At the end of this episode, Jack Bauer has been “exposed” to a biochemical agent, one that he helpfully swiped away from the Blackwater … er … Starkwood pseudo-terrorists before realizing that one of the canisters was leaking. Next week, we learn in the preview that Jack is tested by the Feds — who now realize he didn’t kill the senator, setting a land-speed record for governmental investigation — to see if he’s going to die. Of all the incidents ever measured by the Absurd-o-Meter, the possibility that Jack will actually die in such an anticlimactic fashion might be the most absurd concept of all. Let’s just say we like his odds.
3. The First Daughter causes more trouble. After the chief of staff resigns — he did, after all, unleash Jack on an unsuspecting populace, even if he’s not actually guilty of killing the senator — presidential offspring Olivia comes in to bury the hatchet. Of course, after the chief leaves the room, she digs it up and buries it right in his back, leaking to her press source that Jack killed the senator and that it was the chief of staff’s fault. It’ll run on the 11 p.m. news, i.e., at the beginning of the next episode. Even though the Feds know Jack is innocent, the rest of the country is about to believe otherwise. Of course, they might be too preoccupied with the plane crashes, Sengalan invasions, and White House attacks that have happened in the last eight hours to work up much fervor over some lily-livered liberal senator. Absurdity Factor: 5
2. Jack briefly develops a conscience. We know there’s trouble coming when we meet Carl the Port Authority security guard, who gets 30 seconds of gratuitous exposition calling his pregnant (with twins) wife. Of course, after he unwittingly lets them into his storage facility to pick up the biological weapon, the terrorists plan on killing him. Ordinarily, Jack would place Carl in his ever-growing file of “collateral damage” and move on, but because he’s still thinking of Agent Walker, who’s been making him feel guilty about being an inhuman torturer all day, he decides to save the security guard’s life. Saving Carl causes all kinds of problems, of course: The weapon gets loose (Jack slows it down by jumping on the back of the truck carrying it) and Starkwood captures Tony Almeida, who had been helping Jack. They don’t kill him though, because … well, we have no idea why. Absurdity Factor: 7
1.The Starkwood folks: quite loquacious. Right after he has the senator murdered so he can unleash a biological weapon in the country, Starkwood CEO Jonas Hodges/Jon Voight gives a speech to his company’s beleaguered board of directors, essentially encouraging them to help him take down the government. He can’t just go out and say this, though, so he couches it in quite amusing terms, claiming the company can’t have its “corporate sovereignty threatened by congressional fiat.” Where have we heard that kind of talk lately? We think Starkwood’s not long for this world — next episode, apparently, President Taylor authorizes a full-on assault on the company’s compound — but these days, you never know. Maybe she’ll give them a bailout. She better not laugh about it, though, or their version of Steve Kroft will give her hell. Absurdity Factor: 9