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, January 24, 2006

24 Day 5 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Hello, graphic violence warning, my old friend. You've come to haunt my dreams again. After last week's violence, I expect to see babies skewered on pikes.

Before we deploy the rantennae, I wanted to stop and review David Palmer's Grand Master Plan For Saving The Universe. First, Palmer, apparently, somehow acquires knowledge that a terrorist plot is underway, and it involved that airport. (On any other show I'd expect to find out how Palmer got this knowledge. I am not betting the farm that we'll find out on this show.)

Don't know if Palmer is running his own intelligence agency or what. Maybe he's living his own Magnum P.I. fantasy. But, what does Palmer do with this information? Does he tell the CIA, FBI, the Pentagon, CTU, LAPD, the media? Does he tell his old friend Mike Novick? Does he tell Logan himself? No. Palmer calls up a lady who is known to have had paranoid conspiratorial delusions. Surely not the best way to disseminate information that could prevent a terrorist attack. Do you think Palmer was standing in that living room, wondering why he wasn't seeing the story splashed all over the media? "Hmm, I told a crazy woman no one will believe, why isn't this worldwide news?"

Also, last season started out with a massive attack on the Internet (diagnosed within seconds) that was part of a plan to attack nuclear plants. To cover that up, the SecDef was part of a grisly snuff film broadcast over the Internet. This season starts with a terrorist attack that is broadcast over the media. People are executed on live TV. And, all this was apparently intended to cover up the theft of the nerve gas. Hmm, I hope the writers aren't getting into a rut here.

Ok. Overture, curtain, lights, this is it, we'll hit the heights. And oh, what heights we'll hit. On with the show, this is it.

As the episode begins, the baddies are loading the canisters of nerve gas (whoops, we don't know what it is yet) onto a SWAT van. Clever boys.

Two CTU agents are bringing in Jack. Klaxons start going off in my head, as CTU doesn't have a great history of sending two flunky agents out to accomplish tasks. I fully expect the SUV to be blown up and the agents killed. (Whew, to my relief Jack makes it back to CTU.)

Jack talks to Curtis, and tells Curtis the nearest exit in the airport that didn't have an alarm. Now just how did Jack know which exits did or did not have alarms? He was busy up in the rafters finding Derek and mapping out flank two positions.

Some guard is very polite in letting the SWAT van filled with baddies and nerve gas (whoops, we don't know what it is yet) out the gate. The guard is quite chipper considering a major terrorist attack just concluded a few minutes ago. Not even a serious game face.

Evelyn discovers Martha zonked out on the bed. I suppose Evelyn could have just assumed that Martha had been on a morning bender. She looks over Martha, but there is no sign of the struggle with Walt. You'd think there would be bruises around Martha's mouth where Walt had to press hard during the struggle.

Edgar answers the phone with his sui generis Up With People style. "CTU, Stiles!"

After a lot of technomagic, CTU is guided to the warehouse where the Star Gate/monolith was found. When they get there, they have to forcibly remove a padlock from a door. Well, what door did Yellow Tie go in then? He wasn't stopped by any padlock.

A klieg light is still on around the pit in the concrete floor. Sloppy baddies, wasting electricity like that.

Oh, dead rats are discovered around the pit. Through more instantaneous technomagic, nerve gas is discovered in the rats. It is in a concentration of 2,000 parts per million, which means it is "weaponized", military grade. As opposed to the nonweaponized nerve gas available for tasks like killing aphids in your vegetable garden.

Now, to me, this says there was a leak in one or more canisters. Isn't that rather a bad thing? Why weren't any of the baddies affected?

Yellow Tie meets some other baddie, and Yellow Tie says they'll teach Russia the consequences of occupying their homeland. From Yellow Tie's accent, I'm thinking, since when did Russia occupy Great Britain?

Evelyn is in deep kimchi with RunLoganRun for losing track of Martha. Martha is recovering on the bed, and Walt takes in a deep eyeful of the First Lady's cleavage. Logan asks about the archive room. My question is where is there an archive room here? They're out in California. Why are documents being stored here and not back in Washington? Why aren't these transcripts done back there?

Having already threatened to cry rape, Martha reaches into her bag of feminine wiles again and uses tears to try and get Logan to believe her. Again I urge you to debate among yourselves the wisdom of Palmer's plan.

