Letting Jack Bauer Be Jack Bauer
Last week on "24," Jack Bauer was in custody the whole hour, and much of the show was dull. This week, the writers let Jack be Jack. They also remembered that President James Heller is suffering from Alzheimer's. Right at the top of the hour, as he orders the military to share sensitive data with the British, Heller gives the same order twice. Lest viewers miss the point, he helpfully says: "I'm repeating myself." The British prime minister is told by an aide that intelligence reports indicate that the president is secretly seeing a neurologist for the condition.
Meanwhile, one of the hijacked drones is within range of London, and the others, we are told, will be on station within two to three hours. Yet nobody -- not one analyst or political leader or agent -- asks how much fuel the drones have and how long they can stay in the air.
The hijacker, you will recall, is Margot Al-Harazi, aka Obviously Insane Woman. As she watches her henchmen remove the body of her son-in-law, Naveed, whom last hour she shot in the head, the dead man's mobile phone rings. Obviously Insane Woman listens to the message. It's Naveed's sister, Farah, whom he had apparently told to prepare to leave London in a hurry. Unfortunately, Naveed failed to add a useful loving warning. (For instance: "Don't call me back on this phone. My terrorist mother-in-law might overhear and send somebody to kill you.")
Terrorist mother-in-law does overhear and sends her own daughter, Simone -- last seen witnessing without visible emotion her husband's murder -- to find out what Farah knows. Simone drops in, is greeted effusively by Farah and her daughter ("Aunt Simone!" the little one squeals), and, after an interrogation lasting perhaps 20 seconds, calls mommy to report that all is well. Mommy isn't persuaded. She tells Simone to kill Farah and child just in case.
This doesn't seem like a very good plan. A murder will mean an investigation, and the possibility of evidence leading back to the killer. Neighbors, for instance, might see Simone going into the house. With London's elaborate system of anti-crime cameras, she might be caught on video rushing away after the crime. Besides, it isn't clear exactly what Obviously Insane Woman is worried will be disclosed, given that she has already announced her plans. Why not just hunker down?
Because it's "24"! And because it's "24," an obviously conflicted Simone tries to tell Farah to take her daughter and flee, right now. Farah, alas, tries to call the police. In the ensuing struggle, Simone winds up stabbing her to death anyway, possibly by accident. Simone then chases her niece out the door and is run over by a bus. Good riddance and rough justice, one might think, given the blood on her hands, but in the scenes from next week's episode, we see Simone waking up in the hospital with a few bruises.
Meanwhile, back in Jack-land, an arms dealer named Karl Rask might know where Margot is hiding. With President Heller's permission, Jack concocts a scheme to contact him, aided only by disgraced CIA agent Kate Morgan. He insists that nobody follow him or track him, because Rask will know. He then tells Kate that he used to work for Rask (although in a good-guy army-of-one sort of way), and that he is going to hand her over as a peace offering. Her job will be to tell Rask that the CIA's mole in his ranks wasn't Jack. Meanwhile, Jack and Chloe have worked out a bizarre plan whereby Jack will tell Rask that some money he is missing is in Jack's account in a Swiss bank. If Rask logs on, a virus will give them access to all of the data on Rask's laptop, and they'll be able to find Margot.
First, what if, say, Rask wisely uses a different laptop than the one on which he stores the entire record of his criminal enterprise? (OK, we can cover that one: He's a rich arms dealer but also a complete idiot.) Second, why does Chloe have to set up this sting? Why couldn't the CIA or MI-5 do it? Third, why on earth does Jack insist that he not be followed or tracked? After all, he's wearing an earphone and hears from Chloe constantly, and not one of the henchmen so much as searches his car for a bug.
Anyway, Agent Kate is delivered, and Agent Kate is tortured, and I suppose that some of the torture -- especially the whole drill-to-the-head part -- would have seemed gruesome, had I not watched the duel on "Game of Thrones" the night before. But the baddies, who don't believe a word of her story but oddly believe every word of Jack's, don't actually drill into her head. The Blue Team from MI-5 arrives in the nick of time. (You see, the British discovered from thermal imaging that Kate was in the trunk of the car unconscious and therefore deduced that Jack must be betraying -- oh, never mind.) The Blue Team arrives, a shootout ensues, and Agent Kate performs the Mel-Gibson-escaping-torture-by-breaking-the-torturer's-neck routine from "Lethal Weapon." All of the baddies are killed except Rask himself. Jack arrests Rask, the MI-5 agents arrest them both, and Rask grabs a hand grenade from one of his captors and blows himself up and --
Wait. Since when do SWAT teams go into urban areas in their own countries carrying hand grenades other than flash-bangs?
Never mind. Rask blows himself up. And here's the best part. All the British commandos are wearing helmets and body armor, but every single one is either killed or knocked unconscious. Jack is unshielded, but comes through just fine. He and Kate limp outside --
Where for reasons unknown the Blue Team has stationed not a single lookout or rear guard. Evidently it's unheard of in the U.K. for bad guys to try to escape through the back door rather than shooting it out with trained commandos.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch -- that is, back at the CIA's London Station -- Station Chief Steve Navarro is on the telephone with an unknown voice belonging to the chief baddie. Because, as I mentioned in my post about this season's initial episode, in the "24" world, the chief baddie is never who it seems to be. There's always a conspiracy behind the conspiracy.
Anyway, in a bit of quick exposition, we learn that crack CIA computer analyst Jordan Reed (aka Chloe-B) is trying to uncover deleted files from the server. Turns out that Navarro and the chief bad guy planted evidence to frame Kate's husband. Navarro is ordered to take care of the situation, and, well, we all know what that means.
Oh, and lest we forget, slimy White House Chief of Staff Mark Boudreau, in a wholly uninteresting subplot, is still scheming to turn Jack over to the Russians, because his wife Audrey is still in love with her ex-boyfriend.
Next week: The British prime minister faces questions in Commons over why, with heavily armed drones heading for London, he allowed a president suffering from Alzheimer's to talk him out of using the military to evacuate the city.
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