Episode Post-Mortem – S09E04: Mother of the Year

May 26, 2014 11:57 AM
Episodes 3 Commments

Previously on 24, President Heller initiated his apology speech to British Parliament, which did not seem like it would be well-received. Simone returned to her mother’s base of operations with Yates’s override device to find her husband having a crisis of conscience — he no longer wants to participate in the nefarious plot to kill the POTUS (and innocent civilians, let’s not forget). Simone figured 10 minutes between the  sheets would ease his doubts. Morgan and her partner Ritter (I know his name now!) followed leads to the Embassy, where they planned to interrogate Chris Tanner, the drone pilot patsy, and stumbled on Jack, who shot two people in the leg to incite a riot and surreptitiously enter the embassy in the ensuing milieu. Chloe and Jack identify Margot Al-Harazi as the terrorist behind the drone hijackings. We also learned that Chloe’s family was killed in a car accident some time ago and she believes it was a targeted hit on her, connected to Jack’s disappearance at the end of Season 8. Her new “buddy” Adrian Cross, leader of the Open C ell hacker group, wants Bauer out of play  for reasons that still remain unknown.

We pick up as protestors storm the US Embassy! The Brits are surly today. At any rate, Jack needs to find Chris Tanner, the drone pilot, and get his flight key, which will provide evidence of the plot against Heller and the drone attack. Jack lays the patented Bauer Sleeper Hold on a security officer and steals his passkey. Chloe hacks into the Embassy’s  security cameras and guides Jack to where they’re holding Tanner. Jack enters the room with the passkey, and pistol-whips the marine guarding Tanner. So I got it half-right in my prediction, because there was pistol-whipping, but sadly, no headbutting. There was the sleeper hold though, and that is classic Bauer. At any rate, Jack tells Tanner he knows it was a set-up, and the only way to clear his name is to hand over the flight key. Conveniently, the flight key is on the unconscious body of the marine Jack just pistol-whipped. Jack grabs it as Chloe talks him to the nearest exit. Hostiles are approaching him from all directions. Just as he is about to hit the door to the street, the lead Marine orders a complete building override, so the stolen passkey won’t let him out. DAMMIT! He’s a sitting duck. Plan B — find a secure communications room and transmit the data to Chloe. He takes three embassy workers hostage and bunkers down in the communications room. There is a snag. The data won’t transmit unless it’s decrypted first. Cross sends Jack a software program to decrypt the data, but it’s slow as fuck, which leaves Jack locked in with the three hostages basically hoping the data will transmit before a shitload of marines bust down the door and arrest him.

I found Jack’s behaviour with the hostages unsettling a bit. It’s a given that if Jack has to take people hostage, terrorize them, and threaten their lives in order to complete his mission, he will do whatever is necessary. It’s also a given that he would never actually execute innocent people for leverage. The audience has the benefit of this knowledge. What’s unsettling is the way that he talks to the hostages, trying to assure them with his soothing gravelly voice that he is actually a good guy. “Don’t worry, Jenny. You’re doing great,” he says sweetly to one hostage as he orders her at gunpoint to open the door so he can fire on the marines to hold them off. Later, he tells the Marine Captain over the phone that he’ll execute the hostages if his men don’t back off. Immediately after hanging up the phone, he turns to the hostages and in the same soothing tone tells them, “Don’t worry. I have no intention of hurting anyone.” If it were me at the business end of that gun, I wouldn’t find this very reassuring. As if Jenny is going to go home tonight, crack open a bottle of wine in a nice hot bath and say to herself, “Gee, that guy was so nice to me while he had a gun pointed at my head. I’m sure he was only doing what he had to do.” The more likely scenario is that she will need years of therapy to overcome the trauma of this incident. It’s like Jack has become so disconnected from the reality of his actions that he doesn’t recognize he comes off as a complete and total psychopath. We, the audience, know that there is a method to his seeming madness, and we have the benefit of knowing his history. But it’s also kind of understandable as to why the US Government has labelled him as dangerous and imbalanced, no? Especially after his little revenge tantrum at the end of S8.

