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24 Recap: Ask Not for Whom the Silent Clock Tolls

It’s 6 a.m. and the sun is rising over our perilous city. With eight episodes left, the show itself is nearing the twilight of its time on air, but there’s nothing like a double-episode infusion of counter-terrorism to keep grieving at bay. By 8 a.m., we’ll see a heroic sacrifice, a last-second save, traitors revealed, a double agent exposed, three bitch-slaps, five product placements, a car chase, a shootout, an SNL reference, an Internet beheading, and close out with the series’ tenth silent clock. Even with all the guns in the first act, the show managed to pull off two shockers. Plus, Dana finally ditches that prairie-home suede blazer and we find out what happens to Hassan’s hair pouf when terrorists stop being polite, and start shoving him in car trunks. Hop to it, Absurd-o-Meter, double-time.

Watch out for that pipe! For all of Jack’s indispensability this episode (Dana will only negotiate with Jack, and only Jack seems capable of heading up an operation), his ego and worldview took a bruising. The man has bested multiple nuclear bombs, high-ranking government conspiracies, and even a heroin habit. Heck, he knocked out half of the IRK’s operation with a possible cracked rib. But with a sudden thump of a pipe to the back of the head — just as Renee is telling him to watch out for Hassan — the IRK leader has him down for the count. In the next hour, when Jack interrogates Dana and she tells him she did it all for the money, he recoils like she kicked his dog. He's used to chasing people attempting mass murder or striving for world domination, but if his antagonist is just in it for the Benjamins, does that minimize Jack's purpose? All signs point to a moral crisis by the next commercial break.
Absurdity Factor: 1

Agent O’Brien, can you hear me now ... on Verizon Freedom Unlimited plan? 24 and big brands are old bedfellows. But with the series’ expiration date approaching, product placement got ballsier this time around. “Can you hear me now?” Jack asks Chloe as he emerges from the U.N.’s subterranean tunnels. Later, he steals a Hyundai from a dope who left his car unlocked and a doe-eyed IRK operative drives Hassan away in a Honda. Why car companies would want their vehicles associated with easy theft or terrorism is questionable, but somewhere in there, you also get a nice close-up on the iRobot logo when CTU uses its mini Johnny Five model to disarm the dirty bomb. The placement de resistance: Despite the fact that Jack has killed every other person from Samir’s team except the ones left in the tenement, the nerdy terrorist is so loathe to part with his noise-canceling Jawbone that we’ve taken to calling him Bluetooth.
Absurdity Factor: 2

Hassan’s a hero! Never mind the crimes against humanity. The U.S. government is totally fine with prioritizing Hassan’s life over the lives of 58,000 of its citizens — but Hassan isn’t! He willingly hands himself over to the terrorists. So what are the crimes that a man willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good is accused of? In addition to the whole kowtowing to the West business, he’s also whored around with a white woman. Oh, and tortured his own citizens in prison … and maybe rounded up and killed Kamistan’s best and brightest? It’s hard to say for sure since everyone was talking over Samir’s litany of his crimes. Thanks for clearing that up! But it’s okay, no one in the Situation Room is worried about what their partner-in-peace may have been doing back home, either.
Absurdity Factor: 4

Double fake out. After the Chinese water torture that was Dana’s turn as a not-so-covert double agent, the writers managed to eke two gasps out of us last night and still follow the logic of the show’s universe. But the surprises weren’t without their own elements of absurdity.

