Colm Feore is a Canadian acting treasure. He's a legend of the stage and a decorated film and television icon. He's done Shakespeare and played presidents, prime ministers and Glenn freakin' Gould. 

It's taken less than a month for "24" to turn him into the new Kim Bauer, which is to say that he's playing this season's Guy Who Complacently Gets Into So Much Trouble You'd Almost Rather He Just Died And Saved Everybody Time And Energy.

Last week, Feore's First Gentleman Taylor spent nearly 50 minutes doped up slouched on a couch. This week he spent another 50 minutes unconscious, prone between two corpses. Now he appears to have been taken hostage by the baddies, which means he'll become unrealistic leverage for at least a few minutes until Jack Bauer sets him free. Then again, the terrorists know that President Taylor was willing to let thousands of Americans die for a free Sangala. Do you reckon she's going to cave just for her spineless hubby?

[Spoilers after the bump...]

Tried-and-true "24" fans know that next week's episode, the season's eighth, will be a big one. It's the last episode to be completed before the writers strike halted and eventually postponed the "24" season last year. It also means that next week is the last episode before the show's writers and producers had the chance to take several months off to pause, reflect, course-correct and reboot. 

Oddly, it was Monday (Feb. 2) night's episode that felt like a pivot episode. On one hand, the episode was packed with action and featured a high bodycount, but it also seemed to solve several of the major dramatic threads without giving a concrete sense of what the next step was.

With almost nothing at all happening in the B and C plots, Jack, CT-New and Agent Walker -- who would have worn more comfortable pants if she'd known she was going to have to be running, skittering through vents and evading explosions -- tracked Dubaku's men down in a Washington office building. After infiltrating the office, they effortlessly performed a surprise raid and wiped out every member of Dubaku's team except for the Dark Lord himself, without sustaining so much as a flesh wound to their own squad. In retrospect, maybe Dubaku should have sacrificed a bit of his operation's anonymity for some viable security. In the process, they liberated Prime Minister and Mrs. Prime Minister Matobo and destroyed the CIP device. 

With the CIP device disarmed and Matobo able to return to power, we're all happy, right? There's no threat to American civilians and President Taylor can order the strike on Sangala, right? Happy ending? Way to go Jack? It only took you seven hours this time? New record? Get some sleep before going back to testify before the Senate tomorrow morning? Catch a Wizards' game with the thanks of a grateful nation?

Think again. We're reminded that just because everything that made the season urgent is now out of the way, CT-New was only founded to go after the mole deep in the government somewhere. That mole may be pretty much useless now, but we still need to find out who it is. So it would seem.

But how will the producers raise the stakes again? And how quickly? First Husband Taylor hasn't been set up as a sympathetic enough character to have viewers invested in his survival, nor do we have enough empathy for President Taylor to care whether or not she's widowed. 

We believe in the "24" producers because on Monday night, they managed to cull minor tragedy out of a red herring. 

The episode's entire B-story involved Janis coaching the intrepid manager of a Kidron, Ohio chemical planet as he went into the bowels of the plant to perform an emergency shut-down on several valves all to temporarily mitigate a potential gas release that could have killed 17,500. The manager, John, was old school. He called Janis "Honey" and, like all good captains, was more than willing to go down with the ship. Nothing in the "24" universe is more noble than the mission you undertake where you know you're never coming back. And, indeed, John didn't survive. He was a hero, but not enough of a hero to get the silent clock, probably since from what I can tell he died for nothing, since Jack and company disengaged the CIP device. Tough break, man.

Actually, John's tough break was nothing compared to what happened to John Billingsley's Michael Latham. So integral to the set-up of the season's first couple episodes, Michael has been napping (or huddling in a corner crying) for several hours now. You can almost imagine somebody in the writers' room, half-way through writing the Dubaku shoot-out, saying, "Um... Did we ever say what happened to Latham?" Rather than leaving things unresolved or maybe letting him just walk out the door dazed, but safe, they blew him up, a bit of carnage that let Dubaku escape. No really, they strapped some explosives to him and blew him to little bits. I feel sorry for his kid from the first episode. Daddy didn't die as a hero or as a coward. He just died as a distraction. At least the chemical plant manager's kids will think daddy died saving the state of Ohio and nobody will be able to tell them differently.

Other thoughts on Monday night's episode:

***Remember when "24" used to end every episode with a cliffhanger? So do I. This week's episode ended with Dubaku having an awkward conversation with his civilian girlfriend featuring some of the worst dialogue in "24" history -- "Are you alright? You look exhausted." "It's just been a long day" -- and waiting for the delivery of the First Husband. Where's the cliffhanger? Will Colonel Dubaku get some rest before his girlfriend starts worrying?!?!? Will he be able to make it for dinner?!?!? Will Janis be able to call Teleflora.com and order a wreath for John?!?!? That's some pulse-pounding stuff.

***I don't know if Tony Almeida is going to be good or evil when this season shakes out, but I'm 100 percent positive he won't just turn himself in to the authorities and let Jack, Bill and Chloe vouch for him. 

***Chloe and Bill run a very smooth and efficient operation out of a single van. This makes you appreciate that CTU wasn't shut down because it was breaching intelligence protocol or torturing witnesses. No. It was shut down because it was wasting a tremendous amount of money. CT-New can now just roam the country in their van helping people in need, like The A-Team.

***There are too many interchangeable shady white guys. After knocking off Peter Wingfield's Emerson last week, we seem to have done away with Mark Aiken's Nichols (the guy working for Dubaku who tried to have Tony killed at the diamond exchange), but now I have to remember Mark Kiely's Agent Vossler (the guy currently possession of First Husband). 

Anyway, what'd you think of this week's episode?