[Sorry for the lack of recap last week. I saw in Park City for the Sundance Film Festival and just couldn't get in the area of a TV or Slingbox at the right moment. Also, sorry for any incoherence in this week's recap, which may come across as just a bit flu-addled... I'm not in great shape.]

Monday (Jan. 26) night's "24" was the series' second consecutive relatively brutal episode. It isn't just that the body count is mounting, but characters are being done away with (or wounded) in pretty rough fashion, at least for a primetime network TV show.

Last week's episode ended with Jack Bauer shooting Agent Walker and seeming burying her alive, but who'd have guessed that this week's hour would make that look positively tame?

Obviously, this recap contains spoilers, which will be found after the bump...

It was an odd episode. In one fell swoop, Colonel Ike Dubaku steered two planes into each other within proximity of the White House, killing 270 passengers and crew. But those anonymous characters were killed from a distance and even though director Jon Cassar gave most of the characters over a minute to reflect on the carnage, it didn't make much impact.

But at least three other characters were presumably killed in gory fashion.

Paul Wingfield's David Emerson took a bullet to the neck and we saw at least a hint of arterial spray. I don't know that his death is confirmed, but he sure looked like he was fading away. In addition, Emerson had served his purpose, delivering an expositional monologue to explain how Tony managed to survive. Peter Weller's Christopher Henderson (who may have been called "Anderson" in the episode) managed to stop just short of killing Tony. I don't know if that's consistent either with the events as we saw them in Day Five nor with Henderson's character, but so it goes.

Emerson's death was understated compared to that of Carly Pope's Samantha, who gets knifed repeatedly, complete with gruesome foley work, and is left in a pool of her own blood. Like Emerson, we don't know for sure if Samantha is dead, though its hard to imagine her surviving those circumstances. And is anybody really going to miss Samantha if she is gone? She was one of those characters whose roles were usurped by the "24: Redemption" telefilm. For anybody who saw that TV movie, Samantha didn't have a single new piece of information in the series. She was superfluous and this is what happens to superfluous characters in the "24" universe.

And how did we feel about the seeming demise of Warren Kole's Agent Gedge? The baby-faced secret service agent has been shady since the first time her appeared on screen and between drugging up First Hubby Taylor and stabbing Samantha, he was due for some payback. The First Hubby recovered from his doping just in time to flip Gedge over the railing and was lucky enough to fall on him. The sound effects included some bones crunching, so Gedge probably is dead, or at the very least he's out of the story for the rest of the season. I won't miss him.

So those three deaths took dramatic precedence over two planes crashing into each other. That's fine, since it kept anybody from wondering why the pilots of the two planes weren't able to avoid each other.

Through six episodes, one of the things that's most intriguing me about this season of "24" is that I've lost track of whether or not President Taylor is in the right. Cherry Jones is playing the character a bit closer to the vest that Powers Boothe played Noah Daniels. 

One one hand, you (I?) support President Taylor for deciding that preventing genocide in Sangala is the responsibility of the United States. Think of how many lives might have been saved if we'd intervened earlier in Eastern Europe in World War II, or if we'd taken any interest in stopping the carnage in Darfur. But there's something worrisome about a president who ignores the wisdom of all of her advisors, who risks the deaths of thousands of Americans on the off chance that order can be restored in Sangala. It took almost no time for one of President Taylor's secretaries to throw around the word "impeachment" and her unilateral decision-making process is scary. The episode turned over a couple minutes to Taylor's speech about America being a beacon for the world, but nobody in the woom with her bought it. I sure didn't.

The episode ended with the stakes being raises for next week, with Colonel Dubaku simultaneously taking control of Prime Minister and Mrs. Matobo and also targeting a chemical plant in rural Ohio.

Other quick thoughts from Monday's episode before I take some NyQuil and pass out:

*** I'm not exactly sure what Jack did to Agent Walker at the end of last episode. If he basically inflicted a flash wound to her neck, why did she go falling into the pit? Why did she basically die? I guess she has the same remarkable restorative powers that allowed Tony to get shot in the neck, nearly die and find his way back into the field within five episodes.

*** Line of the episode? Agent Walker to Chloe: "Are you with the FBI?" Chloe to Agent Walker: "No, I'm a stay-at-home mom." Who is watching her kid?

*** Will there be blowback from Sean's (Rhys Coiro) decision to redirect his wife's plane? Should we feel like he saved her life by getting her out of the air? 

*** Tony's got some dark stuff going on. He's closer to being a terrorist than he'd like to admit. I wonder where that's going.

What'd you think of this week's episode?