Here we are, four hours into Day 7, and there's a whole lot of familiar going on. We've got a conspiracy that goes up to (almost) the highest levels of the federal government, and we've got our favorite friends from CTU on the case, despite CTU having been disbanded some time ago. Tony's a good guy (sort of), and Jack is once again forced to go undercover to try and find the World's Deadliest Thingamajiggy. (Official title: the CIP device.) The clock is, as always, ticking, and we're currently working against our first deadline of the season—President Taylor has been ordered to pull American troops out of Sangala in three hours or else the WDT is going to wreck all kinds of havoc.
It's a lot to take in over two hours; or it would be if, as mentioned, all of this wasn't just a tad familiar. Every season of 24 has its multi-layered conspiracies, its agency moles, its bad-guys-dumb-enough-to-trust-Jack-Bauer, and despite the fresh coat of paint and the heightened thematic urgency, the basics here are pretty much the same as always. Which isn't so bad, at least for right now. Tonight's double-episode wasn't nearly as tight as Sunday's, and the goofy quotient got upped considerably (apparently, CTU was way over-padding its budget; in order to run efficiently, all it needed Chloe, Bill, Tony, and eventually Jack)(actually, given the number of double agents CTU was riddled with, maybe this is for the best)—but it was still entertaining enough.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the real-time structure is the way certain arguments get repeated over and over again; these arguments can't be resolved until the situation changes, the situation can't change until a certain amount of time has past, but since we still need to fill forty minutes each episode, we have to keep cutting back to people repeating themselves. In this case, that means watching the Prez lock horns with Secretary of Defense Ethan Kanin (Bob Gunton!) over the withdrawal of American troops. The Pres wants to stay in spite of the threat, while Ethan wants to give in to Colonel Dubaku's demands, and by the time the clock reaches noon, they've reached no resolution; but the Pres is getting frustrated, and those of us who were privy to Ethan's conversation with First Man Henry are starting to suspect that Ethan might not be completely on the up and up.
The Prez's one hope of not giving in to the terrorists is locked away at FBI headquarters, but it looks like Tony isn't talking. Jack convinces Larry and Renee to give him a shot at interrogating his former friend, and we got some chatting, veiled threats, and head-games; Tony claims to have gone mercenary because he was sick of the government that betrayed him and starts listing all the reasons Jack should be sick too. Jack slams Tony against a wall, which gives Almeida just enough time to whisper "Deep sky" before FBI agents pull Jack out of the room. "Deep sky" refers to an old CTU code, giving Jack a phone number—he calls it, and Bill Buchanan answers.
This all leads into the best action sequence of the season thus far, with Jack freeing Tony from custody and helping him escape from a large number of highly irritated FBI dudes. See, Tony is a good guy after all—deep, deep cover, of course—and he desperately needs to get back to the men he was working for or the whole mission is blown, end of the world, co-habiting cats and dogs, you know the drill. It's a little deflating to have Tony's morality resolved so quickly (although they mix things up a bit further in), and the idea of Bill, Chloe, and Tony forming some sort of vigilante cabal is right on the line between cool and goddamn ridiculous, but the actual escape was excellent; lots of tense corridor ducking, demanding the impossible of Chloe, and a fair amount of gunplay. And the climax, with Jack hotwiring a car and driving it off a parking garage, was just flat out excellent. (Yes, it's absurd to think he could walk away from the accident in as good condition as he does, but it's Jack Bauer, and that's how the show works.)
After the escape, Jack meets up with his old friends, but there's no time for chit-chat. Tony's got to get back undercover, and they need Jack to risk his life to help him do it. There's a lot of vague talk about super-powerful bad guys, but it doesn't have much dramatic urgency; we know the conspiracy doesn't go all the way to the top, and we know it's going to be a long haul before anything gets resolved. Even Jack and Tony's re-integration with the mercenaries (led by a dude named Emerson who Tony keeps telling Jack is really not that terrible a guy) is paint by numbers; there's a brief threat that Jack'll get a bullet in the brain, but he wigs out in just the right ways, and Emerson ends up shooting someone who was actually loyal to him instead.
Back at the FBI, Renee is not happy about Jack choking her unconscious to make his escape; she's starting to look more and like a Bauer-in-training, given the incredibly pissed look on her face, and the way she decides to break the law and torture the crap out of the one suspect the FBI has in custody. In his hospital room, no less. It's funny; in earlier seasons, the torture scenes were at least presented with some ambiguity, but so far on Day 7, the writers have gone to careful lengths to make the violence seem as justifiable as possible. Renee threatens to shoot the suspect in the leg, but can't do it; and then he laughs at her, so she starts screwing around with his breathing equipment. We might end up with some consequences down the road, but for right now, it looks like Renee is just learning how to do what needs to be done—she leaves the hospital with knowledge of Emerson, Lake, and Bauer's next attack, an attempt to kidnap the former Prime Minister of Sangala.
Renee calls the plot in, and while the former PM isn't warned in time to evacuate, he does manage to get into the panic room with his wife. Which leaves Tony and Jack with a dilemma: the feds are moving in hard, but without the PM (who will almost certainly be tortured and killed if Emerson succeeds in handing him over to Dubaku), they won't have a way to get back the CIP device and find out whose been running things. Tune in next week when we find out if Jack's head really is stronger than concrete; if First Man Henry will dig deeper into the death of his son without managing to find any actual proof of malfeasance; and whether or not Renee will start shooting people on the sidewalk, just because they could be a threat to national security.
--Ah, the standard "person on the inside starts pulling strings to help loved one, with potentially disastrous results." Interesting that it's the pissy tech guy.
--I hope we get a bit more history on how mini-CTU was formed. Right now, all we know is that Tony had some conscience pangs and called Bill; but last I remember, wasn't Chloe pregnant?
--Wow, this season is really, really not fond of the government.