Yikes. Was that the most shocking ending in "24" history?

I'm not referring to Jack Bauer once again being framed for murder and once again racing against time to simultaneously save the world and also clear his name. That's the exact way we left last week's episode, so it's hard to be even slightly shocked and thrilled by that sort of cliffhanger. 

Yawn.

No, I'm referring to the fact that after several hours of taking a beating to get to the bottom of the Sangalan conspiracy, Jack finally got enough information to loop Tony Almeida in. 

He calls Tony and what do you think Tony's up to?

A) Torturing a informant to get some information of his own.

B) Unloading weapons as part of Evil Jon Voight's plot, a terrorist once again.

C) Trimming and grooming his facial scruff and applying a tonic to regrow his soul patch.

D) Enjoying a nice, peaceful dinner at an intimate candlelit bistro.

[The answer and the recap after the break...]

I wish I could tell you it's "A." Tony's been dead-weight for a while now and it'd be nice to know he was getting some work done and trying to save the day on his own. 

But no.

I also wouldn't have minded "B." Since Tony's arrival this season has yet to yield all that much heroism, I'd be perfectly happy for him to be exposed as a villain.

But no.

At least "C" would have been a surprise, but viewers would have probably nodded and gone, "Yeah. We figured."

But no.

Instead, Tony was just sitting and chilling and enjoying a meal. I'll bet he's had time to go to the bathroom and maybe even take a mid-afternoon siesta. He probably watched highlights from the White House Siege while he was doing some cardio in the gym, maybe enjoying a nice jacuzzi or mani-pedi afterwards. It's a wonder he can look Jack Bauer in the eye at all. You, Tony Almeida, are a slacker. 

Meanwhile, I no longer have any clue of how wounded Jack Bauer is. He's been batted around pretty good these past couple weeks. He's bleeding and beaten and he's fleeing from every law enforcement official in a 50 mile radius, since everybody figures that not only did he kill a federal witness last week, but he just plugged a US Senator.

Of course, Jack would never kill a Senator, even one as priggish and self-righteous as Kurtwood Smith's Senator Red Foreman. Jack and Senator That '70s Show actually spent some quality time together this episode, because there's some unwritten rule in the "24" universe that no character is allowed to die without fully appreciating the awesomeness of Jack Bauer. 

So Jack broke into the Senator's house, held him at letter-opener-point and proved his case beyond a reasonable doubt. It was pure exposition, but there were some crucial things that needed to be explained.

Who's behind this season's plot? That would be Starkwood, the latest fictional representation of Blackwater (might similar to Ravenwood from "Jericho"). We're dealing with an independent military contractor that has picked up engagements around the world, often through bribery and intimidation.

What is this shipment that Evil Jon Voight has been trying to get? Biochemical weapons, it would seem, specifically some iteration of the WMD that General Juma deployed on his own people, a compound that leads to speedy dementia, paralysis and death, rarely a good thing. I got lost somewhere between whether Starkwood was developing the weapons for Juma or if Juma was developing them for Starkwood or if Starkwood picked up where Juma left off in his research or if Starkwood was funding Juma's research, or what. All I know is that there are chemical weapons at the port and Jon Voight is going to go get them. 

We don't exactly know why Evil Jon Voight is planning on utilizing the chemical weapons waiting for him at the port. Is this just Starkwood fighting back because Senator That '70s Show was investigating them? Why not just kill him and make it look like an accident? Or kill him and make it look like an assassination? Or any number of variables that lead to the Sentator's death and the end of the investigation? Yes, Quinn shot the Senator in tonight's episode, but it looked like his death was much more a product of his proximity to Jack Bauer than any attempt to tie up loose ends on Quinn and Evil Jon Voight's part.

The episode was amusingly structured, because Jack demanded the Senator give him the files from his six-month investigation into Starkwood. While Jack got lucky that the Senator had all of the files from the investigation sitting around his house, no amount of suspension of disbelieve would let viewers accept that Jack could read through six months of research, finding a connection the Senator and his staff missed, in mere seconds. No, it took Jack a full eight minutes to synthesize all of that data, which meant that there had to be some semi-drama at FBI headquarters.

That drama involved Carlo Rota's Morris arriving at FBI headquarters wondering why Chloe hadn't returned his phone calls. He learned Chloe was being detained, because Agent Moss has detained everybody who ever met Jack Bauer, including his dentist and his date to the 7th grade Sadie Hawkins dance. It was a total time-kill from the writers, because Moss and Janis had to get Morris' help decrypting information Agent Walker sent Jack. Wasn't Janis supposed to be good at her job? Turns out she can't handle a little scrambling. Morris, after securing Chloe's immunity, broke the code in less than a minute, providing the FBI with information that they weren't able to use in time. It was a waste, but at least we got to see Chloe's disappointment at Morris squealing on Jack. That was pretty good.

Other thoughts on Monday's episode:

*** Jack using a bulldozer to flip the construction trailer containing Quinn? Awesome. Jack and Quinn's fight-to-the-death? Weirdly lame. Something about the fight choreography and the stunt work seemed extra clumsy and the way the construction site went to poorly lit to unexpectedly bright and clear just so we could watch these two trained brawlers kick each other in the foot? Disappointing. 

*** Kiefer Suthererland had a good moment of vulnerability in his scenes with Kurtwood Smith, but I don't know why we've had so much repetition about his guilt over Teri and Kim. Presumably there will have to be a payoff of some sort, but I don't know what could be properly satisfying. 

*** I'm not sure I remember a "24" character I hate as much as Smug First Daughter Olivia. The worst part of it is that Agent Pierce nearly died trying to save this little wench. I'm rooting Ethan to take her out in the finale.

*** No show on TV does product plugs worse than "24." A couple weeks back I complained about the Hyundai placement where the camera kept getting stuck on the car's insignia. Tonight, Jack used a Sprint Internet device and practically whacked it against the camera so that we could see the branding. I can't tell if the "24" team is bad at this kind of integration, or if they have contempt for being forced to do it at all.

*** You might have hoped for a bit more respect and mention of the late Bill Buchanan, but no. No mention of Karen Hayes or Agent Pierce, either.

What'd you think of this week's episode? And what was up with Tony's romantic dinner-for-one?

 

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