By: Jamie Samuelsen
Some things have changed – Chloe has a ton of black eye-liner, Audrey has returned from a catatonic state and James Heller now resides in the White House.
Other things haven’t – the architecture of CTU/CIA remains remarkably unfinished and remarkably poorly lit, another U.S. President is in peril and Jack Bauer still looks good in a black leather coat (My wife Christy’s words, not mine).
After a four-year absence – Jack is Back! Or as Fox has been selling us since Super Bowl Sunday – #JackIsBack. You can’t leave out the hashtag! Did hashtags even exist the last time we saw Jack? Did drones? Did smart phones? It’s been so long that I almost forget.
For new readers to the 24 Blog, let me bring you up to speed. I started writing a weekly 24 recap about seven years and four radio stations ago. Like many of you, I fell in love with 24 in about Season Three and quickly rolled through the DVDs watching three and four episodes at a time. 24 won’t go down as the greatest show of all time and Kiefer Sutherland won’t go down as TV’s greatest actor. But there’s something about the show that sucks us in and still resonates today. So Jack is back (whoops – #JackIsBack), 24 is back. And as a result, the blog is back with a new home here on 971theticket.com. If Jack decides to make another return in four more years, I’ll probably be working out of a small radio station in my basement. Hopefully I’ll still have internet access.
So with that intro out of the way – let’s go.
The show begins in a seedy part of London known, apparently, as East London. I didn’t realize that East London had the same connotation as the south side of Chicago, but apparently it’s a rough area. A group of very short, very suspect looking men is hunting for another man. We can immediately assume that they’re looking for Jack for two reasons. First, we really can’t start the show without him. Second, 24 producers have for years given Jack the shortest co-stars as possible to make him look less short than he actually is. Rumor has it that Tony Almeida was 5’ 2” and I’m only exaggerating a little bit.
Watching the action back at CIA headquarters (why can’t they just call it CTU?) are two new characters who are clearly placed here thwart Jack’s efforts and make the government look incompetent and useless (I know. It’s a stretch.) One is Steve Navarro played by the long-necked Benjamin Bratt. And the other is Kate played by Yvonne Strahovski (a.k.a. the girl who Dexter boinked in the Christmas village.) Early on, Kate seemed like she was in the Dana Walsh mold, the hideous character who basically hijacked the first half of Season Eight. But other than a few sloppy references to Adam, her turncoat husband, most of her time was spent psychoanalyzing Jack and then chasing after him. (More on Adam will come. I’m sure of it.)
The gang of thugs surrounds Jack and finally apprehends him outside his hiding place in a warehouse. And all this happens before the clock even hits 11:06 AM! This is where I got a little confused. I was under the impression that this edition of 24 would not follow the real clock format allowing a little more leniency with the rules (Not that it ever stopped the writers and producers before. Every drive in Los Angeles was “ten minutes out.” If you’ve ever been to L.A., you know that’s a physical impossibility. ) But sure enough, there was Jack’s voice telling us that events occur in real time. We’ll see how this plays out. But if the show is only lasting 12 episodes, shouldn’t they retitle it “12”? I guess that doesn’t have the same ring to it.
The other early revelation is that Heller is now the president and he’s in London to ratify an agreement that would bring the US and Great Britain together in Heller’s ongoing push to use drones to defend American interests (or at least that’s my interpretation of it). His Chief of Staff is Mark played by longtime actor Tate Donovan best known for once sleeping with Jennifer Aniston and also playing a much older guy in Argo. I’m sure he’s done other things too. We quickly learn three things. First, Heller appears to be suffering from the early stages of dementia. He tells a story about FDR when he really meant Teddy Roosevelt. Second, Mark is very concerned about the President’s condition. Third, Mark is romantically involved with Audrey. He tells his aide that he spent three years at her bedside nursing her back to mental health after her horrible tryst with Jack Bauer. Doesn’t that sound like an awesome three years? What exactly did Mark see in Audrey that led him to decide to devote his life to her? Maybe he’s just power hungry. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Either way, it’s clear that Mark wants no mention of the names Jack or Bauer around anyone with the last name Heller.
