Things in "9:00 pm - 10:00 pm" that bugged me:
—Jack runs into a parking garage and hides behind a car that just happens to have a laptop on the front seat. The laptop isn't even hidden from view. Who the hell leaves their laptop in a parking garage?
—Janis can't get get through the encryption on Renee's laptop. It's the only way the FBI has of finding out Jack's location, so Larry's desperate; conveniently, they have two people in the building who can do the decryption, and one of them is very worried about his wife. Happy as I was to see Morris again, it smacked of convenience that he and Chloe were the only available tech-heads who could get Larry what he needed—surely Janis knows her stuff better than this?
—After Jack takes out Quinn, he pops open his cell phone and finds the exact location he needs on the screen. As numerous commenter have pointed out, it's a text message (you damn kids with your iPhones and your finger typing and your electronic messages passed over the air through invisible magic), but it's still pretty convenient; strikes me as the kind of thing you'd delete as soon as you got.
Things in "9:00 pm - 10:00 pm" I liked:
Basically everything else.
We've got Jack on the run again, and as effective as he can be leading squads and working as a government agent, this, I think, is the best place for our hero to be. Jack has always been the uber-professional; we know he's going to succeed in the end, against seemingly insurmountable odds, no matter what the cost. At this point, having every state and federal agency charged with hunting him down is about the only way to make things look even remotely fair. In a way, Day 7 has been building to this from the start—every other Day had Jack working with people who respected him, but here, the only friends he had were outlaws and outcasts, and now even they've been stripped from him. (With one major exception, of course.) This season has been more open about embracing the more fantastical elements of the series, and while that made for some flat (and, let's face it, kind of silly) hours, we're finally getting what may be the Platonic ideal of a 24 scenario: Jack and Tony riding off to shoot the bad guys and save the world. (Okay, save the country, but c'mon, on this show, that's roughly the same thing.)
As predicted, Renee's suspension from the FBI (it was funny seeing her having to go through paperwork) served largely as a push towards Jack, enough so that when he called her for help, she went along with it after just a minimum of soul-searching. Renee finds out that Quinn was working for Starkwood, a company that basically runs a bunch of private armies all over the world. (The idea of the Pentagon outsourcing certain military operations is fairly hilarious.) Jack's political nemesis, Senator Mayer, has been investigating Starkwood for months, and he's probably the most likely person to be able to connect the company to Juma. Jack heads to Mayer's place, while Renee lies to Larry about the phone call; but once again, Larry is actually a little smarter than I gave him credit for, and he knows right away that Renee's lying.
At the White House, Olivia helps her mother with her speech, and Ethan finally confesses his apparent role in Ryan's death. Livy's a bit pissed off, accusing Ethan of withholding information from the President because he knew she'd forbid him from sending Jack on the interrogation. This is probably true, although I don't doubt that Ethan's claims of trying to insulate his boss from any wrongdoing are also true—one motive doesn't contradict the other. Regardless of his reasoning, Ethan gets pulled aside during Talyor's press conference and told that the information that he approved Bauer's involvement has been leaked to the press. Ethan immediately blames Olivia, even going so far as to tattle to the Prez, but Olivia manages to prove she wasn't involved. (Or did she? It could go either way at this point; I'd rather Olivia hadn't repeated her past mistakes, but given the way this show usually deals with her type of character—manipulative, vengeful, female—I wouldn't be surprised if the "proof" was just an elaborate bluff.)
Plus there's the stuff at the FBI with Larry and Morris, but really, this episode was all about Jack. Some folks have complained that Jack's presence has been reduced this season, but I actually think he's had more screen time than usual; at the very least, we don't seem as awash in subplots as we usually do at this point. Jack's visit to Mayer's house was a dramatic inevitability, and one that could've gone a couple different ways—either Jack reveals that Mayer is a sniveling, corrupt coward, or Mayer turns out to be a fool who needs to learn how to live in the real world. What we got was a surprisingly complex couple of scenes, helped immensely by both actors. Mayer is exactly who he pretends to be. He's maybe a little self-righteous, but he firmly believes in the principles he espouses; what's more, he respects Jack's service all while disagreeing with some of his actions. He even manages to convince Jack that it's time to stop running; that he needs to put trust in the institutions he defends.
Of course, it doesn't take long for that trust to get shot to death. In a sense, Quinn's appearance on Mayer's front door just confirms what Jack's been saying all along, but it actually made Mayer's comments that much more important. The whole sequence was well-handled, and while killing off the hero's one chance at support is standard practice in action movies, this one came as somewhat of a shock; you knew whoever was the door was bringing bad news, but that didn't mean you liked it. And it all ends in a thoroughly kick-ass fight between Jack and Quinn, with Quinn getting his in the end, and the promise of more beat-downs to come. The whole world wants Bauer dead, and he's their last, best hope. Cheesy as hell, but so is Queen, and they don't rock any less for it.
- Anybody else get a chill at Jack's speech about "expendability"?
- A screwdriver through a flak jacket, huh? Jack's pretty much the Hulk now, I guess.
- How fucked is Jack at this point? I'm sure he'll save the day, but beyond that…