By Chaz Lipp

Episode nine was a game-changer for this abbreviated season of 24: Live Another Day. More than any other episode so far, there is no way to discuss the latest developments without spoilers. In short, two-thirds through the season we’ve reached a conclusion to the primary story involving Margot Al-Harazi (Michelle Fairley) and her plan to exact revenge for the death of her husband. And CIA honcho Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) has finally moved to center stage as he races to cover up his involvement in the death of operative Jordan Reed (Giles Matthey).

Photo: Daniel Smith/FOX

 Ever since last week and the noble self-sacrifice of President Heller (William Devane), who elected to comply with Margot’s wishes to blow him to smithereens, I’ve wondered if the show really had the conviction to let a U.S. president perish in such a manner. The answer is “no,” as Heller turns out to be alive and well. This was at once a surprising twist and a head-scratcher. Somehow Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) managed to create a loop in Al-Harazi’s video feed that made it look like Heller remained in the stadium – and then switched back to live footage at the crucial moment when the drone missile impacted.

I kind of liked the boldness of allowing Heller to call the shots on this one, choosing to end his life to save countless civilians, while at the same time evading his inevitable Alzheimer’s-induced decline. Having Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) figure out a way to cheat death seemed like somewhat of a cop-out – not to mention a betrayal of the President’s wishes. The last-minute “Heller’s fine” twist immediately deflated the weight of tragedy that would’ve added a new and serious emotional gravity to the remainder of the season.

Photo: Chris Raphael/FOX

That said, it allowed Jack to reconnect emotionally with Audrey (Kim Raver). Her husband Mark (Tate Donovan) allowed his boss to be led to his death – without so much as warning Audrey. Meanwhile, Jack was the man who made sure it wouldn’t go down that way. Already an eventful episode, Jack manages to divert the one drone that Margot and her son Ian (Liam Garrigan) didn’t ditch. They figured out the Heller rouse after almost making good on their end of the bargain. Jack’s brutal, unforgiving renegade side re-emerged as he tossed Margot out a high-rise window (the same one from which Ian had just fallen to his death). So much for any explanation about the bizarre incestuous overtures we briefly see between Margot and Ian. And so much for Margot being brought to justice, questioned, or made to feel the full weight of the consequences of her terrorist actions. I don’t imagine that several-story fall could’ve been anything but terrifying, but it felt like Margot was allowed too easy a demise.

Photo: Daniel Smith/FOX

So the familiar feeling from 24 seasons past creeps in as we wonder if the “new” crisis – in this case, Steve working with Adrian Cross (Michael Wincott) to obtain the override device – will maintain the tension level or feel like an anti-climax. The device can be used to gain access to defense systems worldwide. Chloe’s boyfriend Adrian, who up to this point was a mostly passive, Julian Assange-type information liberator, has much bigger fish to fry it turns out. Between Kate (Yvonne Strahovski), Jack, and one of Jack’s well-connected contacts, the connection between Jordan’s murder and Steve is made. Steve makes off with the override device just before Jack uncovers the truth.

Photo: Chris Raphael/FOX

Shouldn’t the big reveal about Steve being a bad guy been saved for this episode? Wouldn’t all of his ruthless actions in this episode have had significantly more impact if we hadn’t already been tipped off a few episodes ago? Ever since the first attempted siege on Margot’s home base we knew that Steve was up to no good. It’s kind of bizarre that the writers decided to tip their hand so early, leaving us to wait around for the moment that Steve goes rogue. While this episode was certainly exciting and eventful, it’s easy to question whether all of the big moments might’ve been handled more effectively.

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