This episode, the IRK operatives seemed eerily omniscient for a group of terrorists operating on the fly. They knew about File 33. They knew that CTU was listening in on their kidnapping phone call. They knew which abandoned bank vault had the best acoustics. They even thought to pack a Kamistani flag for a backdrop in case they needed to make ransom demands on-camera. Jack’s superhuman powers of perception were at an all-season high, but CTU was always a few steps behind.
Then, 'round about 3:57 a.m., things started turning in our protagonists’ favor. Kayla escaped death by plastic bag. Tarin got to sacrifice his life to save the girl he loved and kidnapped. Arlo had a drone zoom into the IRK’s escape route. Cole did that weird thing with his face he so enjoys. Yup, everything was coming up roses for the good-until-proven-otherwise guys. That is, until Kayla unknowingly drove an electromagnetic pulse bomb into the office and short-circuited CTU. This looks like a job for Absurd-o-Meter.
Thanks, NYPD. Bill Prady will take it from here. You know what the NYPD totally doesn’t give two shakes about? Violence against its officers or theft of its property. So when Officer Tom Hardiman finds a convicted felon’s fingerprints on the weapon that assaulted one of his own men during the burglary of an NYPD evidence locker, it’s perfectly natural for Hardiman to pass off the info to a parole officer from Rock Springs, Arkansas. Who better to finesse an inter-agency data request than some guy about to board the next flight to Little Rock? But this subplot did yield some CTU-style kabuki theater with Prady (played without blinking by Stephen Root) as the sly cat to Dana’s hysterical mouse. Too bad we’ll find out Prady got his memory zapped in an electromagnetic aftershock next week.
Absurdity factor: 2
Empty parked cab make Jack mad. When Tarin impersonates a dead NYPD officer to get CTU off his trail, Jack takes one look at the hotel blueprints (while he’s driving!) and instantly knows what’s up. Jack figures out that the terrorists’ next step will be to blackmail Hassan. He figures out that the whole File 33 business was a fakeout to trick Kyla into taking out CTU. Yet earlier, when in the middle of a car chase Jack spies Tarin’s get-away cab from the hotel conveniently parked outside the Delancey overpass, he genuinely expects the suspects he was chasing to be sitting inside waiting to be interrogated. “There it is, I got the cab. I got the cab,” he crows. It’s not until he throws open the door and checks inside that he realizes he was wrong. “It’s empty. IT’S EMPTY!” No shit, Sherlock.
Absurdity factor: 3
The magic bullet of cross-referencing acoustics. The IRK’s home base for most of the episode was an abandoned bank vault on the Lower East Side. That’s where they brought Kayla to film the ransom video (using a regular-looking handheld on a tripod). Sure, the vault door was ajar while the tape was rolling, but it’s a freakin’ bank vault, the walls and floor have to be pretty thick, right? No matter, within moments of intercepting a live stream of the footage, Arlo was able to pick up the sound of a subway underfoot.
Arlo then cross-references the sound “with the real-time train positions as of this moment.” As far as we knew, the height of the MTA’s real-time tracking capabilities were LCD screens on the L. But Chloe pulls up a handy map of where every train is at any given moment that we really could’ve used this weekend.
She adds in the fact that the terrorists were definitely heading southeast (that would have been useful info to have earlier!) and narrows their location down to the F at East Broadway. We don’t understand why the train would have to be stopped at a station for them to hear it. But a commercial break and some reprocessing later and they’ve got it down to twelve buildings. Wait, what’s that in the alley? From the second video transmission, CTU picks up a gunshot from outside the building and, voilà, our heroes’ search is almost complete!
Absurdity factor: 5
The seven habits of highly effective terrorists. Let’s travel back in time, oh, about four hours, to 11 p.m. Farhad Hassan, General Wassim, and the IRK operatives in the U.S. have been planning a coup of Farhad’s brother’s regime. They want to kill him and disrupt the peace talks with the news that Kamistan is armed with nuclear weapons. No one has the forethought to come up with a contingency plan for getting the fuel rods out of Queens once security gets a little sticky. So, extemporaneously, they decide to build a dirty bomb to blow up New York. Yet, in just four hours, these men have come up with an air-tight, multiphase plan that hinges on knowing exactly how CTU, and various individuals, will respond in every scenario. And it’s working!
They have an abandoned bank vault just waiting for them near the Williamsburg Bridge. They ask for File 33, knowing that it won’t be given to them, so that they can set in motion another impromptu plan: incapacitating CTU. (True, Tarin’s been holding onto his relationship with Kayla as the IRK’s ace in the hole for a year now — ostensibly in case they had to blackmail President Hassan. But how did he know she was going to insist he loved her and agree to run away with him right before her supposed execution?) The items in the IRK’s preparedness kit: a cell phone preprogrammed with CTU’s number, fake bullets, or a chance to choreograph Tarin’s faked death, and a car pre-rigged with an electromagnetic pulse bomb. Terrorists, it seems, always keep a spare in the trunk.
Absurdity factor: 7
CNN's The Marquee Blog thinks last night served up a "heaping helping of tense, action-packed Bauer style drama," especially with five good guys dead in the first 9 minutes.
PopWatch called it the season's best episode, particularly for Tarin's unpredictable double-cross of Kayla and CTU getting blown up for the second time in eight years.
Long Island Press thinks Dana is about to "go DOWN" and prays for a swift end to that horrible plot line.