Monday, June 28, 2010

24 Season 1: 4AM-5AM Retro Review

Janet, Janet, Janet... I feel like they dropped you into the 24-verse out of an episode of "Three's Company." This whole night has been a terrible misunderstanding, I swear. Jack and Chrissy didn't mean to kidnap you and leave you for dead in the middle of a deserted road. Boy, aren't we all going to have a big laugh when Mr. Roper finds out! Wait-

As they wheel an unconscious Janet into surgery to repair her... everything, Jack is wheeling himself around the pre-dawn streets of L.A. in pursuit of the squad car carrying a terrorist with information. What's Jack going to do? He certainly wouldn't dare intrude upon the LAPD's jurisdiction and bust the terrorist loose for his own investigation-- of this I am certain!

Back at the hospital, doors burst open and through them stride Teri Bauer and Alan York, concerned parents and sweaty middle-aged folk. They run around yelling "Excuse me!" and "Hello!" as they breeze by a desk marked "Information." This is like watching someone run into a library and yelling "Knowledge! Where are you!" Dude, come on! Anyway, after getting no immediate help, our intrepid duo run into an area they're not allowed to be in and find Janet more hooked up than Tiger Woods at a strip club (zing!). Just at this moment Jack calls Teri and asks the very basic question "Where is Kim?" Teri starts babbling like a Gilmore Girl on a caffeine high and you can see Jack calculate ways he can return to being "separated" from this chick. A five minute long conversation ensues where Teri whines and Jack yells and then apologizes. Jack does this while he follows the squad car carrying the informative terrorist back to the police station (which I suppose is in Alaska given the time it's taking for them to get back to base).

And Kim is dumped in the back of Ira Gaines luxury sedan and our smoothest of criminals tells the Stoner Bros. that there's a change of plans! Ah, I love a bad guy who knows how to improvise. But seriously, a change of plans seems to be one of the most common tropes of this genre. It makes me wonder why bad guys even bother making plans. They're always changing them, what's the use? I want a scene where Ira Gaines' five-year old daughter is sitting at home with an uneaten birthday cake listening to her daddy's voicemail message saying "Hey kiddo, sorry you can't turn five today, there's been a change of plans." Asshole.

David Palmer is back in some zone of familial bliss as he's telling every woman within his line of sight to go to bed. But nobody's listening to him because the polls open in three hours! Oh, come on- go to bed, people! The show may be called 24 but I don't need 24 hrs of inane political banter. Sleep! Spare me this idle chit-chat for the 8AM hour. Oh and Sherry asks David to not remind their daughter that she was raped, even though the press is set to run with the story of how Palmer's son killed the rapist by pushing him out of a window. Sherry is mom of the year, people. She's always putting her kids first, always making sure that the family is a tight-knit unit. And she's always on her laptop, is she playing online poker or something? Multitasker!

Jack phones Nina to tell her he's planning to spring the terrorist out of the precinct. But like I predicted, he wants to do it the right way, through the bureaucracy. He asks Nina to get in touch with a completely fabricated TV named dude called "Ryan Sealy" at Division to give an override on custody. Man, Division is all sorts of powerful. I wonder if Division consists of white-haired men in robes, casting villains into The Phantom Zone. General Zod, you're going to Division, buddy. Anyway, Nina fills in a little subplot by telling Tony that Jack knows he's a snitch, and to remind the audience that Tony is mole suspect #1. Tony gives her Ryan's phone number and stares at her menacingly as she walks away. Tony, I've only known you for 4 episodes and I hate you. As we wait for those slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn, Jack does some vintage Bauer persuading (no, not torture, some very good reasoning and emotional pleading, folks) and convinces the shift sergeant to give Jack a couple of minutes with the suspect. And as Jack walks into the interrogation room, we see George "W.B." Mason trot into the precinct, accompanied by searing lead-out music.

