Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Season 5 Finale of "24": A Very Slow Boat to China

Season 5 Finale of 24: A Very Slow Boat to China

By Victor Lana



While writing about the Season 5 episodes of 24 previous weeks, I have been constantly reminded of a Shakespearean tragedy, and the two-part season finale only reaffirmed my belief that this is the case. Shakespeare usually focused on the matters of kings, queens, or procrastinating princes, but our story is more a about a soldier named Jack Bauer. Jack fits Aristotle’s model for a tragic hero very nicely: he is elevated in society or the world as a CTU agent; there is an innate goodness in his nature (he loves and wants to be loved); he has a tragic flaw (he makes mistakes based on those he loves, like taking a phone call from his daughter); and he most definitely realizes that his tragic flaw is destroying him (as most evident from the final scene last night).

After making my case for Jack being a tragic hero, it is also necessary to make it clear that President Logan is one classic villain, most definitely an Iago-like chameleon but with even more power. In some ways I’ve seen Logan as a kind of Macbeth, but in truth Shakespeare’s character fell very far from grace and was led down that path by his wife’s insatiable lust for power. Here the opposite is true: Martha Logan brings about her husband’s destruction not in an effort to obtain power but rather to obliterate it. Hers is a worthy cause, and thus she does not bathe in the imaginary blood of her husband’s victim but instead avenges their innocent blood.

I have tried in my reviews each week to inject humor into the mix, but I am abandoning that today because I am so thoroughly disappointed with the outcome of the last fifteen minutes of the season finale. I would think that the producers (and Kiefer Sutherland is one of them) and writers would have had enough respect for the loyal fans of the show, many of whom have watched all 120 hours of the five seasons passionately, to give them an ending that was at least plausible. Instead, we are left with a totally contrived and obviously manipulative ending that will leave many of us grumbling for months to come.

Season 5 has been devoid of humor for the most part. By killing off Edgar, they lost the comic edge that his seasons with Chloe gave each episode. Edgar and Chloe were like the gravediggers in Hamlet, and we really need that relief from the grim reality at hand. In the last episode they brought in a bald guy named Morris, who just happens to be Chloe’s ex-husband. I never even knew our intrepid gal was married, but perhaps it explains the stun gun she has been carrying around with her. There was some attempt at humor between these two, but otherwise it was one long and grim ride.

The first hour basically took care of the Henderson-Bierko storyline and did it well. This was satisfying and in keeping with 24 tradition. Jack stops the threat of the nuclear missiles with Henderson’s help, and he even finds the time to break Bierko’s neck. For a character who wanted to bring fire and brimstone down on the innocent population centers of this country, it is fitting that kills Bierko like the common thug that he was.

With the nuclear threat averted, Jack realizes Henderson is missing and goes outside to look for him. Henderson comes up from behind Jack with a gun and basically it looks like Jack made one major mistake (giving Henderson the gun in the first place). But Jack comes from the John McLane school of smart (remember that scene in Die Hard when he gives the unloaded gun to Hans?) and Henderson pulls the trigger and comes up empty. He says, “Good for you, Jack.” Henderson, the master teacher, has been eclipsed by his pupil. Jack, as if reciting the charges against Henderson, reminds him that he is responsible for the deaths of President Palmer, Tony Almeida, and Michelle Dessler. “They were my friends,” Jack tells him and then blows him away.

The second hour is all about bringing down the malevolent president. Jack concocts a rather crazy plan to infiltrate Marine One as a co-pilot, and he does this with the assistance of Mike Novick (Chief of Staff) and Aaron Pierce (bloodied but unbowed Secret Service Agent). Once on board the helicopter, Jack takes over rather quickly, pulls off his helmet, and handcuffs Logan like the common criminal he is. Logan can’t believe it, but we the audience can because Bauer Power has come through again.

Jack takes Logan into yet another abandoned warehouse, and there he relieves him of presidential pen and cell phone and sets up a video conference with CTU. The object is to get Logan to confess and send the recording to the Attorney General, but Logan isn’t giving in one bit. He denies all Jack’s charges and soon Logan is rescued by a rush of agents who capture Jack. Logan then returns to the airfield where the body of the dead President Palmer is being readied to be flown back to Washington for the funeral.

