What has been obvious this season is the pains the writers and directors have been taking with character development. Certain ones like Karen (Hillary) Hayes, Tom (Cheney) Lennox, Walid (Walla Walla) have been especially well fleshed out, allowing us to see not only good acting but the importance of their involvement in the plotline. Most of all, our hero Jack Bauer has been given a chance to shine, and the background being provided about his phantom family is giving actor Kiefer Sutherland a way to display a depth of emotions and flashes of anger and frustration that are welcome and quite commendable.
The key to all these things coming together is that the history of the Bauer Bunch (Here’s the story/of a man named Bauer/who was bringing up two wild and wacky boys?) is more than relevant in season six; it is a window into the entire narrative arc of the last five seasons of 24. By exploring these murky paternal and fraternal waters, we are coming to understand what pushed Jack into loving his wife and child so much, why fighting to keep them alive and together was so important and, in the aftermath of Teri’s (his wife) death at the end of season one, how Jack fell deeper and deeper into a dark chasm away from a normal life.
Last night’s episode focused on fraternal and filial relationships: Morris (Yul Brenner) O’Brian and his brother (not seen and not likely to be) Timothy, Jack and Graem (Grim), and of course the complicated dynamic between Jack, Graem, and their father Phillip (Stretch Cunningham from the old comedy classic All in the Family). There is also another crucial fraternal interaction happening between Prez Wayne Palmer and his deceased brother David. Prez Wayne seems to be getting a backbone (at least judging from last night’s episode) that is remarkably like his brother’s, making him able to withstand the slings and arrows of Cheney, the heretofore unseen VP (Jim Jones), and others in his Cabinet. This is a welcome move for the character as he stands up for what is right despite so much pressure to embrace what seems inherently wrong (and un-American) in order to save the country.
At the start of the episode, Cheney is excited about his victory over Hillary. She is reluctantly leaving and returning to husband Bill Buchanan (uh, Hillary and Bill?) in LA. The quick cell phone call between the two shows who wears the pants in that family, and then we see the ever-stoic Bill dealing with the expanding crisis at hand in CTU.
This week the Milo-Nadia-Morris triumvirate thing seemed to take the back burner to the team actually doing some work. Chloe was a bit more involved in this episode, trying to find a way to tell Morris that his brother was hurt in the nuclear blast and is in the hospital. Morris is attempting to crack the riddle of just whom (Charley) McCarthy is setting up to help Abu (Mr. Clean) Fayed arm his remaining nukes. Nadia is briefly seen walking around with files. Nothing against the gal, but I miss Michelle Dessler walking around with files in her arms and glancing at Tony.
Meanwhile, Graem has his father and brother driven to yet another abandoned construction site where it seems they are about to take a bath in concrete. Jack doesn’t waste any time taking out one of the thugs, and Stretch is right behind him. For good measure Stretch shoots the guy Jack has disarmed, and this annoys the son because he wanted to question said thug (at least we got to hear Jack say “Damn it” afterwards; all you Damn It Gamers drink up).
Soon another CTU Tac team assembles at Graem’s mansion. Once inside, Jack gets Graem to drop a weapon and then calls in the always reliable interrogator (and torture expert) Burke. Good old Burke comes prepared with his little silver box of coaxing tools, and we know Graem is in for a bad time of it. As Burke administers fluid into the drip, we can see Jack is not pleased with torturing his brother. Jack is torn apart inside, but he also must persevere just as he has done so many times before (hey, he even slammed Audrey up against a wall one time when trying to get information).
Finally, Jack does get a brief moment to talk to his former flame, Graem’s wife Marilyn. Much to her surprise, all of this rigmarole has nothing to do with her (the girl even looks slightly disappointed). She also looks lovely and frustrated and, yet when pressed, seems fully aware of just what kinds of evil things her husband is capable of doing. Jack allows Marilyn and son Josh (gee, that kid is awfully tall to be Graem’s son or did he just inherit his height from Stretch?) to leave. As Marilyn and Josh leave the house, Josh runs up to Stretch and gets a hug. Marilyn warns the old guy not to let Josh be dragged into this. Hmm…
As the incredible torture session gets into full swing, Jack wants information about Charley and the nukes, but Graem starts letting it go about last season’s events (which the viewer well knows he orchestrated). He admits being behind the conspiracy to kill David Palmer, Tony, and Michelle. Jack is almost not certain how to handle this; it comes as a surprise and yet not as much as he (or the viewer) might think. It is obvious that Graem has always been capable of doing despicable things (which he alludes to trying to get Jack to do as a kid to no avail).
Back at CTU, Yul has done his job and now wants to go visit his brother. Unfortunately, just after Morris leaves the office, the face of the target programmer for the nuke triggers comes up on the screen. Chloe is surprised to see that it is Morris. They try to reach him, but Charley has already abducted Morris at gunpoint and is bringing him to Mr. Clean to do the dirty work. Nice twist. Can’t wait to have those two bald guys in the same room.
Burke is packing up his goody bag and ready to leave. Jack sits with his father and Stretch apologizes to him. Jack doesn’t deserve this family. Jack, it seems, was the chosen one but left to free himself of the Bauer Bunch, thus making it necessary for Stretch to turn things over to Number Two Son. Jack and Stretch have their moment, and then Jack is off to CTU. Stretch asks for a few minutes alone with Grim and closes the door softly.
We’re not certain at this point whether or not Stretch is bad, but we quickly realize that Grim has been doing Daddy’s dirty work. Grim claims to have withstood Jack’s best, giving only up the information about last season’s plot and nothing more (looking for some kind of affirmation from Dad right up until the last moment). Stretch (obviously thirsty and wanting to go down to Kelsey’s Bar for a beer with Arch) is not buying it. He claims plans change and pumps some juice into the drip, causing Grim to shake violently and fall limp (one day Daddy had more than just a hunch/so he killed his older son Graem/now there’s one less in the Bauer Bunch). Way to go, Stretch.
Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!