So maybe it was a mistake that I watched Monday (April 27) night's "24" after rewatching and recapping the "Chuck" finale? It's not that I had any choice in that matter. Shows come on when they come on and I'm just a humble recapper, a slave to the schedule. But maybe if I hadn't been coming off of "Chuck," Monday's "24" wouldn't have felt so darned boring for most of its running time.
"Chuck" is fighting for its life and felt the responsibility to deliver a finale with romance, comedy and a series redefining twist. Meanwhile, "24" has already been renewed and it's basically treading water in the weeks leading up to a two-hour finale. One show is hungry and one show is pretty well sated.
There were two spectacular Jack Bauer meltdowns in the episode and for many fans, that will be enough.
[A bit of a recap after the break, though it's hard to recap an episode so stripped down...]
This really was an entire episode built around a pair of explosive, spittle-spewing tantrums from Kiefer Sutherland, both of which will likely be misinterpreted as all-in-good-fun by the sort of fans who mostly tune in to "24" to hear Jack Bauer yell, "Damnit!"
The first of Bauer's outbursts came at around the half-way point, as he finally got his face-to-face conflict with Evil Jon Voight, albeit a tete-a-tete with one man recovering from a botched suicide attempt and the other man hepped up on a tremendous quantity of goofballs to keep him from spazzing out and dying. It's a bit like a heavyweight title fight today between Larry Holmes and George Foreman. The names would still sell tickets, but you probably won't get a vintage performance out of either man.
It turns out that the pill the Fake Attorney gave Evil Jon Voight last week, the one she promised would cause instant, painless death, seems not to have caused any sort of death, instant or otherwise. The instant poison was so ineffective that even after Evil Jon Voight took the pill and started going into cardiac arrest, his military escort had time to stop their caravan, pull over to the side of the road and then drive him to a covert hospital and save his life. For a shadowy cabal bent on taking control of the government, they really ought to have access to more efficient suicide pills.
That left Jonas (Evil Jon Voight) alive for Jack to interrogate him and offer him... What else? His death. Jack, nearly dead himself just 20 minutes earlier, correctly deduced that rather than amnesty, the best thing President Taylor could offer Jonas would be proof of his death, to keep his unseen family safe.
The shouting match between Jack and Jonas hinged on a point I raised in my recap two weeks ago: Jonas is like a white collar version of Jack, a grand scale embodiment and perversion of the Jack Bauer ethos that sometimes the only way to protect the many is to sacrifice a few basic rights or social niceties.
Jonas explained that he worked with "a larger group of like minds." Their goal was to destabilize the government today and then to orchestrate a series of attacks several months down the road, attacks that would prove that the government and military were unable to protect the citizenry. The group, lacking in a cool code name, would then whisk in. Jonas spun a lot of exposition without any information, but he got Jack very angry because he told Jack they were just alike.
"You and I have absolutely nothing in common," Jack growled, before yelling "I want names!" several times.
The thing that Jack's vein-pulsing theatrics were meant to obscure is that Jonas was right. Or, if Jonas *wasn't* right, this season hasn't had any purpose at all. Jack's singularity is what everything has been about, this notion that one Jack Bauer makes for a sometimes-awesome TV show, but that a group of Jack Bauers makes for a terrorist organization or a cult. Or maybe one Jack Bauer, usually working outside of the purview of the law, can make for great justice-delivering force, but a corporation of Jack Bauers, working with billions of dollars, would probably attempt to take over the government.
Jonas' information was enough to get him his Witness Protection paperwork, much to the chagrin of Olivia, who showcased once again why most presidents would prefer not to appoint their daughters to important positions despite a total absence of political experience and general instability. The episode ended with Olivia contacting a shady gay political operative to figure out a way to assassinate Jonas, which probably wouldn't matter much to anybody in the audience, because Jonas doesn't have any information left to share.