No one could miss all the symbolic significance of this moment: the sitting president responsible for the death of the exp-president is going to speak over the body. The level of repugnance for Logan reaches its greatest heights, for only minutes before he dared to compare Jack to Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth. Surely Logan is delusional at this point, almost not knowing the depths of his abomination, for he still clings to the “I was doing what I thought was best for the country” routine. Logan is the most utterly and disgustingly ignoble scurvy little spider of a man to have ever occupied the highest office in the land.

It seems it’s all finished: Jack has finally lost and Logan is home free. But wait, Martha Logan has yet another breakdown on the tarmac. She accuses her husband of being responsible for everything including David Palmer’s death. Logan has her rushed inside a hangar and they are alone. He pats her down looking for a wire, understanding now that she had made love to him before only to delay his getting onto the chopper for Jack to get onboard. When she still insists on listing his accusations, he gives the same “good for the country” excuses and yet also admits his complicity. He warns her that he’ll send her to the funny farm forever, and then they go back outside and he starts to give his speech where he hypocritically praises the great man he had killed.

There is hope though in that his whole conversation with Martha in the hangar was recorded, via the magic of a little micro-recorder that Jack placed on his pen. Jack Bauer is vindicated as the Attorney General listens to the admission of guilt by Logan, and soon the Secret Service are escorting Logan to a waiting limousine telling him they don’t work for him anymore. Just as this is happening Palmer’s body is being loaded onto the airplane to the sound of a 21-gun salute. The symbolic message is clear and Logan shuts his eyes; no such honor will ever be provided for him as he will leave office in disgrace.

At this point I am happy with the finale and ready for Jack and Audrey, and sure enough Audrey jumps out of a car in her unblemished white blouse (and, man, does she look good in the natural light of outdoors away from that awful CTU lighting) and runs to Jack. It’s a touching scene, a follow-up to brief ones throughout Season 5 when Jack and Audrey have had little moments. Audrey is ready to be alone with Jack, and if anyone deserves some down time it is our hero. However, someone interrupts their reunion to tell Jack he has a call from his daughter Kim on a landline inside the building.

This is the moment where the writers and producers of 24 lost me. Jack is way to smart to believe that his daughter would find the phone number of this building to call him. If anything, she would have called CTU and then they would have patched her through to his ever available cell phone. Jack Bauer wouldn’t make that mistake, but maybe Jack the father would. Caught up in the emotion with Audrey and wanting to love and be loved as I mentioned before, Jack might have lost his senses for a moment. It’s a real stretch though, and when he goes in to pick up the phone he is grabbed by three masked men, one of whom covers his face with a rag no doubt drenched in chloroform.

So after the absolutely worst day in the five days that we have come to know Jack Bauer, he doesn’t get to go home and snuggle with Audrey. Jack Bauer deserves that and so do the fans. This man is ready to break and now he is in a situation where he could be broken. Dragged into the bowls of a ship, Jack is bloody and beaten and lying on the floor like a piece of garbage. The Chinese diplomat from Season 4 who jousted with Palmer comes into view, and Jack asks for one phone call.

It’s his last chance and Jack knows it. Last year he faked his own death and left Audrey and his daughter in limbo, but now this is even worse. If he can’t let them know what has happened, they will think he has done the same thing again. Thus, Jack loses any possibility of love that he needs and will be a lost soul. When he realizes this Jack asks to be killed, but the Chinese guy tells him he is far too valuable for that. The last thing we see is a boat with Shanghai written on the back heading off into the ocean, and we know Jack is in for one hell of a ride on that slow boat to what would seem to be no return.

Until this time I though the ending of Season 2 was the most depressing, but now I am overwhelmed by these last moments of Season 5. I know some people will love this turn of events, thinking that it will change the dynamics in Season 6 and bring Jack into a whole new level of the heroic. But I see it differently for Jack will become a prisoner with little or no hope for the love he craves or the ability to do the job he lives to do. Jack will become more desperate, less human, and infinitely more dangerous. I don’t think Jack needs to descend to that level and if he does, any hope of redemption or happiness may be lost. Jack Bauer doesn’t deserve that and neither do the fans of 24.

