We pick up after last week in the fiery aftermath of the apartment building Galvez blew up at Tony’s behest. Macer gives Jack some drugs to take the edge off the bug-eyed “my best friend is an evil murderer” seizure he was gripped by at the end of last week’s installment. Jack is still mumbling incoherently, but manages to tell Renee that Tony was Galvez’s accomplice, and gets her to issue an APB. Speak of the ungod, cut to Tony approaching two agents guarding the perimeter of the area. Just as Walker’s comm transmission about the evil cat being out of the bag pipes over their comm units, they spot Tony. Tony wastes no time gunning them both down and swiping their SUV, en route to rendezvous with Galvez and collect his precious canister.
Macer gives Jack another med pack and cautions Walker to “make sure he doesn’t lose this one”. Heh. Now that Jack has regained control of his faculties, he explains to Walker that Tony murdered Larry and has been playing all of them all day long like cheap violins from a Brooklyn pawn shop. He apologizes for the terrible mistake he made in convincing the FBI that Tony could be trusted. Just then, an FBI peon radios in and tells Walker that he’s just discovered the bodies of two agents who were guarding the perimeter. Tony’s handiwork. The hunt is on.
Cut back to Tony, pulling up to a motel a short 4 minute drive away from the FBI’s perimeter in his stolen ride. He approaches one of the doors and knocks. Galvez answers. Tony enters the room and wants to see the canister. Galvez wants to see his money. Tony gives him a PDA and tells him to check his account. Galvez, satisfied, tosses Tony the black manbag. Tony opens it and finds a phone book inside. Oh shit. Wrong move, Galvez. Double crossing Almeida? So, so dumb. Anyway, Galvez pulls a gun on Tony, demanding the name of his buyer. Greedy mofo. Tony warns him once, calmly, that he really doesn’t wanna go through with this, but we can practically see the dollar signs in Galvez’s eyes as he salivates over the idea of getting paid for the canister twice. Tony sighs, and knocks the gun out of Galvez’s hand with one well-timed Krav Maga chop, and they struggle, ending up in the bathroom. Despite the fact that he just shot himself less than two hours ago, Tony easily overpowers Galvez, who is a rank amateur compared to Tony, and kicks him in the face while he’s down. This is the third time this season where I’ve been delighted watching Almeida give someone a boot to the face. Tony then quickly rips the shower curtain off its rack and proceeds to stick it over Galvez’s face a la Jack and Graem in Season 6. When a gun shot just won’t do, asphyxiation seems to be Tony’s preferred method of execution. At least he’s consistent.
Meanwhile, over at the White House, Tim Woods is briefing the President on Hodges’ suicide attempt, explaining that the soldiers transporting him got him to the hospital before the pill was completely dissolved in his stomach. He also fills her in on how Hodges’ lawyer was actually Fake Lawyer, and that she supplied him with the suicide capsule. Just then, Jack and Walker call in, and they explain that they did not recover the canister because Almeida helped Galvez escape. Sic! Jack apologizes to Taylor for trusting Tony, and says they are pretty well out of leads. Taylor mentions that Hodges alluded to a larger conspiracy during his arrest, and that it could be a lead in finding the canister. Jack deduces that Fake Lawyer must have threatened Hodges’ family if he was willing to commit suicide, so suggests that they offer Hodges a deal — “proof of death” and witness protection in exchange for any information he has on the canister.
Back at the No Tell Motel, Fake Lawyer arrives on the scene, and is mildly perturbed to discover a dead and bloody Galvez slumped on the bathroom floor, but Tony is in no mood for a lecture, so Fake Lawyer gets down to business: the bosses are expecting delivery of the canister imminently. Tony, however, has other ideas. He tells Fake Lawyer that he’s not about to hand over the canister that he “sweated blood for” just so her employers can sit on it for the next six months. He’s pushing for Fake Lawyer to call her bosses and convince then to move up their timetable and launch an attack now, while the government is vulnerable. Fake Lawyer caresses Tony’s 3:11 AM shadow tenderly and explains that while she agrees with him, it is not their decision to make. Tony makes a point of reminding both Fake Lawyer and the audience that he is completely in the dark as to who she is working for, but posits that if they are serious about their agenda, they’ll realize he’s right. Fake Lawyer, hypnotized by Almeida’s piercing black stare, agrees to make the calls. Tony, satisfied, begins to strip, on his way to grab a shower while a very dead Galvez watches. Good thing the NoTell Motel doubles up their shower curtains, eh Almeida?
