It’s 8:00, and Ziya’s thumb bleeds. Jack reprimands Renee, who responds that she’s still their only shot of getting to the uranium. Jack sneaks back to his car as Ziya wakes up. He’s understandably upset, but Renee coerces him into helping her get to Vladimir in exchange for a big payday. He brings her to the hideout, and Jack tries to establish cover with her, meeting resistance when he asks Renee about her past with Vladimir. So like any man in love, he gets a mutual friend (Chloe) to google details about her life online.
Elsewhere, everyone connected to Farhad Hassan is being rounded up. Farhad himself is currently being kept busy by a couple of prostitutes, and Josef convinces his father to let him seek radiation treatment for his dying brother. The two wind up at a doctor’s office, where Josef convinces the doctor to help them… at gunpoint.
President Hassan’s decision to arrest all of Farhad’s associates does not sit well with President Taylor, who feels it tarnishes his image as a peaceful man. While the peace treaty is at stake, Hassan reconciles with his family, but is unable to prevent his wife from departing the UN.
At CTU, Dana continues to find herself under pressure from Kevin, eventually agreeing to meet him at her apartment. She arrives home and finds he has an additional squatter, before he begins threatening to reveal her secret… that she’s a former con artist … unless she uses her CTU access to somehow get him a hefty amount of money.
Jack hears about Renee and Vladimir’s prior history — she was abused and nearly raped by him six years ago. But she’s already in place, finding that her cover comes under hefty questioning from Vladimir. Seemingly unconvinced, he drives her down to the harbor, executes Ziya, and prepares to shoot Renee in the head. Without passion, tells him to go ahead, she has nothing to live for, and this is what ultimately convinces Vladimir that she’s on the level.
I think I said on the forum that Episode 5 was an improvement on the first four episodes. Upon digesting it, I’ve realized I was premature. (Pause for sexual innuendo… annnnnd resuming.) There were PARTS of Episode 5 that were improvements on the first four episodes. The rest consisted of a number of tedious, tired subplots. Subplots that felt even more tedious and tired than ever, actually, now that we no longer have the moderately exciting engine of President Hassan’s potential assassination powering the story.
I mean, I actually skipped watching 24 live so I could watch Heroes instead. HEROES! I ask you, have you seen Volume 3?
Speaking of, here’s David Anders playing Sergei Bazhaev’s son, who goes off the grid to get his brother some radiation treatment. I grew to like this actor elsewhere, but we are given absolutely no reason to like or to be interested in what happens to his character or his brother. For now, anyway. Maybe it’ll go somewhere, but if it’s an attempt to give some minor bad guys a bit of dimension, it left me cold.
Over at the U.N… I still really like Kapoor, Jones, and Gunton a lot, but even their fine efforts can’t make this material that interesting. 24 has always done a really good job of giving these Presidential figures a personal stake in these big picture stories, i.e. a loved one caught up in a scandal that could bring down the Presidency. Here the big picture is clear, but the particulars are a bit obtuse. Because of the assassination attempt, President Hassan must retaliate and President Taylor might pull out of the peace treaty because Hassan’s image will……… I don’t know. Bottom line, no peace treaty, k? I’m sure I’ll get more caught up in it later, for now it’s not great.
And oh. Good. God. This Dana subplot… As I often do, I imagine the writer’s room. “Hey, we’ve got this actress who is insanely popular with genre TV fans on the show this year… let’s give her both the interoffice love triangle AND the subplot where a random person from her past begins harassing her at work!” “YES! The fans love those!” This time, we’ve got her ex-boyfriend calling her, and in an awful bit of dialogue, he awkwardly informs the audience that she’s an ex-con. Score another for CTU’s rigorous screening process. She heads home, finds out he’s got some loser crashing with him, and he begins threatening her for some six figure hush money. You can tell just by looking at Katee Sackoff that she could END this douchebag if she wanted to, but we’ll have to go with it for now.
Even by the low standards similar subplots in the past have set, this feels like it should be in another, much less good show. Maybe it will dovetail with the main story in a meaningful and unexpected way, a la Lynn McGill’s sister’s, but I’m getting less hopeful of that in every passing episode. Even if it does become important, I think it’s a mistake to leave it out in the wind this long. At this point, easily the low point of the season, and one I pray to God isn’t a 24 episode arc.
My initial enthusiastic response to this episode was, in retrospect, entirely due to Renee Walker. She’s an element that was completely missing for the first 7/8ths of last weeks big premiere, and one that dominates here. This episode belongs to Renee. Moreso than Jack, who stays a reactive character throughout. (Kiefer barely had to get out of his car for this one… Episode 6 will feature him changing into his pyjamas and literally phoning in his performance from his apartment.)
Strangely enough, Renee reminded of Nina Myers here. A female foil and ally for Jack who takes a dark turn after we get to know her for a full season. A dark turn that doesn’t entirely feel earned by the story, but is something you barely care about when you see how up to the material the actress is. I think the Nina connection has to do with how characters who go “evil” for some reason feel liberated enough to become snarky assholes. She was so remininsent of Nina toying with Jack before their big Season 3 kiss in the 20 Questions scene, I kept waiting for the moment where Vladimir shoots that James Cameron lookalike henchman and goes “What are you up to, Renee?”
This storyline is everything the others are not. It features most of the characters we give a damn about. It gives us those variables to the 24 formula I’m always on about; we’ve seen Jack go undercover before, but it’s fresh to see someone else go undercover by proxy. The bad guys are fresh too, I love that Ziya is actually a pretty huge idiot, happily tagging along with this deranged b**** who just cut off his thumb. Vlad and his bad guys have a bit of personality, and some interpersonal dynamics amongst themselves and with Renee. And I haven’t even mentioned that final scene yet. Annie Wersching kills it and kills it so hard, I think you’re left with the impression that you’ve just seen a more awesome episode than you really did.
Upon seeing new and vengeful Dark Renee, Tony would curl into the fetal position and start tunelessly humming “I’m saaaafe in my jaaaail cell. Thank God oh God, I’m saaaafe in my jaaail cell.”
I wish I could say more nice things about 24 Season 8 so far. But one of the many things Season 7 did right was avoid most of the pitfalls that have bogged down certain other 24 seasons, and it’s distressing to see hints that those lessons might not have stuck. I can only hope the very distinct weaknesses seen in this episode fall away soon, and the good stuff gets even more prominent.