Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

24 Day 4 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

A Review

I think this must be the scenario. For Christmas, a teenage boy received a new EZ-Screenwriter software package. Because he's new to the software, he doesn't yet understand how to leverage all of its capabilities, so at first he sticks with the built-in wizards, like the one under the Tools menu, "Assemble Script From Cliches". This must be how 24 is being written this season, as we've seen more cliches than in past seasons.

At the beginning, we once again get the warning about graphic violence. Perhaps this is just an attempt to cover up the lameness of the show's internal logic this season. We'll just bludgeon the viewers with violence every episode to the point they're so desensitized they won't notice a whole lot of things don't make much sense.

(In the recap of last week's episode, the MF bad guy, Conlon, is heard warning a couple of guards that Jack is heading "down" near them, and not to let him near the EMP. Hmm? I would think you would want an EMP device as high up as possible for maximum effectiveness. Why isn't it as high in the building as it can get? Why "down" somewhere?)

Curtis says MF's suspicious behavior is evidence against them, but not proof. Um, I'd say setting off an EMP on a moment's notice to cover up dirty details at the very least meets the standard of "probable cause", Curtis. Go get' em.

Then, in an unintentionally comic scene, we cut back to MF, where Paul is getting worked over by some baddies. They want to know what Paul did with the document he printed out. Poor Paul. Just a couple hours Jack wanted some information from him, and Jack electrocuted the poor boy. Now, once again, Paul is getting kicked around because someone wants some information from him. Remind me again why Paul wants to stay married to Audrey, the SecDef's daughter, and be involved in all these international intrigues? I would think Paul is about ready to settle down with a nice diner waitress somewhere in rural Nevada.

Jack bursts on the scene and shoots the baddies who are whupping up on Paul.

Paul tells Jack where he hid the document, and they retrieve it. Paul says he can't make any sense of it. Well, duuuhhh! It's an encrypted file! If someone could read encrypted files just by reading and studying them for a few minutes, it's not a very good encryption scheme, is it?

(What would've been really funny is if Paul had been beat up so badly he couldn't remember where he left the document.)

It struck me here that the cover-up is sure going well for MF. Within the space of 30 minutes, they've set off an EMP, attacked federal agents, etc... Good plan there, MF bad guys!

Back at Gestapo HQ, Michelle begins to make her presence known, with her usual trademark sideways (and highly annoying) glances. Michelle, what's so interesting over there? Can't you just look someone in the eye? Michelle has a new look, now that she's a bigger cheese. She looks disturbingly like Frau Farbissina.

With Michelle now in charge, Tony is put to work doing searches on guys associated with the Mummy.

Sarah tells Michelle that the area affected by the EMP has an 8-mile radius from the MF building. Now wait a minute! At the beginning of the episode, Curtis was in contact with someone who said the area affected was 8 square miles. Sigh. I realize that most Hollywood people are probably the types who cut algebra class all the time in high school, but think for a minute. A circle with a radius of 8 miles would give an area (A = pi*r*r) of 201 square miles. That's just a wee bit bigger than a circle with 8 square miles!!! So which is it, CTU? I would think being off by a factor of 25 is not good enough even for government work.

Michelle decides to wait to send in a rescue team to find Jack and Paul. They'll wait till electronics work again. Huh? Don't good old fashioned firearms still work? Jack is in trouble, go find him! Don't wait till your iPod works again!

Tony and Michelle have a little marital spat, for old times sake. Tony, who once had Level 6 clearance, is miffed that he will only get Level 3 clearance. If he needs Level 3 clearance to do his work, he should just try framing Edgar. That's how Marianne got her Level 3 clearance.

Marwan has a phone conversation with someone named Anderson. (At least the Mummy didn't call him Missstteerr Annderrson.) Anderson is to commence his task, and he pulls an Air Force uniform out of a closet. (And Paul, this is for you, Marwan says he'll go tell "the others".)

