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''24'': Breaking some more laws

On ”24,” Jack breaks into a foreign consulate, tortures a diplomat, and gets taken prisoner, while the rest of the federal government spins its wheels

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24, Kiefer Sutherland
24: Kelsey McNeal


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”24”: Breaking some more laws

After last week’s sermon on faith, 24 was back to this season’s usual method of operations: torture. No, I’m not just talking about Jack snipping the Russian consul’s pinkie with that cigar cutter (you sharp-eyed posters were right when you pointed out that tool in the previous hour’s coming attractions) — I’m talking about torturing us.

In the rockiest, lumpiest season of 24 to date, this was another herky-jerky episode. I mean, it’s not as if I were asking 24 to make sense — if I were, I’d have to ask why Reed told that football-headed goon Carson that he didn’t want to kill Tom Lennox because ”we’re not murderers,” when, of course, Reed was keeping Lennox tied up so he wouldn’t spoil Reed’s plan to murder the president.

And if I were demanding sense from 24, I’d have to criticize, rather than merely chuckle at, a Jack Bauer who has been reduced to bringing ex-prez Logan to the Russian consulate and agreeing to let him meet with Consul Markov alone because, Jack said, he’ll be waiting ”right outside the door.” The door, Jack? You gotta figure a big fancy joint like the Russian consulate has a few back doors, don’t you, Jack? In fact, you went around the back of the grand house yourself just a few minutes later to try and get to Markov. Oh, Jack, Jack, Jack…

If not sense, then at least give us some interesting characterization, right? As fans of both 24 and Powers Boothe, we’ve kept telling ourselves that the booming Deadwood actor was going to finally blow the roof off this sucker of a season once he got control over the presidency, haven’t we? Last night, with Wayne Palmer flat on his back and unconscious (and, incidentally, the horizontal position is the only way you can tell the difference between when Wayne is comatose and when he’s, say, trying to make a tough decision), Boothe’s vice president was rather coolly low-key. A little buggy, sure; power-mad, oh, yes; but Boothe has been handed a scenario so ponderous that he had time to snarl the phrase ”in the best interests of the country” twice in one scene. No, there’s no pulse racing to be done now that the veep is in power. But I’m intrigued by Boothe’s acting ”choices,” as they say in the thespian trade — he’s probably withholding until he really needs to crank it up.

What got accomplished last night? Reed and football-head Carson got arrested, thanks to Lennox, who proved a flawed hero. And Karen Hayes got tired of waiting for her plane to L.A. (Is this the first time in 24 history that any semi-major character has actually been subjected to the kind of routine delays you and I regularly encounter? I suppose I should applaud this rare display of real-time realism: clap, clap!) So while waiting, she chatted with her hubby, Bill Buchanan, who wanted to tell her the equivalent of something like, hey, babe, Wayne’s been shot, that nutter Morris drank some hooch, but, get this, he didn’t metabolize it, hee-hee, and, man, it’s generally crazy around here — how ’bout you? And suddenly Karen gets all, ”I have to go back!” But, but…you resigned, Karen! Aw, ”nothing’s been processed” (was that a dig at lowlier civil servants than CTU employees there?), and so, as far as that whole dramatic, so-many-hours-ago resignation is concerned, shucks, ”technically, I can withdraw” it, she said. As if we as viewers were heavily invested in Karen Hayes coming back and saving the day?

Let’s see, what else? Oh, yeah, remember the Sentox nerve gas two years ago? Turns out it was all part of the wily Russian connection. And Jack learned that Gredenko is planning to launch the remaining nukes via drone aircraft within the next two hours. But while gleaning that, Jack violated the Great Holy Sanctity of Consulate-dom, or whatever is the technical term for this plot device, used previously with the Chinese government. Among the many things that stuck in my craw from last night was the sound of the once-mighty Bill Buchanan begging the vice president to ease up on Jack because Bauer’s extraction of information from Markov was, and I quote, ”our only chance” to stop the nuke detonation. Really, Bill — really? You’re sitting there in CTU with all your vast intelligence team, including Chloe (whose only real task this week, poor kid, was to shut off the electricity in the Russian consulate for a few minutes so Jack could open a door undetected), and Jack is your ”only” chance? Can’t anyone else do anything around here?

Turns out someone can. Jack, as we saw, was overpowered pretty easily by the Russians and taken prisoner in the consulate. But coming to the rescue, according to the previews, is Rick Schroder, looking as fresh and as boyish as if he hadn’t been put through the wringer by Andy Sipowicz just a few years ago on NYPD Blue. Yay, Rick! (Is it too crazy to think that this is what the season is building to — that Kiefer Sutherland’s oft-stated comment that anything can happen on 24, including getting rid of Jack, may prove true, and we’re about to start witnessing the torch being passed, as a physically and spiritually exhausted Jack fades away and Schroder’s fresh-as-a-daisy character becomes the new 24 go-to guy? Yeah, it’s probably too crazy….)

Still — and I know I say this every week now at this point in the TV Watch; I just can’t give up hope for this series, which has brought us all so much pleasure — it looks like there could be some excitement with Schroder’s introduction next week. And the coming attractions made my heart race with anticipation for another reason: Jean Smart’s Martha Logan will be back, with Agent Aaron Pierce at her side, and even from a few seconds’ glimpse, it certainly looks like they’ve become smoochy pals. Meanwhile, as we await what could be a good episode, I urge you to heed the Must List in the current issue of EW and check out this very funny 24-Aqua Teen Hunger Force mash-up. It’s almost as thrilling as this season of the real 24.

What did you think of last night? Did bringing the vice president into the action give you an enjoyable jolt? Do you think the team of Sutherland and Schroder will make for some dandy drama? And are you happy that we’ll be seeing Martha Logan again?