On the other side of the Twilight Zone, the Stoners are cruising back to Casa de Gaines to get their money. The boys challenge one another with an erudite debate over the virtues of Hegel and Marx and the "Master/Slave" dialectic as applied to their present situation. Weed makes people so philosphical.

As this mind-bending stuff unfolds, George Mason has his own Aristotelian debate with Jack about who's the boss. George wins the rhetorical exchange and goes to interrogate the terrorist. Jack laughs (he literally laughs!) at George for taking control of the investigation.

Ira Gaines has his own wacky situation in the backseat of his Caddy. Kim tries to alert a lethargic motorist in a nearby car to her dilemma, and Ira has to throw Kimberly in the trunk to make the rest of their trip back to his crib less troublesome. Come on, Ira, you should have tossed her in the trunk in the first place. What was the upside of keeping Elisha Cuthbert within your sights on the drive home? Oh yeah, stupid question...

Back at the police station, Jack and the terrorist chat clandestinely about Kim and her plight. So, the terrorist can lead Jack to Kim, all he needs is to get sprung right out of custody. Well, if you can't get a lawyer to bail you out, the next best thing is Jack Bauer. Jack does a bit of goofy play-acting to get the dead cop's partner to let him back into the room, and then Jack insults the cop in order to get all three men on the floor in the holding room. They start hugging aggressively. I am drinking seltzer as I watch this. What else am I supposed to do? Amid the scuffle, the terrorist swipes the key card (another friggin' key card? This whole show is based on magnetized cards!) and once everyone leaves his holding room, so does the terrorist!

At the Hotel California, David calls the meddlesome reporter to talk things out, to see if maybe they can come to some agreement about obstructing justice concerning Palmer's son being a killer. They fail to find a happy medium between hiding the truth and telling it publicly. I predict in the future, a U.S. President will sell out his/her kid to maintain his/her office. And he/she, arrgh, SHE WILL RUIN HER LIFE DOING IT! Phew... there, I couldn't hold onto this "unfrozen caveman" conceit any longer. Sorry. Okay, back to being ignorant...

Jack expertly breaks out of the Police Station with the terrorist and they joyride around LA until they find Ira Gaines' car with a dead body in the trunk. Oh no, wasn't Kim in the trunk no less than 30 minutes ago? Jack is about to start rummaging through parts to make sure it isn't his little angel when George Mason rolls up on the scene. George's entourage takes the terrorist back into custody and Mason tells Jack "I'm taking you in, you loose cannon, I'm gettin' too old for this shit, I'm three days from retirement" blah blah blah. But then Jack pops the trunk and shows George the mutilated body. George accepts this trophy from Jack and decides to not take him into custody. What? Usually when a person is found with a cut up body in their possession they get cuffed and hauled off.  I guess George thinks this shit's kinda cool. Don't encourage Jack to cut off people's body parts, George. And definitely don't bring any hacksaws to the office, ya dig? Heh.

Gaines, meanwhile, is the owner of multiple cars, as he pulls up to his secluded abode and meets the Stoners to discuss the meaning of life and death. Apparently the Stoners are unaware of the difference between the two, particularly concerning the condition of one Janet York, who is not dead and is very much capable of talking to the police about her joyride of mayhem. Before the Stoners can tell Ira Gaines that Janet is a zombie, Gaines goes ahead and changes the plan yet again! He decides he's not going to pay the Stoners for their time, but that he's going to kill the really stoned one and "promote" the other, sensitive one. Gaines sincerely congratulates the undead Stoner for not being the one he chose to shoot. I don't know why, but I'd really like working for a guy that involved in his employees' emotional well-being. Ira, you deserve an Edible Arrangement for being boss of the year.

