Things kick off with President Taylor being lied to by Gen. Burr and Chief of Staff Skippy about the whereabouts of Ethan Kanin. Again, nobody uses my "(fill in the blank) is making a number two" excuse, but there are a few hrs left in the season and I refuse to accept that 24 exists in a universe where nobody has to poop.
Meanwhile, Jack, Renee and the Hassan family are on the run! But not for longer than one minute, because President Hassan's courageous coif demands that he not let innocent people die. He knocks out Jack with some random piece of rebar (this guy's a refrigerator salesman? Please!) and he gives himself up to the paramilitary dude, who's angling for "Rogue Employee of the Month" (a monthly award that comes with a preferred parking spot at an undisclosed location).
Hassan gets on the phone with Tony Al-Qaeda and they have what is effectively a very unproductive conversation about making sure NYC doesn't go "boom-boom" Is Tony Al-Qaeda going to nuke the city anyway? I mean, he should, right? If he hates America so much, and he knows that Hassan is in the city and the U.S. president (along with other world leaders) this would be a golden opportunity to change the landscape of geopolitics in one swift stroke. But... no! With a strange montage of people doing nothing for 30 seconds, Tony Al-Q decides to let it get down to 7 seconds before he calls off the bomb. Full disclosure, I wasn't worried about the bomb going off. Were you?
Jack promptly escapes from the locked room and gets patched through President Taylor and gives what is the most efficient update of the conspiracy imaginable. It was deft writing, and perfectly delivered by Kiefer Sutherland. And thumbs up to Cherry Jones for flashing several kinds of emotions while listening to this debrief, not betraying her advantage over General Burr or Chief of Staff Skippy. This is "24"- this is the show I love. The cat-and-mouse game, the double and triple crosses... oh yeah, there's some legitimate tension being built here!
And then an instant classic moment took place. Taylor and a small army of Secret Service and military dudes kick in the door to Ethan's office, take Gen. Burr and Skippy into custody, but before Taylor lets The Skipster leave, she lays down a Presidential Bitch Slap! Bitch Slap One has taken flight! (h/t Jim of Blogs4Bauer).
Back at CTU, the lights come up and Chloe and Dana are assigned to track Hassan's whereabouts with the ubiquitous traffic cams that litter the island of Manhattan. Well, Dana wants nothing more than to
Eventually, Dana does what she needs to, calling the terrorists and telling them of the ambush point in Harlem. Arlo almost ends up USB cabled to death, but a timely call from Chloe on his doofy Bluetooth headset saves his malnourished, pale-skinned life. Dammit! We were so close to losing an annoying character.
So, Jack makes quick decisions which foil the escape attempt but not before the SUV carrying Hassan goes off the parking garage roof! Holy cow! Hassan is dead! No! He's alive! He was swapped out while in the garage to two terrorists in waiting- one that looks remarkably like that girl from PRINCESS DIARIES- I call her Anne Jihadaway for nickname purposes. Nice disguise, Anne! Nobody will notice your olive complexion contrasting with that platinum blonde wig... yeah. Next time, go with the "Cat in the Hat" hat.
Dana makes her first attempt to leave CTU for the lovely Ozarks from which she came and is denied exit by a very underpaid but efficient young man working the security desk. Lock down, baby! It ain't just a term for prison life! Well, Dana makes a few quick moves to get herself cleared to leave the office, but not before Jack, Renee, Chloe, Hastings and everybody else in the entire freakin' government figures out Walsh is the mole. So, Dana exits by way of violence. But she makes it to the parking garage and is stopped by her raging paramour, Chico, Jr. And what does Dana do after being caught? She asks to speak only with Jack Bauer. Interesting!
Jack arrives minutes later, does the interrogation and gets a list of demands from Dana that includes immunity, cash, some stuffed teddy bears and a case of Johnny Walker Blue Label. Jack decides he may only get one chance to put his hand around her throat, takes advantage of that chance, and then says "Yeah, lemme call the President." Nice!
Meanwhile, Hassan's mussed up 'do arrives at the Tony Al-Q safehouse where they swap old stories from the homeland and try to sort out their differences. This fails. So, the idea is that Hassan "confesses" to being a traitor to his people, after which point he will be assassinated on a web cam show. Ehhhh, what's up with that? Why are terrorists so caught up in the confessional videos? Is this a product of watching too many THE REAL WORLD episodes? Does Hassan have to say "I apologize for eating all of my country's peanut butter"? Heh.
With Dana's help, Jack, Chico and a bunch of CTU peeps gather an operation to save Hassan from having to make this completely senseless web show. Tony Al-Q tries to torture Hassan but this doesn't result in any capitulation. So, they go ahead with the web cam event without Hassan's cooperation. What these foolish terrorists don't realize is that Chloe O'Brian is on the good guy's side- and she determines the location, height, temperature and everything else you could ask for from the crappy web feed. Jack gives CTU their orders, and makes Renee promise that she'll be awesome and deadly during the whole operation. Renee says "Yeah, sure." Jack says "No, you have to say 'I promise to be awesome and deadly.'" Renee frowns, and so does every American older than 6 years old- seriously, when was the last time you forced anyone to sincerely make a promise? For me it was the 1st grade, when I made my friend Tim promise to stop eating glue. It was for his own good.
Well, the ending was thrilling- building up to Jack and Renee stopping the assassination within moments... but... wow. I was genuinely surprised by the ending- that the video was pre-recorded and that Jack arrived too late. Hassan was already dead. It was a completely surprising and emotionally strong twist. Anil Kapoor did a magnificent job with this character- imbuing Hassan with nobility and genuine flaws. Great job, sir.
The show has reemerged from it's first-half of the season funk. I am writing this amazed at the excellence of these two hours of television. Finally, this show is legit again.