during normal banking hours and it had to be after Palmer was killed because we eventually hear the tape contains Logan wigging out about that. I know there were a couple hours in there when we didn’t see Evelyn, but there definitely weren’t many. And if she knew how involved the President was, why didn’t she tell the first lady? Or Aaron? Or anyone? No, she waits until her daughter is kidnapped to deal with this issue. What was she saving the tape for? A nice piece of blackmail evidence to earn an early retirement package?

Jack clues Audrey in to the fact that Logan is the weenie “behind everything that’s happened today.” Audrey eventually tells Chloe, whom I’m sure the writers will make bad soon, that Logan and not the VP is “behind everything that’s happened today.” And Audrey makes a call to her papa, SecDef Heller, to tell him she needs to set up a meeting with him and Jack (to my chagrin, he doesn’t say, “Honey, you’re hallucinating again – Jack’s dead, remember?”) because they have evidence regarding the person who is “behind everything that’s happened today.” I think I need a macro for that phrase.

Fortunately, Jim Heller is only an hour from Los Angeles (he must be in one of those President Keeler holding patterns) and Audrey bolts CTU right about the time Logan is putting out a warrant for Jack’s arrest. Yeah, way to not tip your hand there, Logan. Moron. Even Karen Hayes wonders about the secret warrant and admits as much to Audrey and Chloe. What do you bet they get her to support them soon enough? She’s even doubting whether Homeland should have taken over CTU at the insistence of the VP, by virtue of the insistence of Logan. Well, that’s interesting because I recall Karen’s first screen time including her suggesting the takeover. How odd. Does this show even hire continuity staff? Maybe they were killed in the Sentox attack.

I also like how Hayes reminds Chloe and Audrey that they’re obligated to tell her if Jack contacts them. Yeah, Karen, so I guess you’ve never watched 24 before, huh? I don’t think there are two people alive who are less likely to choose loyalty to you over Jack.

As Audrey is leaving CTU, Karen checks in with a couple of field operatives (one of which is the blonde chick who was commandeering Chloe’s ‘puter last hour) who are placing a transponder on Audrey’s car. Wait, Homeland has “field agents”? Are they experts in putting plastic wrap around doorframes? Because, come to think of it, that might have helped CTU a few hours ago.

Sometime while Jack was tending to Evelyn and calling Audrey (man, what a multi-tasker) Wayne has made himself useful and located the manager of the bank wherein Evelyn’s evidence is hidden. You know, Evelyn, this would have been a lot easier (not to mention, plausible) if you had the recording in your pocket. More to the point, how the hell did Wayne figure this out in three minutes (it’s 11:05 when he does)? He claims the manager “was listed.” Where? Under “Bank Managers, Los Angeles County”?

Anyway, just ten minutes later, Jack and Wayne are breaking into the bank manager’s house and dragooning him to help them. Rather than tell them what’s going on, Jack uses his patented “point the gun at the man’s wife” routine which, I must admit, is probably a much faster way to get what you want. Unless the man he does this to hates his wife. Man, that’d be a backfire, wouldn’t it?

“I’m going to shoot your wife unless you do what I want.”
“Go ahead.”
“Now what?”

But it works this time. Mr. Bank Manager agrees to take them to his bank. Naturally, evading the national guard and police will be tough, given the curfew situation. And speaking of that, shouldn’t it be lifted by now?

Meanwhile, Audrey has pulled into a gas station and while putting the nozzle in her car dials Chloe. If you
believe urban legends, that could be quite dangerous. At Chloe’s direction, she uses a doodad she swiped from CTU to search for bugs and transponders. She locates the one that Blonde Agent put under the wheel well. Audrey, wisely, does not destroy the transmitter or toss it in the grass, but instead saunters over and sticks it on a “DWP” truck. When Blonde Agent and her non-speaking partner finally catch on (I would have loved the exchange where they debate whether or not Audrey actually drives a utility truck with a cherry picker), she refers to it as a “DWP truck” and “the DWP guy.” This, of course, motivated me to figure out what this was and DWP is “Department of Water and Power.” Maybe you knew that already. Just being a full-service reviewer. And man, the public utilities in LA are being rudely abused today, aren’t they? Anyway, when Karen learns that Audrey ditched her tracker, she muses that this is odd since she's not a field operative. Well, neither is Chloe and she's the one who was the brains of that particular stealth mission. Miles and Hayes then redirect satellites away from looking for Jack to instead look for Audrey, who they presume will lead them to Jack. What kinds of satellites are these, anyway?

