As the final episodes of 24 have been unraveling, I find there is a great deal of sub-textual information being thrown at us in a very deliberate and intriguing manner. One of the pleasures of this series is always knowing Jack is stuck within a structured time frame, and it has never allowed the use of flashbacks, which would obviously, as it does on ABC’s show Lost, allow for deepening and enriching character development. 24 has always relied on the action to dictate the reaction, thus we get to do a good deal of work ourselves making connections and remembering moments in seasons past that correlate with what is happening now. As the frenetic pace of show continues to accelerate, I have been doing that a lot lately as I watch while fidgeting in my seat every week.
Planes have always figured into the plotline: think Season 2 when a dying George Mason takes the nuke out into the desert or Season 4 when President Keeler’s jet is shot down. Now in Season 5, we have Jack basically hijacking a plane to get a tape that will implicate the President of the United States in the biggest scandal in American history. Appropriately, the flight hits turbulence along the way that references what is not only happening on the plane itself but also the country: smooth sailing is something that is not possible or even imminent. Perhaps, it foreshadows the anarchy that possibly awaits in Season 6.
This episode starts off with Chloe and Bill at mini-CTU in Bill’s humble abode, but Karen (Cruella Now Sweet to Bill) warns them that Homeland Security agents will be there momentarily, so Bill sends Chloe off to a hotel on Ventura Boulevard where she heads to the bar and sets up shop. Of course, in keeping with 24 tradition, there must be some obstacle in her way; in this case, it is an annoying Bar Jerk who is drunk and looking to score. Chloe ignores him and gets to work, quickly calling Jack and letting him know where the air marshal is sitting on the plane.
Good old Jack ambles down the aisle, sits next to Air Cop, and quickly renders him unconscious. Man, do I feel safe about flying when I see how quickly an air marshal can be taken out of the equation. Jack then procures Air Cop’s gun and badge, then proceeds to the back of the plane to await Chloe’s call. It turns out there is a guy from Omnicreeps aboard sitting in another seat, so Jack proceeds to gently persuade this German fellow to follow him into the bowels of the ship for a little Q&A.
Back at the Presidential retreat, Lowguns is talking to Leader of Gang of Four (we only see him and the other three are presumably getting their beauty sleep), who is very disappointed that Bauer Power is still on the run, no less that he is on the plane and still looking for that frigging tape. Lowguns insists that it will be handled, but Gang Leader is looking a little scared this week.
Mike (The Grimace) Novick is dismayed that Lady MacDeath is so upset. She wants her meds and she wants them now. What’s a good glass of wine without some pills, right? Mike cajoles her to tell him what’s happening. “Maybe I can help,” Mike says. Yeah, okay, Mike. We know you’re always snooping around, but sometimes that’s a good thing (it saved Jack‘s life in Season 4). Mike goes to Lowguns and tells him about this, and Lowguns realizes Mike is getting closer and closer to knowing something. He tells Mike there’s trouble in the marriage, that’s it’s just a façade now while he’s president, and to give her as many pills as she needs to shut up. Nice going, Mike.
Jack interrogates German dude and searches his checked luggage but finds no tape. Meanwhile, Air Cop wakes up and has the stewardess warn the pilot about what’s going down, so Peter Graves turns on the no smoking signs and secures the cockpit door. Co-pilot Otto (with no Julie Haggerty around to inflate him as necessary) seems a little shaken by the goings on. How could this be happening on my flight kind of thing. They decide to seal Jack in down below and cut off the air supply to the baggage area, hopefully rendering Jack and German dude close to dead.
Back at the hotel bar Chloe is working very hard. She is interfacing and splicing and dicing with her laptop, and Bar Jerk finds his way over and starts making the moves on our gal. We have already learned that Chloe is not afraid to kick ass (her memorable use of an M-16 comes to mind), but it’s just a pleasure to see her take a stun-gun from her pocketbook and zap the bastard. You go, girl!
Over at CTU, Bill is brought into his old haunt in handcuffs, and Cruella immediately has him taken to a cell for questioning. In that room, Cruella shuts off the monitors and she and Bill finally have some alone time. Oh, baby! Meanwhile, Miles (Touchy Feely) is not happy about any of this, and since he’s not getting his way (and has not been able to get his slimy hands on Chloe or Shari), Touchy calls up Mike and starts venting. Mike quickly discerns that Touchy is nuts and tells him off, but Touchy runs to his work station and we can see he is not going to give up too easily.
Up in the air Jack is not thinking about writing the airline about the service on this flight, but he is angry about having no air to breathe. Out comes his trusty knife (you should have noticed by now that Jack uses his knife like a surgeon) and Jack is cutting away the ceiling, pulling on wires, and sending the jet into a dive. Passengers scream, Graves gets all stressed out, and eventually Air Cop is ordered to let Jack out of the baggage area. Jack comes up gun in hand, locks Air Cop below, and then takes over the plane intending to search every passenger for the tape.
Mike gives Lady MacDeath her meds and she swigs them down with wine. He knows it’s more than a marriage problem, continuing to pry but the good Lady is not revealing anything yet to Mike. Still, the plot thickens and the wheels are spinning in Mike’s beady little eyes; he’s taken down a president before (if you recall his underhanded moves against Palmer in Season 2), and it seems he’s chomping at the bit to get at Lowguns now.
At this point the desperation in Jack’s demeanor is so obvious, the situation so overwhelming as to be incongruous, and one can see it as defining moment for Season 5. Jack is always in over his head, battling against time and incredible odds, but it seems there is absolutely no hope of finding that tape. In a terminally grim season, this would appear to be the lowest point of all.
Until, that is, Chloe finds what she is looking for. Bar Jerk starts to wake up, so she zaps him again and gets back to Jack. She reveals that the co-pilot Otto works for Omnicreeps and is a long time associate of Robo Henderson. Trouble is the cockpit is sealed, but Jack has Chloe call Cruella who calls the head of the airline who calls Chloe who patches Jack through to the pilot (got that?).
Jack warns Graves that Otto is the bad guy, and Graves fakes a leg cramp and goes to open the door. Otto slugs him but Graves manages to let Jack in, and Jack secures himself in the cockpit and takes the tape after telling Otto, “You don’t look like someone who wants to die for Henderson.” Man, Jack, I guess you can tell after already killing about thirty guys who were willing to die for Robo. Finally, Jack has the frigging tape, but how the hell is he going to land that plane and get off without being arrested?
In the final seconds of the hour, Gang Leader calls Lowguns and lets him know that Bauer Power has the tape and control of the plane. Lowguns quivers and shivers, his jowls looking like he’s ready to capitulate, but Gang Leader orders him to do the unthinkable. Lowguns must shoot down that plane! Damn, being President is really hard work, but being a bad President is the salt mines.
There are many tantalizing questions for next week. Why haven’t Curtis and Audrey returned to CTU? What the hell has happened to Audrey’s coat? Will Cruella and Bill get so close that it becomes personal? Will Touchy Feely feel so unloved that he rats Cruella out to Lowguns? Will the F-16 score a direct hit on Jack’s plane? Will Jack survive? Will the tape ever be played for the American people? And just how good will Lowguns look in an orange prison jumpsuit?
Until next week, Klaatu Barada Nikto!