A.) Agree to meet her demands, and murder her after the whole President-husband-kidnapping thing resolves.
B.) Agree with her demands because, screw it, it’s not like it’s that hard to find tail.
C.) Wonder why the hell you’re dating a waitress in the first place.
D.) Immediately ditch your co-conspirators during the most delicate stage of your operation so you can go whack the wheelchair-bound tattle-tale on your own.
Dubaku answers D. Dubaku is, I’m coming to believe, a bit of a moron.
Tonight’s hour, which puts First Gentleman Henry once again in harm’s way while Jack and the team do everything in their power to rescue him, was the best the season’s produced so far. Say what you will about logic leaps or technical inconsistencies; this was a tight, thrilling piece of work. Sure, the actual plot didn’t progress so much as an inch (Dubaku lost more men and his only remaining bargaining chip, but we’re still no closer to finding out who the mole is, or what Jon Voight has to do with any of this), but plot progression has never been the primary focus of 24. It’s all a game, really, and the way it’s played is, we give the series a day—and then we sit back and watch how they fill it.
This episode filled it largely with two 24 staples: yelling and 'splosions. The torture dialogue that’s been muted the past few episodes resurfaced as well, and we’re getting some signs that what initially looked like a one-sided argument might actually be a lot more complicated. Sure, it’s still all about breaking the bad guys and using whatever means necessary because “they” don’t play by the rules, but for once somebody finally had the guts to tell Jack the obvious; and then go so far as to remind him (and us) what all this “ends before means" crap has ultimately cost our hero. At the very least, no one’s settling for easy answers.
For First Gentleman Henry, Day Seven has not been going well at all. First he stumbles onto clues the indicate his son’s suicide was a two-man job, and then he finds out the other half of that particular unwilling duet was played by his trusted Secret Service bodyguard, Brian. If that wasn’t enough, Brian then tried to kill Henry—and when Henry managed to dodge the bullet, he got grabbed by another corrupt agent, who delivered him right into the hands of Dubaku himself. Without his magical CIP device destroyed, Dubaku needs all the leverage he can find; so Henry gets tied up in a greengrocer’s basement, and it’s time for another call to President Taylor. (Notice how, once again, it’s Agent Tim who patches the call through. Yeah, that’s not suspicious at all.)
When Taylor gets the call, she’s doing her best to understand the latest developments in the crazy adventures of Jack Bauer, USAgent. She’s initially reluctant to trust Jack or his team, for obvious reasons; by giving Dubaku the CIP Device, Tony essentially facilitated the murder of the 300 people aboard the planes Dubaku crashed. But Jack stands by his actions, and Bill and Renee back him up. (I love how Jack immediately takes charge here; he’s nominally working for Bill, but I don’t think anyone really thought that would last.) Taylor is slowly coming around when Dubaku rings up and says he’s got Henry, so would the President mind terribly getting her troops out of Sangala? Oh, and if she could deliver Matobo by 4pm, that would be great too, thanks.
To prove he’s serious, Dubaku cuts off one of Henry’s fingers. “3:00pm – 4:00pm” had some intense moments, and the worst is coming up shortly, but this is still some nasty stuff. And the off-hand conversation between Dubaku and one of his men later on (Roughly: “The wound is still bleeding.” “Cauterize it.” “He may go into shock.” “Ah, just stick something under his tongue.”) about the consequences of the wound made sure that we didn’t forget about it too quickly.
Jack immediately offers to hunt down Henry before Dubaku’s deadline, and the distraught President accepts his help. He and Renee go over the Secret Service phone logs; Brian’s betrayal is discovered, and Jack starts working on the (correct) assumption that Brian probably contacted someone who was also corrupt before he died. This means bringing Larry Moss in on things—he’s mighty pleased to find Renee alive, but not so happy that she’s working with Jack. He’s even less happy when he discovers Jack’s plan for putting pressure on Ed Vossler, another Secret Service agent that Brian had been in extensive contact with; since Ed is “trained” and won’t break easy, Jack wants Renee to go to Vossler’s house and threaten his wife and eleven month old son.
Nice, right? What’s interesting about this sequence (apart from the fact that everybody seems to know everything way too fast) is that it's a lot more ambiguous than we’ve come to expect from the show. Maybe it’s just my whiny “Torture is always wrong” side, but Jack came off as kind of a bastard here, and Larry actually got in a couple of good lines. “I won’t let you do it to her, Bauer. Renee will not end up like you.” And their final exchange of the scene was great: “The rules are what make us better.” “Not today.” That's not really an effective response.
Renee winds up having to threaten the baby in order to get Vossler to talk, and it’s a very uncomfortable moment; you don’t think she’s going to do anything, and she doesn’t, but the look on her face is so full of self-loathing you wonder how far she might’ve gone had Jack asked it of her. They find out Henry’s location just as the President is sending a double of Matobo to the rendezvous point to buy some extra time; that plan goes south when Dubaku senses something’s wrong and has his men take out the government car with a rocket launcher. (Weird how we can’t trust the FBI, who we’ve yet to have solid proof has a mole, but we can bring the Secret Service in on things—and we know some of them are rotten.) Jack and Renee bust in the on grocer’s, there’s a kickin’ firefight, and Henry is rescued… almost. Before Jack can get to him, Henry takes a bullet in the gut, and the episode ends with Jack screaming for an ambulance.
In the end, I think it comes down to what you watch the show for. I watch it to see Jack kicking ass, bad things happening to good people, and that rush that comes from an always ticking clock. Real-world logic doesn’t really enter into it. So this episode, occasional moments of silliness aside, worked for me. Here’s hoping we get more like it.
—Speaking of cool exchanges, how about this one between Jack and the President:
Taylor: How am I supposed to know where your loyalties lie?
Jack: With all due respect, Madame President—ask around.
—No Tony this week, and Chloe was largely AWOL.
—How badass was Jack’s take down of Vossler?