Walt tells Logan if Martha is allowed to talk they really will have a problem. Of course, as the audience we fully understand Walt's double meaning here. Walt and Logan speak of "Vermont". This must be a euphemism for the dribbly bin. As in, "Remember how your Uncle Franky was throwing tables around at Cousin Tina's wedding and claiming to be Zorgon Dark Lord of the Underworld? Well, he's gone to "Vermont" for a rest."

In the space of a few seconds conversation, Logan agrees with Walt that Martha should be committed again. Now, is Walt a doctor? No. So why doesn't Logan suggest they at least have Martha checked out by qualified medical people before locking her away in the Chateau d'If?

Walt ducks outside for another completely undetected conversation with Nathanson, who is standing by a Matrix-esque screen with lots of scrolling green text.

Walt has someone on the inside at CTU! Another mole! Again, CTU has had so many moles in the past, I think people working there just assume someone among them is a mole and that baddies are hearing about their plans in almost real time.

Chloe wonders why Edgar isn't banging out a shell script. I love technobabble. We don't know if they use a Korn shell, or a C shell, or a Bourne shell, or something else.

Curtis arrives back at CTU. It took him more than five minutes. Must have been some speed bumps in the wormhole tunnel between CTU and the airport.

CTU talks about the nerve gas, and wonders, like the rest of us, just what it was doing at that airport.

CTU is asked what they've been doing, and someone gives a vague answer, blah, blah, filtering intelligence, blah blah. In other words, we haven't been doing anything.

Logan hears about the nerve gas and immediately reverts to the fetal position. He takes his thumb out of his mouth long enough to bark at his staff, as if no one understands the seriousness of having nerve gas in the hands of terrorists.

It's time to talk about evacuation scenarios. I guess those would be the plans that worked so well during the various nuclear threats in LA over the past seasons. I'll say this, they've had plenty of opportunity to perfect those evacuation plans.

Chloe and Spenser have another lovers spat. Chloe is snippy, Spenser says no one talks to him like that. Chloe says "Really? I just did." Zing! Score one for Chloe.

Edgar stands there and wants nothing. He says he and Chloe have known each other for "years". Really? Can't be more than 2 or 3 years. Chloe is snippy with Edgar and says after this is all over they'll sit down and have some tea and Chloe can go all Oprah on Edgar.

Dang! Spenser is the mole. When Walt said he had someone on the inside, my wife said it's Spenser. I groaned, thinking Spenser would make a lame mole, because he's not the strong killer type, he's more of a wet blanket. But my wife called it, it's Spenser. (Ok, I'll say it, Spenser for hire!)

Samwise Gamgee puts Audrey in a tough spot and has her interview Diane. Is Samwise hoping to start a cat fight? Why would he have a DoD liaison interview someone in a terrorist case?

Diane and Derek clear security. Which at CTU means they probably waltz in off the street completely unimpeded. After the commercial break, the 24 clock is at :28 and the clock clock is at :26.

Samwise gives Level 2 clearance to Jack. Now, let's stop and review. Right or wrong, the President of the United States agreed to hand Jack over to the Chinese. Since Jack is still alive, doesn't that still hold? Won't the Chinese be a little aggravated when they find out Jack is alive? So until that is all resolved, is it wise for Samwise to add Jack to the Fellowship?

Jack argues that a standard search is too slow, that in order to find the terrorists they need to find out how killed Palmer. Really? That would be faster? It's been over 40 years, and questions remain as to who killed President Kennedy. Jack thinks getting to the bottom of the Palmer assassination is going to be a quick thing? Don't they want to do a search, standard or not?

Audrey and Diane sit down for their cat fight, and dance around their mutual unexpressed love for Jack. Jack appears at the window and stands there long enough to cause deep emotional distress. Satisfied at having played games with Audrey like that, Jack leaves. Audrey runs after him.

As I mentioned last season, the scenes between Audrey and Jack are among the strongest in the show. This was no different.

A woman appears and tells Jack Mr. McGill wants to see him. However, the krazy kaptions says Mr. Buchanan wants to see him. Oops.