After a commercial break, Jack sees a helicopter landing near MF. Paul is still suffering the effects of his beating and can't move very fast. CTU sees the helicopter on their Magic radar, and knows it isn't theirs.

The helicopter lands near MF and disgorges a number of well-armed, armored soldier-types.

Someone at CTU makes the comment MF also trains mercenaries. Oh goodness, this is just getting silly. So MF builds the Flux Capacitor, they have been selling arms to terrorists, and now we find they train mercenaries.

Wel, they must be good, to get this team all suited up, and arrange for the helicopter all within 30 minutes, when Jack first arrived at MF and they put this mother of all cover up plans into action. (Are these guys on permanent standby in a warehouse somewhere?) Conlon meets the mercs, and tells them their mission is to retrieve the document. Conlon will personally deal with Jack and Paul, as the head merc as qualms about shooting a federal agent. As well he should, but he might want to wonder about everything else that is going on, and what he is getting involved in.

There are reports that looting has commenced in the zone affected by the EMP, and we soon see something that looks like it was cribbed from the Escape from LA movie. Cars are burning, etc... MF is looking for Jack and Paul, and someone says they saw "2 men" moving down a nearby street. Well, we saw a number of looters roaming around, I'm not real sure how the MF mercs didn't see them, or how they picked Jack and Paul out of that scene.

Jack bursts into a gun store. Jack utters one his classic lines, "Drop the weapon, now!" Ahhh, that never gets old.

We now get a scene that obviously was written in response to some guff Fox has received over the show's portrayal of Muslims as terrorists. (Funny, I didn't know 9/11 and subsequent trouble was actually caused by Norwegian Lutheran grannies.) The two guys in the gun store, (they were trying to protect their store from looters) are Arab Americans, and they launch into this spiel about how they are good Americans, they are angry that all this looting is related to the acts of terrorism, this country is their home, blah blah blah. Goodness, it was like being hit over the head with a hammer. We get it already. Noble, good, Arab Americans. Not all Arabs are terrorists. Ok, message received! As if we hadn't already figured that out years ago. At one point, we even see an American flag draped over something behind these two guys. Aaauuuggghhhh!

These two noble Arab Americans decide to stay and help Jack fight it out against the mercs, to protect their store.

Jack immediately tells these two guys most of what has been going on, about the terrorists, the EMP, etc... Gracious Jack, you're giving sensitive information to complete strangers? Civilians, who are Arab, in fact? Not good operational security, my boy.

Jack's master plan is to start a firefight with the mercs, so CTU will pick up the gunfight with their Magic, and will know where to find them, so CTU can come to the rescue. Just dwell on the wisdom of that for a moment.

At CTU, the SecDef, as patronizing daddy, has a heart to heart with a sniffly Audrey. Audrey is having second thoughts about Jack, given what she saw Jack do to Paul in the hotel room. At one point, Audrey says it was "a shock to see" that. Uhhh, was she trying to be funny? Were the writers trying to be funny?

In a delicious catty little scene, Sarah gets all huffy with Michelle, demanding that Michelle make good on what Driscoll promised her. In a shocking display of sensibility, Michelle immediately calls security and has them escort Sarah out. Michelle says she can't trust anyone who would make such demands. Wow. Usually people on 24 just immediately cave in to such blustering threats. Sarah sputters and says she is juggling active protocols, she's needed. Well, protocols or no, she's out. Maybe she's just getting canned for her poor math skills.

Now that they are really really shorthanded, someone is needed to help with Sarah's protocols or whatever. Curtis suggests Tony. Michelle agrees.

Tony somehow magically divines that Jack will try to start a firefight so CTU can pinpoint his location, and that CTU should move in. Michelle says no, they'll stay on the perimeter, as they might not be able to get to Jack if they go to one spot. It's not clear why it's better to sit on the perimeter of this 201 or 8 square mile area, take your pick, and how they could easily rescue Jack from there, but not from some point within the area, if they moved in.

