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24 Season 8 Episode 11, 2:00-3:00AM – review
The fate of 24 the series has been much more exciting than 24 the series lately. There has been talk of a European-localed 24 movie, questions of whether the series will be renewed for a ninth season, and even rumors of a move from FOX to NBC. That being said, this is the best episode of the season, and 24 even wows us with the first ever use of a fish eye lens effect (it’s a pressurized chamber, see?). The impossible situation du jour is the rookie terrorist, wearing an overly complicated suicide vest, locked in an impenetrable barometric chamber. The terrorist is half-American, with a blonde and bloated middle-aged mom for good measure. I can’t help but think this character is based in part on John Walker Lindh, the so-called “American Taliban” captured in Afghanistan in 2001. Rookie terrorist is the source of little geopolitical discourse with Bauer around midway through, but this show can’t fool anyone with its faux liberalism; no, this show is a neo-conservative wolf in sheep’s clothing, spreading around its victimized America schtick.
First, lets get the obligatory Dana Walsh subplot out of the way. After Agent Ortiz and she dumped her troublesome ex in the river, they return to CTU to be reamed out by CTU boss Hastings. Hastings makes it very clear that if they do a great job from now on, they might keep their jobs, but obviously thinks they were out for some mid-crisis nookie and never considers that they could be lying and lying to cover up a murder. Dana gets demoted, with Chloe as the new head of tech, and is sporting a much more casual outfit, which supports the whole sex angle Hastings had cooked up in his head. That sniveling tech aid Arlo is having fantasies about a threesome with Chloe and Dana and is confident to the point of absurdity, insisting Dana keep him in mind if she drops her commando fiance, despite Arlo’s despicable meddling and angling to split the two up. It just goes to show, you can be an oily creep preying on women in the office as long as you do it 100% of the time. Dana thinks this whole mess is behind her, when her dead ex’s parole officer (obsessed with the deceased feller) calls her up and bullies her into a face to face meeting. The parole officer looks more like her ex’s dad, and has the same ridiculous country drawl. Here is the problem with Dana Walsh’s character: as Hastings says in the episode, she is a talented leader, yet she is pushed around by a low level parole officer, when a bureaucratic operator of her talent and resources would never be intimidated by anyone who wasn’t an immediate superior, and would use her CTU tech resources to cover up her damn tracks. A Little Rock Arkansas country parole office driving to NY at three in the morning is unlikely, but we all know he is likely not a parole officer. I like Ortiz’s common sense approach (Prinze Jr. is looking real pale and grave) to cover up, forget it ever happened, and deal with it.
Second, the Omar Princess and the rogue bodyguard storyline takes its predicted course. The bodyguard is a terrorist, and has lured the Princess into his deceitful web, with the help of his incredible abs and pecs, all as smooth as cartoon Aladdin’s chest. The two are sweating heavily from their defiant coitus, and the bodyguard has promised the Princess the world, and asylum with the State Department. She eats all this up, but by the end of the episode, she knows it was all a big lie, and every man with perfect abs is probably an evil terrorist. The preview for the next episode reveals her as a kidnap victim (the bodyguard will save her from death for the sake of his love, mark my words), and the new race-against-the -clock macguffin. In a series first, the preview lets us know the exact time that exciting twists will take place. President Omar is castigated for his paranoia about his head of security, both by his thankless daughter and nagging wife, then is vindicated when his suspicions are confirmed; being a dictator is hard work, and how!
With the boring subplots out of the way, and (thankfully) no President Taylor to worry about this hour, the Bauer arc shining bright. First, 24 writers, video conferencing is not cool or high tech, and you’re not wowing anyone in the cities or Middle America; this is 2010 and season 8, not 2001 and season 1; you are going to have to work harder to impress us with futuristic gobbledygook. The barometric chamber is kind of cool, and the CTU grunts have some nice blast shields set up, and CTU is written in a real modernist font on the back of their vests. The oxygen-rich tank can’t be breached by explosives, so a slow drill (that takes 40 minutes) is the only way in. Naturally Jack tries to talk the rookie terrorist out of it (and don’t think for a minute rookie CTU agent won’t die soon, I haven’t forgotten about him), and the conversation is fairly intelligent. 24 is trying real hard to be relevant, and this is all about Iran. Rookie Terrorist: “America is arrogant to decide which countries can and can’t have nukes.” Jack: “The President will blow up Kamistan if the bomb goes off.” Terrorist: “the Peace agreement takes away my country’s self defense.” See, the half-American rookie terrorist had a Dad from Kamistan who was a college professor who was critical of US foreign policy and ended up getting arrested and somehow dead and somehow it was the government’s fault and it happened while Palmer was president. When rookie terrorist’s mom shows up, she says that if the Dad hated America so much, why did he move to America and marry an American. You see the way the show pigeonholes all of these Middle Eastern intellectuals crying foul at America’s often barbarous foreign affairs? Why are they even here then, right?
Jack puts an end to it by threatening to expose his mother to the fallout when the dirty bomb goes off. Jack Bauer is being so mean, but it is almost a trope for him to be incredibly ruthless at least once a season. The terrorist rogue IRK intelligence officers are watching this whole thing and have hacked into the video feed and have audio surveillance, though Chloe locks them out eventually. The rookie terrorist relents, having rewired his insanely complicated suicide vest that takes a four stage circuit configuration, represented by four lights (like a video game boss) and with a ridiculous digital timer. For the record, there are no timers on any bombs, and certainly not on a suicide vest; what would even be the point? The whole thing is padlocked on circa The Hurt Locker (which, by the way, was a good movie, but not the best picture by a long shot; it was just Lethal Weapon in Iraq, crazy white protagonist, reserved by-the-book black sidekick shocked by reckless behavior), and Jack, though instantly recognizing the technical requirements of the disarmament, is unable to complete the task. He gets the name of the evil bodyguard before throwing the rookie into the tank at the last second, being blown back in an impressive explosion.
Blood is splattered all over the inside of the tank in unlikely patterns; Jack’s skull was luckily not fractured by the heavy steel door flying in his face; the gig is up for the evil bodyguard. It is hard to believe we are already at the halfway mark, but the show isn’t treating us to a two-hour event like they usually do for episode 12. Jack describes himself as a specialist rather than a federal agent, Renee has been conspicuously absent for the whole hour, and they still have to bring Tony in for the second part conspiracy. Tony will be the only one who can contact some hard-to-reach person, and they will let him out of prison under Jack’s supervision, a la Nina Myers in season 2. There will be some great “how could you” dialogue, and maybe some blood will be spilled. They could be saving Tony for the movie, or the next season, but that is pretty doubtful. Kiefer Sutherland is set to get a record-breaking TV contract for a ninth season, having made a tidy 40 million for his past work. But, hey, if we can get a 10th season of Smallville, or a second X-Files movie seven years after the fact, why can’t we have more 24?