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TV Review: 24 – Jack of All Trades, Master of One

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As Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) grinds his way through episode 22, we become painfully aware of the obvious: Jack has become a killing machine. Not that Jack has not always been adept at killing, but now he has become the master and commander of it. Although he has many talents and abilities, now Jack seems almost on autopilot and, except for a nasty wound that conspicuously leaves blood spots on walls, Jack keeps moving forward in an almost robotic drive for justice.

The episode begins with disgraced ex-prez Chucky (your fiend to the end) Logan watching news reports, excited by acknowledgment of his help in keeping the peace agreement on track. He needs to go meet old pal Russian President Suvarov who is landing at JFK. With all his nefarious plans seemingly falling into place, Chucky's celebratory mood is brief when Pillar (his crony who now is running CTU) calls to tell him Jack escaped. Ah, poor Chucky, this is all not going the way he expected. Damn that Jack Bauer!

Jack and Ricker are hiding in one of the dark corners of Manhattan with reporter Meredith Reed (who just happens to be the ex-lover of President Hassan who had been murdered that day). Ricker runs off to work on getting info from the SIM card Jack extricated from assassin Pavel with a gruesome tummy tuck, and Jack reveals the truth about what happened that day to Reed, giving her the disk with the evidence on it. He warns her that she will be a target too, so she better look over her shoulder and run in a crooked line. Eventually, she goes off to call her editor from a coffee house for a meeting of grande cappuccino importance.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (in this case the UN), Hassan's widow Dalia (who is now tentatively running the IRK) is concerned about Chucky's part in the peace accord. Like probably everyone else with half a brain (besides the now ditsy President Taylor), she doesn't understand how this wormy man is getting praise for shining the peace accord apple. She asks her assistant to investigate what's going on, and we have to assume he might turn up something, since copious amounts of excrement are ready to hit the fan.

Chucky has another private meeting with President Taylor, and he lets her know the bad news about Bauer's escape. At this point the old Taylor (who knows Jack's resourcefulness) would probably give up and do the right thing, but this new Taylor (post-spinectomy) allows the devil to sweet talk her into calling Reed's boss and stopping the story about the conspiracy to kill Hassan. Ah, it's so nice to see a president supporting the fourth estate so vigorously.

Arlo and Chloe are monitoring Pillar's team back at CTU, and Chloe sees the image of the eviscerated Pavel and then the gun that killed Renee. Chloe, who knows Jack better than anyone, still thinks she can save him, but since the presidential order is to shoot to kill, it's obvious that Jack is in big trouble now. Arlo is also able to identify Jack's old buddy as Jim Ricker (who supposedly has been dead for seven years). Chloe figures if they find Ricker, they'll find Jack. Good luck with that, Chloe.

Using Pavel's cell phone, Ricker figures out Chucky's location and, after some mild protestations about giving up an ex-president, he sends Jack info on where Chucky's limousine is going. He warns Jack that there's no turning back if he goes after Chucky, and Jack says dryly, "I wasn't planning on coming back." More than anything, this should tell 24 fans that there is no happy ending with daughter Kim and granddaughter Teri. When all is said and done, Jack is going on walkabout – for the rest of his life.

Having watched this series from the very first episode in 2001, I have to say the most satisfying sequence in 24 history (reserving the possibility that next week's series finale could serve up something infinitely better) follows as Jack goes Darth Bauer, wearing black body armor and a black mask. He manages to kidnap Chucky right after the ex-president has just reassured Russian snake Novakovich (who is worried that Jack will come for him too) that there is nothing to fear.

This sequence is satisfying on many levels, but especially pleasing to long-time 24 fans who have been waiting for Chucky to get unlucky. Jack drags him inside yet another abandoned warehouse, and there is a delightful Q&A session with Jack pummeling Chucky and getting him to spill his guts (while no doubt wetting his pants) rather quickly. Logan gives up Novakovich and snivels and begs not to be killed, but Jack already has better ideas. He knocks Chucky out and escapes right before Pillar and his men arrive on the scene.

Little home wrecker Meredith gets stood up at the coffee place (but she no doubt manages to knock back a few espressos anyway), and she knows the FBI has the editor in custody and the story will be killed. She rushes out with an idea to get the message about the conspiracy to somebody. Meredith somehow knows the hotel where her ex-lover's wife and daughter are staying, and she goes there and places a call to Dalia. Kayla, the daughter, answers, but eventually Meredith tells her about the Russian involvement in the murder of her father. Shortly after this, the FBI arrests her and takes the disk away from her.

Jack goes to Novakovich's hotel and has a battle with some guards to get to the elevator, killing them but getting stabbed in the side in the process (it seems he was stabbed in the same place by Renee about fifteen hours before). Jack is bloody but determined to get to his mark and goes onto the elevator.

Chloe finds a way to get Cole out of holding and gets him ready to go after Ricker. They both leave CTU, she in one car and he in the other. She tells Cole to get Ricker and learn Jack's location, but Cole puts enough firepower in the trunk of his car to suggest that he's not going to play patty-cake with Ricker. Cole also threatens to take Jack out if necessary (hey, Cole, did you forget this is Jack Bauer you're going after?).

The rescued Chucky is wheeled to an ambulance wearing an oxygen mask. Though he can barely talk, he orders Pillar to call Novakovich and warn him that Bauer knows everything. Pillar calls but gets a wounded assistant. Jack has already been there and taken out everyone, leaving Novakovich skewered with a fireplace poker. Some viewers may be disappointed because they missed the action in this scene, but I think it is brilliant not to see what happened and have the camera just pan the room, showing the aftermath of Jack's rage.

Pillar tells Chucky that Novakovich is dead, and Chucky then makes another call to Russian President Suvarov. Finally, we learn the even more ugly truth: Suvarov has been behind all the events of the day. He wanted to derail the peace accord, and now he is concerned that Bauer will come after him too. Chucky assures him that Bauer knows nothing because he killed Novakovich before he could talk, and more good news is that they believe Jack is wounded. Suvarov downs a couple of Stoli shots and says that nothing is worse than a wounded animal. Oh yeah? How about a wounded Jack Bauer?

As Chucky continues to talk to Suvarov, we see Jack standing in another dark corner of Manhattan listening to their conversation. Apparently, he planted a microscopic transmitter on Chucky's shirt (reminding us of a similar scenario from season five when he caught Chucky's incriminating dialogue with his wife Martha on tape) and is able to record the conversation for future use. Jack knows what he has to do now, and so do we, but as he moves away from his hiding spot, we see a bloodstain on the brick wall, letting us know our hero is weakened as he takes tenuous steps toward his fate (and the end of 24 as we know it).

Episode 22 is as good as any of the best episodes of 24 in past seasons. It features Jack going against all the odds, and all the loose ends are getting tied up as we proceed toward the series finale next week. Inevitably, there will be arguments for and against allowing Jack to fall into this dark mode, but ever since Jack Bauer told us about the first worst day of his life nine years ago, we should have known there could be no other way to go. 24 is a tragedy, and tragedies just don't have happy endings.

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • http://open.salon.com/blog/tricia_weight A Geek Girl

    Wow. This gave me goosebumps.
    I’ve not been keeping up enough lately. Thanks for helping me stay up-to-date.

    Now I want to see it. I hate when I miss the really good episodes.

    Thank you for the great reviews V. You really have the most profound way of making me *see* the episode, of taking me there–Not just an analysis, but an imagery rich prose adaptation. That’s what I love most about reading your reviews.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Hey, thanks, Geek. Next week is the last show ever, so get the popcorn ready. It’s going to be a wild one.