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

Monday, May 09, 2005

24 Day 4 3:00 AM - 4:00 AM

A Review

More graphic violence. Yeah, sure, like I'm falling for that one again. I'm gonna go wake the kids and get 'em down here.

Old Doc Besson continues to work on Jong. Is he really the guy they want working on Jong, given his track record? And it's pretty sad when Curtis has to act as the voice of reason.

Jack has a difficult scene with Audrey. That kind of scene is hard for actors to do, but they handled it well. That's been one of the highlights of this season, the emotional scenes between Jack and Audrey. The actors have played them so well.

Audrey is having a tough time understanding it all. But the Vulcans showed us the way long ago; The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

But silly Jack presses his luck, and asks Audrey "what do you want me to do?" What did he possibly hope to accomplish with that question? Audrey takes that softball and knocks it into the Pacific. She replies "Leave."

Bill from Division is again woefully ignorant of what is going on under his nose in CTU. Jack came busting into CTU with a wounded Chinese he carried out of the Chinese Consulate like a sack of potatoes, he ordered CTU's doc to stop working on Paul at gunpoint, Paul died, and Bill had no idea any of this was going on.

Jack, still caught up in the emotional battle with Audrey, says "I'm sorry" to Bill. Jack, that's called "transference".

Hey, Novick has a secretary to answer his phone calls. Can't CTU get someone to answer the phones?

Jack tells him Jong is still in surgery. "Still"? It's been about 5 minutes! Jack also says "his men" weren't responsible for the catastrophe at the Consulate. What does he mean by "his men"? There was just Jack, Curtis and the anonymous cheek-scratching agent. (I assume Translator Rabb sat that one out.)

There's talk about getting people alibis for where they were. Oh dear, this cover-up thing is starting to look shaky already. Nice going, Palmer. You've been there an hour and you've already just about started a shooting war with a billion Chinese.

(Favorite exchange from the movie Red Dawn:
Well, who *is* on our side?
Six hundred million screamin' Chinamen.
Well, last I heard, there were a billion screamin' Chinamen.
There were.)

Chloe is sitting rather oddly, with her neck all scrinched up, like a junior high class of Vulcans were practicing their nerve pinches on her, and failing miserably. Ah, she's worried about that Cisco Security Response and that network traffic spike. CTU is actually aware that they are experiencing a Denial of Service attack. Too bad all the nuclear reactors didn't have decent network security.

Chloe is not very nice to Bill, and Bill dresses her down. So to speak. Bill says they are in an active code (what the hey is that?) and Chloe better get a grip on her personality disorder. Well, Bill, Driscoll is the one who brought her back, and she's gone, so what's stopping you from ditching Chloe? Bill rattles off terms like "Security Auditor Tool" like he has any clue what he's talking about.

We see yet another new terrorist. This one named "Yasir". Paul mentioned last week Norwegians were now involved. So, this guy must be Yasir Youbetcha. Thank you, thank you very much.

Ha! Yasir is using an "Alienware" laptop! No wonder these terrorists can't be stopped! They're aliens! (there really are such laptops, and this is more product placement) Yasir is having trouble jamming CTU's satellites, so Marwan decides to move the schedule up by an hour. OK, yet another indication that Marwan really did plan on having El Presidente fly around in Air Farce One for 20 hours, and then come to LA.

Palmer is still down in Level 5. He's having trouble getting past the Hell Knight and that silly, pointless jumping puzzle with the hamburger-patty-flattening poundy thingies.

Palmer and Novick worry that Logan will eventually find out about the fumbled, amateurish swoop and squat at the Consulate. Yeah, Logan will find out when Chinese nukes start raining down on the US.

Palmer still clings to his life vest that the US government can't be implicated. But Novick gets it. He points out they called the Consulate 30 minutes before the snatch.

And then, we see signs that ohmygawd, we're in the hands of a madman. Palmer starts burbling that things will be fine because the agents were masked. He's betting nuclear war on a ski mask? (And how did Palmer know masks were used? Masks were never discussed.)

And now we beat the whole mask meme to bloody death. Neat to see the Chinese have incredible intelligent resources, too. They capture the face of the anonymous cheek-scratching agent, and will search their files. They must have their own CTU (of course, Chinese Terrorist Unit, in this case.)