It’s going to be a long wait until January 2007. Until then, Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Episode 22 of 24: The Bad Liar,The Bitch Slap, and the Wardrobe



“I don’t need another excuse to put a bullet in your brain.”

-Jack Bauer talking to Henderson

As Season 5 of 24 moves toward what I believe will be its inevitably bloody climax, I am reminded of what an old professor said about Shakespeare’s plays. He loved them very much, of course, but was bothered by the time it took to get to the final scene. Mostly, I think the thing that annoyed him was waiting for the climax and then not having nearly enough time to process the Falling Action and Resolution that followed it (even though he may have seen the play hundreds of times). Anyone who has seen Hamlet should understand this, feeling that time between the young prince’s death and Horatio’s famous line about angels singing him to rest is like a few seconds; considering the ponderous length of all that has proceeded it, something doesn’t seem equitable about that.

24 brings this kind of Shakespearian baggage to the screen, and not just because of the length of twenty-four episodes we’ve watched this season, but due to all 120 episodes we will have watched (sometimes many times more than once on DVD) going back to Season 1. This kind of extended arc is like a series of acts in an incredibly long play, but really can be more easily compared to the length of a sometimes laborious novel that we still love to read (and maybe skip more than a few chapters along the way).

In the end we still have our stalwart hero, Jack Bauer, and though he’s lost too many people in previous seasons but particularly in this one, he is now more than ever poised to be like good old Hamlet: ready to take on all comers, to leave the stage littered with corpses, to not only capture the conscience of the king but to bring him down with an unceremonious thud.

Last night we learned that the damaging evidence on the recording had been erased by slimy Miles (Touchy Feely Guy). Jack, Chloe, and company figure this out in a relatively fast manner, and before we know it Jack is giving Touchy Feely the old neck choke and slamming him against the wall. Touchy Feely, no doubt preferring to be on the giving end of such contact, squirms as Karen (Cruella Now In Love with Bill) screams at Jack and begs him to release the little twerp. Jack reluctantly does so, and Touchy triumphantly tells them he no longer works there. Jackinstantly surmises he works for Lowguns, and storms off to join Chloe and Bill.

Meanwhile, in one of the sweetest little moments that are in keeping with the best ones in 24 tradition, Cruella tells off the slime bag Touchy and gives him a swift little bitch slap that he’s been deserving all along. Touchy grabs his coat and briefcase and stalks off into the night of curfew, perhaps heading toward the presidential retreat or to the closest swamp he can slither into. Back in the Sit Rom (Situation Room), they all try to deal with the compromised recording and Cruella cancels the arranged meeting with the Attorney General.

At the presidential retreat Lowguns has happily received word that the recording is gone, so he gets on the phone with Graham (Gang Leader of the Gang of Four who must all be sleeping or otherwise engaged). He reassures Gang Leader that the hen house is under control. We then see Lowguns go into some secure room and there is our handcuffed and bloody Super Secret Service Agent Costner sitting slouched and looking pretty grim.

Lowguns tells him things can be different, that there is no recording, and that it’s all a lie. Basically, Lowguns gets nothing right. First Lady MacDeath chided him last week about being such an accomplished liar, but the truth is old Chucky Boy is far from that. As his secrets unravel, his nefarious plans come undone and he looks more and more like the sniveling little weasel that he is. He is at a point where the difference between his lies and the truth is undecipherable. Unlike President Lincoln who spoke of pleasing all the people at least some of the time, Lowguns doesn’t even know what is right for himself let alone the people of his country at this or any time.

Back at CTU Cruella persuades Jack to offer a deal to Robo Henderson, who is sitting in a holding cell handcuffed. As Jack talks to him, it is clear the lighting has now changed, making Robo less robotic and more human. It’s a clever little piece of business, but 24 is best at spinning the plot and characters into the appropriate postion for the moment. Jack still wants to kill him, but Robo doesn’t want an immunity deal because the recording was his safety net. Now he has nothing (just like Jack in a way) and wants to disappear. Only Jack can do this, but Jack has to do it better than he did for himself. Jack agrees, and soon Robo is in the Sit Rom and helping devise a plan.