Over at the really hidden Presidential retreat, VP Gardner is asking about the warrant for Jack’s arrest, which Aaron overhears. Gardner points out, astutely, that since it’s an “executive” warrant, it had to come from one of them. Logan, as I said earlier not keeping his cards close to his vest, admits to ordering the arrest but puts off Gardner’s questions as to why. He even mentions that Jack should be treated as “a hero,” which completes our swing from Gardner being smarmy, deceptive and suspicious to being a good guy that Jack may need help from later on. Logan even goes so far as to pull rank on Gardner, the only man in the world who can do so. “Dammit,” thinks Hal, “I forgot he’s the one guy I can’t demand info from.”

Back at the motel, Evelyn’s bonks her head and her daughter calls 911. Almost immediately, Henderson is notified of the call and heads to the location. Remember when Henderson’s team got rip-shitted last hour and he said he was “putting together another team”? Well, that was pretty fast. He’s got guys monitoring all phone calls to emergency services – not bad. Predictably, Henderson goes to the motel and impassively kills the two paramedics tending to Evelyn before beginning to interrogate her. We don’t see the interrogation, nor Evelyn again this hour, but I think it’s safe to assume he killed her. I also imagine he threatened to kill her daughter to get her to talk. Let’s just hope he didn’t kill Amy, too. But I really wouldn’t put it past 24 to make Henderson such a monster that we cannot wait to see him killed by Jack.

At Camp David Palmer, the first lady (presumably on another meds binge) is crowing about how wonderfully her husband handled the day. Aaron is all, “humph, yeah, right,” which causes Martha to ask him what’s up. Aaron covers with, “I’m just battle-worn.” Well, sure, it’s not easy working 24 hour shifts and not even getting five minutes off when you’re in the front seat of a car that gets hit by a bazooka.

Just an aside here, where the hell is Mike Novick? Taking a nap? He’s one who is always suspicious of people’s motives and one who, presumably, Jack trusts. Just a thought.

Jack and Wayne have frog-marched the nameless bank manager to the bank and he has let them in. He finally recognizes Wayne from the TV coverage (I’m trying to picture Andy Card doing this) and Wayne and Jack admit to why they’re there. Bank Manager questions why they didn’t wait until the bank opened in the morning, as though national security only operates during business hours. “Because the season will be over before you re-open,” responds Jack. No, not really. This is about when Henderson’s goons start showing up to cut them down. Naturally, Mr. Bank Manager is now on board with the two rogue men bent on revenge who kidnapped him from his home and tied his wife up with his neckties, possible not for the first time that evening.

Jack comes up with the idea to have Mr. Manager, who we’ll call “Bank,” trip the silent alarm. Bank points out that this will bring the po-po, apparently a little slow on the uptake that having LAPD there, while not ideal under almost any circumstances, is better than having half a dozen assassins with automatic weapons firing at them without any distractions. Bank eventually comes around to this point of view and agrees to trip the alarm, while Wayne gets nervous about being a black man in the middle of the night in LA with a squad car approaching.