Nobody has any information. We sat through long expositional scenes where the Military Cabal debated their overthrow via teleconference and even selected their patsy. It was badly delivered drama, but probably a solid commercial for the teleconference software, which allows you to easily disguise your voice and facilitates the process of holding an anonymous vote on whether or not to release a bioweapon in Washington at rush hour.
How do you stop a group you can't identify from committing a crime you can't predict in a city to be determined? Only with the most intrusive software imaginable. And where would one get that technology? Off of the CTU servers, conveniently boxed up in the FBI basement for easy activation whenever the time is right. And since nobody else knows how to activate the CTU protocols, it's a good thing Chloe's still in Washington and perfectly willing to forget that part where the now-deceased Larry Moss detained her for her involvement with Jack and then forced her husband to sell Jack out to protect her.
Chloe's arrival at the FBI led to more prickly snarking between our favorite CTU curmudgeon-and-mom and Janis, who has been set up for fan hatred since the "24" producers thought casting Janeane Garofalo on TV's most conservative show would be a funny idea. Then, they though the next funny idea would be to give Janis nothing to do but whining and not that semi-appealing Chloe whining. I'm talking oppressive, non-stop left wing carping about inane concerns like the Bill of Rights. Boo, Janis!
Well, Janis sure got hers, didn't she? Janis was leaning over Chloe's shoulder, expressing reservations at CTU's intrusive methodology.
"If you're going to be doing anything grossly illegal..." Janis began, idiotically implying that federal agencies shouldn't be violating federal laws.
"We'll be sure to notify you so you can leave the building." Jack barked.
But Janis persisted.
"If you think your need to complain is more important than the lives of people who are counting on us, go whine somewhere else!" Jack roared.
All around the nation, you could hear a certain portion of the audience cheer with approval.
Jack's rant didn't stop there. He went on and on about how the president signed off on what they were doing.
"President Palmer made the call!" he bellowed twice.
See, you can cheer all you want about Jack giving Janis what she so richly deserved, but it helps if you acknowledge that at this point, Jack is absolutely out of his gourd and maybe showing your approval for his behavior isn't the best reflection on your own relational decision-making.
I'm not sure why Jack didn't mention to Chloe that he's dying if this is information that everybody else at FBI headquarters must know. It's the sort of revelation that would probably come better from a friend than from Janis.
Otherwise what happened this week? Tony killed Galvez, who was just a convenient plot device anyway, and then took a shower with Galvez's corpse leaning up against the tub. Tony's cold like that. He's also got an intimate relationship with the Fake Attorney, who's as close as we've got to a Big Bad. As the episode concluded, Tony and his forces were kidnapping randomly selected Middle Eastern patsy Jibraan Al-Zarian.
Maybe with only three hours still to go, things can get rolling next week?
Other thoughts from Monday's episode:
*** Anybody out there still thinking Tony is just misunderstood? The sad thing is that I know there are still a couple fans insisting that this is all Tony going deep, deep undercover. The kind of deep undercover where you're killing people left-and-right is the kind of undercover you don't come back from.
*** Worst scene: Olivia unburdening herself at the expense of poor Agent Pierce, who just wants to get a couple hours sleep.
*** I'm concerned by every hour that passes without somebody moving closer to getting Jack a cure. I'm not concerned for Jack's life. I'm concerned for the way the cure will be found. They'll either introduce the possibility and have it unfold organically, or we'll get to the finale, with Jack shooting up every five minutes (he's close already), only to have him stumble across a syringe carefully labeled "Cure For What Ails Ya" and he'll go, "Whew. That was another close one." Time is running out for that organic cure.
**** Has Jack become reliable and trustworthy because he's dying or because the few stragglers have realized that it's never worth the wasted time in pretending he's wrong about anything? Jack implicates Tony after spending hours trying to get everybody to trust Tony and Agent Walker doesn't hesitate for a second in believing him? Not much for Agent Walker to do this episode, though she also got to tell Janis to shut-up.
What're your thoughts on this week's episode?