Episode Post-Mortem: 7×14 – “Bring your toothbrush and pajamas … it’s gonna be a long night.”

March 17, 2009 12:57 PM
Episodes 0 Comments

Hello, my peoples. Kat wasn’t feeling well last night, so she elected to forgo worship with me and instead we have scheduled a video session for tonight, so you can probably expect the video to be published late late this evening. I won’t get too crazy with my thoughts here, because I’ll need to save something for the debrief, but I can offer a few preliminary reactions to last night’s episode.

The outstanding moment that seems to be creating the most buzz around The Open Channel for this episode was the spectacular scene between Senator Mayer and Jack at the Senator’s home, and I have to say, I am totally down with’at. This was definitely the highlight scene of the episode in terms of character development and I’ll tell you why. For Jack’s part, all season long he’s been in this post-machine Jack mode, where he is simply done apologizing to others for what he’s done in the past, done attempting to justify his world view to those who don’t understand it or can’t relate to it and done punishing himself for collateral damage residing on his conscience. He has refused to capitulate to demands from his critics that he throw himself at their mercy and renounce the life he has lived as the wrong path.

In the exchange with Mayer, we see that of course Jack remains conflicted and affected by the tragedy in his life and by the blood on his hands. He is not a monster who has lost all concept of empathy, he is still a human being who was faced with the choice to either accept his life as it is, rebuild and move on or live a life of self-flagellation and remorse and constant apology. But nonetheless, he does believe that all he has done is right, and that all he has done has served the greater good. When he spoke of the pain he feels for each life lost in pursuit of the greater good, he let his guard down and showed the Senator the human side of himself. And in that moment, the Senator recognized him not as a billboard villain without a soul who personifies all that is wrong with how the United States has done business in terms of terrorism over the last decade, but as one extraordinary man who, by virtue of his talents and his experiences, has swallowed a lot of pain in the name of protecting his country and born the brunt of the emotional consequences so that “the people on the Hill” don’t have to.

I also thought the part where Jack explains that the thing he regrets the most is that the world even needs people like him was basically the heart of the entire issue. It would be nice if the slate could be wiped clean and we could all live in a world where there was no evil, no greed, no corruption, no violence … but that’s not the real world. Jack is more concerned with dealing with reality as it exists today, whereas characters like Mayer, Taylor and Moss are more concerned with shaping reality into a more pleasant place in the future. Idealism vs. realism … and isn’t the truth somewhere in the middle?

I liked that the Senator’s eyes were opened and he was able to recognize that the issue isn’t quite as clear cut or black and white as he seemed to think in Episode 1, but yet even with recognizing the shades of grey, he nonetheless believes that idealism shouldn’t be abandoned completely and that as a nation and a world leader, they should hold themselves to a higher standard of conduct than their enemies and work towards a solution. The way he explained himself made his position, and by extension the positions of other characters with similar world views like Taylor and Moss, a lot more solid and tangible. He put rhetorical reasoning behind it, totally articulating that it isn’t just about taking an opposite position to Jack or being deliberately naive and obtuse about the issue, but it is about upholding an ideal that he feels is worth fighting to preserve. It is too bad that just as Mayer could have become a potentially powerful ally for Jack, he was killed. But what a great death scene. Totally didn’t see what one coming and Jack’s reaction to it was perfect.

Still lovin’ me some Hodges. It is obvious that the writers have taken great care this season to develop a villain that is totally fresh and original, who defies the cliches of villains we have seen in the past, and to ensure plenty of personality (unlike Mar-yawn or Bor-ierko). The pajamas line was great. Every time Jon Voight is on screen is a breath of fresh air, and he is quickly emerging as one of my all-time favourite villains in the series. I found his speech to his associate fascinating. It seems as though he is coming from a similar perspective as Graem and Phillip Bauer, and Christopher Henderson, willing to attack his own country due to some twisted notion that doing so is actually protecting his country, as opposed to Peter Kingsley, who was strictly in it for the money. I like that even Hodges, our villain, is addressing the overall thematic question of the season about whether or not the end justifies the means and whether sacrifice is a necessary part of the game.

I thought the scene with Olivia, where she dresses Ethan down and reminds him that being 100% unequivocally against torture under any circumstances is part of the foundation of her mother’s policy, was really crucial. A lot of people have been laying blame (especially on Larry Moss) for not getting with the program and just accepting what Jack does no matter what because it gets results. This exchange reminds us exactly why Moss, as an FBI Director, would refuse to capitulate to Bauer’s methods. For one, Jack’s methods are against Larry’s own moral code. For two, Jack’s methods or in direct violation of the policies that the POTUS has established for all of the agencies that serve her office. Larry’s perspective is informed by considerations that are so much larger than his personal opinion of Jack Bauer. The thing we have to remember is that from a moralistic standpoint, whether or not torturing suspects does or does not get results is completely moot. The issue is about an ethical obligation to inject humanity into policy and to demonstrate continued compassionate and humanistic standards towards enemies even in the face of unimaginable evil, loss and tragedy. It’s easy to uphold ideals when there is no possibility of negative consequences … when there is, it becomes difficult, and I applaud characters like Moss and Taylor for standing by their principles even when it’s the hard choice. Though I do think that perhaps Larry is being a little bit obtuse with regard to the murders of Burnett and Mayer. Even though he doesn’t like Jack or agree with the way he does things, he’s seen enough today to know that Jack does have the best interests of the President and the country at heart. I’m a little surprised that he is so quick to paint Jack as an unstable man who snapped and is now on a homicidal rampage. The fact that Jack even bothered contacting him at all should have planted a least a seed of reasonable doubt in his mind. I am also wondering why Larry, Janis and Morris focused only on the info Renee sent to Jack about Mayer and ignored the photograph of Quinn. That being said, I am liking the idea of Jack and Tony working together to bring down Hodges and the FBI being one step behind them. It should create some intense and exciting action.

Good to see Morris again. The actor is so fantastically in character all the time. I also thought Morris made the right choice too. Even though he knew Chloe would be pissed at him for compromising Jack, he did was he thought was best for their family. I also think that, if Morris could have asked Jack, Jack would have told him to do whatever he had to do to protect Chloe. I think Morris knew that, which was ultimately why he agreed to help Larry.

We got 30 seconds of joy at the end, with Almeida coming back into the fray. Tony’s character arc has been virtually non-existant for most of the second act, but now that Tony is the only person Jack has on his side, hopefully that will change and we will get into some more substantial stuff for our man Almeida.

That’s all for now, as my lunch break is nearly over, but Kat and I will return with more tonight in the video. ABWY!