By now it has become pretty evident that Jack Bauer is (physically and mentally) simply a mess. Jack’s injuries from months of torture in China, his more recent torture by Abu (Mr. Clean) Fayed, his battle damage from the Russian embassy, and revelations about his family (and Audrey last night) have left him compromised, like a bruised and battered hunk of Swiss cheese. How Jack manages to move on makes us wonder about how he can function, yet seasons past have set a precedent for Jack to accomplish amazing things (think of how he bounced back from “dying” in Season 2). Thus, we suspend disbelief once again and go along for yet another ridiculous, but exciting, ride.
In Monday night’s episode we switched gears from one injured president to another. There is no mention of the wounded ex-President Charles Logan; the concern is now centered on the badly injured President Wayne Palmer. He has been put into a coma to stabilize him, and his sister Sandra does nothing more than stare at him during the episode. Perhaps she is thinking of Walid, or maybe of suing someone for something, but she does seem pensive and worried about Prez Wayne.
There is a good deal to worry about too, with Vice President Noah (Jim Jones) Daniels waltzing around the bunker like he has a Colt .45 strapped to his hip. He is literally gunning for the Middle Eastern country from which Fayed comes, but Tom (Twitchy) Lennox and Karen (Hillary) Hayes are quick to point out that this country (of course, unnamed) has disavowed ties to the terrorists. Jones doesn’t really give a hoot because he’s got the sun behind his back and he’s dying to draw his weapon.
Jack Bauer returns to CTU and is about to get some medical attention when he runs into his sister-in-law (and former girlfriend) Marilyn. Marilyn makes yet another move on Jack, but he turns away and explains his heart belongs to Audrey (White Coat) Raines. That metaphor from last season seems even more apropos when we learn from Marilyn that Audrey died in China. A livid Jack drops her faster than a hockey puck on center ice, runs off to Chloe, and demands to see the file.
Meanwhile, yet another mole is discovered in CTU. Loyal fans of the show have come to expect the mole thing, but at this point it is a device that has worn out its credibility. Way back in the Season 1 when Jamey was discovered to be a mole, it was a real shocker and very effective; however, we have had so many moles during the subsequent seasons that it borders on ridiculous that a government anti-terrorist agency couldn’t do a better job screening its own agents.
That said, it seems too obvious that Nadia is the mole. She is Muslim and a big deal is made of this by Milo when Doyle accuses her. It does seem that Milo’s protest could be connected to the fact that he gave Nadia his high-level clearance password, or it could be (as Doyle notes) that Milo is looking for some hanky with Nadia’s panky. Either way, it is way too simplistic for Nadia to be guilty. It could be anyone else, but Milo seems to be a good contender as does the erratic (but now sober) Morris. Chloe even kisses Morris to make certain he is not still drinking. I am sure with all the technology at CTU that there is a simpler way than that, but the kiss sends a message that Chloe actually cares for Morris and is willing to do just about anything to save him.
Jack looks at a file with Audrey’s photo and large letters spelling out “Deceased” across the page. There is something striking about the evidence, and it seems Jack sees it too because of the cock of his head as he stares at the remnants of her scorched passport. After yet another wardrobe change (I think I mentioned last week that Jack has changed clothes more this season than in any previous one), Jack rushes over to Bill (I Miss My Wife) Buchanan and demands to take point on the next raid. Bill is about to argue this when Jack tells him, “You should have told me about Audrey.” Of course he should have, Jack, right as you were being led to die after spending 20 months in a Chinese prison.
Jack and Doyle are off to the position where yet another bald guy is piloting the drone with a the suitcase nuke by remote control. We previously get a glimpse of Mr. Clean and Gredenko (Mr. Dirty) arguing over minutiae as they blame each other for the lack of success in their mission. Instead of getting caught, they decide to keep fighting in transit and load the last two nuclear suitcases onto a truck. We know from this exchange that the drone is carrying one bomb and its target is San Francisco (stock up on the Rice-a-Roni, folks).
Back at the looney bin (oh, I mean the White House bunker), Jones is pressing for a “tactical nuclear strike” against the unnamed country. The Joint Chiefs and other advisors aren’t too keen on this, and Hillary goes off about policy and that sort of thing, with Twitchy silently showing his disapproval too. Out in the hallway Twitchy will not support Hillary, but we have a feeling that he is wavering and will eventually take her side. Hillary goes to medical and wonders about waking up Prez Wayne long enough to get him to intervene in matters, but this kind of thing could cost him his life.
Jack and Doyle break into yet another warehouse and take out the bad guys, wounding Baldy in the process. One important thing to note here is Doyle defers to Jack’s leadership, so it seems like they will be able to work together. We haven’t gotten enough about Doyle yet, though in his earlier confrontation with Milo it appears as if he may be a little bit anti-Muslim, which could complicate matters.
Jack once again is in a position to save the day. He gets into the pilot seat and manages somehow to steer the drone off course and crash it far away from San Francisco. The problem is that when first responders arrive on the scene there is a heavy amount of radioactivity (these poor guys are as good as dead). The Hazmat team is called in, but when this information is relayed to VP Jones, he doesn’t care that a strike on the city has been averted. The radiation leak is enough to push the button, so he orders the nuclear strike to be initiated immediately.
While some of this is very reminiscent of Season 2 (another Palmer in danger, a pending strike on a Middle Eastern country that could start a world war, the possible mole in CTU, Jack being so badly damaged as to impede his ability to function), there are other things to distinguish the current situation. One of the most crucial elements is Jack himself, for the hope he seemed to have in Season 2 (mostly getting back to having some kind of family life with his daughter Kim) has been completely eliminated. Also, there is an eerie sense of the familiar in the way Jack tells Bill that when this is over, he is going to get those responsible for Audrey’s murder.
As this week’s episode ends, I can imagine many fans are happy to think that Jack will finally carry a bullet with Cheng’s name on it. We only have ten episodes left, but I have a feeling that Jack is going to revert to his terminating mode from Season 1 when, after learning Kim was dead (Nina was lying to him, of course), Jack went on a rampage and wiped out Victor Drazen and his men. At this point we have had enough of liars and switching allegiances, and Jack has certainly changed his clothes enough times. Perhaps we are slowly getting to the good stuff.
My predictions at this point are that Prez Wayne will wake up and stop Jones (but not until one of the last episodes); someone other than Nadia will turn out to be the mole (I think it is Milo); Marilyn is going to tell Jack even bigger news (yes, about his nephew Josh); and Jack is going to break Cheng’s fortune cookie along with most of the bones in his body (after taking out Fayed, Gredenko, and company).
The thing I am not certain about is the two remaining nukes. Since one has already gone off this season, the stakes have been raised immeasurably. What happens with them will be the biggest surprise of all. ’ll keep watching and I bet so will you.
Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!