By Chaz Lipp
24: Live Another Day reaches its halfway point with possibly the strongest episode this season. The reward was a modest boost in the ratings after several weeks of decline. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say yet again that this is prime 24. Last month in Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield eviscerated the show upon its return, gleefully carving up the premiere episode while writing off the previous eight-season run as irrelevant in the Obama era. 24, Sheffield says, “summed up bad old days of the War on Terror… Jack Bauer was always a Gitmo goon at heart.”
I don’t even want to get into current events and the recent law-breaking “terrorists for traitor” trade initiated by President Obama. I think it’s always been ill-advised to take 24 too seriously. It’s a popcorn thriller, not a metaphorical or allegorical commentary on the current state of U.S. politics and foreign affairs. But despite the snarky ramblings of Sheffield (to say nothing of the generally hard left (verging on radical) politics frequently exhibited throughout Rolling Stone), not everyone in the U.S. (or the world, for that matter) is jumping for joy about the current administration. Quite a few folks feel we need the escapism offered by 24 now more than ever, particularly the hawkish idealism of Jack Bauer.
At any rate, episode six hit the ground running and didn’t stop for the entire hour. President Heller (William Devane), after last week’s episode-ending drone strike against CIA operatives who were attempting to apprehend terrorist mastermind Margot Al-Harazi (Michelle Fairley), is firmly in Jack’s (Kiefer Sutherland) corner once again. In one particularly effective, fist-pumping, “hell yeah!” moment, Heller authorizes Jack’s return to the field, with order that he be given carte blanche. Jack, attempting to reach a notorious Al-Harazi-connected arms dealer with whom he’s been working, insists that he not be tracked (the Brits don’t quite get the message). He also needs Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) as his partner, the headstrong CIA op who has stepped into a kind of “female Jack” role this season. Given the subsequent drugging and torture she endures, one has to wonder how she feels about having agreed to assist Jack.
Margot, having offed her daughter Simone’s (Emily Berrington) two-faced husband Naveed last episode, now sends Simone to “deal” with Naveed’s sister and niece. Simone, it turns out, is in over her head. While she successfully silence’s her sister-in-law, the niece escapes as a loose-end – certain to cause problems for Margot and company later on. Simone has troubles of her own, having been struck down by a bus while pursuing her niece (the coming week’s episode teaser clues us in that bus-strike was not fatal, at least not immediately). Not much for Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) to do this hour, which I hoped would mean she’d find time to wipe off her smokey-eye makeup (it didn’t happen, but there’s still six hours left).
Audrey’s (Kim Raver) husband – and Heller’s Chief of Staff – Mark (Tate Donovan) forged a document early on that promised Jack would be delivered to the Russians. That finally came back into play this week when Mark received a call from a Russian official demanding to know when they could expect Bauer. With Heller now supporting Jack fully (something Mark never expected), Mark clearly regrets having signed the document. His weak improv with the Russian sparks suspicion that will no doubt put Mark in even hotter water in weeks to come.
And I haven’t even mentioned what was the biggest reveal of episode six (although this article has been rife with spoilers, the next one is a biggie), that head of the CIA London branch Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) is, in fact, a bad guy. He was instrumental in having Kate’s deceased husband convicted as a traitor. Finally Navarro, who has been a non-entity thus far, will significantly factor into the arc. I guess it seems obvious in retrospect, given that a “name” actor was playing a seemingly useless – almost clueless, even – character. I hadn’t really thought about him that, so I didn’t even see the twist coming.
Photo Credit: Daniel Smith/FOX