When Jack Bauer dispatched bald villain Abu Fayed in Episode 17, I was worried that the remainder of the season would be a letdown; however, I had nothing to fear. The last five installments have been a grinding ascent along the ladder of rising action toward what I am predicting will be an explosive climax followed by a resonant (and I believe) devastating resolution, but more about that later.
We picked up where we left off last week with the CTU crew and Jack being held hostage by Zhou and his Chinese gang, who were working for the evil Cheng Zhi. Jack didn’t understand why these thugs wanted his nephew Josh, but we already knew that his father Phillip (Stretch Cunningham) Bauer had orchestrated this assault to liberate his grandson. Jack, never more dangerous than when unarmed and cornered, has the wheels spinning in his head as to how to get out of the situation. Everyone else is sitting around rather helplessly with Milo’s corpse sprawled on the floor as a reminder of how ruthless these guys can get.
Cheng and Phillip are in contact by phone, and we see that there is a tempestuous relationship between them. Phillip seems to have the upper hand since he is in control of the component, but he also makes veiled threats that seem to have the usually unflappable Cheng a little nervous. He warns Cheng that he won’t be the one to deal with him should he fail, and we are left to wonder who the bigger fish are in the slimy little pond that these guys call home.
At the White House Vice President Noah (Jim Jones) Daniels is awaiting word on how his sting operation is going that involves his former lover Lisa Miller and the Russian spy Bishop. He has a heart-to-heart talk with Karen (Hillary) Hayes about his shortcomings as a leader (and, without saying it, as a lover). Hillary has never seemed kinder than at this moment, praising Jones for his strength in this tough situation, but Jones is hardest on himself, knowing he had the power to keep the country out of hot water and failed because of a blonde in a short skirt.
At Bishop’s apartment the sex has been steamy, but Lisa has an expression on her face (like she just made love to a slithering eel) that gives her away. Bishop knows something is wrong, but when she excuses herself to go to the bathroom, Bishop jumps up and is ready to download info from her PDA for his Russian superiors. Something spooks him though (probably because it all seems way too easy this time), and when Lisa comes out of the bathroom Bishop attacks her and asks for answers as he strangles her (maybe he’s the right guy for lovely assassin Mandy).
Tom (Twitchy) Lennox and his men have been outside watching the whole thing in a van. It seems to pain Twitchy to give up this vicarious pleasure, and that blow-up doll back in his closet at the White House is so far away, but he rises to the task at hand and they burst into the apartment and stop the attack. Lisa is in bad shape and an ambulance is called, and Tom has Bishop secured in the bedroom where they have a little talk about crime and punishment. It seems that Bishop has only one choice: help with the situation or face the death penalty for treason (same argument they used on Lisa).
Back at CTU Zhou and his men are getting ready to escape with Josh in tow. They begin herding the personnel into rooms before they make a getaway. This gives Jack the opportunity he was waiting for. He and Nadia hatch a little plan and, as the process takes place, Jack and Nadia attack the terrorists. Morris (Yul Brenner) O’Brian gets in touch with his inner Navy Seal and participates in the fun. Jack snaps Zhou’s neck, but Nadia seems to be losing her battle until Doyle and the cavalry come riding into view and take out the rest of the bad dudes.
Two of the terrorists have made off with Josh, but Jack and his new BFF Nadia reach an understanding that gives Jack a gun and Doyle as a partner. They go off after Josh, and it seems these two guys do work well together (when they are not on opposite sides of the fence). A quick pursuit leads to Jack and Doyle dispatching the bad guys, narrowly missing getting Cheng Zhi, and securing Josh once again. Josh and Uncle Jack have a quick moment to bond and gives that paternal side of Jack a chance to shine. One can only wonder how good a father Jack could be if he just was given a chance at a normal life.
When Josh explains that his grandfather spoke to him on the phone after he was captured, Jack realizes that Stretch is involved with Cheng. While not saying anything directly, we can see Jack processing this information as he puts it all together that his father and brother were no doubt behind his incarceration in China for all those months. Poor, poor, Jack (and Josh), to have been born into a family such as this.
We get another glimpse of Jones and Hillary heading into the Cisco Conference Room (talk about product placement), where Russian President Subaru is revving up the engines of war. He knows that Jones has not secured the component and continues his threats to attack US interests (a base in Central Asia) in two hours if the situation is not remedied. Jones has had a really bad day (not quite as bad as Jack Bauer) and he seems unable to handle Subaru like the cowboy that I thought he was.
Stretch then calls the White House (I wonder how all these guys get such easy access to the President’s phone line) and offers a deal: he will give Jones the component in exchange for his grandson. Hillary chides Jones about such a preposterous transaction, but before we can say “Monica Lewinsky,” Jones has called CTU to authorize this exchange.
This explains why in the last scene Jack and Josh are separated by Doyle who has his men secure Jack (obviously, Doyle is not foolish enough to try to take on Jack by himself). As Doyle rushes Josh onto a helicopter, Josh is screaming “Uncle Jack” and Jack is at once shocked and angry that Doyle has turned on him so inexplicably. The last scene shows us a frightened kid being torn away from his family in order to settle a bigger score, and this sets Jack up for next week’s big showdown.
Jack almost got to Cheng in this episode but he escaped. I imagine that in the exciting two-hour season finale next week that we are going to have some major league battles. Among them will no doubt be Jack verses Cheng, Jack verses Stretch, and perhaps even Jack verses Doyle (which, in essence, once again pits Jack against CTU, the White House, and all odds). I don’t even have to guess who will win, because in the end, Jack Bauer is an iconic figure who can now be mentioned in the same breath as John McClane, James Bond, John Rambo, and Indiana Jones.
Jack’s biggest battle of all may just be Jack verses Jack, and I think we are being set-up here for Jack’s reclamation, but at what price? Can he reconcile the despicable things his father and brother have done with the notion of saving (what is left) of his family: Marilyn and Josh? And, when the day is done, will Jack be back on the CTU payroll or is he heading off to bigger and better things in another city, another state, or even a foreign country? That will be discovered next season, but I have a feeling that 24 and Jack Bauer are never going to be the same when Day 6 is over, and that might be the best thing that can happen for the fans and to the show itself.
Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!