President Taylor instructs Moss to make finding Almeida and Bauer their top (and only) priority. She and Kanin discuss Dubaku’s demands, and the fact that she is between a rock and a hard place: either show weakness by giving in to terrorist demands and withdrawing the troops, but save American lives, or stand by her decision to initiate military intervention in Sengala and risk thousands of innocent Americans dying. Kanin pressures her toward the withdrawal option, but Taylor is not totally convinced. Eventually, she expresses her qualms about continuing to support intervention to Prime Minister Motobo. Motobo appreciates her quandry, but still pushes for American assistance. Later, in a quiet moment with her husband, Taylor lets her guard down and expresses her fear and apprehension that whatever choice she makes will be the wrong one. Henry is ever the supportive and caring husband, telling her the people elected her to speak for them and whatever choice she makes will be the right one. Henry also meets with Samantha Roth at the Washington Monument to learn what she knows about his son’s death. She tells him that Roger was framed for insider trading and that he did not commit suicide. She further reveals that Roger was investigating the company they both worked for and that he uncovered financial ties between two of their portfolio managers and Juma’s regime. She also reveals that someone inside the President’s inner circle is involved.
Meanwhile, Tony, Jack and Bill have arrived back at the DEEPSKY operations center, which Bill says he and Chloe still think of as (paraphrased) “what’s left of CTU”. Jack, understandably, wants some answers. Tony, Bill and Chloe explain that a mercenary named David Emerson, whose modus operandi is recruiting bitter and disillusioned ex-military and ex-intelligence operatives of the US Government with axes to grind to work for him, had been tracking Tony’s movements since he got out of Federal Prison. When Emerson learned that Michelle has been murdered, he saw his chance to recruit Tony. He paid someone inside CTU off to gain access to Almeida’s corpse, then used a “hypothermic compound” to revive him. He preyed on Tony’s anger, grief and vulnerability in the wake of Michelle’s death to convert him to the cause, and eventually Tony rose through the ranks to become Emerson’s right hand. At first, Jack assumes that Tony was secretly working against Emerson to expose him all along, but Tony confesses to Jack that he really was loyal to Emerson during the three years he’d been working for him, and that it was only when those associated with Emerson’s operation began targeting innocent Americans, as opposed to the Federal Government as an institution, that Tony turned to Bill to help him bring them down. Bill reveals that members of the President’s own administration are working to support the Juma regime. They explain to Jack that Tony needs to get back undercover ASAP, and Jack realizes he can help Tony do that by trying to insinuate himself into Emerson’s operation as well, deflecting suspicion off of Tony. He agrees to join DEEPSKY. Tony calls Emerson and persuades him to bring Bauer into the operation. Emerson instructs Tony to bring Jack back to their safehouse.
On the drive over, Tony gives Jack some background on Emerson and their relationship. Jack worries that Tony’s personal friendship with Emerson will be a distraction to the mission, but Tony assures him he knows what Emerson is doing is wrong and he will do what has to be done to stop him. When they arrive, two of Emerson’s thugs drag Bauer into the basement of the safehouse. Emerson tells Tony he’s decided bringing Jack in is too risky, and that Tony must kill Jack to prove his continued loyalty to the crew and the operation. But Jack is no idiot and quickly realizes what Emerson is up to, so he kills one of Emerson’s thugs and holds the other hostage at gunpoint. He convinces Emerson that he has now proven his worth and will be more valuable to the operation than the thugs. Emerson considers this, then kills his own henchman when the henchman threatens to bail out if Bauer doesn’t die. Later, Emerson tries to get a feel for Bauer as he questions him about why he even returned to the US in the first place when he was facing a Federal Indictment. Jack waxes poetic about his moral code and “what’s right”. Emerson seems satisfied and tells Jack it is good to have him on board. Emerson instructs Jack and Tony that their next assignment is kidnapping Prime Minister Motobo.
