24 Fumbles Opening Kickoff
by "24" MORAN RECAPS
January 13, 2009
It was a less than stellar opening for 24 Sunday night as the show fell victim to writers more in love with exposition than advancing the plot, while ignoring the perfect opportunity to rivet us to our seats by crashing two perfectly good civilian airliners and killing a bunch of innocent Americans.
And at least one character is already in the running for being the most miscast in series history. Janeane Garofalo does pretty well when she plays the world weary, cynical, and snarky best girlfriend as she has in Bye Bye Love and The Truth About Cats and Dogs. But an FBI Geek?
A GEEK? Puhleeze. Chloe would have her guts for garters in any geek nerd-off that’s for sure. At least the sarcastic FBI geek Sean Hillinger, who helped Jack data mine the files to find Tony, looks the part and is suitably unimpressed by Bauer. But Garafalo doesn’t appear to have any confidence at all in her geekiness – a prerequisite for believability on this show. She has no geek cohones and so far, she hasn’t tried to out-geek anyone else. For those of us who believe the geeks actually ran CTU and kept us safe, this does not bode well for future episodes.
Not only is Garofalo miscast, she is easily in the running for worst acting performance in the show’s history, rivaling the horrible turn by Fat Hobbit Sean Astin as CTU chief Lynn McGill. It’s hard to describe Garofalo’s performance without giggling. Not believable, amateurish, weird, repulsive, and totally lacking in credibility are pretty good for starters. At least they didn’t have to try very hard to make her look ugly.
Don’t you already miss CTU? I mean, doesn’t the FBI have any money? Their set-up looks more like a phone sales office than the national hub of a super secret cyber counterterrorism unit. I half expected to see a Domino’s guy delivering pizza to the conference room – an ordinary room, if you can imagine that, with no gee-whiz communications do-dads, no real time satellite feeds, and no kewl surveillance videos.
Maybe they have a phone that takes pictures and connects to the internet.
Eye candy is certainly lacking except for Annie Wersching who plays straight shooting FBI Agent Renee Walker. There is apparently a “thing” between her and Larry Moss, her boss at the FBI (but perhaps it’s only one way with poor Larry pining away for Renee). And then there’s Carly Roth who plays the ex-girlfriend of dead first son Roger Taylor. If you don’t know by now, most dark haired women on the show are villains so expect Carly to make an early and bloody exit.
All told, the two hours moved glacially and was about as interesting as watching popcorn pop. No big explosions and only a tepid firefight at the boat where Tony was holed up – hardly worth the bullets expended. The grand moment that might have brought people back to the show and riveted the rest of us to our seats never happened. I’m talking about the near miss collision at JFK between the two planes.
In previous years, the show would usually have one slam bang, shocking, horrifying, stomach-turning terrorist attack in the first couple of hours and as you watched, you always believed someone or something would intervene at the last minute and save the poor innocents from death only to be shocked out of your seat when the writers went ahead and killed everybody off.
Not this time. The writers took pity on the passengers of those two airplanes which, I fear, does not bode well for the future of the show. If the team can’t even kill off a couple hundred innocent Americans while the planes go up in a spectacular ball of fire, it’s a waste in my opinion. What are they going to do now? Show the country plunged into a blackout? Maybe show a lot of Americans drinking icky sewer water?
Maybe their FX budget got cut? Perhaps they are trying to downplay the idea that terrorism is a serious problem? Have the writers lost their nerve? Whatever it is, they better blow something up in the future or I am going to be very disappointed.
Anyway, here’s my first summary of the season. Let’s hope I have something more interesting to write about tomorrow.
Once upon a time there was a Star Trek series that everybody absolutely hated named Enterprise. It had a wimpy captain, a stupid crew, a ship that a World War I biplane could have taken out, and perhaps the worst plot lines of any science fiction series in television history.
But it had one redeeming aspect; the portrayal of the alien Dr. Phlox by veteran character actor John Billingsley (Billingsley is one of three cast members in 24 who had parts in various Star Trek vehicles). Phlox was the only alien on board the Enterprise which probably was good preparation for his role on 24; he’s the only interesting character who we’ve seen so far.
At any rate, Phlox is driving down the street with his daughter minding his own business when he is blindsided by an SUV coming out of nowhere. Another black van pounds him from the rear and several masked men emerge armed with automatic weapons, taking the good doctor prisoner.
