Tony, Tony, Tony has done it again.

FOX is getting to be a network of weird end-of-episode juxtapositions.

On Sunday night, "Family Guy" spent the better part of an episode arguing in favor of the legalization of marijuana, claiming that the fight to criminalize pot is mostly being waged by crazed industrialists and mocking general anti-drug campaigns. The episode ended and cut immediately into a Partnership for a Drug-Free American PSA modeled after FOX's low-rated game show dud "Hole in the Wall." It was a tasty mixed message.

Then, on Monday (April 20) night, "24" spent an hour with Tony Almeida plotting to kill federal agents. It was an episode geared toward silencing the doubters who suspect that Tony is still good at heart. Then, immediately after the episode, we were treated to Carlos Bernard, telling us to do our part to fight Global Warning. Because Bernard isn't exactly the most versatile of actors, his sneer remained unchanged from the end of the episode to the PSA. Since I can no longer trust a word that Tony says, I can only assume that he's secretly conspiring against the environment. 

So my message to "24" viewers: DON'T DO ANYTHING TONY SUGGESTED!

We all know what Admiral Ackbar would say in this situation...

[Full recap of Monday night's "24" after the break...]

Yeah. So Tony's evil. I mean, he may be good again by next week, but after Monday's episode, are we really going to take him back on our side? Just because we once quivered at the sight of his soul patch? Just because we shared his sadness at Michelle's death? Oh no. Tony Almeida is henceforth evil and even if he manages to change his alliances a dozen times in the season's last month, I'm only going to be satisfied with the finale if it ends with Jack dropping Tony out of a helicopter, leaving Tony impaled atop the Washington Monument. Use your locations, that's my motto.

Monday's episode was largely about resetting the playing field after last week's big moments, which included Tony revealing his true nature to Agent Moss and Evil Jon Voight being taken into custody, claiming all the way that he was just a little cog in the big machine.

That meant that on Monday, we began to see who the bigger cogs are in the machine. As the episode began, Jon Voight's actual lawyer was taken out and replaced by Amy Price-Francis, as the Agent of THEM (as I'm calling whoever the heck is behind all of this season's attacks and whatnot). [Once they were just finding a not-quite-identical replacement blonde, I was disappointed that we didn't find a way to bring back Evil Lesbian Mandy or to resurrect Nina.]

The fake lawyer's job was to go to Jon Voight, make him feel really ashamed for having screwed everything up and to give him a red pill that would promise instantaneous death and would keep his family safe and his company just a bit less mired in shame because of his actions.

"You would have been protected, Jonas," she tutted. "You and Starkwood. But you jeopardized the plan."

The bioweapon that Starkwood had been developing? It was for THEM. THEM suspects Jonas is no longer psychologically reliable, so they want him to take the dignified way out. So far, who is THEM? Well, Price-Francis' character reports directly to Veteran Character Actor Will Patton, whose name, rank and serial number weren't revealed in this episode. I believe that Will Patton is the tip of the conspiratorial pyramid like I believe that the Celtics can win an NBA title without Kevin Garnett. He's a reliable placeholder, an actor good enough to carry an episode or two of intrigue before we discover that Charles Logan is involved. Or that Wayne Palmer is involved. Or that Mike Novick is involved. Or that Victor Drazen had another bitter relative seeking revenge on Jack Bauer. Or that Kim Bauer's daughter is evil.

[Oh yeah, Kim's heading back to Los Angeles. She can't be bothered to get a hotel room and wait for Jack's body or see the sights for a day or two in case Jack gets desperately hungry for her stem cells. She's going back to LA, because in LA she has a man -- Paul Wesley, who will always be "Paul Wasilewski" to me -- and a daughter. That daughter's name? Teri! All together now, "Awwwwwwwwwwww."]

Where was I? Oh yeah. Will Patton isn't the Big Bad. He doesn't have it in him. What he is doing, for now, is employing Tony Almeida, or at least Tony Almeida is being employed by the Red Pill Lawyer, who says, "Tony's been the one bright spot in an otherwise dreary day. I have faith he'll come through."

