After stepping off a Chinese transport plane nine hours ago, Jack Bauer’s life has gone from terrible to horrendous. Think about what he has experienced: being placed in a hostage situation in which he would be tortured and killed, having to save a known terrorist and then having to kill a colleague in order to save said terrorist, finding out his brother orchestrated the assassinations of his good friends, and watching a nuclear device explode and kill thousands of people.
This heavy load borders on the most horrific and truly cruel moments a television character has ever had to endure, and that is just this season. The increasing toll is evident in Jack’s demeanor and he seems to be pushing the limits this season, almost as if it is a struggle to make it through every agonizing minute.
Still, for someone like Jack Bauer, days are not meant to be categorized in the casual terminology of “have a nice day” or anything close to it. Jack has been trained to endure suffering, take the pain, and achieve the objective. In last night’s double episodes, Jack‘s life is once again on the line. It does not matter how many times he has given; he still has to find a way to do it again.
Admittedly, this is hard for 24 fans who are waiting for the opportunity to see Jack eventually enjoy something (even a ham sandwich, for what it’s worth). We also know that Jack is up to the challenge because he cannot conceive of not being there. Even his earlier attempt to quit this season fizzled in the heat of the extraordinary events that propelled him forward. Jack soldiers on to fight not for just a cause or the country but more for the concept of why people climb mountains: because it is there.
A good deal happened in the two hours seen last night, but I am not going to do a recap of each episode. Instead, I’d like to review the sum of the parts, which are fascinating shards of the shattered glass of the plotline. The writers have been playing it tough this year, making us work for the pleasure of viewing the nuclear carnage and the race to stop more of it from happening. It is a perverse pleasure to be sure, enjoying the charnel house atmosphere while at the same time hoping that there will be a way to stop the death and destruction. Oh, Jack Bauer is on the scene , so we know everything will be okay. Or do we?
Last night another nuclear suitcase almost detonated. Only due to Jack’s grit and determination did the bomb not go off, but watching him defuse the damn thing was nerve-wracking to say the least. His fingers are no longer steady (thanks to the Chinese torture that is evident from the scarred skin on his hands). Jack is following Chloe’s instructions to stop the bomb, but he can barely steady the screwdriver to click off the right tabs inside the housing to disrupt the trigger. He does finally get it right, but for a moment it really seems that he will not.
We got a good deal more of Chloe last night. She does a good job of worrying about her ex-husband Morris (Yul Brenner) O’Brian, who is being drilled in the back by Abu (Mr. Clean) Fayed who wants him to set the triggers to detonate the nukes. It’s a surreal scene watching one bald guy torturing another. It could start an entire new reality series if anyone can find enough bald guys: Torturing with the Bald Stars or something of that nature. Morris succumbs to the torture when he sees Meter Maid Rita get blown away because she doesn’t want the $7 million dollar finder's fee. Meter got all brave and shot Charley McCarthy when she thought she could get rich quick but, after watching Clean filet Yul with a drill as long as a yard stick, Meter just wants to get the flock out of there. Clean kills her and Yul decides that there will be no “etcetera, etcetera” for him and agrees to program the triggers.
At the White House Tom (Twitchy) Lennox is ready to throw in the towel. His “agenda” has been completely rejected by Prez Wayne, so Twitchy figures he should get out and go far away. There to stop him is Reed (Rob Lowe’s little bro) who bends with the winds of change as the situation dictates. Little Bro calls some guy with slick black hair (who obviously has taken on Graem’s role as puppet master this season), and later on we see Black Hair talking to the Russian general Gredenko. We become aware that this conspiracy goes at least into the White House and perhaps to the VP (Jim Jones) himself.
Jack’s father Phillip is doing his best Darth Bauer moves as he basically kidnaps his grandson Josh and drags him off to a hotel. As I’ve mentioned before, there seems to be nothing stopping anyone from driving all over the city in the wake of a nuclear blast. It would seem to make sense that some kind of curfew was in place, but right now the roads are free and clear.
Darth calls Marilyn (Graem’s Trophy Wife) and tells her that if she gives up anything, Josh (looking a lot like a young Luke Skywalker) is dead. She thought she remembered the place where Gredenko is staying, but Trophy knows that Darth killed his son and can easily kill his grandson too. The ramifications of such ruthlessness are obvious in that they are no doubt the motivation of Jack’s subconscious desire to purge his guilt through incessantly offering up his own life in order to pay for the sins of the father. Jack knows without knowing, or perhaps he knows much more than he's willing to even admit to himself.
After Jack rescues Yul from the thugs, he returns to CTU and goes to the medical unit (fans of the show know this is more dangerous than jumping from a plane without a parachute). Yul gets patched up and Chloe tries to give him support, but Yul feels he broke and is disgusted with himself. Of course, any normal guy would have broken the second Clean pressed that power drill into his shoulder, so Yul really has nothing to be ashamed of. Certainly Jack would have withstood it, and we know that Yul knows that (hang in with me here) Chloe knows that. It’s tough being in Jack’s shadow.
The end of the second episode of the night leaves us with some interesting conflicts and dynamics. The old Russian general is not caught and musing about the Arabs getting the blame for his actions. Jack has been told by Trophy that she was trying to leave Graem and thinking about him (okay, Jack, the girl is throwing herself at you now). Darth has Luke and is ready to kill him, and Yul is nursing his Swiss cheese shoulder and wounded ego (hey, last year he was a shoe salesman). Most of all, we have Clean running around with three nukes and now he has the triggers. It would seem with all these subplots converging that we are moving toward the next mini-climax very shortly, and I for one cannot wait.
Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!