By: Jamie Samuelsen
Another season ends. Another clock winds down. And another super-power has Jack Bauer in custody.
If Jack knew that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was an angry nation blaming him for their own atrocities, you wonder if he would ever bother to get out of bed in the first place.
But the world continues to spin thanks largely to the efforts of our hero. And the writers and producers of this great show thought enough of the ‘Live Another Day’ experiment that they left the ending very open-ended. When the actual series ended four years ago, Jack was left on his own to live on his own. It wasn’t exactly a ticker-tape parade, but it was a conclusion that Jack fans could stomach. But a prisoner of the Russian government? On his way to Moscow? No. This almost guarantees that we’ll get “24 – Live Another Day…Another Day”.
The first hint that this was going to be a different episode was when you head Kiefer Sutherland say, “The following takes place between 10 PM and 11 AM.” I barely noticed it, but Christy asked, “So this is going to be 13 hours?” I quickly rewound and realized that I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Unacceptable. It’s not like I had been awake for 12 hours fighting terrorism.
The episode begins with Audrey still stuck to the bench at that secluded London park under the watchful eye of a sniper. Her close, nearly dead, friend Xiao appears to still be alive. She reaches for Audrey, begging for help. Audrey assumes for a moment that Cheng actually has a soul. Clearly, Audrey assumes mistakenly. The sniper puts her down like an animal that’s been hit by a car on the freeway, but is still clinging to life. He really put her out of her misery. Cheng then orders Audrey to “Sit!” also like an animal. These are some truly bad guys.
Jack, Kate and Mark are back at Stolnavich’s house searching for any clues that would tie him to Cheng. They’re looking in the usual places. His office, his desk, a secret compartment underneath a drawer. Seriously, Jack is as good as it gets. But how does he possibly know to put an elbow through the base of some random drawer and find Stolnavich’s smart phone? The next time I lose my keys, Christy isn’t going to like the look of her dresser as I (try) to throw my elbow through each and every drawer.
The phone shows a series of phone calls to an alias (must be Cheng). And also shows the image of poor Audrey sitting there in the park with crosshairs trained on here. Is there an app for that? The hit man app? Is it 99 cents? Can I get it at my iTunes store?
Jack calls Cheng who orders him to stand down unless he wants to watch Audrey take a bullet live on the web. But Jack knows that standing down means that a war will begin between the US and China. He still has to go after Cheng. So Kate tells Jack that she’s going after Audrey and Jack will go to the shipyard to find Cheng. Oh, and by the way, they can’t tell anyone at the CIA. So as per usual is the world of 24 – it’s Jack and (She) Jack taking on the world. As it should be.
We next see a mysterious figure skulking down the road in the complete dark. Chloe! She’s alive! As bad as Chloe looked earlier in the day, she looks about a thousand times worse now. But lucky for her, the heavy black eye make-up is still going strong. Let’s not forget that a mere 11 hours ago, she was laying dead on an exam table in the CIA medical ward. And then about twenty minutes ago, she jumped from a speeding van, rolled down a hill and hit her head on a rock. So all things considered, she’s hanging in there pretty well.
Some nice British motorists stop to help her and she asks to use their phone. Hate to say it, but at 10:10 on a dark London night, after everything that had happened that day, I’m not stopping for a strange woman limping down the road. If that makes me a bad person, so be it. But A) the risk is too great and B) I’ve been rooting for Chloe’s demise for about a solid decade.
Heller is back at the CIA trying to avoid a nuclear war with China. He gets on the horn with the Chinese president and asks him again to pull back his forces as they head towards Okinawa. The president says that unless the Americans produce Cheng, the retaliation is on. Heller hangs up and assures the military men that if the Chinese cross the 12 mile line outside the base, “We will fight!”
Jack gets a phone call from Chloe and agrees to pick her up on the way to the waterfront. When he picks her up, he says, “Chloe! What the hell happened to you?” Uh, hello Jack? She ALWAYS looks like this!
She climbs into the truck and explains why she was with Adrian and the fact that she feels awful for any role she played in the attack on the Chinese aircraft carrier. Jack seems a little skeptical and at first turns down her offer to work comm on the attack on Cheng. Chloe then tells him, “Jack. At this point – I think I’m the only friend you have left.”
Two things here. First, would you really call Jack and Chloe “friends”? Do they go out socially? Do they exchange Christmas cards? Do they even like each other? I’ll bet you 50 bucks that Jack doesn’t even know when Chloe’s birthday is. They might be friends on Facebook, but that’s it! Secondly, that sentence completely disregards Jack’s long-standing friendship with Balchek.
