Jack faces a hard choice that's never been hard for him before and winds up in a new kind of danger himself, while Larry gets on board with Jack and Renee (sort of) and Jonas slips off the track a little
Credit: Michael Muller/FOX
Kiefer Sutherland
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What? Oh, hey. I didn’t see you there. I was just quietly sitting here on the side of my big rig — you know, contemplating the crazy curves that life can throw you. But enough about me. Let’s turn the key and rev up episode 15 of 24, which was rolling along harmlessly until it suddenly merged onto a highway called The Danger Zone. (It’s also known as Highway 236, but that doesn’t sound as cool.)

Blame the Boss Moss When Larry phoned Ethan with the news of Senator Mayer’s murder, Ethan freaked: ”How could you have let this happen, Agent Moss??? I released Jack Bauer into your custody! I ordered you to keep him on a short leash!” (Quick peek inside Ethan’s brain: Please don’t call me on this. Please don’t call me on this…) Boss Moss did just that, defending himself: ”No, no, Mr. Kanin — you are not going to lay this one at my feet! It was your decision to give Bauer access to Burnett! I advised you against it!” Ethan was so shell-shocked, he had to ask Larry to repeat what he’d just said, and then he admitted, ”Yes, you did.” Man, did Ethan look distressed about the mess he’d set in motion. (That, or it was a bad blintz from the White House employee break room.)

OMFG! FG Speaks! (And Ethan resigns.) It’s not quite as shocking as, say, Jack tasering a bulldozer, but our First Gentleman is alive and talking! Out of surgery, FG chatted on the phone with a relieved President Taylor, who shared that Olivia was at the White House. ”She’s come home, Henry,” she gushed. ”This crisis, it brought us together.” ”I can’t begin to tell you how happy that makes me,” he responded. The Prez promised to visit with FD soon. ”When you can,” he said. ”I’m not going anywhere….” (Because I was POISONED WITH A NEUROMUSCULAR PARALYTIC and SHOT IN THE CHEST. But again, no rush to come see me.)

After hanging up, the Prez jinxed this rare moment of happiness: ”Oh, maybe, maybe, maybe, just maybe this day will end on a positive note.” A piano didn’t fall on her head, but Ethan killed her buzz with the news that Mayer was apparently murdered by Jack. Then he solemnly tendered his resignation, despite her protests: ”You’re a great woman, Allison. You have great work yet to do. I’m a liability to you now….” (As she stroked his arm and they clasped hands, I wondered if this relationship was always strictly professional.) ANYWAY, bad news for one Taylor woman was good news for another….

Danger: Daughter ahead! As Ethan gathered his belongings, FD dropped by to gloat, er, say goodbye and how sorry she was. ”Well, I appreciate the courtesy, if not the sincerity,” replied Ethan. After an exchange of perfunctory apologies, Ethan tried to warn her about a dangerous thing called ambition. ”It’s not about doing whatever it takes to win,” he noted. ”It’s about doing what’s right for the American people.” She volleyed back, ”Sometimes those things aren’t mutually exclusive.” Ethan recognized a lost cause and split.

This neatly set up the reveal you kinda knew was coming: FD dialed the CNB reporter and instructed him to go with the Burnett-Bauer story. (You liar/leaker!) Further playing her media pawn, FD tossed in bonus scoopage: Ethan was forced to resign after Jack killed Mayer. ”It’s all yours in time for the 11 o’clock,” said FD. ”I told you I’d take care of you, didn’t I?” Her one request? ”Make sure Kanin’s the fall guy. My mother’s nowhere near this. Understand?” The excited reporter tried to pin her down for dinner, but she evaded: ”Maybe next week.” After all, she was still digesting Ethan. Oh, and FD? Agent Pierce will not be pleased to hear about this behavior.

NEXT: Larry strays onto the side of the angels

Save America or save…Carl? On one hand, thousands of lives were in jeopardy as Starkwood prepared to unleash a bioweapon. On the other hand, there’s Carl Gadsen, a Port Authority cop whose wife was expecting twins and who’d been working double shifts to pay the bills. Carl tried to earn extra dough by helping some dudes smuggle electronics into the country; Jack and Tony informed him that the contraband was actually a bioweapon, and that now he needed to help them trap the bad dudes when they came to retrieve the shipment. ”I just open the gate and let them in?” said Carl anxiously. ”And you guys got my back, right?” ”Yeah,” answered Jack. ”Promise me,” said Carl. Jack glanced over at Tony and then made the promise he probably couldn’t keep. Making it worse, Carl wouldn’t stop yapping about how he and the wife have been through hell trying to get pregnant.

When the baddie leader, Stokes, detected that Carl was nervous and ordered him to get in the car, Jack’s veneer begins to crack. (”Dammit!”) Was Jack willing to risk it all for Carl? Did he forget about his ”Don’t get involved” speech to Renee? Or was he having a crisis of conscience and this was some sort of Marika/Mayer make-good? ”Forget about it, Jack,” said Tony. ”He was dead the moment he stepped out that door. You and I both know that.” But I didn’t know how far Jack would go in the scenario that was about to unfold….

