With Jack Bauer fixated on RevengeQuest 3000, the rest of our cast makes a play for the spoils. Chloe’s sidestepping firewalls. Pavel’s securing his silencer. Logan’s picking out ties (we forget, what color goes best with megalomania?). Pillar’s cleaning up corpses. Agent Provocateur turns her freeze ray on the office walls. Michael Madsen’s just glad he’s off ear duty. And Cole’s registering emotion from someplace imperceptible to the naked eye. Perhaps the bottom of his feet?! C’mon, Absurd-o-Meter, three more hours to choose your knife. But Jack has dibs on the pliers, lighter fluid, and blowtorch.
Media criticism. Was it just us or did this episode take a few swipes at print media? Once Jack gets his hands on the videotape implicating the Russians, he knows just whom to get it to. New York Courier reporter — and Hassan’s former mistress — Meredith Reed. (Welcome back, Jennifer Westfeldt! Your high warble never fails to intrigue us!) Reed’s reintroduced in a newsroom scene while her editor gushes over her upcoming profile of Hassan. Um, isn’t that like letting Mark Sanford’s Argentine pen pal write a story about everything he learned hiking the Appalachian Trail? Okay, not exactly. But that’s an awful big disclaimer about the author’s bias. Plus Hassan’s death was two news cycles ago and you’re still fact-checking? Oh jeez, our industry is doomed.
Absurdity factor: 5
Synergy! Hats off to whoever’s negotiating Sprint’s product-placement deals on 24. Really, a job well done. After Chloe comes to her senses about Jack’s conspiracy theory (oh yeah, Chloe came to her senses! How totally not even one bit surprising!), she and Arlo decide to break into Cole’s jail cell by grafting a feedback loop onto the holding cell’s video feed. Too bad Pillar’s set up an additional level of security that alerts him every time someone accesses a system beyond their clearance. Wait, Chloe has an idea! How about this handy Sprint mobile-hot-spot creator? It slices and dices and makes your car shine! (Actual name, no joke, MiFi 2000.) Only, Chloe’s not logging into Gmail; she’s using it to disrupt CTU’s surveillance systems. Wouldn’t that get noticed regardless of how she’s connecting? Or is CTU cool with hacking their servers as long as the hack comes from outside their network?
Absurdity factor: 8
Shoot out in ladies' shoes. Did you know our fine city had a department store called Turner’s? You didn’t? Well, it’s across the street from a warehouse that’s excellent for torturing, so you’ve probably passed by it before. That’s the place Jack picks for his rendezvous with Reed. A mall scene is easier to re-create in Vancouver than say, Grand Central. But it looked suspiciously suburban to us (too wide a space near the escalators). In any case, Pavel Tokarev (Renee’s killer) and his team are already lying in wait. Just as Tokarev has Bauer in his sights, Michael Madsen (as burn victim and supplies supplier Jim Ricker) comes up behind Pavel and saves the day. Oh, didn’t we mention how Jack planned on the bad guys being there all along? That’s why he asked Ricker for a “secure” line, so it could be traced. We know we always ask for a secure line when we hope Echelon’s listening in.
But it was a good thing the Russian intelligence operative Ricker intercepted was both (a) the only one seconds away from shooting Jack in the head, and (b) the only one Jack had a hankering to try out his blowtorch on. Convenient!
Absurdity factor: 9
Let’s go to tape! Yeah, about that videotape. We’re not sure exactly when it was supposed to have been filmed. It looked like Dana was wearing a different outfit than either of the two we’ve seen her in. Besides, how would she have had time to get the tape into her safety deposit box when she was busy hunting Ex-Boyfriendius White Trashus in the swamplands of Queens? What we are sure of is that the tape reintroduced a mess of contradictions we were content to forget.
Dana tells Pavel the hit on Hassan has been arranged with Bazhaev, and Pavel responds that he wants Dana to focus on the EMP. Wait up, back up, hold on a minute ... In the show we saw, the EMP was deployed to disable CTU’s capabilities so that Samir could sneak the nuke into the UWS. (And then use the nuke as leverage to get custody of Hassan — to torture him on the internet, of course.) If the hit on Hassan was a success, what did they need the EMP for? The Russians’ motive was to disrupt the peace process. Samir & Co. wanted Hassan dead. Bazhaev’s hit would have accomplished all that. If Dana was the mastermind behind getting the EMP into CTU, that means days before she set in motion the following sequence of events: Hassan wouldn’t get blown in the car bomb, Samir would get ambushed by CTU, Hassan wouldn’t give up his files when his daughter was kidnapped, and Kayla would trust the word of her reformed terrorist boyfriend. It’s like we said, these are some highly organized terrorists.
Absurdity factor: 10
Intestinal blockage. It’s been dawning on our hero for the last couple of hours that he doesn’t have an awful lot to look forward to from life. That bookshelf grope-fest with Renee may not have been much, but it was something. He can’t go back to the existence he’d resigned himself at the start of the day. A condo in L.A.? Babysitting for his cougar-hating spawn? His granddaughter’s very name a reminder that life will never be as exciting as it was with Nina Meyers? No! He needs to work out these issues ... and Pavel’s digestive system seems as good a place as any to start.
In the warehouse across the street, Ricker ushers Reed into a back room and her warbles of protest are supposed to represent a stand-in for the viewer’s horror, but the whole thing is such an absurdist pastiche of crazy people and torture-inflicter clichés, it’s impossible to feel anything but pity for Jack, who’s getting loopier and more desperate by the minute. At one point he goes to take a seat and almost misses a chair. At another, he starts talking to himself and we cross our fingers he won’t start banging his head against a wall.
In between that and carving a hole in his victim’s stomach that we keep expecting one of these to come out of, Jack whispers to Pavel about how he and Renee were like friends but not just friends, you know. Why the stomach? He’s obsessed with the idea that Pavel shot Renee there to inflict the most pain. Uh, we think you might be projecting a little, Jack-o. He was trying to off her so that she wouldn’t identify him. Our man’s so crazed, in fact, that it doesn’t occur to him to check Pavel’s cell-phone records. When he does, he realizes the SIM card is missing. Not to worry, Jack fishes it out with pliers. Aaaaaaand R.I.P., Pavsies. Luckily the gastric juices haven’t taken their toll, Jack pops the card into the cell phone, and voilà — his rage has its next target: Logan. Is it possible the big baddie this season will turn out to be Jack?
Absurdity factor: 10
HitFix thought the episode had too few twists, “except when said twists damaged human tissue.”
PopWatch called it appropriate that “one of the show’s last acts of torture would result in a victim not wanting to spill the beans.”
The Los Angeles Times thought the show made the media a vehicle for truth even if Reed’s paper “did about as much fact-checking on her as CTU did on Dana Walsh.”