If you want to prove a controversial point, your best bet is to provide your audience with three sides: one that supports what you support, one that's firmly against you, and on that's neutral, but leaning towards no. Over the course of a discussion, have the neutral party ask all the obvious questions—things like, "Isn't torture illegal?", "Isn't it an unreliable way of extracting information?", and "Doesn't it go against the Constitution?" The negative party can hem and haw, while your supporting party—the one who initially looks like the radical of the group—keeps providing reasonable responses that the naysayers can't effectively defend against. In the end, the neutral ends up convinced that your cause is just, and the audience stands a good chance of being convinced along with him; it doesn't matter if the "reasonable responses" actually hold up. What matters is that someone we can relate to, someone who shares our doubts, has become a believer. If he can, why not us?
I'm not going to get into a discussion in this blog about the merits of "information retrieval," but it's worth noting that we're already seeing the scenario described above playing out in the current season of 24. First we got introduced to Renee Walker, a straight-laced FBI agent who considered Jack's actions to be outside the law; once the stakes were raised high enough (and her own guilt muddled the equation), she changed her tune and started screwing with prisoners ventilators. And while I can't be absolutely certain, I'm willing to bet her boss, Larry Moss, is next in line for an attitude adjustment. He's even more against Jack's style than Renee was, but given his feelings for her, and the current aggressive investigation of her methods by the Attorney General, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he doesn't see light soon enough. See, the real enemy are all those pesky lawyers. If only they'd just let decent people do their jobs…
For all its attempts at philosophy, though, 24 is all about keeping the story running, no matter how ridiculous it might get. Even under ideal circumstances, that means a lot of filler in between the high points—the nature of the real-time gimmick prevents the editing and organization that gives most narratives their grace. Tonight, from noon to one pm, we got some clever bits with Jack forcing Prime Minister Matobo and his wife out of their panic room, First Man Henry's Secret Service agent finally showing his true colors, and Jack having to improvise to save Agent Walker's life; we also got a lot of driving around, a lot of the same information replayed, and conversations that served largely as a distraction from the ticking clock.
Last week, we left Jack, Tony, and the bad guys trying to kidnap the Prime Minister of Sangala. This week, we pick up with Emerson threatening to shoot one of the PM's men if he doesn't come out of the secure room where he and his wife are holed up. The threat is ineffective, but before Emerson can pull the trigger, there's a call from the FBI; agents are on there way, which puts Jack and everyone on a very definite deadline. (Funny how travel time only gets mentioned when it can force the plot along.) Knowing that the only chance to get back the CIP device, as well as discover the scope of the conspiracy that's behind everything, is to help Emerson get his hands on Matobo, Jack MacGyvers up a solution; using some household products, he manages to gas the PM and his wife. The PM is prepared to give his life for his country, but his wife is not, and out of the secure room they come.
Back at FBI headquarters, it's beginning to look a lot like CTU. There's the usual office intrigue; Sean, the tech jerk who used his connections to get his wife's plane on the ground earlier than scheduled, had a one night stand with fellow techie Erika. She "can't stop thinking about last night," so either he was really good, or really bad. One can only dread how this will matter in the long run. We're also getting the standard problems with all those pesky civil rights folks; as mentioned, the Attorney General is now investigating Renee's "chat" with Tanner, and as is always the case in the Land of a Thousand Contrivances, the A.G.'s men are hanging about the office and getting in everybody's way. Plus there's that damn mole running around, spoiling everything. The more things change…
President Taylor has decided to go ahead with the move on Sangala, despite the strenuous objections of Ethan Kanin; we get reminded once again about the lives at stake, but there's not much in the way of forward movement here. Elsewhere, in a dark room right out of one of a Metal Gear Solid game, Col. Dubaku is insisting that steps be taken for a show of force using the CIP; again, it's largely the same stuff as last week, only shorter.
Fortunately, First Man Henry is finally making some progress in the investigation of the murder of his son. For one, he knows who the killer is; it's just to bad that the information comes to him after he's been dosed with a paralytic and lies twitching on the floor, waiting to meet a similar fate as Roger. That Henry's personal Secret Service Agent, Brian, was part of the conspiracy isn't a surprise, but this segment played out very well, with Henry blindly following Brian's lead to Samantha's apartment before realizing where he was just a moment too late. While the struggles of the President are too abstract to generate much suspense, watching Henry slowly freeze while Brian calmly lays out the manner of his demise is direct, and gripping stuff. Their plot ends with Samantha getting picked up by yet another Secret Service agent, on a collision course with the murderous Brian and the helpless Henry (and, potentially, wackiness).
Meanwhile, back with Jack, things have gotten complicated. As if it weren't bad enough that he's helped grab the Matabos, an action which will almost certainly lead to their torture and eventual death, Renee's got herself grabbed as well, arriving on the scene just in time to get her gun taken away by one of Emerson's men. Though Jack and Tony manage to keep her from getting immediately killed by convincing Emerson they need to know how much Tanner revealed to the FBI, that reprieve is short-lived; when Emerson finds out from his boss that the FBI is only aware of the Matabo kidnapping, he decides Renee is more trouble than she's worth, and pulls over to a construction site so Jack can kill her. In a scene a little too much like Jack's faked assassination of Nina way back on Day One, Jack takes Renee a good distance from the van, has her kneel, and then shoots her in the side of the neck in a way that looks like a head shot from where Emerson is watching.
Like a lot of the Jack plotting so far this season, the whole thing played out too easily; thankfully, Emerson tells Jack and Tony to bury Renee so the "corpse" will stay hidden for a few days. Jack already covered Renee with some plastic sheeting, which offers her scant protection as he and Tony rain dirt into the ditch where she lays. It's an image that parallels the earlier shots of Henry's paralysis; again we have someone watching helpless to prevent their own slow death. Only this time it's the heroes doing the killing.
All in all, this was a largely mediocre hour, but it set some interesting hooks to pull us back next week.
—No Bill and Chloe this week. Boo.