The episode opens with Erika confronting Sean because she has found out about the warrant he issued on Jack and Renee’s vehicle. At first it seems like Erika has busted him as the mole when BOOM WTF we realize that Erika is working WITH Sean against the FBI!!! There are not one, but TWO moles! They’ve been exchanging more than just bodily fluids, they’ve also been exchanging dastardly treasonous deeds! Erika is worried that Sean’s carelessness will expose them, as the suspicious warrant leads directly back to him, but Sean assures her he has everything under control.
Meanwhile, the car carrying Marika arrives at Dubaku’s location. Dubaku is immediately hostile, prattling on about how he thought he could trust her and he doesn’t understand why she would betray him and blah blah blah. Marika admits that the FBI told her of his true identity. Dubaku, who demonstrates that his heart and his brain clearly cannot function simultaneously, tries to convince her that the evidence the FBI showed her was a bunch of lies fabricated by his enemies. He tells her he is a “forgiving man” and that he still wants her to leave the country with him, imploring her to recognize that underneath all the genocide and murder and terrorism, he’s still the man she fell in love with. Marika realizes the only way she can stay alive at this point is by playing along, so she tearfully agrees and they get into an SUV with Dubaku’s driver. As they drive, Dubaku receives a call from Ryan Burnett, assuring him that his plane is all gassed up and ready to go.
By this point, Chloe has located Dubaku’s vehicle using traffic cameras and she gives Jack his position. Jack and Renee chase Dubaku through the busy streets of DC. Dubaku manages to lose them briefly, trapping them behind a mess of collisions. When Marika realizes that they might just make their getaway, she attacks the driver, grabbing the steering wheel and yanking it violently. The truck loses control, smashes into another car, does a 360 in the air and then crashes into the street. Jack and Renee run towards the truck as Dubaku’s driver crawls out through the broken windshield. Jack orders him to surrender, but the driver goes for his gun, so Jack caps him. Jack pulls a seriously injured Dubaku from the car and frantically informs Larry that they need an ambulance, while Walker tries to extract Marika from the wreckage, which by now has started on fire. Marika’s leg is pinned, however, and Renee can’t get her out. Jack warns Renee that the car is about to explode and to leave Marika, but Renee refuses. Jack tries to pull her away when Renee draws her gun on Jack, telling him to either help her or leave her alone. Jack frees Marika’s leg, and he and Walker drag Marika away from the truck seconds before it explodes. Walker attempts to perform CPR on Marika while Jack attends to Dubaku, but it is too late. Marika is dead.
Over at the hospital, President Taylor waits nervously for word on how her husband’s surgery is going. She expresses her guilt and remorse to Ethan about not believing Henry’s assertions that Roger was murdered. Bill is concerned that Taylor is too exposed at the hospital, and that he cannot protect her effectively. He urges her to return to the White House. She is reluctant to leave her husband’s side with his life hanging in the balance, but Ethan reminds her that Henry will be in surgery for at least a few more hours, and she needs to focus on her Presidential duties while she waits. She agrees, and they prepare to go back to the White House.
In the meantime, the medics have arrived at the scene of the crash and are working on Dubaku. Jack orders them to revive Dubaku so he can question him before they take him away. The medics initially refuse, but reconsider their position after Jack sticks his gun in their faces. They administer a shot of adrenaline to Dubaku’s heart, and he regains consciousness. Jack doesn’t waste any time, informing Dubaku that unless he tells him what he wants to know, he will hunt down his family in Sangala and hurt them. Dubaku tells Jack he has a list of the government operatives on his payroll, but starts crashing before he can tell Jack where it is. When the medics attempt to use a defibrillator on Dubaku, they detect interference. Jack realizes that Dubaku has pulled a Wallace, and cuts open Dubaku’s torso to reveal a memory chip implanted under his skin. He extracts the chip and sends a Police helicopter pilot to deliver the chip to Moss at the FBI.
Sean, who has been listening in on all of Moss’s communication with Jack and Walker through the bug he planted in their phone lines, realizes they will have the list soon and that he will be exposed unless he can launch a preemptive strike. He drags Erika into the bathroom and explains the situation. Erika panics, and Sean tries to calm her down. He convinces her their only way out is to do a system-wide reformat as soon as Chloe downloads the info, obliterating every piece of data on the entire FBI computer network, and that Erika is the only one experienced enough with the servers to bypass the necessary safety protocols. He turns on the charm and professes his love for Erika. Erika agrees to help, and tells Sean she needs him to reconfigure a motherboard so they can access the mainframe server properly, then they make out in a highly disturbing display of slimy mole love that will haunt me (and not in a good way) for years to come. Shortly thereafter, Moss and Chloe get the memory chip with Dubaku’s list. Chloe realizes that it is a special chip with an auto-erase mechanism — they have one shot at downloading the data before it is lost forever.