Jack is brought back to the CIA where Navarro tries to get to the bottom of why Bauer happens to be in London at the exact same time that the President is there. Navarro also gets the directive from Mark that Bauer is to be taken directly to a “Special Activities Division” of the CIA where torture is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged! Sounds like Jack’s kind of place. Navarro tries every which way to get Jack’s pulse to rise (literally – Jack’s hooked up to some EKG monitor) but fails in his attempts. Kate is monitoring all this (for someone who is about to be sent stateside, she still has a boatload of security clearance) and busts into the interrogation room to question Jack herself. She sees a slight tick up in the old ticker knowing that Jack has ulterior motives here and was actually trying to get captured. But like most people at CTU/CIA who actually have a clue what’s going on, Kate’s views are quickly dismissed.
The very short security detail then transfers Jack to the eerie “Special Activities Division.” As the travel party shuffles along, one pretty cocky agent tells Jack that he’s read up on him and “you were really something back in the day.” I’m not sure that 24 has ever used more blatant foreshadowing in their long history of foreshadowing. You just know that punk will pay for those comments, and pay for them in a big way.
At this exact moment, it dawned on me that Jack had yet to speak a word in this episode. I knew he wasn’t mute – but I was starting to long for that first DAMMIT! As if on cue, Jack pushed some sort of sensor on his watch. A phone repairman above ground flipped a switch and the power shut down momentarily. Jack quickly took out all of the people guarding him, put a gun to the head of the head torture technician and said, “Take me to her. NOW!”
Oh, did I forget to mention that Chloe was already in the Special Activities Division getting the snot beat out of her and taking a heavy dose of pain-inducing drugs? Any longtime readers of this blog know that nothing would please me more than to watch Chloe get tortured. Is there an extended Director’s Cut available? Okay. All right. I’ll stop (momentarily). But I’ve never understood the universal love for Chloe who I find to be just as annoying as Kim Bauer was. (Okay, maybe that’s extreme too.)
Jack finds Chloe to be basically dead. But death has never stopped anyone on 24 before. Just ask Jack, Nina, Heller, Tony, RoboCop – am I forgetting anyone? All those characters “died” and somehow came back to life. Jack grabs some sort of EpiPen and thrusts it into Chloe’s chest à la Victor Vega in Pulp Fiction. Chloe is revived and Jack carries her back out of the “exam room”. But right there he’s confronted by Kate who has the perseverance of a Labrador. She points her gun at Jack, but at that exact instant, Jack hits the watch again and his man Friday fires a shoulder missile into the ground at the exact spot where they’re standing. An extended ladder comes down and Jack and Chloe get away.
Can you imagine that planning between Jack and his aide?
“Okay, when you get the first beep, shut down the power.”
“When you hear the second beep, fire a missile into this exact spot on the ground and then send a ladder down to us.”
Sounds about as good as the plan Jim Schwartz had when he tried that fake field goal in Pittsburgh. Difference is – this one worked.
The third plotline occurred back in the US where a young soldier named Chris Tanner was piloting a stealth drone out of a military base. He was running protection for a rather mean Commander named “Shepard”. As he was giving them the all clear on their route in Afghanistan, the drone’s controls were commandeered and a “Hellfire” assault was ordered on Shepard and the American forces. Tanner tried everything to abort, but the attack was carried out. Given the fact that Shepard had just revoked Tanner’s weekend privileges twenty minutes earlier, it looked awfully fishy that the missiles just “accidentally went off”. Although that is a tad extreme. Tanner would be excused for perhaps a bad attitude or showing up late. Taking out an entire battalion? Bad idea.
Jack and Chloe meanwhile have escaped with the third dude (still trying to figure out his name – looks a lot like Gary from “Veep”). They drive Chloe to a location where she knows she can “be safe” and they dump her off. 20 minutes ago, she was dead. Now she’s stumbling through the streets of London like she had a few too many ales at the pub. Chloe makes her way through a fence and into an abandoned building. Only it’s not so abandoned! Turns out that Chloe is the 24 version of Edward Snowden! She and her band of revolutionaries are all about releasing government documents for the betterment of society. (Never let it be said that 24 doesn’t love making a political statement or two along the way.)
Almost as soon as Chloe is welcomed back by her friends, her old friend Jack bursts into the room.
