Ouch. That’s all I have to say about tonight’s “24,” and not just because of that Tarantino-esque flash of gore about two-thirds of the way through the episode. No, primarily I’m in pain at the slow pace of the season so far. Political intrigue and the threat of nuclear armament having taking a back-seat to squirt gun fights between Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber. Sigh. Onto the “action”…

[Full recap of Monday's (Feb. 8) "24" after the break...]

At the U.N., we learn that President Taylor secured most of the major countries’ sign-off on the treaty accord with Kamistan. There was some dissent, but in the end, everyone agreed that Hassan’s hair was too pretty to turn down. On the down low, Taylor informs the British liaison of the ongoing search for the nuclear rods.

Having secured Vladimir’s right-hand man, he meets up with Renee at Vlad’s hideaway. Jack takes Renee aside to let her know that he’s gotten Hastings to agree to pull her out, but Renee’s having none of it. “Don’t risk everything for a whore,” warns Vlad’s lieutenant, sort of The Red Square’s version of “bros before hos,” I suppose. In the end, Vlad takes Jack and his Drew Carey glasses off to get more information.

Over at CTU, Dana’s got better things to do than aid Arlo with the facial recognition software necessary to ensure Jack and Renee don’t sleep with the fishes. She’s running point on Operation: Kill Me in the Face, a plot that’s stretching even the most hardcore fan of “24” to the breaking point. The great tension of Kevin’s break-in to the security facility? The fact that he and his friend are numerologically illiterate. I kid you not: the show tried to stimulate our adrenal glands through their inability to read numbers. Ugh. They eventually get the cash for which they came, but Kevin’s friend decided to get greedy. In no way can this end badly, right?

At Chez Vlad, the owner’s drinking vodka by the glassful. He is NOT gonna wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy, unless Diddy drank his body weight in booze the night before. He’s trying to get Jack to drink with him, while criticizing Renee’s inability to slice him a piece of bread with the proper thickness. Through the scene, I’m trying to decide if Vlad is just drunk or trying to push Jack’s buttons to see if his cover holds. But honestly, I’m mostly waiting to watch Renee plunge that bread knife into Vlad’s bread box.

Sergei Bazhaev brings in Father Gregor for a quickie funeral out back for Oleg. “Just make it right. Say all the prayers,” says Sergei. He then tries to console Josef, insisting that everything he is doing, he’s doing for the family. He wants to impart important things to his future generations: wealth, respect, consequence, and whatever genetic defects may occur from prolonged exposure to uranium 235.

After Josef agrees to help bury Oleg, Sergei gets a call from Vlad. Holy crap, don’t look now, but I think two plots in the show might have just touched. Amazing. Vlad slurs his request for the nuclear rods, but Sergei denies everything. After he hangs up with Vlad, Sergei makes a call to a delivery truck. “You need to stop. You know where to go,” he tells the heretofore unseen handlers of the nuclear rods. Cut to a wide shot of the truck driving over what looks like the George Washington Bridge with NYC in the background.

At the U.N., Taylor calls Hassan on the phone. Looks like he’s been so busy violating human rights that he just lost track of time. He promises that the crackdown in his country will be over soon to assuage Taylor’s fears that she just did the political equivalent of backing “Pants on the Ground” as a “Record of the Year” contender. Even though Taylor knows of Jamot’s arrest, she chooses to believe Hassan for now.

Tarin and his associate Wasim report back to Hassan on the interrogation of Jamot. Jamot gave up no information under an “intense” interrogation, leading Tarin to believe his cousin’s involvement in the coup did not touch Hassan’s delegate. Hassan’s not buying it, and orders Tarin to arrest both Jamot’s wife and two small children back home. Little harsh there, Hassan. I’m starting to think you’re hiding those nuclear rods in your epic poof. Tarin manages to temporarily calm Hassan down, but it’s all for show: as soon as Tarin leaves, Hassan simply gives the same order, more forcefully, to Wasim. Oh, and for funsies, Wasim should put Tarin under arrest as well. Tarin visits Dahlia to inform her of the change in Hassan since Farhad’s betrayal. He’s barely there a minute when Wasim and two other officers come to take him away.

Back in The Plot That Hurts My Soul, Kevin and his buddy are having freakin’ squirt-gun showdowns when a police officer arrives on scene. Dana tries to guide them out safely, but the dynamic duo have left behind one helluva mess in the evidence locker. So, they’re criminals, they’re illiterate, they’re immature, and they’re messy. Oh, and Kevin’s friend’s also a would-be cop killer, as he beats the snot out of the cop as he attempts to phone in the robbery. Come on NYPD, wrap this plot up!

Vlad makes a call to his last contact. Again, no success. Renee presses him to try harder. “Just because I like your face doesn’t mean I have to put up with your crap,” he tells her. Boy, if I had a nickel for every time someone said that to me. Finally, the Ibsenian knife comes into play. Vlad punches her, sends her to the ground, and she comes up and stabs him in the eye. If this were an 80’s action movie, she would have screamed, “Now THAT’s how my bread is buttered!”

Jack comes into stop Renee from repeatedly stabbing every inch of Vlad’s corpse, only to get a chestful of knife for his trouble. Whoa, did not see that coming. Despite the freakin’ knife sticking out below his ribs, Jack manages to take out Vlad’s head goon by taking the knife out of his own body and depositing it 15” into the goon’s neck. That can’t be sanitary. Just because the scene’s already ridiculous, Jack shoots a man IN ANOTHER ROOM with the world’s deadliest, most accurate pistol. Because hey, why the hell not.

Speaking of 80’s action movies, Hastings is giving a great “I’m the Chief of Police and I can’t believe I have to work with you screw-ups” back at CTU. Cole listens in, apparently having been driving aimlessly around NYC for most of the hour with a look that says nothing if not, “I can’t find a good parking spot ANYWHERE!” Hastings sends Cole to secure Vlad’s laptop and return Jack and Renee back to CTU.

Jack, having stitched himself back up with gauze and his manliness, comforts a hollowed Renee. “When they see Vladimir, they’ll know what happened,” she says, depressed that she didn’t get what she wanted out of this night: closure. Jack puts on his most velvet of voices to sooth the savage Renee, and it partly works, but their calm is short-lived. Soon after, Sergei’s goons arrive on the scene. Jack hides Renee in a storage closet and tells her the plan: to allow the Russians to take him away and lead them all directly to the nuclear material.

Cole and Co. soon arrive on the scene, but find to their surprise only Renee. Even curiouser? Air surveillance didn’t show anyone leaving the building. Cut to the tunnels underneath, where Sergei’s men lead Jack out a sewer tunnel to a waiting van. So much for that air support leading CTU right to the nuclear material. Maybe they’ll drive head-on into Kevin’s get-away vehicle. Too much to hope for? Probably.

You enjoying this season more than I am? Or are you thinking about jamming a bread knife into your eye? Leave your thoughts below!