Moving back to the White House for a moment, Pierce escorts Olivia to an important briefing with her mother. Olivia questions the President about the canister, and the President explains that she has no choice but to make a deal with Hodges. She asks Olivia to draft up the paperwork. Olivia is outraged, reminding her mother that Hodges ordered Roger’s murder. Things get emotional, but ultimately Taylor reminds Olivia that as the President’s Chief of Staff, she needs to act like a professional and follow orders.
Cut back to No Tell Motel. Fake Lawyer is in the middle of a teleconference with The Group. She is explaining the plan: an attack during the morning rush hour with the canister Tony “recovered” from Starkwood. The will set up a Middle Eastern civilian man, Al-Zarian, to carry out the attack and make it look like a suicide bomber type scenario, with staged e-mails and other digital evidence to help sell the cover story. Al-Zarian was last seen in Season 4 when Jack Bauer helped him and his brother defend their sporting goods store against looters during the EMP blackout. Only back then his name was something else. And his brother was way older. But anyway …
At this point, The Group, who are all identified only by numbers and are using digital voice disguisers, begin to debate the faults and merits of Fake Lawyer’s plan. They question Tony Almeida’s motives and capabilities. Fake Lawyer private messages Wilson, who thus far has remained silent. He responds that he’s not sure which side he’s on, as the plan is risky. Fake Lawyer pleads with him to do it “for her”, and defends Tony, saying that he came through for them. At last, Wilson chimes in. He echoes all the sentiments Tony expressed earlier when convincing Fake Lawyer to support his strategy: Hodges gave them a unique window by softening up the FBI for them first, and they shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Fake Lawyer, who is both relieved and satisfied, calls for an immediate vote. As the panel votes, Tony emerges shirtless (!) from the shower. Fake Lawyer happily shows him the results … unanimous in favour of moving forward. Tony plants a dangerslutty kiss on Fake Lawyer.
Meanwhile, Jack and Renee are prepping for the interrogation of Hodges. Janis questions Renee as to whether Jack is up to the task, given the “Tony Almeida situation”. Renee disregards her concerns. The three of them observe Hodges ranting about how they killed his family by saving his life. Jack enters the room and explains that Hodges’ associates don’t know he survived the suicide attempt, and if Hodges cooperates by giving him their names, they never will. Hodges will get witness protection and a new identity. Hodges briefly outlines what he knows: The Group planned to launch simultaneous multiple attacks in cities nationwide and offload the blame onto Islamic extremists in an effort to create public pressure to authorize the involvement of private companies in the country’s defense strategy. Jack tells Hodges he wants names. Hodges says he doesn’t have any names, claiming that everything was done anonymously through the help of an intermediary — Fake Lawyer. Renee’s biometric equipment confirms that Hodges is telling the truth. Jack and the President discuss their options. Jack feels they need to assume that The Group plans to follow through with the attack immediately, and that they need to recommission CTU servers to get information on potential leads. Taylor agrees.
Jack calls Chloe, who is asleep in a hotel room with Morris and her son. After a brief moment where Buchanan’s death is acknowledged, Jack gets down to business: he briefs Chloe on the bioweapon and needs her to come back to the FBI and resume technical lead on getting the CTU servers up and running, and using them to track down anyone linked to The Group’s plans. Chloe agrees, and tells Jack to send a car. Chloe wakes up Morris and explains the situation. She implores him to leave the city with their son, saying she needs to make sure they are safe.
Shortly thereafter, Renee and Jack brief the rest of the FBI team on the operation, identifying Tony and Fake Lawyer as the two prime suspects. He further elaborates that they are working under the assumption that the people behind the attack will try to lay blame on established groups or individuals with terrorist ties, and they can use the CTU servers to look for traces of that manufactured evidence. Janis voices concerns that the tactics are illegal, and violate the Constitution. Renee replies they are going forward with their directive, with or without her. Meanwhile, Chloe has arrived at the FBI and Jack explains to her that Tony is working with the people behind the attack. Chloe expresses doubts that Tony is really a terrorist, but Jack is adamant the friend she knew no longer exists, and that they must both be prepared to treat Tony like an enemy combatant. Chloe agrees to support Jack, but still seems conflicted.
By this point, Tony and Fake Lawyer have arrived at the residence of the man they plan to use to execute the attack. They discuss how they can use the man’s brother and his illegal immigrant status to force him to cooperate, and that his history as a loner with parents who died in the conflict in the Middle East will lend credibility to him being a terrorist sympathizer. Fake Lawyer’s back up team arrives and they head toward the townhouse.
