This week, on 24: Larry phones Ethan to let him know about the death of Senator Mayer, and the seeming involvement of Jack Bauer. Ethan realizes the damage it will do to the Administration when it comes out that he was the one who allowed Jack to interrogate Burnett. So he submits his resignation to President Taylor, ruining her good mood over Henry’s recovery. But as we all know, Jonas Hodges is the real culprit. Right now, he’s in the middle of raging at his board about how the President did not call on Starkwood even in the middle of this trying day. Then his hapless sidekick Greg is abandoned to field questions as another board member questions Hodges about his involvement in Mayer’s death.
Jack and Tony arrive at the shipyard, following the lead from Quinn’s cell phone, and get their hands on Port Security Guy Carl. He confesses that he took some money to support his pregnant wife, and is allowing Starkwood to smuggle something into the United States. He had no idea that there would be a W.M.D. involved. Jack and Tony convince Carl that he needs to meet Hodges’ men so that they’ll him to the bioweapon, promising that they’ll protect him. So Carl goes off to let a small army of henchmen into the shipping yard.
Meanwhile, at Senator Mayer’s house, Larry observes some evidence that indicates that a third party might have been the murderer. He calls Renee in holding, and implores her to share what she knows. Renee lets him know about Quinn and the involvement of Starkwood. And at the White House, Ethan accepts an insincere goodbye from the First Daughter, and asks her not to drop the ball now that she’s on her mother’s staff. But the second he’s out of earshot, Olivia phones a news station and tells her contact that she’s got another story for him…
At the shipyard, it’s go time, as a crane lowers the container containing the bioweapon onto a truck, and a henchman takes Carl to his very obligatory death. Tony argues for the necessity of letting him be sacrificed, saying that it’ll complicate their mission to take their weapon, but in the end, Jack saves Carl’s life. A firefight begins with Hodges’ men, during which the man operating the crane is hit, and the bioweapon crashes around precariously before being loaded onto the truck. Tony draws fire so that Jack can leap aboard the truck and hijack it. Jack escapes the shipyard, crashing through his second fence in as many hours, and contacts Larry to let him know about the situation. But Tony is captured by Hodges’ men, who recognize him from Emerson’s crew.
Jack gets a safe distance from the shipyard, but hears a worrying beeping from the container. He gets out of the truck, and sees that there’s a hole in the container and the weapon is leaking! Jack holds his breath and helpfully patches up the leak, just in time for Hodges’ men to catch up, pin him down with machine gun fire, and retake the weapon via helicopter. Jack phones Larry with this information, who confirms that the helicopter is moving in the direction of a private military base. Not only that, but he’s been exposed to Hodges’ weapon.
It’s an unwritten rule that in 24, a major plot turn must occur either between 10:00 P.M – 11:00 P.M, or in the fifteenth hour. And given that this episode was both, I would have been disappointed if that tradition had been broken. It was not, and we in fact got a development that recalled the end of Hour 15 in Day 3.
Day 7 has been mirroring Day 3 in a lot of ways, actually, in the way it’s been constructed. A lot of solid characters and relationships were in place right from the start, but the story took its time to build momentum. Now, like in Season 3, our patience is being rewarded and the season as a whole looks better in retrospect. We’ve even got another villain who is armed with a bio-weapon and seems to be having a grand ol’ time while threatening to use it. Do you suppose that unlike in Season 3, we’ll actually see a full on viral outbreak? Your instinct is to say no, but keep in mind that David Palmer was killed in Season 5 and a nuclear bomb went off in the middle of L.A. in Season 6…
If ever there was a villain who was going to inflict mass carnage, it’s Jonas Hodges. We all expected it when they got an actor of Jon Voight’s stature to play this role, but now it’s official: Hodges in on track to being the best villain in the series. Here, we get to see him branch out after spending the past couple of hours chewing out that unfortunate Greg guy. Now he’s got his board assembled and, in the process, we’re seeing his rationale teased out a little bit. It’s a fun bit of satire that, despite being concerned that the military is spread too thin and the country is defenseless, he’s taking advantage of lax port security to smuggle in his superweapon. It’ll be interesting to see how long he remains in control of the situation, considering Larry has started to see the truth.
