The episode picks up with President Taylor making a televised address to the nation, acknowledging that the incidents with the mid-air collision between two planes and the toxic spill in Ohio were indeed acts of terrorism, but assuring the American people that the threat has been contained and that the nation will move forward with their plans to invade Sangala. Meanwhile, Jack, Bill and Walker arrive on the scene with Motobo. Motobo makes nice with the President and assures her that Jack’s group can be trusted, then excuses himself to attend to official Sengalan business. Jack, Bill and Walker give her the gist of their undercover operation and explain that Almeida was really on her side. They continue that there are people deep inside her administration working for the Juma regime and aiding Dubaku in the attacks. Taylor is reluctant to believe her inner circle could be compromised and tells Jack he is making an outrageous accusation. Jack retorts that the outrageous accusation is also true, and that they need to keep things hush hush until they know who they can trust.
Just then, one of Taylor’s advisors informs her that Dubaku is on the phone for her. She takes the call and Dubaku relishes in revealing that he is now holding her husband hostage. He orders a henchman to cut off one of Henry’s fingers, just to prove how serious he is. He tells Taylor that if she doesn’t withdraw her troops immediately and permanently, as well as delivering Motobo to his people, he will kill her husband and send him back to her “one piece at a time”. Naturally, Taylor is emotionally distraught. Ethan Kanin busts in with news that Secret Service Agent Gedge murdered Samantha Roth and was involved in her husband’s kidnapping, which proves that Jack’s story holds water. Taylor mulls over what to do, and eventually concludes that she cannot ask the American people to make sacrifices that she herself is not willing to make, therefore if holding firm against terrorist demands results in her husband’s death, so be it. Jack tells her that if she allows his team to proceed with the operation, he might be able to rescue Henry before Dubaku’s 4:00 PM deadline. Taylor questions Jack’s trustworthiness in light of the events of the day thus far, but is desperate to save her husband and agrees.
Knowing they will need resources to track down those connected to Gedge, Renee convinces Jack to bring Larry in on the operation. Renee calls Larry, who is overwhelmingly relieved to discover she is indeed still alive, and asks for help. She tells him she can prove the Bureau is compromised, and that in order to protect Henry Taylor, he has to work outside of agency authority. She begs him to get Gedge’s cell phone records for her. Larry agrees to acquire the intel, but says he won’t give it to her unless he meets with her in person. Meanwhile, on the other side of the office, Sean is suspicious about the President’s televised address, wondering aloud to Erika how Taylor can be so confident that the threat has been contained when there have been no official reports announcing the recovery of the CIP Device. Janis sees him canoodling with Erika and realizes they are having an affair. She warns Sean to keep it in his pants on the job and make sure Larry doesn’t find out.
Jack and Renee meet with Larry, who informs them that Gedge had contact with another Secret Service Agent named Edward Vossler around the time of Henry’s kidnapping. When Jack learns that Vossler is former special forces, he realizes Vossler won’t be easy to break. He suggests that the only way to get Vossler to talk in time to help Henry is if they threaten to harm his family, so Renee should go to his home and take them hostage. Larry is outraged and accuses Jack of poisoning Renee, making a touching speech about how the rules are what sets them apart from the animals. Jack simply points out that unless Larry wants to call the President and tell her his conscience won’t let him do what’s necessary to save her husband, they better get moving. Larry reluctantly agrees and heads back to the FBI to try and track down Vossler, while Renee goes to Vossler’s house to secure his family.
In the meantime, back at his new safehouse, Dubaku gets a call from his tasty slice Marika, who begs him to come over and eat the lasagna she has lovingly prepared for him. Dubaku begs off, blaming work. When she hangs up, Marika’s wheelchair-bound sister accuses “Samuel” of not being who he seems. Marika is defensive and angry and leaves for her shift at the diner. Later, Marika’s sister calls Dubaku and tells him she knows that he’s not who he says he is. She says she has proof that there is no record of him ever entering the US through legal means, and issues him an ultimatum: either break up with her sister, or she’ll start singing. Dubaku agrees to break up with Marika, but after he hangs up, tells his henchman he has to “deal with a problem” and leaves.
Back the FBI, Moss has picked up a thread on Vossler and directs Jack to him. Jack crashes his truck into Vossler’s car, captures him and drags him into an alley. At first, he pleads ignorance, but when Jack calls Renee, who is laying the performance of her life as a heartless bitch with no soul on Vossler’s wife, even going as far as threatening to hurt their baby, Vossler finally relents and reveals Henry’s location. Vossler manages to catch Jack off-guard when a stranger interrupts them, and attacks Jack with a knife. Jack and Vossler scrap, and eventually Bauer comes out on top, plunging the knife into Vossler’s torso. He takes off and carjacks a really expensive looking ride.
Over at the White House, Bill works with Kanin to send a Motobo body double in a limo to Dubaku’s people, while at the FBI, Sean confronts Larry about his confusion over the status of the CIP Device, but Larry is dismissive. Renee calls in and informs him of Vossler’s death, asking him to keep it on the down-low until Henry has been rescued. Larry is hella pissed, but can’t resist Walker’s charms and agrees. While Jack and Renee close in on Dubaku’s safehouse, the limo with the Motobo double arrives at the meeting place. When no one emerges from the vehicle for several minutes, Dubaku gets suspicious and orders his men to take it out. Taylor gets nervous and orders them to retreat, but it is too late. The henchmen launch a rocket at the car and blow it into oblivion, killing the double and the agent assigned to protect him.
