As the suspense heats up, Jack goes after Matobo, the first gentleman is in peril, and our hero takes aim at Renee
Credit: Kelsey McNeal/FOX
Kiefer Sutherland
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’24’ recap: Smoke ’em out!

Whoa. Did you guys see that? I think that was tonight’s 24 flying by. Maybe it just felt that way because we’re back in the one-episode-a-week zone after a four-eps-in-26-hours ambush. But there definitely were a few moments that relocated my rear a little closer to the edge of the sofa. Shall we relive the Jack-tion as it unspooled before our eager eyes?

The clock starts ticking with Larry, who’s finalizing the field op for the Matobo mansion, where Tony’s crew is attempting to kidnap the former prime minister. Oh, and Larry wants Almeida alive, so take it easy, itchy-trigger-fingered Tac team leader Remick. At Casa Matobo, the terrorized security chief tells Evil Emerson again that the safe room can only be opened from the inside by the Matobos. It’s an impossible situation. Unless your name is Jack Bauer. Then it’s more like having to solve a New York Times crossword puzzle — perhaps the Wednesday one. And Jack is scribbling with his metaphorical pencil….

Back in Fedville, analyst Erica (the one Sean clashed with while he was helping his wife) informs Larry that Tanner the Sniper’s lawyers have filed a complaint with the Attorney General against the bureau. An unhappy Larry calls Renee, who explains that Tanner wasn’t terribly cooperative. ”So you tortured him?” retorts Larry. ”You know as well as I do: Coercive interrogation is unreliable.” Is this lip-service, or will the show continue to tackle the tangly torture issue and show consequences for by-all-means-necessary behavior? Remember, on 24 playing hardball produces results. And right now, Renee swears Tanner’s intel is legit. Larry doesn’t care; he wants her back at HQ to answer the AG rep’s questions. ”I’m sorry, Larry, but I need to make this right,” she says, hanging up. Boss Moss doesn’t like it when Renee plays hard to get.

Sean takes a call from his wife: Did he make her flight land with FBI magic? He lies and denies. (Take the credit, man! You might get lucky tonight!) Sean informs her that he’ll be home late, to which she purrs, ”I thought we could spend some time together. Dinner and…maybe…you know?” (Told ya! Tonight’s the night!) Alas, Sean blows her off — and now Larry wants him to get Matobo’s security chief on the line.

Hiding in the safe room, Matobo tells his wife that Dubaku is after the names of his Sangalan allies. Knowing her husband would sooner die before cooperate, she realizes: ”They want to use me to get you to talk?” (Her thought bubble: Exactly how much pain/death is our cause going to cause me?) Emerson threatens to kill the security sidekick in one minute if Matobo doesn’t end this game of hide-and-seek. Team Motobo stays strong. As time expires, Emerson prepares to fire when…Security’s cell rings. Is it his cousin, asking if he should pick up chips and bean dip for the BBQ tonight? No, caller ID reads: FBI. ”Does the FBI know we’re here?” growls Emerson, who deduces that Tanner spilled. Henchman Litvak — who dead-rings for Maroon 5’s Adam Levine — says they should skedaddle before the feds arrive. But Jack has devised a way in: Gas them out. Not with bean dip, but an ammonium compound made from household products and fed through the safe room’s ventilation system. (I’m all about MacGyvery concoctions, but shouldn’t a legit safe room have secure air flow from a remote location to avoid this scenario?)

NEXT PAGE: Jack’s gas attack

After a rare Jack-and-Tony-kick-it-in-the-kitchen scene, Jack unveils his chemical creation. The bubbly, smoky result doesn’t look any cooler than the vinegar/baking soda eruption I made in seventh-grade science class, but it’s working! Matobo and his wife start choking and drop to their knees…. Not to leave you hanging, Matobos, but we’ve got to check on Janis, who’s getting the business from AG Rep. Oh, good — Larry is rescuing her with SWAT work…. Relax, Matobos, we’re back. Oooh, you guys don’t look so hot. ”Close your eyes and let it happen,” Matobo gurgles to his wife. ”And know if we open that door, it will be worse.” She lets go of his hands and…dies? Nope. She crawls to the door, unlocks it to let in fresh air, and apologizes to her hubby as they’re whisked away. (When the fear wears off, I predict a nasty hangover of self-hatred for her.)

Outside Matobo Manor, Renee calls Larry, who’s ordering her to stand down when Litvak/Levine surprises her with a gun, and breaks her phone. On the other end, Boss Moss is so peeved, he stumbles over a random employee and yells at her. (Odds of that woman resurfacing?) Litvak/Levine takes Renee to Jack & Co., who are loading Matobos into a van. She calls Jack a sonuvabitch. Emerson is about to whack her, but Jack says they need to find out what Tanner told her. Emerson dials his suited cohort, who can confirm with his FBI source. Renee keeps berating Jack: ”I can’t believe I trusted you. You lying sonuvabitch.” Who wants to tell Renee to trust her original instincts (and to learn some new swear words)?

