Ready for another season of the Jack Bauer Power Hour, people? “24” kicked off Season 8 in much the way it kicked off every season. It’s sort of like violent comfort food: you know that no matter the specific plot there will be explosions, betrayals, cellphones that never lose their battery, subplots that defy all reasonable logic, perimeters that won’t contain the threat, and endless ways to create drinking games that will send you to the ground faster than a bullet wound to the shoulder.
You know the drill. So let’s get onto the recap of Sunday's (Jan. 17) "24" premiere after the break...
Hour 1 (4:00 pm – 5:00 pm)
Starting off: a man in a red hoodie sneaks into a building before an unseen sniper picks him off. His name is Victor, and he’s having a bad day. Not only does he find his associate dead inside the building, but soon learns that another one has also died. He barely escapes death himself, but ends up taking a sniper’s slug to the shoulder for his troubles.
Elsewhere in NYC: Jack Bauer’s playing house with his granddaughter, Teri. Jack tells Kim that Teri reminds him of her, followed by Kim telling Jack that her husband reminds her of him. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s a whole lot of weird right there. While Jack stays a LITTLE too long watching Fox News talking heads pontificate about a groundbreaking political initiative, he insists that he’ll be traveling back to L.A. with his family that night to some consulting work close to his reunited family. When will he be done packing? Within the hour. Cue the anvil clang.
Speaking of that initiative, we catch President Taylor discussing disarmament negotiations with President Hassan of Middle East Country Name Withheld Lest “24” Accidentally Start Another War at the United Nations. While Hassan’s terms don’t exactly please Taylor, she orders Ethan (now Secretary of State) to make it work, Tim Gunn-esque. However, Hassan’s brother Farad seems less pleased than Harrison Ford presenting at the Golden Globes tonight. I suppose Farad’s been WORKING AROUND THE CLOCK on these negotiations.
Looks like the negotiations aren’t the only thing worrying Farad: looks like his big brother’s been Banging Jessica Stein: Jennifer Westfeldt is now on “24” playing reporter Meredith Reed, who wants to go on the record and (potentially) under the sheets with the Middle East leader. Farad worries that news of their relationship will not only undermine Hassan’s marriage, but also make him look “influenced” by the West in more ways than one.
As Jack packs up for L.A., he gets a knock on the door. It’s Victor, whom we learn is a former informant for Jack and helped on the Salazar case from Season 3. He has important intelligence on an impending attempt on Hassan’s life. How? Because he let the assassins into the country. Oh, well, that’s one way to know. He wants immunity for his information. We get our first great Jack over-interrogation of the year (“WHO’S THE HITTER?”) before he decides that maybe L.A. isn’t in the cards after all. What does Jack do? Call Chloe, of course.
Chloe’s conveniently working in the new CTU branch in New York City, which looks like a combination of The Bat Cave and an Apple Store. We’re not ten seconds into the Apple Cave when Agent Cole Ortiz (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is talking about the trouble CTU has maintaining perimeters. Damn. I had Hour 3 in my office pool for such a reference. He commiserates with Dana (Katee Sackhoff), a tech expert who is so good at what she does she makes Chloe look like Edgar. (RIP, Edgar.) Also, the two are engaged. I think they’ll be serving chicken mole at their reception. Get it? Mole? God, I kill me.
Chloe takes Jack call and says, “I love you, let me have your babies!” OK, she said it mostly with her eyes. But she takes Jack’s info up to the newest CTU director, Brian Hastings. Ah, “CTU Director”: you’re the “Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor” of the “24” world. Hastings doesn’t run the type of CTU Jack knows. This one does things differently. What do they do? Suggest re-enacting the plot from “16 Blocks” to lead Victor into CTU custody, that’s what they do. I kid you not. That’s pretty much exactly what he suggests. (Hat tip to Hitfix’s own Daniel Fienberg for noting this similarity via Twitter.)
Taylor and Ethan get looped about the threat by new Chief of Staff Rob Weiss. Ethan worries that news of the attack will scuttle the agreement. Rob stomps all over Ethan’s arguments pretty effectively, with Taylor agreeing to think about the proper course of action. Outside the chamber, Weiss apologizes to Kanin about being so abrupt, but Ethan says he found it quite sexy. OK, maybe he didn’t say that exactly.
Jack gets Victor close to the rendezvous point, but Victor picks that moment to suddenly pass out from pain. Awesome, it’s the Ultra Convenient Medical Emergency recycled from Season 7, when Jack would not feel the effects of the toxin until he was about to nab Tony. Fantastic. More fantastic? The first “Damnit!” of the year! Sigh. Like a baby’s blanket, that. A nearby man spots Jack’s attempts to revive Victor and makes a 911 call.
That sends both the cops and the bad guys their way, leading to the first big shootout of the season. Jack and Victor make it inside a nearby building and alert CTU to reroute the chopper. Jack takes out the on-foot assailants but didn’t count on the dude with the giant bazooka in the adjacent building to take out the chopper. And BOOM goes the dynamite. In another classic “24” trope, Victor’s dying words mention someone close to Hassan on the inside as being part of the plot. Course, saying that expended the last of his life energy and thus he dies while shaken him vigorously by Jack. Oh, “24,” at least PRETEND you’re trying at this point. We’re only in Hour 1. Work with me here.
