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''24'': Cheng goes on the offensive

On ”24,” Cheng’s commandos seize control of CTU in search of little Josh Bauer; meanwhile, the office romances get stickier

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24, Kiefer Sutherland
24: Kelsey McNeal

24

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season

”24”: Cheng goes on the offensive

Before I get into last night’s episode, I think it’s time we all took a deep cleansing breath. Inhale: Yes, this season of 24 has been disappointing. Exhale: Creating first-rate television is extremely difficult, and I’d imagine when you’re on a runaway train like 24, it’s even harder to stop, shift gears, lay track for new destinations, whatever the right metaphor is for ”being as exciting as season 5.” At this point, I have read, as you probably have, some recent comments by the show’s producers acknowledging that they not only hear you fans but also hear their own hearts and minds, and they know that things can be done differently next season. Jolly good for them; I am already totally on board for another season (the essential 24 premise still seems sturdy to me), and I look forward to coming at next season’s inevitable reboot with all the clear-minded enthusiasm I can muster.

Man, that was the longest exhale ever.

Now then: Holy crap — Milo’s dead, and Nadia didn’t say one word when he literally took the fall for her! Isn’t that one definition of treason, not owning up to being the leader in a situation that threatens the American people and their government? (You think Bill Buchanan would have sat there, mute, while Milo took a bullet?) Yet the scene played out as if we were supposed to look at it as just a romantic scenario gone terribly wrong.

Talk about mixed emotions; I really could not have cared less about Milo’s continued existence after the staggeringly boring, adolescent scene in which he told Nadia that he’d noticed the way she was looking at Doyle and then Nadia was like, ”I don’t know what I feel,” and Milo was like, ”It’s okay,” but, like, you knew it totally wasn’t. Oh, my Lord, no dialogue could have been worse, could — oh, wait, yes, there was worse dialogue, just a few seconds before, when Chloe and Morris kept yammering about their ”breakup” and how they had to stay apart no matter how much Chloe was yearning for the chrome-domed computer guy, because Morris said she’d always be thinking of him aiding the terrorists and she’d ”never be able to get past” that memory. Gee, ya think?

Then there was the whole getting-Lisa-to-try-and-fool-Mark Bishop thing: What a waste of minutes that was. I felt like Noah Daniels: Who cares that this woman was nervous about pulling the scheme off? Were we actually supposed to experience feelings of suspense as she played coy with the Russian spy, pulling away from him only to tumble onto the bed stripped to her bra? I felt as if I were being forced to watch some wretched piece of Bavarian-made soft-core porn.

All this junk led up to the only moments of genuine interest. Yes, it was kind of neat that the Chinese had targeted CTU headquarters, but the producers telegraphed that scene much too early by making Jack so compliant in CTU captivity. I figured that if Jack wasn’t going to cause trouble, then the trouble was going to come to Jack, and therefore that’s what all the scampering down ropes and splashing through tunnels by Cheng’s men meant — and as I’ve said in the past, I hardly ever foresee any plot twists in thrillers, so I’m sure all of you were at least three steps ahead of me.

The return of Phillip Bauer would have been a nice surprise — if James Cromwell hadn’t been listed in the opening credits. (Ditto the reverse: We knew that Kim Raver and William Devane had taken the Heller-copter to Logan limbo when their names didn’t appear in the credits.)

So Phillip gave Cheng the CTU codes he needed in return for Josh. His final words: ”Call me when I can talk to the boy.” In the coming attractions, we saw Phillip telling the towheaded lad that he’s going to take him away from ”this ungrateful country” to China. Given the fact that so many times this particular season, motives have turned on personal obsessions, on family secrets, I’m finally (I know, it takes me forever: finally!) willing to agree with a lot of you who think Josh is Jack’s son. (This idea was foreshadowed earlier in the hour, when Marilyn Bauer told a despairing Josh, ”You are not your father,” which could be read as ”That runty mean bald guy was not your father — the uncle who has hair somewhat similar if rather shorter and thinner than yours is your father.”)

Or, I dunno, is there a semi-Chinatown thing going on here? Maybe Phillip had a kid with Marilyn? In any case, let’s go Big Picture on this point: Is Josh any reason for Phillip to have committed all the crimes he has? I could believe Phillip aiming for world domination or massive, unspeakable wealth, but he seems too heartless to give a hoot about another human being, unless Josh has accidentally swallowed the codes for Russian, Chinese, and American nuclear weapons and the secret cure for the common cold, and Phillip wants to open up the kid on a very special crossover episode of House.

Help me out here. With only two episodes to go, I need your theories and opinions so we can bounce them around. Did you think the Chloe-Morris stuff was as lame as I did? Did you feel so much as a pang when Milo hit the floor? Did you like the Chinese burrowing into CTU? Just what do you think is Josh’s parentage and Phillip’s motive? And — seriously — do you think in the remaining three hours we’re really going to find out about the fates of President Palmer and the Logans, the status of Karen Hayes and Bill Buchanan and that fabulous romantic twosome of Sandra Palmer and Walid Al-Rezani, and the well-being of Audrey? Did I express my optimism regarding next season too soon?