My thoughts: Overall, this the kind of episode I love. It's a noir-style piece of storytelling-- plots thicken, mind games are being played and those empty streets of L.A. are a cool backdrop to it all. This was a lean episode in terms of plot, even if 90% of Teri Bauer's scenes comprised of her freaking out about her flawed relationship with Kim, whom she assumes is dead. Teri is a disaster, I'm sorry. I never understood Jack's relationship with her, and I just want her to go away. I wonder if the writers feel the same way.  Otherwise, this was a truly enjoyable hour. Zombie Janet is set to eat brains in the next hour and Tony will probably continue glaring at the backs of people's heads with villainous disdain. I love this show.

Monday, June 21, 2010

24 Season 1: 3AM-4AM Retro Review

Previously on 24: Kim Bauer's friend Janet York was sexually active, smoked a little herb, had her arm broken, was fed heroin to stop her whining over the arm situation and then was hit by a 1978 Trans Am. All of this happened within a span of 3 hours!  A passing motorist asks her if she's stupid or something for dying in the middle of the road. Yep, that she is, concerned citizen.

Kim is not doing that much better. Her kidnappers hurry Kim back to their van to resume their work for terrorist Ira Gaines. Kim, ever the upstart, reminds her captors that Janet is a human being and she needs medical attention. They believe Janet is a zombie and will eat their brains if they retrieve her. I agree with them- leave this unstoppable 90 lb. chick where she lay and put as much distance between you and her.

Back at CTU, Jack is trying to repair his friendship with Nina Myers. She's a rock-solid patriot and she's really pissed off at being labeled a "no good dirty rat" by her former lover and current boss. Jack makes amends by whispering to her every sensitive insider detail, something the late Richard Walsh reminded Jack not to do before dying a Klingon death in an office parking lot. Walsh, your rules got you dead. Jack knows what he's doing- Nina is good peoples!

Meanwhile, at the Hotel California, Senator Palmer is back in the good hands of the Secret Service. He calls his scummy operative Carl to remind the viewers (and Carl) of the subplot involving Palmer's son being "wrongly" accused of pushing the guy who raped Palmer's daughter out of a window. Gosh, everyone is being accused of stuff they haven't done! What's next? Is someone going to accuse Dane Cook of being funny? (zing!) Sherry Palmer (AKA the most reliable, stable and supportive wife in the history of wives) asks David why he was joyriding at 3AM, not to accuse him of anything, but to make sure he was enjoying himself during their visit to Los Angeles. Oh yeah, and to tell him that someone is trying to assassinate him.

The cinematographer is actively accusing Tony Almeida of being the real mole, capturing Tony looking menacingly at his computer screen. Tony approaches Jack with some boring nonsense involving a passenger list. Jack yawns and Tony scurries off to no doubt continue his mole-ish behavior. And then we get a dose of bureaucratic shenanigans- George Mason storms in with some suits to initiate an Agency Lockdown. What does this mean? That all efforts to save David Palmer's life have taken a back seat to an internal investigation over someone stealing sugar packets and a calculator from CTU LA's offices. Jack makes his way out the back door when some cocky guy from Division tells Bauer that he can't leave the building. Jack bites his face off drops his keys to distract the guy and kicks him in the midsection, bruising both the guy's tummy and his ego.

Thankfully, the episode returns to David Palmer as he meets Agent Aaron Pierce for the first time. Let me pause from talking about 24 for a moment and make a statement about heroism and what it means to be a man. We live in a culture that has embraced the beta-male. The string of idiotic comedies/sitcoms glorifying the man-child and his inability to cope with responsibility is enough to make me vomit. This trend is real and it's causing me a lot of grief. Women see men as buffoons- and men play into that role all too easily. Aaron Pierce is not that guy. He's the anti-Apatow. I celebrate him and all that he stands for- and so should you.

Anyway, Agent Pierce tells Senator Palmer that the threat against his life is serious.  Palmer looks into Pierce's eyes and (against all of my willpower, I refuse to make a bromance joke based on my preceding paragraph) takes the man seriously. Phew... moving on...