Meanwhile, Olivia gives Pierce the details on the witness protection order for Jonas Hodges. She rants about the injustice of Hodges living out his days in comfort while her brother rots in his grave. Pierce talks of all the many injustices he has seen in his years as a Secret Service operative, and the many guilty people who got away with their crimes. We get the feeling Charles Logan is at the forefront of his mind. Pierce asks Olivia if there is anything more he can do, and she she replies other than killing Hodges, no. There is a weird beat, and then Olivia quickly retracts her statement, saying she was just venting. Exunt Pierce. Olivia picks up the phone and makes a call to a man names Martin, who appears to be some kind of political consultant. She asks him to meet with her. He asks for details. She alludes to a drunk conversation they had some time ago during her mother’s campaign, in which Martin talked about “handling and eliminating problems”. Martin says he can be at the White House in 15 minutes.
Over at the FBI, Janis and Chloe are sniping at each other while trying to get the CTU servers back online. Janis has a problem with doing things that violate the Bill of Rights, and refers to CTU as “Big Brother,” which makes Jack lose his shit big time. Jack gets in Janis’s face and starts yelling at her about how President David Palmer ordered the servers recommissioned, and it dawns on Chloe that there is something severely wrong with Jack.
Back at the Pasty’s townhouse, Team Almeida cuts the power and ambushes the brothers. Almeida holds a gun to Al-Zarian’s head and tells him to shut up — one more word and he puts a bullet in his brain. Boop beep.
I’ll say right off the bat that I’m really excited I got to review this week, because it was probably the most thought-provoking episode of the season for me. Ever since Tony killed Larry, emotions have been running high and fans have been grappling with the question of “why?” Why would Almeida do such things? Is it really possible that Tony has truly turned to the dark side, his motives driven by greed and malevolence? Many of us have been reticent to accept this at face value, searching desperately for even the most ridiculous indications that there could be more behind what Tony is doing (Nostrilgate, anyone?). In this episode, at last, we begin to see an alternate theory emerge.
By now, most of you are probably familiar with the “Tony Mastermind” theory put forward by this website — the idea that everything Tony has done today, from helping the FBI thwart Dubaku to turning Jack onto the White House Attack to being captured by Hodges’ men and destroying most of the canisters to killing Larry and working with Galvez to gain possession of the last remaining canister, has been an elaborate and dangerous undercover operation to get close to The Group and expose their identities. An operation for which Tony was willing to risk his own soul and sacrifice the lives of his colleagues and friends to complete. An operation for which no collateral damage is too great a price to pay.
While I recognize that until we know more this is just a theory, it makes sense from a lot of different angles. And if the theory is true, this is the episode that will have turned the corner in terms of this season’s plot, elevating it from a pretty solid season to an exceptionally planned and executed one. The potential for the revelation that Tony has been this season’s puppetmaster, pursuing an agenda larger than anyone could have forseen at the beginning … well, it’s big. It’s been a LONG time since 24 has presented us with the potential for a revelation this huge. I was pretty down in the dumps about things after watching Tony’s antics in 7×19, but after the credits rolled on 7×20, I was excited, inspired and revitalized again. This is one of those episodes where it feels like the dice have been shaken and rolled again, and it won’t be until after the season ends and we see everything play out that the full context and relevance of this episode will emerge. If the theory is true, this episode will then become the lynchpin, the jumping off point where the audience sees the carefully planned beginnings of one of the biggest and best twists in 24 history. If the theory is false, then this episode will fade back into the overall progression of the season as relatively unremarkable within the big picture. It all hinges on the theory.
The idea that Tony tapped into the darkness the writers and Carlos Bernard have worked very hard to establish this season little by little, flirting with a very dark side to a character who has known the worst kind of tragedy and betrayal in his life at the hands of the people he spent his life serving, making him do things beyond our wildest nightmares, but in the end still making his motives righteous — well, it’s not only believable, but it’s extremely exciting, from a character point of view vis a vis Tony, as well as from a plot point of view. The reason I love the theory so much is that it places the overriding theme of the season — “does the end justify the means” — in a hugely personal context with the highest stakes ever. Not to mention the fact that if it pans out, it will elevate Tony Almeida from God to Supreme Ruler of the Universe.
Now, as for the content and minutiae of the episode itself, it had its strengths and its weaknesses. Scenes I liked included Tony killing Galvez (badass! ruthless! cathartic!?), the entire sequence where Tony tries to convince Fake Lawyer to promote launching the attack immediately to her bosses (diabolical! dangerslutty!) and of course the scene where Tony emerges from the shower (shirtless!). There were many layers going on in Carlos Bernard’s performance here. I enjoyed watching him working Fake Lawyer, leveraging their obviously intimate relationship to manipulate her into doing what he wanted. I enjoyed him revelling in his dark side to make himself completely believable as a man with a mission and nothing left to lose. I enjoyed the way that all the scenes between Tony and Fake Lawyer could be read two different ways, depending on if the theory is true.