At this point the lovely Audrey appears, and man she’s looking good despite that severed artery. What is it with this gal’s wardrobe? Somehow she has found a white silk blouse and is adjusting it ever so slightly as we first catch a glimpse of her. Undaunted by the lovely coat that was ruined earlier, Audrey no doubt had this little thing hanging in her locker. The choice of color for Audrey is clear: the pristine white sending a message that she is still unblemished by her relationship with Jack, though just the same slightly tarnished and compromised. With what is yet to come next week, Audrey might be in need of another change of clothes before the end of Season 5.

Audrey is mortified that Robo Henderson is being given a deal. I mean, he cut her arm, stole the tape, killed Evelyn and her daughter, caused the death of President Palmer, and the accident that almost claimed the life of her father (Secretary of Defense Nuts Landing). After all this, it’s a little hard to process a “deal” with such a monster, but Jack is all back to business and remembers other similar deals with worse monsters. It’s all part of the game: a truly ugly one at that.

Meanwhile, word has come down that Jerko Bierko escaped. That CTU medical center really works wonders. Sporting a face bandage he must have borrowed from Tony A’s corpse, Bierko manages to get out of the convoy unscathed and meets up with his Russian buddies who just happen to have one last canister of Sentox left. This goes up against the earlier narrative that led us to believe ALL the canisters had been destroyed by Jack at the gas plant, but this is 24 and we’re used to the constancy of inconsistencies at this point. Bierko and his crew get their best menacing look (like the one explained in the terrorists’ handbook) and proceed to a submarine that just happens to be parked in Los Angeles harbor as part of the deal Lowguns signed earlier in the day with the Russian President. Man, does it get any better than this?

Robo leads them to a guy named Molina who just happens to live in a secure fortress nearby. Robo is going to get inside and find the info on the computer they need to locate Jerko. This is when Jack, his wonderfully scratchy voice weary from the long day, tells Robo, “I don’t need another excuse to put a bullet in your brain.” I’ve got a long list of “Jack Quotes” someplace in the mess of my office, but this one is going to the top of the list.

After a lot of hullabaloo and a gun battle in Molina’s house, Curtis and Molina are wounded, but Jack gets the files he needs and is not sure whether Robo was trying to pull a fast one or not. Either way, the info is sent to Chloe who quickly deciphers it and before you can sing “Yellow Submarine,” Jack and Robo are off to port and poor Curtis has to go back to CTU medical for attention (unfortunately, the kiss of death for many).

Back at the funny farm, Secret Service Creep is getting ready to put Costner in the plastic lined trunk of a dark limo, which doesn’t bode well for our friend. Finally, Lady MacDeath’s snooping pays off, and she intervenes in the proceedings. Creep points the gun at Lady and she says something about shooting the First Lady. Costner is lying on the ground but manages a swift leg kick, and Creep drops his gun but somehow grabs a tire iron.

He’s about to give Costner a lobotomy when Lady pumps a few into him. Ah, what a sweet way to say “I love you.” Costner warns her that the president must think he’s dead. He tells her to go get Mike (The Grimace) Novick, to tell him everything, and then send him to Costner. This will surely make Mike’s day (night).

Although the commander of the submarine is warned by Jack, it is too late and Jerko Bierko drops a canister into the hole and soon the whole crew is dead. Man, that Sentox works fast! After a short time Bierko and company put on gas masks, descend into the ship, and prepare to utilize its arsenal of missiles for some quality time with sections of LA. Lowguns wasn’t expecting this turn of events, and he is appalled when Mike tells him what has happened. Is it acting or is it that he’s afraid he might get a missile up his ass?

All the proverbial crap is now ready to hit the fan, and next week’s two-hour season finale should be a real gas (I couldn’t…help…myself). Will Jack and Robo be able to stop Bierko? Will Robo try to turn on Jack? Will Costner and the Lady be able to do some damage internally at the ranch? Will Bill stop being so stoic and just give Cruella a kiss? Will Touchy get his Feely when he meets up with Lowguns? Will Chloe ever forgive herself for yet again failing Jack even though all she has ever wanted to do is please him? And finally, what is to become of Audrey’s white blouse?

