TV Recap

Heart and Mole

On a terrific episode of ''24,'' Chloe tries to uncover the truth about Spenser; meanwhile, the First Lady goes missing, and Jack dispatches another baddie

24, Mary Lynn Rajskub | LOVE HANGOVER Chloe discovered Spenser wasn't what he seemed
Image credit: Mary Lynn Rajskub : Danny Feld
LOVE HANGOVER Chloe discovered Spenser wasn't what he seemed

''24'': Chloe digs up a mole

''Haven't you ever taken a psychology class? People keep secrets.''

Thus spoke our beloved Chloe last night in an edition of 24 that managed to pull off what this series has always had the most difficulty achieving: a balance between razzle-dazzle suspense and quieter, personal interludes. The crucial element to last night's success was Chloe, who figured in both sides of the equation. Once it was revealed that her workplace boy toy, Spenser, was not what he seemed (CTU thought he was a terrorist accomplice; he claimed to be a duped ''internal affairs'' operative working for White House mole Walt Cummings — we ended up believing him, didn't we?), Chloe was the character that helped ramp up both the suspense and the personal drama. She was heartbreakingly convincing in her anguish as she, Jack, and stalwart CTU honcho Bill Buchanan grilled Spenser on what he knew.

And let's give lotsa credit to the show's producers for not dragging out the secret that Cummings is a White House-enmeshed bad guy; a lesser TV show would have milked that bit of nefariousness for way too long. I am loving the pace of this season — even for a series built around the idea that events have to move quickly, things were smokin' at CTU last night.

Okay, I'll back up a little. The episode started off with the confirmation that the Russian terrorists were transporting nerve gas from the airport. (My thanks to the TV Watch poster who goes by the name JBauer, for patiently pointing out to me that the terrorists are doubtless Chechen rebels who would violently oppose the anti-terror agreement the Russian president and ours would be signing. As JBauer wrote, it is indeed ''an exceptionally clever plot device.'') The terrorists' stated goal was, said the evil Yellow Tie Man, to ''turn Moscow into a graveyard.'' Oh, how the Cold War has melted, that this danger is also a threat to American stability.

And speaking of stability, Jean Smart's misunderstood First Lady continued to try to warn her hubby that the late President Palmer was trying to warn her about this whole dang Russkie mess. But of course, this idiot President Logan is obsessed with asking questions like ''Does the press know about this yet?'' and just wants to ship his wife off to ''Vermont'' — i.e., a funny farm ('scuse me: psychiatric facility) — a place she's been before. No way was the flamboyant First Lady going back to that snake pit, so she did what any highly positioned presidential family member would do: She went into the bathroom, hopped out the window, and scurried away like a rabbit. Some security detail they have going for the First Lady in the Logan administration, eh?

Me, I could do without the misty-eyed scenes at CTU with Audrey, who discovered Jack was alive last night. Audrey is to CTU and professionalism what Jack's daughter is to mountain lions — a ridiculous disaster waiting to happen. Jack still seems fond of this skinny neurasthenic, however, despite the fact that Connie Britton's Diane is rapidly looking like the more solid, dependable woman for Jack to love. Anyway, Audrey's ''interrogation'' of Diane was a botched mess, intended by the writers to show how deep her feelings remained for Jack over the 18 months she thought he was dead. And actually, as irritating as Audrey is, I think there's a strong feminist undercurrent throughout this season: Women from Chloe to the First Lady may sometimes behave extremely, but they're also smarter than most of the men and they have to fight sexist assumptions that they're either excessively emotional or cold.

I love it when I get most of the way through a 24 summary and have barely mentioned Jack Bauer, because that means the storytelling is so damn good — the subplots surge along, and Jack is deployed like a human missile, swooping in to detonate, taking care of business. And the best business of the night was Jack's terrific fight with a terrorist-tool who infiltrated CTU, disguising himself as Tony's doctor (yes, Tony is alive and about to come to consciousness, we don't doubt, do we?) for the sole purpose of...killing Jack, his orders courtesy of that Annoying Man In The Blue Light With All The Flashy Computer Screens Around Him. I was totally into that fight scene, lots of in-close elbows and choking, with Jack admitting he thought the guy had broken a Bauer-rib — that is, shortly before Jack stuck a pair of surgical scissors in the guy's throat and slammed it in deep, just to make sure the creep died. This is the greatness of 24: One gets to indulge one's bloodlust while excusing it as rooting for democracy. And Jack got to deliver an ultra-Jack final line: ''I'm not CTU — I'll go get Walt Cummings.'' Can't wait, Jack — I'll even hand you the scissors, if it'll help things go more smoothly.

I leave you with a question: Which was the best Chloe line of the night, the one I quoted at the top of this piece, or the moment when Edgar brushed her aside and she sneered, ''Since when do you say 'Not now'?''

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Originally posted Jan 24, 2006