Whoa! Jack and Curtis are talking to two guys?! Two? Jack was only going to take one other agent with over to the Consulate. Who is this other guy? The director's brother-in-law? And then Jack tells Curtis to advise the "rest of the team". Rest of the team?! How many are there? Who else is in on this tightly held secret about the Consulate raid? Just Translator Rabb? Who else is there?

Marwan says they are looking for the warhead in "cities". Uh, but the warhead is in Iowa. Marwan, I know you're not a native, and maybe a little unfamiliar with the US Midwest, but unless you mean Des Moines or Cedar Rapids or nuclear-free Iowa City, what cities do you think they are looking in?

And oh my freaking stars. They have a missile. An honest to goodness missile. And the warhead is attached. How do the forces that are surely combing Iowa at this very moment (including the Army Reserve, remember) not see this thing? It's out in the open. It's smoking, the area is lit up like Vegas. Hello? Everyone must just be standing shoulder to shoulder at this 60 mile perimeter just waiting for something to go by them.

Poor Sabir. He's not qualified to work on this warhead, but it's not his fault Marwan put him in a position to fail. Marwan has made a number of questionable personnel decisions putting together his team, starting with Pa Araz.

But Sabir is finding out the hard way the dangers of striking up relationships with people he met on the Internet. I mean, there are a lot of sickos out there, there are many cases of 14 year old girls posing as male, middle-aged Chinese nuclear scientists in order to lure in their victims.

So Sabir learns everything he knows about screwing around with nuclear warheads from this stranger on the Net. A native Arabic or Turkish speaker communicating with a native Chinese speaker, in English, on the topic of nuclear warheads, a topic where there is a wide margin for error and miscommunication. Those must have been some fun emails to read. (And Marwan shouldn't be surprised if this all blows up in his face, literally.)

Sabir: So, do I cut the red wire or the blue wire?
Jong: No, no! No cut blue wire! No cut any wire! You go now!
Sabir: Well, I gotta do something. I put this thing back together and now I got all these extra parts lying around.

But I'll be danged if Sabir didn't go and get this warhead nailed to that missile somehow. Never mind that you can't just stick things onto any old missile. There is weight balancing to take into account, there are aerodynamic issues. There's the engineering for how the warhead is mated to the missile. The warhead has to be designed for that missile. So did the terrorists have a missile designed for that warhead? Did they steal that one too? How come nobody knows that such a missile went missing? Otherwise, when they launch, this missile is going to spiral into a spectacular nuclear Roman candle, and Iowa is going to be growing corn so big the Corn Nuts company is going to be salivating for ten thousand years.

Bill tells Jack to "prep all his databases". I wonder if he has to rekey them, too. Another scene with Inappropriate Chloe. Ya know, it was cute the first few hundred times, but it really is starting to seem a little forced. Chloe trots out the old, dusty wheezy "if you ever want to talk, as a friend, I'm here." Has anyone in the history of the known universe ever said that? And if so, has anyone actually ever taken them up on that?

There's going to be a large DoD block transfer, and Audrey needs to get Marcy to do something. Which means Jack has to talk to Audrey. And Jack just digs his hole a little deeper. Give it up, Jack.

A discussion of where the warhead might be. Curtis thinks it's likely the warhead is still on the ground, so that makes the area where the warhead might be a circle with a 300 mile radius. (The circle they showed on the screen looked more like a 300 mile *diameter*. Didn't these writers ever pay attention in geometry class?)

Plus, and this is getting really old having to grade the writers' remedial math homework, let's think about this. The warhead was snatched about 12:30 am. It's now about 3:30 am. Three hours. Distance equals rate times time. Three hours, three hundred miles, they think the terrorists have grabbed the warhead and have been doing a hundred miles an hour steady for the past three hours? With all the forces in Iowa out surely looking for this thing? I guess that 60-mile perimeter is kinda useless now, isn't it. Maybe they should've called in the Coast Guard Reserve, the Boy Scouts Reserve and the Knights of Columbus Reserve, too.

(Once I complete this crusade for better writing, I'm going to embark on my next crusade, accurate math on TV.)

Holy cow, the Chinese have good intel! They've figured out the anonymous cheek-scratching agent is named Howie Bern.