Sean meets Erika in the server room, and after a couple of hiccups, she successfully initiates the reformat. It doesn’t take Chloe long to realize what’s happening, as she and Moss run toward the mainframe room. Erika and Sean are celebrating by making out some more, and Sean pins Erika up against the wall. Just when it looks like they are about the consummate the reformat with a bout of disturbingly steamy mole sex, Sean jams a gun into Erika’s chest and shoots her. Her last act is to stare disbelievingly into Sean’s eyes as he watches her crumple to the floor and die, his obsidian gaze unflinching. He then takes the gun and shoots himself in the arm and lays on the ground. When Chloe and Moss bust in, Sean quickly spins a very convincing tale about how he discovered that Erika was the mole and when he confronted her, she shot him. He goes on that he accidentally killed her when the gun went off during a struggle. Chloe dejectedly informs Moss that there is nothing she can do to stop the reformat — the list has been destroyed.
Moss takes Sean to get his arm patched up, and informs him that he will have to make a formal statement about the shooting. Just then, Chloe calls Moss to tell him she still has a trick or two up her sleeve — she was able to recover the list data because she has been mirroring all of the activity on her FBI terminal using an off-site server, which Erika’s parameters were too narrow to affect during the reformat. When Moss relays this to Sean, he realizes from Sean’s reaction that he’s scared, and that he’s been lying. He lets Sean leave the room, assuming Sean will try to run. Larry’s assumptions are correct, and he intercepts and arrests Sean on his way out of the building.
Back at the hospital where Dubaku is being treated, Marika’s sister arrives and is devastated to learn that Marika was killed during the operation. She blames Walker, moaning about how Walker promised to protect Marika. When Walker expresses her remorse to Jack, Jack assures her that they did what was necessary. Walker is angry that Jack is not exhibiting the same emotional pain over Marika’s death that she feels and slaps him across the face a few times. Jack holds her to comfort her, and assures her that sooner or later she will learn to live with it. Walker responds that maybe she doesn’t *want* to learn to live with it, and Jack replies matter of factly that if that’s the case, she should quit.
Meanwhile, at the White House, President Taylor is reunited with her estranged daughter Olivia, who wants to go to the hospital to be with her father. Taylor refuses, saying Olivia must stay to guarantee her safety. Bill enters and informs Taylor that Dubaku was captured and that the FBI has recovered the files on all of the dirty agents. Bill takes the opportunity to plead Jack’s case to Taylor, asking her to call Senator Mayer off his witch-hunt. Taylor says she will think about it.
Jack, believing the crisis is now over, sits quietly on the steps of the Capitol Building, pondering life. Tony approaches from behind him and sits down next to him a short distance away. Jack is surprised to see Tony, and seems angry that Tony has not followed through on his promise to turn himself in. Tony explains that he will turn himself in, but not until the crisis is over, and it isn’t over yet. He elaborates that the contact from Emerson’s crew he’d been investigating while Jack was chasing Dubaku revealed to him that General Juma has another attack against Washington DC planned for within the next hour, and identifies Ryan Burnett, Senator Mayer’s chief of staff, as one of the perpetrators. Jack urges Tony to take his intel to the FBI, but Tony counters that by the time the FBI goes through all their proper procedures and red tape, it will be too late. Tony tells Jack that if he wants in on the operation, to meet him at a nearby street corner. He gets up, puts on his classic purple-tinged badass aviator sunglasses, and places a gentle hand on Jack’s shoulder. “I need your help,” he implores to his brother, and walks off into a breathtaking pink and orange sunset glowing behind the silhouette of the Washington Monument in the distance, while Jack struggles with that to do next.
Cut to Senator Mayer’s office. Mayer tells Burnett that the President has called him to the White House to discuss Jack Bauer. Mayer doesn’t like the timing and asks Burnett to accompany him. Burnett receives a text message stating that units are in place and the operation is on schedule. Boop beep.
Off the cuff, despite the fact that Tony was in it for only 3 minutes, this was probably my favourite episode of the Season since Episode 3. It had what we have come to refer to as “the 24 feeling”. Meaning, it had all the elements of classic 24 at its best. It was the first time in a very long time where I have felt the gratification of a revelatory payoff for following the slow unfolding on a multi-episode arc.
First, the big double mole reveal with Sean and Erika. All season we have been asking ourselves “who is the mole?” not “who are the moles?” and this scene more than makes up for the anti-climactic nature of the Sean reveal in the previous episode. Once again, the 24 writers have presented us with a new variation on the mole concept, and this one pays off in spades. Suddenly, we realize that all of the seemingly superfluous sub-plot they were setting up with Sean and Erika’s affair was actually going somewhere, and where it went was goooood. Rhys Coiro stole the show in this episode, showing a new side of Sean Hillinger, one that was colder, smarter, more ruthless and more calculating than we previously imagined he was capable of. Sean’s actions in this episode solidify him as one of the best moles 24 has ever seen, who executed his moledom better than any mole since Nina. The moment where Sean coldly shoots Erika while his tongue is down her throat and then unflinchingly watches her die will haunt my dreams. The entire conclusion of this arc added a new depth to both Sean and Erika, and made me go “YES! At last! Evidence of brilliance!”
