I just realized something folks; I could have been working at CTU. Where does this wistful and slightly remorseful statement come from? In 24: The Official CTU Operations Manual there is brief description of offices and facilities at the Los Angeles campus, including the CTU Walsh Memorial Library. “…one of the most extensive collections of military and intelligence journals and academic papers… staffed by some of the country’s most experience reference librarians.”
There you go. My resume has a five-year gig in the tech library of a defense contractor, with Secret-Squirrel security clearance as the deal-maker. I could have been cheek by jowl with Jack Bauer! Ya think?
Enough about me, let’s delve into the book. With a slick and smart presentation, the Operations Manual comes in a hardcover slipcase. Complete with an “Eyes Only” warning before you actually open the pages, the book is a cross between glossy collection of photo stills taken from various 24 episodes and SOP text on all types of cops/robbers/terrorists/government mole scenarios.
All very exciting.
The 200-or-so page book contains typical sections one might expect to find: Interrogation, Surveillance, Combat. Fantasy stuff, really. The average person’s potential for engaging in surveillance or interrogation is nil, but it’s a fun exercise to flip through the guidelines for those activities.
Other pages give tidbits that we love, but didn’t know we needed. For example under section B – Gear; there’s a list of materials that a field agent should stock in his handy-dandy messenger bag. A few must-haves: aspirin, cold compress, Ziploc bags, polarized sunglasses, two 9 mm semi-automatics, and of course, a Fisher Space Pen. And right away, one of the biggest mysteries of the show is answered.
Jack actually does carry batteries and a charger for his phone/PDA.
The book has also answered another 24 mystery. During season five I wrote a piece mentioning CTU’s TAC team and their use of assorted inexplicable hand signals that – to my untrained eyes – looked like a bit of fun with Charades or MLB pitching signals. But in the Manual, I see in section E (Combat), a chart with Field Agent Hand Signals that put to rest all the guess-work involved in figuring out what Jack and friends were really trying to convey. Whew!
At times, the self-referencing of plot lines is humorous and other times, mildly off-putting. Early on, the Manual lists some “selected case studies.” It’s no coincidence that there are six of these, titled “The Six Most Important Days in CTU History.” Of course these correspond to 24’s six aired seasons. And from there on, nearly every page admonishes the reader with a warning that relates back to an incident from one of those 144 episodes.
For example, in section D5 of Undercover Ops, there’s a notation under the heading Monitor Your Emotional Involvement. “Agent Bauer’s inability to remain detached while living with Diane Huxley and her son Derek in California left more emotional wreckage in the wake of his blown cover then was necessary, and it put Derek’s life at risk as well.”
And of course we read it and think, “nooo, really?”
Overall the handbook is nicely put together (just like our Jack), has tons of not only show trivia, but interesting factoids for anyone who is a fan of general espionage and spy-vs.-spy sorts of games. Although it seems to vacillate somewhat unevenly between wanting to be a serious (albeit fake) government handbook, and a stash of show photo memorabilia, it really is a must-have for any 24 devotee.