Kate gets to the park where Audrey is being held and takes up a position in a bush. She calls Audrey’s cell phone and somehow Audrey knows not to put it to her ear, but instead to put it on speaker and pretend like she’s not getting a call. Pretty clever. Kate lays out the scenario. She wants Audrey to make a sudden move so that Kate can get some idea where the sniper is. The thing that struck me about this scene was the damn birds chirping in the background. Who produced this thing, the guys from CBS’ coverage of the Masters? What birds would be chirping at 10:15 at night? Yes. We KNOW she’s in a park. We didn’t need the birds as context clues.
Audrey makes a quick move, the sniper fires, and Audrey goes right back to the bench. (Full disclosure, I thought she got clipped in the leg based on her reaction. But she didn’t get shot. Yet. Spoiler Alert.) Kate, in full-Jack mode of course, has the single-eye scope and she looks to take out the shooter.
Jack and Chloe set up shop at the docks, with the dutiful aid from Balchek. I’ve been saying all season that Kate deserves her own show. Perhaps Balchek does too. It’s the story of a mysterious man who sits in an empty room staring at a wall. But then, every so often, he gets a call from a man named Jack and vaults into action shooting, killing and just helping out. If we can have multiple CSI’s, shouldn’t we be able to have multiple 24s?
Chloe puts together some sweet, color-coded heat-seeking satellite imagery so she knows exactly where all of Cheng’s henchmen are. She calls them out to Jack two-by-two. It’s a modern version of the assault on Noah’s Ark. The kill count, after being stagnant for much of the season, is now rising like a pinball machine. Two there. Two more there. Gone. Gone. Gone. Never before have mass casualties felt like such a breath of fresh air.
But Cheng realizes that something is amiss when his satellite gets some interference from another mysterious satellite (Dammit Chloe!). So he sends out a slew of henchmen to take out Jack who he just knows is on the premises.
Chloe realizes this and immediately tells Kate that she has to act fast, otherwise Audrey will be dead. So Kate and her team rush in. Shots are fired and somehow she takes out the hit man. Pretty impressive. This dude has his sights trained on Audrey, he’s in the cloak of darkness and yet Kate knows exactly where he is. She’s a natural.
Audrey is safe. Erik deploys the CIA to the docks to back up Jack. Jack gets the word that Audrey is okay. This whole plan may finally be coming together.
But then again, this is 24 and nothing ever comes together all that easily. Kate neglected to think about the fact that Cheng would have such unlimited resources at his disposal that he’d place a back-up hit man at the park on the off-chance that the first hit man couldn’t perform his duties, much like the first runner-up in the Miss America pageant. Oh yeah, he’d also have a getaway car driver.
Shooter number two attacks the traveling party and then speeds away. Last season, the Lions couldn’t afford any decent backup receivers, but Cheng can afford a backup hit man? Life just isn’t fair.
Kate turns and looks at Audrey who has her hand on her gut. And as she moves her hand away, she reveals a massive wound. Audrey falls. Kate rushes to her and tries to administer first aid. But a few breaths and one solitary tear later, Audrey is gone. This is confirmed with the dreaded 24 “silent clock”.
Kate calls Jack to tell him the rather bad news. If the Midas touch is the belief that everything one touches turns to gold, then the Jack touch is quite the opposite.
Let’s run down some of the women that Jack has loved over the years and check in on how they’re doing.
Teri Bauer – Dead.
Nina Myers – Dead.
Renee Walker – Dead.
Audrey Heller Raines Boudreau – Dead.
I’m 99% sure I’ve used this joke before, but can you imagine Jack on a first date?
Woman, “So Jack. Tell me about yourself. Have you been married? Did you have any girlfriends?”
Jack, “Well…this may sound a little weird…”
Jack takes the news sitting down against a wall. He has his stunned, shocked, saddened, trying-to-cry Jack face. And then, quite frankly, it’s on.
In the least surprising development in 24 history, Jack goes on the killing spree to end all killing sprees. He fires away at a group of shooters in the deck above him, taking them all out. He storms into a kitchen, shoots some more and then grabs a meat cleaver to take care of another. At one point, I actually feared that he’d take out Balchek as a certain kind of collateral damage. He storms into Cheng’s command center, stabs his last remaining man and then engaged with a little hand-to-hand combat with his arch-nemesis. Sorry that Audrey had to go. But given the fact that it led to that scene, it was almost worth it.
