It’s a bittersweet time to be a “24” fan, given that we now know this will be the final season of the show. We’ve had ups, downs, and unfortunate appearances by cougars over the years. At its best, the show has provided enough adrenaline and fast-paced action to satisfy even the most jaded of fans. At its worst, it turns into a parody of itself, with fans able to spot the plot twists and narrative machinations hours before anyone in CTU can.  

But I come neither to praise nor bury “24”: I come merely to recap the latest hour. So here we go! 

Renee updates Jack on the status of the nuclear rods, which are now in Manhattan. The onsite medic worries that Jack might have a collapsed lung, but apparently isn’t aware Jack runs on anger and righteousness, not oxygen. At CTU, Chloe and Arlo use satellites to track Samir’s cab. While Chloe directs Cole, Dana directs Samir, eventually disabling satellite coverage for thirty seconds to buy time for his escape. By the time Chloe regains the feed, Samir has blended into a cavalcade of cabs on 9th street. 

Hastings informs President Taylor of CTU’s failure. “I can no longer guarantee the safety of Manhattan,” he tells her. Chief of Staff Rob Weiss lays into Hastings for what feels like the 40th time this season over this latest development. Taylor asks Ethan Kanin to set up a situation room and gets Jack on the phone. After he and Cole confab about the convenient 30-second blackout, Jack learns that Taylor wants him to personally supervise President Hassan’s evacuation from NYC. At first he resists, but soon accepts the role. Renee tells Jack she’s coming with him, this week apparently playing the role of Kate Austen from “Lost.” 

In an abandoned warehouse (is there any other kind on this show?), Samir pulls in to find a fully constructed bomb. All it needs is the fuel rods to be an operational weapon.  Meanwhile, Jack and Renee meet Agent O’Connor at the U.N. All told, there will be about a dozen agents ready to escort Hassan and his family via subterranean tunnels in ten minutes. As Jack meets Hassan face-to-face, the IRK’s president wistfully muses on the ticker-tape parade down 5th Avenue that should have ended his time in NYC, not the furtive fleeing to Jersey City that will end it in actuality. 

In the situation room, “24” busts out its yearly combination of “Crossfire” and the Council of Elrond, in which political types give extreme and opposing viewpoints on an impossible moral choice for what feels like an eternity. The choice in question comes from Samir, who calls the President with a simple demand: hand over Hassan, or watch 40 square blocks suffer from the detonation of what Samir terms a “dispersal device.” (So it’s not a bomb so much as the world’s deadliest bottle of air freshener.)  

Weiss thinks the life of one person doesn’t outweigh the lives of 100,000, and more than a few agree. Taylor rebukes them all, horrified that they consider such an option “viable.” She calls Hassan a “partner in peace,” and turns her moral outrage into a modern-day, would-be St. Crispin’s Day speech. Cherry Jones kills this scene, even if the dialogue could NOT have been clunkier.  

After the assembly, General Brucker takes Weiss aside to discuss a 3rd way to solve the crisis: staging a kidnapping to achieve a safe NYC AND a moral high ground for the United States. Weiss is intrigued but still unwilling to work around Taylor’s back. Brucker invokes the 4th Nuremberg Principle, which I had to look up: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him". In other words: you can’t relieve yourself of moral duty by simply saying you were following orders. In Brucker’s eyes, they have a DUTY to go behind Taylor’s back. 

At CTU, Hastings tells a somber CTU about the threat made to the President. At the group scrambles to retrace every step and re-approach every lead, Dana slips the NYPD roadblocks over to Samir. He, in turns, uses them to direct Tarin towards the Upper West Side, where he parks the van containing the Doomsday Glade Device. 

Brucker and Weiss head into Ethan’s office at the U.N. to secure information on Hassan’s detail. For some reason, Brucker dismisses Jack’s presence in the detail as a non-factor. Silly, silly Brucker. While transferring the information to a flash drive, Ethan walks in and quickly surmises the situation. He tries to subtly phone Jack inside his coat pocket, but Brucker sniffs out the plan and secures the phone. As Ethan begs Weiss to reconsider his plans, he suffers a heart attack. At first, I thought it was a ruse, but nope: just an inconvenient heart attack. (Well, inconvenient for him. Pretty darn convenient for the writers.)  

Weiss wants to call a medic, but Brucker tells him they will only call for help once Hassan is in custody. He then phones his wet team and sends them towards Jack’s location. For his part, Jack smells a rat when his return call to Ethan goes unanswered, and tells Renee to stay on high alert. Jack eventually ends up talking to Weiss, who, considering he’s a politician, is a TERRIBLE liar while trying to explain Ethan’s inability to answer the phone. Jack starts the in-tunnel retreat, which prompts the wet team in the tunnel to open fire. As the firefight ensues, Jack and Renee try to lead the Hassans to safety. 

When Kayla hurts her ankle, Jack realizes that running away is no longer possible. He bunkers them all down behind some crates, and even tosses a pistol to Hassan. “Take care of your family,” he whispers. OK, I might have fist pumped at that moment. What followed was a fantastic, tactical firefight, in which Jack used smoke bombs and a near-telepathic connection with Renee to surgically dismantle the attacking team. Really solid stuff. Great seeing Renee in action again, under control and every bit Bauer’s equal. Thanks to a timely shot from Hassan, Jack finally wounds one of his assailants, learn of their derivation/purpose, and quickly gathers everyone to head above-ground to make a call to the President.  

An anxious Samir calls Dana at CTU to learn why she hasn’t called him with updates. Well, turns out she doesn’t have any, which leads Samir to think Taylor won’t be giving into his demands. So he calls Tarin, who is still parked in the van, and tells him to start the countdown. “Your family will be honored about all others,” Samir says. With trembling hands, Tarin presses a button on a stopwatch, which starts the timer on the bomb. 15 minutes until boom. Well, technically, 168 hours and 15 minutes, in terms of our vantage point. But you get the drift. 

What are the odds on the bomb going off? Would the show REALLY have the guts to do that? And how much longer before Chloe sniffs Dana out? Leave your thoughts below!