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24 Has A Big Problem

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Last year I reviewed the CD box set of season one of the TV show 24. I argued that the success of the show was due largely to the shows two stars, Keifer Sutherland, who played Counter-Terrorist Agent Jack Bauer and Dennis Haysbert, who played presidential candidate David Palmer. I worried that if Haysbert was relegated to a supporting role, the show would slip. Well, I’m happy to say that Haysbert had a prime role in season two, and he was just as good in it as he was in season one.

Season two begins with a solid plot idea: terrorists are trying to detonate a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. Now President David Palmer implores Jack Bauer to return to his job as an agent (he left after his wife was killed in season one) to help find the bomb. Palmer is beset not only by the task of trying to thwart the terrorists and keep the bomb threat a secret, and thereby avoiding mass panic, but also by some scheming and disloyal members of his staff.

Unfortunately, there is a huge problem with season two. Two words: Kim Bauer. The subplot involving her character is so improbable as to be laughable. Surely, 24 is a show that requires the viewer to suspend a bit more of his disbelief than he usually would. But the Kim Bauer subplot stretches that to the breaking point, breaks it, and then keeps going.

You see, Kim is working as an au pair for a child, Megan, with a psychotic father. As Psycho Dad gets abusive, Kim escapes with Megan. Instead of racing to the cops, she sort of runs around until Psycho Dad catches up with her. After Kim, who is smaller than Psycho Dad, beats him up, she rushes Megan to the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor finds evidence of long-term abuse of Megan, and suspects Kim might be responsible. Psycho Dad shows up at the hospital, and threatens Kim with kidnapping charges unless she goes away. By this time, naturally, Jack Bauer has told Kim about the bomb, so she can’t leave without Megan. What to do?

Call Hunky Boyfriend! Hunky Boyfriend comes to the hospital and helps Kim get Megan out of the hospital, evades hospital security, and beats up Psycho Dad. They then steal – oops, sorry, take – Psycho Dad’s car (wouldn’t you know it, Hunky Boyfriend had to take a cab to the hospital). A cop later pulls them over for speeding, and is about to let them go – he buys the story that they are borrowing the car from Kim’s boss – when he sees blood dripping from the trunk. Psycho Dad has killed Hapless Mom! So, Megan gets carted off by the proper authorities, and Kim and Hunky Boyfriend get arrested for murder. After being processed at the police station, Kim pleads with the cops not to send her back to L.A. because of the bomb, which she had promised her dad she wasn’t going to say anything, but, well, who wants to die in a nuclear bomb blast? The cops don’t believe her, and transport her and Hunky Boyfriend back to L.A. Kim and Hunky Boyfriend decide to escape by starting a fire in the cop’s truck (or is it an SUV?) Now, it’s not clear where Hunky Boyfriend got the lighter to start the fire (don’t cops empty suspects’ pockets when they are arrested?) but spontaneous combustion would be just too improbable. Instead of pulling the truck over to the side of the road, the cop freaks out at the site of the fire, and the truck rolls over. The cop and Hunky Boyfriend are seriously injured but – surprise! – Kim only has a few scratches. After she radios back that the truck has rolled over and that the cop and Hunky Boyfriend are injured, she escapes on foot. She eludes a police helicopter only to get stuck in an animal snare as a mountain lion is chasing her. Despite her helplessness, the mountain lion decides not to eat her. (Bad mountain lion! Very bad!) Had enough yet? No? Good, ’cause there’s more.

She gets rescued by a character played by Kevin Dillon. Dillon tricks her into thinking the bomb has gone off so she’ll stay with him in his cabin because, well, he’s kind of lonely. When she discovers his deception, he lets her go and gives her a gun to protect herself from the mountain lions. (Bad mountain lions! Very bad!) She then hitches a ride out of L.A., during which time the bomb detonates, although not in L.A. but in a remote desert thanks to Jack. She gets out near a convenience store, where the owner lets her in to use the bathroom. While she’s in the bathroom, some guy freaked out by the bomb breaks into the store when the owner won’t let him in. Kim tries to subdue him with the gun, but she doesn’t have the heart to shoot at him, even though she earlier fired at a scummy driver who tried to pick her up when she was hitchhiking. Mr. Freaked-Out-By-The-Bomb disarms her, and then accidentally shoots the store owner. He takes Kim hostage when the cops show up. But she escapes, the cops capture Mr. Freaked-Out-By-The Bomb, whereupon Kim admits to the police that there is warrant out for her arrest.

