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TV Review: 24 – Wagging the Dog

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Since the very beginning of the series, 24 worked because of the dynamic between politicians and the people protecting them and the American public. The trust that Jack Bauer and the Counter Terrorist Unit developed with David Palmer was the cornerstone of this relationship, a sort of failsafe kind of connection that would guarantee Jack’s (and CTU’s) position because it was valued and respected. Even when others thought Jack was wrong, Palmer knew Jack was doing his best (and the right thing) for the country.

From the very first minutes of Season 5, all of this came undone, most notably when someone put a bullet into Palmer’s neck and ended his life. Thus, Jack and the gang at CTU were now totally on their own. With spineless President Lowguns at the helm, it seemed obvious that he would only do what he thought would be popular and not necessarily right. This season, he has evolved into an even more dangerous variation of himself: now he is doing what he thinks is right and not necessarily popular. This has become a disaster for all involved (and doesn’t it sound painfully familiar in the real world?).

Last night our hero Jack survived the explosion, carrying Jerko Bierko out of the jaws of hell and bringing him in for questioning. Jerko never wakes up during the episode, but Jack asks Curtis to take him back to CTU and to make sure he lives. Of course, Jack’s hope is to eventually get to “talk” to Jerko, which is Jack’s way of using a knife in ways its manufacturers probably never imagined.

Costner (the super Secret Service Agent) saves Wayne Palmer’s life, and Wayne recovers rather quickly (last week it seemed that he was dead) and gets to talk to Evelyn (personal assistant to First Lady McDeath). Evelyn has seemed quivery from the start, her mouth always moving around to indicate discomfort. Now we find out that it was she who had some kind of connection to President Palmer, passing him information about the conspiracy. She is caught in a difficult situation because they have kidnapped her daughter, and she is about to exchange her “evidence” for her daughter’s life.

Wayne and Costner are in touch with Jack, who understands better than anyone that this thing reaches the highest levels of government. At one point, Jack actually tells Bill (on the cell phone) that he is “scared” about the situation, and it’s not too often that we hear Jack say that. Damn, this must be serious.

Wayne meets with Evelyn and they decide to rendezvous with Jack, but in the hallway, Wayne bumps into Potato Chip (Vice President Garner). Potato Chip seems genuinely pleased but surprised to see Wayne and talks some gibberish about David being a great man. We figure this nutcase either means it or is ready to slit Wayne’s throat. Later on, Potato Chip mentions Wayne’s presence to Lowguns, and the President doesn’t seem too pleased with not being granted an audience, but also understands that Wayne came to see Costner to give him a token of appreciation (yeah, right)!

Meanwhile, back at CTU, Cruella Mean-To-Bill and her lackey Touchy Feely (Miles the sexual harassment dude) are busy dismantling that agency. Bill and the rest are dumbfounded as the Homeland Security team comes in to take over their posts and the jobs they love (I mean, Edgar, Tony, Lynn, and the others aren‘t even cold in their graves). Touchy Feely gets Audrey into a quiet corner (man, she is looking finer each week, especially since Jack almost choked the crap out of her), and we see his eyes getting all wider as he looks Audrey over and thinks about how he can grope her. Unfortunately, Audrey will not agree to sign his statement (indicting CTU and Bill particularly), nor will she undo the top button on her blouse.

Of course, another crucial dynamic in this series is the certainty that Jack, while in the field, can call in and get the info he needs when and where he needs it. This basically translates into having Chloe available to download, upload, uplink, and do whatever other damn thing she can get her hands on to meet Jack’s needs. Audrey confers with Jack on the cell phone (Jack’s phone must have the best long-life batteries around) and decides to make a huge sacrifice; she will sign Touchy Feely’s statement, but only if she remains on the job and has Chloe directly working for her. Thus, the Chloe factor remains a possibility, and she quickly helps Jack through use of a satellite.

Robo Henderson and his geeks have Evelyn’s little girl trapped in some facility, but Jack and Wayne are coming to the rescue. Evelyn will give Jack the information if she gets her daughter back. Jack and Wayne bring her to the facility, and Wayne is quick to point out that he is a former Marine. Jack knows all and reminds Wayne that he never saw combat, but Wayne is pumped to get the baddies who gave David a tracheotomy with a bullet, so Jack gives Wayne a gun and they prepare to save the day.

Jack takes out the sentries with Chloe’s help, making us aware Audrey did the right thing (though that last puppy dog glance from Bill as he was leaving CTU with his briefcase makes us know he is wounded to the depths of his heart). Jack then grabs the sniper’s rifle (that was meant to take out poor Evelyn) and waits for Robo Henderson and company, who come out with the little girl. The exchange is made and then Jack and Wayne start firing away. Since Jack wants Robo alive, he doesn’t put a bullet in the bastard’s head, and predictably Robo Henderson gets in Evelyn’s car and drives away (this guy has almost as many lives as Jack).

Evelyn has been wounded in the exchange but not seriously. Jack tells her it’s time to tell what she knows and asks about Potato Chip’s involvement, but Evelyn says he has nothing to do with the conspiracy. We then see Robo Henderson driving easily through the streets (though a curfew is still in place) and letting the big honcho know he will assemble a new team (how he will do this so quickly makes no sense) and get Jack Bauer. In the very last seconds, we see the silhouette of the honcho and the camera pans up and shows us the face of Lowguns, the invertebrate President, who is the one behind it all.

With eight weeks to go, there are some exciting possibilities. Now that we know Lowguns is the “mole’s mole” in the White House, will Lady McDeath and Costner team up and stop him? Will the CTU team bringing Jerko back to headquarters have a chance? Will Burke get to jab needles into someone, anyone, because man, he has a need? Will Touchy Feely keep staring at Audrey like she’s today’s lunch special? Will Chloe be able to stay at her post and relay to Jack all pertinent things like where the terrorists are and the closest McDonald’s? Will Robo Henderson ever be caught? Will Evelyn and her daughter be okay? Now that Wayne Palmer is in touch with his inner Rambo, will he join Jack as a killing machine? And, finally, does Jack ever stop and take a leak?

Until next week, Klaatu Narada Nikto!

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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://www.jeffkouba.com/myblog/blogger.html Jeff

    Excellent point that the trust between David Palmer and CTU was such an important factor in past seasons. Quite a contrast to the past two seasons.

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Thanks for your thoughts, Jeff. It seems that the writers want this distance, almost in a way making Jack even more alone and therefore more heroic. Hey, Odysseus had no one for a long time and managed to get the job done.

  • http://blogcritics.org Joanie

    Congrats! Your article has been placed on Advance.net

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Joanie, thanks for letting me know.

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Hey Victor –

    though that last puppy dog glance from Bill as he was leaving CTU with his briefcase makes us know he is wounded to the depths of his heart

    I love this. I really felt bad for Bill. : ( Poor guy.

    Hope he’s back with the team soon!

    Good post Mr. V. : )

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Thanks, Mary K. It looks like the whole Homeland Security takeover could be part of the bigger plan to revamp the government by Lowguns. We shall see!