Well, well, well. So this was the plan all along! Jack broke Chloe out of the CIA just to trail her to find out where she was conducting her duplicitous dealings. Jack informs the stunned room and the clearly bummed out Chloe “two weeks ago, he tracked some Intel…” Wait, what? Jack is basically dead. His country has abandoned him on more than one occasion. He’s been forced to live on the run at least four or five times by my count. And here he is in London as an independent contractor? Simply tracking Intel for the betterment of world safety?? I know that scripture teaches us not to hold grudges, but if there is one man who deserves to hold a grudge, it’s Jack Fricking Bauer.
Basically it boils down to the fact that Jack needs to find Derek Yates. He’s the lynchpin of this whole operation. And he’s the one that took over the drone from Tanner to take out the soldiers.
Oh and about those soldiers – it turns out there were four men killed total. Two were Americans. Two were British. Heller learns this news right as he’s glad-handing the Prime Minister at a reception. When it’s clear what has happened with the drone and the fact that it was controlled by Americans, well let’s just say the treaty has about as much chance as succeeding as Chloe has of landing on the cover of Maxim in her current state.
Heller has the brilliant plan to transfer Tanner over to England to face a military tribunal under British control. (I’m sure that would be a popular move on the Sean Hannity show.) He also wants to directly face Parliament and face all of their angry questions. Mark and Audrey give him a test run and it doesn’t go well. Heller forgets that four men died instead of three. He’s clearly not up to a heated debate and of course you wonder if he’s even up to being president. Then you remember that both Wayne Palmer and Charles Logan held the same office and you reconsider.
Jack trails Derek Yates to another abandoned building in London. (Seriously, is there a huge economic problem over there? And they say Detroit is bad. Sheesh.) And while Jack is trailing Yates, Kate is trailing him. They all arrive at Yates hideout at about the same time.
Yates is furiously trying to “finish his project” for some mysterious shadowy woman who actually (for you Game of Thrones fans) is Catelyn Stark who (#SpoilerAlert) lost her head (literally) in the “Red Wedding” episode. I wonder if a similar fate waits for her this season on 24. Clearly, this woman will end up having ties to somebody (Heller? Jack? Mark? Kate? Donald Sterling?) But for now, she’s the evil mastermind of the whole plot.
Yates is distracted a bit by a Russian (judging by the accent) lady friend who just…can’t…get…enough of the Yateser! But as she’s trying to pull him away from his computer, Jack comes charging through the door of the apartment with a gun to the head of one of the henchman (also short by the way).
Jack immediately has about twelve guns pointed at him. He simply sneers.
“You probably think I’m at a disadvantage,” Jack says. “I promise you I’m not.”
Jack quickly takes care of all of the would-be attackers in the living room. How many does he kill? That’s unclear. But as he’s chasing after Yates, he’s intercepted by Kate who is busy chasing Jack down. Yates gets away. But after a swift head-butt to Kate’s pretty head, Jack and Chloe escape as well. Chloe tries to download Yates’ files off a zip drive that Jack took from the crime scene. But Yates put in a self-destruct program and the information melts before Chloe’s eyes.
Jack has last his man…and he’s lost his information.
Here it comes. The first of the season. Oh how we’ve waited for it…
“DAMMIT!!!” Jack shouts.
Not bad. Not a DAMMIT CHLOE! But still, a strong effort from our hero.
Yates and his woman are enjoying a cold frosty one at a neighborhood pub. I mean, why make a run for it when you need a beer? Yates goes into the bathroom and she follows him in. Wow, I mean she…really,really…wants him! Instead she buries a knife in his neck and walks out of the bar tearing off her poorly dyed wig and dumping it in a trash bin.
She then calls the shadowy woman who tells her “Come home. Mommy’s waiting.”
All in all, a very good first episode. We clearly see where this is heading. And we clearly know that a 24 twist is coming as well. Based on the scenes – Jack and Audrey will meet again (we knew that), Jack will go rogue again(we knew that too) and Jack will grow increasingly frustrated with Chloe (I mean – come on).
I’m thrilled 24 is back. Look for this blog every Tuesday as the season rolls on. I love talking about the show so feel free to drop me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org. If I get enough feedback, maybe I’ll put out a mailbag or something later in the week.
Thanks for reading!