”24”: C’mon, Audrey — give Jack a break!
24 has given me some of my favorite TV moments over the past four years — most of them involving Jack Bauer and a highly unethical if not illegal application of force. (Season 2: ”Get me a hacksaw” = chillingly cool.) But last night’s episode offered a killer sequence that vaulted to the front of my favorite moments line — and neither Jack nor a hacksaw was involved. I am speaking, of course, of Chloe going Linda Hamilton/Sigourney Weaver on terrorist scum. 24 has never been the most progressive of TV shows when it comes to women, and giving them weapons and letting them pump a few rounds of lead isn’t the most creative way to render them ”strong.” But as a general rule, snarky computer analysts with mousy looks and Big Ass Guns totally rock!!
At the same time, I kept hoping one of her bullets would glance off the grill of her would-be assassin’s car, travel across town to CTU HQ, and burrow a snug little home between the eyes of Jack’s girlfriend, Audrey, a.k.a. the daughter of Mr. Whatever Happened to the Character Played by William Devane? For the umpteenth time this season, Audrey busted Jack’s nads for breaking the law (again!) and approximately 212 different civil liberties for the sake of the quote-unquote ”greater good.” She did this right as Action Jack was about to go risk his hide (again!) to bring The Mummy to justice. (”Sorry, honey, I know this is a bad time, what with you trying to save the country and all, but… may I make you feel like an Ashcroftian/Patriot Act-era cautionary tale monster for a second?”) I looked up the word ”supportive” in my Guide to a Good Girlfriend reference book, and there was her picture, and the word ”No.” The show is making it ridiculously easy not to miss her when the inevitable hour arrives that Jack finally does save the day, but Audrey dumps him with the old ”At what cost victory? Your very soul?” speech. (That one always hurts. Touché, womankind!) Hopefully, Jack will respond, ”Actually, it’s only costing me our relationship… and I’m thinking ‘No great loss.”’
As always, last night’s 24 was all about answering the age-old question, ”How do you respond under pressure — or at least, under a maddeningly petty bureaucracy and imminent nuclear annihilation?” When it comes to newly installed President Logan, the answer is, ”Like Bambi locked in the headlights of a bullet train.” With precious time ticking away, Prez Wimp thought about whether he should let Jack torture information out of a terror suspect and ultimately decided, ”Errrrr… let me consult my attorney general.” (If this fictional administration is anything like our real-life administration, I can only imagine what the AG would say.) When he found out Jack went ahead and pistol-whipped The Mummy’s location out of the guy anyway, Logan got all bug-eyed huffy (”I’ll teach him for defying my knock-kneed indecisiveness!”) and ordered the Secret Service to pull Jack off the mission — at the worst possible moment, natch — and send him to his room for a time-out.
By the time Logan finally came around to realizing he’s making all the wrong moves, I thought: 1. ”Can you forward some of your enlightenment over to Audrey?” and 2. ”Boy, what this country needs right now is a six-episode guest-arc by Dennis Haysbert reprising his role as President David Palmer.” And that’s exactly what happened! It’s almost like I read about it in an entertainment magazine. Logan’s chief of staff Mike Novick called his old boss, and said the equivalent of: ”Hey, I know I betrayed you — you know, that whole bloodless-coup thing a couple seasons back (I apologized for that, right?) — but think you can come over here and give me a hand running the country?”
And with that, the gang’s all here again. Tony. Michelle. And now, Palmer. 24 began the season a stripped-down version of its old self, with only Jack remaining. But slowly, surely, all the old parts have been put back into this jalopy, and I have to say, the strategy has worked: The show’s running better than ever. I can’t wait for the warm-and-fuzzy final scene of the season, when Jack, Tony, Michelle, and Palmer go to the bar and pound back some brews and we fade out on a freeze-frame of their laughing faces, as if one of them had just made yet another side-splitting funny at the expense of poor Boss Hogg.
1. If The Mummy is so smart, why didn’t he ask the DJ at the disco to turn down the music when he recorded his ”People of America, listen to me — I Am The Mummy!” videotape? I picture a copy of the video landing on Peter Jennings’ desk, him popping it in the machine and saying, ”Man, this is probably a really important message being issued by a really dangerous terrorist… but I can’t hear a damn thing he’s saying over that club music crap!”
2. If The Mummy is so smart, why does he insist on hiring flunkies with highly unstable personal lives that are bound to combust just as his plans reach a critical juncture? (See: the paranoid-suspicious girlfriend in L.A. who discovers her terrorist boyfriend’s ”secret life” by checking his computer bookmarks.) (Memo to self: Edit computer bookmarks.)
Post your thoughts about these questions — and your reactions to Chloe the Avenger, David Palmer’s return, and the latest episode — below.