Teri Bauer and Alan York (father of Zombie Janet) do their own version of shitty driving through the empty streets of LA when a CHiP's cast reject pulls them over. Pay no attention to the cracked-out flop-sweat rejects in the neon-glowing van passing by you, officer. Those white-bread middle aged people in the BMW 7-series are the real threat to the city. Alan York tells the motorcycle cop "Smoke you!" Wrong answer.

As the Agency Lockdown carries on, Jack Bauer is the only guy countering terrorism for CTU. He goes to an address he pulled from the magical plot-driving keycard and encounters a terrorist, as he expected. While pursuing the suspect, shots are fired and an LAPD officer nearby decides to get involved in the situation. She and Jack team up for some inter-agency cooperation (no, you immature dolts, they don't make out, the lady cop is a cop first and a lady second). As Jack and the Lady Cop pursue the terrorist through a dark warehouse, Teri Bauer chooses this time to call her husband. The cell phone rings and causes Jack to grumble about being married as he's being shot at by the bad guy. Oh, how life is full of such moments! The chase carries on.

Apparently, all of Kim's whining about Janet still being alive actually backfires- the drug-loving supporters of carpeting van interiors decide that Kim is right- that Janet is alive and they need to go back to kill her properly. Zombie or not, they can't allow her to tell the police of their activities. As they pull up to Janet, still laying in the same spot for the last 40 minutes, they are interrupted by the arrival of an ambulance. I half expect the ambulance to drive over Janet, but they unfortunately stop and take action to save her life (and her ability to be injured in future episodes).

At the Hotel California, Carl calls Senator Palmer and tells him of the source of the story about his son. The source is apparently their son's therapist, which means Palmer's son confessed in a therapy session. Sherry is in disbelief, as she is someone who does not break the law, let alone raise a kid to do so either. David sees his troubles double in an instant.

On the side of the road, Alan York sits and waits along with Teri and the CHiPs officer for an ice cream truck or paddy wagon to come by when an emergency call comes in verifying there's some kid laying dead on the street where York and Teri were headed towards earlier. The officer sees this as a chance to let Alan York go, kind of like a catch and release trout fisherman. York tells the officer to take a screw and jumps into his car with Teri and speeds off obnoxiously. The officer is left alone to ponder the awkwardness of that entire encounter.

And speaking of officers, Jack's new partner is met with an unfortunate end when the terrorist shoots her. Should I start a "killed working with Jack" counter yet? We got Walsh and Lady Cop on the list so far. Let me know if someone here wants to take on that full-time task! Jack redeems Lady Cop by capturing her killer.

Meanwhile, the Stoners finally achieve their objective and hand over Kim Bauer to Ira Gaines. Gaines comes off as a creepy porn producer and yet Kim appears visibly relieved to no longer be stuck in that smelly van.

As Jack questions the terrorist at the crime scene, it becomes apparent that the LAPD wants to beat the living hell out of the guy for killing one of their own. This is a classic genre moment- where the cop-killer needs to be sprung by the "loose cannon" detective if he's to reveal his valuable information. I don't mind this trope because it creates some degree of moral conflict. But how many times does Jack have to piss off the good guys for the greater good? Can't we all just get along?

Monday, June 14, 2010

24 Season 1: 2AM-3AM Retro Review

Jack Bauer gives new meaning to the term "thumb drive"-- he uses some nifty thumb print scanner in his CTU ride to ID the recently removed thumb from one of those filthy terrorists back at the ambush last hour. So, he can identify a THUMB while he DRIVES... get it? Oh, my sides are killing me from laughing so hard!

Well, before Jack can get too involved in trying to save the world, he has to answer a call from the wifey. Teri tells Jack that their daughter is a party girl. Jack is angry, not at Kim per se, but at Teri for being such a latecomer to the game. Meanwhile, father-of-the-year Alan York (remember him? father to Kim's friend Janet) tells Teri and Jack that he's scared of staying outside too long and he has to pee and eat graham crackers (in that order). Jack wants nothing to do with this nonsense, and he reminds them both that their daughters are more important than slipping on pajamas and nodding off to Seinfeld reruns. Alan and Teri agree. They remain at the furniture store for their daughters to arrive.