A little scene with Edgar and Michelle. Edgar must be getting really tired of having to filter all those markers. Plus, the phone rings and some guy says a Mr. Cheng wants to talk to Michelle. Well, this is a first! CTU has people to answer the phone? Last week Michelle was picking up phones. But why did they pipe the call to Edgar? He's the genius who prevented the reactors from melting down, and they've got nothing better for him to do than field calls? An insult to Edgar's abilities.

Still, it was a bit odd when the lights in CTU went down, and the followspot came up on Edgar, and he started singing (with apologies to Veggie Tales and Dr. Jiggle and Mr. Sly)...

Ever since I was a little boy
In widely tailored pants
My only aspiration was to
Be a gourd... who danced.

But for what it's worth
My portly girth
Only served to make folks giggle
'Cuz the more I moved
The more I proved
All I could do was... jiggle.

I want to dance!
I want to groove!
I need to feel
The rush!
Of the wind!
Under my shoes!

So Michelle talks to Cheng, and.... Michelle knows about the raid on the Consulate?! Good grief, how? This started out with Palmer telling just Jack, and Jack, Keeper of Secrets and Defender of the Holy Flame of Koth, immediately starts telling every warm body in CTU he can find! Cheng threatens to go to SecState Taylor to get some answers on how a Chinese national was spirited out of the Consulate, and how Consul Guy ended up as Someone's Ancestor Guy.

The krazy kaptions have Bill saying "All right, I'll tell him", but we hear nothing. Then, Bill comes over to Jack.

Another sign that Palmer has gone completely zooey. The master plan now entails looking for groups that may have attacked Chinese targets in the past. A possible one is found, the People's Freedom Coalition.

Mike, buddy, you've got some experience talking the Cabinet into deciding Palmer isn't fit to serve. For the good of the country, I suggest you get on the horn and start making some phone calls. Quick.

Palmer thinks this is a way for the Chinese to save face. Man, saving face is so 19th century.

Ah, RunLoganRun has found out. He's not happy. And rightly so. But he eventually lets Palmer continue on with this lunatic plan. Palmer says the US will have to get its hands dirty. Logan, that's a warning sign! Danger!

To Michelle's office. We hear SecState Taylor telling Michelle on the phone "All right, we're clear about this, correct?" Yet the krazy kaptions say "Tony: All right."

Ohmygawsh! Cheng has been authorized to come into the very heart of CTU?!? As head of Consulate security, he's almost certainly an intelligence agent. They're gonna let him into one of the most sensitive intelligence repositories in the country?? Has everyone gone completely lip-dribbling insane? Can't they just meet the guy at a Dennys? Doesn't CTU have an outer lobby? Never mind that diplomacy doesn't move this fast. You know the Director of CIA is going to give birth to a live cow when he hears about what the SecState just authorized. But oh, they're going to cover up screens, so they're fine. I'm going to weep.

Now, another touching scene with Tony and Michelle, this time as the Mr. Cheng's Here Love Theme tinkles on a piano. Tony continues to try and make sense of his feelings.

We've seen before that 24 has cribbed a number of things from Star Trek, starting with Trek's Security Manual, which is a coloring book about 3 pages in length. This season, the anonymous security guards even became red shirts. But at least CTU hasn't followed one of Next Generation's most annoying tics, and that was the cast's penchant for constantly putting on silly plays and giving each other acting lessons. It would be most silly if in the midst of the world coming to an end Tony and Michelle went half way up the stairs to Driscoll's old office and did scenes from Othello.

Tony (pointing at Michelle): "It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul,— Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars!— It is the cause.——Yet I'll not shed her blood; Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow, And smooth as monumental alabaster. Yet she must die, else she'll betray more men."

Instead, Tony deals with his achy-breaky heart like every other man who's ever been toasted by someone he loved, he'll take all that rage and anger and pain and bottle it up real tight, till the burning bile eats holes in his spleen.

Oh please, they have to let Cheng into CTU to show they have nothing to hide. Nothing to hide?!? You have the nation's secrets to hide!?!?! So in comes Cheng. And I don't see a single screen covered. My Rantennae are just crackling.

Oh, we're told Heller is at the district office. And the fencing match with Cheng begins.

