Since Jack Bauer has put his life on the line so many times during this season, we are probably inured to his being in danger and his willingness to sacrifice himself for others. Yet last night's episode put him in a unique situation because this dying for someone else involved Audrey, the woman Jack loves. During the six seasons of this show, we have witnessed Jack having to "trade" with bad guys for countless things. For example, just last season Henderson had Audrey and Jack gave up the recording. We would think that by now Jack would have become an expert at this sort of thing, but here Jack is greatly outnumbered by Cheng and his men, so he comes up with an idea to use enough C-4 to blow the building, himself, Cheng, and the desired component from here to that Chinese laundry in the sky.
The problem is that only Prez Wayne knows about this plan and he is a little bit under the weather at this point (he has suffered a stroke and is in the hospital). This leaves Vice President Noah (Jim Jones) Daniels in charge at the White House. Jones is kind of busy himself, getting things in order with his staff and the sneaky-looking blonde Lisa who has been making goo-goo eyes at him for hours now. Jones isn't swaggering so much in this episode; it's more like his tail is between his legs. He knows that Tom (Twitchy) Lennox has a recording (yes, yet another recording) of him conspiring with Lisa to commit perjury, so he is a little worried about that. He asks Lennox what will happen, but Twitchy is just worried about protecting himself. They reach some kind of agreement.
Meanwhile, Karen (Hillary) Hayes has been cornered by some guy with a laptop and she knows that he's got something on her. She watches as Reed Pollock (the guy who engineered the assassination attempt on Prez Wayne) tries to worm his way out of the death penalty by giving up her man Bill Buchanan. It seems Bill had arrested Fayed (Mr. Clean) a while back but had nothing to hold him on, so he had no choice but to let him go. Of course, Fayed goes on to drop a nuke on LA, but how can you blame old Bill for that?
Hillary has to make a difficult choice about Bill (hmm, that sounds familiar), and in this case she realizes that she has to sacrifice him for the sake of her career and the good of the country. In essence, Hillary fires Bill and thus leaves CTU a bit vulnerable in this time after the worst crisis in US history, but a gal has to do what she has todo.
Jones is skulking around the Oval Office like a panther in heat, and once everyone is gone he sets his paws on lithe Lisa and lets her know he wants her to stay the night. She kisses him (one of the most sickening television scenes since Sanjaya and the hair) and then says she has to go home and get a few things. I don't know if this sent up any red flags for anyone else, but I'm starting to think that the "mole" (and there always has to be a mole in every season) just might be our little blonde bombshell. Wouldn't that just be so nice for Jones? A panther getting bit by a viper?
Doyle is in hot pursuit of Jack and his man-bag. This guy has been trumped by Jack twice already, and he still keeps trying. Now he steals a car that just happens to have a cell phone in it. He gets in contact with gang at CTU and they help him navigate his way toward Jack who is at the rendezvous point at an abandoned hotel waiting for Cheng and Audrey.
We get a scene between Milo and Chloe that just adds on to the previous minutiae that we have suffered between these two. Milo rolls his eyes like it is a waste of time, and he is right about that. Upstairs in Jack's old office Bill is packing his bags and handing over the reigns of CTU to, get this one folks, Nadia Yassir (just a few hours ago she was under arrest and suspected of being the mole). Before Bill walks out the door the staff gets dour looks on their faces, and he shakes hands with Nadia and mumbles something incoherently. If I were him, I wouldn't be leaving with such dignity, but that's our stoic Bill.
Back at the hotel Jack has set the C-4 and awaits his former tormentor. Cheng arrives with a gagged Audrey, and Jack barks at him to get the gag out of her mouth. Cheng complies (oh, man, does Jack want to beat this guy senseless) and Jack tells her to get moving. Jack shows Cheng the component but says he will only give it to him once Audrey is out of range of the snipers. Audrey goes running off into the night, and Cheng is annoyed because his egg foo young is getting old. Enough is enough and Jack tosses the component to Cheng, who snags it with a basket catch like Willie Mays. Maybe if he went over and played baseball in Taiwan as a kid, none of this crap would be happening.
At this point Jack is readying to blow them all up, but Doyle intervenes and starts shooting Cheng's men. A TAC team arrives and a firefight ensues. Incredulously, Cheng runs outside, gets in a Hummer,and escapes. A helicopter briefly pursues him but is hit with a surface to air missile and has to disengage. Back at the hotel Doyle arrests Jack who is screaming about how he had the whole thing handled. Doyle's men bring in a befuddled Audrey, and Jack realizes that she doesn't even know who he is. Holy brainwashing hell, Batman!
We don't get the convenience of flashbacks in 24 the way we do in a show like Lost, so we cannot be certain what Jack went through during his twenty months in Chinese prison. We do know he was tortured and suffered, and we can assume that the only thing that kept him going was the thought of his lady love Audrey. Unfortunately, Jack didn't know that Audrey was also in a Chinese prison and, unlike Jack, she was not trained to withstand the rigors of such circumstances. In this episode we see the results of her incarceration and they are not pretty.
What a way to end the episode. Audrey is non compos mentis, Jack is under arrest, Bill has been fired, Lisa is getting ready for a night of passion with Jones, and Cheng is running around with the component. The dung has hit the fan, ladies and gentlemen, and we have five remaining episodes for Jack to clean up. I'd say the first order of business is that Jack has to escape. Judging from his dealings with Doyle in previous weeks, this isn't going to take long. At least let's hope so.
Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!