I've been ragging on Col. Dubaku pretty hard this season—the sudden discovery of his secret girlfriend, combined with his willingness to put his plans in jeopardy for the sake of maintaining their relationship, seemed, on the whole, dumber than a sack of doorknobs. But early in "5:00 pm - 6:00 pm," I decided I've misjudged the character. Oh, he's still not especially bright, but what I'd assumed to be lazy writing turns out to be decent character work instead. See, Dubaku is a true believer—he thinks he's righteous, so in his mind, there's nothing wrong about getting a little something on the side. He honestly cares about Marika, and when he actually believed she was willing to go along with him, even knowing what he was capable of, it made sense. Oh, it was a hopelessly naive choice on his part, and one that he soon paid for (although not as much as poor Marika did), but it seemed consistent with what we've seen of him so far.
Also consistent was finding out that Sean's in-office mistress, Erika, was part of the conspiracy. I'd initially pegged her as a prime suspect, given that women-who-sleep-with-married-men on 24 don't have a great record, loyalty-wise; but when Sean was revealed as a traitor last week, I wrote Erika off as an innocent. I was pleasantly surprised to find out this week that she's been working with Sean all along. In order to justify all the lives lost, there's going to have to be a truly massive level of government corruption at work here. So far, it's been mostly innuendo and tricky Secret Service guys, but having two FBI agents turn out to be creeps is a good start.
After Marika crashes Dubaku's car, getting herself killed in the process, Jack manages to get hold of a PX-1-7 drive buried in Dubaku's chest. The drive has information on it that Dubkau was threatening the attorney with earlier, and Jack sends it over to the FBI so Chloe can get to work on it. Sean finds out what's coming and gets Erika to format the FBI mainframe; since the PX-1-7 drive is a very special device, the information can only be downloaded off it once, which means that, should Sean's plan work, everything on it will be erased. Not sure if Sean actually knows this last bit, but I guess he's optmistic, since he shoots Erika and then tries to blame her for the whole mess. Moss nearly buys it, and I was groaning; the "auto-destruct" mechanism in Dubaku's drive seemed like the lamest way possible to keep the plot running longer. But then Chloe works her magic and manages to retrieve the list, and Sean tries to bolt and gets caught before he can leave the building. 24 is built on keeping threads alive no matter what the cost, so it was refreshing to have this one resolved so neatly. Sure, in any given season, the initial threat is never the only threat, but knowing that actually adds to the suspense; I doubt anyone watching the show actually thought it was a happy ending when Bill Buchanan outlined the conspiracy's end to the President, but that means you find yourself wondering, how is this going to get worse?
Decent developments on the human-cost front as well. Despite all of Jack and Renee's efforts, Marika is left in Dubaku's clutches. When it seems like all hope of rescue is lost, she takes it on herself to force the issue, grabbing the steering wheel of the jeep and flipping the whole vehicle. While Jack gets Dubaku free and demands an ambulance from Larry, Renee tries to pull Marika out of the wreckage. The car catches fire, and Jack tries to force Renee to leave Marika behind; in response, Renee pulls a gun and demands Jack help her. Things aren't going well between them, clearly, and it comes to a head at the hospital. While waiting for Dubaku to get out of surgery, Renee gets a visit from Rosa, and unsurprisingly, Rosa isn't exactly cool about the whole dead-sister thing. She manages to level the worst possible accusations at Renee, and that drives Renee to confront Jack about, well, everything. (There's a nice semi-arty moment here, with Jack calling to Renee from down the hall as she stands by Rosa; Jack keeps pulling her away from her humanity.) It's melodramatic as hell even before Renee starts a'slappin', but I'm still intrigued as to where this is going. We've seen Jack do some horrible things in all of the seasons leading up to this, but his essential humanity has always shown through in some way. Now it's like he's given up completely. His willingness to leave Marika behind even before he knows she's dead, the rage he shows when he demands the EMTs bring Dubaku around—these aren't exactly good things.
Whatever Jack's state of mind, though, the real question here is where do we go from here. The conspiracy is, apparently, done for; with Dubaku's list in hand, Bill can coordinate the arrest of everyone involved, which means Juma's next move has to happen fast. We get a sense of it when Tony finds Jack and tells him there's going to be an attack on a high profile target, and it's going to happen at 1900 hours. But it's essentially confirmed in the final scene, where we once again meet up with Senator Mayer, aka, Kurtwood Smith. While I think (and hope) that Mayer is, ego aside, innocent, his aide Ryan is the guy we've already seen coordinating with Dubaku and Sean. When Mayer announces he's heading over to the White House, Ryan looks—uncomfortable. And the text he gets on his cell, that the attack is going ahead, means tough times ahead for the President and everyone near her.
Cool as next week looks to be, it was a little disappointing at how quickly everything else was wrapped up. The Marika subplot in particular; annoying as her sister was, it seems like a waste to put her undercover and then off her five minutes into the next episode. But hey, watching Renee wig out on Jack was cool, and while it may be abrupt, having Erika killed and Sean arrested this quickly makes you wonder what's coming next.
- As is often the case in movies and TV, slapping leads to hugging. Thankfully it didn't lead to kissing. That would've been weird.
- Jack: "You ever pull your weapon on me again, you better intend to us it."
Renee: "I did."
- Odd that somebody went and got Rosa, but didn't bother to tell her Marika was dead.