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'24' recap: Don't wear the 'suicide vest' if you don't want to go boom...

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Don’t worry: Lynette Rice is super-busy reporting some entertainment news stories, but she’ll return to doing the 24 TV Watch next week. I volunteered, for just this week, to recap 24, the show I did TV Watches for during its 2006 and 2007 seasons.

This week, we got a literally explosive conclusion to the Marcos as human-time-bomb plot. Marcos proved to be a poignant character (for a would-be terrorist), his confusion and misplaced good heart becoming more apparent with each attempt to manually re-start the bomb ignition system. His anguished talks with his mother (Mare Winningham, making the most of a small role), and his intense focus on what Jack was telling him while Marcos was barricaded inside that oxygen chamber — all this made for good, tense drama.

It’s too bad that the time 24 spends with the Hassan family plays out like mediocre soap opera. this week, too much time was spent watching Omar’s daughter Kayla in that hotel tryst with Tarin Faroush, watching Omar squabble with his wife, watching the wife try to reach her daughter to warn her she was in big trouble.

There’s a level on which this is actually one of the more believable plot-lines this season, in the sense that I’m sure there’s a lot of drama between the members of a powerful family such as the Hassans, lots of damage-control to be done while also formulating political policy and juggling warring elements within one’s own country while trying to appease the United States. (Those eternal peace talks.) But soap opera thrives on the slow revelation of character; 24, on the other hand, thrives on rapid revelations. Thus, I just don’t care about the bratty Kayla, do you?

Meanwhile, back at CTU, Cole and Dana returned downcast and rattled. Why, if a person didn’t know better, one might think they looked as though they’d just killed someone, for pete’s sake. Hastings, who must be one of the most dense intelligence officers to achieve his high rank, said he had “no idea what was going on between you two,” as though they were a couple of truant school-kids caught necking behind the football stadium.

The best stuff here was the sight of Stephen Root (Office Space) as a psycho-looking probation officer looking for Kevin. Driving in a dimly-lit car, Root’s Bill Prady looked as though he’d just escaped from the bar in the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple. Of couse, Dana continues to be so gullible, she (a) takes his call when she should have that cellphone on “Silent” and getting back to work, and (b) immediately caves in to his demand to see her, thus guaranteeing (c) that she’ll soon be making another “I’m just going to the rest room!” excuse to Arlo for another (d) floridly melodramatic scene in which she’ll probably be abducted or worse. All of which, I hasten to say, I’m looking forward to, because this woman is the main source of 24 annual loony-quotient, something the show cannot do without.

Really looking forward to more Stephen Root!

As I said near the top, though, the week’s best stuff, as it should, involved Jack (fine work by Kiefer Sutherland, modulating his intensity to fit negotiation tactics with both Marco and his mother) and that poor-sap kid in the “suicide vest.” The final explosion, the sight of the blood-sprayed door that was proof of Marcos’ death — that was stark and dramatic.

Since I’m only here for a week, I’ll just give you my quick take on this season, which is: It’s not a bad season at all. It’s simply that so many of these scenarios have played out in previous seasons (the bomb that must be defused; the CTU office politics that result in a triumphant-but-frowny Chloe; the foreign dignitaries who prove to have little dignity) that it feels sometimes like a bad season, when in fact it’s just 24 starting to recognize that it’s running out of variations on danger for the man we still want to see every week: mighty Jack Bauer.

Thanks for letting me return to the 24 beat for a week, it’s probably just as well Renee didn’t figure in this episode or I’d have to gush about Annie Wersching’s eyes, and make sure to give Lynette a warm welcome back next week, okay?

Now: What did you think of 24 this week?

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