Back at the Assassin's Retreat, Mandy (clothed, but no bra) and the scumbag terrorist "buyer" of the ID card (Ira Gaines) have to sort out some details, like whether or not he's going to pay Mandy and her female cohort the originally agreed upon price of $1 million or the new double-cross special "discount" of $2 million! Ira Gaines... hmmm, that sounds like a character a bank would invent to market Roth-IRA accounts. "Enjoy your gains made from an IRA!" Okay, I promise, that's the last one of those jokes I'll do tonight! Sorry!

And the target of these plotting villains is still missing! Senator Palmer disappeared last hour for some heretofore unknown shenanigans. In his wake, he has left his beautiful, loving wife Sherry and their children to deal with added Secret Service protection. It pains me to see such good, stable people put through this kind of stress. Oh, and Aaron Pierce calls David Palmer's kid "son" (thankfully not "boy"). That would have not gone over well.

At a small airfield, the purple love van pulls up and a new thread of evil is revealed! The stoner college guys call their "boss" finally!  They are in cahoots with Ira Gaines! They have some quick chat about "the Bauer girl" and thus offici- wait, a moth just flew by me, I have to kill it. Be right back...

OK- the moth is dead, what was I saying? Yes, Kim is a moth to flame of danger. I hope she learns her lesson this season and stays out of trouble in the future! Oh, and to shut Janet up from whining about her brutally broken arm, the stoners give her some heroin. So, to shut someone up like... say, Nancy Grace, all I gotta do is give her some black tar? Done!

On the streets of LA, Senator David Palmer drives with confidence. Why, you ask? Because he's in good hands, people. And when he pulls into one of the most dangerous parking garages in one of the worst neighborhoods in the city, the spirit of Jobu comes to his aid when a thug swings at him with a baseball bat.  The thug's friend recognizes Palmer in a really geographically misplaced NY accent. I guess this is what happens to guys when their "entourage" goes belly-up. Anyway, the thug gets a brief lesson in crime statistics from Palmer, and he replies by smashing in Palmer's rear windshield. That's alright, the senator has accident forgiveness.

Upon Jack's return to CTU, we get a healthy dose of some excellent cat-and-mouse dialogue. Jack tasks Jamie (a trusted student of the newly-dead Richard Walsh) with unloading all of the plot-revealing data on the ID card Jack recovered. He also wants confirmation that Nina Myers is the mole, which this card could provide. So, while Jamie is furiously trying to confirm the ID card's origins, Jack and Nina have a great scene of adult verbal chess in his office. This is a highlight of the season so far- Sarah Clarke is something wonderful in this role. You know she can lie like nobody's business, but you also want her to be good. Keifer and Sarah Clarke are a fantastic combination. And the scene they share here is brilliantly written. Jamie calls Jack while he's in his office with Nina and confirms that Nina is the mole. Jack, stone-faced sends Nina off to do some photocopies. This is getting quite good.

What could make this better? How about Mandy making out with her girlfriend? What is this show I've stumbled upon? Or how about Kim somehow escaping from the stoners with her banged-up, junked-up best buddy? And that Kim and Janet somehow end up in South Central LA on foot where they were just at an airfield minutes earlier? Lesbians and Time Traveling Junkies. That should be the name of this show. FOX, get on that.

Well, we finally get some straight answers on David Palmer's mystery scandal when he meets his contact. The writers must have worked extra hard to come up with something that would not reflect poorly on David among the TV audience. So, instead of the Senator hiding an affair, some slush fund or the fact that he's Jewish, it turns out he's trying to protect his son! Oy vey... that's like hearing a candidate say "my biggest weakness is that I care too much about the people!"  Well, the rumor here is that Keith threw some guy out of a high-rise for raping his sister. Okay, I could see how that might distract the presidential campaign.  David's slimy political operator tells the Senator that he'll take care of this story. Uh-huh...

