Melissa and Fraley invited me over to their place last night for the re-inauguration of a long dormant tradition: watching the Jack Bauer Power Hour, a/k/a 24. I don’t know how many more of these recaps you’ll see, as I don’t own cable and may not always have time to catch each episode fresh. But I couldn’t let the season premiere pass without comment.
So: the following takes place between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM. Viewer discretion is advised.
Season 7 kicks off with a (hem) low-profile kidnapping on the streets of D.C. A familiar-looking engineer gets snatched out of his van at gunpoint. His daughter falls into the hands of … terrorists? the police? DC’s Child Protective Services?
We then cut to a Senate hearing. Apparently CTU’s been disbanded! That’s a lot of government employees suddenly out of a job – did they get pensioned? Recycled into other agencies?
Senator Red Foreman has former CTU agent Jack Bauer called on the carpet, discussing “brutality and torture.” He asks Jack to produce some answers on … Ibrahim Haddad. Ibrahim Haddad? Some guy they made up out of nowhere? Why couldn’t they have used any of the people we’ve seen Jack torture in Seasons 1 through 6? (Fraley: “Like Paul Raines, Audrey’s ex-husband? Jack fucked Paul’s shit up pretty good … oh, wait, he’s dead. Hmm. Maybe that’s why they don’t have a lot of people to ask about”)
Bauer takes the opportunity to lecture Senator Foreman about the ends justifying the means. “The people who oppose us only care about results,” Bauer says. So is Jack saying he’s morally equivalent to America’s enemies? That he’s a terrorist too – but he’s a terrorist in the employ of the American people? If so, um, bravo for realpolitik, but I question whether that fits with the image America wants to project.
All of this is moot, as an FBI agent – Agent Renee – interrupts a televised Senate hearing to pick Jack’s brain. “We’ll reconvene tomorrow morning at the same time,” Senator Foreman declares. “Twenty-four hours should be enough time for you to wrap this up, right?”
Janeane Garofalo – this season’s Chloe? – delivers some information to Agent Renee’s boss. He’s holding a briefing for his team within 10 minutes of Latham – the engineer from the top of the hour – being kidnapped. So we’re to presume an EMT got on the scene of the accident, called in the vehicle’s license plate, and that info was relayed up the chain to the FBI, where it just happened to cross the desk of someone who realized Latham’s kidnapping had something to do with a bunch of recent tech heists, who called Agent Renee’s boss, who sent Agent Renee to the Capitol to pick up Bauer and immediately put together a slideshow to brief his team? Within 10 minutes?
Then again, Latham’s being put to work within 10 minutes of his kidnapping. They must have immediately started torturing him in the van ride over, as he’s bleeding pretty profusely. Especially around the fingernails. Ouch.
Jack’s brought up to speed on why the FBI needs him. There’s a possible threat to the CIP firewall, which protects the nation’s infrastructure: air traffic control, power grids, water treatment, etc. As a MacGuffin it’s pretty interesting – it’s techy enough to be exotic but plausible enough to be a real threat. I have no problem believing that the U.S. would put all its eggs in one infrastructural basket.
“But why am I here?” Jack asks. Agent Renee shows him rather than tells him – a grainy surveillance photo of Tony Almeida! Convenient that they have one of him snarling. Jack expresses his doubts that Tony could actually be alive, but Agent Renee assures
the audience Jack that we Jack never saw him actually die on screen in the building. “Did you see the clock count down without any beeps?” she asks. “Then no, he’s not dead.” Jack remains skeptical, since he was implicated in the assassination of President Palmer a scant three years ago thanks to similarly doctored images, but he goes along with it.
President Taylor – first an ur-Obama, now an ur-Hillary? – still hasn’t got over Sengala. She has got over her son being killed, though – which apparently happened off-camera? He was fine at the end of the mini-movie. She orders her Chief of Staff to convene the Joint Chiefs to embroil the U.S. in another overseas civil war.
Tony makes the FAA’s air-traffic control monitors – located in a windowless basement; they wonder why morale is low – to jump a bit. The controller immediately checks the logfiles and suspects the kernel. Do they do this every time the monitor jumps? Or only if the monitor jumps while the threat level is Orange?
President Taylor sits down with the Joint Chiefs, whose membership seems consistent between this season and last. That’s the same Commander who told President Palmer II that the Vickery could nuke Cafiristan at a moment’s notice. He’s on board with the President’s plan to roll through Sengala. Everyone is, in fact, except … Secretary Joe. Taylor dresses him down in front of the entire Cabinet, demanding he have a report ready when she walks back in the room. If Joe doesn’t have a report ready when she calls the meeting, how likely is he to have one in 10 minutes? Hell, it takes a while to walk to the printer.
The First Gentleman and some press bigshot debate American exceptionalism for all of 45 seconds. Then it’s back to the conspiracy theories! The FG seems just as lost at his son’s off-camera death as we are, and demands some answers. This is fair, of course. If my son committed suicide the first person I’d want to talk to is his girlfriend, although I wouldn’t be asking her about money. “Was leaving the toilet seat up really that big a deal, Samantha? Really?”
