It's ironic (…I think) that 24 at its most effective is also often 24 at its most frustrating. Witness tonight's interrogation between Renee and Justice Dept. stooge Kristin Smith. Smith was the sort of aggressive, needling, deeply hateful woman the show so often returns to, and her questions were squirm-inducing and embarrassing. It was painful to watch. And yet, those questions created the tension that's always been the life blood of the show, that awful, grasping feeling of time slipping through your fingers just when you need it the most. Sure, the whole set-up was ridiculous. That Hastings and Presidential aid Rob Weiss would need to have a fall guy in place before the main crisis was actually resolved doesn't make much sense. But if you can get past that (and if you can't, how have you been watching the show this long?), it makes for a driving, compelling scene, especially when it climaxes with Jack busting in and putting his hand on Kristin's throat. 24 works only when it makes sure we can't bear to stop watching, and I was very interested right then in seeing what would happen next.
So far, this season has been short on necessary suspense, but I thought "12:00am - 1:00am" was a definite step up, and the strongest episode we've had in weeks. It lacked a terrific action set-piece like last week's episode, but the subplots moved at a good clip, and I never felt like my time was being wasted. We've got the Russians out of the picture now, so that's one threat resolved. Jack and CTU contact Josef's son to try and make a deal for the rods, and just when Josef has decided to accept the deal, Farhad and Samir take him out. It's a manipulative moment, to be sure (but, again, if you can't handle manipulative moments, etc), but I like how this hour as a whole relied less on people being obstinately stupid for plot purposes, and more on people behaving according to character. Josef is emotional, prone to snap judgments, but his plan to bring the rods to Farhad was ill-considered even for him, so I buy that he'd change his mind when offered a chance to write the whole night off as a wash.
As to Farhad's sudden change of heart… Actually, that made even more sense. For once, we have a true believer who doesn't behave like a complete idiot. He had a very specific goal with the rods, and as he points out to Samir, shifting targets from Fakistan to New York isn't going to accomplish more than getting a bunch of people killed, and having his country wiped off the map. When faced with a choice between giving himself up (and mostly likely cutting some kind of deal) or going along with a plan he knew would destroy everything he held dear, Farhad decided to turn informant and run. That kind of reversal is the closest this show gets to character development for its non-Jack Bauer leads, and seeing how unexpected it was makes it even more exciting.
Speaking of reversals, Dana's confrontation with her ex-boyfriend and his thug pal went roughly the way we all expected, but there was something to like even there, I think. For one, the hard part is over; we'll be seeing Dana and Cole trying to cover up the crime for the rest of the season, most likely, but at least we won't have to deal with Thing 1 and Thing 2 constantly interrupting the action. I always appreciate a good confession scene, so I liked that Dana told Cole what the real problem was instead of trying to make up a better lie, and while I'm not a huge fan of Cole being a tightwad ass about the whole thing (just because he's right doesn't make him less of a tightwad), it at least means he has a little more personality. Kevin and Creep's deaths were justifiable enough that I'm honestly curious to see if Dana and Cole get away with it. (I'm betting money they don't, or that Dana throws herself on the rails to protect Cole, but I'm not positive.) And, while this is a small thing, I really like Katee Sackhoff looking pissed off.
And what the heck, this episode actually had some mild thematic coherency! In addition to Cole putting his career and life on the line to protect his girl, we've got Jack plighting his troth to Renee before busting into her interrogation and trying to rescue her from harm. It's not exactly a diplomatic move, but it's the sort of crazy-but-understandable decision we've come to expect from Bauer. That he was willing to leave her behind once Hastings dismissed him seemed odd after such a display, but since Hastings stops him before he gets out the door, I guess we can assume he had some sort of contingency plan in mind. No matter; he manages to make a deal with the apparently spineless CTU chief that gets Renee in the clear, and gets Jack officially involved with the hunt for the rods till the case is closed. So now we've got a distinct threat in play, we've got Renee once again on the edge, and we've got Jack in the thick of it all. Not a bad start. It's just too bad it took us this long to get here.
- Remember when Cole fixed some newbie's equipment last week? In Cole's absence, newbie got picked to head up the team that was supposed to grab Farhad. I'm surprised that Jack stepped in, because I figured that was his death knell right there.
- Jack's "Son, you better put that down or you're gonna get hurt" would've had more effect if he hadn't gotten tased almost immediately after.
- Oh man, no Hassan this week! I'm just so totally miserable about that too.