The general consensus about this season is that, although it doesn’t hold up to some of the great seasons of the past, it’s a welcome improvement over the last one. This episode may up the ante: It’s probably the best one since the season five finale, when Jean Smart took down the president and Jack Bauer was abducted by the Chinese. It’s amazing to think that this show can still shock, but we are legitimately stunned. Maybe we’re gullible. Or maybe we’re just enjoying the show enough to believe again. To the Absurd-o-Meter!
3. Oh God, Morris is back. We thought the show had forgotten about the insufferable Morris O’Brien, Chloe’s Brit nerd husband who we so strongly associate with the awful season six so much that we can hardly look at him. He returns, ostensibly, to check in on his wife — who’s in custody for helping Jack again — but because he’s also a computer genius, he gets put to work tracking down an email Agent Walker sent to Jack. At the end, he’s reunited with Chloe, goes home to his kid and, hopefully, is never heard from again. Absurdity Factor: 3
2. It was Blackwater all along. Well, not Blackwater (the shady private military firm hired by the government to provide “security” in Iraq): “Starkwood.” It’s beginning to look like Jon Voight is the evil mastermind behind the firm, which, sort of like the Terminator machines, has become self-aware and is intent on taking control of those who created it. They’re the ones who have been working with General Juma and Sengala, the ones who framed Jack and who set up the attack on the White House. (And they’re working on the next one, a “biological attack.”) Senator Meyer — the same lawmaker trying to put Jack away for torturing everybody — wanted to shut them down, and now they’re getting revenge. Absurdity Factor: 5
1. Jack has a chance … nope, no he doesn’t. A major complaint of some folks (though not us) has been that Jack is no longer a character: He’s a plot device. (One man’s plot device is another man’s indestructible American ass-kicking force.) But now Jack has a chance to change. Senator Meyer (who, granted, was held hostage in his own home by Jack) sits down to talk to Jack about torture, the decisions he’s had to make, and whether or not it’s worth it to destroy the principles a nation stands for in order to protect them. He’s rational, sympathetic and, in a nice touch, actually warm to Jack.
And Jack actually listens. He believes he can be redeemed. He wants to love his country the way Senator Meyer loves it, to give his country a chance to allow its ideals to win out. Jack grows as a character, and Senator Meyer is not served up as a punchline, but as a coherent voice of American values. Jack decides to allow Senator Meyer to turn him over to the authorities, and trust the system to run its course. It’s a strange moment when the senator, giving Jack the chance at a new life, opens the door to the policeman outside … and WHAM, it’s not a policeman at all, but an assassin from Starkwood! He kills Senator Meyer and any hope Jack ever had. We thought we had given up on Jack. Jack thought he had given up on Jack. And, with the Senator’s death, we’re both right. This season’s been good enough so far, though, that, for a second, we thought we weren’t giving up on him at all. Absurdity Factor: 8