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24: Finally, Jack Loses It

As we come to the close of the seventh season of 24 — only four episodes left until Jack takes on our fine city — the show comes full circle: Once again, Jack has brought back Chloe and the Counter-Terrorism Database to track down a conspiracy. Of course, this time he’s going after old pal Tony Almeida and doesn’t even quite know what he’s scanning his old files for — the show gives us an amusing shot of diligent FBI workers installing pipes from their computers to “CTU servers” — but hey, at least we got to see that old CTU logo again. It’s as impressively Orwellian as we remember. To the Absurd-o-Meter!

3. Jack recovers even more quickly than usual. Even though Tony left Jack for dead at the end of the last episode, all it takes is one little shot to get Jack back to insane speed. (Actually, he’s operating at a whole new insane level, but we’ll come back to that.) It took about 25 seconds. Fortunately, this allows Jack to quickly tell Agent Walker — who, it was just confirmed, will return to the show next year, so expect a violent love scene at some point — that Tony’s the bad guy, that he killed her boyfriend, that he was working against them all along. She doesn’t look like she believes it could possibly be true, which makes sense, because we don’t believe it, either. Though the three people Tony kills in the first five minutes are persuasive … Absurdity Factor: 4

2. Love triangles among terrorists. Tony kills the Starkwood contractor he had been teaming with and steals his bioweapon canister — occupational hazard, one presumes. Tony then meets up with Mysterious Domestic-Terrorist Femme Fatale, with whom he convinces the shady Group of Private Military Firms even larger than Starkwood to set up another attack later in the day. (In the next four hours, we’re guessing.) How does she push them over the top? She sends a potentially racy instant message to the group’s leader (played by perpetual shady baddie Will Patton), saying “Do it for me.” He votes to attack now and convinces everyone else; meanwhile, one minute later, she’s making out with Tony. Love triangles and biochemical weapons: The makings of great soap opera. Is this why Guiding Light is being canceled? Absurdity Factor: 6

1. Jack’s really losing his shit. At the end, once they’ve tapped into all the CTU servers, Chloe’s being her usually snotty self, but For All That Is Good and American, while Janeane Garofalo snots her right back, except For All That Wants to Help the Terrorists and Hurt America. (This is something of an oversimplification.) All fine and good; you’d think Garofalo insisted on the “token person who points out that torture and unlawful surveillance are bad” speech. But then Jack, who’s still suffering from the after effects of the disease that’s going to “kill” him, flips out and starts screaming in Garofalo’s face, spitting and ranting and confusing which president he’s working for. His mind is starting to go, and even Chloe has noticed. Though if you think this whole scene was just written so 24 could show Jack Bauer screaming in a liberal icon’s face … well, we’d be hard-pressed to disagree with you. Absurdity Factor: 8

Photo: Courtesy of Fox