Jack shoots at a merc, but deliberately misses, to get the mercs to fall into his trap. The merc says they're at the nw corner of Stringer, between Flower and Third. I couldn't locate that intersection with mapquest, so not sure if it is a real location.

Audrey sticks up for Tony in a conversation with Michelle, saying CTU could use him. But then, Audrey says Tony still cares for Michelle! How in the bloody blue blazes does Audrey know that?!?

Jack prepares his little group for the mighty battle. He tells the Arabs to stay down, even as one of them is standing up by a window. Um, Jack, you might have noticed that.

At CTU, Audrey asks if she can help Tony, Tony says he's doing some searches on Marwan. Huh? I thought he was taken off that, and put to work with Edgar covering whatever Sarah was doing? They talk about Jack, and the stress this kind of job puts on relationships. Audrey wonders why Jack would want to come back to this hell. In a line that will surely be in the movie trailer, Tony says some people are more comfortable in hell.

The firefight starts at the gun store. CTU sees it. The rescue team will take 5 or 6 minutes to get there. Okay. Perhaps it will take so long because they're mistakenly on the edge of a 201 sq. mile area.

Jack tells the Arabs to put on hunting vests and fill them with empty clips. Even I could guess what was eventually coming.

Here is a bit of silliness. Jack and the rest of his 7th Cavalry are holed up in a regular store. Modern military weapons can chop up a building like in no time. Look at some of the action in Fallujah. Here though, the mercs and Jack merely trade potshots. Apparently the thin facade of this store is made of tritanium or something, and can stop modern large-caliber military bullets.

After plinking a few bad guys, Jack says they should pull back to positions farther back in the store. The bad guys then enter the store. Jack tells the Arabs to shine flashlights in the mercs' eyes, as they are using night vision goggle. Now, I gotta think that is bogus. Modern NVGs are surely capable of adjust for sudden flares of light. They're not much good otherwise. But here, it works. One of the Arabs is plinked, but luckily the bullet bounces harmlessly off their homemade bulletproof vest. Sigh.

The firefight dies away, and CTU sees it. How they detect this inside a building, I don't know. More Magic. There is a 3-minute commercial break, in which everyone is just sitting around in the store, apparently.

Agent Castle is on the way with the rescue team. Conlon enters the store, but Castle guns him down with a few machine gun rounds in the back. Hooray. Everyone is saved, and the crucial document is preserved.

But wait, nnoooooooooo! Groan! In one of the hoariest cliches ever, Conlon is not really dead! We see his fingers move! Nnnnooooooooo!

Castle talks to Curtis, and Curtis tells him to "keep this line open". Um, wouldn't that be standard procedure? Do agents normally turn off their radios in the middle of a big operation?

Tony says they don't know yet if the document will help, but they'll check it out. Funny, minutes before Tony was chewing out Castle, telling him to go get Jack because the document was what this was all about. Make up your mind, Tony.

And now, the hoary cliche plays out. Nobody bothered to really check out Conlon. They even left a gun right next to Conlon. (You remember the story from Iraq about the soldier who shot an unarmed Iraqi terrorist, because the guy just moved a little bit? These mercs can't be trained too well if they don't police the area at all.) Conlon rises up, shaking off those bullets in his back admirably, picks up the gun and shoots Paul. Conlon is then dispatched for good.

But, will Paul live? He's hurt bad. Tune in next week.

In the last scene, Marwan talks to Anderson again. Marwan says the President of the United States is on a tight schedule. Huh? How does he know? Is the POTUS coming to the LA area? Why? If the President is flying around for these last 13 hours for safety, why would anyone know where the President is going next?

(In a wacky instance of cosmically weird serendipity, I watched a little bit of Gladiator after I was done with 24. It was on TNT, I had taped it, and I hadn't seen it since it was in the theaters. At the beginning there is a neat battle scene against some German barbarians. But, Russell Crowe's lieutenant is played by the same guy who played Conlon! Yikes. It must be proof of Intelligent Design. Or something.)

Approximate Body Count: 98

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