Chloe catches Spenser up to no good, and Spenser says he is "setting up a new socket." Ah, sockets. Another favorite in the CTU Technobabble handbook. But, Chloe is also there to have a heart-to-heart. Chloe style, anyway.

Chloe checks out the monitor Spenser was working at and discovers Level 5 is at work. Chloe calls Edgar and gets snippy with him, demanding he tell her what Spenser's clearance because he works for her. Couldn't Edgar reply, well if he works for you why don't you already know his clearance level?

Spenser comes to help get a bad guy through security. The Red Shirts run his bag through the scanner. Nothing untoward is found, naturally. Letting people into the very nerve center of the one of the nation's most important anti-terrorism centers is no big deal. Heck, last year they let a Chinese intelligence agent in, why not some computer repairman.

Spenser warns the bad guy not to screw up the vector counts. C'mon Spense, he's a professional. He knows that. Erp.

I'm wondering if this bad guy is on a suicide mission. Did they find another dedicated flunky like Dumpy Baggage Guy? He's putting together a gun. Is he going to shoot Jack in the heart of CTU and then just expect to walk out?

Back at White House West, Martha sees Evelyn packing a bag and is suspicious. Martha says "I'll get dressed". The krazy kaptions say "I'll getting dressed."

Spenser's FGA is locked. Not sure what that is. It might be more product placement from a company called First Technology.

Edgar sees security come over to nab Spenser, and Edgar says he just got the bulletin. He takes it well. As I mentioned, Edgar probably just thinks oh, he's the mole. Wondered who it was this time. Back to work.

Torture Spenser and make him talk! I'm disappointed. Last season CTU tortured people, even their own employees, at the drop of a hat. They are showing remarkable restraint this time around.

Martha, a.k.a. Catwoman, goes out the window! She's resourceful, I'll give her that. The Secret Service is really going to have to review their security coverage.

Some voice says Tony is awake and wants to talk to Jack. That was quick. The guy has been roasted and through surgery in the last couple hours. He bounces back quick. (update: ah, the bad guy was merely setting a trap. Tony is still out.)

Derek bumps into Jack and says he thought Jack was just "another loser" trying to take advantage of him mom. Another one? How many losers have there been?

Jack goes into CTU Medical, and Tony is out, with a huge patch over his eye. I wonder if he'll have to wear that patch the rest of the seasons, like his neck patch last season.

Ah ha! The doctor is the assassin! Jack and the baddie engage in some CTU-fu, and Jack comes out the victor after the old embedding scissors in the neck trick. We discover the real doctor is stuffed under a bed.

Bill comes in and calmly asks "What happened?" Apparently death struggles in his office aren't enough to get excited about. But, after all the mayhem in CTU Medical last year, I suppose he's used to people dying in there.

Jack says he may have cracked a rib. Those can be mighty painful. We'll see if it affects him for the season, or if he rapidly recovers, like he did from his drug addiction, or from his self-inflicted stab wound.

Spenser starts to realize the enormous world of hurt he's in. He says he thought he was helping Internal Affairs investigate CTU. He says he talked to Walt Cummings. Why would the president's chief of staff be involved personally? Wouldn't he want to distance himself from this plot to help protect himself?

Chloe is a little upset that Spenser bedded her. I wonder if that was part of the deal. Walt tells Spenser, "And I want you to bed a computer geek there, to get information." And Spenser thinks "Cool! Tough job! I'll do it for my country! *snort*" Until he experienced Chloe's winning personality, and then he was begging Walt "please, anything but this! Send me to the Arctic, I'll fight badgers, anything. Just don't make me bed this harpy!"

Jack wants to go after Cummings now. Samwise (or was it Bill) says that can't be done, he's the chief of staff. Jack says though, "I'm not CTU."

Which is quite true. So again I'd question of the wisdom of Samwise giving him Level 2 clearance right off the street. Also, it was this "Jack isn't CTU so he can do the dirty work" thinking that led to the fiasco at the Chinese Consulate last season. Beware CTU, there be dragons down that path.

The episode ends. Another rousing, brisk episode.

And now, here is guest critic Paul Foth. He was moving leaky canisters of nerve gas, and the tremors and seizures stopped only a few minutes ago, and he was finally able to type up this review.


