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''24'': Kim returns, Edgar leaves

On ”24,” when CTU headquarters comes under nerve-gas attack, the beloved Edgar dies, and the not-so-beloved Kim returns

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24, C. Thomas Howell, ...


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”24”: Kim returns, Edgar leaves

Let’s start at the end: Edgar is dead. Or as I probably should write, given the inventiveness of 24: Edgar is dead (?). Although Fox probably decided to run two episodes back to back because of some programming traffic jam (I don’t watch American Idol anymore, but I’m sure that gleaming load of crap had something to do with it), the two hours (5 to 7 p.m. in 24 time) flowed beautifully and really maintained suspense while introducing a lot of new developments. Foremost among these was Edgar’s collapse from exposure to the nerve gas leaked into CTU headquarters, witnessed by a horrified Chloe, as well as by Jack Bauer and others, in a sealed-off room in CTU headquarters. If Edgar is really gone, he went out a hero. (In the first hour, he was the one who figured out that the terrorists’ ”schematics” matched those of the hospital where the nerve gas was heading.) And here’s to Louis Lombardi, who played the socially awkward, polite techie with ever-increasing subtlety.

Now, back to what led up to this. Fox’s 24 night commenced with a familiar, if damaged face, that of Tony Almeida, who emerged from his coma wanting to know where his wife, Michelle, was; learning of her death, he collapsed. Later, when told by Buchanan that the person responsible was probably Peter Weller’s Henderson, Tony got good and angry — you know the writers are going to have to work hard not to have Tony burst in on the now-captured Henderson and kill him before Jack can extract more info from the iron-willed Henderson.

Speaking of whom, it turned out he’s married to JoBeth Williams, whose character Jack shot in the leg to try and get Henderson to talk. Poor JoBeth — whatta way to make a show-biz comeback; I’m sure this wasn’t in her career plan back when she was bopping around to Motown oldies in The Big Chill.

The aftermath of last week’s motorcade escapade was inevitable: First Lady Martha gave her hubby the cold shoulder. Then, in a very oddly toned scene for this series, she expressed gratitude to Agent Pierce for gunning down the attackers. The sight of Martha squeezing Pierce’s hand in a more-than-merely-thankful gesture (a moment interrupted and witnessed by adviser Mike) was weird and out-of-nowhere. Maybe I’m reading too much into this — I guess if you’re in shock after an attack, you reach out to the person who saved you, but any time 24 locks into realism, as opposed to heightened realism, the results seem forced or odd, or foreshadowing of something more to come. Martha and Agent Aaron an item? Stranger things have happened during a presidency — just ask Bill Clinton. Anyway, by the second hour, Martha had bigger things on her mind: trying to persuade the president not to heed the advice of his vice president (Twin Peaks‘ Ray Wise), who wants to impose martial law in the gas-threatened area while not calling it ”martial law” and therefore circumventing congressional approval. Gee, sounds like the kind of law- and definition-twisting that goes on in real life.

Oh, yeah, before I forget: Sean Astin’s Lynn had his moment of humbleness, begging Buchanan to let him call his druggie sister and her boyfriend to, in turn, beg for his CTU key card. We saw the boyfriend get shot by Viktor the Floppy-Haired Blond Terrorist, who then shot Jenny, but off-camera, always a warning flare in 24 — it suggests she may not be dead.

Hour 2 reintroduced Jack’s daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert), now accompanied by a creepy boyfriend, a ”clinical psychologist” played by a reed-thin C. Thomas Howell in a devilish goatee. (Is this a step up or down from 1986’s Soul Man?) Kim took the news of her father’s not being dead the way Kim takes everything: with the blank face of moronic semi-comprehension. When she told her father, ”I can’t give you what you want right now,” you can’t help thinking that she doesn’t mean love but a believable performance. I sense that Howell’s pushy boyfriend is going to enable a Kim subplot; I can’t say I’m looking forward to it.

It’s too bad that Weller’s Henderson character is strapped to a table, being injected with some kind of torture serum. It means a couple of things: Jack’s interrogation methods (which Henderson taught him when he enlisted Jack in the CTU cause) have failed, and who wants Jack to fail? It also means Henderson isn’t in on all the action and chaos that’s occurring now that CTU has been nerve-gassed; it would be nice to see some tension between Jack and Henderson in the midst of this crisis, because the layering of suspense and emotion is what 24 is all about.

So what do you think? Is Edgar definitely dead, and if so, how do you feel about losing this essential character? Just how sinister or manipulative or benevolent is Kim’s psychologist boyfriend? And do you care that Kim is back? Let it all out, people.