As Jack's health declines, Tony hunts down the bioweapons and Jonas plays hardball with the President
Credit: Kelsey McNeal/Fox
Kiefer Sutherland
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Exactly how many layers of malevolence is Jonas Hodges shrouded in? Almost every week on 24 the dude shows us a new side of sinister, and episode 17 proved no exception, as he tossed out the dissenting chairman of his board. Or rather, tossed him over a railing. If we wind up getting a Jack-Jonas showdown, I’d like to think that Hodges would be no match for our boy Bauer, but Jack is currently losing a battle to another vicious foe, in the form of that deadly pathogen. Before his condition worsens, let’s roll up our sleeves and inject ourselves with 50ccs of recap.

Trick or retreat There we were, back in the tense standoff between the FBI and Starkwood. Wait. Surprise visitor: Hodges! His demands: For Larry to release Seaton and pack up his troops. ”You want to talk to me, Mr. Hodges?” sneered Boss Moss. ”You get these guns off my head.” Cue crazy, fist-wagging rant from Jonas: ”You think you have a gun at your head? You know what I’ve got? I’ve got the United States government sending SWAT teams and attack helicopters in the middle of the night! I’ve got a government that I’ve served faithfully for 30 years dreaming up BS accusations so politicians too cowardly to show their faces can dismantle my company!” He gave Larry a five-minute deadline to scram with his men. Um, Renee? Think of something. Fast.

A lifeline light bulb was offered by Jack: What about contacting Starkwood chairman Doug Knowles, who’d cooperated with Sen. Mayer’s investigation? Renee worried about using another ”insider” (see: Seaton), but as Jack reasoned: ”He’s scared of something. This man wants to help us.” Sold! Jack dialed Knowles, who sighed with relief. (”You have no idea how much I was hoping someone would call.”) Knowles even thought he could help locate the weapons.

New plan: Jack told Larry to pull out his men but also to create a diversion so Tony could stay behind and work with Knowles. Larry announced that Team Boss Moss was retreating, and for a distraction, he grabbed Seaton and decked him. This earned a retaliatory blow from Team Starkwood, and the chance for Tony to discreetly take a SWAT team member’s Bag of Cool Things and slip away. After Tony joined forces with Knowles, he ultimately snapped the visual proof of the weapons that the President needed to authorize the surgical air strike. But he wouldn’t have penetrated the building without the key-card-cracking skills of Janis, who made use of an R6 interface module from the back of Tony’s com device. (And, yes, Tony knows what an R6 interface module is, thank you.) By defeating the security system on this top-secret facility, Janis made up for not being able to decode Renee’s encrypted email to Jack from her personal computer.

Bauer power outage Facing imminent death thanks to the prion variant, Jack accepted that he’d have to work the office end of this operation. But even that started to pose problems, as his hand began shaking, and finally he collapsed on the ground, all red-faced and crazy-eyed. (An unsettling scene, yet I preferred the simple moment when the Prez thanked him for his service and insisted, ”I’m not giving up on you.”) Anyway, Dr. Macer from the CDC injected Jack with something to help control the shaking, and told him to repeat the process every two hours, more frequently if needed. ”Think I’ll need more?” asked Jack. The ominous answer? ”In all likelihood, yes.” The doc did mention that a university was funding studies on prion diseases; the work was ”purely experimental at this point but it does suggest treatment.” Hmmm. Is this their way of getting around Jack’s death sentence?) And the treatment happened to use stem cells from a genetically compatible donor… Say, Jack, don’t you have a daughter? ”I don’t want my daughter involved in this,” mumbled Jack, thanking the doc and excusing himself.

NEXT: A family matter

Thoroughly unsatisfied with that answer, Renee followed him out (one of her favorite pastimes) and he said, ”This is none of your business.” ”It’s my business when you’re having a seisure in the middle of the FBI,” she shot back. She kept pressing him (another serious hobby of hers), to which Jack responded, ”My daughter and I — we don’t talk, okay? So please just let it go.” She blocked his exit: ”It should be her choice.” ”Well, it’s not,” returned Jack. ”I’m the one who’s dying. It’s my choice.” As he walked away, we all knew where this was headed: Kim is a comin’. And she better hurry up.

And the Award for Most Reckless Act of Daredevilry goes to… Tom, Hodges’ weapons expert who showed a wanton disregard for his own life when he stuck his fingers in the elevator doors just as they were closing. (C’mon, not every entry can be about bioweapons and triple agents.)