After some silly stuff involving Kim, Janet and a teenage male prostitute, we are mercifully given another great scene between Jack and Nina. Jack finally confronts Nina about her being a mole ("WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?!?!?" sounds kinda catchy-- I hope Jack uses that again in future episodes/seasons). Anyway, Jamie goes up to Jack's office to sort out this whole mess and it turns out that the log-in records have someone using Nina's computer during the same weekend Jack and Nina were busy getting busy at some weekend retreat. So... Nina isn't the mole! Go back to work and let's focus our attention on Tony Almeida as the next suspect!

Yeah, yeah, but what's going on with Mandy and her girlfriend? Well, they eventually sort out a deal that gets them the extra million bucks and they all go to retrieve the buried ID card. Mandy's girlfriend is all excited about their hard-bargaining skills, but before you can say "Lilith Fair" one of Ira Gaines' snipers takes out the girlfriend, leaving Mandy available to do some more work for the guy.

As this unfolds, Kim and Janet continue in their own little "Grand Theft Auto" after-school special- fleeing the kidnapping stoners, befriending a male prostitute, stealing a cell phone off a pimp and then Janet getting run over by an American classic automobile- a '78 Pontiac Trans Am coupe! Woah! As Janet lay dying on the street, the stoners catch up to Kim and take her away to someplace hopefully nice. The Trans Am looks to be unharmed as well. Phew.

Monday, June 07, 2010

24 Season 1: 1AM-2AM Retro Review

Previously on 24: Someone wants to kill Senator David Palmer on the day of the California Primary!

The Mojave Desert- home to many of Meyer Lansky's departed associates.

The aerial assassin Mandy descends from her latest naked escapade to the desolate environs of the midnight desert. She is clothed as she lands.

Back at CTU, Tony and Jack whisper about the downed flight. Tony smells all sorts of rats, so he confronts Jack with a "What the blazes is going on here?" routine. Jack, with a head full of hair (look at this guy- he's downright youthful and handsome!) cannot spit back an answer fast enough. So, Nina tells her administrative assistant/casual lover Tony that George Mason is dirty, like the bums Jack sent up the river months earlier for being dirty bums as well. Dirty bums... sounds like something Mike Meyers would say in his painfully overused Scottish accent for a cheap laugh. Yeah, we've come to that, people.

Meanwhile, Mandy is naked (whoa boy) and she's burned her flight suit and other incriminating negligee in the empty desert. She also buries what appears to be an iPhone in the sand. I suppose Steve Jobs is coming after her for stealing the iPhone 4 prototype too (and let's be honest, who do you fear more- the CIA or Apple Security?). A Jeep pulls up and a very uncharming dude asks Mandy to put on her clothes and bring the magical ID card that she stole from the photographer. As they drive away, a lone person on a dirt bike arrives at the scene and retrieves the buried iPhone. This person no doubt works for Gizmodo, and within the hour they will publish their "exclusive" preview of the newest Apple product, distracting the world from the larger plot to off David Palmer. Think Different, indeed, my media-savvy assassins!

Tony chats up Nina and tells the audience through his conversation with her that Nina is a terrific liar. Is this supposed to be some sort of foreshadowing? I don't know... (to quote a recently-thawed litigator) I'm just a cave man, this world of 24 frightens and confuses me!

Jack makes his 243rd cell phone call to Teri which results in nothing. The scene shows Teri and concerned father Alan York arriving at the furniture store, which has the stench of Pabst Blue Ribbon and latex condoms floating in the air. Both parents lament at the idea of their daughters being sexually active. But Kim is anything but sexually active as she is tending to her stoned friend and threatening their gentlemen suitors with word that her father is a government agent. This does not persuade the men to abandon their quest to cruise the empty streets of L.A. whilst cranking alternative rock. Kim, you should have said your father was David Navarro and he's having a bitchin' kegger back at the homestead. That would have turned that van around right quick!

