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24 Recap: Death Vader

The sun has almost set on our real-time, counter-terrorist empire. It’s the final hour before next week’s series finale and in its patriotic death throes, everyone’s getting supersized to comic-book proportions. Our villains are more dastardly. Our president’s more venal. Our enablers more self-sacrificing. Our truth-seekers more noble. Meanwhile, in a deadly underpass, our coward literally cowers in his bulletproof back seat. Jackie’s got a new face to go with his new identity. And now that he’s turned his superhuman powers to the dark side, he isn’t planning on coming back. Absurd-o-Meter, that means only you can save Gotham City!

Ricker gets carded. In the past few hours, ex–Green Beret Jim Ricker has proven himself a handy fellow to have around. He can geo-target an ex-president with just a cell-phone number. He can hack into the Secret Service deployment grid. And he knows just what to pack in a duffel bag for a full day of vengeance and torture. Ricker (played by Michael Madsen, whose character description might as well have read “aging Mr. Blonde”) even managed to fake his own death for seven years with Langley none the wiser. That is, until Chloe decides to run the photo from his file against New York’s DMV database. We’re pretty sure the guy whose apartment consists of a fenced-in arsenal, five monitors, and a bottle of whiskey could’ve gotten his hands on a fake I.D. Somehow no one from the citywide inter-agency manhunt has been able to spot the bleeding man with the duffel bag and a death wish, but Chloe and Arlo zero in on Ricker, who’s been off the grid for years, between commercial breaks.
Absurdity factor: 7

First Amendment Rights. Perhaps as penance for last week’s mild negging, 24 has decided late in life to cultivate a media fetish. Every other entity serving the public interest — CTU, the White House, the military, the War Room, Russia — is rife with corruption, but not our little newshounds, no siree. They only want to see the truth prevail. What, no sleeper agents? Not even a lousy EMP to demagnetize Dana’s video file? No, this newfound reverence has traveled all the way up to the executive branch. When Logan tells Taylor that his plan didn’t work and Bauer’s still on the loose (déjà vu, the redux), he suggests calling Meredith Reed’s publisher to demand the story get killed. Taylor’s response: “You’re suggesting muzzling the press? Have you forgotten that freedom of the press is constitutionally protected?!” We almost did a spit take. Heaven forbid the woman who’s been doing her level best to get impeached should have to impinge on the first amendment. Logan tells her to get off her high horse “for God's sake,” she has some rumors about uranium cakes to plant around town.
Absurdity factor: 8

Some girls are better than others. If we were Jack’s wife, Teri Bauer, we’d be straight-up pissed right now. Also, we would be long dead. When la pobrecita amnesiac was offed by Jack’s ex-mistress (apple of our eye Nina Meyer) at the end of season one, Jack was distraught, yes, but he somehow managed not to transform into a one-man killing machine. Same with the untimely demise of Claudia Hernandez. Come to think of it, wasn’t he awfully quick to sanction torturing Audrey Raines when he thought she was evil? It’s safe to assume those are all women who shared Jack’s bed for more than the length of a sitcom. Teri might have been a wet-noodle killjoy and Renee might have been the only woman he could ever really be himself around, but he’s dealt with loss before. Did her murder have to mean a frontal lobotomy? If so, why, after Renee’s death, was Jack able to stay reasonably sane for a few hours? When Taylor accused Jack of being fueled by revenge, it was a tactic to neutralize his righteousness. When did it become his only reason for living?
Absurdity factor: 9

Face off, mask on. Where do we even start with this one? How about Jack’s duffel bag? Along with a Kevlar vest and a machine gun, it contains a hard-top, black-plastic mask with netting over the eyes that morphs Jack into some hilarious combo of Darth Vader, Michael Myers, and Tony Stark. And it’s a good thing he’s in disguise once he starts shooting up the 49th Street underpass to get to Logan’s limousine, because it takes everyone about three seconds to figure out who is that masked man. But once again, Gregory Itzin as Charles Logan steals the scene. The even-keeled, serpentine delivery he’d been using on Taylor and Novokavich gives way to squealing hysterics. “Oh, uh, that’s Jack Bauer. That’s gotta be ... Don’t just sit there, he’s coming for me!”
Absurdity factor: 10

Hath not a Russian eyes? We think 24 may be counting a little too heavily on lingering Cold War resentments. As the writers get-out-jail-free card for Jack’s eventual redemption, Chloe makes sure to note that he only shot the Secret Service agents protecting Logan to wound, not to kill, and that Logan’s life was spared. Novakovich and his minions, on the other hand, get no such mercy. Only the driver in the parking lot, a Russian-mob type with Chinese neck tattoos, gets the butt of the gun to the back of the head. Everyone else gets shot, or in Novakovich’s case, gutted with a fire iron. (Jack 2.0 has a thing for viscera.) All the action happens off camera, but we get lingering shots of the corpses in suite 1107 as the death toll mounts. Are we really supposed to forget this when it turns out Jack gets pardoned?
Absurdity factor: 10

Ladies and gentlemen, your season’s Big Bad. Jack finishes up Novakovich’s entire team with just enough time to hop back over to the underpass. Eh, 49th Street between Lexington and Park isn’t that far away from the U.N. It’s sorta believable, until you factor the wound in Jack’s side and the fact that there’s a recently strangled ex-president inside and citywide manhunt outside. No one notices the guy with headphones listening in on the microphone he planted in Logan’s collar? Jack uses that to record a call between Logan and Russian President Yuri Suvarov. Guess he must’ve been fairly certain of his timing and the big reveal not to bother torturing any details out of Novakovich. Suvarov acknowledges that it was actually him all along! Even though we watched Novakovich give Pavel the go-ahead, apparently Suvarov personally interrupted running Russia to approve the hit on Renee. The dough-faced milquetoast is the series' last mastermind? Snooze. If you’re recycling characters, bring back Habib Marwan! Jack limps away with the name of his next victim and a cherry-red blood stain on the wall. We’re not familiar with the absorptive properties of leather, but we’re pretty sure a fifteen-minute old wound wouldn’t be able to soak through the jacket onto concrete like he spilled a bottle of Essie. Or if it did, the owner of those bright pints probably wouldn’t be standing.
Absurdity factor: 10

More Recaps:
PopWatch’s Lynette Rice has it on good authority that this episode was supposed to be an homage to Iron Man.
The L.A. Times Showtracker blog calls Logan squealing, "that's Jack Bauer, he's coming to get me ... " one of the best moments in the history of 24 and thinks Logan could seduce the snake who seduced Adam and Eve.

Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FOX