Thus far, we have had two mini-climaxes this season: the nuclear explosion in Valencia (which we haven’t heard a thing about in weeks) and the battle between Jack Bauer and Abu Fayed, which resulted in Fayed’s death. These moments were essential culminations of the plotline, yet they also contributed to the overall thrust of the dramatic flow that we were hoping would bring Jack Bauer toward a necessary and compelling awakening of spirit. Sadly, as events have unfolded, especially with the Jack’s rescue of Audrey and traumatic discovery of her catatonia, it seems more unlikely than ever that Jack will find some peace (at least in this season).
Last night’s episode was a buffering one to be sure, a filler to get us closer to the ultimate climax of the season. Anytime Jack Bauer is kept in custody for most of the hour usually falls into this category, and we can see the wheels spinning in Jack’s head as to how to get out of that holding room and get in on the action.
Conveniently, his sister-in-law (and old flame) Marilyn is still on the premises along with his nephew Josh. Chloe brings Marilyn in to see Jack, and their exchange is another in a series of longing glances and deep stares. The expression on Chloe’s face is not exactly one of jealousy but more disdain for Marilyn, confirming what we have always believed: Chloe has deep feelings for Jack that go beyond the professional level.
Jack is told that Audrey has been whisked away by Secretary James (Nuts Landing) Heller, so this goes down as one of the most brief and yet devastating cameos in 24 history. Jack is not surprised by Nuts taking his love away, but Marilyn is steadfast in her expression of loyalty and affection to Jack. This gal really, really wants to comfort Jack in the worst way. If only Chloe would get lost for a few minutes, Marilyn could get down to business. Oh, but wait, Jack has already rebuffed her advances and probably would once again. It’s not easy being Jack Bauer under any circumstances, but he is like a caged tiger at this moment.
At the White House plans have been made for Lisa to reconnect with Bishop. Her PDA has been loaded with misinformation to hopefully be sent to the Russians. The goal is to avoid a standoff, or worse, an attack by the Russians on an American base in Central Asia that would warrant a response (and seemingly start World War III). Lisa’s character seems nothing like the coldly calculating woman who was assisting Vice President Noah (Jim Jones) Daniels on his course to take over the presidency. Now she acts the part of scared little blonde, which does nothing to endear her to Jones. Lisa is sent back to Bishop’s apartment wearing a wire, while Tom (Twitchy) Lennox and his men wait outside for her to successfully complete her mission.
Meanwhile, Agent Mike Doyle and his team are searching a warehouse for Cheng and his men based on a lead provided by Audrey. It seems Cheng had been holding Audrey there and is now gone, so Doyle is going to search the place for clues, but it seems like a waste of time and more part of the filler I mentioned previously.
Cheng’s evil plan is revealed as being an attack on CTU itself. In the past, security has been breached in various ways at CTU, but this is the first time that the whole building has been invaded by hostiles and taken over. It seems a bit too easy for the Chinese terrorists to come in through the sewer system and take control of a major branch of the government like this, but that is exactly what happens.
Once the leader Zhou and his men have control of the place, he asks who is the boss. Nadia is scared but Milo (who found a pair earlier in the day when he rescued Marilyn and got shot in the arm) steps up to the plate and announces that he is Milo in charge. Zhou quickly puts a bullet in Milo’s head, effectively ending his return engagement at CTU. Chloe, Morris, Nadia, and the rest are mortified by this abrupt killing, and they realize that this bad day has taken a real turn for the worse.
Of course, Jack Bauer hears the attack going on and manages to get out of holding and soon has a gun in hand. He tries to rescue Marilyn and Josh and brings them pretty close to escaping. Josh gets into a ventilation duct and starts crawling away as Jack runs out of ammunition (this has happened more times this season than ever before). Jack and Marilyn are taken prisoner as Josh scrambles off into the ventilation system.
The object of this invasion of CTU is revealed as Zhou focuses on capturing Josh. The expression on Jack’s face conveys his puzzlement at this. Why would they want his nephew? Zhou gets on the PA system and tells Josh he is there to rescue him and take him to a safe place. Josh isn’t buying this, so Zhou warns him that if he does not come out of hiding that he will kill Marilyn. A countdown begins as Zhou holds a gun to Marilyn’s head, but Josh crawls out of the ventilation duct and is taken prisoner.
At this point we are all wondering what is going on. Zhou calls Cheng and informs him that Josh is now under his control. Cheng is happy with this news and then makes another phone call. What to our wondering eyes should appear? Papa Phillip (Stretch Cunningham) Bauer on the other end of the line. We have been wondering where Stretch has been since he ran away from Jack and left him the message to call ex-president Chucky Logan. I guess he’s been down at Kelsey’s having a few beers, but during that time he also managed to give Cheng the access codes to CTU. So that’s why it was so easy to take over the place!
The episode ends with a close-up of Stretch, looking extremely satisfied that his grandson is now under his control. As we wonder about next week’s episode, we are obviously being set-up for a showdown of epic proportions, a Shakespearean-like final act that will leave the stage strewn with bodies (hopefully Cheng and Stretch will be among them). We know Jack is going to do something to try to save Josh, and Mike Doyle is like Fortinbras, a man of action ready in the wings to swoop in and become a major player.
As I noted earlier this season, the dynamic between Jack and his father explains a great deal about Jack’s life as an agent. It is a classic battle between good and evil, with Jack being the Luke Skywalker to Stretch’s Darth Vader. Jack has spent a good deal of time trying to reach the light, but he has been haunted by the dark side all along. His rebellion against his father and escape from the family and its nefarious business has been all about Jack finding a way to right the sins of the father.
Will there be a final battle between Stretch and Jack (light sabers not included)? Will Josh be liberated from Cheng? Will the rest of the CTU crew survive? Will Doyle arrive in time? Will Lisa accomplish her task after all the hanky and the panky are done with Bishop? And where the hell is Bill Buchanan during all this? Let’s hope the next episode is more than filler, giving us some answers instead of all these annoying questions.
Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!