As Jack gets back together with Chloe and Bill under strange circumstances, the pressure on the President intensifies
Credit: Kelsey McNeal/FOX
Kiefer Sutherland
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Can you believe it? We’re already four episodes into season 7 of 24! It feels like just yesterday that we began. Oh…right. Sorry, my brain is on overdrive — there’s a lot of intel to sift through. But remember the deal we made to ourselves way back in 2001: We are now hardcore, superass federal agents, and sleep is for the weak. So let’s get cracking on tonight’s recap; once again, our show-by-blow may or may not occur in real-time.

Open at the White House, where President Taylor listens to a playback of a threat by the Colonel (Dubaku, not Sanders): The near-collision at JFK was just the beginning. The CIP device will be used to kill tens of thousands of Americans if the U.S. doesn’t order its standby strike force to retreat. Taylor asks if the government’s top nerds can fix the firewall and render the device useless. Staffer disappoints by saying it’ll take six days to reengineer the code. I say the Prez takes this issue to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store. Imagine: ”So, Allison T., you want to rebuild a massive firewall on the double? We’ll see what we can do! While you’re waiting, can I interest you in some fluorescent earbuds for your Nano?”

Back on the docks, Larry — fresh from his stalker copter ride — demands answers from Renee. She unveils the mole theory, and Jack persuades Larry to tighten the circle around Tony. As Larry leaves, he tells Renee not to do anything without his approval. Jack asks Renee if she trusts Larry. ”No question,” she responds. ”There’s no one I trust more.” That settles it: I don’t trust Larry.

Over in a FBI interrogation room, is it…sexy time? ”I’m going to have to lift up your shirt,” quivers Janis, placing sticky pads and wires on Tony’s chest. Alas, that’s far as this star-crossed romance can go; Janis is dispatched to help find the mole, which will make her even more nervous and gulpy.

Outside this room, Jack learns about Tony’s ties to the Juma regime; he tells Larry that he can get the device back if they’ll just let him chat up Tony. When Larry balks, Jack says, ”You’re running out of time — you don’t have a better option.” (Anyone out there have a hard number on how many times Jack has used the ”running out of time” line? Better yet: What percentage of those begin with ”Dammit, Chloe”?) Reluctantly — which seems to be how Larry does things — Larry lets Bauer match wits with his old pal. ”I watched you die in my arms,” Jack snarls. ”You want to explain to me how you’re still alive?” Tony does not. But he will say that the U.S. government sucks and it better cooperate with the Colonel. Then he reminds Jack of the damage that Uncle Sam has caused in his own life. ”You need to start living in the real world! Because every second you help the government, you’re spitting on Teri’s grave!”

Whoa, boy. That was the Marty McFly ”What? Nobody calls me chicken!” call to action. Jack grabs Tony, chokes him against the wall and hisses, ”Tell me where the device is! Or so help me God, I will kill you and you will stay dead this time!” (Love it when Jack goes for angry funny.) With their faces so close together, Tony whispers a sweet nothing: Deep Sky. (And above my head: giant question mark.) Larry rushes in to separate the two, and Jack is given a timeout in another room. And then those 24 scribes throw us a nasty curveball: Turns out, ”Deep Sky” is an old CTU emergency code, which prompts Jack to dial a number. Muffled voice answers…holy muck, it’s former CTU legend Bill Buchanan! And he’s wearing a nifty black outfit, like he’s off to a modern art exhibit or a jewel heist! And his assistant is…Chloe! And he tells Jack that Tony is working undercover! I feel off-kilter, (Whoa, wasn’t expecting that. Must pause episode to digest.)

NEXT PAGE: Bill and Chloe ‘splain themselves

Back at 1600 Penn, Chief of Staff Ethan (remember him from last season?) confronts FG about his off-the-book snooping into his son’s death. (Be careful, FG! Remember, he was also the Warden from The Shawshank Redemption!) He explains that Roger killed himself because he was being investigated for insider trading, and someone named Frank buried the case as a favor for President Taylor. FG is bummed to learn that his wife already knew about this. Ethan would love to stay and talk about feelings with FG, but he’s got to meet with the President so they can restate the main dilemma: Save the lives of Sangalans, or protect the lives of Americans?

Meanwhile, Bill is dropping bombshells on Jack. He and Chloe are working outside the government, which is corrupt, and high-ups in the administration are aiding the Juma regime. Tony is supposed to stay near the CIP device, so Jack needs to break Tony out of FBI custody so he can return to his undercover assignment. Now Chloe has something to say to Jack: ”I saw the hearings on C-Span. I can’t believe what the Senator said to you…. You looked good though.” Chloe, I’ve missed you much.

Back to the FG: Samantha calls to say that Roger’s death wasn’t a suicide and she needs to meet with him. (Could these revelations be shocking enough to bump FG up to the A story?) Over to the Tonester: He survives his interrogation with Larry, who nixes Renee’s suggestion of using a ”more forceful approach,” and orders her to remove Bauer from the building. Kick it across to: Janis. Hot after the person who hacked into the FAA, she journeys to the mainframe room and, with a few keystrokes, IDs the mole as…her colleague Sean! Not good. Also not good: He’s standing right there! Sean claims that he hacked in only to check the status of his wife’s flight. Oh, please! What a load of — no, Janis confirms that story. She also agrees to ”clean up his mess.” (Before you log out, Janis, hook me up with an exit row aisle for my LAX-BOS flight?)

