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24 Recap: Good Cop, Bad Cop

Welcome to another round of Moral Relativism! The game show where any good guy can turn bad and everything Jack Bauer does is good. Let’s take a look at tonight’s players, shall we? Last seen hijacking a CTU helicopter in order to break a sleeper agent out of custody and derail a multilateral peace process, Bauer’s the one to watch. Sounds kooky for the target of an inter-agency man hunt, but veer from his agenda and you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of history. Next up, President Taylor. From probably about birth until an hour ago, Alison Taylor has been unwaveringly righteous, cleaving to the principles of not torturing and not negotiating with terrorists—that is until a few well-placed flicks of Charles Logan’s serpent tongue convince her to sign a blood-soaked peace treaty with wannabe mass murderers. Is 24 trying to make a deeply cynical point about the path to progress or just willing to use characters as kindling to keep the series chugging through its last five hours? Time to meet our final sacrifice, er, contestant: Chloe O’Brien. For six seasons Chloe disobeyed direct orders, employing secrecy and subterfuge to aid and abet Jack Bauer because she knew he was always right. But it’s hard to see the light from that big corner office, isn’t it? Absurd-o-Meter, your turn to spin the wheel. Watch out for those guest stars!

Where do rainbows come from? Kayla Hassan is such an infantalized embarrassment that we mostly try to pretend she doesn’t exist. It’s impossible for her to have a conversation without saying “Mother” and “Father.” Plus, it’s so empty where her brain should be! But this week her channeling of Natalie Wood from Miracle on 34th Street went too far. After she apologizes to Mother for being fwightened, she asks, “This peace agreement that Father died for, how can so many people be so violently against it?” Um, your boyfriend tried to torture you in a bank vault and you were chased through a maze of subterranean tunnels by a rogue, wet work team and you’re only now wondering how things got off the rails?
Absurdity factor: 5

Sidekick switch-out. Remember when Chloe stole a gun and tried to take the NSA engineer hostage because she needed to get the servers up and running so she could check on Jack? Or how about those last five seasons? Well, none of that’s relevant anymore. Despite the fact that she looked wholly unconvinced when President Taylor tried to put Jack on lockdown and despite the fact that Jack actually did convince her a few minutes earlier that he was the only one thinking clearly (as per usual), Chloe makes an about-face. Instead of helping Jack, she decides to have Cole set up a sting operation to catch him in an industrial laundromat. Why? Because she’s “under presidential orders.” And, “Besides, I don’t think he’s right.” We’re not gonna bother critiquing such a lame explanation, but it does open the door for a new IT sidekick with his own social-anxiety issues. It’s Michael Madsen from Reservoir Dogs locked in a server room! And he has sideburns! No, literally, he has burns on the side of his face — and also some decent sideburns.
Absurdity factor: 8

Prinze o’ my heart. Jack is still reeling. Not from Renee’s death, but from the question that nurse asked him about whether Renee had any next of kin. He had no idea, and it made him look a fool. But he’ll be damned if he closes out the series as a lonesome loser. After taking down the agents at the laundromat, Jack pulls Cole aside for a heart-to-heart. Jack knew all along that Chloe set him up. (When, exactly, did he become cognizant of that fact?) The reason he came: He didn’t know how to quit Cole. “You’re why I’m here ... You’re the only reason I risked it ... I know you well enough to know you don’t want to be a part of this cover-up.” Wait, what? Do you know him well enough to know he shot a felon in a swamp and then tried to drown the body in three feet of water? Which reminds us, it’s been five hours. When will Bill Prady’s corpse start to stink?
Absurdity factor: 8

Dead ringers. Would you believe D.B. Sweeney as Mark Bledsoe, the head of a Blackwater-type private security detail willing to use torture whenever necessary possible? Back up: Would you believe D.B. Sweeney as anything but a washed-up ice-hockey player ready to drop America’s ice princess on her ass? What if he sported some serious 'stache? Well, it gets more convincing when he puts in a call to his client — Jason Pillar, Logan’s second-in-command — from the car port ten feet from CTU’s door. Without bothering to whisper, Bledsoe suggests that his guys kill Dana after they figure out where she hid the evidence. A private-security firm taking liberties with its client’s orders? Why, we never! After handing Chloe his Sprint phone long enough for her to swipe the address of the secret location, Bledsoe takes Dana back to the firm’s lair (at the nonexistent 14633 12th Street). There the door opens onto tables covered with more implements for torture than the brothers Mantle’s entire collection, albeit more of the metal shop variety. Only if Blackwater Lite had the foresight to fully stock their dungeon — why were they water-boarding Dana with an antique soup ladle?
Absurdity factor: 9

Presidential pinball. 24 should get all of its points revoked retroactively for having a female president. What they’ve done to Cherry Jones over the past couple episodes negates any credit they earned for ever depicting her as a credible world leader. Last week, she was swayed by Logan’s fork-tongued Iago. This week, she ricochets between Ethan and Logan like a pinball, propelled by the force of their arguments into whichever direction they push her. Ethan points out that covering up Russia’s involvement is grounds for treason, and besides, it doesn’t mean that peace is lost, just that she won’t get the credit. Taylor concedes. But a ten-second elevator ride later and Logan’s back on her shoulder with his tongue in her ear. He convinces her that all she needs to do is suppress the evidence and, lookee here, he’s got this security firm on speed dial to take Dana away. The fact that Taylor waits until after she okays the order to ask Logan to try to not torture Dana shows where her priorities lie. Ethan employs every trick in the book to bring his Alison back from the dark side — armchair psychology (you’re doing this because you lost your family to the presidency), begging, and guilt (“Anyways, you’ve got Charles Logan now, there’s only room for one of us”) — but no dice. On an up note, it did lead to the split-screen of President Taylor dissembling about the nobility of the peace conference while Bledsoe strapped Dana onto the torture chair and ladeled water over her face.
Absurdity factor: 10

More Recaps:
HitFix isn’t sure “how a strong female president like Taylor got involved in a triangle that makes Jack/Kate/Sawyer look dignified.”
TV.com thinks the idea that Chloe could double-cross Jack is “antithetical to our fundamental conceptions of 24.”
PopWatch suspects Michael Madsen will end up Jack’s new Chloe “while she now fights to block his every move.”

Photo: Kelsey McNeal/FOX