Back at the retreat, Logan and his wife make up rather disgustingly. They play some tonsil hockey as she apologizes for making his day more difficult and he, rather genuinely it appears, tries to shut down her apologies. He clearly does love this woman. Martha goes on to tell him how he was “magnificent” today. Yes, blow smoke up his ass – that’s just what he needs to hear. Novick isn’t around to laugh mirthlessly so I’ll do it for him. Me and a few million other 24 loyalists. Suddenly, his cell phone rings (I don’t think Presidents carry around cell phones in real life the way they do on this show) and it’s Henderson. Logan, again not very smoothly, tries to get some privacy from Martha who doesn’t understand. He gets snippy and takes the call – while still in her presence – and completes it without really giving anything away. So why get all demanding of privacy? Who knows.

Speaking of cell phones, Jack gets a call prior to the bank shenanigans, from Aaron Pierce. We know it’s from Aaron Pierce because we see Jack’s cell phone readout says “Aaron Pierce.” So let me ask this: when did he get Aaron’s cell number? Did he program it in when he was at the retreat just in case? And wasn’t Jack using a Sony Treo earlier and even in the last hour? With all the funky things it can do, it doesn’t have phone capabilities? So Jack has to schlep around a cell phone and a PDA? Not very efficient. And when is Jack going to join the 21st century and get a Bluetooth?

Anyway, Aaron warns him that a warrant has been issued for him, which Jack coolly takes in stride. He tells Aaron that the Prez is culpable for today’s events and that he’s going to bring in Secretary Heller on the evidence. When Aaron asks if there’s anything he can do, Jack tells him to watch his back. Thankful that this is what he wanted to do anyway, Aaron doesn’t give Jack any more time to think up other, more dangerous, things for him to do and signs off.

Over at CTU, “Miles finds Audrey on the satellite.” I’m assuming they mean he finds her using the satellite because if she’s “on” the satellite, well, then she’d be an astronaut. But I digress. Shari the sexual harassment queen pings to Chloe that she’s locked out of satellite usage which Chloe they realizes is the satellite that’s tracking Audrey. I still don’t get how looking at a satellite image tells Chloe that it’s Audrey unless she can tell based on location but whatever.

What happens next amused me. Chloe goes to the server room and “corrupts” the satellite feed that Miles and Hayes are beaming to Blonde Agent in her SUV. Miles traces this to the server, making me think of all those stupid Dell server commercials. Miles also notices Chloe isn’t at her terminal and he goes off in search of her. Just when you think he’s going to find her in the server room, she pops out of the pooper. Miles asks her what she was doing and Chloe responds just beautifully, not appearing suspicious but instead appearing pissed off that someone would ask that question as a female comes out of the pisser. Chloe sarcastically offers to write him a report. I’d be careful there, Chloe. Miles seems like the kind of twisted pervert who would want details on whether or not any of your turds resembled him. Throughout this scene, there’s a funky James Bond-ish tune playing in the background, a bit different than other ones we’ve heard before and pretty cool, I have to say.

We wrap up the episode with the firefight at the bank. LAPD sends a whopping one car to the scene of what they are procedurally supposed to assume is a bank robbery and the cops, armed with shotguns jump out. They proceed to fire shotguns at men with machine guns. You could have guessed how this was going to turn out. Fortunately, the National Guard shows up (although the Fox site says it’s a “Marine transport”) and mows down Henderson’s Henchies. But as Jack, Wayne and Bank are escaping, Jack chooses not to quietly slip away but instead to shoot at them with his pistol, thereby drawing attention to them. Unarmed, unnamed, Bank Manager is nailed in the chest as they piled into the running police cruiser. Jack speeds away, having now driven Evelyn’s car, Henderson’s car, Bank’s car and the cruiser in the past hour. I wonder if he moves the seat forward every time.

The upshot is that they do escape but Bank is dead. Jack calls Audrey and lets her know they’re on their way to the airport to meet her and Heller. I’m not sure this is a good idea – potentially leading killers to meet the Secretary of Defense. But whatever. It looks like Devane will be involved in at least the next couple of episodes and I think that’s going to be great.