Elsewhere in the building, Renee tells Jack that he’s off the case. Worse yet, she makes him fill out paperwork. But on the bright side, she’ll put in a good word with the Justice Department, so maybe Jack won’t go to prison for torture! Jack thanks her with a nice hug — well, actually, it’s a sleeper hold. She’s out. He takes her gun and key card, while Chloe (who has hacked into the FBI surveillance system) guides him via earpiece to the interrogation room. Tony: rescued. Larry: knocked out. Me: a sucker for the escape-from-custody story.

Sean and Janis notice the system intrusion, and Janis locks Chloe out while a Code 12 is initiated. (Sirens, guards, etc.) A frustrated Chloe tells Jack: ”Someone at FBI is blocking my every move. It’s really starting to piss me off.” I smell the lovely scent of rivalry brewing.

Conscious again, Renee apologizes to also-conscious-again Larry, who notices on the security monitors that Jack and Tony are in the stairwell. The feed goes funky again. ”Hacker’s back in,” Janis announces. ”Whoever this is, they’re very good.” (Mutual respect, that’s all Chloe ever asked for.) He and Tony are instructed to meet Bill in a blue van. (Personally, I would be very nervous to meet a guy named Bill in a blue van. I’m not getting in the van, candy or not.) J & T engage in a shootout with the FBI in the parking lot, which ends with a ridiculous stunt: Jack hotwires a car and, hunched down by the pedals, he rams it through the parking garage barrier wall. (Look, ma — no eyes!) After they are safely inside the van, Jack not-so-politely asks Bill for a little backstory. ”When we get there I’ll tell you everything,” says Bill. Looks like we’ll have to wait until the next episode…

NEXT PAGE: The Jack and Tony show

…which starts NOW. Open on Renee kicking herself again for getting duped; she vows to find J & T. Janis gives her intel on our now-hospitalized sniper: He’s Alan Tanner, former Special Forces, sued the government, his Gulf War Syndrome case was dismissed. Next, Larry (or as I would like to start calling him, Boss Moss) receives a stern call from the White House about Tony’s escape. The Prez says that getting J & T isn’t the top priority…wait for it…it’s the only priority! In case you haven’t heard, there’s a critical choice to be made: Invade Sangala and Dubaku will engage the CIP device, jeopardizing a thousand American planes in the air, and that’s just for starters. Then again, if we pull our strike force, 100,000 Sangalans will surely die. Ethan votes to remove our troops to protect America. But the Prez is reluctant. She can’t ignore this crisis, and besides, when she ran for office, she said would NOT negotiate with terrorists. (And I said I would only eat HALF of this bag of Doritos Collisions: Hot Wings & Blue Cheese. Point is, sometimes we are forced to go back on our word.)

It’s time for Jack to see Bill’s makeshift lair (”We like to think of it as CTU — or what’s left of it anyway,” Bill notes) and find out what the freak is going on. Explaining his non-deadness, Tony says he was deceased for almost 10 minutes, but a man named David Emerson paid someone at CTU to inject his body with a hypothermic compound that helped revive him. (Any science experts want to weigh in here? Until then, I’m feeling 67 percent C’mon, Seriously?, 21 percent Neato!, and 12 percent Undecided/No Response.) This Emerson fellow happens to be an independent contractor who employed government-hating ex-military and intelligence operatives, and Tony fit the profile after wife Michelle was killed. And here’s where things turn interesting: Tony admits that he wasn’t undercover at first. No, he worked straight-up for Emerson because he hated the federal government, and only switched sides when the CIP-device job surfaced, because he didn’t want innocent Americans to die. Complicating matters: Tony couldn’t contact the authorities because the client, Dubaku, has agents inside the government. Bill insists that the only move left now is to reinstall Tony in Emerson’s crew. Of course, Emerson may think that it’s a trap and Tony cut a deal. Unless…Jack agrees to go inside Emerson’s crew with Tony. Which he does. But hold on, don’t hug me, semi-CTU, because the moment I can’t trust you anymore, I’m turning you in.

All right, a quick pause-n-ponder: I’m happy to have Bill and my unstable girl Chloe back in the mix. And I’m intrigued by this rogue CTU unit. But am I setting myself up to be disappointed by an ambitious, out-on-a-limb story line? Sometimes it’s hard to know early in a season whether to proceed with caution or just throw it to the wind.

After FG persuades Secret Service Brian to drive him to meet Roger’s girlfriend, Samantha, and Sean’s wife dials Sean from the plane to ask about her plane’s holding pattern (Honey! I told you those plane phones cost, like, eight bucks a minute!), we hop in the car with J & T to go to Emerson’s place. Yes, Tony has persuaded Emerson to let Jack join the crew. In transit, Jack gets the Learning Annex education on Emerson: Former SAS, knows his urban warfare, saw action in Beirut, is all about the Benjamins and loyalty. Oh, and ”he treated me like a brother when I thought I had nobody else,” confides Tony. Jack doesn’t like the sound of that. But Tony assures Jack that he’ll betray his brother. Is that supposed to be reassuring? ‘Cause it’s kind of not.