Down by the river, where the First Gentleman just met with Samantha, Secret Service Brian tells him that he’s got a friend who can crack the flash drive encryption. They discuss why FG hasn’t brought this info to the NSA or his wife. It’s when FG asks Brian if he trusts his friend and Brian says dryly, ”I’ll make sure he understands this can’t go anywhere,” that I hear a uneasy ding in my head. That line just seems laced with ironic-sinister meaning.

FG’s better half is busy across town, informing Chief of Staff Ethan that she’s now the Decider, and she is sticking with the strike force! He tries to object. ”You don’t need to list the consequences,” the Prez interjects, then basically does it for him. Secretary of State Joe drops by with news of the Matobo abduction, and Ethan maintains that Matobo is the only person to lead Sangala post-invasion. He and Joe urge her to reconsider. She says they still have 30 minutes to find Matobo before Dubaku’s deadline. Will no Matobo mean more Indecision ’09? Stay tuned.

At the FBI building, Sean apologizes to Erica for being a jerk. No worries, she says. Plus: ”I can’t stop thinking about last night.” OMG, it’s this season’s first sure-to-be-doomed interoffice romance! A few rooms over, Larry learns that Renee was taken by J & T’s crew, and he tells Janis that finding her is the top priority of everyone. It’s not quite Gary Oldman in The Professional‘s ”EVERYONE!!!!!!” but he really does mean it.

While Renee hates on Jack’s traitor-y ways, Emerson receives a call from his suited cohort (named Nichols). Nichols reports that Renee is useless because Tanner only spilled about the abduction. ”Kill her before you get here,” he instructs. Tony tries futilely to stall Emerson by asking if he trusts Nichols’ source; Emerson tells Litvak/Levine to stop at an abandoned construction site for the dirty deed.

Scoot back to the FBI to watch Boss Moss obsess over finding Renee, while Janis theorizes to Sean that Larry L-O-V-E-S Renee with this explanation: ”Instinct — I just know.” Sean swallows. Does she know about his fling? What would Edgar do? Bop over to the bad guys’ high-tech HQ, where Dubaku absorbs phone heat from Juma about the strike force’s non-withdrawal, and Nichols mentions the possibility of launching another attack with the CIP device.

NEXT PAGE: Trouble for the FG

Inside an apartment that Brian claims is his code-breaking boy’s, FG asks Brian to turn on the AC because it’s hot in herre. FG puts his jacket down (significant?) and comments on a picture of Roger and Samantha. ”This is Samantha’s apartment, sir,” Brian says, moving slowly toward him while ominously donning latex gloves. ”I’m sorry, sir.” (Cheer up, FG — at least he’s calling you ”sir” right up until he kills you. That’s respect.) Brian notes that he tried to protect Roger too, but Roger snooped in bad places. ”You killed my son!” declares FG, dropping his coffee cup and awkwardly falling to the floor as the neuromuscular paralytic that Brian laced his drink with takes effect. He digs the flash drive out of FG’s pocket, promises quick death, and calls his partner-in-crime about the plan: FG came to Samantha’s, killed her, then himself. Supposedly on behalf of FG, said agent approaches Samantha at a café, and soon they?re off to the apartment as the (B) plot thickens. I?m hoping hard that the double-murder cover-up development livens up this somewhat stilted story line.

One person who smells malfeasance: AG Rep. He’s still at FBI HQ, being that awkward guy who won’t leave at the end of the party. And he’s making Janis edgy, er, edgier. Larry wants to table any investigation until the crisis is over, but AG Rep threatens prosecution. Larry loses it: ”Maybe you can let us get her back first before you throw her to the wolves! I mean, if that’s okay with you!” Urgently requested by Janis, he leaves AG Rep in the dust. I think Boss Moss just got a little more likable.

Once Janis plays Larry an intercept of the kill-Renee phone call, we truck over to the scene of the upcoming crime. Emerson tells Jack, ”The ditch. Kill her.” Renee’s nervous. J & T are nervous. I’m nervous. Jack yanks her from the van and orders her to turn around. ”You’re going to have to look at me when you pull that trigger,” she hisses. As Emerson looks on, he barks, ”I said, ‘Turn around!”’ but whispers in her ear, ”If you trust me, I will get you through this alive.” Then he shoots the side of her neck. Wow, is Jack is playing with (gun)fire here. (I know that Jack has done the fake-kill shot trick before?remember Nina and the bulletproof vest from season 1??but I’m a sucker for this scenario.) He kicks her into the ditch and covers her with plastic wrap. ”For a second there, I didn’t think you were gonna do it,” Emerson says to Jack when he returns to the van. ”Now bury her.” D’oh! Another twist of tension! While Emerson and Litvak/Levine watch, Jack and Tony trek to the ditch — minds racing — and shovel dirt on her grave. Plomp. Plomp. Additional plomps. From Renee’s P.O.V., we see Jack look down at her and drop a shovelful of dirt on her face, blacking out our screens. 12:59:59…01:00:00. Silent clock, y’all!

Now that is a 24 cliffhanger, leaving me squirmy and jonesing for more. (Especially for Chloe and Bill. Where were they?) What did you guys think of this ending? Do you think FG and Renee are goners? (Or is the breathing over the clock a good sign for Renee?) And is Emerson really getting duped by J & T, or does he know more than he’s letting on? Deposit opinions and theories below.

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Kiefer Sutherland
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