Jack and Renee ambush the safehouse and waste all of Dubaku’s henchman but the one he ordered to kill Henry. Just as the henchman is about to shoot Henry, Jack slides in baseball style and shoots the henchman in the back. The henchman uses his last dying spurt of life to get one last shot off, right into Henry’s chest. Jack screams at Renee to call an ambulence. Cue Kasia and Kat’s TGSF (Taylor Getting Shot Face). Boop beep.
I apologize in advance, but I am leaving for Las Vegas in less than 12 hours, have not yet packed or tidied up the house, and so must keep this relatively short and sweet. Despite the glaring lack of Tony action in this episode, it was still very solid.
1. The pace. This episode had a lot of ground to cover, and could easily have tried to do too much but maintained good flow throughout and unfolded steadily, raising the stakes and the adrenaline with each and every scene, finally building to the exciting crescendo of the safehouse ambush and the heart-stopping Taylor-getting-shot preclock. Each scene was carefully placed to build the momentum of the episode, and all of the storylines demonstrated forward movement and relevance to the episode’s conclusion, as well as the season overall. Even I am willing to acknowledge that in terms of the episode’s success in and of itself, it was probably for the best to drop Tony and Chloe for the time being and focus on Jack’s story thread, because any diversion from the Henry Taylor situation would have pulled the episode off point.
2. Cohesion. As with the previous Episode 7, I am glad to see 24 finding the groove of making all of the characters and story threads present in the episode interconnected and working toward the same goal or concentrated on the same crisis. 24 is always strongest when it maintains cohesion through an episode of series of episodes, either thematically or plot-wise, because it keeps the audience “in the moment”. Every scene and every character in this episode contributed to its overall arc and overall success.
3. Balance. This episode achieved a nice balance of character moments and plot exposition. Fantastic moments from Cherry Jones when Taylor learns of her husband’s abduction, and from Kiefer Sutherland during his exchanges with Taylor and Moss, advanced the audience’s knowledge of these characters’ current states of mind and perspective on their world. The stand-out in this episode, though, for both the development of the character and the performance of the actress, was Renee Walker. Her scenes with Vossler’s family were outstanding, and Wersching was able to convey the internal struggle within Renee convincingly and authentically without being over the top through her wonderfully expressive face and eyes. Plot-wise, the most exciting moment of the episode came at the end. Conventional wisdom tells us that Jack Bauer will save the day and his questionable methods will once again prove justified, which honestly is what I was expecting to happen. I did not see Taylor’s shooting coming and for the first time in a long time was truly and honestly shocked by a cliffhanger ending. Additionally, this plot twist serves to add ambiguity to the question of whether or not Jack’s methods are justified. If Taylor dies, Vossler’s wife will have been terrorized for no reason, and the precious “results” that are at the heart of this issue are called into question.
1. I fear that the treatment of the issue of what we will euphemistically call “aggressive interrogation methods” is becoming a little heavy handed. While 24 bringing up the issue of torture is not a problem in and of itself, there is a definite sense that the blatant discussion of the issue between the characters this season is intended as the show’s response to media pressure and publicity outside the world of the show itself. It’s great to make us think about this stuff, but I am not really interested in seeing the show function as a vehicle for a political statement from the writers and producers. I am more interested in seeing the issue function as a crux for character development and realization, such as that demonstrated in the scenes with Walker and Vossler’s family. While I enjoyed the exchange between Jack and Moss (mostly for the great “are you gonna give me your keys or not” one liner from Jack), one gets the feeling that Jack and Moss are serving a purpose in this scene that is somewhat outside the realm of their actual characters or the plot, and are functioning as dogsbodies for the larger debate between both sides of this issue. I don’t really care about that, I just care about Moss and Jack as individuals, responding to the crisis, and how their decisions ultimately affect their concepts of themselves.
2. While I have already acknowledged that it was a necessary evil in order for the episode to be successful as a self-contained unit, as the creative force behind a website called ALMEIDA IS GOD, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the glaring lack of Tony. Whether considering this in a critical analysis of the episode’s weaknesses is valid or not is not really the point. I’ve just gotta keep giving props to my main man Tony! I miss that guy!
While I definitely had fun with this episode, enjoyed being shocked by Taylor’s being shot (and making the face that goes with it), enjoyed the fast pace and the classic Season 1 feel of a small group of characters working together off the radar, enjoyed the vintage Bauer dialogue and fell in love with Walker a little bit more, I guess I kind of echo johanley’s sentiments from last week in that it didn’t quite pack the same punch of 24 at its absolute pinnacle best. I have seen the same successful formula executed better in similar episodes from seasons past. I definitely think Episode 3 remains the high point of the season for me thus far, and I simply cannot agree with the people who are raving about how this is the best episode of the Season to this point. It was solid. It had all the elements, there was nothing overtly wrong with it, but it didn’t quite leave me quivering and begging for more … except for more Tony.
8/10 – Automatic 0.5 deduction for no Tony.