''24'' wages war on terror and bigotry: Jack gets some unexpected help from the usual suspects; plus, Michelle and Tony work out their divorce settlement

By Lynette Rice
Updated March 15, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST
24, Kiefer Sutherland
Credit: Kiefer Sutherland: Anthony Mandler/FOX

”24”: The war on terror and stereotypes

If any one group should be peeved at how it’s portrayed on 24, it should be the Brits. That poor limey Paul. First he gets his heart broken by Audrey, then he gets his chest electrocuted by Jack, then his face and fingers are pulverized by some heavies at McLennan-Forster, and then he takes a freakin’ bullet to the chest. This does nothing to advance the notion that Brits are more than just well-spoken dandies who like to quote the classics. 24 makes them look weak and helpless. Brits should not take this lying down! They should demand that Fox air a public-service announcement decrying anti-British stereotypes!

Of course, I’m going to hell for saying this, because as you may or may not know, 24 has taken serious heat this season from advocacy groups for its portrayals of Muslim Americans as bad guys (and gals). The argument: This kind of offensive storytelling might be okay if there were, say, an Arab-American Cosby on the air, but there is not. 24 needs to provide balance!

We may have just seen the result of those complaints in this episode — a pair of Arab Americans vow to help Jack fight the good fight against the M-F goons. To which I say, Fine, a step in the right direction, I guess, but did they have to own a gun shop? Couldn’t these patriotic Arab Americans have sold something that’s not typically associated with terrorists — like apple pies, maybe? Good ol’ American apple pies? But then pie throwing might not have warded off the bad guys, and Jack needed a firefight to tip off CTU to his whereabouts. So heavy artillery it is.

And speaking of heavy artillery, the 24 producers have certainly brought out the big guns this season — dangerous stereotypes, ripped-from-the-headlines stories, weapons of mass torture — and all I can say is, when’s the next episode? I have watched this show since season 1 and have always been a huge fan of our antihero Jack — even if I reviled that whole hooked-on-heroin trip he made us endure last season, not to mention the show’s lame excuse to bring a stacked blonde back in the mix by making Kim some jargon-spewing techie at CTU. This, by far, is the drama’s best season, and I’d rather watch two hours of that poor limey Paul being tortured than 15 minutes of (insert title of CSI or Law & Order rip-off here). Wouldn’t you?

Anyway, back to the streets of L.A. We were left knowing that Paul and Jack managed to get info from M-F that could expose how Habib managed to infiltrate the defense firm, which we now know sells arms to terrorists. But just how dirty is the company? 24 took great pains last week to inform us that M-F not only sells those arms but trains those who use them. Why should we care? Does that make M-F an accomplice in the nuclear plant attacks? And where is Habib, anyway? Looks like he’s somewhere in L.A. contacting a guy named Anderson, who looks strangely like Opie’s scrawny cousin. Anderson pulls out an Air Force uniform and seems to have designs on Air Force One. My guess is another bomb is in order. A presidential assassination, maybe?

Speaking of bombs, the one Secretary Heller dropped on Tony — bringing back his ex-wife, Michelle, to run CTU — didn’t have much of a lasting impact. By episode’s end, Michelle’s anger toward her ex had all but disappeared, and we were left with the notion that these two could hook up in time for May sweeps. But really, what’s with Sarah’s meltdown in front of Michelle? Now’s not the time to demand an apology and a pay raise, girlfriend. The only reason I could think of for such a silly scene was that her departure makes way for the much-anticipated return of that wonderful she-devil Chloe. Just please, make it be Chloe and not Kim, who producers have hinted could stage a dreadful comeback.

Next week will surely bring the inevitable showdown between Jack and Audrey, who begged him to protect Paul when they were out fighting the bad guys. Obviously, Jack didn’t hold up his end of the bargain — Paul’s been shot and his fingers look like pancakes. Judging by the doubts she already has about Jack after watching him take Paul on a painful trip through circuit city, Audrey seems ready to bolt.

What do you think? How does this season compare to the first three? Which character would you most like to see rejoin the cast? And are we missing any potential moles?

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