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24 Series-Finale Recap: One Last Go-round With the Absurd-o-Meter

Maybe Will Leitch’s rallying cry for beleaguered 24 fans left us a bit sentimental. Maybe we’re grasping for reasons the last 192 hours haven’t been a waste. Or maybe the show has beaten us down and we're now accepting it all — the 180-degree character turns, a government that would assassinate a world leader to avoid bad PR, bodies that decompose odorlessly in heating vents, that everybody knows Jack’s name and they’re always glad he came. However we got here, we actually enjoyed last night’s maudlin, comparatively tension-free (absent a nuke, a Big Bad, or threat to the city) blockbuster. Jack cuts short his Eviscer-a-Thon to offer some sanguine advice on lasting peace? Well, naturally. Server jockey Chloe O’Brian can shoot a through and through on command? Of course she can. Facial-recognition software scans reflections in vending machines? Duh, where else would it be looking? Hope you’re ready for your last hurrah, Absurd-o-Meter, because it’s a doozy.

Driving Mr. Pillar. With a recording confirming Suvarov’s role in Hassan’s murder burning a hole in his duffel bag, Jack sneaks into Pillar’s back seat and orders him to drive into an underground parking lot across from the UN building. At the checkpoint, the SWAT-team guard somehow misses our hero who, from the looks of the rearview mirrors, is draped — totally inconspicuously — across the back seat. Once they’re in, Jack orders Pillar at gunpoint to stitch up his wound. Before he signed on as Logan’s selfless lackey, Pillar specialized in “high value targets behind enemy lines in Afghanistan,” yet he’s unable to best the man with cracked ribs, a knife wound, and a broken heart. As a friend noted, “Nothing like a finale for cranking up the homoerotic tension of a field dressing.”
Absurdity factor: 8

Chloe Brockovich. After tracking down Ricker, Chloe and Cole realize the only evidence of the day’s cover-up is in Jack’s hands. But with Meredith Reed arrested and the kibosh put on her editor, what’s our gang to do? Chloe has an idea! President Taylor “can't shut down every media outlet in the world, which is where we're going to send this file. We're also going to send it to every government employee in the country — legislative, military, judiciary. That's over 100,000 people!” Woah there, tiger. Maybe you’re overshooting just a bit. For one, government workers? Not exactly your target demographic for exposing their bosses’ misdeeds. Second, Meredith Reed was enough of an audience for Jack. Just because you can’t get the recording in one newspaper’s hands, doesn’t mean you need to get it to thousands. How about just e-mailing Matt Drudge?
Absurdity factor: 8

The circle of Jack. What happened to our “deus ex machina of death”? We’ve got whiplash from the speed of this turnaround. Last week, Jack was channeling Jason Voorhees and gutting diplomats, no questions asked. This week, he’s taping emo cell-phone confessionals to his daughter and casting aside vengeance for justice. Looks like commenter IllogicalJoker was right! All the red herrings they threw out for his moral depravity — vengeance for Renee’s death, a glitch in his programming — all false. No, all Jack was after was a little accountability for the people who risk their lives for democracy. When he couldn’t get it legally, he borrowed Pavel’s digestive tract. With Jack already primed for conversion, it only takes Chloe a few minutes and an invocation of the memory of Renee (whom Jack insists he was “very close” to) and he’s back. All good killing machines go to heaven.
Absurdity factor: 10

Presidents are from Mars, Acting Presidents are from Venus.
Once Dalia Hassan catches wind of Russia’s involvement, she rushes over to inform her beloved President Taylor. Oh goodie, the confrontation we’ve been waiting for! How does it play out? Kinda like a breakup. (Minus the whole Taylor threatening to nuke, then occupy Kamistan for a decade, of course. But bonus points for the implication that American military occupation happens at the whim of a president’s ego.)