She then goes back to the cop station, where – surprise! – the cops know that Psycho Dad is the one who murdered Hapless Mom, that Kim was just trying to help Megan when she took her away from Psycho Dad, and that when she escaped from custody which resulted in the serious injury of a cop (not to mention Hunky Boyfriend), well, that won’t be a very big deal. Funny how they were able to find out all these things while having to manage the panic in L.A. after the bomb went off. Anyway, she is then transported back to Psycho Dad’s house to “pick up her things.” (Yeah, that’s where I would go!) Wouldn’t you know it, the cops know Pyscho Dad murdered Hapless Mom, but they’ve got no one watching Psycho Dad’s house, other than the cop who transported Kim. And, wouldn’t you know it, Psycho Dad shows up and subdues the cop. He goes after Kim, but she hides from him in an attic, whereupon she falls through the attic right on to Psycho Dad, rendering him unconscious. She then takes his gun, and with a little coaching from Jack via cell phone, shoots Psycho Dad not once, but twice. See, if she’d had some coaching from Jack when she was at the convenience store … oh, never mind.

It’s so unfortunate that this schlock is included in 24. It sticks out like sore thumb. No, it’s worse than that: It sticks out like a body builder at a 98-pound-scrawny-weakling convention. It diminishes the other plot lines, most of which are pretty well constructed. Yes, I know that Elisha Cuthbert, who plays Kim, is eye candy, and the producers have to find a part for her. But this is ridiculous.

I can only hope that the shows creators have realized what went wrong with season two and have fixed it in season three. Otherwise, the shows ratings will soon tank.

Finally, in last year’s review I asked if “you should buy the DVD set?” I suggested that it was worth it if you were a big fan. Otherwise, maybe it would have made a good Christmas gift. This year, find something else to stuff the stocking with.

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About David Hogberg

  • http://fortyfour.typepad.com/bookishgardener Chan S.

    Spot-on! Except I can’t believe you forgot to mention Hunky Boyfriend’s “Where’s the rest of me?” moment.

  • http://fando.blogs.com Natalie Davis

    Word has it that Runkimrun’s character will be more grown-up this season and that there will be no cougar chases. Guess we’ll find out tonight.

  • http://www.dhogberg.com David Hogberg

    Yes, I did forget the “Where’s the rest of me moment.” Poor Hunky Boyfriend.

  • The Theory

    I never watched 24, either this season or last, however, I thought that the origional premise was that everything happened in 24 hours. it may just be me, but it doesn’t seem like the plot they’re building up to in the commercials could realistically happen in 24 hours…

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    I’m looking forward to season 3, just to see how they are going to work out what happened to the President at the end of season 2.

    I totally agree with Kim’s largely unplausible plotline. Writers should have given her a much smaller role in Season 2 and given that screen time to the underhanded actions of Nina Myers.

    24 is like watching one extremely long, long movie, so the holes surface more obviously when watched back-to-back in DVD format vs. seeing them once a week.

  • http://www.dhogberg.com David Hogberg

    The last two plots didn’t seem like they could fit into 24 hours either, but they did. The shows writers are clever, and they can certainly come up with better stuff the RunKimRun. Not only it is a stupid plotline it is a waste of someone, Elisah Cuthbert, who is a talented actress.

  • http://ronmwangaguhunga.blogspot.com Ron Mwangaguhunga

    Aside from the obvious problem of just how so much activity can take place in an hour and whether or not it is plausible is the problem of just how much mileage can Fox TV get out of terrorism.

  • http://www.dhogberg.com David Hogberg

    Well, looks like bio-terrorism this season, maybe chemical weapons next season, then a dirty bomb if 24 lasts to a 5th season.

    After that, maybe another attempt on Palmer’s life, or maybe an attempt on a foreign leader crucial to fighting terrorism.

    Lots of ideas, if they play it right.

  • Eric Olsen

    TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT – JACK IS BACK. Alert the media. Oh, the media already knows.

  • Eric Olsen

    Kim was a total retarded distracton last year. I hope they integrate her into the real story line a little better this year. Season 2 was even more impressive than Season 1, for me, because they sustained the plot and the suspense better. Season 1 fizzled out once limp wad Dennis Hopper and preposterous accents got involved

  • http://shortstrangetrip.org/ Joe

    Indeed, they lost me on season one after Mrs. Bauer got amnesia, but I had committed so I watched until the finale. I didn’t watch season 2 at all, I wonder if it’s even possible for me to go back to watching it now.

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    Coincidence that they are running the next Joe Millionaire out in front of 24? Wonder which of these two shows they are trying to help lol

  • The Theory

    FOX programing is pitiful this season. The only quality programing on the major networks this season is on NBC.

    Unless you count PBS. They’re always quality educational programing there.