I really wasn't looking forward to this episode, not because of the previews, but because of this Slate interview, in which 24 writer Michael Loceff said things like, "I don't know that torture works, and we don't write it because we think it works," (even though it always seems to work in the show), "I'd say that for every idea you see on the screen, there were five ideas we threw away that were more interesting and less real, and there were five ideas that we threw away that were more real and less interesting," (Is he saying they find it too difficult to make the show interesting and realistic at the same time?), and "The rule, I think, is: Do your homework, learn what there is to learn about the real world, and then when you get in the room, forget it all."

While it's true that, as Peter Suderman writes in this article, "even as the show hemorrhages logical coherence, it bulks up on rocket-fueled suspense," it's also true that as logical coherence goes out the window, so does the quality of the suspense. If we're constantly being yanked out of the story by the willful ignorance of reality, how can we be expected to sink into the story deeply enough that the suspense become truly suspenseful?

That said, I thought this was a pretty good episode. It slowed the action down and got into some of the intrigue Kiefer promised during his Charlie Rose Show appearance a week and a half ago. What I thought particularly neat was the way the mole problem was handled. I'm glad they got it out of the way quickly this season (which isn't to say putting a mole in CTU for like the 94th time was such a great thing to do, or that there isn't another mole we know nothing about yet), and Spenser's situation put a new twist on the concept. We've had moles who worked for the baddies; we had one who was working with Jack (and Tony, if memory serves), but the baddies thought he was working for them; and now with Spenser we've got one who thought he was working for the President, but he was really working for Evil. There was an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune a few months back about Twin Cities writer Vince Flynn. It said he did some consulting with the 24 writers. I wonder whether this was one of his ideas.

So Walt the Mole is Shakes's Chief of Staff (I'm not sure his title was explicitly mentioned before this). I still don't buy that someone who's complicit in the mayhem that's happened thus far is going to get that close to the President in the first place, but at least we've got hints that the folks at CTU don't believe it, either, which means we can at least hope for an attempt at an explanation in a future episode.

Another bit I liked was when Chloe gave Edgar the "can we wait until the national crisis is over before talking about our personal problems?" line. Dare we hope that in addition to being (yet another) example of Chloe being Chloe, this was also the writers telling us they realize they went overboard last season with all of the who's-got-dirt-on-whom nonsense at CTU, and the CTYoopers are going to be more professional this time around? We'll see.

Sticking with Chloe, there was actually a bit of (gasp!) character development after her encounter with Spenser in the computer room. She showed genuine regret that she snapped at him, and realization that she does that a lot. That was a nice touch.

Over at Xanadu--er, the presidential compound--I have to wonder if Cassandra really escaped through the window. We didn't see her crouching in any bushes, so I wouldn't be surprised to find out the chair in the bathtub next to the open window was a ruse and she's hiding in, umm, the medicine cabinet or something. (I could also say that it'd be pretty strange for the Secret Service to completely miss the First Lady climbing out a window, but we have to remember not to think too hard about the obvious.) It looks like Xanadu is where much of next week's action takes place, and that Shakes will see she was right all along, so my guess is that she's going to be in some kind of danger. Walt is going to take her hostage, or she's going to get
cornered by a mountain lion.

One final question: What's going to happen if and when China finds out Jack is still alive?

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 5
Number of times Jack says "No!": 5
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 13
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 5
Number of moles: 2
Approximate Body Count: 24 (plus three rats)

<- 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM ->


  • At Tue Jan 24, 04:26:00 PM, Robert said…

    About those the bad guys run some sort of sniffer all around the nerve gas canisters and then take off their masks. Cool, that means it's safe. Do rats really die that much easier than humans? The ones I've known about had a very long life and were very hard to kill. (Especially the genus Clintonius.) But on the whole, it was a pretty good episode. I really like Spenser cracking before Jack got to shoot him...but speaking of Jack, couldn't we maybe immobilize the hit man by whacking him in the head rather than sticking scissors in his neck? Even Jack can't make the dead talk.

  • At Tue Jan 24, 06:54:00 PM, Jeff said…

    Ah, I always appreciate a good Clintonius zing. Is it common to have rats hanging around an airport warehouse? And yeah, might've been worth it to keep the assassin alive. Just a few hours ago, he was ragging on Chloe for nearly shooting a baddie he wanted alive.


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