As Season 5 of 24 moves toward what I believe will be its inevitably bloody climax, I am reminded of what an old professor said about Shakespeare’s plays. He loved them very much, of course, but was bothered by the time it took to get to the final scene. Mostly, I think the thing that annoyed him was waiting for the climax and then not having nearly enough time to process what followed it (even though he may have seen the play hundreds of times).
Anyone who has seen Hamlet should understand this, feeling that time between the young prince’s death and Horatio’s famous line about angels singing him to rest is like a few seconds. Considering the ponderous length of all that has preceded it, something doesn’t seem equitable about that.
24 brings this kind of Shakespearian baggage to the screen, and not just because of the length of twenty-four episodes we’ve watched this season, but due to all 120 episodes we will have watched (sometimes many times more than once on DVD) going back to Season 1. This kind of extended arc is like a series of acts in an incredibly long play, but really can be more easily compared to the length of a sometimes-laborious novel that we still love to read (and maybe skip more than a few chapters along the way).
In the end we still have our stalwart hero, Jack Bauer, and though he’s lost too many people in previous seasons but particularly in this one, he is now more than ever poised to be like good old Hamlet: ready to take on all comers, to leave the stage littered with corpses, to not only capture the conscience of the king but to bring him down with an unceremonious thud.
Last night we learned that the damaging evidence on the recording had been erased by slimy Miles (Touchy Feely Guy). Jack, Chloe, and company figure this out in a relatively fast manner, and before we know it Jack is giving Touchy Feely the old neck choke and slamming him against the wall. Touchy Feely, no doubt preferring to be on the giving end of such contact, squirms as Karen (Cruella Now In Love with Bill) screams at Jack and begs him to release the little twerp.
Jack reluctantly does so, and Touchy triumphantly tells them he no longer works there. Jack instantly surmises he works for Lowguns, and storms off to join Chloe and Bill.
Meanwhile, in one of the sweetest little moments that are in keeping with the best ones in 24 tradition, Cruella tells off the slime bag Touchy and gives him a swift little bitch slap that he’s been deserving all along. Touchy grabs his coat and briefcase and stalks off into the night of curfew, perhaps heading toward the presidential retreat or to the closest swamp he can slither into. Back in the Sit Rom (Situation Room), they all try to deal with the compromised recording and Cruella cancels the arranged meeting with the Attorney General.
At the presidential retreat Lowguns has happily received word that the recording is gone, so he gets on the phone with Graham (Gang Leader of the Gang of Four who must all be sleeping or otherwise engaged). He reassures Gang Leader that the hen house is under control. We then see Lowguns go into some secure room and there is our handcuffed and bloody Super Secret Service Agent Costner sitting slouched and looking pretty grim.
Lowguns tells him things can be different, that there is no recording, and that it’s all a lie. Basically, Lowguns gets nothing right. First Lady MacDeath chided him last week about being such an accomplished liar, but the truth is old Chucky Boy is far from that. As his secrets unravel, his nefarious plans come undone and he looks more and more like the sniveling little weasel that he is. He is at a point where the difference between his lies and the truth is undecipherable.
Unlike President Lincoln who spoke of pleasing all the people at least some of the time, Lowguns doesn’t even know what is right for himself let alone the people of his country at this or any time.
Back at CTU Cruella persuades Jack to offer a deal to Robo Henderson, who is sitting in a holding cell handcuffed. As Jack talks to him, it is clear the lighting has now changed, making Robo less robotic and more human. It’s a clever little piece of business, but 24 is best at spinning the plot and characters into the appropriate position for the moment.
Robo doesn’t want an immunity deal because the recording was his safety net. Now he has nothing (just like Jack in a way) and wants to disappear. Only Jack can do this, but Jack has to do it better than he did for himself. Jack agrees, and soon Robo is in the Sit Rom and helping devise a plan.
At this point the lovely Audrey appears, and man she’s looking good despite that severed artery. What is it with this gal’s wardrobe? Somehow she has found a white silk blouse and is adjusting it ever so slightly as we first catch a glimpse of her. Undaunted by the lovely coat that was ruined earlier, Audrey no doubt had this little thing hanging in her locker.
