In the best moments of 24 during past seasons, Jack Bauer has had to work outside the rules and regulations of CTU, but usually for the good of the country. This season Jack has mostly gone by the book, even when he had to kill his former partner, Curtis, in order to stop the terrorists from accomplishing their goals of another nuclear attack. Last night we got to see the old Jack Bauer, calling in favors from Chloe and pushing all boundaries to save Audrey, the woman he obviously still loves. Jack is back!
The odd situation gets set up by Jack’s success in dealing with the terrorist threat. After killing all the bad guys, including Abu (Mr. Clean) Fayed, it seems like Jack will be able to return to CTU and get medical attention for broken ribs and other injuries. Unfortunately, his old tormentor Cheng Zhi has other plans for him. The former diplomat (and now terrorist) Cheng has kidnapped Audrey Raines, Jack’s former lover and the daughter of Secretary of Defense James (Nuts Landing) Heller.
What does Cheng want? Some gobbledygook about deciphering the entire sequence of Russian defense codes from a device inside the nukes (yet another “component”) ensues, and we can rest assure that Jack is in for a difficult time. Jack speaks to his lady love briefly, and we know that he is going to do everything in his power to save her.
Her Chinese captors have managed to take the once glamorous Audrey (you may recall her stylish outfits and equally trendy white coat from last season) and make her look like a broken waif, her hair black and stringy and her face sallow with cuts above her eyes. The sympathy factor kicks in and we want Jack to save her from this brute Cheng and, of course, administer a dose of justice like only Jack can deliver.
The problem is Jack must get the component and two surly and burly Marines are guarding it. Jack does a little babbling about a Presidential directive, and soon he is inside the gate where the nukes are waiting and he’s got Chloe on the line helping him. One of the most satisfying aspects of 24 has always been the Chloe-Jack dynamic, with her steadfast loyalty to him making her do things outside her job description. Will Chloe get caught helping Jack? Of course, she usually does, but that is also part of the equation.
Morris (Yul Brenner) O’Brian catches Chloe and threatens to report her to Bill (More Stoic Than Ever) Buchanan, so Chloe agrees to tell Bill what she has done. Sooner than you can say “damn it” Doyle is on scene with some other agents and gets one of the Marines to hit Jack with the butt of an M-16. Just when we think the proverbial jig is up, Jack talks to Bill on the phone and gets to make one phone call (a sly reference to his denied request after Cheng captured him last season).
Whom does Jack call? The President of the United States, of course. That Jack, always going straight to the top. Actually, it is no longer reassuring to hear Jack say those sacred words, “Mr. President,” the way it used to be when Jack was talking to David Palmer in seasons past. Now, David’s brother is the Commander in Chief and doesn’t inspire that same good hands confidence.
Admittedly, Prez Wayne is under duress from his near-death experience with a bomb earlier that day; however, he does prove that he is carved from the same presidential timber as his brother in dealing with Vice President Noah (Jim Jones) Daniels. He tells Daniels that he must resign and literally shows him the door to the Oval Office. Things seem rather stable until Jack calls, but Wayne feels an allegiance to Jack and authorizes a mission to get Audrey back (even though it involves using the component for the trade).
At CTU Chloe is in deep trouble as Bill tells her he no longer trusts her. The rest of the gang is coordinating this new venture to assist Jack in his attempt to rescue Audrey. Milo and Nadia are seen very briefly, but there is little time for them to go into a dark corner and lip-lock again. Bill seems all the more disturbed when he gets a call from his wife Karen (Hillary) Hayes, who looks as if she got highlights in her hair at the White House beauty parlor since last week.
Hillary tells Bill that Prez Wayne has had a stroke and that Jones has taken over again, making his first order of business to stop Jack’s mission to save Audrey. We could see this coming, of course, because Jones is power crazy and also has no relationship with Jack as does Wayne. It seems Prez Wayne is now off the playing field for good, so his threat to use the recording made by Tom (Twitchy) Lennox is history. This put Jones in charge and everyone else in big trouble.
Jack is in the car with Doyle heading to a rendezvous with Cheng. Bill calls Doyle and Jack immediately suspects something is wrong, so what is Jack to do but pull his weapon and order Doyle to stop the car. Doyle tells him that he doesn’t want to do this, but Jack explains that he killed Curtis earlier that day and would have no trouble killing Doyle. Doyle gets out of the car and Jack drives off.
I’m not certain about Doyle yet. One moment he is admiring Jack’s handiwork at killing all the bad guys and securing the nukes, and the next minute he has Jack in handcuffs. The truth seems to be that Doyle is a company guy and follows the rules like a good soldier. Obviously, he can learn a thing or two from Jack about what it takes to be able to work outside the box as an effective agent.
Back at CTU Bill announces to everyone that Jack has gone “rogue,” and that is just where we want him to be. Jack Bauer is never better than when he must work against all odds, and now it seems they are all against him. As Jack heads off to meet Cheng with no support, we wonder how he will make the exchange. Will Audrey be saved? Will Jack be able to recover the component? Most importantly, will Jack pull something out of his bag of tricks (yes, the man-bag is back) that will turn Cheng into chop suey?
Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!