”24”: The troops rally
Those of you who’ve been peppering me with posts saying I should be giving more credit to 24’s supporting cast, such as Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce (Glenn Morshower) and CTU stalwarts Curtis Manning (Roger R. Cross) and Bill Buchanan (James Morrison) — well, this was the episode in which they came to the fore and earned my fealty more than ever. Most of last night’s episode could have been called ”Revenge of the Underclass.” The CTU staffers I named, along with desk jockeys Chloe, Edgar, and…Carrie? (I’m sorry, help me out here: Have I missed this computer drone, or was she just invented for last night’s edition so that Sean Astin’s hoo-boy-do-I-have-a-headache Lynn McGill could fire her?) — anyway, all of these employees proved their smarts and bravery. The geeks sided with Audrey in subverting Lynn’s increasingly loopy decision-making process; Curtis pulled a ”section 112” on Lynn, declaring him unfit for command, and reinstated Buchanan. Later, when the Russian president, his wife, and Jean Smart’s First Lady, trapped inside their limo, came under attack by the terrorists (machine guns! flamethrowers!), Pierce went into primo Mission: Impossible mode, threw the limo door open, and shot the bad guys one after another. Give all these people bonuses in their next paycheck, Mr. President!
Speaking of whom, Prez Logan has really gotten himself into the doghouse now: Deciding it was okay to let his principled, impetuous wife die in the limo if it meant keeping his agreement with Julian Sands’ Bierko, he suffered a moment of spiritual crisis. (Dig that crazy scene where he asked aide Mike to kneel with him and pray: You cannot tell me the writers weren’t thinking of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger on bended knee praying the night before Nixon resigned.) But because of the brave actions of a few government workers, the First Lady survived to give him the tongue-lashing of his life, just as soon as she shakes the cinders out of her clothes and they reunite.
Last night’s new character was Christopher Henderson (Peter Weller), a big-time businessman responsible for the creation of the nerve gas. He and Jack share some history: Henderson is ex-CTU, the guy who recruited Jack. (Do you think it was done the way Sydney was recruited in Alias, one day when Jack was out for a jog?) Henderson, we learned, was later drummed out of the service in a scandal that Jack helped expose, so the guy is bitter.
I don’t want to hear any Robocop jokes about Weller — he did a damn fine job last night, delivering one of the series’ best throwaway line readings: Jack told him that Bill is running CTU now, and Henderson snorted, ”Buchanan — whatta stiff!” Weller’s barbed wit made me realize how little humor or sarcasm ever comes from the mouths of 24’s male characters. In fact, Weller kinda made Kiefer Sutherland look like a stiff in their brief scenes together. And not that I don’t think Jack’s the man, but how exhausted do you have to be to fall for the old ”We’re alone in a room, you don’t trust me, but I’ll be right back after leaving you with a time bomb” scam? I loved it when Henderson — exposed as a total terror tool — snapped into his cell phone, ”In about a minute, he’ll be dead.” (Did you notice the much jazzier, snazzier music playing beneath these scenes? It was as if the producers really had been going for a Mission: Impossible vibe — but old-school, Peter Graves-Martin Landau M:I, not Tom Cruise-missile M:I.)
At any rate, we saw Jack survive Henderson’s detonated blast in the closing seconds, and it seems that next week’s two-count-‘em-two-hour edition will finally pay up with the return of Jack’s daughter. Maybe Elisha Cuthbert’s and Jean Smart’s characters can exchange anecdotes about being lied to by the men they love.
So what do you think? Is Sean Astin out of the picture? What is the terrorists’ next move — gas release or more flame throwing? And what new plot development will keep Henderson in the thick of the battle? Write, write!