At this point, the Marines need to go up the chain of command for authorization to blow the door and apprehend Bauer, which means that President Heller is about to find out about Jack’s return. Navarro warns Boudreau that if he still hasn’t told Heller about the Bauer situation, he better get on it. Boudreau acts really uppity and blames the CIA’s failure to capture Jack on Navarro’s incompetence, but if Mark could see past his insecurity about the fact that Bauer used to do his wife for one second, he’d realize that escaping custody is basically like a leisurely walk in the park for Jack at this point and he’ll have to do better than blaming his underlings for Jack’s mad skillz if they want to catch him. Speaking of Heller, that man sure can work a crowd! Remember the room full of irate British MPs who refused to clap for him as he approached the podium because they were so pissed about one of their soldiers being killed by friendly fire? After some rather trite-seeming words about cherished husbands and fathers, and God blessing the UK and the USA, they erupt into wild applause, looking at each other and nodding approvingly, and it appears as though Heller has managed to salvage the “special relationship” between the two countries for at least a few more hours. As soon as Heller leaves the podium, Boudreau drops the Bauer bomb. So my prediction last week was wrong and Heller did not find out about Jack in an ultra-dramatic electric character moment as Bauer busts into the room. In fact, Heller’s reaction was pretty much the exact opposite of ultra-dramatic. He registered mild surprise, but then again, I’m guessing that after a lifetime in federal politics, Heller’s got a pretty darn good poker face going. Not so much with Audrey. The look on her face is more like the one you get when you’re out at the grocery store minding your own business and you look up to spot the ex you like to pretend you’ve moved on from but deep down never really got over across a pile of asparagus. Dumb shock. Then apprehension. Then excitement. You can practically see the memory of how much better Jack was in bed than Mark cross her mind. Cue the crumbling of the marriage in 3 … 2 … 1.

Before Heller decides whether or not to let the marines ambush Jack, he wants to talk to him directly about why he shot people to gain access to the Embassy and has taken people hostage, and just what the hell he is doing locked in there. Mark clearly wants to play the middle man, but Heller is having none of it. He orders Mark to get Bauer on the phone. The CIA listens in to the call. As they’re waiting to connect, Hipster Soulpatch suggests that maybe they should trust Morgan more because none of this would be happening if they had listened to her about Bauer in the first place. Navarro AGAIN brings up the husband thing, suggesting it’s a mistake that she’ll never recover from. he calls Hipster Soulpatch out for having a crush on Kate. But seriously, who wouldn’t? The way they’re pushing this husband thing, it has got to be related on some deeper level to the plot, because after 4 episodes of blatant hint-dropping, we get the fact that Kate didn’t see that her husband was a traitor and is suffering the professional repercussions.

All interaction between Heller and/or Audrey with/about Jack was obviously the highlight of the episode for me, with all the best dialogue! This stands to reason, because besides Chloe, these are the only two characters with whom Jack (and the audience) has a prior relationship. The call between Jack and Heller was great. Love Jack’s reaction when he’s realized it’s Heller on the line.

Heller: Jack? It’s me.
Jack (long pause): Mr. President.
Heller: To be honest with you, Jack, I never thought I’d have to hear your voice again. I liked it that way.
Jack: Yessir.

[ … ]

Heller: Why didn’t you come to me first, Jack?
Jack: With all due respect, Mr. President, it was your State Department that labelled me a terrorist and made me a wanted man. A man who was never even offered an opportunity to tell his side of the story, which by the way, Sir, I felt I had earned. So no, I did not feel comfortable going to talk to your people. I knew that I had to either arrive with the device, or evidence that the device existed. That would be the only way they would believe me. The only way YOU would believe me.
Heller: Alright, Jack. Stay by this phone, I’ll get back to you.
Jack: Sir, whatever difference we’ve had, I never lied to you. I always told you the truth. I’m telling you the truth now and I suggest you believe it.

Mark tries to convince Heller that Jack is using the terrorist threat as a cover to transmit data to Open Cell so they can release it to the public. He makes a compelling case except for one thing:

Boudreau: He’s a designated terrorist. We don’t negotiate with terrorists. With all due respect, Sir, this is a clear call.
Heller: It may be a clear call for you, Mark. Not so for Audrey and I. We know Jack Bauer. You don’t.

Mark isn’t ready to lie down and roll over yet, though. He wants Jack behind bars and as far away from his wife as possible. And he was probably a lawyer at some point, because he’s really good at arguing.

Boudreau: You’re right. All I’ve ever seen is the damage he leaves in his wake. [Audrey rolls her eyes] Let’s not forget the killing spree that he went on four years ago. He nearly assassinated the Russian President, and then he fled the country because he didn’t wanna spend the rest of his life in jail. This is not the same man you once knew.
Heller: Tell the marines to go in when they’re ready.
[Audrey shoots Mark a death glare]

Heller didn’t let his personal feelings about Bauer (which are conflicted, obviously) get in the way of making the rational call in this situation. Heller makes the decision Jack already knew he would make when he said to Chloe “we don’t have much time” after hanging up on their phone conversation.

