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''24'': Sometimes it's torture

On ”24,” Morris suffers torture by power tool, Jack’s father continues to manipulate his family, and the season settles into a too-familiar rhythm of twists and turns

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Kelsey McNeal


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In Season

”24”: Sometimes it’s torture

After watching the back-to-back episodes of 24 last night, I’m tempted to say, hoo boy, they cannot bring back Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart fast enough. Or as Jack said in the first hour, ”CTU, this is Bauer — we have a problem.”

The problem is that, by now, we’ve all learned so much of the basic rhythm of 24 storytelling that too many of the twists, double twists, and triple twists can be counted out, like beats in a poem (and given the amount of florid dialogue and pain inflicted on people, the title of this poem should be cribbed from Allen Ginsberg: ”Howl”). For every surprise last night (I didn’t expect Darren McCarthy’s gal pal to shoot him and toss him out of the car), there was a predictable follow-up (I kinda figured Fayed would shoot her rather than hand this woman $7 million — bye-bye, actress Missy Crider).

About the whole let’s-torture-Morris scenario that Fayed carried out: Here’s one terrorist who’s watched Scarface too often. That drill, and the way the camera cut to Morris’ face just as it was about to penetrate his skin — I can’t be the only viewer who had a flashback to the chainsaw-in-the-motel scene, when Al Pacino’s buddy got sliced, am I right? And I guess I was surprised that Morris couldn’t keep his British upper lip stiff enough to withstand the pain, knowing he was going to potentially kill thousands, but didn’t you expect that the wily Brit would do some techno-mumbo-jumbo on the programming device and make Fayed merely think he’d done what the terrorist wanted? (After all, Fayed ain’t no science nerd, obviously.) And I really didn’t think Chloe — our tough, patriotic, hard-nosed Chloe — would let the freed Morris off with a reassuring pat: ”You had to, he was going to kill you.” Not even her later, more classically Chloe-like ”Morris, I know you’ve been through a lot today, but you’re really starting to piss me off!” could entirely redeem that.

Also — and this is all I’ll say about Morris’ torture — if time was so important to Fayed that he hounded McCarthy to come up with someone fast-fast-fast to reprogram the device, why did he say to Morris, brandishing the drill, ”I will use this all over your body…then I will just find someone else” to do the job? At that point, for all Fayed knew, Morris would die rather than betray innocent citizens — seems like a big time waster to me.

I know, I know, I can see your fingers poised over your keyboards: ”It’s just a show — go along for the ride or don’t watch!” Well, sorry: We all have different degrees of suspension-of-disbelief, and these episodes pushed mine to the limit, much of the time. You can’t just go along for the ride if the ride is making squeaky-creaky noises that don’t allow you to enjoy the fantasy of thrills ‘n’ chills.

What did you think about all the plotting against President Palmer? I almost giggled when Tom Lennox snuck into the room marked ”Danger: High Voltage” to have his chat with Reed: It was like something out of a Roadrunner cartoon. I did like the way Chad Lowe’s Reed was using all those mixed-metaphor euphemisms for taking out the prez: ”I’m just a conduit,” not ”the architect of it.” And that very Nixon-era scapegoat phrase: ”plausible deniability.” Again, Roadrunner: Beep-beep! Next stop: Watergate!

And what about the introduction of General Gredenko? Again, he seemed a little cartoony, specifically a little Rocky & Bullwinkle‘s Boris Badenov, to me when he yammered to his henchman, ”My country lost the Cold War because it was afraid to use these weapons!” I thought he might add, ”And Bauer and Assad are Moose and Squirrel — they must die!”

Onto family matters: Marilyn joined a long line of 24 females who dig Jack and are rewarded with only heartache. I’m not just talking about the trap she was put in by Jack’s dad, who threatened the life of her son, Josh, while she drove around with Jack looking for Gredenko’s house. (And don’t get me started on that wild-goose chase: Hmmm, let’s see, it was a couple of months ago, but, yeah, sure, Jack, if you drive me around for a while, I might recognize the house — we’ve got all afternoon, don’t we?) No, my genuinely favorite moment last night, seriously, was when Marilyn asked Jack if she was one of the reasons he left home and enlisted in the military, and Jack snorted almost derisively before giving her a curt ”No.” Done like a true tough-guy nursing a broken heart; bravo, Kiefer.

Well, okay, here’s what I also liked about last night: Gredenko thinks he is going to be able to make the U.S. believe that all this was the doing of ”the Arabs”: nice trick if he can pull that off. I like the fact that Bill Buchanan offered to ”adjust the report” on Jack’s interrogation of Graem and that Jack insisted he not do that: Planting the seeds of more guilt for Jack is always good for this most stressed-out hero. And I still like the evil-father subplot — James Cromwell’s Philip extended this to a solid evil-grandfather subplot, and quite chillingly.

Here’s my bottom line: A mostly frustrating two hours, but we can still look forward to Powers Boothe finally unleashing some truly awesome bad behavior. You just know something suitably awful is going to happen to that weasel Reed, eventually. And as I said: Gregory Itzin. Jean Smart. Now that 24 has gone a little crazy, the show needs to send in its major crazies ASAP.

What do you think: Are you buying all this more than I am, at this point? And help me out: Have we seen that shady guy Carson, who Reed called in the first hour, somewhere before? And do you still suspect that Josh is Jack’s son? Come on, 24 faithful: Less it’s just a show and more here’s what I like and dislike about the show, please.