Let it never be said that the producers of "24" are the least bit afraid to let their show venture into realms so ridiculous they nearly become science fiction.

They assassinated an ex-president and very nearly exploded his brother. They shot down Air Force One. They nuked Valencia. They've released deadly biological weapons in several public and private locations. They've unearthed moles on a weekly basis and invoked tenuous parts of Constitutional law that have never been called into play in 233 years of American history. If the big reveal of Day Seven is that Tony Almeida was a cyborg from the future sent to kill Jack Bauer, viewers will be temporarily confused, but they'll ultimately find a way to reconcile Robo-Tony with the the show's twisted continuity. 

So keep all of that in mind when I make the argument that Monday (March 2) night's two-hour "24" event may have featured the most preposterous plot developments in the show's history. 

With any other show on TV, the previous sentence would sound like a clear insult. With "24," I believe we'll all be able to agree that Monday's episodes were, at the very least, never boring.

[Recap after the break...]

Do we suspect that FOX decided to pair the 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. hours of "24" because the first hour was just a celebration of torture and a prelude for the second hour which was just bat guano crazy?

In all of those years in the early '90s when every action movie was "Die Hard on a..." nobody ever had the audacity to do "Die Hard in the White House," did they? We have "Air Force One" and "Murder at 1600." And the aliens in "Independence Day" didn't think twice about blowing up the White House. But barring some low-budget action flick starring Jeff Fahey or his non-union Mexican equivalent, I can't think of the movie that was willing to render the President's impregnable residence so very, very pregnable. 

It was bonkers enough that the entire second hour of "24" was like a version of "Doom," with terrorists running through the White House picking off publicists, politicos and staffers willy-nilly.

It was a step more bonkers that the terrorist team consisted of maybe a dozen African soldiers. That doesn't speak well for White House security or the secret service, does it? 

It was a step more bonkers that the terrorist team's plan to break into the White House appeared to have been cribbed directly from "The Rock," complete with an under-water breach of the foundations and bypassing of the pathetically devised security system. 

To my mind, though, the part of the "24" plot that was most goofy was that the dozen-person attack was so important that deposed military strongman of a fictional African nation didn't trust his intermediaries to perform the operation correctly. That's right, the dozen troops were led by none other than General Juma himself. When you care enough to send the very best, I suppose. And no wonder the invading U.S. forces met so little resistance marching on the Sangalese capital, the entire army and its leader were across the Potomac plotting their invasion.

There were a lot of interesting details in the episode that presumably somebody must have researched. Like who knew the president wears a black armband that allows them to mourn stylishly while also being tracked throughout the White House? And who knew that the president has a number of conveniently located panic rooms that look like regular doors, but are really thick metal? And who knew that the security system inside said panic room can be easily disabled from within by somebody with no technical experience basically using a fork if Africans with hacking software try to get in?

Watching "24" is like an educational experience!

And aren't we glad that we were introduced to the President's estranged daughter just so that she could eventually be held hostage by an African dictator as a means-to-an-end to eventually get the President held hostage? Because all women are slaves to their hormones and will willingly put the security of an entire nation at risk to coddle a spoiled brat? Sprague Grayden's character could be named P.D. Taylor ("Plot Device").

Then again, the President was willing to put the country as stake for the daughter she doesn't like, but the only way she was able to do it was by invoking the name of the daughter who doesn't like Jack Bauer very much. This is Jack Bauer who has willingly put his life on the line for presidents he didn't trust or respect, out of duty to his country, but was willing to let President Taylor put herself in the hands of a bloodthirsty war criminal at the mention of the magic words "Kim Bauer."

The episode culminated with General Juma pimp-slapping the President of the United States, a move so audaciously wicked that it will be nearly impossible for President Taylor to find any sort of proportionate response.  Is there some scenario in which President Taylor leaps into the air doing a flying split, kicking two Sangalese soldiers in the nads, takes their guns as she falls into a summersault, popping up and opening fire on Juma, both guns a-blazin'? Because it's going to take something like that to correct the karmic balance. Juma has to go down and he has to go down hard and a mere Jack Bauer assassination isn't going to suffice. 

See? It really was a unique episode.

It was also an episode without subterfuge. Never before has Jack Bauer's advocacy of torture been so explicit. I don't think I've ever written one of those "Shame on '24'" articles talking about how the show is a fascist's wet dream, but tonight's episode was a bit out of control.

Kurtwood Smith's Senator is opposed to torture, opposed to authorized forces of our government lowering itself to the level of the barbaric enemy. He favors accountability and the rule of law. 

And tonight's "24" made it clear that that sort of wishy-washy, hippy, liberal thinking is what causes a 12-personal assault team to be able to take the President Hostage and control the White House. The man who prefers civility isn't just seen as wrong, he's the villain, he's the enabler of terrorists. All he had to do was let Jack Bauer finish electrocuting his sniveling chief-of-staff and the episode could have had a happy ending. 

What other things were presented as evil? Well, the chief-of-staff asked for an attorney. BOO due process and the protection of civil rights! And then he pretended that he would say whatever Jack wanted him to say, because as left-wingers keep insisting, even an innocent person will claim to be guilty to stop torture. Not true, protests "24."

"Don't you even try and play that game with me," Jack growled. "Mr. Burnett, I've been doing this a long time and I can tell the difference, especially when a man is under duress, if he's got information I need or if I'm wasting my time."

In your face, liberals. 

After blowing open the door and detaining Jack, Senator That '70s Show pointed at his aide and made his case to the President.

"Look at that and tell me it's not barbarism. Is that something you can live with?" he said.

Jack interrupted with, "Earlier today, Madam President, two airplanes were brought down. Is *that* something you can live with?"

Senator Worst Week: "You're reprehensible, Bauer."

Jack: "And you, sir, are weak, unwilling and unable to look evil in the eye and deal with it."

Well, there you have it. 

Jack Bauer doing the things Jack Bauer does can be great fun, but when Jack Bauer becomes a rhetorical mouthpiece, he really becomes unlikable. 

Also, why did Jack have to go through his "I'm going to put my friends in a sleeper hold and go all berserker because it's easier to work outside the system than to implicate good men in my crimes" routine for the second time this season? Bill Buchanan didn't deserve that kind of abuse.

Other thoughts on this week's episode:

*** How did the media get ahold of the White House Under Siege story so quickly? It's bad enough that the White House has no security, but they can't control media access at all?

*** If Aaron Pierce dies, I'm going to stop watching "24" and y'all will have to get your recaps elsewhere.

*** Wait. I forgot a silly moment. Agent Walker stows away on a boat with the Sangalese forces and sees they're looking at blueprints for the attack site. She sneaks in. The first few blue prints make it difficult to tell the target. Then she flips to a lovely artistic rendering of the front of the White House with all of the strategic value of a picture postcard.

*** The first full-on Janis/Chloe clash had some solid snark-and-scowling, but I wanted more.

*** Ethan misused the phrase "begs the question" in the opening scene. Shame on you, Bob Gunton.

*** Enter Jon Voight. He's evil. Shocking. I do kinda love the line, "Stress is the fertilizer of creativity. Let's play some darts."

*** Enter the Vice President. We don't have much of a read on him. He doesn't want to launch an action to save/potentially kill the president. Is he prudent or ambitious?

*** Why is Sangala so important? Just curious.

*** Oh stop complaining, Fienberg. "24" is a TV show. It's not supposed to be logical and just because its hero loves torture like a bulimic model loves Altoids doesn't mean that the show endorses torture. GEEZ.

What'd y'all thing of the episode?

 

 

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