Jack’s looking over the shoulder of Sarcastic Tech Agent, already stripped out of his tie. He spots something in two reports that an entire office full of FBI agents missed and comes to the conclusion that only one person – Gabriel Schector – could pull off a needed forgery. Renee’s boss proposes bringing Schector in for questioning but Jack – who wavers pretty erratically between regretting his brutal past and leaping back into it – says that’s not enough. The FBI agents supervising Jack engage in a pretty neat meta-commentary on Jack’s character (“oh, is this how it starts? I say something you don’t like, you tighten your jaw and slame me into a wall?”). If they bring up his drinking problems or the fact that he doesn’t have as many Golden Globes as his dad, expect some dra-ma!
Then Agent Renee asks to take Bauer along with. “This isn’t CTU, it’s FBI,” her boss says (y’know, the FBI? the agency that doesn’t break the law?). But he agrees to let Bauer ride on with the interrogation. Mistake number one. That’s how it starts. One day you’re an agency following strict procedure and due process, then you say, “Okay, just this once.”
Renee and Jack show up at Schechter’s office (played by Tommy Flanagan, that scarred-up Irish character actor you see in every movie). Shockingly, showing up at a gray market fixer’s office without a warrant yields few answers. So Renee strips Schechter’s bodyguard of his gun and tosses it to Jack. Like a gentleman, Jack looks to Renee for permission before threatening Schechter (pen in the eye; that’s new). She gets a taste of extra-judicial procedure and it puts a sparkle in her eye. Now she’s hooked, you see.
It doesn’t much matter, though. Tony phones in a sniper, who puts two in Schechter’s chest from across the street. Then he calls Jack to warn him off the case (really? do you know Jack? you think that’ll work?). Finally, he puts into motion a plan he stole from Die Hard 2.
End of first hour.
The FAA bunker panics once they lose track of the plane, searching for every available means of contacting them – including, but not limited to, the cell phones of passengers on board. How does the FAA have the cell numbers of passengers on an airplane? That’s a little disturbing. If you were flying on a commercial jet and you got a call from someone claiming to be the FAA, and claiming that terrorists were misdirecting the plane, what would you do? Also, the FAA only has 3 guys and a supervisor running the Eastern seaboard?
Jack immediately begins trying to convince Renee the FBI has a mole. This is why no agency in the U.S. trusts Bauer – put him in a room with three people and he immediately starts trying to turn one of them and torture the other.
Tony backs away from blanking 300 names at the last second. He could still be a good guy! Good-ish? I mean, erm, we didn’t see him yank out Latham’s fingernails. All this is moot, as sub-boss Emerson shows up to collect the MacGuffin from Tony. Whether or not Tony’s the real villain, he is working with villains. You can tell by the music.
President Taylor has a meet-and-greet with Prime Minister Mtobo of Sengala. There’s been a lot of subtext about punishing people “outside the law” in these first two hours – first with Bauer, then with Mtobo. Mtobo promises to treat the General that the U.S. is helping him to depose fairly, then makes a very fierce gesture to one of his attaches as the President leaves.
Taylor steps outside and gets a briefing from her Chief of Staff – apparently they matched Tony’s voiceprint within minutes of his call to the FAA. Good thing they had his voiceprint on file, I guess.
Bauer has been sequestered in an SUV. He steps out of it for a second and spots the shooter immediately – such are the power of his mythical hunches. He then talks Agent Renee into walking off a crime scene to go chase a guy down. CTU trained its agents to frame problems in terms of all-or-nothing dilemmas. Either I break this druglord out of prison or his brother releases toxins into Los Angeles’s water supply. Either we chase this shooter down right now, without phoning into anyone at your office, or we surrender the day to Tony and his goons.
Sub-boss Benson brings the module to another Shadowy Cabal (why can’t these guys put lights in their office?). They’re apparently working for Dubaku, who survived the landmine in the mini-movie and is back for revenge. We haven’t seen him step around that console yet; maybe he’s missing a leg.
President Taylor gets a briefing from the FBI agent stationed at the White House – who’s got a bit of a Dorchester accent, if my ears are not amiss. Impressed by the threat on the table, she orders some Disaster Preparedness Plans, asks for the National Guard to be stepped up, and … raises the threat level? From what to what?
Renee’s boss calls her, wanting to know (for some odd reason) why she left an investigation with a subpoenaed Federal witness. She asks him to trust her in a low voice – always the sort of request that makes people trust you. He immediately asks Special Agent Garofalo to triangulate her whereabouts using her walkie talkie, nearby cell towers and some techno-magic. This is what Jack Bauer does to your organization! He sows seeds of discord!
The FG grills Samantha, his son’s ex, on the roof deck of her investment firm. She confesses to some mild securities fraud, which apparently isn’t enough for him.
Jack and Renee track the shooter to a dock – next to the East Potomac Golf Park? near the Jefferson Memorial? how many docks are there in DC? – where Jack immediately brutalizes him and uses him as a human shield. Jack and Renee board the ship, drop tangos like Goldeneye, and find an empty computer. Jack goes after Tony like a flying tiger and throws him up against a wall. Then, just when the interrogation’s getting good, Renee’s boss flies by in a helicopter (that was quick). He gives the two of them a look like he just caught them in the sack together, then flies off.
And the clock is ticking.