Meanwhile, Renee Walker and Janis Gold find out that Tanner, Schector’s assassin who was wounded by gunfire during the showdown at the marina in Episode 2, is finally conscious. They head over to the hospital to question him. When he refuses to talk, Renee decides to take matters into her own hands and starts cutting off the oxygen flow on Tanner’s ventilator to coerce him into giving up his crew’s next mission. Eventually, Renee gets the information she is looking for from Tanner, and she alerts Moss. Moss informs the head of Motobo’s security detail, who ushers Motobo and his wife into a panic room just as Tony, Jack and the rest of their crew bust in with a bunch of big-ass guns. Jack and Tony are seemingly fucked, as unless they can either break into the panic room or convince Motobo to come out, they will be unable to get close to Dubaku and the device.
While Episode 4 definitely doesn’t reach the same level of high-octane, pulse-pounding action as the previous Episode 3, this episode is absolutely jam-packed with the kind of dialogue-heavy and character-driven scenes that were sorely missed throughout much of Seasons 4, 5 and 6. This fact is very gratifying for fans who have put a lot of faith and trust in the showrunners’ promises to get back to basics this season and make it more character/relationship focused. This episode takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride that just continues on from the solid groundwork laid in Episode 3.
An obvious highlight is the revelation scene at the beginning of the episode when the DEEPSKY crew explains to Jack the circumstances surrounding Tony’s being alive and their operation. This scene is pure gold from start to finish. Bill’s assertion to Jack that they still think of the shabby, run-down house serving as their operations center as what’s left of CTU begins evoking a strong sense of dramaturgical pathos as we remember how mighty and infallible the institution of CTU once seemed, how much it accomplished over 6 seasons and the steep price its agents have paid for its successes. The pathos reaches a climax when Tony confesses to Jack with deep pain and shame in his eyes and voice that he turned against the country he once devoted his life to protecting because he allowed the black hole in his heart after losing Michelle to consume him. Here, the audience gets its first true glimpse into Almeida’s state of mind while he was underground, and our first acknowledgment of the fact that Tony, a character we have deeply loved, admired and yes even worshipped, is no longer the same man we remember. He jumped into the abyss and came out on the other side a changed man.
It is exciting to watch as Jack attempts to re-establish his relationship with Tony and figure out what to make of this new version of the person who was once his best friend and brutha from anutha mutha at the same time the audience does. Critics of Almeida’s character arc so far in Season 7 seem to be focused quite heavily on the fact that they find it implausible Tony could have been turned by Emerson so easily, that this demonstrates Almeida to be weak-willed and immoral (which is out of character), and that his reasons for going back to the side of righteousness were as thinly justified in light of where his character went in those 3 years with Emerson as they were for turning to Emerson’s side in the first place. The thing is, I find this to be a very obtuse and willfully blind point of view. These criticisms are coming from a place wherein the people making them are obviously displeased and hostile about the fact that the Tony Almeida we are getting to know now is not the same Tony Almeida whose heart stopped beating in Jack Bauer’s arms halfway through Season 5. The way I see it, if Tony were to have come back as exactly the same character, completely unaffected and unchanged by his experiences during and after Day 5, it would have been even more unrealistic and even more unacceptable than the critics are claiming Tony’s current arc is.
As anyone who has ever gone through any kind of severe emotional trauma (such as the death of a spouse, close family member or friend), or really any kind of significant trauma that causes a person to self-actualize and re-evaluate who they really are knows, it does change you. It tests your soul and makes you come face to face with your demons. If you are lucky enough to emerge on the other side, you are not the same person you were going in. I speak from personal experience, both my own and what I have observed in people close to me, that when you are enduring this kind of trauma, it is extremely easy to go to a place that is very dark and very self-destructive. Substance abuse, bad eating/sleeping habits, being consumed by rage, revenge fantasies, paranoia and lashing out at those in your immediate life are all typical responses to a serious emotional trauma. Obviously, what we are seeing in Tony is that reaction taken to an extreme and highly dramatic level, which is to be expected from fiction. Most of us don’t actually follow through with our revenge fantasies. But in the highly charged world that Tony inhabits, he did, and it would not have been believable or truthful any other way. Frankly, I would be worried if Tony was *NOT* changed by all he has gone through.
