Monday, January 12, 2009

24: That’s A Fact, Jack Is Back

Last night’s two-hour premier of Fox’s “24” may have shown a more subdued Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), but fans of the show knew that wouldn’t last for long. By the time those two hours were up, four people were killed (or at least appeared to be killed), and Jack threatened one using torture. It’s nice to know things haven’t changed much. But these first two hours seemed more about laying out a story rather than highlighting the fact that where Jack goes, violence, explosions, and “moles” are soon to follow. These first two hours were far more engaging that the two hours of ”Redemption” and may to set up what could be one of the more interesting seasons of 24 so far. It was worth the wait. In case you missed it, here’s what was learned in these first two hours, which starts the day at 8:00 AM – I have more comments after this recap:

Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) is still alive, and was instrumental in getting Michael Latham (John Billingsley), a computer engineer, abducted. He is forcing Latham to work, with a man named Masters (Nick Chinlund), on a firewall module which will allow them access to key government controls such as air traffic control, water systems, etc.

Meanwhile, Jack is giving his testimony to a Senate hearing in Washington, D.C. about human rights violations at his hands when he worked for the recently disbanded CTU. Jack is firm when he says he has no regrets in the choices he made. But during his testimony, FBI Agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) interrupts the hearing with a subpoena to obtain Jack, and Jack is told he needs to return to the hearing the same time tomorrow. He is taken to FBI headquarters, which has the same kinds of annoying and/or loser people that we saw at CTU. (Again, things haven’t changed much) He encounters Agent Larry Moss (Jeffrey Nordling) and members of his support team, Janis Gold (Janeane Garofalo) and Sean Hillinger (Rhys Coiro). Renee brings Jack up to speed with the firewall problems and the big fact that Toy Almeida, who Jack believed to be dead and buried, was in fact very much alive and appears to be behind a home grown terror group trying to hack in and control key systems. Tony seems to be angry about his wife’s death and may be out for vengeance, but Jack thinks that Tony’s motives may be not what they seem.

We are re-introduced to President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) who is at the White House, working to stop the "ethnic cleansing" in (fictional) Sangala, Africa. An invasion is being planned, with some disagreement and hesitation with some in her cabinet. Her husband Henry (Colm Feore) is also helping in that effort, but seems to be obsessed and distracted with another more personal matter – the suicide of their son, Roger. It appears Henry is convinced his son was murdered and Henry continues to work behind the scenes to uncover the truth. (If you recall in the episode “Redemption” that their son became privy to some information that got his friend murdered, and I suspect that the Taylor son was likely murdered as well, making it to look like a suicide.) Henry asks his assigned secret service Agent Gedge to keep a meeting with Roger’s girlfriend a secret, and of course the agent tattles about it the first chance he gets. But the girlfriend insists that what looks like a payoff was not.

When the president is informed that it appears someone may have breached the air traffic control system, she doesn’t think it necessary as yet to ground all air traffic. This proved to cause a problem when Almeida and his team manage to get into the system and create a scenario where two planes nearly collide upon landing.

While Jack is looking at information on the matter with FBI employee Sean, Jack finds information that may indicate Tony got help from an old CTU informant named Schector (Tommy Flanagan), who is in Washington. Since Jack believes that Schector will call his lawyers if the FBI goes in with a warrant, he wants to go there and handle it himself, and Renee decides to go with him. But Larry thinks Jack will use torture, and Renee promises she will keep a close watch on Jack. Jack and Renee go to see Schector, who refuses to give any information, and Renee gives Jack the go ahead to try firmer measures. Jack picked up a pen and held it to Schector’s eye, and when Schector reluctantly agrees to talk, he and the other guy with him are shot dead by a sniper. When the phone rings immediately afterwards, Jack answers it and it’s Tony on the other end, warning Jack to keep out of things. Later, this causes Jack to tell Renee that he thinks there is someone inside at the FBI who tipped off Tony’s group, as no one else should have known they were visiting Schector at that precise time.

After Tony and his group avert the planes colliding, they release the FAA computers.. Someone named Emerson (Peter Wingfield) arrives where Tony and his group are working, and is shown the module that Latham has fixed. Tony tells Emerson that he can handle Jack, but Emerson still doesn’t give Tony any more information about the end game of his plan.

Back in the White House, House Press Secretary Angela Nelson informs reporters that the President supports protecting Sangala against Juma, and that the President is meeting with former Sangala Prime Minister Matobo (Isaach De BankolĂ©). In a meeting with Matobo, President Taylor obtains Matobo’s assurances that they will handle Juma in accordance with law, and not simply execute him outright. Later, when the President is told about the problems at air traffic control, she decides to ground the planes and wants to meet with Homeland Security.

When the sniper who took out Schecter calls Tony and tells him he is trapped by the Feds in the building from where he made his shot, Tony manages to get an FBI agent in there to help disguise the sniper as an agent so he can escape. But Jack easily spots the guy because he isn’t wearing typical FBI agent shoes. Jack convinces Renee to give chase in a stealth mode, since he believes the FBI is compromised and doesn’t want to tip anyone else off. When Larry calls Renee to ask about her whereabouts, she lies to him, but then asks him to trust her. Of course he doesn’t, and asks Janis to track Renee’s walkie-talkie.

Elsewhere, we see Emerson, who is showing the module to Colonel Dubaku (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) of Juma's army. It seems they want to use this as the bargaining chip to get the President to back off her actions in Sangala, and Dubaku seems to want revenge for the killing of his brother.

Jack and Renee have tracked the sniper to Tony's hideout on a boat, and Renee hands Jack a gun. They manage to apprehend the sniper, and Jack asks if Tony is there. Jack takes out a surveillance camera with his gun, which Tony immediately notices it is out of commission. Gunfire from the boat erupts, and Jack and Renee return fire. When they enter the boat, Renee finds a computer there in the process of deleting its files, and Jack runs in to Tony. As Jack holds on to Tony, Renee tells him the device is gone and the files deleted. Jack pressures Tony to tell him the location of the device but Tony offers nothing. Larry arrives on a chopper and sees that Jack has Tony in custody, as Jack wonders to Tony "What the hell happened to you?"

I really enjoyed these first two hours, and think that while it brought viewers several seemingly disconnected storylines, we know they will all likely connect as the season progresses. Over the years, CTU has been filled with employees that can’t be trusted, and it does seem that the show is getting lazy by implying that the FBI has the same problem. I would like to think for a change that not every federal law enforcement agency has corrupt people working for them, or that the storyline can only be furthered by having a mole on the inside working against him.

It was interesting to see Jack somewhat subdued and controlled, yet somehow stronger. It didn’t take him long, however, to get into his old habits once given the green light to use other methods to extract information.

The fact that The President’s son had died sometime between “Redemption” and this new season seemed to be a disconnect, and it may have had more value if they had closed out ”Redemption” showing his death. But, considering that I thought “Redemption” was just created from cast offs from their failed first attempt at this season, I guess I can forgive them for just throwing his death at us in an oblique way.

Somewhat humorous and well placed was the ad for Allstate that appeared during the show, featuring Dennis Haysbert, “President Palmer” from previous seasons of 24. Now that’s product placement.

The next two episodes are due to air tonight (January 12) at 8:00 PM. I won’t be missing it!

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