In White House News, we get a lot of story development in a short amount of time. Ethan Kanin was always my pick for the government insider, if only because I haven’t quite trusted Bob Gunton since Shawshank Redemption. But that theory runs into a serious roadblock in this episode. He really does seem to care about President Taylor, and has her Adminstration’s best interests at heart. But although we can mostly rule him out as the White House Mole, we can confirm that Olivia is the White House Bitch. There’s no escaping it now, which is a shame, because I liked her confrontational manner. Oh well, at least it’s good to see that Henry Taylor has recovered. He doesn’t look like he’s in any shape to play a big role in the rest of the season, but it was nice to see Colm Feore again.
But these subplots were surprisingly brief. The lion’s share of screentime went to the storyline at the shipyard. In a development sure to please to many, Tony Almeida has more than a few minutes onscreen, and he and Jack are side by side in the field kicking ass! Something I’ve always found amusing is that there’s this perception among fans that Tony’s role on the show is to be Jack’s partner in the field. When you think about it, seeing him in a setting other than CTU was very rare during the first five seasons. But no one ever doubted that Carlos Bernard could carry a big action sequence if they gave him the chance, and Season 7 has proved it. The big shoot-out he and Jack were involved with was very well done, especially that Too-Big-For-TV moment when all the shipping containers began to topple over.
I’m sure many groaned when we got the cliched redshirt port guy, who got some Insta-Character Development in the scene with his wife, then all but had a giant target painted on his back by Jack. But the real surprise wasn’t that he actually survived, but that the character was used to further develop the major theme of the season. The dilemma he presented was standard for 24, save one life or worry about the big picture? And very surprisingly, it was Jack who argued for saving Carl and Tony who wanted to focus on recovering the bio-weapon. It was the complete inverse of practically every Jack/Tony scene we’ve ever seen. Clearly between what happened to Marika, Taylor giving herself up for her daughter, and the talk with Senator Mayer, something has started to shift in Jack. By contrast, Tony’s humanity seems to have eroded somewhat, and he does not yet have the motivation to turn himself around. But at least it was good to see that it was back to business after their argument. Once it was decided that they were going to save Carl, both men were 100% committed.
But although Jack and Tony were in perfect sync as a terror thwartin’ tag team, the hour finishes with both of them in separate, deadly predicaments. I’m sure many fans jumped in horror when Stokes shot at Tony point blank with a machine gun, and were hardly reassured when he was simply knocked unconscious and taken prisoner. Although we’re scared, Tony is undoubtedly on his way to a face-to-face meeting with Hodges, which I’m sure will be a confrontation to remember.
Finally, there’s the potential game-changer; Jack getting a face full of Hodges’ Bio-Weapon. A lot of people are going to scoff at the notion of Jack dying, but can we really be sure he’ll survive? There’s a lot of speculation that Season 8 will be the final day, and it’ll only be set weeks after Season 7. Suppose Jack’s days really are numbered? What if he’s now got a limited time to set his affairs in order and truly make peace with himself? My gut tells me that any issues involving Jack’s mortality will be confined to Day 7, and it’ll be business as usual in Day 8 (although maybe Jack will be on some meds a la Palmer in Season 3), but my gut has been wrong many times before. What I do know is if the execution is good, this story turn could take us to unexpected and very rewarding places.
It’s easy this time, I choose the scene with Jack and Tony debating whether or not to save Carl. I already spent a lot of time covering that in the review, but there was also this:
“It’ll be two against ten!”
“Two against nine.”
This was a classic set-up episode, one devoted primarily to launching storylines that will carry into next week and beyond. And it was effective, I’m anxious to see what happens when Hodges meets Tony, and when the FBI assaults the military base, and what happens to Jack’s health. In the meantime, the first sizable helping of Brotherhood action in a while made “10 PM-11 PM” one of the higher tier episodes of the season. Day 7 continues to get better and better.