1. In another miracle of contingency of planning, Samir anticipates that at some point along Hassan’s kidnap route, the IRK will need a separate car (and a wig for disguising and a syringe for drugging and smelling salts for reviving) in case they need to make a sudden switcheroo. Dana hints at that on the phone when she says she’ll let Samir know that Tarin’s going to try to lose the CTU agents in a parking garage. It’s debatable how Jack, so close on Tarin’s tail, couldn’t see this go down. But when Tarin pulls a Thelma and Louise off the roof of the parking garage and Chloe says no one can survive that crash, we have to admit we thought we’d see Hassan’s fortuitous revival. Instead, he’s disappeared — into the trunk of the Honda. But if Samir’s plan was so well-constructed that he had a backup dutifully drive along Amsterdam in case of emergency, wouldn’t he also have told Tarin to destroy his cell phone? Lucky for us, it takes Chloe about five minutes to trace it back to Dana for the episode’s big break in the case.

2. With Dana’s help, Jack and Renee find the “tenement” where Samir and the gang have stashed President Hassan. We don’t quite understand why the IRK’s plan involved stopovers from Forest Hills to Washington Heights, but we’re going with it. One look at the grainy video feed from Hassan’s kangaroo court and Chloe can tell “the light temperature is 56 degrees Kelvin” so it must be an east-facing apartment on the fourth floor. Naturally! CTU traces the sound of the trial to the right apartment where Jack makes quick work of everyone that’s left. But it’s too late. Hassan already has his neck slit. How Jack managed to make such a thorough scan of the room that the men are taken out in few seconds, yet misses the upright bloody corpse in the chair is a little fishy. But as for the terrorists, if you had CTU in hot pursuit, are you really going to rewind the video and stick around to watch? The scene closes out with Jack tenderly pushing Hassan’s severed head back onto his neck. R.I.P., hair pouf.
Absurdity Factor: 6

Bitch-slap o’clock. Seriously, whose maxillofacial region wasn’t roughed up this episode? President Taylor smacked Weiss once she found he was part of General Brucker’s coup to get Hassan to the terrorists. Jack shoved “the little bitch” Dana against the interrogation-room wall by her neck. Come to think of it, Cole called her a bitch and did some neck-shoving of his own. Hassan made the mistake of giving his captor a stump speech about faith. In response, Samir walloped him upside the head. (Perhaps it was Hassan’s karmic comeuppance for when he slammed his wife into a door at the start of the episode. But, you know, it was the noble kind of slamming your wife against a door that you only do when you’re trying to save tens of thousands of lives.)

Hands down, the best retort of the night goes to Chief of Staff Weiss. After President Taylor’s second “Damn you, Rob,” Weiss, wholly unrepentant now that his actions have helped stop a dirty bomb from blowing up Manhattan, gives the Commander-in-Chief the Seth and Amy SNL treatment. “Really, Madam President? New York City is safe.” Really, Madam President? Really?
Absurdity Factor: 7

Whack-a-mole. Nothing about Dana as a mole-for-hire has made sense before and the show doesn’t start now. Arlo is so suspicious of her crazy eyes that he hides out in the server room. But when he finds her pulling up the satellite feed of a map of Manhattan when she should be fixing the trunk line, he opts to just walk away. (Apparently someone breathing down your neck poised for strangulation doesn’t warrant a second look, either.) That’s cool. It’s not like CTU should be concerned about a mole or anything. Chloe likewise found it suspicious that the drone malfunction happened just in time to let the terrorists escape, but was saving that tidbit for later. And how does Dana’s fiancée react to the news that his lover’s working for the IRK? With a nostril-flaring, vein-popping tremble we suspect was meant to connote anger. Oh, and the return of his New Yawkese.

Katee Sackhoff finally brought some of her Battlestar Galactica skills to bear last night. (Don’t even bother trying to reconcile her sudden skill with a firearm with the whimpering incompetent who let herself get blackmailed by a hick.) Our favorite absurdism: While she waits in the interrogation room (wood paneling on the outside, Mission: Impossible on the inside), she has a staring contest with the security camera and wins.
Absurdity Factor: 8

More Recaps:
EW thought New York City looked not unlike the backlot of 20th Century Fox.
The limits of CNN's Marquee blog’s fandom were pushed to the brink.
HitFix wonders if Hassan deserved the silent clock.

Photo: FOX