By Chaz Lipp
 

Steaming towards the finale, the penultimate episode of 24: Live Another Day powered forward with confident energy. As with 24 seasons past, the mixture of action, drama, and occasional silliness has worked terrifically. I only wish Fox had committed to a full 24-episode season in order to allow for a tiny bit more nuance in the storytelling. With Margot Al-Harazi long out of the way, the classic villain Cheng Zhi (Tzi Ma) is in full command, holding Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) hostage, ostensibly for her computer expertise but also because fans wouldn’t stand for her being disposed of the way her boyfriend Adrian Cross (Michael Wincott) was last week. Speaking of that, Chloe sure handles Adrian’s demise with surprising aplomb. But it’s the tension between Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and President Heller’s Chief of Staff Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan) that steals the show in episode 11.

Photo: Daniel Smith/FOX

Ever since Mark forged Heller’s signature at the beginning of the season, authorizing a hand-off of Jack to the Russians, it has only been a matter of time before he would face Jack’s wrath. For Mark, it’s personal. He never wanted Jack back in his wife Audrey’s life. Heller (William Devane) has proved sharper than we were initially led to believe he’d be, given his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. But Mark mistakenly thought that he could pull the wool over his boss’ eyes in order to get Jack out of Audrey’s life for good. After all, Audrey (Kim Raver) still has understandably complex feelings for her old flame.

Photo: Chris Raphael/FOX

It turns out Jack needs Mark’s help in accessing the Russians, who are in cahoots with Cheng to force the U.S. into a war with China. Jack may have even saved Mark’s life, since Heller’s immediate, explosive response was to arrest Mark and charge him with treason. Heller’s decisiveness is in stark contrast to the wishy-washy President Taylor (Cherry Jones) from past seasons. It’s refreshing to see Heller not give a damn about Mark’s family ties, giving no thought at all to how Audrey will react (which is how it should be in this case). President Taylor was a softy who tried to cover for her no-good daughter. It does kind of suck, though, that Jack needs to enlist Mark’s services to reach Stolnavich (Stanley Townsend).

Photo: Chris Raphael/FOX

The cliffhanger, with Audrey left as the last person standing when Cheng’s snipers take out everyone around her, ended episode 11 on a tantalizing note. There’s only one episode left to see how Live Another Day will wrap things up. The gift to 24 fans has been well worth the time so far. Hopefully we get a slam-bang finale next week.

24: Live Another Day airs on Fox on Mondays, 9/8c. Get caught up on missed episodes at the official website.

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