Now any terrorist worth his salt would, we assume, either take Phlox’s daughter with them or put a bullet in her brain. Since these terrorists did neither, we can assume they are either not very professional or have a soft spot in their hearts for pre-teen girls.
Switch to a Senate hearing room where Jack, looking quite civilized in a suit, is sworn in to give testimony about “human rights violations at the recently disbanded CTU.” The Senate is limiting itself when looking only into “human rights” violations at the former counter terrorism shop. No doubt dogs, cats, monkeys, and God knows what else were at one time or another subjected to the tender ministrations of CTU interrogators.
Jack, forthright and upstanding as usual, surprises his inquisitor Senator Blaine Mayer (played by another Star Trek alum Kurtwood Smith) by refusing to get a lawyer. Jack is being noble – and incredibly stupid of course. Perhaps he thinks that jail is the only place he can get away from the government who continually calls him back to duty even though he is sick of saving the planet and only wants a little peace and quiet.
The senator postures, mugs for the camera, and calls down the thunder as he accuses Jack of torturing some terrorist who wanted to blow up a bus full of kiddies. Finally, having enough of the senator’s bombastic twaddle, Bauer tells him exactly how it is in HIS world – a world the senator, who sleeps in a nice, comfortable bed with no idea of the threats that are out there - can’t possibly comprehend.
The senator asks Jack if he is above the law:
JACK: For a combat soldier, the difference between success and failure is your ability to adapt to your enemy. The people I deal with – they don’t care about your rules. All they care about is the result. My job is to keep them from accomplishing their objectives. I simply adapted.
In answer to your question “Am I above the law?” No sir. I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent. I will let them decide what price I should pay.
But please don’t sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret it. I don’t.
Ollie North couldn’t have said it any better. North called Iran-Contra a “neat idea.” Indeed it was – if we had a government made up of Walter Mittys who fantasized about playing at being spies. In reality, the gambit backfired horribly as more Americans were taken captive as a result of Ollie’s efforts to deal with Iran. Jack, a hero in the true sense of the word, was perfectly willing to be judged by a jury of his peers for his actions. North didn’t think he did anything wrong either but never voiced the idea that he deserved to be judged in a court of law.
Just when the senate hearing was getting interesting, two FBI agents show up with a subpoena for Jack and whisk him away. One of them is Renee Walker (played by Annie Wersching) who could arrest me and tie me up any day of the week. At an FBI office, we meet SAC Larry Moss and what passes for a super geek at the Bureau Janis Gold, played execrably by Janeane Garofalo. Jack is brought in to help find the mastermind behind the theft of technological equipment, our old buddy Tony Almeida who last we saw was lying dead on the floor of the CTU clinic. We even learn there was a funeral and he was buried.
This shows that when a TV show is desperate to reclaim its former glory, it will go to any length to recapture audience. Tony was a heartthrob for the first 6 seasons and bringing him back is a nod to his popularity with female fans.
Jack doesn’t believe Tony has gone south which is just as well. We don’t believe it either, do we?
Back with the terrorists, Dr. Phlox is busy working on a module that will help the bad guys hack into the nation’s infrastructure controls – including air transport. Phlox, it turns out, designed the whole thing. And here we find a scowling, dark faced Tony the Terrorist complete with a scarred face who, come to think of it, doesn’t look all that different than the scowling, moody, dark faced Good Guy from previous years (That Tony…what an actor.) When the module doesn’t work and won’t give the terrorists control of an airplane, we immediately think how clever and brave Dr. Phlox must be to foil the terrorist’s plot. Alas, Tony employs his strong arm tactics on the good Doctor and the bleeding and bruised man goes back to work trying to fix the gizmo.
At the White House, President Allison Taylor is all set to invade the tiny, blood soaked African nation of Sangala as there is currently a mild dispute between tribes that has cost the lives of 200,000 citizens. Her logic is impeccable – for a liberal. There is no national interest in Sangala which is the only time that the Left will ever consent to using military force. Sending our boys to die for someone else’s vital interests – now that’s selfless and noble.
Phlox finds the problem – overheating of the module for which he designed a work around (wish he’d come to my house and take a look at my machine. It has the same problem). With the corrected module, the terrorists are able to seize control of an aircraft headed for New York. And that little clock in the back of our heads starts ticking because we know it is now a matter of minutes before the terrorist’s nefarious plans are carried out and a lot of people die.
