”24”: Everything you thought you knew is wrong
Yessss! By bringing Gregory Itzin’s President Logan into the center of the assassination plot of former president Palmer — having Logan be the person giving orders to Jack Bauer’s arch-enemy Henderson (Peter Weller) — no only is 24 setting up a super-juicy treason-terror-corruption operation that transcends mere scandal; the series is also giving us front-row seats to what may be one of the great unheralded performances of the TV season: Itzin’s ongoing transformation of Logan from yes-man to weasel to the Root of All Evil. I’m not even gonna bring up again that Emmy nomination he deserves — not for a week or so, anyway.
In the meantime, last night’s 24 was a classic ”everything you knew was wrong” episode. Early on, we learned that the First Lady’s faithful assistant, Evelyn, was the person Wayne Palmer was trying to get into the presidential quarters to see, because she knew ”who’s behind everything that’s happened today.” Henderson was holding Evelyn’s daughter hostage in order to force her to turn over the evidence she had.
Meanwhile, Karen of Homeland Security used her favorite verb for about the 50th time, declaring once again that ”CTU is being absorbed by Homeland Security,” but this time she really meant it — she and her creepy helper Miles started replacing CTUers with HS pods. (I loved the sly casting touch of trying to sub out Chloe with a Generic Pretty Blond Woman.) Miles asked Audrey to sign a paper saying that CTU had screwed up the day’s events, with most blame placed on stalwart Bill Buchanan. First Audrey said no, then Miles threatened to tarnish her, the Defense Department, and therefore by extension Audrey’s father (hello, William Devane, wherever you are!). Audrey changed her mind and signed the unholy document, on one condition: that Chloe remain to help her. By now we know enough about how the show wants us to think of the new, improved Audrey (smart and loyal, not scared and shallow) to understand that this was a strategic move to keep in contact with Jack and help save the day. For the moment, however, Buchanan felt betrayed and was powerless.
Around this time, we hit a major bump in logic. Wayne Palmer and agent Aaron Pierce are coming around a corner and — whoops! — here comes the crafty vice president. The veep asks Palmer why he’s here, and Wayne says, er, um, well, I wanted to give Pierce a service medal from my late brother and, wow, I’ve got to catch a plane with the dead president’s body on it, got to be buried, y’know…and the vice president just lets him go. Makes no sense: If the VP was a bad guy, he’d be highly suspicious of Wayne picking this moment, with freakin’ martial law declared, to come into the presidential quarters, and if the VP was a good guy (or at least not a party to what Logan is up to), he should’ve been even more suspicious, don’t you think? Oh, well, we’ll forgive 24 these little lapses, even the one that followed, with Henderson leading Evelyn’s daughter to the evidence-hostage exchange: Don’t you think if you were (as we would have said in Buffy the Vampire Slayer days) a Big Bad, you’d have an underling doing this sort of transfer, and watch from a safe distance? Of course not, because the show wanted Weller in a key scene, and the more Weller on-screen, the more I like it — he exudes efficient cruelty.
So of course Jack jumps in and disrupts the exchange, Weller speeds off in Evelyn’s car (Evelyn: hurt, but she’ll live), and as Jack said at the start of the hour, this thing is turning out to be ”bigger than anything we could have ever imagined.” The clock ran out on an archetypal 24 suspense-grid: floating shots of Audrey, Chloe, Jack, and Henderson making his escape, promising to fulfill his mission to his boss: Logan. Best cliffhanger of the season yet.
So what do you think are President Logan’s motives? What’s his master plan? How long before the First Lady tumbles to the apparent fact that she’s married not to a whiny dumbbell but to a very crafty, naughty fellow indeed? And how will Audrey wrest power back from Homeland Security? Enlighten me, posters, please.