It’s going to be tough waiting, but until next week, Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Brief Survey for "24" Fans Only

                     A Brief Survey for "24" Fans Only

There are a plethora of questions that fans of the hit Fox TV series 24 ask themselves each week. Usually it's something about the plot like "Why didn't Jack kill Henderson when he had the chance?" Or it could be about the details: "Why didn't Jack copy the tape when he had it?" These kinds of questions have been asked for the last five seasons and are part of what make 24 fans so committed to watching the show because they want answers. Unfortunately, sometimes we get hit with only more questions.  

Now it's your turn to answer a few questions, 24 fans. I'd like to see how other people feel about these things. Everything is based on your own opinion making this a very subjective little survey.

1. What was your favorite season? Why?

2. How should this season end? Are you happy with the way other seasons have ended?

3. Which villain was your favorite? Why?

4. Should Jack get to kill the big bad guy at the end of the season?

*Remember, Jack has only killed one major villain: Victor Drazen in Season 1. All others have died by someone else's hand except Marwan, who jumps to his death.

5. Will Jack die at the end of this season (or be handed over to the Chinese government)?

Everyone keeps asking these questions (even though Kiefer has signed a three-year deal to keep playing Jack), so I am asking it too.

There it is. I'd like to see what other people think and will share my own opinions in the comments.

Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Episode 21 of "24": The Tale of the Tape

Episode 21 of 24: The Tale of the Tape

By Victor Lana


With just three episodes of 24 left to Season 5, I am wondering just how much the producers and writers think the loyal viewers of this series will accept. What I mean is more about not just this season but all five of them. The death of Jack’s wife at the end of the first season was the first blow, and there have been many subsequent shocks along the way that have shaken the loyal fan base to its core.

Admittedly, some of us have been annoyed by the subplots involving the Perils of Kim, but most viewers even grudgingly like her in their own way. This year she has been (wisely) used sparingly, though I have a suspicion she may be taken prisoner as “bait” to get Robo Henderson released and maybe even to force Jack to give himself up (that whole mess with the Chinese still looms somewhere in the background). We’ll have to see if this comes to fruition, but one thing is very clear: the deaths of David Palmer, Michelle, Tony, Edgar, and Lynn this season have been devastating. I don’t think the loss of another major character will be accepted by fans; however, one thing fans of 24 have come to expect is the unacceptable.

Last night Jack had the damaging evidence on the recording in hand but was stuck on an airplane waiting for it to land. President Lowguns has agreed (thanks to prodding from Graham, Gang Leader of the super secretive Gang of Four) to order an F-18 to shoot down the plane because of some silly transponder code Gang Leader has sent. Jack is going to use the plane as a weapon according to this code, so it is in the best interests of all to shoot down the plane and its fifty innocent passengers along with it.

We get to see Curtis again (obviously, slow and sure wins the race back to CTU) and he is talking to an ever more fetching Audrey, who is now wearing some kind of sexy strapless thingy and has her arm bandaged. The infamous white coat is long gone, presumably covering one of the many corpses still left in the bowels of CTU after the gas attack earlier in the day. At least it’s being put to good use. Curtis tells Audrey her daddy, Secretary of Defense Nuts Landing, is alive and almost well. Fetching Audrey thanks Curtis and looks lovely even though bathed in that sickly hue of CTU medical unit’s lighting.

Karen (Cruella Now Making Goo-Goo Eyes at Bill) calls Jack from CTU and warns him of this development, so Jack decides to land someplace right away. Bill (I look great in a T-shirt) Buchanan is now back at CTU, and soon Chloe waltzes in with her super duper laptop and is back in business helping out as always. Miles (Touchy Feely Guy) is really not happy with this turn of events. He hasn’t had a chance to use his hands the way he has wanted this day, and now he is being kept out of the loop. Man, somebody is going to pay for this!