Also up there were the scenes between Chloe and Jack. I liked that Chloe’s sadness over losing Bill was acknowledged, and the close friendship between she and Jack. The scene between she and Morris was a little sappy, but I didn’t mind. I’m sort of a Chloe/Morris ‘shipper, their little union of geek love is sweet and honest. But the thing I liked the most about the Chloe/Jack dynamic in this episode was their conversation about Tony. While Jack obviously knows Tony better than Chloe does, and has also been heavily influenced by the knowledge of Tony murdering Larry and close to 30 FBI agents, I liked that Chloe, whose judgment isn’t impaired by infection from the pathogen, immediately expressed doubt. Even after Jack gave her the evidence against Tony, there was still marked conflict on her face. Note that when Jack asked her if she was with him on simply writing Tony off as just another terrorist who must be destroyed, her reply was “I will do whatever you tell me to,” which wasn’t good enough for Jack. Jack’s desperate need for Chloe to share his perspective, and not just support his position, suggests to me that deep, deep inside, there is still a little part of Jack that wants to believe Tony his friend and brother still exists. Anyway, Chloe’s reaction to the Tony News was interesting because it raises the possibility that perhaps Chloe knows more about Tony’s true motives than she’s letting on. Even if not, I definitely think this scene could be laying the foundation for Tony to solicit help from Chloe when he gets closer to his endgame of exposing The Group (again, if the theory is true), and Jack cannot be reasoned with.
Believe it or not, there was more to this episode than Tony and The Theory, even though I really have talked and thought of little else all week. The Jack/Hodges scene was fun, and it was cool to see Kiefer and Voight on screen together. I’m a little disappointed that the Hodges character was reduced from what I once dubbed as the most complex and multi-faceted villain 24 has ever seen to a crazy old man with delusions of grandeur, but like Kat said, Voight has been banging the cowbell to the bitter end. And that banging may still not be over. What I didn’t like about all this though is that there were some pretty dumb moments in the scene. The “Jack calling the Washington Post” was stupid. I mean, Jack didn’t even make it look believable. We’re expected to believe “hey Amy, it’s Jack” would sound credible to Jonas? Plus, how did Jonas get to the FBI so fucking fast? He was taken to a hospital and saved from the suicide capsule and a half hour later, he’s in a holding room at the FBI rigged up with his own private health care suite?
To take that further, convenient travel times in this episode were really pissing me off. I realize that by this point in the show’s run, fans have pretty much had to write off any semblance of true realism when it comes to the real-time concept. The show took a few contrivances in Season 1, but overall, it did an extremely credible job of executing the real time concept. Since then, real-time has devolved more and more each season into what we now have: an absurdist pseudo-realistic version of real-time. As fans, we basically just have to accept that and move on, and I think most of us are, but it bears acknowledging that Tony got to a motel a 4 minute drive away from the perimeter he just escaped by gunning down two FBI agents and swiping their vehicle, and they expect me to believe that the FBI couldn’t track down one of their own fleet within a 4-minute radius of the perimeter in the immediate aftermath of the incident? Did I miss the scene where Tony destroyed the GPS system in the SUV? Why didn’t they pursue by air? Also, Chloe got to the FBI REALLY fucking fast, considering she had to wait for the car Jack sent to pick her up, and then turn around and go BACK to the FBI office. I suppose it’s conceivable she got a hotel room close to headquarters in case they needed her again, but still … after they arrested her and made Morris betray Jack to get her released, it would surprise me if she was feeling that generous towards the FBI.
The one other scene I wanted to address was the Olivia/Pierce scene about killing Hodges. That scene was so strange. First of all, as someone who is extremely close to her own brother, I shared Olivia’s outrage. I can totally see her point. It would make me sick if my mother gave a free pass to the man who murdered my brother. I can see Taylor’s point too, but by and large, I don’t think Hodges really gave them much intel they couldn’t have obtained on their own. They already had Fake Lawyer’s photo and knew she was working with Tony. What Hodges gave them was the details of the original plan, which is putting the FBI onto tracking the evidence The Group fabricated against their patsies, resurrecting CTU triumphantly in the process. But if they didn’t have Hodges’ intel, they could have devoted their resources to identifying Fake Lawyer and pursuing leads through her and her activities. Anyway, the moment where Olivia jested that she wanted Aaron to kill Hodges was weird, because it appeared almost as though Aaron actually seriously considered it. Which would be a strange and unexpected turn for his character. Dark Pierce? No way!