When Taylor dismisses the rumor about Russia, Dalia says she doesn’t think Taylor is, like, really listening to her. Taylor finally concedes to having covered up the affair cover-up. “I was trying to protect you, baby, I did it for your own good.” Horrified and betrayed she shared a bed with such a monster, Dalia is ready to end the treaty right here. Only with Taylor’s threat and no proof, she realizes she has no choice but to sign it. But if you think she’s going to be happy about it, you got another thing coming. For the next hour, she gives Taylor the silent treatment while the president checks her face for signs of thawing, hoping Dalia will look at her in that dreamy way she used to. Awkward post-breakup interactions — world leaders, they’re just like us!
Absurdity factor: 10

Fava beans and nice cartilage. Jack may be righteous once again, but CTU’s orders are still shoot to kill. The only way to get the digital recording out of the building is to make it look like Chloe’s still following orders. Jack barks at her to shoot him over and over. Just as he’s about to turn the gun on himself, she does. And it works! Pillar frisks Chloe on her way out, but he doesn’t think to check her cell phone. No worries. It would be a terrible place to hide a digital file anyways. Yeah, everything seems copasetic until the EMT tells Pillar that Chloe’s shot was a classic “through-and-through,” designed to miss every vital organ. From his stretcher, Jack realizes he has to distract Pillar to buy Chloe more time. Jack mumbles something and Pillar bends down to hear him. Chomp! R.I.P. Pillar’s left ear. No one in CTU’s eaten since 2001, so it’s no surprise Jack bit him deeply enough that even after it’s bandaged, blood seeps through like an exclamation point.
Absurdity factor: 10

Misty-eyed lady of the lowlands. You’re the President of the United States. All the evil you’ve been tacitly okaying has made you kind of weepy (lady feelings and all, you know). But you’ve sold every principle you stood for to get this treaty signed and cement your legacy. What could possibly pull you back from the brink? Would you believe a token calligraphy pen and that video confessional? Just before the signing, Taylor watches fifteen seconds of Jack expounding on the right elements to achieve a lasting peace. It’s enough to sow the seeds of doubt. Couple that with the sight of Hassan’s peace treaty party favor and it’s enough to get her to confess on live TV that the peace process has been a fraud. Up on the 22nd floor, Logan and Pillar hear the news just as they’re tippling a celebratory Scotch to dull that ear pain. Pillar knows his time is up and wants to call off the hit on Bauer. “You’re right,” Logan concedes. But while Logan’s serpent tongue might hypnotize easy prey like a president, it might not work as well on a cellmate. Logan shoots Pillar in the head through a pillow and follows it up with a suicide shot through those Nixonian jowls. Diagnosis: brain damage, and a chance at the bench in the feature film.
Absurdity factor: 10

A microwave saved my life.
With Logan and Pillar on life support, there’s no way to reach the wet work team hired to kill Jack. (Cell-phone-call logs, the source of so many leads in the past nine years, have no doubt been momentarily disabled.) The assassin knows who Bauer is, so he’s going to make it quick. Suddenly, the phone rings. “It sounds like President Taylor.” How did she get through? “They got a directed microwave signal. That’s how they got through to the phone.” As if on cue, the drone (from whence the microwave emitted) twinkles angelically in the afternoon sky. Taylor briefs Jack on her moral turnaround and advises him to make a break for it. Russia will be after him, and so will his own government. Guess he left too long a trail of intestines to be forgiven this time? Or maybe a presidential pardon doesn’t work if it’s issued from behind bars? Jack gazes tenderly at the drone in the sky, his lip still bloody from his ear-sashimi lunch. He gives Chloe an it’s-been-you-all-along-kid speech about having his back. And with that, the wounded animal limps toward the big screen to counterterrorize another day. See you at the movies, Jack!
Absurdity factor: Absurd-o-Meter overload. Cannot compute.

Other Recaps:
HitFix's Ryan McGee thinks the possibility of a feature film on the horizon made the series finale play out more like a season finale.
The L.A. Times' Mary McNamara thought the writers wimped out by making Bauer play second banana in a finale that “no doubt left hardcore fans of his style of justice wondering why.”
When Jack told Chloe to shut up and she replied, “Or what, you’ll kill me too?” the Vancouver Sun's Alex Strachan reached for his remote.

Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FOX