Larry Moss’s character also stepped it up in a big way in this episode, finally becoming willing to open his mind to what his intuition is perceiving. It was a strong choice to have Larry suspect and arrest Sean, because he’s finally got his head out of his ass and into the game.
Chloe’s smart plan to mirror her terminal off-site was convenient, and did perhaps take away from the possibility to make Sean squirm for a few more hours, but at the same time was very true to Chloe’s character and demonstrated again why she’s the best at what she does. It is my feeling that it was important to keep Chloe on the top of her game, and there still remain other angles to explore the Sean character … such as turning him into a double agent and forcing him to help the FBI get to Burnett.
Dubaku’s capture was rather predictable, but extraordinarily well-executed, so it’s all good. The car chase, while grandiose, was the kind of high-octane action we have come to know and love from 24. The homage to Jonathan Wallace in Season 2 was fun. We could complain that it was unoriginal, but I think johanley described it best when he said: Jack didn’t hesitate at all, he just went “Another motherf*cker with valuable information under his skin? Get me a knife!” Walker pulling her gun on Jack was intense, and once again Annie Wersching owns her character in every scene she’s in. I liked that even though they got Marika out of the car in the nick of time, she still perished, which contributes to the overall tragic feel of the series — not everything has a happy ending, and even happy endings have their fair share of collateral damage. I think it is important to note that Marika made the choice to be part of the operation because she felt it was her moral obligation to help her country, and even though she did die, her death was not in vain.
The scene between Jack and Walker in the hospital was another key installment of what has emerged as one of this season’s overriding themes: is the collateral damage and the toll it takes on those left in its wake worth it? Which is, by the by, I think wholly separate from the issue/theme of “Is torture right or wrong?” These themes are related, but they are separate. This scene perfectly encapsulates the overall juxtaposition between the Jack and Renee characters, with Jack representative of someone who is willing to accept everything they’ve done as necessary, and has moved beyond his crisis of conscience to a place where he is at peace with his worldview and can see the situation somewhat objectively, and Renee representative of someone whose entire worldview is shaken, unstable and transient at its fundamental core in real time as she experiences this type of crisis, and its consequences, for the first time.
The scene with Tony at the end was the kind of perfect, beautiful, quiet brotherhood moment that we have not experienced since Season 4 when Jack tells Tony how he “watched his friend come back to life”, which is fitting since this scene was definitely an homage in role reversal to the dynamic between Jack and Tony in Season 4 when Jack needs Tony’s help and Tony is the one who just wants the whole mess of counter-terrorism in his life to be over. It was perfectly acted, beautifully shot and I agree fully with those who have been saying that this scene between any other two character or actors that do not share the same history as Jack/Tony and Kiefer/Carlos would not have played nearly as effectively. It is important to note the respect and loyalty between these two characters. Tony is going to pursue this lead either way, but he wants his brother in arms by his side. Yet he does not make demands on Jack, he respects Jack’s mixed emotions regarding their relationship and instead appeals to the bond they share.
It also had another satisfying revelation in that Tony’s off-screen contact with his lead from Emerson’s crew ties the Juma conspiracy and this upcoming attack back to Senator Mayer from Episode 1, writing off concerns that Tony’s storyline had become irrelevant. This was a nice touch and added more of the kind of synchronicity that Season 4, 5 and 6 lacked severely.
My only real complaint about the episode is how ridiculous a villain Dubaku turned out to be. When he tried to convince himself that Marika still loved him instead of killing her right then and there, I lost all respect for him as a villain. Pathetic. I can only hope now that he’s been Gainesed, there will be room for real villains like Hodges to shine.
This episode was a very satisfying conclusion to Act 1, and set up an interesting arc for Act 2. It had all the elements, including a great action sequence, exceptional character and relationship moments in multiple spheres, including Jack/Renee, Jack/Tony, Sean/Erika and Moss, revelatory connections that have been set up since the beginning and are paying off now, and the most incredible sunset perhaps ever in the series (although isn’t 6 pm a little early for the sun to be setting in Washington in springtime? Oh well, whatever, the artistic value of it completely makes up for any realism problems). Amazing touches like Tony’s aviator sunglasses making an appearance serve to demonstrate that the people behind the show do pay attention to the little character details that fans live for, and although I am loathe to take credit for the popularity or resurrection of Tony’s aviators, it does make you wonder … Anyway, I am thrilled that Almeida is back in the fray and that intense brotherhood action will ensue from this point on, which is definitely the most compelling relationship happening this season. I am excited.
There was only one, but it was amazing. When Tony whips out the AVIATOR SUNGLASSES, stands behind Jack and places his hand on his shoulder and impores him for help. This is what the brotherhood is all about. The unbelievable sunset with the outline of the Washington Monument in the distance … so evocative.
9.5/10 (automatic 0.5 added for the aviator sunglasses’ timely appearance)