When J & T arrive at Emerson’s pad, Emerson rudely instructs a henchman to take Jack downstairs, then tells Tony he doesn’t want a gamble on Jack. ”So, what — you’re going to kill him?” asks Tony. ”No,” answers Emerson, ”you are.” Oh my gulp. Bill and Chloe listen in, and Bill seems okay with sacrificing Jack to solidify Tony’s place in the crew. Damn, Bill — after everything Jack did for you? Plus, he didn’t even give you a hard time about your new look? That’s cold.

Sensing danger, Jack head-butts one goon and thwacks the other before Emerson rushes down the stairs. Tense standoff. Holding the bald goon at gunpoint, Jack makes a strong case to Emerson for bringing him onboard. ”Shoot me if you don’t believe me,” urges Jack. Baldy ultimatums Emerson: ”Kill him or I’m out of here.” Emerson says fine, walks toward Jack…but shoots Baldy dead! Emerson, you bastard! You totally got me with the murder misdirect!

NEXT PAGE: Intrigue at 1600

There’s trickery going on at the FBI, where Sean, pretending to be Larry, fools the FAA into giving his wife’s flight a priority landing. Over at the White House, former Sangalan prime minister Matobo begs President Taylor not to abandon the invasion plans: Juma’s troops are advancing on a refugee camp where 2,000 lives are in jeopardy; plus, some of Juma’s men defected to the freedom-fighting side with the promise of American assistance. When he departs, the Prez chides Ethan for withholding the refugee-camp intel from her; once again, he advises her to withdraw. They volley elegantly back and forth until she decides…not to make a decision yet.

Back in the basement, new friends Emerson and Jack have an esoteric conversation about killing people. Then Emerson takes a phone call about having to pick up a package. A human package. A human package named Matobo. A human package named Matobo that is to be delivered to the Colonel.

Across the river from the Jefferson Memorial (you know what they say — the bigger the monument, the better the secret to be revealed), Samantha confesses to FG that Roger was killed! By the same people who supplied false documents to the SEC to show he’d been inside-trading! The very same faceless people who threatened to kill her if she said anything! Apparently during some audits, Roger discovered kickbacks involving firms doing business in Sangala and blind accounts tied to a senior member of his mother’s administration who ”had a vested interest in the proposed military action.” Alas, he was killed before he could share this shocker with mom. Samantha hands a flash drive with the evidence to FG, who doesn’t realize he’s being watched by a binoculared Brian. (Aaron Pierce, if you’re reading this, IM me any info that you and your Secret Service boys have on this guy.)

Switch out pretty river setting for drab hospital room, and you’ve got another shady scenario in progress: Renee is trying to interrogate Tanner the Sniper before his lawyers arrive. He’s all moany and tight-lipped. When Janis frets about breaking the law, Renee counters: ”This man is our only lead — thousands of lives are at stake here. We either bend the rules a little bit right now or we lose this chance forever.” Janis uncomfortably agrees to stall the lawyers so Renee can violate Tanner’s rights by pressing her gun into his bandaged, bloody wound and fire questions: ”Where is Almeida? How do I found the CIP device?” Snipey no likey. But also, Snipey no budgey. Renee steps away and runs her hand through her nice hair. What am I doing? What am I about to do? Do I see the irony in that I am becoming Bauer? Maybe not: She grabs Tanner’s ventilator tubes, which somewhat amuses him: ”You can’t do this. You’re FBI. This is illegal. I have rights.” She says: ”I suggest you use your last breath wisely.” (Not bad.) His retort? ”Go to hell.” (Hers was better.) She scrunches the tubes and he gasps for dear life. As the nurses work to de-barricade the door, Renee suddenly walks through it and breezes by the frustrated lawyers, with jittery Janis following her. ”If you don’t want to know, Janis, don’t ask.” Even better than the last-breath line!

Renee then dials Larry with her fresh intel about the plot to kidnap Matobo. (A little torture never hurt anyone, right, Renee?) Larry immediately tips off Matobo’s men, who go into lockdown mode as Team Emerson — new and improved, with Tony and Jack! — attacks Casa Matobo. Matobo and his wife are sealed inside in a safe room, while Jack (of unknown golf handicap) hacks away at the wall with a club. Tony grimly states, ”Jack, if we leave here without Matobo, we lose our only chance at Dubaku.” The two of them stare at each other while I stare at them, rather entertained by tonight’s journey, but mostly wondering how the hell they’re going to get through all that reinforced concrete.

So, 24 fanatics, how did you feel about these two episodes? Do you approve of the new, renegade CTU crew? How should President Taylor handle the Sangalan situation? And do you like it when Fox airs back-to-back eps, or do you prefer your eps to be doled out preciously, one a week?

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Kiefer Sutherland
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