So who is the insider? Well, the show hints that it’s the episode’s red herring: Meredith. Finally cleared by Farad who tells someone on the phone that while she’s behind schedule, she’ll still accomplish her mission. On the other end of the phone? Behrooz, finally back to seek revenge on everyone! OK, I made that up.
Hour 2 (5:00 pm – 6:00 pm)
CTU’s concerned about the bazooka, noting that the on-site drone used by them should have automatically taken out the missile. Hmmm. Hastings orders Jack and Cole back to CTU for debriefing. Hastings wants to know 1) what the hell happened, and 2) what the hell kind of accent Prinze Jr. is trying to pull off. As they return to headquarters, Dana notes a back-entry into the U.N. servers. Boy, that’s convenient. They trace the IP address to one Meredith Reed. Boy, that’s SUPER convient. Quite an e-MOLE-tional sequence as they coordinate a successful attempt to nab Reed in the U.N. before she can reach Hassan.
After all, God forbid anyone actually tell Hassan about the threat on his life. Everyone in President Taylor’s immediate family is either dead, divorced, or detained. And in the spirit of her clan, she decides to keep the threat on Hassan’s life a secret. Awesome. I could see keeping the details of what she would do for a Klondike bar under wraps, but this is straight up ridiculous. But now both sides have secrets they want to keep, as any word about Hassan’s affair with Reed (which started three months ago) would discredit him at home.
Farad insists that Hassan cover up the affair. Out of brotherly love? No, because he’s working for the same man who framed Reed, Davros. Davros is played the guy who plays Horace Goodspeed on “Lost,” functioning as “The Big Bad Before ‘24’ Reveals the Actual Big Bad” in Season 8. Looks like The Incident turned him away from nirvana and towards nihilism. Unreal. Now, Chloe has a picture of Davros leaving Reed’s building just after the attack, which helps support her theory (and mine) that this “solution” to the assassination threat seems mighty convenient. But she won’t share it with Hastings because he’s too busy trying to cover up his own mess with Cole, and at this point I’m waiting for Dr. Drew to show up and teach everyone in the show how to be honest with one another.
With Reed in custody, it’s time for the annual “Find Out Something Incriminating About a CTU Employee That Will No Doubt Hinder The Attempt to Solve The Case at a Critical Juncture”. This year’s example: Dana Walsh is actually “Jenny Scott,” which we learn from a sketchy, denim-jacket wearing dude on the waterfront named Kevin Wade. Looks like Dana/Jenny’s sister Ruth gave up her whereabouts, which somehow will lead to her dismissal from CTU. Does CTU fire people for having bad taste in men now? Oh boy. This will end poorly.
Meanwhile, Chloe desperately tries to keep Jack invested on her working theory about the real assassin. He gives it a go past Hastings, but Hastings isn’t budging. Chloe tearfully tries to keep him around, stating, “I can’t do this without you.” Are they getting divorced? It’s unclear. He escapes CTU and greets Kim outside. He expects the start of the rest of his life. Instead, Kim’s talked to Chloe, and thinks he should stay on as well. Holy mixed signals inside the Apple Cave!
Jack gets the pained look of someone that’s lost 250 pounds on “The Biggest Loser,” only to return to the real world and have the two most important women in his life continually badger him to come with them to the Old Country Buffet again. Naturally, this works, because this is “24” and we’re barely through 90 minutes. “Start checking traffic cams!” he barks as his initial rallying cry, which is up there with Tom Hanks’ “I need to get to a library!” in terms of lameness. Well, the man’s rusty. Countless mornings of cartoons with Teri will do that to a man. I’ve watched a few episodes of “Caillou” with my nephew and am convinced I’ve lost brain cells I’ll never recover.
With Jack and Chloe back together, it’s time to start hacking into CTU systems behind the back of everyone, finds the cab that picked up Davros, and then fakes a handprint ID so Jack can get locked and loaded for action. Ah, old-school “24,” this is more like it. So, naturally, this lasts all of 3 minutes before Hastings gets wind of it thanks to Arlo and Dana’s detection of Chloe’s hack. Luckily, having overheard Hastings’ argument with Cole about procedural breakdowns surrounding Victor’s death, he gets a free pass to investigate on his own with Chloe running point. Hastings is less about “security” so much as “covering his own butt.” Good to know that the quality of hires at CTU hasn’t gone up at all over the past seven crises.
Speaking of Davros, he shows up at the house of a U.N. security guard. Looks like he’s been infiltrating their ranks for a while, and wants a switcharoo to take his buddy’s shift that day. When his friend says he can’t, Davros drops the act, pulls a gun, and orders his colleague to call in sick. That’s the cliffhanger for Hour 2. I’m not making this up. The only way it could have been less anticlimactic would have been if Davros noted that his former colleague looked like a fool with his pants on the ground.
But enough about my thoughts on tonight’s Season 8 premiere. What are your thoughts about “24” so far? Excited for a new season, or just wishing Jack had simply gotten on the plane to L.A.?