Thanks to CTU, Jack directs the co-pilot Otto to land on a stretch of highway. Otto is a little resistant (he is upset Jack broke his nose), so Jack handcuffs him to the stick and warns him nicely (with gun pointed to his head) “If you don’t land this plane, I will.” That should be enough for any inflatable dude to realize he isn’t getting Julie Haggerty lucky and just land the damn plane. As the plane goes into its descent, the so-called disaster is over. The General on the video link tells Lowguns as much. Mike (The Grimace) Novick tells him too. Lowguns wants that plane shot down, but it’s too late. It’s landing. Mike grimaces as he leers at Lowguns. Mike, you aren’t too quick, but you know this guy is bad news. Right? Come on, Mike!

Once on the ground Jack makes a slick move slipping off the wing of the jet, dropping onto the highway, and running off into the night with his bag of tricks and the all important tape. Curtis is only a short sprint away, and Jack is soon in the back of the SUV and heading toward CTU. They have to get through a Marine roadblock, but Curtis uses his charm and soon they are off into the night riding merrily along as almost everyone else has this night. Curfew obviously isn’t such a big deal after all, at least not in LA.

Back at the funny farm, Lowguns is informed by Gang Leader that Jack has escaped the plane, has the tape, and is heading toward CTU. It is really very unfortunate and that kind of thing follows. Lowguns is still clinging to the notion that they did the right thing for the country. I’m thinking, “Uh, yeah, right, dude! Get out the .45 and whack yourself.” And what do my wondering eyes see, but good old Lowguns has a gun all ready. He takes a slug of whiskey and prepares to meet his maker, but first he is going to go in and say he’s sorry to First Lady MacDeath.

Cruella is confronted by Touchy Feely. He doesn’t like being out of the loop, and his hands are itching for somereally good action. Cruella tells Bill and Chloe that he has been “nothing but loyal,” but that goes for the Pit Bull down the street who just bit his owner’s face-off. Anyway, Cruella meets with Touchy in one of those dark corridors (obviously CTU has lots of those). Touchy is all tingly, though he makes no attempt to grab Cruella as she explains about the tape and Jack and Lowguns and the whole ball of wax. Touchy doesn’t like it (some crap about his career), and we know Touchy is inching toward that dark side.

Lady MacDeath has been teetering on the edge for most of the season and seems to have lost it completely since her personal hero, Secret Service Agent Costner, went missing. She has no one to turn to now (except that bottle of Merlot and those meds). Bathed in an eerie light from the TV set where she is watching the unbelievable day’s events being retold on Fox News Channel, Lady MacDeath looks pretty close to, well, death. She has no use for Lowguns anymore. Even his lying so effectively can’t impress her. Lowguns, tail between legs and synthetic spine ready to pop, goes out the door and back to his office.

Back at CTU Jack returns and is given the royal treatment by Cruella. He gives her the tape and has ten minutes until Chloe can tell all the world. The Attorney General has been called, and it seems all is set for Lowguns to be charged with conspiracy in the death of beloved President Palmer. Jack takes his ten minutes and goes to see Audrey. They have a moment: a real tender one at that (juxtapose this with Henderson who let Jack shoot his wife). She’s looking might fine in that little thingy; even her bandaged arm is sexy. Jack leans over and gives her a soft kiss, tells her to close her eyes, and then sits at her feet and kisses her knee. Man, Jack, you’re one tender dude after killing so many bad guys. There just might be hope for you and Audrey yet!

Back at the presidential retreat, Lowguns has the gun ready; he is seemingly set to meet the big red guy (and I don’t mean Santa). It’s kind of like, “Walt Cummings, here I come!” But wait, there’s a snake in the grass. Oh, no, it’s just Touchy Feely on the phone. Hey, poor fellow is really worried about his career. He knows all about the tape and will help out. Yeah, you know, help out. That’s the, uh, ticket.

Lowguns is relieved and lets it be known he will be very grateful. Touchy Feely wants to be loved and says they’ll be in touch. In touch? Hmmmm. Anyway, Touchy ambles over to the room where Chloe is working on the tape. This important tape, with all its damaging evidence, is under her supervision with no guards or anything. Touchy puts some kind of laser device near the tape and it flashes sinisterly. Chloe gives one of her best annoyed Chloe expressions as she tells Touchy to go away, but the damage is already done.