Starkwood Raving Mad Jonas Hodges kicked off his appearance this week with typical eccentric aplomb. When Seaton told him outside the conference room that the board members seemed tense, Jonas cracked, ”They’re 6-year-olds, Greg, and they need to eat their carrots.” Once he walked in the room, though, he started to lose it, railing against the government. (”Could we have been of help today? You bet your ass we could’ve been of help! But they didn’t call us, did they? No! Instead, we sit here, our contracts are cancelled, our soldiers vilified, our corporate sovereignty is threatened by congressional fiat!”) Then he went after a key executive named Doug and declared that ”we sit for no more depositions, we volunteer no more documents, I don’t even want us to take any phone calls!” Doug tried to explain that Starkwood would be risking a federal indictment, but Jonas, deep in megalomaniac mode, adjourned the meeting.

Outside the room, as Doug told him that they couldn’t survive a battle against the subcommittee — especially with Mayer leading the charge — the Hodges twinkle returned. ”Senator Mayer’s dead. He was killed by a rogue federal agent not one hour ago, tragically,” said Jonas, practically winking as he said tragically. ”Tell me you had nothing to do with this,” begged Doug. ”Starkwood is not in the business of political assassination, Doug. But maybe we should look into it,” quipped Jonas. ”I hear it’s a growth market.” Can’t get enough of that smug mug.

Let your Larry light shine Some weeks Boss Moss is not the easiest guy to like. Other times — when he does his job right and doesn’t just jump to conclusions — he can surprise you. This week=other times. At the Mayer residence, Larry considered the possibility that Jack didn’t murder Mayer: extra slugs in the doorframe and railing, how could Jack have acquired a submachine gun on the run, etc. He even managed to persuade Renee to share precious info on Jack. (”Look, maybe I should have trusted you before, okay?” he admitted. ”but you have got to trust me now.”) Renee probably believed that she’d earn an early release from holding by cooperating. Larry wouldn’t let her run free just yet, though. But he did show some compassion for Jack at the end of the episode. More of this Moss next week, please.

NEXT: Jack’s surprising dilemma

Save America or save Carl? (Part II) Instead of getting in position to tail the truck that would carry the bioweapon, Jack set his rifle sights on a henchman who was about to whack Carl. ”You’re going to turn a surveillance job into a firefight!” warned Tony. ”It’ll be two against ten!” Sizing up his kill, Jack scoffed, ”Two against nine.” (That’s right, Jack! Don’t let Jonas swipe all the good lines!) ”Don’t break your own rules…” continued Tony. ”You want to prevent another disaster or ensure that it’s going to happen?”

Damned if I didn’t find myself a little invested in this Carl fellow. (That’s one of 24‘s charms: It can make you buy into threats big and small.) Realizing the high stakes, Jack lowered his rifle. But after Carl told the henchman, ”You’re gonna kill me, you’re gonna have to look me in the eye,” and the henchman shrugged an ”okay,” Jack impulsively reversed course and took out the henchman! ”Thank you, thank you,” said Carl, wisely fleeing. Was this Jack incongruous with the Jack who murdered his boss to save many more lives? Or was this Jack just evolving? Discuss….

Jack and an annoyed Tony whipped up a new plan: Steal the truck. During the gunfight, the operator of the crane was injured and bashed the shipping container with the bioweapon into other containers, but somehow he maneuvered the container onto the truck. As the truck moved out, Jack leapt off the cargo stacks onto the truck, punched the driver, and yanked him out à la T2. (Add another stolen vehicle to the Bauer tally.) Tony did a little leaping of his own, onto a goon, but was soon captured by Stokes, who recognized him from Emerson’s crew. (Quick peek inside Tony’s brain: Two against nine, huh, Jack? Those odds suck!)

Highway to hell This road trip proved to be a long day’s journey into fright: Cruising down 236 with a truckload of nasty, Jack frantically arranged a handoff of a biological weapon to Larry. Before Jack could reach their meeting place, though, he noticed a flashing red light and stopped the truck. Investigating with his flashlight, a wide-eyed Jack realized that a damaged pipe was leaking toxic fumes right through the torn shipping container. Deciding to contain the disaster, Jack gathered his breath (don’t do this), entered through the cargo doors (this is suicide!), and managed to turn off the flow (JACK!!!). Running out and gasping/choking for breath, he was then ambushed by a helicopter and car, forcing him to seek refuge behind rocks near the side of the road. He watched helplessly as a helicopter airlifted the bioweapon away. ”Dammit!” indeed.

While Stokes called Jonas to report that he had the weapon, Jack dialed Larry with that same news — and to redirect the TAC teams to the nearby Starkwood military facility. When Larry explained that he can’t assault that compound without proof that the weapon existed, Jack instructed Larry to send the CDC unit his way: ”They’ll have all the proof you need.” Meaning? Gulp. ”I — I was exposed,” shared Jack. Larry softly told Jack to sit tight. And so Jack did, on the edge of the truck, staring down in deafening silence, as the clock beeped us out of the episode.

What an unsettling ending. Those final few minutes really redeemed that episode, no? What did you think, 24 nation? What’s in store for Jack? Tony? Was it good to see FG again (or had you moved on without him)? Do we have unfinished business with Ethan? Start spilling….

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Kiefer Sutherland
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