One of the most insidious elements of 24 has always been the torture scenes. Jack Bauer has been tortured almost as often as he has tortured others, which does not justify his actions but rather qualifies them. In this world of high stakes, when lives are literally teetering in the balance in the wake of a nuclear strike and the promise of more to follow, one would expect that Jack would resort to any and all measures to get the information he needs.
Keeping in mind the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq and all sorts of reports about the issue, there was a story late last year about top American generals going to the set of 24 and asking the producers to “cool it” on the torture scenes. The generals felt the show was taking too many liberties in this department. Apparently everyone involved, even those of liberal bent like Kiefer Sutherland (who plays Agent Jack Bauer), told the generals that this was a fictional show. In essence, this means that everything depicted does not reflect reality and, if it should happen to in some rare cases, it is purely coincidental.
Now that we have that straight, the big moment last night came down to Jack interrogating Russian diplomat Markov in a very bloody and grisly manner. Earlier, former President Charles Logan tried to meet with Markov in a civilized way, but the Russian blows off Logan and claims to know nothing about the whereabouts of Grendko (who just happens to have three nuclear suitcases and an itchy trigger finger). Logan comes out of his meeting and tells Jack that Markov is lying. What is there left for Bauer to do other than violate the embassy, kidnap Markov, and get to the truth in any way necessary?
Back at the bloodied White House conference room, a wounded Wayne Palmer is taken away to the medical center and is still kicking. Hamri (Cat Stevens) Al-Assad is not so fortunate. He loses his life in saving Prez Wayne, but anyone present in the room to attest to this heroic act is apparently dead. This leaves a convenient opening for Reed (Rob Lowe’s Little Bro) to point a finger at Assad. He goes back to the room where Tom (Twitchy) Lennox is still tied up and dreaming of his blow-up girl doll in his office closet. Bruce (Kit) Carson, who assembled the bomb, is there threatening to kill Twitchy, but Little Bro steps in and says Twitchy can be trusted.
No sooner are they all in the hallway than Twitchy gives up Kit and Little Bro to the Secret Service and remands himself into custody. Typical of 24 in its twisting allegiances and plots, Twitchy has now emerged as a stand-up guy, though as he truthfully tells his story to the Secret Service, it does sound dubious at best. The VP Noah (Jim Jones) Daniels arrives on the scene ready to kick Muslim butt, but he wants Twitchy (the architect of the Muslim butt-kicking plan) to be on the same page. Twitchy has problems with this, but does still believe in his plan.
On a collision course with these two weasels is Karen (Hillary) Hayes Buchanan, Bill’s betrothed who has been twiddling her thumbs waiting for a flight to Los Angeles. As she speaks to Bill on the phone, we get the sense that she has been out to that fast food place where Curtis used to go hang out for several hours on his way back to CTU. Now that Hillary is back in the picture, and once she hears about the assassination attempt on Prez Wayne, she rescinds her resignation and is on her horse back to the White House. Here she no doubt will stand firm against Twitchy, Jones, and anyone else who wants to contradict Prez Wayne’s earlier decisions about maintaining the sanctity of protected rights for all Americans. Are you thinking what I am? Maybe Little Bro can get Kit to make another bomb.
Jack calls Chloe (thankfully and finally) and needs her help “under the radar” to get into the Russian consulate. This is reminiscent of the good old days when Jack and Chloe were a team, when Chloe had to find every trick in the book to squeak info to Jack and was always under suspicion. Those days are long gone now, mostly because Bill is a level-headed boss who happens to not be a bureaucratic idiot like Ryan Chappell, Alberta Green, or Erin Driscoll. Still, even Bill would not advocate sneaking into the Russian Embassy. Logan even chides Jack about doing the same thing he did to the Chinese, but Jack is on autopilot as he mounts the embassy wall and readies himself for a bumpy ride.
Once inside Markov’s office, he quickly locks the door and slaps the diplomat around some. This reminded me of the great scenes from Lethal Weapon 2 when the pompous South African diplomat was doing all sorts of illegal things, and finally when he shows his ID to Danny Glover’s Murtaugh after trying to shoot the cop and running out of bullets, the diplomat spouts something about diplomatic immunity, but Murtaugh puts a bullet in his head.
Ah, such serendipity is not available to Jack. He needs Markhov alive to get the information about Gredenko. The Russian is not talking (oh, by the way, Jack earlier displays a neat ability to speak Russian; Nina Meyers is not the only one with foreign language skills), so Jack looks around and finds a cigar cutter on the desk (during the scene with Logan, there was not too subtle foreshadowing when Markov used it to snip a cigar). Apparently, Jack doesn’t know how to say “pinky swear” in Russian, so instead he slips the cutter over Markhov’s little finger and, quicker than that little piggy can go to market, Jack has severed the digit.
Back at the funny farm, Jones has to get on the phone with Russian President Subaru, who is still ticked-off about his motorcade coming under attack in season five. Subaru is annoyed about the invasion of the embassy too, but Jones is quick to explain that the nukes may be tied to Markov through Gredenko. Blah, blah, blah! Subaru seems willing to hear more but Jack better get info soon.
Jack does end up getting Markov to talk. The Russian starts telling stories better than Tolstoy about the drones, the nukes, Gredenko, and Fayed. Jack has what he needs and is about to call CTU, but the Russian agents blow in the door and take Jack hostage (this is episode 12, so Jack is definitely overdue to be taken as hostage). Markhov punches Jack (bloodied pinky and all) and seems to want to do more things to him after checking in with his superiors.
Jack is of course bound and talking to one of the agents, revealing all the plans that Markov confessed to knowing about. It seems this is a good Russian who will help, and he goes into the next room and is about to call Bill at CTU, but another agent puts a bullet in his head. So much for honor among these comrades.
Thus, Episode 12 ends on a down note with Jack tied up and the nukes still out there. How will Jack escape? Will he get the information to Bill about the drones before it is too late? Will Markov try to stick his pinky back on with Crazy Glue? Will Hillary and Twitchy form an alliance to bring down Jim Jones? And where has Jack’s father Darth Bauer gone off to? Troubling as it may be, the dark side is victorious for now.
Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!