Judging from the brief previews shown for next week, the tape has been erased. None of this makes any kind of sense. Why didn’t Jack download the tape in the first place? Why didn’t they copy the tape immediately before trying to digitally “clean it up” or whatever the hell they were doing? If the tape is blank, does that insinuate that Lowguns will get away with his dastardly deeds of the day? Now that Jack and Audrey have had some alone time, will Jack ever be happy? Oh, and when Nuts Landing is sufficiently dried out and ready to talk, will he able to give evidence against Lowguns while sanctioning his daughter’s relationship with Bauer Power?

Three episodes left to unravel it all, and I can’t wait. Until next week, Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Episode 20 of 24: Turbulence

Episode 20 of 24: Turbulence

By Victor Lana


As the final episodes of 24 have been unraveling, I find that there is a great deal of sub-textual information being thrown at us in a very deliberate and intriguing manner. One of the pleasures of this series is always knowing Jack is stuck within a structured time frame, and it has never allowed the use of flashbacks (which would obviously, as it does on ABC’s show Lost) allow for deepening and enriching character development. 24 has always relied on the action to dictate the reaction, thus we get to do a good deal of work ourselves making connections and remembering moments in seasons past that correlate with what is happening now. As the frenetic pace of show continues to accelerate, I have been doing that a lot lately as I watch while fidgeting in my seat every week.

Planes have always figured into the plotline: think Season 2 when a dying George Mason takes the nuke out into the desert or Season 4 when President Keeler’s jet is shot down. Now in Season 5 we have Jack basically hijacking a plane to get a tape that will implicate the President of the United States in the biggest scandal in American history. Appropriately, the flight hits turbulence along the way that references what is not only happening on the plane itself but also the country: smooth sailing is something that is not possible or even imminent. Perhaps, it foreshadows the anarchy that possibly awaits in Season 6.

This episode starts off with Chloe and Bill at mini-CTU in Bill’s humble abode, but Karen (Cruella Now Sweet to Bill) warns them that Homeland Security agents will be there momentarily, so Bill sends Chloe off to a hotel on Ventura Boulevard where she heads to the bar and sets up shop. Of course, in keeping with 24 tradition, there must be some obstacle in her way; in this case, it is an annoying Bar Jerk who is drunk and looking to score. Chloe ignores him and gets to work, quickly calling Jack and letting him know where the air marshal is sitting on the plane.

Good old Jack ambles down the aisle, sits next to Air Cop, and quickly renders him unconscious. Man, do I feel safe about flying when I see how quickly an air marshal can be taken out of the equation. Jack then procures Air Cop’s gun and badge, then proceeds to the back of the plane to await Chloe’s call. It turns out there is a guy from Omnicreeps aboard sitting in another seat, so Jack proceeds to gently persuade this German fellow to follow him into the bowels of the ship for a little Q&A.

Back at the Presidential retreat, Lowguns is talking to Leader of Gang of Four (we only see him and the other three are presumably getting their beauty sleep), who is very disappointed that Bauer Power is still on the run, no less that he is on the plane and still looking for that frigging tape. Lowguns insists that it will be handled, but Gang Leader is looking a little scared this week.

Mike (The Grimace) Novick is dismayed that Lady MacDeath is so upset. She wants her meds and she wants them now. What’s a good glass of wine without some pills, right? Mike cajoles her to tell him what’s happening. “Maybe I can help,” Mike says. Yeah, okay, Mike. We know you’re always snooping around, but sometimes that’s a good thing (it saved Jack‘s life in Season 4). Mike goes to Lowguns and tells him about this, and Lowguns realizes Mike is getting closer and closer to knowing something. He tells Mike there’s trouble in the marriage, that’s it’s just a façade now while he’s president, and to give her as many pills as she needs to shut up. Nice going, Mike.

