Last night’s episode was definitive in terms of where this season is going for a number of reasons. Mostly, Jack has no time to mourn the loss of his good friend Tony A. As in seasons past, Jack is hit with yet another life defining moment that he can’t process because of the business at hand. The toll is starting to become visible, and it is a credit to Kiefer Sutherland (who is way under appreciated in his role as Agent Bauer) that he is undoing the layers of this onion-like meltdown in such a subtle way. Sooner or later Jack is going to blow (sooner judging by the preview scenes from next week when he has Audrey in a stranglehold), and it isn’t going to be pretty.
We saw Edgar die last week and now Tony is dead. The old gang is getting knocked off one by one, and we really only have Chloe and Curtis left (though Bill is mostly in Jack’s corner when he’s not being pushed around by that Homeland Security woman who reminds me of all those high school teachers who didn’t have a clue). Jack’s daughter Kim was there for a couple of hours, her lip gloss shining perfectly during the crisis when half of CTU bit the dust. In fact, I am just surprised that Kim wasn’t in more danger, but it seems someone at 24 has learned that we can only take too much of Kimmy Poo before insulin shock sets in. Thank goodness Ponyboy took her off to some kind of conference (no doubt about how to resurrect one’s career by guest starring on TV’s hottest show).
Jack gets dirty with the German terrorist Stoller, who it turns out is actually a member of German intelligence (quick, think Hogan’s Heroes ), but this longhaired dude happens to have feelings for the long-legged Stenger babe who happens to keep schematics of the sensitive kind on memory sticks in her purse (oh, and a cute little pistol on her leg). Stoller is willing to give Pistol Girl up for a “wet list,” but if I were him I’d have insisted on a wet bar instead. Nevertheless, Jack and Stoller strike a deal, but Jack is not about to give up anything to some foreign dude (he got burned by those Chinese once after all).
Meanwhile, back at the funny farm, President Lowguns and his wife Lady MacDeath are still bickering about her god awful treatment, but there is no time because he has to make an announcement regarding marital law (oops, that should be “martial” guys). In the shadows is the creepy Vice Prez, that really weird Potato Chip guy from Twin Peaks who now even looks creepier (all he needs is a dwarf smoking a cigarette to seal the deal). Potato Chip has his own agenda which no one knows yet, but Mike (The Grimace) Novik does his best to scowl and grumble to no avail.
President Palmer’s brother Wayne (whom I always thought was a mole in the past) now has something crucial to bring to Costner (the Secret Service bodyguard who saved Lady MacDeath’s life), but Costner isn’t sure why Wayne is seeking out his services. Wayne gets through a roadblock but then is shot at and driven off the road. Last we see him he’s doing a shuffle off to Buffalo through a tunnel. Who is chasing him? Jerko Bierko’s men? Robo Henderson? We’ll have to find out next week.
Getting back to Jack, he’s compromising western civilization by providing Stoller with the “wet list,” and Stoller gives up Pistol Girl like Judas gave up Jesus in the garden (at least he withheld a kiss). Pistol Girl is not too upset with Jack but is sad that Stoller gave her up (seems they both really loved the heck out of each other’s bad asses). Just as the Princess of Death Mandy once demanded and got immunity from Jack, Pistol Girl also requires this before she gives up any info. She does make one effort to sway Jack, telling him everyone has a price. Of course, she doesn’t know about Bauer Power or the ability to die and come back to life and fight terrorists.
With her immunity in place Pistol Girl gives up the source of the schematic: Audrey (Cry Me a River) Raines. Now, I really thought it was going to be someone else: maybe Potato Chip or even Lady MacDeath, but it’s frigging Audrey! Damn, Jack has got to be one hurting dude at this point.
We do have to think this whole thing through clearly. The day started with everyone who knew Jack was still alive getting targeted. Jerko obviously (with Robo Henderson’s assistance no doubt) knows about Audrey and so Pistol Girl has this set as a plan to throw Jack off, yet Jack has a history with women who turn out to be bad (think Nina Meyers), so it could be true that Audrey did it. Wow, her Papa (Secretary of Defense Nuts Landing) is going to be mighty angry about this whole thing.
Things are really heating up on 24 at this point, and with nine episodes left it seems like we’re just getting to the great stuff (though so much has been so good already). I am amazed at how quickly this season is progressing, how fine tuned the show is at this time, and am more impressed each week with Kiefer’s acting. Man, this guy just gets better and better.
Oh, and as a footnote, just try comparing this episode to the fresh episode of The Sopranos offered this week. While 24 was edge of the seat excitement, the whole story of Tony in a coma (which took up more than thirty minutes of an hour-long episode) really threatened to make me comatose too. While The Sopranos deserves high praise for its acting and almost incongruous literary nature in seasons past, it annoys me that 24, although popular, never gets the critical respect it so richly deserves.
Until next week, Klaatu Barada Nikto!