Hot Hotel High Jinks The minute FD walked into the hotel room of CNB reporter Ken Dellao — after he’d threatened to expose her as his source if she didn’t help him again — you knew the situation was about to turn unsavory. (She’d overruled Agent Aaron’s safety concerns, instructing him to wait in the hallway while assuring him: ”I have you on speed dial, and I can scream very loudly when the occasion demands.”) She confirmed his reporting and then some, explaining that the Prez authorized an air strike once the bioweapon was located on Starkwood’s base: ”So you see why you can’t run with this…A lot of lives are at stake. The entire plan depends on surprise. You get that, right?” He intimated that he’d kill the story if she’d engage in a horizontal policy debate; she half-insisted their fling was over, but gave in to his pass. Sort of. Her mind was elsewhere during kissy-neck time.

After the dirty deed, she asked him again to promise not to run the story, but he reneged: ”Breaking something this big will put me over the top in New York…” ”You lying sonuvabitch,” she hissed (before clinking glasses with all of us at home). Rationalizing his sleazy betrayal, he said, ”I’ve been in Washington a lot longer than you. You’ll see. This is how the game is played.” (And the game is about speaking in clichés, right?) ”Actually Ken, this is how the game is played,” Olivia rebutted, playing a cell-phone recording of their sexcapade and threatening to go wide with the story about how he scores his scoops. ”Find a new beat, Ken,” she added triumphantly. ”I don’t want to see you around the White House again.” (It’s okay, Ken, Ethan is waiting for you behind the curtain with a supportive shoulder to cry on.)

Jonas Hodges, Know(les) your enemy There are many ways to get rid of a chairman of a company. You can methodically gather the support of the board members and push him out. You can frame him in a corporate scandal. Or you could just take the Jonas Hodges route and beat him silly with a glass bottle before heaving him to his death.

It was quite a chilling, startling scene. Knowles was subjected to a speech from Hodges about how they had built Starkwood ”into the largest private army in the hemisphere, maybe the world,” and had ”pulled America’s ass out of the fire again and again and again.” How did he answer Doug’s questions about the bioweapons? ”Are we prepared to defend ourselves? We are.” And when Doug warned, ”You can’t take on the federal government,” America’s most quippy megalomaniac retorted, ”Yeah, well, you never were one for thinking big… Twenty years I treated you like a son. Twenty years, a little loyalty — wasn’t that the least I deserved?” Cue: Bottle beat-down. And death drop. (Did that just happen?) On the atrium floor’s world map, Knowles crashed into the South Atlantic Ocean. Hodges didn’t seem terribly concerned with covering up his crime, other than those blood spatters on his shirt: He opened a glass globe filled with water, dipped in his handkerchief, and tried to dab off the evidence. (Thankfully he couldn’t, leading to his ”Too bad Mr. Knowles can’t be joining us” one-liner to Seaton and Tom.) Counting the episodes until we get to watch this guy drown in a pool of his own hubris…

NEXT: The President makes a dangerous deal

A Presidential Pardon Me? President Taylor has prided herself on a no-negotiations-with-terrorists policy.* (*May not apply to really difficult situations.) Apparently this was one of those exceptions. As the F-18s cruised toward Starkwood HQ — ready to vaporize the bioweapons — Hodges reached out to the Prez on a proprietary line and respectfully asked her to turn around her planes. ”You’re in no position to issue ultimatums, Mr. Hodges,” she declared. ”Well, maybe I am,” he replied, reminding her of the Python 5 missile system in Starkwood’s arsenal. ”Three of those missiles are now loaded with a pathogen and aimed at cities on our Eastern seaboard.” When she accused him waging war on his own country, he answered, ”Well, of course I wouldn’t see it that way.” (Also, this black hat I’m wearing? It’s light grey.) Smug as heck on the monitor, he demanded a secret Oval Office meeting within the hour. (Who does he think he is, Matobo?) If she refused to meet his demands and call off the planes within 30 seconds, three cities on the East Coast would be toast.

The Prez darted back into the room and ordered Admiral Smith to nix the air strike. After his second objection, she shouted, ”Dammit, Admiral!!! Abort the air strike immediately!!!” She closed her eyes, praying that she was right to dance with this devil. With everyone in the room staring at her, trying to figure out why she’d suddenly reversed course, the Prez marched silently out of the room.

Whoo boy, I’m eagerly awaiting next week’s tete-a-tete between Jonas and the Prez, when the former will surely drop more than a few bon mots. (Will he call her a bitch to her face, as he’s referred to her in the past?) And overall, what did you think of this week’s action? How crazy was Doug’s death? Are you intrigued by an experimental treatment for Jack or worried that it will feel like an easy out? Are you jonesing for a hit of Chloe? Your thoughts, opinions, theories, hopes, and dreams go below…

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Kiefer Sutherland
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