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On ''24,'' poor Tom Lennox does video surveillance on Lisa and Bishop while Jack tries to protect Josh from his crazy grandpa

24, Peter MacNicol | PEEPING TOM Lennox didn't need to see that
PEEPING TOM Lennox didn't need to see that

''24'': Spycams and other components

And the winner of this season's Most Valuable Player on 24 Award is...Peter MacNicol's Tom Lennox. Many a boring episode this season was redeemed in just one scene last night. You know the one I'm talking about: As Tom and his colleagues watched Lisa Miller do her sadly unconvincing impersonation of a femme fatale in the sack with Russian tool Mark Bishop via the woman's super-secret pocketbook cam, we were given a precise impression of just how long it took for Lisa and Mark to Accomplish Their Mission when we heard a muffled groan from the bed and the camera cut to an exhausted, quite disgusted-looking Tom saying, ''Aaaaand finally we're done!'' (Maybe it was because I'd just seen the commercial for The Simpsons' upcoming 24 parody, but suddenly MacNicol's impeccably prissy tone reminded me of Mr. Burns' henchman, Smithers.) At any rate, for that line reading alone, I'd nominate MacNicol for an Emmy.

As for the rest of it — well, it was the usual good/bad trade-off.

Good: A pretty exciting shoot-out scene in the opening minutes at CTU, as Jack and Doyle and company attempted to regain control of the intelligence center from Cheng's small army of thugs. Bad: Sure, it was fun to see Jack snap the neck of the buff guy so many of you were admiring on the message boards last week, but seeing Morris — so recently wounded Morris — in the background getting a rather pathetic-looking choke hold on an enemy? I was convinced he'd only further injure himself, but the cameras cut away, order was restored, and a whole 24 segment went by before we saw him again, sitting in front of his computer screen as if nothing had happened to him. It was one of those plot glitches that just distract me too much, that take me out of the show, unable to suspend disbelief.

Good: Phillip Bauer, the steely-nerved loon (kind of a contradiction in terms, but that's the way James Cromwell has to play him, I suppose) bargaining to get grandson Josh, the old man nurturing his hope of escaping to China, which, he said, ''will have surpassed us in every way'' in the near future. Bad: In a matter of minutes (i.e., near the end of the episode), with Cheng having lost Josh, Phillip pulled a verbal 180-degrees and was trying to cut a deal with Vice President Powers Boothe for safe haven to a ''country of my choice'' and bad-mouthing the Chinese: ''They blew it.'' Huh? I thought they were world-dominating visionaries, Phil! Get a grip on your megalomania.

Let's see, while Phillip was undergoing his change of heart, we had Boothe's Noah Daniels leveling with Karen Hayes about his trysts with Lisa — ''I am ashamed,'' he said, in an act of contrition only slightly more believable than his scene later in the hour when he learned that Lisa was injured during the capture of Mark Bishop. Come on: With all that's going on and all he's done to power-grab, we're supposed to think Daniels would be so upset that Karen would have to comfort him with the old ''You still have feelings'' line? That's one of the problems with the season: Characters who need to bear down in a crisis are suddenly introduced to their feelings.

Speaking of which, how about Morris having to soothe Nadia after that U.S.-government-sanctioned goon came in and pushed her around territorially? Morris had to tell Nadia not to let this guy bully her, to ''stay in charge''? I understand that the scene was there to draw a parallel between Morris' earlier act of cowardice with the terrorists and Nadia's guilt over letting Milo take a bullet for her, but sheesh: Is this the way 24 wants us to see women in positions of power, as rattled flibbertigibbets?

So the Russian threat hasn't been quelled — President Suvarov gave Daniels two hours to secure the all-important ''component'': yes, the same two hours that will constitute next week's expanded season finale.

So it's time to place your final bets, folks. Will Josh and his grandpa survive? Just who is Josh's father? Do you think the coming-attractions snippet of Chloe down and Morris calling for help is just an editing fake-out? How many long-missing characters from this season will be accounted for? (I mean, isn't it time for Martha Logan to start talking sense to the Suvarovs again?)

And the two biggest questions I ask you: How will this season end up for Jack, and how will the season finale set things up for day 7?

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Originally posted May 15, 2007
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