The choice of color for Audrey is clear: the pristine white sending a message that she is still unblemished by her relationship with Jack, though just the same slightly tarnished and compromised. With what is yet to come next week, Audrey might be in need of another change of clothes before the end of Season 5.
Audrey is mortified that Robo Henderson is being given a deal. I mean, he killed innocent people with the Sentox, cut her arm, stole the tape, killed Evelyn and her daughter, caused the death of President Palmer, and the accident that almost claimed the life of her father (Secretary of Defense Nuts Landing). After all this, it’s a little hard to process a “deal” with such a monster, but Jack is all back to business and remembers other similar deals with worse monsters. It’s all part of the game: a truly ugly one at that.
Meanwhile, word has come down that Jerko Bierko escaped. That CTU medical center really works wonders. Sporting a face bandage he must have borrowed from Tony A’s corpse, Bierko manages to get out of the convoy unscathed and meets up with his Russian buddies who just happen to have one last canister of Sentox left. This goes up against the earlier narrative that led us to believe ALL the canisters had been destroyed by Jack at the gas plant, but this is 24 and we’re used to the constancy of inconsistencies at this point.
Bierko and his crew get their best menacing look (like the one explained in the terrorists’ handbook) and proceed to a submarine that just happens to be parked in Los Angeles harbor as part of the deal Lowguns signed earlier in the day with the Russian President. Man, does it get any better than this?
Robo leads them to a guy named Molina who just happens to live in a secure fortress nearby. Robo is going to get inside and find the info on the computer they need to locate Jerko. This is when Jack, his wonderfully scratchy voice weary from the long day, tells Robo, “I don’t need another excuse to put a bullet in your brain.” I’ve got a long list of “Jack Quotes” someplace in the mess of my office, but this one is going to the top of the list.
After a lot of hullabaloo and a gun battle in Molina’s house, Curtis and Molina are wounded, but Jack gets the files he needs and is not sure whether Robo was trying to pull a fast one or not. Either way, the info is sent to Chloe who quickly deciphers it and before you can sing “We all live in a Yellow Submarine,” Jack and Robo are off to port and poor Curtis has to go back to CTU medical for attention (unfortunately, the kiss of death for many).
Back at the funny farm, Secret Service Creep is getting ready to put Costner in the plastic lined trunk of a dark limo, which doesn’t bode well for our friend. Finally, Lady MacDeath’s snooping pays off, and she intervenes in the proceedings. Creep points the gun at Lady and she says something about shooting the First Lady.
Costner is lying on the ground but manages a swift leg kick, and Creep drops his gun but somehow grabs a tire iron. He’s about to give Costner a lobotomy when Lady pumps a few into him. Ah, what a sweet way to say “I love you.” Costner warns her that the president must think he’s dead. He tells her to go get Mike (The Grimace) Novick, to tell him everything, and then send him to Costner. This will surely make Mike’s day (night).
Although the commander of the submarine is warned by Jack, it is too late; Jerko Bierko drops a canister into the hole, and soon the whole crew is dead. Man, that Sentox works fast! After a short time Bierko and company put on gas masks, descend into the ship, and prepare to utilize its arsenal of missiles for some quality time with sections of LA.
Lowguns wasn’t expecting this turn of events, and he is appalled when Mike tells him what has happened. Is it acting or is it that he’s afraid he might get a missile up his ass?
All the proverbial crap is now ready to hit the fan, and next week’s two-hour season finale should be a real gas (I couldn’t…help…myself). Will Jack and Robo be able to stop Bierko? Will Robo try to turn on Jack? Will Costner and the Lady be able to do some damage internally at the ranch? Will Bill stop being so stoic and just give Cruella a kiss? Will Touchy get his Feely when he meets up with Lowguns? Will Chloe ever forgive herself for yet again failing Jack even though all she has ever wanted to do is please him? And finally, what is to become of Audrey’s white blouse?
It’s going to be tough waiting, but until next week, Klaatu Barada Nikto!