To forestall that, Jack is at FBI headquarters data mining some files on recent thefts of high tech stuff. He finds the name of an old buddy he and Tony would occasionally get spare parts off of, one Gabriel Schlecter who, as it happens, played Maximus’s servant Cicero in Gladiator (as well as a good turn as a Scottish warrior in Braveheart).
Super Model Walker (hereinafter referred to as SM Walker) convinces Larry Moss (whose rear end is so squinched up if it were any tighter you could crack nuts between the cheeks) that she and Jack should pay Cicero a visit. Dubious of the plan, Moss gives his OK but sends backup just in case.
We learn that the President’s husband may not be playing with a full deck as he is consumed with grief following the suicide of his son. In the 2 hour prequel to this season Redemption, Roger Taylor’s friend got wind of a plot and sought his help. We never saw what happened to Roger but we can now safely assume he was murdered and the act was made to look like a suicide.
On his way out to question Cicero, Moss and Jack have a mini-confrontation where the tight ass wants all the constitutional niceties obeyed and Jack, having had as much sanctimony as he can take for the day after spending time in the senate hearing, crowds Moss a little who then taunts Bauer saying “We’re the FBI, not CTU. We honor the law.”
Perhaps Larry should recall a little of his history about FBI black bag operations and spying on civil rights demonstrators. But we’re supposed to have forgotten all of that, I guess.
A knock on Schelcter’s office door and we find Cicero in an expansive mood. He believes that with the FBI there, Jack won’t try any of his special interrogation techniques. He is mistaken. When he refuses to cooperate, SM Walker gives Jack a shaky go-ahead and Bauer goes after Cicero – with a Bic pen.
Only Jack Bauer can threaten a terrorist flunky with a Bic pen and get away with it. Of course he relents in nothing flat, Jack’s reputation having preceded him.
Just as he is about to spill the beans about Tony’s location, Cicero gets it as does his henchman. The shooter is in a building across the street that SM Renee orders locked down. And the hunt begins for the first real link in the chain that will lead to Tony.
Back at 35,000 feet, the passenger plane goes on its merry way unaware that the aircraft is now under the control of terrorists and headed for trouble when they get to New York.
A very poor beginning for the show as Jack was shut out (too bad he didn’t bring a gun to the senate hearing) and only Cicero and his assistant bit the dust.
SUMMARY: 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM
With Tony’s crew now in control of air traffic, they vector another plane to land at JFK that will “intersect” with the original target. The poor pilots have no idea that they are not talking to ground controllers and are taking orders that could mean their doom.
Back on the ground at the air traffic control center, the guys are frantic, trying to figure out a way to get back in touch with the original plane. Still unaware that the second plane has been programmed to play a little demolition derby with the first flight, the chief honcho at ground control calls Moss and lets him know they’ve got trouble.
Moss has problems of his own as Jack and SM Walker call in and inform him of the demise of Cicero. Jack figures out that the FBI has been penetrated else how could the terrorists mount an assassination so quickly? But SM Walker is having none of it and tells Jack to go sit in the car and stay out of the way.
Some stiff necked FBI guy takes his gun so we know that Jack won’t be able to pull one of his “So Sorry” cold cocks of some poor government schmuck tasked with the unenviable duty of guarding him. The SWAT Teams enter the building and start their search. Now that everything is in place for a spectacular and bloody act of terror, Tony calls the air traffic control honcho (he’s listed in the yellow pages under “Air Traffic Control – Threats”) and casually suggests that they switch on the cameras for JFK and take a gander at the runways.
After getting the level of tension to rise in the air traffic control barn, Tony greets a Mr. Emerson who is apparently a little higher up in the plot. He takes the CIP Module (and Dr. Phlox) while reminding Tony that he has one more job to do. When Tony tries to find out what that job is, Emerson tells him that he doesn’t need to know yet.
Back at the White House, President Taylor meets with the former president of Sangala, Mr. Motombo. She solemnly warns the guy that General Juma (the current dictator) must be dealt with by the “rule of law” or Motombo won’t get a key to the democracy- only washroom when we put him back in power. Now this is pretty silly. The idea that “the rule of law” is seriously followed in more than a couple of dozen countries in the world is crazy. Most South and Central American countries don’t have a “rule of law” worth anything. For most of our neighbors, the “rule of law” means “one rule for me and another rule for you stupid, ignorant, benighted peasants.” And even in a fictional country like Sangala the idea that the rule of law can be enforced with a genocide going on is pretty lame.