Is that who Tony was having his romantic dinner with when Jack interrupted him earlier? This show needs flashbacks.

Tony, for his part, is employing Gabriel Casseus' Galvez and he spent the whole episode plotting for ways to get Galvez out of the four-block perimeter locked down by the FBI. What Tony didn't count on is Jack Bauer, which is as stupid as Hannibal going rogue and forgetting to factor in B.A. Baracus.

It was a strange episode for Jack. He spent the first 10 minutes shaking uncontrollably and having mental lapses as he attempted to give an hour-by-hour rundown of the day's events. Jack was forgetting himself, repeating things and generally bugging his eyes, which has become Kiefer Sutherland's go-to acting move in recent weeks. This Jack Bauer didn't look capable of devising a coherent CandyLand strategy, but when Agent Walker got temporarily blubbery at the death of Agent Moss, Jack's residual Alpha Male Adrenaline kicked in and he decided to tag along with Agent Walker to the incident site. And what's with high-ranking FBI officials feeling the need to monitor the situation on the ground? Don't they know they're supposed to stand over computers on the phone and let the infantry take the hits?

[Side note, can we all agree that Annie Wersching's reaction to Agent Moss' death was the best part of the episode? It wasn't just the one tear she squeezed out before going stone-faced. It was the tremendous delivery of the line, "Somebody's going to need to notify Larry's ex-wife. It probably shouldn't be me," which filled in a series of character blanks with minimal exposition. It's so rare that "24" does something like that correctly that I want to tip my cap.]

That meant Jack, just over an hour removed from his last seizure and shooting up a potent chemical compound at a rate far beyond what the Good Doctor recommended, was at Ground Zero. The look Tony gave when he saw Jack get off the chopper was priceless. Tony was right to be worried, because within seconds, a man who was a blithering idiot just minutes earlier was picking up on discrepancies in shell-casing calibre, picking holes in Tony's version of Agent Moss' death, noticing walkie-talkie inconsistencies in the field and generally being the Jack Bauer we know and love. Still, Jack was mighty slow to put together all of the pieces, including Tony's fake identification of a key informant, to solve the puzzle of Tony's involvement.

Then, just as Jack figured out that Tony had gone bad and just as he whipped out his gun and pointed it at his on-again-off-again buddy, he had a really inopportune seizure.

"I never wanted to hurt you Jack," Tony insisted. "I told you to stay out of it. But you wouldn't listen, would you?"

So the episode ended with Jack's eyes bulging and his neck muscles straining as Tony smirked away. Meanwhile, Galvez ripped off the whole "Pretend you're nearly dead to get in the back of an ambulance and then hijack the ambulance" gag from "Silence of the Lambs," though he did it without peeling anybody's face off, which makes him a bush league killer, if you as me. 

Wait. Sorry. I'm just kidding, Galvez. Has anybody in "24" history every killed as many people one-on-one as Galvez has over the past two episodes? I'm not including the wimps who blew up Valencia, obviously. That Galvez is a bad mutha.

Other thoughts on the episode:

*** So Evil Jon Voight really *was* a patriot, until he went just a smidge too far? That's the message the "24" writers wanted to convey tonight with the scene where Hodges asked the soldier transporting him to the FBI about the quality of Starkwood's mercenary forces and he was assured that they were good men and true. The writers wanted to make it clear that they aren't insulting all of the civilian military contractors waging virtually unchecked wars-for-profit in foreign countries. Just the ones that go too far. Thanks for the clarification. Oh and there's absolutely no point of giving a man a menacing red pill and telling him to kill himself if the pill in question only causes a mild heart attack and works so slowly the intended victim can be transported to a hospital. Lame.

*** Also lame? I don't want to get all racial-profile-y on you, but the FBI team they sent in to extract Galvez appeared to be 99% white (or Asian), with the exception of one dead guy Agent Walker was trying to revive. It almost makes sense to send in a team of that sort, so that if an African-American enemy operative is in the area, he can't just wander past everybody unnoticed.

*** The baby's name is Teri. Awwwwwww...

Y'all have any thoughts, dear readers? Any guesses on the identity of the Big Bad?

 

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