For all the reasons this season has successfully rehabilitated 24, perhaps the most under-recognized is Jon Voight as Jonas Hodges, the pseudo-patriot bad guy. He’s menacing, sure, and he also stands in for American imperialism as the head dog for Starkwood, a private-defense contractor clearly modeled after Blackwater. But mostly he’s deliriously fun, a super-villain straight from a mid-nineties Speed sequel — snarling, sarcastic, gleefully punny while dispatching his minions in his insane dash toward world domination. They don’t make bad guys like this anymore. It will make Jack Bauer’s ultimate mandated murder of him that much more entertaining. To the Absurd-o-Meter!
3. The First Daughter will do anything to kill a story. Olivia, the daughter President Taylor foolishly made chief of staff, has a bad habit of leaking stories to the press, and it finally catches up with her when the nasty TV reporter she’s been dropping hints to finally catches wind of the WMD kerfuffle going on down at Starkwood. (Supposedly, the security guard whose life Jack saved a few episodes ago told him about it, though that seems unlike him.) He confronts her with the news and says she’ll have to sleep with him to get the story held. Afterwards, he vows to run the story anyway, but she has filmed their lovemaking as blackmail. That seems potentially more damaging to her than to him, but whatever, Mom needs the help. Absurdity Factor: 6
2. Jonas Hodges has good connections. Once Tony Almeida finds the bioweapons everyone had been searching the Starwood compound for, President Taylor orders a strike on the joint, “turning the whole place into dust.” (Jack’s words, obviously.) Right when the fighter jets are about to launch their missiles, though, Hodges calls the president on a private line and informs her that he has weapons, different weapons, aimed at three major cities on the Eastern Seaboard. (We assume he means Utica, Bangor, and Woonsocket, Rhode Island.) To prove it, he shows her a picture of some missile-looking things on his phone, and as far as she knows, they could be paper hats, but whatever, it works. She calls off the bombing, and now they’ll be meeting in the Oval Office. Don’t skimp on the hospitality, Madame President. Absurdity Factor: 8
1. Nooooo! We’ve all been wondering just how 24 was going to “cure” Jack of his airborne bioweapon disease, or whatever they’re calling it. It was, after all, “incurable.” Well, it isn’t: There’s an “experimental stem-cell procedure” that requires a blood relative. You know what that means, don’t you? No, it can’t be … we are faced with the Return of Kim Bauer! Jack’s infamously awful daughter hasn’t been seen since the middle of season five, but alas, it appears that Elisha Cuthbert will be returning. (She’s signed for the final seven episodes, which start … ack! … next week!) A strength of this season has been the lack of Jack’s Personal Life stories, but it couldn’t, apparently, last. Jack, we love you, but if the choice is between Kim returning and watching you die slowly … well, give us a few days to think it over, okay? Absurdity Factor: 10