So what is the threat to the public now? I guess there is none. Basically, it’s now a spy versus spy between Jack and Henderson in a race to see who can get the evidence exposed (Jack) or destroyed (Henderson). Is this how we’re going to spend the last seven hours? Or is there something more sinister brewing that maybe even Logan isn’t aware of? Bierko is still alive, don’t forget. Well, at least he is for now. He is at the CTU Death Clinic, after all.

I already questioned our missing Novick. What about Curtis? We haven’t seen him since the first minutes of Hour Sixteen. Is he still cleaning up the mess at Wilshire Gas? Or was he fired along with the rest of CTU? Maybe Curtis and Buchanan are having a beer at a strip club. Wouldn’t that be great?


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Season 5; Hour Sixteen (10:00pm - 11:00pm)

Air Date: 3 Apr 2006
Reviewer: D

We’ve been bamboozled! We’ve been baited and switched! We’ve been sold a bill of dirty Vice Presidential goods and I for one bought the whole package! And, I must say, I am loving it!

This may not have been my favorite episode of all time (that would probably be one of the “return of Nina” eps from back in season 2) but it’s definitely in the top three. You know how you can tell a great episode of 24? When almost everything that was shown in the coming attractions happens in the first 10 minutes. Judging on a highlight versus length-of-show basis, I would say that makes 24 about 6 times better than the average show.

The folks at 24 have tuned their “yank the viewer’s chain” machine to a supremely fine hum. For instance: the coming attractions last week made it seem like Jack’s survival would be in question after the explosion at the gas plant. But only a few minutes into the show, Jack strolls out of the fog – with the music swelling in the background of course – with no apparent ill effects. Except for looking like one of the chimney sweeps from “Mary Poppins,” that is. Kudos to the cinematography dudes for that shot by the way; very picturesque. Jack is carrying Bierko who, while holding precariously on to life at this point, will undoubtedly be snuffed out before too long thanks to his eminent visit to CTU Medical, aka the Death Clinic.

What’s interesting to me is that something about surviving the calamitous explosion of an entire industrial facility has knocked a new thought into Jack’s head: that this stuff going on is bigger than previously believed. For a very tight episode, this is one of those things that stuck in my craw. Nothing really changed between last week and this (unless you are an LA area gas customer – bummer about the range not working, dude; how about Denny’s again tonight?) and yet something has altered Jacks’ perspective. Has he been peeking at the end of the scripts? Naughty Kiefer!

I did love, though, due to whatever this sudden illumination was, that he declares that he’s scared because of it. Jack? Scared? This is a guy who’s been through nukes, biological weapons, heroin addiction, two near-death experiences and a ridiculously ill-advised affair with that Mexican chick. If he’s scared now, I believe we all should prepare for a little trembling in our boots.

Back at CTU, bureaucratic wrangling is reaching a fever pitch. And while I ragged on this in-fighting ridiculousness a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t mind it so much in this ep, mostly because of the pockmarked nastiness of this Miles Papazian character. It makes me wonder: do casting directors specifically advertise for actors with bad skin to play evil dudes? I only ask because I’ve got some pretty unsightly acne scars of my own and I never realized I could translate those to a career.

Besides having one of the most obsequious names of all time (Miles? Is that an English pantywaist name, or what?) Papazian is like Othello’s Iago in his devious and slimy servitude. I don’t know how he comes up with Audrey for his plan to lend credence to the CTU overthrow (oh, wait, that would be those pesky 24 writers) but it sure comes in handy later on.

And let me digress for a moment on the weird underlying message in this whole subplot, if you’re willing to walk down this path. In real life, Homeland Security is a department created ostensibly to make us safer, to increase communication and coordination between the various security and intelligence services of the government. But here we have Homeland (even the word is used ominously…) absorbing another agency, firing the qualified people and lying about the heroic work of CTU in order to legitimize their actions. Is this a political statement, or is Homeland just a convenient bad guy to employ in a bureaucratic scuffle? What do you think?