Not to mention the fact that I highly doubt Tony simply woke up immediately after Emerson revived him and said “Sure! I’ll become part of your terrorist network! I am bored and have nothing left to live for anyway, so why not?” I see how Tony got from where he was in Day 5 to where he was when he began working for Emerson as a progression. Over time, in the wake of losing Michelle and watching those responsible for her murder get away with a slap on the wrist, he sank deeper and deeper into rage. Emerson slowly worked on him little by little, gaining his trust over time, building a connection, manipulating him in his vulnerable state and feeding on Tony’s grief to his own agenda, getting Tony to do things that were progressively more and more heinous. I get the impression that for Emerson, it’s not really about the cause itself. It’s about the money and the power, and the fact that he recruits disillusioned ex-government is merely a means to an end. The more dark things Tony did, the more he allowed them to feed his rage, the more desensitized he became to doing them and the more he lost of the man he used to be, which made him willing to go further and further. When you feel like you have nothing to live for, empty and alone, you have a death wish. You don’t care what you do or who it hurts, including yourself. This has definitely served to humanize Tony even more than before, though granted in a way that is very painful and very difficult for the audience to watch. And *this* — this classic tradition of literary tragedy — is the 24 I know and love. I like the following observation, left in our comments section:
[…] aside from Emerson getting involved with Juma’s gang, there’s nothing to indicate that Tony suddenly believes in America again. He is acting with heroism and decency to save innocent lives, but Tony could easily still hate America’s government. And on the flip side of the same coin, we see Jack (who is being put on trial for his acts in protecting America) acting out of undying loyalty for the government. Bauer is a soldier. Tony is a more free-thinking individual, I think. Tony has tried his hand at the chain-of-command business in past years and he’s evolved to find its limitations unacceptable. If they ever re-establish CTU, Tony would never go back to work at that organization, whereas I could easily see Jack taking the job.
Which brings us to the explanation we’ve all been waiting for regarding how Tony ended up alive after we saw him die on screen in Season 5. All of us were wondering exactly how the fuck the writers planned to pull this one off without being complete laughingstocks. I have both positive and negative criticisms of their approach. On the positive side, it appears as though the writers did research an explanation that is at least semi-credible based on science and realism. As Tony said, Emerson used a “hypothermic compound” to revive him. There is research going on right now into the effects that induced hypothermia can have on recovery after cardiac arrest suggesting a person can go as long as 20 minutes without a heartbeat and be revived without permanent neural damage, provided that their body temperature is low enough during recovery, which explains why Tony is not mentally retarded now. One of the lead researchers in this field is clear that the “five minute rule” is not absolute when hypothermic reactions are involved. There is plenty of scientific evidence to corroborate that there are indeed drugs that, when administered under the right circumstances, can induce hypothermia. It is also conceivable that Emerson could have restarted Tony’s heart. After all, absolutely no one in CTU made even a cursory effort to revive him after Henderson attacked him. So how can we really know for sure that Tony’s heart was completely dead beyond repair? Honestly, there was pretty much no way that the writers could bring back a character who was killed in front of our eyes and be entirely credible and believable while doing so. If you accept the fact that Tony is back at all, then it follows you must accept the writers’ explanation for how, given that they at least made the effort to be semi-credible.
On the negative side, I was disappointed at how glossed over the explanation itself was. They didn’t give us much detail, which I guess was kind of necessary given that the more detail they gave us as to the actual mechanics of the resurrection, the more ammo they are giving us to discredit it. But I do hope the episodes which follow will give us more background on the specifics (though I’m not holding my breath).
Anyway, the scene concludes with Jack forgiving Tony for his transgressions (after all, if there is anyone who understands how dark a place a man can get to after losing his wife, it’s Jack, and I think Jack can empathize with what Tony is going through and where he is coming from, even though Jack himself never quite let himself go that far) and agreeing to help with DEEPSKY, as the emotional roller coaster of Episode 4 takes us swooshing down another curve, cheering in elation and excitement.