Over at Open Cell HQ, Chloe calls Cross out for sabotaging Jack. The stand-off with the Marines would never have happened if Jack’s fake credentials had worked. Cross explains that aiding the US government in any way goes against everything he stands for. He suggests the US brought this on themselves, and deserve what they get. Chloe reminds him about innocent lives and the possible annihilation of London. Cross seems ambivalent at best. He also reminds Chloe that he “is doing this for her.” There is some kind of weird  vibe between them. The relationship between Chloe and Cross is still ambiguous. It doesn’t seem as though Cross is Chloe’s boss, exactly, although he is the one leading and financing (?) the group, and seems to have some measure of authority. At one point, she tells him to get out of her sight in that classic snotty Chloe way. She spoke to him like an equal, not like he was her superior — although he does give her a death glare for like 3 seconds before walking away. She is definitely not threatened by him, even though everyone else seems to cower away, which leads me to believe that despite his apparently calm, cool demeanour, he’s also be volatile and no one wants to piss him off. I am also still wondering if there is or has ever been any sexual component to their relationship. His comment suggests we can’t rule it out. Granted, he’s not really Chloe’s type, but then again we never know where a person will go for comfort in their time of need (remember when Audrey had a one night stand with Walt Cummings after Jack disappeared?)  Belcheck, Jack’s henchman, witnesses this confrontation and approaches Chloe, questioning Cross’s motives. “I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for Jack,” Chloe tells him. “Then we have that in common,” he replies. Will we find out how Jack is responsible for saving this guy’s life? Because I, for one, would definitely like to know how Jack got mixed up with a member of the Serbian mob. Nice touch though, with the Serbian connection, a subtle little nod to Season 1 and Operation Nightfall.

At the Al-Harazi compound, Simone and her husband Naveed …

If you are not familiar with 90s Canadian alternative rock, this will make no sense, but it’s what popped into my head when I registered that Simone’s husband is called Naveed.

Anyway, Simone and Naveed are in the afterglow, and he makes a confession. He’s been having second thoughts about participating in the drone attack for awhile now. He has a plan for the two of them to leave and never come back. There’s a car parked down the road and they can sneak off when Margot’s goons aren’t looking. Simone reluctantly agrees, but then runs straight to Mummy behind his back and tells her everything. Margot can’t let him leave — he’s the one who’s supposed to be piloting the drones in her nefarious plot. She confronts him and tells him he has one chance to be a good boy and do what she asks. He refuses. At this point you’d think Margot would get her goons to torture him, but he assures them nothing will make him talk. Margot can see he’s serious. So instead she has her goons seize Simone instead and chop off her finger. Margot isn’t completely heartless, though — she makes sure they do it to her daughter’s left hand. Unless she is completely and totally heartless and Simone is left-handed. Either way, she officially takes over from Dina Araz as the worst mother in the history of 24. This is enough to make Naveed cooperate.

24: Live Another Day Margot Al-Harazi

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Margot Al-Harazi – our nominee for Mother of the Year

Back at the Embassy, Morgan is antsy. The marines are about to blow the door of Jack’s makeshift bunker and take him out. The only problem is, after listening in on Jack’s phone call with Heller, she believes what he’s saying. She decides to go rogue and enter Jack’s bunker through the ceiling, and get the evidence from him before the marines bust in, despite Ritter’s protests. She tells Jack that he’ll be in custody in minutes, and Open Cell won’t have the data by then. His only play is to give her the flight key, and she promises to investigate the attack seriously. Chloe urges Jack to go along with it. He gives Morgan the evidence just as the marines blow the door. She arrests him to prevent the marines from shooting him. The suspect is under CIA jurisdiction now, she tells them. Jack is hauled away in handcuffs as the screen splits.

The preclock zooms to the Al-Harazi compound, where the drones are online and Naveed is in the driver’s seat. Margot instructs him to take control of the 10 most heavily-armed drones closest to London. Boop-beep.

Predictions for upcoming action: Jack will get out of custody. I’m not sure if this will be because he escapes again (maybe even with Morgan’s help) or because he convinces the CIA that they need his help in stopping the attack, but obviously he won’t stay in handcuffs for long. If the CIA does need his help, hopefully he will wrangle a full retroactive immunity agreement out of the deal. The conflict between Chloe and Cross will continue to escalate, possibly revealing some ulterior motive on Cross’s part. Do we really think that Yates would have been working to develop a drone override device for terrorists while working in Cross’s group and Cross wouldn’t know about it? I still believe there is more to him than meets the eye, and it’s a credit to Michael Wincott’s performance that he seems so slippery and hard to get a read on. Jack will obviously need a face-to-face with Heller and Audrey at some point, but I suspect that they may drag that out for awhile. In the meantime, Mark and Audrey will continue to argue, with him resenting her willingness to trust Bauer coming from a deeper insecurity that she’s still in love with him, and she resenting his personal insecurities about her history with Jack informing his professional judgment. Heller’s degenerative health issues will come back into play as the stress of the day unravels him more and more. I hope we find out a little more about Jack’s history with Belcheck, thereby gaining more insight into what Jack’s been doing while he was off the grid. And why they keep hitting us over the head with Kate’s traitorous husband. There has got to be more to this. As always, still looking for any foothold into a possible Tony return, but so far, I can’t theorize how they’d do it if they did, still hoping but not trying to get my hopes up too high.