Homeland’s Karen (why are the chicks all called by first names, the guys by their last?) [Well, everybody calls Curtis by his first name...but I think he's the only one. --J] is urged to action by Vice President Gardner who seems at this point to be solidifying his role as inner circle bad guy. The actor who plays Gardner (Ray Wise) does a pretty good slimy of his own to match Papazian, though I just had the occasion to watch “Rising Sun” – that Sean Connery Japan-bashing movie from about 13 years ago – and Wise practically secretes slime in that film. [In The Chase, Wise plays a rich dude who tries to capitalize on the publicity of his daughter being kidnapped. --J]

In a scene that will echo resonantly in just a half-hour or so, Buchanan finally spills to Audrey that CTU is being eaten up by Homeland, though he had demurred on the point earlier. That’ll teach you to be honest, Bill!

But the real meat of this episode begins with the big reveal that Evelyn is the First Lady’s assistant and NOT a Secret Service agent. OK, OK, so that’s not the big reveal but it was a bit of a surprise to me. I just assumed she was Secret Service because she was around all of the time and, if she isn’t, well where in the hell have the guys with black suits been that should have been shadowing Mrs. Logan for the past 15 hours? Jeez, the Bush twins can’t run a 10K without a shadow – you think they let crazy Martha run around unprotected?

Anyway, not to toot my own horn here (toot toot!) but I’ve had my suspicions about Evelyn since Walt Cummings did his swing-and-shake routine back around Hour 7. Sure, my suspicions were totally off the mark and I couldn’t even get her freakin job right, but still, something told me we’d be seeing more of Evelyn. Little did I know that she’d be involved in one of those child-endangerment subplots, which, if you remember back to Day 1 and Jamey Farrell, have a rich and vital tradition at 24.

There are so many things that are cool about this Evelyn thing that it’s hard to even spit them all out. Finally, we have a better sense – though hardly crystal clear – of why David Palmer was given his involuntary tracheotomy way back at Hour 1. The involvement of the First Lady also makes a semblance of sense now too. And perhaps best of all, it gives a reason for Wayne Palmer – and excellent actor DB Woodside – to be involved in the goings on. The scene with Evelyn, Wayne and Pierce was probably my favorite of the night. Wayne’s guttural growl at Evelyn was downright spooky and filled with the pain and anger of someone who’d lost his brother, mentor and hero. And then Pierce’s courteous but firm “If I may…” was interjected just like a southern gentleman would say in between pouring the mint juleps. “Terrible warmth we’re having ‘round here Miss Evelyn, and, if I may, the angry black man is correct is saying these bad guys will slit your poor girl’s throat just as soon as kissin’ their granny.” Pierce and Palmer have a natural good cop-bad cop chemistry; someone should give these guys their own show!

Evelyn seems like a bit of a nudge holding out to get her daughter back before she’ll spill the goods but a) given the goods she’s going to spill, I can understand her wanting to be sure (In fact, I could understand her wanting to be in Lithuania when she spills but I guess that’s a little implausible); and b) this allows the biggest of the big reveals to happen at the end of the hour which, face it, was just too cool for words. More on that later.

OK, I’m 1200 words into this commentary and I haven’t made it past the first 12 minutes. That’s another way you can tell how good an episode of 24 is…

Back at CTU, a herd of wonks from Homeland have arrived. I’m not sure if that’s the correct collective noun for wonk (or dweebs or geeks for that matter). A gaggle of wonks? A byte of wonks? A willy of wonks? However you say it, the uber-wonks have arrived and the CTU-nionists are being let go. While this is certainly effective for complicating things, it’s a little ridiculous. How many people in California could find a suit at 10pm at night, let alone be coerced into putting one on? And then going to work? And at a place that was filled with deadly nerve gas just a couple of hours ago? “Um, Karen I, like, really want to help with the whole national crisis and all, but has OSHA been through that joint yet? I mean, I am totally allergic to linoleum off-gassing, I so will not be able to handle that Sentox stuff. And sure, I’d like to save the world or whatever, but NOT if it means missing my 7am yoga class…”

Chloe is quickly usurped by the blonde anti-Chloe – it’s a good thing they didn’t touch or they would have disappeared in a violent matter/anti-matter explosion. But in the midst of the confusion, Iago…I mean Miles, approaches “Miss Raines” with his offer. I have to echo J here in heaping praise on Kim Raver for her work as Audrey. I’m not even going to make any “so thin she makes pipe cleaners look chubby” jokes. Her getting up into the face of Miles was a great interpersonal moment and almost had the seething undercurrent of contempt that Jack/Kief would bring to that kind of encounter. Almost.

