'24' Is Like 'Game of Thrones' With Drones

The absurdities are piling up in Fox's "24: Live Another Day," but so is its entertainment value.
A scene from another show with interesting characters whose stories mesh imperfectly. Photographer: Helen Sloan/HBO via Bloomberg

I've often wondered why more terrorists don't try the device we saw last night on Fox's "24: Live Another Day." Margot Al-Harazi, aka Obviously Insane Woman, is planning to use her hijacked drones to fire missiles at London unless the U.S. president turns himself over to her.

In the real world, nobody would even consider yielding to such a demand. (When James Gandolfini, as the mayor of New York, laughed off an analogous threat in the remake of "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3," nobody was surprised, although some of the hostages being held by John Travolta were annoyed.) In the "24" universe, a president might actually agree, with Jack Bauer secretly riding shotgun to kill the bad guys. In fact, I can't see any reason for Margot's threat other than to set up exactly that situation. I imagine we'll find out in an hour or two of "24" time.

Meanwhile, Jack himself begins and ends last night's episode in custody. The difference is that as the episode opens, he is being held by the Marines, who want to know what became of the flight key that he stormed the U.S. Embassy in order to swipe. Last week, Kate Morgan, disgraced operative of the Central Intelligence Agency, claimed Jack was her prisoner. Now the Marines are holding both. They search Jack. No flight key. They ask where it is. He won't say. They ask Kate. She says she doesn't know. The Marines usher Kate out. Odd how it occurs to nobody that maybe Jack, um, gave her the flight key.

Kate leaves the embassy, key in her pocket, and immediately uploads the contents to Chloe O'Brian, who along with Adrian, her evil hacker mentor, at once determines what the U.S. military analysts missed: The drone that fired at Allied forces was indeed hijacked.

Steve Navarro, the CIA's chief of station in London, is now persuaded, and he calls the president (because all CIA station chiefs have the number on speed dial) and tells him that the agency can confirm that Margot Al-Harazi took control of the drone, meaning that Jack Bauer was telling the truth all along. Um -- no. The agency can't. At best it can confirm that an "override code" has been found in the data stream. Nothing we've seen so far proves Obviously Insane Woman was responsible.

(By the way, why is the override code so easy for hackers and agency analysts to see? Do they all understand how the drone's programming works? How do they know what they're looking at? And how -- oh, never mind.)

Meanwhile, back at London station, Navarro takes Kate off the duty roster. Not because she just gave highly classified information to a bunch of hackers, mind you, but because the Marine captain has filed a complaint. Navarro says it isn't up to him. It's orders from Division. (One can almost hear Sally Field in "Soapdish": "This is not your decision to make! This comes from upstairs!")

Meanwhile, Obviously Insane Woman has sent off the video containing the aforementioned threat. Turns out that her son-in-law, Naveed, who last week (sorry, last hour) agreed to keep working for her so that she'd stop cutting off his wife's fingers, has intentionally messed up the security on the video, so that the authorities can track its origin. Meanwhile, wife Simone, in terrible pain from the finger-chopping, whispers to her husband: "I never thought my mother would go this far." (The same mother, bear in mind, on whose behalf Simone killed a hacker with a knife through his ear.)

Anyway, Jack Bauer is now off to see the president, because -- well, because he's Jack Bauer. The president asks if there is anything Jack can tell him to help them catch Margot -- a question the Marines or the CIA could have asked back at the embassy. But then we'd have been denied Jack's tender reunion with ex-lover Audrey, as well as his request to be released, because nobody else can track Margot down -- a request the president denies. (By the way, what's happened to the president's Alzheimer's? Have the writers forgotten about it?)

Meanwhile, the CIA has figured out the location of the IP address from which the video was sent. Do they call their British hosts? Ask them to have a look? Nope. They send out a team of heavily armed operatives, who without doing any reconnaissance or using so much as a flash-bang, assault the house. Unfortunately, as anyone who has seen a single Hollywood movie could have guessed, it's a trap.

Kate, off the roster but still wandering around, figures this out after breaking the law yet again, allowing Chloe access to the CIA server to view the original of Margot's message. Chloe figures out that the IP address has been faked. Kate grabs a headset and yells at the team to get out of the house. A drone fires missiles at the house, blowing it to smithereens, and a chunk of the team with it.

Oh, and here's the fun part. The IP code Naveed hid in the video was changed by fellow terrorist hacker Ian. Last hour, we established that Margot needs Naveed alive to pilot her hijacked drones. Now it seems she doesn't. Ian has figured out how it's done just from watching Naveed. All that expensive training the Air Force gives drone pilots turns out to be unnecessary. They could all just watch Naveed.

No. Sorry. They can't. Obviously Insane Woman shoots him in the head after Simone declines to plead for her husband's life.

Overall a fun episode, but one where Jack Bauer himself did almost nothing -- a stark contrast to the old "24" series, where Jack did pretty much everything. "Now it's like 'Game of Thrones,'" said my son, and he's right: interesting characters running around with stories that mesh imperfectly. Still, no reason for worry. We know from the coming attractions that next hour we'll be back to all Jack, all the time.

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