You'd think it would be second nature for people by now, especially people on action series that have a history of busting out bad scenes as soon as the last crisis is averted: never, ever relax. President Taylor makes the mistake of informing her bed-ridden husband (who appears to be A-OK, so huzzah for Henry) that their troubles are over, and even as she says it, we knows she's wrong. While Ethan tells her of Senator Mayer's murder and the manhunt for Jack Bauer currently in progress, those of us watching at home know things are a lot more serious than just a dead politician and a rogue ex-agent. There's a bio-weapon being moved into Washington DC tonight, for reasons that are rapidly coming in to focus; and what's worse is that Jon-motherfuckin-Voight is is the crazy bastard in charge.
I haven't really talked about Voight yet—keep getting distracted by other things—but he's been great for the show ever since his official debut a few weeks (hours?) back. Tonight was no exception, and it featured one of my favorite Voight scenes yet, with Hodges arguing to the Starkwood board of directors that it's time to take charge and stand up for their rights in the face of government oppression. He doesn't come out and suggest a coup or anything, but he clearly wants Steps To Be Taken, and with the bio-weapon about to arrive, it looks like he has a way of making his staircase to power a reality. Voight looks like a wax sculpture these days, his face permanently locked into a blank, jowled stare, and his eyes with all the warmth of your dead grandfather; he's the strongest villain the series has had in years.
"10:00 pm - 11:00 pm" had Hodges' plans move inches (hell, maybe even a whole foot or two) closer to completion, despite Jack and Tony's best efforts. Those efforts made up the bulk of the episode's strongest scenes, with the two heroes out-manned and out-gunned at the Port of Alexandria, trying to steal a cargo container away before the bad guys can grab it. A (sort of) innocent guard gets involved when Jack grabs him to break into the Port's computer system; Jack finds a password protected manifest, and he starts asking questions that the guard, Carl, is more than happy to answer. Turns out Carl made a deal with some guys he thought were just smuggling in electronics; his wife's pregnant (with twins, no less), and he needs the money for medical bills. Too bad that it's less electronics and more WMDs that's getting smuggled. Jack convinces Carl that he has to keep playing along with the bad guys—he does this in typical Jack fashion, by raising the growl on his voice a couple notches and doing that "I'm not blinking because if I do I'll kill somebody" face. Carl is terrified, and insists Jack promise he'll be okay; it's a promise Tony (and we) assume is just for appearances, but that might not be the case. Maybe Jack took a bit more from Sen. Mayer's place than the next plot point.
Before we can get to that, though, we've got to get through yet another of 24's long line of Feminine Betrayi. When Ethan hears the news that Mayer's dead, he realizes he has no choice but to resign his position; the fall-out of him releasing Bauer from federal custody would be disastrous for the President unless he falls on his sword quickly and quietly. The President argues, but his mind is made up, and when Olivia comes to wish him goodbye, even she appears contrite over what's happened. But she ain't. In a plot twist I sort of dreaded but figured was coming anyway, Olivia's big protestations of innocence last week were a lie; she's the one who leaked the story about Bauer to the press, and even though Ethan's leaving, she sells him out one last time. More often than not, the people on 24 don't change—Olivia was a power-hungry, treacherous twerp before, and a power-hungry, treacherous twerp she remains. We just have to suffer through it till the inevitable reveal and outraged shouting.
But not everyone is so consistent. When Jack and Tony arrived at the Port of Alexandria, I was expecting a solid firefight, which is what I got; and when Carl put himself on the front lines, I was expecting he'd get his ass shot. I was wrong on that one. After confirming and re-confirming that Carl hasn't been spreading the word about their little soiree—seriously, if someone ever says, roughly, "Hey, if you were to suddenly disappear, nobody would have any idea I was around, right?" you should RUN—the bad guys send the poor idiot off to die. Tony argues that it's best to let him go; there are hundreds of thousands of lives (if not more) at stake, and if Jack interferes before the right time, he'll get into a gun battle and make it that much harder to get ahold of the bio-weapon. Jack's had his fill of expendable civilians, though. He saves Carl, a move that ultimately gets Tony captured and puts Jack at risk from of contamination, as well as putting the WMD back in the hands of the enemy; so, you could argue, maybe not the best choice.
Who's to know how it'll play in the long run. And while it made things immeasurably more difficult for Jack (perhaps fatally so), I can't help but think he made the right choice. Some things are worth the risk, whatever the cost may be, and it's nice to see Jack working to get a piece of his soul back. This season has seen him sliding into the "ends justify the means" mode far too easily and often; showing him decide to take a stand that some lines are worth defending was pretty awesome.
- Hey, Henry's alive! And apparently in stable condition. I wonder if he's done for the season, or if he'll get threatened again.
- Hodges line of the night: "Starkwood is not in the business of political assassination, Doug. Maybe we should look into it. I hear it's a growth market."