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''24'': Presidential collision course

On ”24,” the vice president tries to launch the nuke against Fayed’s country as Palmer wakes up

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Kelsey McNeal


TV Show
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In Season

”24”: Presidential collision course

Talk about your miracles of modern medicine: Turns out if you put Wayne Palmer in a coma, then slowly bring him out of it, he emerges from his mental fog a firmer thinker, a more decisive Commander-in-Chief, than he ever was before. At least, that was one of the many cheerful improbabilities thrown at us last night on 24, which is rapidly coming to resemble a kind of afternoon-soap-opera version of the thinking person’s action show we know and love. Severely wounded characters suddenly lucid; key characters smooching in CTU: It’s General 24 Hospital, or 24 Lives to Live, or As the 24 Turns.

Or maybe Of Mice and 24: What the H-E-double-hockey-sticks was up with the sudden introduction of Brady? This nice young man is apparently an autistic savant who’s one-third Lenny, one-third Rain Man, and one-third Andy Richter. Brady helped his brother Mark (hey, it’s the guy who played Brian Krakow in My So-Called Life!) give Gredenko the security codes that the garrulous Russian needed for the terrorists’ next target, a nuclear-power plant. This sort of out-of-nowhere introduction of characters who’ll probably soon be dropped is more in keeping with the beginning of your average 24 season, when we’ve come to expect there will be a few marginal information givers or innocent bystanders who’ll be put in harm’s way just long enough for Jack to use ’em and lose ’em. (Among many examples: Diane Huxley and her son, Derek — she was played by Connie Britton, now the mom on Friday Night Lights, but at the start of last season, she was Jack’s oh-so-momentary love interest.) Using disposable characters like Brady and Brian Krakow when we’re well into the second half of a 24 season suggests a major plotline that’s still on the wobbly side. I mean, if they’re going to pull in someone fast and at random, couldn’t the writers have dreamed up a way to get, oh, maybe someone we know and like, such as Agent Aaron Pierce, back in action, after reintroducing him a few hours/weeks ago?

Oh, well. Back at CTU, some guy named Johnson (am I groggy, or has this fellow not had enough lines to earn his SAG card before last night?) came up with evidence that Nadia wasn’t the mole. But she wasn’t freed before we saw Ricky Schroder/Mike Doyle pull one of his I’m-a-manly-man, she’s-guilty-until-proven-innocent stalling tactics, meant to increase our mistrust and dislike of him. (I dunno, I’m still clinging to the idea that no matter what happened in Denver — again with the ominous Denver references last night! — we’re being played about Ricky/Mike; I’ll stick my neck out and say I bet he ends this 24 season a stalwart hero, fighting valiantly side-by-side with Jack.)

Nadia and Milo confirmed their ”friendship” by first having a spat and then kissing passionately in full view of Chloe and, one can only guess from the camera angles, about half the CTU staff. Once this day is over, I’d recommend to whoever is the Commander-in-Chief left standing that he totally overhaul CTU, by now a hotbed of non-professionalism. If Bill Buchanan and his wife, Karen, leave the unit, Chloe and Morris will actually be the least dysfunctional, most efficient CTU-ers left.

I’m spending time talking about relationships because, as you probably noticed, not much happened last night. Nadia not mole: check. President woken to try and thwart the loony vice president: check. Doyle acts tough: check. Jack (making once again what amounts to a cameo appearance on his own show) and his men shoot guns: check. And we end with Powers Boothe in full Dr. Strangelove mode, overriding the president and ending the hour with the words ”Get me the attorney general!” The best thing about 24 being fiction is that it’s unlikely that the AG will turn out to be ”special guest star Alberto Gonzales” next week.

Speaking of next week, I loved what I think I heard that evil minx, the vice president’s aide Lisa, whisper to the veep during the coming attractions: Wasn’t it ”The ends justify the means”? It would only make the 24 soap opera even sudsier if Vice President Daniels and Lisa prove to be an evil couple intent on ruling the world….

What do you think? Do you trust Doyle? Now that Jack has Gredenko in custody, will he get Fayed too? Will 24 eventually circle back to the conspiracy surrounding Jack’s his father? (Remember Jack’s father?) And just how long will Wayne Palmer remain lucid and decisive?