Speaking of Jack, his request for help has Audrey flipping on her principled rejection of Miles within 3 minutes. Those were a noble three minutes though. I wonder if Jack is going to be pissed later when he finds out what Audrey had to do. He did bark “just figure it out” though. I wonder what Jack’s reaction would be if she called back and said, “OK, I figured it out but it involved selling Kim into white slavery. Any problem with that?”

Karen and Miles are skeptical but really, not nearly skeptical enough. And wouldn’t Miles be monitoring Chloe’s activities like a hawk after agreeing to keep her on. Or hell, even a sparrow could probably figure out that Chloe was re-routing satellites and such.

In the big scene with Chloe, Buchanan, Miles, and Audrey, there was some great nervous music playing in the background – one of the first times I haven’t found the music annoying when it gets big and intrusive. You’ve got to feel for Buchanan in this scene; his “team” – well mostly Jack and Chloe – have been responsible for saving the lives of thousands and at the same time a large number of its members – except for Jack and Chloe – have died a horrible, pink-milkshake-drooling death. Will Bill turn bitter? That wasn’t exactly a “let bygones be bygones” look he gave Audrey on his way out.

But before this, there is that tense scene with Pierce and Palmer coming up on Gardner in the halls of the presidential retreat. Gardner seems suspicious, maybe because Wayne is holding his hand at a weird angle behind his back. Maybe Gardner wasn’t suspicious, he was actually afraid Wayne had a water balloon behind his back and his nice suit was going to get soaked. Whichever it was, it even further cemented the thought that Gardner was a bad egg, an inside operator, a double-agent, a two-timing doubletimer, or, as Jimmy Cagney used to say, a dirty rat. Oh, you 24 writers, we are SO in the palm of your hand at this point…

Palmer floats a pretty implausible cover story but still it appears to do the trick, especially with squeaky clean Pierce playing along. Still, when the two of them scurried down the hall like nervous kindergartners, you would have thought it would have garnered the attention of even the most lackadaisical observer (for instance, me).

Soon after, there’s a nice interlude with Evelyn and Wayne driving to the meeting place. It’s a little maudlin for the typical 24 episode but still, these are the scenes I like: where for a little while, you don’t have to suspend your disbelief as high as the ceiling and can actually imagine for a moment that these are real people and this is how they would react in such a situation. Again, this is one of those things that 24 has a certain luxury to do – versus a movie that has to fit all the emotion and the explosions into 2 hours – and luckily the 24 writers have not overindulged it, using it sparingly and effectively. Of course, if Wayne and Evelyn’s car had suddenly exploded after that little talk, I would have been really pissed (though not altogether surprised).

Through some magical cell phone business – hell, I can’t get mine to display the correct date – Jack is patched into the call between Henderson and Evelyn. I like it that Henderson is suspicious – even though he’s not quite suspicious enough. There’s also a great 2-second scene while Evelyn and her daughter are talking and you can see Jack on one of the three split screens. It’s just a second of “Jack the Dad” reacting to a daughter in danger and one of those things that we 24 viewers just take for granted at this point. This kind of split screen work just didn’t exist on TV before 24 and still nobody does it better. Worship at the throne of 24, you peasants! We are not worthy!

