I have complained before about the various subplots that have bogged down 24 over the years, but it seems that last night we had subplots as the main event throughout most of the hour. While sometimes these subplots add tangible moments to the rising action (like Lennox’s slick maneuver to get Karen to resign), the rest seem rather annoying and cloying and not important in the grand scheme of things.
Last week we left our hero Jack as he placed a plastic bag over his brother’s head (the evil brother Grim/Graem/Graham). Avid fans of 24 were just salivating at the prospect of Grim getting his just desserts, but Jack needs him for info and torture is just a way to break a guy fast. In terms of a spineless wonder like Grim, that took all of about ten seconds (even Audrey lasted longer under duress), and he divulges the truth about their father, their company, and the five missing nukes.
So here we have the first example of skeletons in the closet, the Bauer family closet to be more precise. Grim engineered some kind of deal that brought nukes from Russia in order to have them neutralized and recycled and maybe to become part of the Homer Simpson Memorial in Springfield. Nevertheless, Grim screws up by hiring this Charlie McCarthy character (with a more annoying Australian accent than Croc Dundee) who promptly sells them off to Abu (Mr. Clean) Fayed, who just recently used one to nuke Valenica and wipe out twelve thousand people (and also has four more waiting in the wings).
Admittedly, this rather damaging evidence is something Grim wants to hide, but Jack forces him to take off for Charley’s office to check the bloke’s computer. As Jack and Grim leave the palatial estate, we get a glimpse of Grim’s Trophy Wife looking even better than last week. Grim mumbles something about this turn of events but the key moment is the exchange of eye contact between Jack and Trophy. Jack, man, you really need to take a few minutes and talk to that girl.
Meanwhile, back at the underground bunker we have Tom (more Twitchy by the Minute) Lennox locking horns with Karen (I’m Not Some Liberal Do-Gooder) Hayes and it’s getting ugly. I don’t even mean the script or the actors, I mean the subplot. There’s talk of wearing each other down, but truthfully it’s wearing the viewer down. It’s just a very slow-moving subplot, but also necessary because Lennox is trying to realign the Cabinet and get the Prez Wayne on board. To do so, Twitchy can’ t have Karen around anymore.
To whom does Twitchy turn but Rob Lowe’s little brother. Little Bro is on Twitchy’s team, and his job is to help get rid of Karen. The answer is simple: get to her through her beloved Bill Buchanan. Swifter than one can sing “Obla-Di, Obla-da, life goes on…” Little Bro has come up with some dirt on Bill. Twitchy calls Karen on it. Something to do with Bill having Mr. Clean in detention and letting him go (yada-yada-yada), but it’s enough to get Karen squirming. She warns Twitchy that he has skeletons in his closet (example number two), which causes him to look over his shoulder and think about the blow-up doll back in his office. Still, he is undeterred and gives Karen an hour to resign or else.
We switch to CTU headquarters, where the Three Amigos of subplots emerge more prominently than ever. Milo (Still Asking Why I’m Here), Nadia (I’m Middle Eastern and they’re watching me), and Morris (my accent is almost as annoying as Charley’s) have formed a triumvirate of insignificance. Unless one of these three are going to figure in the story in a major way later on (and, admittedly, we are through just one fourth of the season now), their interactions border on ludicrous most of the time.
The powers on high (no doubt directed by Twitchy) have limited Nadia’s “access,” (this has always been a source of contention in the bowels of CTU) to a level that inhibits her productivity. Milo, in a rare show of any concern for someone else, goes to Bill in the old upstairs office (where Jack used to hold court and shoot tranquilizer darts into George Mason) and fights for Nadia’s honor (please, don’t let there be a romance between these two). Bill is ever stoic for a few seconds before caving in and telling Milo why Nadia can’t do her job. Milo goes back downstairs and gallantly (for him) lets Nadia use his access code. Warning to the writers: Please, these two are not Michelle and Tony and don’t even try to go there.
In yet another seemingly meaningless subplot at the detention center, we’re getting more of the same (sort of a broad view of the rights of Muslims across the social, economic, and political spectrum being objects of discrimination). Walla Walla Walid is still undercover, trying desperately to get info from one guy who smuggled a cellular phone into the detention camp. Sandra (I’m a lawyer and the Prez’s Sister) Palmer is still fighting for his rights, but it all goes bad when the guys realize Walla stole the cell phone and beat him senseless.
By the way, our gal Chloe determines that there is no bad content on that cell phone (somehow or other Walla was able to transmit its contents to CTU). Now, this brings me to an even more important matter here. Because of this subplot mania, if you will, our intrepid CTU computer geek gal is being seriously cut from the picture. I really want and need more Chloe-Jack time (and that usually means Jack talking to her in the field on his cell phone). I am really hoping that gets back to its usual level soon, because I am tiring of these others who wouldn’t know how to taser a pesty drunk guy in the bar or wield an M-16 like our Chloe.
Of course, the final (and most important) skeleton in the closet has to do with the Bauer family, Jack's until now unknown brother and father (and former girlfriend and her son). These people have helped to shape the Jack Bauer we know, and his antagonism toward Grim obviously emanates from something far deeper than the current issue of nukes. This also connects the extended metaphor of skeletons in closets used throughout the show to illustrate hidden agendas (Twitchy and Karen), loyalties (Milo & Nadia and Karen & Bill), clandestine promises (Twitchy and Little Bro), that go far beyond the phantom Bauer family.
Jack’s search (with a reluctant Grim dragged along for the ride) for Charley and his computer brings them to yet another mysterious office building. Outside there are CTU personnel sitting in a car as sentries, and we get a quick glimpse of them and know they’re going down (just like those extras who used to beam down with Kirk on Star Trek). Jack quickly finds the computer but its files have already been compromised.
This is when we have the Shakespearean moment we have been waiting for all throughout the episode: Jack encounters his father. Is the old man mad in a King Lear-like way (his hair looks worse than Trump’s)? Or is this a case of something like Hamlet facing his father’s ghost, learning a necessary and compellingly ugly truth about family, life, and his place in the world? It may be a little of them all as Jack’s Dad begs for his other son's life (though the idea of Grim going to prison is such a pleasant thought).
There is a brief father-son reunion, but it is tempered by time and the situation at hand. It does not seem at all plausible that this wealthy Phillip (Stretch Cunningham) Bauer would be taking on security guards assigned by Grim and lying in wait for Charley. It does set up this magnificent moment when Jack is once again torn between family and duty, but he quickly straightens his back and knows Grim made the wrong choice and millions of people can’t die in order to protect him.
This is when Grim becomes Edmund (King Lear’s bastard son) and sets the guards upon Jack and Stretch. Who needs the word “legitimate” anyway, right? Grim reveals himself as the evil person the viewer has known him to be (connecting the dramatic irony begun in last week’s show). Jack and Stretch are handcuffed and dragged off to a van as we see the dead CTU agents in their cars. Which brings up an important point: how many totally inept CTU agents have been killed over the last six seasons? Anyone with numbers please let me know.
The episode ends with Grim driving off, no doubt to get back to Trophy and see if he can beat President Logan in the quickie department. Jack and Stretch are loaded into a van to be taken off to certain death (yeah, right). We know that Charley has found someone to help Clean with the nukes, that Karen is on a plane home to LA to fall into the arms of her man Bill, and our Three Amigos will no doubt be even more annoying next week. Finally, we must assume that Twitchy (fresh off his victory of ridding himself of Karen) is probably celebrating back in his office with the blow-up doll in his closet, having a very meaningful discussion about skeletons.
Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!