After a season of mediocre episodes punctured by the occasional exciting action scene or a particular vigorous line reading of “DAMNIT!” by Kiefer Sutherland, “24” delivered it’s most polished hour of the season. While no means perfect, it slipped in some solid drama, good tension, the introduction of a potentially great new character, and a twist that I didn’t see coming a mile away. Did it salvage the season? No. But as an hour of entertainment, it acquitted itself quite admirably. Onto the recap! 

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

In the 10 seconds of real time that nominally took place since last week’s episode, Marcos (aka, ‘Tween Wolf) has sketched out a new schematic for his bomb inside the oxygen-rich tank secluding him from the government agents outside. (Sigh. Off to bad start, but the Marcos stuff gets better, trust me.) That level of oxygen means that CTU can’t risk exploding the door to the chamber without possibly killing the terrorist inside. It alaos means ‘Tween Wolf has ample extra fuel for his planned martyrdom. 

On a call to CTU, Jack (and the audience) learn about Marcos’ background, which includes a father imprisoned by former President Wayne Palmer. Man, I forgot he was president for a year. I sorta enjoyed that ignorance. In any case, the eventual suicide of Marcos’ father’s sparked his involvement with the IRK. During the debrief, CTU also learns the location of his mother, and so dispatch a team to East Harlem.  

As Hastings briefs his team on the impending missions, he spies Cole and Dana re-entering the building via security feed. “All we have to do is act natural, keep our heads…we’ll be OK,” he tells her. She’s not so sure: apparently Cole’s a goody two-shoes that’s never so much as jaywalked before. He can’t promise her things will be puppies and rainbows after the threat to NYC is over, but wouldn’t have sunk Kevin to the bottom of the swamp had he not still loved her. Aw, chivalry. Warms the heart. 

The elevator door opens up with Hastings waiting right there. Unfortunately, their boss has neither the time nor the personnel to replace them in the middle of this crisis. (Having seen Owen in action, I concur.) Their performance over the next few hours will determine if they still have a job when this is all over. I think Katee Sackoff’s thinking, “If tanking this means I get a new show next Fall, then tank it I shall. Spyware for everyone!” 

Samir gets a call from a man stationed across from the hospital. This lieutenant has tapped into the hospital’s closed circuit feed to monitor Marcos. Meanwhile, Samir arrives at the landing tower, with the nuclear rods intact inside a warehouse at the premise. 

Chloe is now in charge of all things technological at CTU, with Dana’s unexplained absence having earned her a demotion. Does Chloe gloat? No, she tells Dana that she feels bad for her. Who is this woman, and what has she done with my Chloe? Arlo apologizes as well to Dana about telling Cole about Kevin, and then asks, “Is he gone?” That question freaks Dana out, but she quickly recovers her game face. Arlo then hits on her again, and hey, I guess this whole whacky plot’s behind us finally, right? Right? Why are you looking at me that way? 

At the hospital, Jack walks up to ‘Tween Wolf’s tank. He tries to use the velvet to convince Marcos that the impending dirty bomb will in fact destroy the very organization he wants to support. “Don’t think you can take the moral high ground with me!” Marcos retorts. “The arrogance of this country, that thinks it can dictate to the rest of the world who gets nuclear weapons…while it insists on keeping my people in the dark ages!” Jack changes tactics, shifting Marcos’ focus from the IRK to his family. But the shift doesn’t work, and Marcos sits back down to continue rewriting his bomb. A second green light flashes. He’s halfway there. (Whooooaaa! Living on a prayer!) 

Post-coital, Kayla and Tarin discuss their impending asylum agreement. Tarin tells her that while the actual process might take longer than a year (during which time he cannot work), once the paperwork is filed, they are free from her father’s touch. Kayla’s mother Dalia phones again, but the two lovebirds are too busy to answer. As Dalia leaves another message, she meets Omar in the lobby at the U.N.  

On the way up to his suite, Dalia scolds him for arresting Tarin in the first place. When he brings up his brother’s betrayal, she points out that his actions will undo Hassan’s government just as effectively as a dirty bomb would. “You drove her away with your suspicion and your paranoia!” she screams, finally breaking her strong front. “How could you have lost your way?” He agrees with Dalia’s assessment, and vows to find their daughter. 

In East Harlem, Cole knocks on the door of Elaine’s door as she packs up to head for higher ground. She opens the door and shrieks as armed CTU agents flood her abode. Cole notes her suitcase on the couch, at which point she spills the beans about Marcos’ earlier call. Cole alerts her to Marcos’ current condition, and orders her to come with him to St. Jude’s. Then, Zeus releases the Kraken upon NYC. Whoops, that’s a “Clash of the Titans” commercial, not “24.” My bad. Missed the clock ticking as I was typing up my notes. Although a season of Jack Bauer fighting mythical beasts? Yes, please. Very yes. 

