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24: Tony Almeida Sends the Absurd-o-Meter Off the Charts

When we first met Tony Almeida, back in 2001, he was a desk jockey, one of the pistons in the Counter Terrorism Unit machine, but hardly a physical embodiment of derring-do. (He also had the bad habit of dating Jack’s ex-girlfriend, who, inconveniently for both of them, was actually a secret assassin. It happens.) He was the relaxed, law-abiding counterpoint to Jack’s tightly wound, Whatever It Takes badass. Last night was his 116th episode, second most behind Jack, and we feel like we know him pretty well.

But out of nowhere, 24 has turned him into the most evil terrorist ever, presumably because they need a plotline to take them through their final six episodes. Tony’s turn is genuinely shocking, not to mention cheap, sloppy, and lazy. 24 has its season-ending arc now without having earned it, and at the cost of one of the show's most beloved characters … but hey, that’s why we have the Absurd-o-Meter!

3. Jonas Hodges goes down whimpering. The Starkwood head gets his meeting with the president, but while he demands that she make his company the “fifth branch of the military,” heroic, never-could-do-anything-to-hurt-America Tony Almeida is back at Starkwood headquarters blowing up the surface-to-surface missiles Hodges is using as his bargaining tool. Once the president finds out, Hodges is arrested and carted off to federal prison for treason. As he's pulled away, he vows, “This isn’t over! I’m just a small cog!” He is more right than he could have known. Absurdity Factor: 4

2. The return of Kim Bauer. Because of Tony Almeida, the reappearance of Jack’s daughter isn’t even the most annoying thing happening this episode. She doesn’t come just because Jack is “dying”; ludicrously, she’s been trying to get ahold of him all day. (Because this show is full of people who have limited modes of communication.) She could save his life, but he won’t let her, because of the “small risk” involved in the stem-cell procedure. But yes, Kim Bauer gets a minute and a half with Dad, moans prattle like “I don’t want to lose you, Daddy,” and, tragically, is not mauled by a puma. Absurdity Factor: 8

1. About Tony Almedia. Let’s get this straight: Even though Tony Almeida has spent all day stopping terrorist threats — while working undercover with the three-person team of Bill Buchanan and Chloe O’Brien — and has actually been in the White House, and even though he could have let Jonas Hodges destroy a third of the country he’s supposedly furious at simply by not blowing up his bombs, Tony Almeida has decided to turn on everything he’s ever cared about at the moment it’s least convenient to him. He could have pulled off a terrorist attack at about five different moments this season (and probably twenty different moments over the series’s run), but decides to wait until it would most shock the audience. His murder of Agent Moss, helping the rogue Starkwood agent escape with the last canister of the bioweapon, is meant to jolt us. Instead, it just makes us realize that, even in this image rehab of a season, 24 is just jerking us around. Absurdity Factor: 10

Photo: Courtesy of Fox