It used to be that Jack Bauer and Chloe weren't the only competent people at CTU. Back in 24's first season, Jack wasn't even a super-hero; he was a little smarter and better at his job than the people around him, but he was still basically human, and he existed in a world where his abilities were impressive but not entirely singular. Over the years, the show has grown increasingly over-the-top (which isn't to say the first couple seasons were realistic, exactly), and I'd argue that's really the only way for it to have stayed on the air this long and not have lost all its entertainment value. Eight seasons of Jack Bauer, a good man with an impossible job, would've gotten old. I'm okay with Jack Bauer, aka The Batman Who Doesn't A Mask, taking over. If we're not going to put much time into the psychological toll of his work, let's see him kicking ass no normal man could kick.
Still, I miss the days when Jack and Chloe felt more like part of a team than the lone voices of reason, so I got a kick out of watching various CTU personnel do themselves proud in "1:00am - 2:00am." Jack's squad wasn't able to rescue Fahrad before Samir's men took him out, but that's entirely Fahrad's fault. Once again a dying man failed to pass on necessary information, but Jack's response, to use Fahrad as "dead bait," was clever, and refreshingly, Hastings didn't object beyond a token, "Are you sure?" Even more interesting, Hastings actually stood up to Weiss, the aide who initially proposed using Renee as a scapegoat. That Hasting's decided to grow a backbone now seems a little random (obviously he's keeping his side of the bargain with Jack, but he's surprisingly aggressive when Weiss objects), but if he has the potential of being more than just another company stooge, I'm all for it.
President Taylor stepped up her game as well, essentially ordering Hassan to turn over his intelligence files on possible terrorists in the US. Hassan continued to go back and forth between oddly sympathetic and paranoid dictator, largely on the strength the actor. I'm not terribly excited to have his wife back on the show, but I'd be lying if I said I was surprised. The weakest part of this hour dealt with Tarin's escape and rendezvous with Kayla. The escape played exactly as Tarin described it to Kayla, which meant it wasn't particularly exciting, and Tarin's stupidity in having a cell phone conversation with Kayla within earshot of Hassan's captive head of security was eye-rolling. Terrific, the two lovers are back in each other's arms. If either had a character beyond "Man, Hassan is screwing us over," I might care.
I'm going to take the bold stance of saying I enjoyed the few scenes we got of Dana and Cole cleaning up after the death of the Rednecks From Hell. On the one hand, Dana is still following the orders of the nearest ordering dude, but I like the way things are playing out. Both Cole and Dana seem shaken up by the incident, and Katee Sackhoff is really making the most of Dana's instability. Unlike Renee, I don't think Dana is going to break down crying any time soon. (That glazed, sort of hypnotized expression on her face while they were sinking the first corpse is not a good sign.) The whole subplot still has precious little to do with the season's main plot, but it was quick enough here, and dark enough, that I actually found myself curious what would happen next.
And hey, we were talking about sudden bursts of competence, right? Let's give it up for our main man Owen, aka Please Fix My Suit, Mister, aka Red Shirt Jr. After having a mild freak-out at all the—gasp—actually job-doing that was required of him (is this like World War I? Did he lie about his age so he could enlist?), Owen has to handle Marcos, the bomb-laden assassin Samir sends to take out the reverse possumed Farhad. Not only does he manage to get Marcos to Farhad's room without giving away the game, Owen even bluffs the other man into revealing his bomb to the security camera, allowing Chloe back at CTU to pinpoint the model and disarm the device remotely. (I have no idea if this is possible, and to be honest, I don't really care.) And he doesn't even get killed for his efforts!
This was a moderate hour that didn't really get going till the last ten minutes, but those last ten minutes, with Chloe and Arlo racing to defuse the bomb, were quite good. And while Day 8 hasn't entirely shed itself of boring storylines, at least the worst ones are being kept to a minimum. It's all ridiculous to be sure, but I'll be honest with you: I don't really mind ridiculous. I do mind dull.
- I loved Hastings' "Are we alone?" Because, y'know, if you weren't alone, that wouldn't be a give away or anything.
- I like how Renee and Jack's relationship has gone from "haven't seen you in months" to "I'm gonna have a CTU driver bring you to my apartment." I guess once a girl's stabbed you in the stomach, dinner-and-a-movie no longer have the same sparkle.
- Look, CTU guys, if you're going to try and corner a suspect in a certain hospital room, maybe it would be a good idea to have a guard posted on the street outside?
- The pressure chamber is a smart idea. It's the only way to kill those pesky lights of Zetar.