At CTU, Dana enters Hastings’ office with an update on Cole’s status. She apologizes again for letting Hastings down. Hastings takes the opportunity to take Dana down about six pegs, as he should. “Everyone is replaceable,” he reminds her. As she leaves, she gets a call on her phone from an unknown number. On the other end? Kevin’s parole officer, played by none other than Stephen Root. Awesome! Love me some Root. Looks like her number ended up on the phone records of a motel in which Kevin recently stayed. She tries to push him away, but he thinks that since they are both up, why don’t they meet? Dana hangs up and seems to think, “Some things don’t stay buried.” Nope. Like this god-awful plot. I love me some Stephen Root, but I’m not sure he’s enough to salvage anything from it at this point. 

Outside the hyperbaric chamber, Owen tells Jack that Marcos will have reconfigured the bomb within ten minutes. Cole arrives on the scene, mother in tow. Jack figures he can use his emotional tie to her as leverage. As Jack confers with Elaine, Dana calls and updates Cole on the newest player in their personal drama. Cole notes that she’s good at lying, so pushing the parole officer off the scent shouldn’t be hard. Ouch. Nearby, Jack applies extra velvet to get Elaine to convince Marcos to leave the chamber. She’s worried about what will happen if ‘Tween Wolf actually emerges, but Jack points out that “alive” is still better than “dead,” no matter what scenario might unfold. 

Across the street, Samir’s lieutenant notes Elaine’s presence, but feels his loyalties to country outweigh that to family. But Marcos’ freak-out upon learning about her arrival might mean he’s mistaken. His eyes go even more bug-eyed that usual when he hears his mother’s voice, to the point where I can’t even see his forehead clearly. She’s horrified that her son could be part of a terrorist organization, noting that her husband had issues with American but never resorted to violence to show his disgust.  

As the two carry on their conversation, Chloe picks up degradation on the security feed, deducing that someone’s tapped in the feed. (Seriously, who needs Dana? Or Arlo and his silly drones? Chloe’s a one-woman tech force.) She tells Jack about the eyes watching them as Marcos tells his mother that it’s too late to save him. In a season without much in the way of human emotion, the Elaine/Marcos scenes here are excellent. As Cole pulls Elaine away from the chamber as it seems Marcos will fulfill his martyrdom, her tears actually hurt to hear. Mare Winningham FTW! 

After Elaine’s gone, and with Samir’s feed cut off, Jack turns off the velvet and turns on the terrifying as he speaks to the would-be bombed. He notes that he’s not officially an agent, and if Marcos knew his history, he’d know that this isn’t a bluff: if Marcos goes through with this, Jack will take Elaine to the site of the dirty bomb’s explosion, expose her, and guarantee her death. Oh, but not before making her pick up a million little Marcos pieces beforehand here at St. Jude’s. “You’ve got a decision to make. Make it carefully,” he spits out over the video feed. “LOOK INTO MY EYES! What happens to your mother happens because of you. Only to you.” With all four lights glowing, Marcos puts down the trigger and opens the door. I’m pretty sure “24” just got really good in the last five minutes. Who knew? This is why we still watch, amidst all the cougars and the Kevins that try and sap our will. 

Marcos might be under custody, but the jacket is still live. Cole orders a bomb unit to disarm it, while Samir’s man (now using binoculars) transmits intel back to his boss. Samir orders his lieutenant to transmit the failsafe code for the jacket. As Jack tries to disarm the jacket, the failsafe is triggered. In attempting to kill two birds with one stones, he attempts to interrogate Marcos while trying to disarm the jacket. Marcos gives him only one name: Tarin Faroush. Didn’t see that coming, I’ll admit it. By then, it’s too late to disarm the jacket: Marcos tells Jack to give condolences to his mother, then dies in an explosion that sends Jack halfway across the room. 

At the U.N., Hassan’s working the phones to find his daughter, to no avail. His men route a call in from Jack, who passes on the news of Tarin’s legitimate betrayal. See? Just because you’re paranoid DOESN’T mean they’re not after you. Hassan gives Jack the 411 on that suddenly much more interesting subplot as Dalia calls Kayla once again. Because Tarin is in the shower, she answers. Kayla isn’t buying Tarin’s guilt coming from her mother any more than she did from her father. But something in her mother’s voice convinces her to give up the location as a toweled Tarin returns to the room. She lies about telling them their whereabouts, but isn’t a very good liar. Before long, his Spidey sense is going off something fierce. 

What did you think of tonight’s episode? A step in the right direction? Just more of the same? Did seeing Stephen Root excite you or depress you, knowing that his involvement will continue the show’s weakest storyline this season?