Bauer: We had nothing to do with the raid. En garde!
Cheng: We have a photo of Bern. Parry, sir!
Bauer: It must be the work of the dastardly PFC. Thrust!
Cheng: Bullcrap. Huzzah!
Bauer: (to himself - Oh #%#@, Bern has nothing better to do than stand around Chloe's desk in plain view)

So Jack makes his phone ring (is he so vain he has his own cell number on speed dial?) and has the presence of mind not to answer "Hello, me!" His ruse involves telling a Chinese intelligence agent they have a lead on Marwan. Man, nothing like making easy work for the other team.

In spectacularly quick fashion, Bern is thrown onto a helicopter. Why? Whhhyy? Can't they just stuff him in a back room for awhile? And where is he going? Neither the pilot nor Bern were told. Meanwhile, Curtis looks nervously at Cheng. Uh, uh, hi there.

Jong comes to, and discloses yet another Marwan location. No wonder real estate is so expensive in LA, terrorists are buying up absolutely everything. And this one comes complete with microwave uplink. It's at the corner of 6th and Alameda.

Jack tells Curtis to get a team together. Now, just who is left? CTU has lost a number of agents today, Bern was just sent into oblivion.

Speaking of losing agents, have you noticed how callous CTU has been all day about losing agents? They've lost perhaps as many as 8 or 9 agents, and no one has said a word about it, or expressed a modicum of sadness. There was Ronnie Lobell, who took some slugs in the chest early on. At least that did furrow an eyebrow or two, but he was the first, CTU hadn't become numb yet. But after that, there were the two agents with Curtis and Marianne, the one with Jack at Anderson's apt, the one with Jack in the desert, the two with Chloe, one or two were blown up when Joseph Fayed opted for his 72 crystal raisins and blew himself up, at least one got blowed up when Marianne's car blew up. Curtis was so concerned about that one he left the guy lying there in bits and immediately ran inside to talk to Driscoll about covering their butts. All this and not one word that mein gott, so many people we know and love have been killed on the job today.

Now Audrey is brought into the coverup! Yeesh, they think all these people are going to keep quiet at the Congressional Hearings? We see Audrey walking to Jack, and the krazy kaptions have her saying "Jack", even though we don't hear Audrey say anything. I don't know who did the kaptions this week, but they were smoking something not entirely legal.

The cover story has Audrey and Jack working together. The screen said they were working on "linear matrix cubes". So they were just playing with a Rubik's Cube for two hours?

Ah, Jack plays the "I saved your life earlier today" card! Finally! And what does it get him? Audrey now lies to a Chinese intelligence agent. Who surely has seen it all and is buying none of this.

Dang, even Edgar is drawn into this! Is there anyone left who doesn't know? Well, Chloe doesn't know yet.

Wait! She does know! Cheng, a Chinese intelligence agent, is somehow allowed to talk unaccompanied with Edgar, and Edgar spills the beans. Chloe calls him an idiot and tells him to shut up. Poor Edgar. He gets called an idiot and he has no idea why.

Back in the Bunker, Palmer is gotten up to speed on the cover up. He says "Crap, that mask thing is screwed." (well, that's a paraphrase)

Logan says the first smart thing he's said all night, and says "Yes. Yes it is."

The CTU team arrives at the factory. For those of you scoring at home (and if you are, congratulations) this is the *fifth* attempt to capture the Mummy. I hope it works, we're running out of season.

Even though they have no idea who is really in the factory, sniper Michaels shoots someone outside the factory. Sweet Mary, don't these people ever identify their targets? What if that was the janitor just going out back for a smoke?

The team enters the factory, baddies are dispatched, and GLORY BE HALLELUJAH!!! Marwan is finally captured.

He must be getting tired, though. Even though he was on his way out, he left behind his laptop, filled with all kinds of juicy intelligence. Marwan even helpfully blurts out the warhead is on a missile. Way to go Marwan! CTU had no idea the warhead is on a missile. They would never have found, but for your Mummy-rotted mouth and alien laptop.

In addition, more proof that the more you torture, the harder it is to stop, Jack shoots Marwan! Jack, bubeleh! You need Marwan alive! He has lots of valuable information. You're lucky you didn't hit an artery or something.

With 50 seconds to go, CTU tries to technobabble a solution. But the missile is launched.

I'm drained. But this will not beat me. I, I will survive. But from the looks of the previews of next week, this show can still bring it. (Hey, looks like SecDef Heller is finally back, and Stoner, too!)

