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24 Recap: Wet Work Gets Wetter

After months of rumors, Fox announced last Friday that this season will be the series’ last. And it’s not going out with its head held high. “How many times have I played the same moment over and over?” Kiefer Sutherland’s wondering aloud, and executive producer Howard Gordon’s begging people to “hold on before you throw your shoes at your TV set.”

But back in the here-and-now, there are still ten hours to go in the eighth longest day of Jack Bauer’s life. The fuel rods are in Manhattan and 150,000 lives — and 40 city blocks — hang in the balance. So, what do our heroes and villains do? Phone it in? Play it safe? Save the good stuff for the big screen? That doesn’t sound like a patriot!

No, they do it all again — with gusto! Thus, the episode played out like a paean to all the show’s faithful story lines and archetypes. Sultry double agent, sweet-tempered lovesick terrorist, and corruptible Chief of Staff did as their descriptors implied. Also making an appearance: familiar plot twists like "terrorists revealing a secret demand not at all implied by earlier actions" and "faction of the situation room abusing democratic ideals for the greater democratic good" (followed shortly by "faction of the situation room taking hostages"). From the looks of the preview for next week’s two-hour special, we can even expect an old friend to stop by for a bow. Whaddya think, Absurd-o-Meter, can you recap through the tears?

CTU Cell-Phone Etiquette. Say you were a mole inside CTU’s headquarters on the day of radiological attack on New York. You’d try to go undetected so you could keep abetting the terrorists, right? Dana takes a slightly different approach, making and taking calls on her cell phone in the middle of the open-air pit, and whispering totally innocuous things — should she be overheard — like, “The satellite will be disabled for 30 seconds,” and “My instructions were to help you, not jeopardize my cover” in a not-at-all-evil-sounding hiss. Seriously, CTU has had moles before. Surely all cell phones permitted in the building have been tweaked to register when you’re getting calls from “an anonymous ICC channel that’s scrambled.” At least now we know she’s not taking dictation from Samir. Perhaps she’s on Alan Wilson’s payroll? Our prediction is that Brucker’s planted her there to help Samir undermine the peace process. Without a war, how will our economy survive?

Brucker and Weiss sneak into Secretary of State Kanin’s office (Quick, close the blinds, but don’t bother locking that door!) to get the exact coordinates of Hassan’s escape route. Kanin has hidden the top secret, guarded-by-11-agents intel ... on his computer desktop — no password — and the conspirators download it onto a flash drive. Kanin finds the flash-drive bit so ludicrous (shouldn’t it be like a microchip the size of a dot that you stick onto the hard drive?) that he has a heart attack while being held against his will.
Absurdity Factor: 1

Gunfight at the Messy Subterranean Corral. The wet-opps team tracks down Hassan and his security detail, including Jack, at the exit of the U.N.’s subterranean tunnels system. (President Taylor conveniently asked Bauer, the point person for the entire Mission to Not Let New York Get Irradiated, to escort Hassan’s Hair Poof & Co. to safety.) When Weiss refuses to let Jack speak to Kanin, Jack decides something is up and turns around. A shoot-out ensues. But won’t it be open season on the good guys in the middle of an empty tunnel? Not so! The stage where the snipers take aim is littered with boxes, wooden pallets, and giants spools of wire to hide behind. We know the subterranean clean-up crew wasn’t expecting company, but how was there even room for a forklift to drop off those pallets in the first place? Still, we get one of the best stills of the night: President Hassan plus pompadour in a brown suede bomber jacket with a gun and a grimace pointed at the snipers looking for all the world like the poster for a seventies Bollywood crime story. We could almost see the halo of flames licking his collar.
Absurdity Factor: 2

CTU Cell-Phone Etiquette. Say you were a mole inside CTU’s headquarters on the day of radiological attack on New York. You’d try to go undetected so you could keep abetting the terrorists, right? Dana takes a slightly different approach, making and taking calls on her cell phone in the middle of the open-air pit, and whispering totally innocuous things — should she be overheard — like, “The satellite will be disabled for 30 seconds,” and “My instructions were to help you, not jeopardize my cover” in a not-at-all-evil-sounding hiss. Seriously, CTU has had moles before. Surely all cell phones permitted in the building have been tweaked to register when you’re getting calls from “an anonymous ICC channel that’s scrambled.” At least now we know she’s not taking dictation from Samir. Perhaps she’s on Alan Wilson’s payroll? Our prediction is that Brucker’s planted her there to help Samir undermine the peace process. Without a war, how will our economy survive?

Oh, and speaking of cell phones, you know what gets better reception than the hyperbaric chamber at St. Julian’s? The subterranean tunnels under the U.N.
Absurdity Factor: 3

Will you sign my yearbook? We weren’t the only ones getting nostalgic. Now that school’s out forever, everyone just wants to get along. Samir never really wanted to hurt any Americans. Dana tries to help out the section of the Upper West Side where the bomb’s set to detonate (ground zero: Zabar’s, just in time for Pesach). President Taylor would never dream of giving up her “partner in peace,” never mind that he kept a file of weak spots in her country’s nuclear-defense system. Secretary Kanin is insulted Weiss would even bring up politics in the situation room. And President Hassan wants to take up arms to protect the Secret Service. We hope this ghosts-of-Christmas-past generosity lasts only as long as the hour.
Absurdity Factor: 5

Why do terrorists have to go and make things so complicated? As far as we can tell, President Hassan’s biggest crime against his country is engaging in the peace talks and surrendering Kamistan’s nuclear capabilities under pressure from the West. But now, it turns out, the terrorists came to the U.S. and shepherded surplus Communist fuel rods around the city just to have some leverage to force Hassan to stand trial in the IRK. Only back at home, the IRK rebels already had General Wasim and Hassan’s top security officer in their pocket. Sure, orchestrating this plan in New York has the added bonus of collateral damage on foreign soil and rendering the peace process a pipe dream. But wouldn’t it have been easier to just kidnap him on his way to the movies to something?
Absurdity Factor: 6

More recaps:
PopWatch called the episode exhilarating, but wondered why Arlo didn’t notice Dana talking into her hair.
Television Without Pity thinks the fifteen-minute countdown clock Tarin set off at the end of the hour should put the detonation in the middle of next week’s first commercial break.
Inside Pulse called it the strongest episode yet, but wondered, if the movie cleaved to the same real-time gimmick, whether it would be strange “if the story began at 8 a.m. and ended at 10:17 in the morning?”

Photo: Courtesy of Fox