Which brings us to Jack’s freak-out on Janis. I know that Janis hasn’t been a very popular character with fans from the beginning, and I’m sure that watching Jack scream like a psychopath 2 inches away from her face about quitting her whining was very psychically satisfying for a lot of viewers, I think it bears mention that Janis did actually have some valid points. She’s uncomfortable violating policies, procedures and civil liberties that she swore an oath to uphold. She’s never had to deal with this kind of terrorist crisis before, and while making moral compromises to save lives is old hat for Jack Bauer and Chloe O’Brian, it isn’t for Janis Gold. In many ways, I think the writers threw this character to the wolves a bit. I don’t think it was ever the writers’ or Garofalo’s intention for the audience to LIKE Janis, per se, but when the season opened, they were starting to build an interesting character study of a woman who is exceptionally talented and intelligent, but who lives on the periphery of her social sphere within her professional environment. I liked her brass, the fact that she was unafraid to voice her opinion or rock the boat instead of just blindly following orders. I liked her prickly personality, and the fact that she made no apologies for it. But ultimately, the character ended up pretty ineffectual. She hasn’t had any opportunity for redemption, and has ended up as this season’s petulant punching bag, for both the other characters and the fans. And I think that’s unfortunate, because I was refreshed in the beginning by the idea of a female character who can be abrasive and unlikable, who doesn’t need to be a hot ass kicking babe to take the edge off her assertiveness, but still comes across as capable and valuable, and makes us root for her success. I pause to wonder a) whether Janis would have been as viciously skewered by the fans if the character had been male instead of female, but with all the exact same actions and behaviour; and b) whether Janis would have been as viscously skewered if she had been played by someone with less public real-world baggage than Janeane Garofalo. But anyway … the moment where Jack disconnects from reality and thinks Palmer is President was chilling and heartwrenching. It was nice to see Palmer’s name dropped and to rekindle the memory of his presence in the 24 Universe.
Definitely the scene where he killed Galvez. While the new dark and ruthless Tony was a little frightening here, because it definitely seemed as though he killed Galvez for motives other than absolute necessity as there were other options available, we also got a potential sense of transference, where Tony took pleasure in killing Galvez because he wanted to kill the means by which he committed soul-destroying deeds. But I just loved how even in his darkness and ruthlessness, Tony was still so in character. The whole “oh no you DIDN’T” look on his face when he pulled the phone book out of the bag. The calm, exhausted and almost resignedly bored tone in his voice when he warned Galvez “you don’t want to do this”, like he was expecting this kind of amateur petty greed all along. And then just like “sigh, on with the show” before he proceeded to kick Galvez’s sorry ass. The shower curtain suffocation was grizzly, to be sure, but we were treated to a scene of Tony Almeida diving deep within to commit acts as ruthless and brutal as no other character who demands emotional attachment from the audience except Jack Bauer himself has done before. Very, very good stuff. And the fact that he later showered casually in the same bathtub that Galvez’s corpse was slumped over is just the icing on the cake.
For me, this entire episode was all about The Theory, the potential revelation that exposing The Group could have been Tony’s endgame from the very beginning and that he carefully manipulated every player involved from Emerson to DEEPSKY to Jonas Hodges to Fake Lawyer, in a huge solo mission to bring down one of the most powerful conspiracies in 24 history. Because of this, all the little idiosyncrasies that would have detracted from the episode’s enjoyment for me normally were just swept aside by the adrenaline rush of feeling like maybe I am starting to catch on to what the showrunners have been saying about this season potentially being the best in the show’s history. I am investing a lot in The Theory right now as to whether or not this season will ultimately live up to the expectations set when the show resurrected Tony and promised me that this season would be a return to form. But whether or not The Theory pans out, I’ll give the writers credit for one thing — they’ve got me hanging on their, and Tony’s, every move once again.
9.5/10. I was really close to dishing out a 10/10 for this one, just because it got me so pumped and my brain working overtime, but there were moments that pulled me out of the episode (none involving Tony), such as the recasting of the actor who is playing Al-Zarian. Every time he was on screen, all I could think about was “I know that guy has been in the show before. When?” And the silliness of Jack’s “calling the Washington Post”. But I am completely excited about the possibilities of where this episode will take us, and I haven’t had to work this hard as a fan to wrap my head around where they might be going with this in a long time. Enthusiastic thumbs up.