(once again, here's guest critic Paul Foth. While conducting surgery in the trauma unit at the Bangladesh Cultural Center, he held the two pieces of Old Doc Besson's severed artery together with his left hand, stitched with his right, and in between curses flung at Jack Bauer for cutting the doc 'for Audrey,' and dictated this review to a nurse, who had nothing better to do after refilling that unlocked drawer with razor blades. He was speaking Chinese though, so I hope I got this translated right.)


I realized something about halfway through this episode, and--

Retractor. No, you don't need to write that down. Wait, are you still writ--

was hoping that it'd continue throughout: namely, that apart from a few cutaways to the Chinese Consulate and Deep 13 in DC, all of the story was taking place at Gestapo HQ, and they had some really good dramatic tension going. But, alas, the tension didn't last.

The two gentlemen who publish Wrapped In Plastic (a fanzine that started out being pretty much exclusively about Twin Peaks, but has long since branched out to keep tabs on just about everyone who's ever been involved with a David Lynch project) said way back in their review of the first season of 24 that one of the really great potentials the show had--and didn't live up to (and still hasn't)--is to constrain itself with time. When Jack needs to get a piece of information from someone, he just shoots them in the knee if they don't talk right away. Or they strap a helmet on Boy SecDef's head (it'll be interesting to see what happens with him next week--it's something of a pleasant surprise to see that he wasn't completely forgotten--although it seems as if the Mummwan has to remind CTU about him), or taser Sarah. But what would happen if CTU paid a bit more than lip service to the laws they're supposedly sworn to defend? What if they actually tried to get information from people without torture? Imagine an entire episode that revolved around a single interrogation, a verbal chess match between Jack and someone he's not entirely sure knows something vital. Lock the camera in the room with them and let the words act like velvet-encased bullets. It can be done. There was an extraordinary scene like that in the first season of Millennium, and countless others in Homicide.

There was a little of this kind of thing going on with this episode when the Chinese security head showed up, but CTU's bumbling cover up attempt deflated the drama faster than a spark did the Hindenberg.

Ah, yes, the cover up. Like Jeff, I did a double take when Jack talked to Curtis and Bern, and suddenly there was another guy who I sure don't remember seeing during the raid. Is he really a terrorist in a Cloak of Invisibility, and only the viwers can see him?

One thing that surprised me about the way they handled this is what didn't happen. I thought CTU would hang Bern out to dry, that they'd let the Chinese conclude that he was a member of the Judean People's Front and had infiltrated CTU--a story the Chinese would certainly buy, considering moles at CTU are pretty much a given. Something like this may still happen, but I suspect it's a little too LeCarré for this show. More likely is that CTU will strike a deal with the Chinese where the stink will end if Bern's location is revealed, and a Chinese sniper will shoot him while he's fishing.

I laughed out loud at Jack's look after Chloe's little "I'm here for you--as a friend" speech. He looked like he thought he was thinking, "Who are you and what have you done with Chloe?" Priceless.

But on to the nuke. Jeff's simple math lesson says much about the lack of thought that has gone into this story, but there's more. Let's assume that the 300-mile radius Tony mentioned is accurate, and not the 300-mile diameter circle some flunky slapped on a map of Iowa. Tony also said there were ~three~ metropolitan areas in that circle. Hmm. Well. The very rough route map we saw for the missile a few weeks ago showed it being convoyed through the Nuclear Free Zone of Iowa City, placing it in southeastern Iowa. I guess I don't know the official CTU definition of a
metropolitan area, but I think the three Tony meant are the Twin Cities, Chicago, and St. Louis. But what about Rochester, the Quad Cities, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Des Moines? Apparently these fairly good-sized Midwestern cities don't count, even though they're closer to where the missile was taken than the three major metro areas.

And then a little later Mike said something like, "Ten million people are in danger." Hmm. Population of Minnesota (that's the whole state, not just the Twin Cities): 5 million. Population of Iowa: 3 million. Population of Missouri: 5.6 million. Population of Illinois: 12.5 million, 3 million of whom are in Chicago. Does Mike think the bomb is going to blow up all of Illinois?

If they can't get the little things right, how can we viewers be expected to suspend our disbelief for the big things?

Suture. No, more! This thing is leaking like the Titanic.

Approximate Body Count: 142 (plus "many dead" near the nuclear plant, plus the Warhead Nonprotection team, plus whoever else was on Air Farce One)

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