In Vulture’s 24 Absurd-o-Meter, we each week count down the most incredibly ridiculous (ridiculously incredible?) plot points in the last hour of Jack Bauer’s crappy day. In the penultimate airing of this subpar season, characters seemed to be addressing their creators and expressing solidarity with the show’s underwhelmed and befuddled viewers. Also, the show gave no respect to its redshirt population, the White House fit in a word from its sponsor, and, once again, time stood still. Let’s start the countdown.
4. This White House is brought to you by Cisco. Not only did the episode show a Cisco TelePresence logo in the White House for an inordinate length of time, it had the White House staff play avid brand evangelists. “The TelePresence conference room is all set up,” a staff member announces. Can you imagine anyone at any organization naming a conference room after the brand name of the conference device? “Hey there, Feldman, the call is starting in the Verizon conference room.” Acting President Daniels, by the way, enjoys a crystal-clear conference call with his Russian counterpart. Thanks, TelePresence! You’re the greatest. Absurdity factor: 4.
3. Just because Nadia didn’t smooch ‘em doesn’t mean they don’t count as people. After the kidnapped CTU gang escapes from their Chinese short-term overlords, Doyle asks Nadia, “How many casualties did you sustain?” She chokes up a bit and replies, “One. Milo Pressman.” Sniff! Except a bunch of security guards died last episode, most prominently the guy guarding Jack’s cell who’s shot while he’s springing Mr. Bauer. In other words, he’s a textbook redshirt, a TV character who exists only to die and raise the stakes for the characters who have names. Note to 24’s producers: It’d really help your redshirt deaths have an impact if the show’s characters seemed at all aware of them. Absurdity factor: 5.
2. Time is broken! Once again, 24 plays around with its real-time laws. Mere seconds after the White House decides to maybe give Jack Bauer’s nephew Josh to his circuit-board-possessin’ grandpappy, Agent Doyle’s got the kid separated from Jack and onto a chopper. It all happens so incredibly, implausibly fast that the viewer can’t believe it. Is there someone else in the chopper? Is Doyle not working for the government anymore? Is there some explanation for what just happened? Nope, nope and nope — show just cheated. (Either that, or Doyle is working for the Chinese and this is part of some super-crazy twist! But that would be far, far too crazy to consider right now.) Also, the circuit board’s serial number was six digits long. Anytime we’ve had to write down a serial number, it’s been about three times that. Absurdity factor: 6.
1. Can you read my mind? Three lines of dialogue in this episode served as proxies for an audience let down by this season of 24. The first, said by Josh Bauer after his grandfather goes off on a pro-China rant: “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” Preach on, mini-Kiefer! Acting President Daniels, taking a brief break from crisis-to-crisis careening to analyze the Russians’ geostrategy, opines, “None of this makes sense.” You got that right! And finally, Philip Bauer offers a gravelly rebuke to the idiotic Chinese goons who handed him The Most Important Circuit Board Ever: “I don’t give a damn about your operational incapacities!” You hear that, 24 producers? We don’t care anymore! One night and two hours are left, and then all of us can finally get some sleep. Absurdity factor: 6. —Ben Wasserstein