Jack interrogates German dude and searches his checked luggage but finds no tape. Meanwhile, Air Cop wakes up and has the stewardess warn the pilot about what’s going down, so Peter Graves turns on the no smoking signs and secures the cockpit door. Co-pilot Otto (with no Julie Haggerty around to inflate him as necessary) seems a little shaken by the goings on. How could this be happening on my flight kind of thing. They decide to seal Jack in down below and cut off the air supply to the baggage area, rendering Jack and German dude close to dead.

Back at the hotel bar Chloe is working very hard. She is interfacing and splicing and dicing with her laptop, and Bar Jerk finds his way over and starts making the moves on our gal. We have already learned that Chloe is not afraid to kick ass (her memorable use of an M-16 comes to mind), but it’s just a pleasure to see her take a stun-gun from her pocketbook and zap the bastard. You go, girl!

Over at CTU Bill is brought into his old haunt in handcuffs, and Cruella immediately has him taken to a cell for questioning. In that room Cruella shuts off the monitors and she and Bill finally have some alone time. Oh, baby! Meanwhile, Miles (Touchy Feely) is not happy about any of this, and since he’s not getting his way (and has not been able to get his slimy hands on Chloe or Shari), Touchy calls up Mike and starts venting. Mike quickly discerns that Touchy is nuts and tells him off, but Touchy runs to his work station and we can see he is not going to give up too easily.

Up in the air Jack is not thinking about writing the airline about the service on this flight, but he is angry about having no air to breathe. Out comes his trusty knife (you should have noticed by now that Jack uses his knife like a surgeon) and Jack is cutting away the ceiling, pulling on wires, and sending the jet into a dive. Passengers scream, Graves gets all stressed out, and eventually Air Cop is ordered to let Jack out of the baggage area. Jack comes up gun in hand, locks Air Cop below, and then takes over the plane intending to search every passenger for the tape.

Mike gives Lady MacDeath her meds and she swigs them down with wine. He knows it’s more than a marriage problem, continuing to pry but the good Lady is not revealing anything yet to Mike. Still, the plot thickens and the wheels are spinning in Mike’s beady little eyes; he’s taken down a president before (if you recall his underhanded moves against Palmer in Season 2), and it seems he’s chomping at the bit to get at Lowguns now.

At this point the desperation in Jack’s demeanor is so obvious, the situation so overwhelming as to be incongruous, and one can see it as defining moment for Season 5. Jack is always in over his head, battling against time and incredible odds, but it seems there is absolutely no hope of finding that tape. In a terminally grim season, this would appear to be the lowest point of all.

Until, that is, Chloe finds what she is looking for. Bar Jerk starts to wake up, so she zaps him again and gets back to Jack. She reveals that the co-pilot Otto works for Omnicreeps and is a long time associate of Robo Henderson. Trouble is the cockpit is sealed, but Jack has Chloe call Cruella who calls the head of the airline who calls Chloe who patches Jack through to the pilot (got that?).

Jack warns Graves that Otto is the bad guy, and Graves fakes a leg cramp and goes to open the door. Otto slugs him but Graves manages to let Jack in, and Jack secures himself in the cockpit and takes the tape after telling Otto, “You don’t look like someone who wants to die for Henderson.” Man, Jack, I guess you can tell after already killing about thirty guys who were willing to die for Robo. Finally, Jack has the frigging tape, but how the hell is he going to land that plane and get off without being arrested?

In the final seconds of the hour, Gang Leader calls Lowguns and lets him know that Bauer Power has the tape and control of the plane. Lowguns quivers and shivers, his jowls looking like he’s ready to capitulate, but Gang Leader orders him to do the unthinkable. He must shoot down that plane! Damn, being President his really hard work, but being a bad President is the salt mines.

There are many tantalizing questions for next week. Why haven’t Curtis and Audrey returned to CTU? What the hell has happened to Audrey’s coat? Will Cruella and Bill get so close that it becomes personal? Will Touchy Feely feel so unloved that he rats Cruella out to Lowguns? Will the F-16 score a direct hit on Jack’s plane? Will Jack survive? Will the tape ever be played for the American people? And just how good will Lowguns look in an orange prison jumpsuit?

Until next week, Klaatu Barada Nikto!