But that’s alright. Motombo shook on the deal so we are absolutely sure that General Juma will get whatever the equivalent of an ACLU lawyer is in Sangala. The locked down building where FBI SWAT teams are combing for Cicero’s killer, the assassin is trapped and calls Tony for help. To prove that Jack’s instincts are still as sharp as ever, the assassin makes his way to the basement where he runs into a turncoat FBI guy who gives him an official FBI windbreaker and he makes his escape.
Jack is glumly sitting in the car when the driver strikes up a conversation with him, telling Bauer he appreciates his service and all that he’s done. Bauer reflects on what has happened the last few years and takes a decidedly naive view of the American public.
Jack: We’ve done so many things in the name of protecting this country, we’ve created two worlds. Ours and the people’s we’ve promised to protect. They deserve to hear the truth and decide how far they want to let us go.
Leaving it up to the mob to decide how far we should go in torturing people is stupid. There are perfectly good laws already on the book that tell us how far we are allowed to go. If you want to go farther, change the law. It’s that simple. But in keeping with the show’s new perspective and Jack’s need to expunge his guilt, I imagine we’ll get a lot more of this juvenile sophistry.
Meanwhile, Jack wants to stretch his legs a bit and gets out of the car. Wouldn’t you know it but he eyeballs the assassin just as he is emerging from the building (a fashion plate from way back, Jack spotted the bad guy because he had the temerity to wear workboots with his FBI windbreaker – a fashion faux pas that no doubt cut Jack to the soul of his fashion sense). Convincing SM Walker that they couldn’t tell anyone – not even her boss, Jack and Renee follow the assassin hoping he will lead them to Tony.
We make the startling discovery that the CIP Module is for General Juma who has different plans than sitting idly in Sangala while the whole US Army comes in and invites him to leave office. We also begin to realize that there is a faction in the US government who is opposed to President Taylor’s invasion – probably the entire idea of a woman as president. No doubt we will find out in a few episodes that there is oil in Sangala.
The First Gentleman has received a call from a private investigator he hired to look into his son’s death and is told that the former girlfriend of his kid received a wire transfer of $400,000 into an offshore account 3 days after her fiance’s death. Not only is that suspicious as hell but the idea that a private dick could find this out and not the police is astonishing. The guy must do wonders for wives getting a divorce trying to uncover their husband’s hidden assets. First Gent corrals a Secret Service agent and has him take a drive to the girlfriend’s office where he plans to confront her with this information.
Agent Moss, who really is a clueless sort, discovers that Renee is not at the scene with SWAT and that she has taken off with Jack for parts unknown. He calls Renee who lies through her teeth about what is going on. But Moss has more than one brain cell working and knows that something is up. He has Janis triangulate the signal from her cell and takes off after her.
At Samantha’s office, the First Gent spills the beans about the off shore wire transfer to the dark-haired beauty who denies it, saying it was some money her aunt had and she was hiding it from the IRS. No one believes that – especially the first hubby who proceeds to almost lose control. He warns her that if she is lying, she is going to regret it.
The assassin finally makes it to the USS Terrorist, a docked boat being used by Tony as headquarters. Renee and Jack overcome the assassin and force him to help them get through the security. This is not good for the assassin because Jack, using him as a human shield, forces the terrorist lookout to shoot the assassin. He made noises when he fell so he is not dead – probably. This is important because he has Tony’s next assignment.
Working their way through the boat – offing one terrorist with some nice teamwork – Jack flushes Tony and a chase ensues. Bauer actually corners his old friend and they exchange a look until Tony, realizing Jack won’t or can’t kill him, makes a break for it. Bauer jumps 20 feet off the boat in a spectacular dive and lands square on Tony’s back. A short fistfight ends when SM Walker shows up with a gun and Tony gives up.
The scene between the two could have been done a lot better but was still effective. Tony, not saying a word. Jack, looking at his friend with a little boy lost look and saying “What happened to you? What the hell happened to you?”
2 terrorists bite the dust. Jack scores 1/2 for his simultaneous shot with Renee.