At the start of this week’s “24,’’ that whole “special relationship’’ between America and England is fraying. The British prime minister (the always-wonderful Stephen Fry) is concerned about the idea of London being razed to the ground by the renegade American drones, and doubly concerned with the mental slippage of Heller, who is repeating himself like Mikey Two-Times from “Goodfellas.’’
Heller has wits enough to realize that he needs to get Jack Bauer off of the sidelines and back into the game. He gives Bauer free reign to execute the plan he had outlined last week – hook up with that shady arms dealer and infiltrate the Al-Harazi organization from the outside. Bauer demands silence, a messenger bag full of guns, a car and the attractive, blond female agent Morgan as his partner. Not a bad set of demands. Oh, and we also find out that Ritter and Navarro survive the drone’s missile strike on the supposed Al-Harazi hangout. Whiff for me. I figured at least one of them would have been figgy pudding by now.
Over at the real Al-Harazi location, Al-Harazi junior earns a vicious open-palmed slap from Catelyn Stark / Margot Al-Harazi for daring to question mom’s execution of his one-time brother-in-law to-be. This is not a family destined to be on the TGIF block. As Margot’s goonies dragging the body of that one-time brother-in-law to-be away, his phone beeps with a voice mail. Margot has no problem playing it – apparently, terrorists don’t even bother to have a four-digit code to access their messages. Naveed, apparently, alerted his sister to the upcoming shenanigans and told her to get out of town. Still unsure of her daughter’s resolve, Margot orders Simone to tie up all all the loose ends, which include Naveed’s sister and her daughter. The latter’s sunny personality gives Simone some pause. Is there some humanity left underneath that bloody Al-Harazi skin? Well … she gives the sister an out, but a screaming confrontation between the two of them ends in Naveed’s sister being knifed and her terrified daughter tearing through the streets, chased after by Simone. Simone ends up on the receiving end of one of those London buses. Is she still alive? Not too many people get smacked into by English buses and live long, happy and fulfilling lives, but, this being “24,’’ real-world rules rarely apply.
Boudreau has one of those awkward talks with Bauer. You know, one of those talks you have with your wife’s ex, who just happens to be the deadliest man in the world? We’ve all been there. After another awkward chat with said wife, Boudreau gets a call from a Russian with a mustache straight out of a 1930’s weightlifter’s catalog. The Russians appear to still be a bit peeved at Bauer for going all sorts of Rambo III on their personnel a few years ago, and aren’t too happy with the delay in turning Bauer over. Boudreau and the mysterious Russian make plans to meet. This could be the ultimate way of getting rid of a significant other’s pesky ex – sending him to a Siberian gulag somewhere. Boy, a man can dream.
On the way to the meeting with the arms dealer (named Carl Rask, hopefully not a relative of the Bruins’ goaltender), Jack reveals his plan to Morgan. He’s going to knock her out with a syringe jab, “Pulp Fiction’’ style, and pretend that she was the CIA handler of a Rask organization double-agent that Jack had killed a while ago. Turns out Jack has been working for Rask for a while, using his power from the criminal-mastermind inside to take down criminal organizations just for his own gratification. That’s about as badass as it gets. All Jack and Chloe need to do is to get the greedy Rask to plug into a bank account, and they’ll be able to get the virus into Margot’s system. Basically, it’s the same plan Jeff Goldblum used in “Independence Day,’’ and that seemed to work fine.
The plan goes off without a hitch for about fifteen seconds, as Rask uncorks a magic potion that jolts Morgan awake. She’s hauled off to be tortured, as Rask plugs in to get his money. Morgan is strung up, sliced, zapped and threatened with a drill, all as Jack and a remote Chloe wait and wait for one keystroke that will open up the Al-Harazi organization.
Then, just like they usually do to cuisine, the British screw things up. The PM ordered an MI-5 team to follow Bauer, believing him to be a right traitor; they choose to attack at just the worst time, as the team is one enter key away from implanting the virus. In the chaos, Jack manages to take out most of the terrorists and pluck the fateful key on the keyboard, and Morgan – in a bit of awesomeness straight out of Jack’s playbook (or straight out of “Lethal Weapon’’) – pulls a legs-around-the-throat move to get free from her chains and knifes her torturer to death. Coolest moment of the year so far, and it’s not even close. We’ve got a new Renee Walker here. Jack’s taken in by MI-5, but Rask pilfers a grenade from one of his captors and manages to blow himself up – and the rest of the Brits, too, leaving only Bauer and Morgan standing. Pretty clear this fearsome new duo is off to take on Margot with this new information discovered; will the new Russian threat pop up and throw some obstacles in their way?
It wouldn’t be a “24’’ episode without a last big twist, and a traitor on the inside. With the last hammer of a scene, Navarro gets a call from some mysterious, garbled voice, speaking about a new batch of information that Reed (the computer technician – I didn’t even know his name until this episode) found out. Apparently, it was Navarro who had framed Morgan’s husband all along. Not quite Nina Meyers-level treachery, but as far as CTU / CIA rats go, this one’s pretty bad. How much deeper does his betrayal go?
Other thoughts, as I wonder if the writers sat down to view “Scarface’’ before watching this episode:
– Does anyone else watch “Master Chef’’ before “24’’? I’d never seen an episode before last night; strangely enough, Gordon Ramsey’s screams make a pretty effective lead-in to the Bauer Power Hour.
– “He’s the only chance we’ve got’’ must be the second-most uttered line in the show’s history, behind some variation of “Damn it.’’
– The chaos at this warehouse was one of the show’s all-time best action scenes. Top five, maybe, top ten, definitely. Everything pales to the rescue of Audrey and Heller from season four, though. Sorry, that link contains Daughtry.
– Another episode next week. Boy, we’re already halfway through this show. What’s going to happen when this and “Thrones’’ end? I’ll have to go “outside’’ during the evenings.