On ''24,'' President Logan talks to the men who may be running the conspiracy; plus, Audrey confronts Henderson after her father's death
Credit: Kim Raver: Kelsey McNeal

”24”: The conspiracy behind the conspiracy

Okay, we usually end these TV Watches with the questions, but I’ve got to ask you all right up top: What’s the heretofore-secret organization guiding President Logan’s bad deeds, headed up by Dr. Romano from ER? When I saw that angry little bald man pop up on screen — good to see you again, actor Paul McCrane! — my own lid flipped. 24 is starting to bear a small resemblance to The Da Vinci Code: There’s apparently some underlying conspiracy group manipulating Logan, but to what end?

I loved this episode because it included every aspect of 24 you could want. Shoot-outs and showdowns (Jack matching Peter Weller’s Henderson stare for steely stare as they played mental chess as to the whereabouts of the all-important tape implicating Logan in former president Palmer’s death), character development (whoda thought I’d be saying Kim Raver’s Audrey is getting better every week?), a likely death (any chance Secretary Heller is still alive after driving his car into a lake?), some prime Chloe sarcasm (calling Bill Buchanan’s laptop ”kinda pathetic”), and a setup for a possibly controversial action sequence next week (I’ll get to that in a second).

Last night we received a treasure trove of small details to sift through. Logan told Henderson he’d ”taken steps to deal with Agent Aaron Pierce,” the First Lady’s confidant. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s the first time we’ve heard that Logan had his sights aimed at Pierce, isn’t it? And we saw Karen of Homeland Security prove she’s more than just a loyal drone by putting her share of the puzzle together and taking it upon herself to warn Bill and Chloe that agents were bearing down on Bill’s house. Plus, we got the return of Curtis, missing in action for what seems like weeks; he rescued, for the moment, the bleeding, embittered Audrey.

Now back to the puppet-master group led by McCrane, referred to last night as Graham. Logan said these guys were going to kill Henderson (and he wanted that order called off), which suggests Henderson isn’t as big a villain fish as we’d thought — he’s another pawn in a bigger game. (I’m mixing my metaphors here inexcusably; sorry — I’m punchy with exhilaration.) Dr. Romano/Graham also told the president he ”must silence” his wife, but here, emotional complexity surfaced, thanks to Gregory Itzin’s superlatively nuanced performance: It seems that Logan had Jean Smart’s Martha locked in a room not to kill her or even have her committed again but to protect her on some level — Logan really seems to be wrestling with the demons he’s aligned himself with. Could Logan ultimately prove to be a good guy gone bad who’s going to flip again and turn on the bad organization he’s hooked up with?

Finally, concerning the concluding scenes and the coming attractions that showed Jack stowing away on an airline flight and confronting the man to whom Henderson handed off the incriminating recording: When Jack pulled his gun on the people on the plane, was I the only viewer who felt the icy chill of a terrorist hijacking in that imagery, especially with the movie United 93 opening so soon? I’m not saying it was unwise or in poor taste for the producers to risk that cultural echo — I have trust in the intelligences behind 24 — but it was unnerving. I’m eager to see how this plays out next week.

I asked the main questions at the top, as I said. So come on, enlighten me — tell me what you think is going on in this world that Jack Bauer is barely able to keep his footing in.

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