Character development was the order of the episode, and everyone was delivering. Cherry Jones was wonderful in her scene with Colm Feore, showing us the tender and more human, fallible and vulnerable side of Allison Taylor, who up to this point has demonstrated herself as uncompromising and in control, showing a great deal of depth and believability in the process. I’d also like to take the opportunity to say that although Prez Ali has been taking a lot of flack for her indecisiveness over how to handle Dubaku’s demands, I don’t think the decision is as clear cut as people are making it out to be. Perhaps if Taylor had not already promised Motobo her help and announced her intentions to the press, it would have been a fairly clear-cut decision not to engage the troops or to pull them back. However, the last thing she wants is for her first major decision as President to send a message that blackmailing America works, especially given that she campaigned on a platform supporting the exact opposite position. It is also worth noting that even if Taylor did capitulate to Dubaku’s demands on this one, she has no guarantees that he would even hold up his end of the bargain not to use the Device, or that he wouldn’t try to push her further and get her to do something else by threatening to use it again. Demonstrating a willingness to have her decisions held hostage by terrorists is hardly an admirable position for the President. Colm Feore also came through beautifully during his scene with Carly Pope. His desperation to believe that his son could not possibly have committed suicide is both sad and admirable, which totally shines through in his performance.
Janeane Garofalo’s Janis is holding her own very well, and continues to develop in Episode 4. Garofalo played the perfect mix of the loyal FBI agent who wants to uphold the values of her agency, and the loyal friend and colleague to Renee Walker, who wants to help her bend the rules and save the day, even though it makes her uncomfortable. Watching her try to pull the wool over the eyes of Tanner’s lawyers was hilarious. Speaking of Renee, she’s having a bit of a revelation of her own regarding her newly adopted Baueresque interrogation tactics. I definitely hope this quandary proves to be more complicated than it seems on the surface. I would like to see Renee function in this regard somewhat as a vehicle for the “is torture good or bad?” debate the writers set up in the first 10 minutes of the season. I believe her confusion and ambivalence toward the ideal and what it actually takes to get results will be a mirror of the country’s ambivalence and confusion as well. One recent review I read suggests that Walker is the strongest, most well-rounded and most well-developed female character 24 has introduced since Michelle Dessler, and I have to say that at this point in time, I tend to agree. Renee knows her own mind, is confident in her abilities and her position, and has shown she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty in pursuit of a greater good.
Another highlight was the scene in which Emerson tries to get a read on Jack. I loved the fact that Jack was both playing a role for Emerson’s benefit, but at the same time was drawing on the absolute truth in his life experience, mirroring Tony in the previous episode during the interrogation scene. Anything less, and Emerson wouldn’t have bought it. I thought Emerson’s response, about how people who have never walked up to the edge and looked over, was absolutely perfect. This is a theme 24 has explored again and again, and I think it is interesting how 24 has set up this bond of experience and understanding between Jack, Tony and Emerson. Although Jack doesn’t agree with what Emerson is doing or who he is, it’s clear that they are cut from the same cloth in much the same way as Jack and Nina were cut from the same cloth. Emerson sees it too. Jack himself will be forced to draw from his dark side to complete this mission, and I look forward to that as well, especially with Tony in the fray.
If you haven’t already figured it out, it’s the moment when Tony confesses to Jack that he was really working for Emerson. Both Carlos and Kiefer were at the top of their game during this scene, it drew my emotion into my throat, and it sets us up for what is sure to be an unbelievably complex, dynamic and unforgettable character arc for Tony and relationship arc for the Brotherhood through the rest of the season. Bravo!
While there was much character meat to chew on everywhere and the pace of the DEEPSKY thread was perfect, the pace and repetitive nature of the White House scenes took away from the episode’s momentum in my opinion. Essentially we had Taylor and Kanin having the same conversation about three or four different times, and by the end of it I was screaming in my head “Just get on with it!!!” I remain excited and optimistic that Tony’s arc this season will be satisfying, both from a storytelling point of view and from a character point of view as well. Carlos Bernard is giving the performance of his career so far this season and if he keeps it up, I have no doubt that amidst all the hype and buzz surrounding Season 7 in general, he will see his first Emmy nomination. Bauer was classic Bauer in this episode, and Kiefer Sutherland continues to demonstrate a depth and nuance to his performance that we have not seen since the third season.
8.5/10. It would be 9 except for the tedious White House scenes.