At the end of last night’s episode, after Jack was willing to blow himself up in order to save Audrey’s life, her father James (Nuts Landing) Heller appears on the scene and unrelentingly disparages Jack. While it is bad enough that he forbids Jack to see his daughter ever again, Nuts also puts a whammy on him by saying, “You’re cursed, Jack. One way or another, everything you touch ends up dead.” Nuts in some ways is playing the part of Job’s comforter here, and his words add heft to the burden Jack already carries.
Since Jack Bauer has certainly put his share of people into graves (either by his own hand or dealing with someone he loves dying), viewers might argue that what Nuts says to him isn’t far from accurate; nevertheless, this cruel verbal assault literally cuts right into Jack’s heart, for he no doubt is thinking of his wife Teri and all the friends he has lost. Is Jack really cursed and has this curse brought death and misery to everyone he cares about?
I have been contemplating Jack’s relationships and the dynamics involved, and Jack’s case aligns similarly to the Biblical character of Job. One might ask how much can one man take, and when will that man eventually turn and curse that which he loves most. In Job’s case, his wife wanted him to “curse God and die,” but for Jack it is even more complicated. Jack lives in an almost godless universe, where nothing is sacred and everyone has his or her golden idols. For some it is money, others power, and for someone like Cheng Zhi it is a political goal.
Over the course of six seasons we would have to say that CTU is the place that Jack has loved to hate. If Jack has any faith remaining it is intricately entangled with CTU, the people who work there, and his desire to find some kind of love. What is clear is that Jack remains capable of love, despite all the fractured years he has lived without it. Jack wants to love, but he needs to find a way to get there first.
After losing Teri there might have been no hope except for his daughter Kim, but they are estranged and may never reconnect. His chance to love again came in the form of Audrey, daughter of the Secretary of Defense Heller for whom Jack worked. This seems to be the relationship that Jack has lived for, through all the bad days and even his incarceration at the hands of the Chinese. Yet that love has been undeniably impossible to realize, for one obstacle after another gets thrown in his way.
The Job analogy can be further supported by the introduction of Jack’s phantom family this season. Instead of being able to find comfort in home and hearth, Jack learns that his brother and father are behind all the machinations of last season and this one. They are thieves, murderers, traitors, and terrorists: the same kind of people Jack has sworn to stop at all costs. This dramatic irony is not lost on the viewers, but this almost piling on of hardships makes like the straw that should break Jack’s back, but he soldiers on because what he believes is his greater purpose is bigger than all his personal hardships.
We must wonder if Jack will end up like Job and be rewarded for remaining steadfast in his faith. It does seem impossible right now, yet Jack Bauer is the reason why we watch this show and why we invest so heavily in the plot and events that take place. In essence, we wait to see if Jack will overcome the slings and arrows and, by opposing them, find a way to defeat the bad guys and attain some personal harmony.
Last night’s episode was largely about Jack’s incarceration in a holding cell at CTU, his escape with the help of Mike Doyle (he’s not such a bad guy after all), and Jack’s attempt to not only save Audrey but to gather some kind of information from her. A doctor from District has come with nefarious plans for Audrey, which include a medically induced “shock” that could snap her out of her catatonia or kill her. The doc is willing to take this chance, but Doyle knows it smells bad.
Jack does liberate Audrey and they escape into the bowels of CTU (it is amazing how a security agency can have so many unguarded areas) and have an opportunity for a brief, tender reunion. It is truly bittersweet for Jack, because he can see what the Chinese have done to her and understand it better than most (since he himself has endured it). Jack speaks softly and reveals his love for her, reminding us that he remains hopeful and believes he can still attain some kind of happiness. If nothing else, that is his driving force and explains why he is still unrelentingly adamant about his pursuit of right against wrong.
Meanwhile at the White House Vice President Noah (Jim Jones) Daniels discovers that he has been cuckolded. It is not pretty when Tom (Twitchy) Lennox informs Jones that his paramour Lisa has been having an affair with Mark Bishop. Lisa, who goes home to get her unmentionables and has a quickie with Bishop before returning to Jones, has been duped by Bishop, who downloads info from her PDA faster than they serve French fries at McDonald’s.
Lennox and Jones apparently have plans for Lisa, who when confronted briefly pretends there is nothing going on with Bishop. Jones sets her straight and explains that this is about more than them. Russian President Subaru has called to issue a threat to Jones: get the component back from Cheng or suffer the consequences (that being a Russian attack on an American base in Central Asia). Lisa seems more than overwhelmed by all this, but Lennox is prepared to put her into action in order to neutralize Bishop and exploit his connection with the Russians.
Back at CTU we get more nonsense between Morris and Chloe. Morris tells Chloe that it is over between them, and Chloe is finally realizing that her big mouth gets her in trouble (Chloe said something stupid to him about arming the nukes while he was Fayed’s prisoner). Morris cannot take it and storms upstairs to Jack’s old office to demand a transfer from Nadia (who took over on an interim basis for the fired Bill Buchanan). It’s nice to see that, during a national emergency, Morris has his priorities in order.
Milo makes another brief appearance, but he chides Nadia for not just letting Jack talk to Audrey in the first place. He tells her that is what Bill would have done. Nadia is like, “Bill, Bill, Bill!” and knows it’s tough to fill his shoes, but some poor schmuck has to until the shadowy Division sends someone to take his place. What is amazing is that only a few hours before Nadia was smooching with Milo in a corner, and now she is giving Doyle that come hither CTU look that Tony and Michelle perfected in seasons past. Hey, Nadia, you have some work to do to generate that kind of heat.
All of this comes back to Jack Bauer and his meeting with Nuts. As seen in last season’s encounters, there is a dynamic of respect between these two somewhat similar men, but there is also the paternal element and Nuts has his fangs ready to defend his young. It isn’t surprising that Nuts would feel this way about Jack’s life being dangerous for Audrey, but he should recall that he himself got her kidnapped in Season 4 because of the work he does.
The last few seconds of the episode are devastating in that we get a close-up of Jack Bauer digesting all that Nuts has just said. It is a credit to Kiefer Sutherland that he can convey in a few seconds what it takes hours for other actors to accomplish. In a blink of an eye and a twist of his head, we know that Jack agrees that what he touches ends up dead.
Is this moment the coup de grace for Jack? Or will he be able to rise above it once again to tackle Cheng and stop a war between Russia and the United States? My bet is that Jack is going to be grabbing a gun and kicking Cheng’s butt from here to Beijing before it’s all over.
Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!