”24”: Invading hostile territory
I’m not sure that Martha Logan stabbing former president Logan with her kiwi-cutting fruit knife qualifies as ”the most shocking moment in 24 history,” as the Fox announcer rumbled over the closing credits of the House rerun last night — or could he have been referring to the fact that this was the most action-packed hour in 24 history that included so little of Jack Bauer? This really interesting episode pushed Jack to the sidelines with his usual set of problems — he’s trapped in a confined space (the Russian consulate); he’s trying to get intel to CTU but is thwarted repeatedly; he’s taken a couple of people hostage. (In order to get a phone, he issued the odd, nonthreat threat that ”I have no intention of hurting either of you, but if you don’t cooperate, I will kill you.” Huh?)
Meanwhile, look who’s doing all the heavy plot lifting. There’s Ricky Schroder, who was introduced in a classic 24, tough-guy manner as CTU agent Mike Doyle. Ricky/Mike stormed the sleepy CTU offices and provided some very necessary shake-ups, putting the ineffectual Milo in his place with a few terse words (these two are enemies because Milo thinks Mike was ”a jerk” when they were ”in Denver”) and, praise be, grabbing Morris by the throat to literally strangle his unending stream of increasingly pointless sarcasm. Since we can probably assume that Mike Doyle represents the gung ho, can-do manner favored by 24 cocreator Joel Surnow (this week’s coscripter), I’m guessing we’re going to have to admire Mike in a Dirty Harry sort of way. (We get off on his no-bull, action-hero decisiveness, even if he turns out to be a tad fascistic.) In any case, welcome aboard, Ricky/Mike — mighty glad to have you; stick around for the rest of the season!
The other unlikely agent of narrative momentum last night was Charles Logan himself. It was his idea of contacting and then visiting Martha that brought Jean Smart back into the series, along with Glenn Morshower’s Aaron Pierce. Smart was wonderful in every moment she had: She conveyed her post-breakdown, institutionalized life with the contrast between the tightness in her voice and her tender manner toward Pierce. She had precious little time to go through all the stages of rage, fear, and revulsion upon seeing Charles Logan, but she really pulled off every one of those emotions. If the plotting here was a bit of wobbly connect-the-dots — Consul Markov needs to be ordered by the president of Russia to give it up to the U.S., and the way to Pres. Yuri Suvarov is via his wife, Anya, who became chummy with Martha during day 5 — well, that’s okay; that’s 24 logic we not only can live with but actually kind of enjoy, right?
Enjoyable, too, was Powers Boothe finally emitting a few full-throated growls as the vice president, now in control of the government, bullying Tom Lennox into lying about Assad’s role in the bomb blast, inveighing against ”these terrorist lunatics,” mocking American citizens who say, ”Look how bad we are….We’re worse than the terrorists!” and cutting off Lennox’s feeble protests with a harsh ”I’m still talkin’!” Way to go, Powers that be! (By the way, did you notice that the veep said ”your country” to the Middle Eastern ambassador at least five times in one scene, thereby never identifying his country as Iraq or Iran or whatever evil-axis country the producers want us to believe we’re tussling with?)
There was even a Chloe Classic Moment last night: When she had to go into the CTU room where Logan was being detained to tinker with a computer, she engaged the ex-prez in some awkward conversation and then abruptly shut him down with ”Sorry, I’m feeling ambivalent — I’m gonna go.” It’s as if the writers suddenly remembered how to write for Chloe: She has to articulate with stiff propriety and frankness the inner thoughts other characters have but don’t reveal. In this case, everybody feels a creepy ambivalence toward the new Chuck Colson-like, ”reborn” Charles Logan; his moist-eyed stare makes everyone want to grope for the nearest doorknob and scram.
The episode culminated in the neat meshing of a moment that means quite a bit to us fans (the Martha-Charles knife stab, which leaves doubt as to whether Logan will survive it) with the grand machinations of the overarching plot: As Fayed said, ”This drone is ready to launch. Arm the bomb.” Jack — remember Jack? — had finally relayed the info that Gredenko and his minions are in Shadow Valley, so I guess that’s the next stop on Ricky/Mike and Jack’s itinerary. And the coming attractions suggest that there’s a mole in CTU leaking information to the enemy. Can you believe it — a mole in CTU? Where’d they ever get that idea? Oh, well — I’m not going to end this on a sour note. Finally, some good 24 action, with the promise of more to come. And some time before the day is over, could Ricky/Mike please grab Milo by the throat and give him a good shake, too?
What do you think? Are you looking forward to more Schroder? Is Logan going to die? And if you were Martha’s ex-husband, would you trust her with a knife?