After a quick false alarm with Jack sneaking up on the barn (hey, with everything else going on, 24 can be forgiven the occasional fake out), we are on our way to the coal plant where Henderson awaits. Does the Prez really have a retreat this close to a coal plant? He’d probably be more concerned about the Clean Air Act if he did. Also, last hour it was a gas plant, this hour a coal plant – is there some hidden fossil fuel commentary going on here too that we don’t know about? Some English grad student could have a field day with all this stuff.

Two great moments before the commando action begins: Jack scares Evelyn into following the plan (nothing like threats to make an already freaked out mom comply) and Wayne defies Jack by coming along, once again bringing up his dead brother and pressing the point that of course Jack can’t argue with. This is just great stuff from Woodside. I take back all the bad things I said about him two seasons ago. (But to be fair, it was his subplot I didn’t like, not him.) [Personally, I loved the exchange between the two where Jack comments on the danger involved and Wayne says, "I was a Marine, Jack." Jack replies, "I know, WAYNE. But you never saw combat." It looked like Wayne was going to cry. But cool character development that Wayne was a dog. -- J]

And then, after the action begins, the hesitant pause from Wayne before he pops the bad guy – very nice and completely plausible, I think. Then Jack scrambles Bravo’s radio – after slitting the guy’s throat by the way; let’s hope the kiddies were all in bed – and fools Henderson into thinking his team isn’t being slowly picked apart by his old protégé Jack. Don’t you think even over a faulty radio Henderson would have recognized Jack’s voice – like a tinny echo from bad memory? Oh well, it worked for me. Mostly because – between the Wayne stuff and the Jack stuff – 24 again packs more action into a 5-minute commando scene then Vin Diesel sees in half a movie (of course, his last two movies were “The Pacifier” and some stupid legal movie that tanked, so I guess I can forgive the guy).

So the shooting begins, a couple henchmen go down and Evelyn gets hit but our buddy Henderson skips away in Evelyn’s car. It looks like Evelyn’s injury may complicate things later on but luckily they didn’t kill her off because that would have pissed me off (and also would have gotten dozens of other fans arguing about the silent clock again – please, enough already! How about a spirited discussion about what the various sounds of 24 are supposed to represent – the ticking of the clock: why is it so metallic sounding? It’s a heartbeat sure but whose: the Terminator’s? The Tin Woodsman? Also, how do they make that “crinkling of metallic cellophane” sound at the beginning of the episode? [I sort of asked for suggestions as to what that noise was but got no responses a few years ago. I think it sounds like busting open the seal on another hour of goodness. --J]

So then of course, it is the BIG reveal of the episode and damn if it isn’t a doozy. Henderson promises that Jack and Wayne will be killed and to whom does he promise that to? None other than bird-necked, jiggly jowled, Nixon-esque hairlined, snivelling non-leader Logan. My, what a master stroke. Can 24 really transform Logan from such a weak twit into a calculating evil mastermind? That remains to be seen. But regardless, it’s a great way to set up the final third of the season with a whole new dynamic.

One of the gazillion things that are great about this scenario is that it throws a new light on events now in the distant past. The whole Walt Cummings relationship, for instance: do YOU still think Cummings was a suicide? I sure don’t. Was he in cahoots with Logan and took the fall for him mostly for Mike Novick’s sake? Or was he unknowingly complicating a plot that Logan was working on separately? And the First Lady, who has remained largely sane and out of sight for the past several hours, does she not suspect the badness inside her boy? Will she be the vital person in exposing it/affirming it/bringing the bad boy down? [And does anybody else see an opportunity for Wayne to run for President? I sure do... --J]

Yes, this was pure genius folks, and if there was any concern before that 24 couldn’t keep up the pace during the final 8 hours, I certainly don’t have any now. After the initial shock and awe of this final reveal subside, I can imagine people are going to take pot shots – it’s unbelievable, going too far, could never happen, etc. etc.. In advance I say, shut up you whiners – you’re just pissed because you got fooled with the rest of us.

And if 24 can still bamboozle veterans like us, well, there’s no telling what could happen next. Hold on to your hats, people.