  • http://www.dhogberg.com David Hogberg

    PBS?!?!? If you want good educational programming, you’ve gotta go to Discovery Channel, the History Channel, Animal Planet, Court TV, etc. PBS stands for “Poor Bastards offering Slop”.

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    Hey David, wasn’t Wayne’s World on PBS? :-)

  • http://www.dhogberg.com David Hogberg

    No, but I think Wayne’s World 2 was. Heh.

  • http://www.medpundit.blogspot.com sydney smith

    Our newspaper’s TV critic said the RunKimRun plot line this year is the worst yet. Said it would make you laugh, then make you think, “Oh, no.”

    Hope he’s wrong, but he’s probably not.

  • http://ari.typepad.com Steve Rhodes

    Kim is now a jr. CTU agent and her boyfriend of 3 months is Jack’s partner. I hope they manage to weave in some backstory of how she decided on that career. Doesn’t seem too plausible.

    I was pissed at the promos they’ve been running which gave away most of the first episode including that the President had survived.

  • Eric Olsen

    Ah, but did he really …?

  • http://fando.blogs.com Natalie Davis

    He looks weaker to me, his hand apparently still bothers him, and he is boffing his (probably duplicitous) doctor.

    Yes, down with the promos. The only shock I had came in the last five minutes — that one, admittedly, blew my mind. But all in all, the premiere of 24 was disappointing because it usually (except during the Runkimrun scenes) keeps me perched on the edge of my chair and shouting, “No fuckin’ way!”

  • Eric Olsen

    Yes, they didn’t go for the really boffo opening this year – I am reserving judgment. I like the Jack vulnerability this time around, actaully seems realistic unde the circumstances: what are undercover agents willing to do to themselves to complete their missions? Does the end justify the means? the coke kid reminds me of the “Falcon and the Snowman” – is he really doing it for the family? I like the new Kim much better, but what happened to college?

  • http://ari.typepad.com Steve Rhodes

    I guess while most students these days are on the 5 or more year plan, she was on the 2 year plan (or maybe good genes means more in fighting terrorism than education).

    I wasn’t even surprised that Jack is hooked.

    But the ford ad was even more predictable (and lame), but I’m glad they ponied up the money to keep the first show basically ad free.

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    24 is getting to be a little too much like a soap opera in the plausibility department.

    I found the computer-speak somewhat ridiculous from a technical point of view.

    “You have to press CTRL-S to escape out of that screen!”

    Control + S? What happened to the ESCape key lol

    “Maybe I fixed … the group permissions”

    Dude’s supposedly a CTU computer whiz and can’t figure out he’s locked out because of a simple group permission change on a file? LOL

    And where did Kim get geek skills so fast? In a few small years she goes from an irresponsible teen who spends a night out on the town with hell boys and then a year later working for a psycho employer, dodging cougars and paranoid the-end-of-the-world-is-near characters to calm, calculating, geeky Kim the CTU computer specialist?

    Bring back Nina!

    As for President Palmer, well, I’d love to see a qualified woman or a black President in office in my lifetime, but his storyline is also borderline believable. Somebody please tell me that they are not going to exploit the interracial relationship as a “scandal” because I have a bad feeling that they are going to go there.

    If viewers are to suspend disbelief and believe that people were willing to ignore color and the absence of a First Lady for voting in a President (which I think people should on the former account, because color has absolutely nothing to do with Presidential ability, but I’m admittedly a bit puzzled on the latter account. A single President? A President in the dating mode?), then how can the President dating a white woman be scandalous? I have a sinking suspicion that this will be at least one lame subplot this season though …

    Also, where was the President’s influential brother in the first two seasons? Now he’s the right hand man?

    What about the President’s good turned evil turned good turned evil turned good wife? How he continues to make such wise, authorative Presidential decisions and yet was blinded personally and stayed with that scheming bitch for 25 years is beyond me. Did he do it for their children?

    Yeah, it’s a lot like a soap opera, but I’m still hooked! LOL

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    authoritative, damn lol

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    Double feature tonight of 24, FYI. Those on the west coast can still catch at least some of the first episode, if they missed. Back to da tube …

  • http://fando.blogs.com Natalie Davis

    This one was dull, which is surprising and sad for me to say about an episode of “24.” And what — being a CTU agent is akin to being a Jedi knight? (Jack’s convo with Runkimrun’s beau, Chase.) Sheesh. Fox cancelled “Skin” today (there goes my Kevin Anderson fix, dammit). Outside of “King of the Hill” and “The Simpsons,” Fox has nothing to offer beyond “24.” And I can’t watch CBS anymore.

    Don’t make “24” dull, I beg you!

  • stelly

    does anybody know the REAL name of Kim’s “Hunky boyfriend”????????????????????????????