Some things I forgot to mention last night: President Hassan's brother, Farrad, is the traitor, not the reporter Hassan is not quite shacking up with. Tooms has a cover as a security officer for the UN, and holds a co-worker and his wife hostage so that Tooms can get access to Hassan's detail outside the UN building. And Jack didn't agree to get involved hunting Tooms down until Chloe and Kim asked him to. Which is a little bit of a cheat, really. I appreciate that it takes some convincing to get Jack to put his neck on the line, but the show is more interesting when it acknowledges that part of the reason he does what he does is because this is what he's made for. There's a cost to all that yelling and shooting and violence, and that cost is arguably more tragic if Bauer is, in some way, partially responsible for the debt. So while I agree that he needs a reason to sign back on, it would've worked better if we'd got the sense that, deep down, getting back out into the field is something he wanted.
But whatever the motivation, the machine is moving—and within minutes, Jack is stuck behind his first roadblock. He finds where Tooms was headed, but not fast enough to save Tooms two hostages (who had a kid, to make their deaths extra sad), and, curse the luck, the real cops show up right behind. So Jack gets arrested as a cop-killer, and one of the arresting officers (Hey, it's Herc from The Wire!) starts beating the crap out of him. This is all temporary, though. At this stage in the game, nearly all set-backs are minor ones. Jack gets the upper hand, convinces Herc's more open-minded partner to call the situation in, and then it's off to the UN Building.
24 is strongest when it's at its most daring, plot-wise. So tonight has things beginning to pick up, with more action, better story hooks, and, of course, the return of Agent Hotness. The last we saw of Renee Walker, she had finally made her transition to the Jack side of the Force, torturing information out of a suspect in a hospital bed, and while she pulled a Dirty Harry afterwards, revoking her badge and the life it had led her to, she seemed mostly okay. This turns out to not have been the case. After Jack takes Tooms down (long story short, the assassination attempt, working off a bluff that forced security to evacuate the UN Building, failed at the last minute thanks to Jack, Chloe, and Agent Prinze, Jr.), he finds a bunch of tattoos on the corpse that imply a connection to the Russian mob. (So whoever made the Eastern Promises joke last entry, congratulations, your dreams are one step closer.) Tooms' body also has a slight case of weapons grade uranium contamination, so figuring out his contacts isn't just a matter of making sure all the t's are crossed in the final report.
And wouldn't you know it—there's only one agent qualified with the right undercover background to infiltrate the Russian mob. Enter The Hotness, nee Agent. And she is all messed up inside.
Again, there's a cost to the kind of work Jack does. In the past seven seasons, we've seen him lose a wife, alienate the people closest to him, get friends killed by association, and commit enough questionable acts to have earned at least a thousand years in Purgatory, maybe more. As the days pass, it gets harder to believe that he hasn't broken down under the weight of it all yet; not impossible to believe, not yet, but surely this isn't the sort of job a person can keep doing forever. The nature of the show needs Jack to keep coming back to the fray time and again, but it would lose what credibility it still has if it completely abandoned the concept of attrition. Eventually, this has got to come to an end. But until that happens, we need another way to show just how intense an experience saving the world can be, and that's where The Hotness comes in.
Renee doesn't look happy when she arrives at CTU, but she's eager enough to get back into the field. Jack isn't convinced, though. The assignment is high risk, Renee has been out of commission for a while, and the stakes are very high. So in spite of her repeated objections, Jack signs on as Renee's partner in the undercover op. She's irritable, defensive, and, if her wrists are any indication, formerly suicidal, but she's determined to prove herself. So determined that she CUTS OFF A GUY'S THUMB.
Oh, in context it makes some kind of sense. But it's still batshit crazy, and it raised my hopes significantly for this season. There was a solid dosage of plot in these two hours—including the debut of Jurgen Prochnow as our requisite Evil Foreign Businessman—but Renee going stone cold and sawing off a contact's thumb in a hardware store takes the cake. Jack freaks out over it, which is funny when you remember what he's been willing to do in the past, and also promises some interesting character dynamics in the hours to come. Right now, I'd lay odds that Day 8 is going to stick to the usual patterns: Dana is going to have to compromise herself to get her ex, Kevin, to leave her alone, Hastings will call Jack off the case forcing Jack to work on his own, President Useless will be, well, useless, and Hassan's relationship with the reporter will come back to haunt him somehow. But maybe we'll get some more crazy, too. Here's hoping.
- Hastings does get one semi-redeeming moment when he congratulates Chloe on her work. So are we thinking heroic sacrifice here, or traitor-in-the-fold?
- Very much appreciating that President Useless is getting such limited screen-time. Cherry Jones is a fine actress, but her character is an on-going embarrassment.
- What's the pick for the most annoying sub-plot so far? I'm leaning towards Dana and Kevin, but the Hassad/Meredith/wife triangle has potential for suck.
- We only see him in photographs, but Renee's major target is a familiar face. Looks like Katee Sackhoff isn't the only BSG alum to hit the show…