But time is of the essence as the Chinese have now breached the 12-mile line outside of Okinawa. Heller has no choice but to retaliate. But before he can, Jack comes online with a bloodied, battered Cheng under his arm and tells the President that they have their man. Jack grabs a samurai sword off the wall (because what is a cargo ship without a samurai sword?) and puts it to Cheng’s neck.
“Tell them who you are!” Jack implores. “TELL THEM!” (Second time for good measure.)
Cheng croaks out that he is, in fact, Cheng Zhi. Gavin gets both voice match and visual match on his database of bad guys. (Is that app available?) And after Jack signs off so that Heller can relay the info to the Chinese government, Jack finishes the job on Cheng with a flourish. I’d have to go through all the deaths in 24 history to do a ranking (Can I get an intern for that?), but the two-handed, baseball bat, head in the air, beheading of Cheng Zhi has to make the top three. And it may be number one.
Heller gets assurances that the Chinese will stand down and the whole event is over. But as the President rises from the table, he’s informed that his beloved Audrey has been killed. He keels over on the ground due to shock, fatigue, whatever. But comes to at the end so we know that the scene from last week was simply a red herring.
As Jack is cleaning up the mess he created at the docks, he realizes that Chloe has disappeared from her warehouse command center and Balchek notices a single drop of blood on the ground. The phone rings and Jack answers it. Honestly Jack, I’d let it go to voice mail. He agrees to whatever plan is proposed and hangs up. Who could it possibly be at this point? Kim? Chase? Tony? His brother?
Night turns to day and we see Heller standing with Davies as they get set to put Audrey’s body on the plane. Not exactly the grand departure that Heller was hoping for when he arrived. Wonder if they ever ironed out the drone issue?
Heller then embarks on easily the most depressing speech that’s ever been delivered. He tells Davies how he didn’t remember Audrey when he looked at her photo in the Oval Office. Then he goes on to say that he won’t remember this day, he won’t remember Audrey’s death and he won’t remember Audrey at all. Hopefully, he won’t remember giving such an absolute wet blanket of a speech either. Davies looks at him with one of those “wow, glad it’s not me” looks. Then Heller puts his hand on Audrey’s flag-draped coffin and departs towards Air Force One.
Jack and Balchek roll up on a deserted warehouse district just as a mysterious helicopter lands. I wonder what they did last night? Did they grab a bite? Catch some sleep? Jack had to know that he was going to turn himself over to the Russians in the morning so I hope he at least tied one on or hit a strip club on his last night of freedom.
The chopper lands and Chloe emerges along with some Russian heavies. Chloe walks towards Jack. Jack walks towards Chloe. Jack thanks her and tells her, “You’re probably my best friend.” What a sorry statement that is. But painfully true. Jack then walks to the Russian and threatens him. If anything happens to Chloe or Jack’s family, hell will be unleashed. Otherwise, he’ll just go quietly.
Where is the American government in all this? Where is Heller? Can’t they strong- arm the Russians a little given the fact that a Russian emissary almost just caused World War III? Once again, Jack saves the planet and his own country doesn’t even go to bat for him. You know that Lee Greenwood song? Well, don’t play it for Jack Bauer right now. The greatest of all Americans doesn’t get the Medal of Freedom for his actions. Instead, he gets a one-way ticket to the gulag.
As usual, at the end of 24, I’m left wondering what the newspaper would look like the next day. What would be the “above-the-fold” headline? Daughter of the President Murdered! Chinese Aircraft Carrier Destroyed! Wembley Stadium Attacked! Drones Target London Hospital! There’s a Sale at Penney’s!
JACK’S KILL COUNT – Episode – Are you kidding me? Season – Are you kidding me? That was a blood bath.
KATE’S KILL COUNT – Episode – One.
STEVE NAVARRO LEADERSHIP AWARD – Jack saves the world. Heller ignores him completely just because his daughter died. Get your priorities straight Mr. President!
ANNOYING TIME ISSUE OF THE WEEK – Eh. Nothing big. Why complain with the finale?
Overall, I give this season of 24 a solid B+. It won’t go down as the greatest ever. And some of the storylines were warmed leftovers. But all in all, it was great having Jack back in our lives. If 24 returns, I highly recommend going with 12 episodes once again. Things moved along but they kept the real-time format for the most part. They didn’t have to get dragged out. And they could avoid filling all the eps with lame storylines that nobody cares about (see Walsh, Dana or Bauer, Kim or Amnesia, Teri).
Thanks for returning to the blog. It was a lot of fun to write. I really appreciate the email and the feedback – especially from my favorite 24 couple Mike and Rachel Henegar who find the same things annoying and the same things amusing that I do!
If 24 returns, the blog will return. I promise. We owe it to Jack.