Meanwhile, government badass Walsh meets with a shadowy figure in an empty office building to discuss matters of national security. The shadowy figure has a keycard that happens to be loaded with intel on a mole within the government who is working to help kill David Palmer. Slow down a sec, Charlie- another key card? Mandy got one off of the photographer and now Walsh is getting his own keycard Macguffin here? Eh, I'm tempted to have the boys in IT run my keycard through some tests to see if they can find tomorrow's winning Lotto numbers on it. Keycards are the... (shoot me) key to everything! Anyway, as Walsh tries to get some explanation from the shadowy guy, gunshots go off and shadowy guy is dead. Walsh does the smart thing and calls Jack Bauer immediately.

Jack answers the phone saying "Hi Teri." Walsh doesn't laugh. Jack is on his way!

David Palmer is still awake, giving thought to the plane explosion. Sherry wants to know what David is hiding from the phone call he received an hour ago. David doesn't give up the goods. Sherry hugs and kisses her husband goodnight. This is the most stable relationship in the history of love. I'm going to bet one of my vital organs that this marriage will last forever. Well, how about a kidney, I got two of those (just in case the Palmers go tits-up, which is doubtful).

Mandy counts her money as the uncharming Jeep guy chats with her at his safehouse. Mandy is clothed in this scene.

Jack arrives at the office building. He calls Nina for an entry code. She replies "A bottle of Chateau Margaux Margaux, 1990 is a good start." Jack doesn't have time for this- he's trying to get into the building where Walsh is pinned down. Nina turns into a semi-useful person and gets Jack inside (the building). Tony eavesdrops the phone call and holds his Chicago Mugs cup to his mouth in the most sinister of ways. Is Tony the mole? He has dark features and a soulpatch, so it's possible.

Jack makes his way to the roof of the building and finds Walsh shaken but not stirred. Walsh is part of a dying breed- this guy is all cowboy. He knows things are bad and Jack is definitely a student of the wise, old Walsh. They start to make their way out of the building.

As this happens, we return to Mandy, who is (surprise) topless again. This girl hates clothes almost as much as she hates a stable democratic society. A man, who looks just like the dead photographer talks with her about killing David Palmer. Even naked Mandy is impressed by the plastic surgery.

Jack and Walsh descend a stairwell and stop to redress Walsh's wounded wrist with his necktie. In these few moments we learn that Jack has a huge amount of respect for Walsh, which means Walsh is going to die really soon. They get into a pretty good shoot-out with two bad guys. Jack gets one of the guys and removes the dude's thumb for identification purposes. Ah, Jack, where are you gonna put that detached thumb? In your Jack Sack? Nope, that'll come in a few seasons...

Mandy's cohort, a clothed lady, arrives at the Jeep dude's safehouse.  She and Mandy play out some fight which really angers the Jeep dude. He snaps his fingers in the coolest way possible (I cannot describe it, but apparently he let off five snaps in the span of two seconds, which made me expect a Mariachi band to pop up and play "Besa me mucho"). Instead, the finger-snaps leads another man to put a gun to the girl's head. Mandy looks on with large, concerned eyes... she is wearing a shirt with no bra in this scene.

The Palmer kids show up and act all happy and shit, and it's actually kind of aggravating. How happy can two college-age kids be? Are they drunk? David Palmer doesn't seem to mind, and his lovely wife is almost amused at her vivacious offspring. As this happy dance bullshit carries on, the single greatest moment of 24 takes place- a commanding presence emerges (more like a force of nature!) and he identifies himself as Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce. (I almost weep at this- look, I can play-act like I don't know what's going to happen next on this show, but Agent Pierce breaks my bravado like nobody's business. All hail Aaron Pierce!). Pierce tells Sherry he needs to see her husband. It is at this moment that her husband has ditched the hotel suite to go meet some associate about this mysterious phone call. Dammit!

Jack and Walsh are about to make it out of the building when Walsh gets a slug through his chest. Dying, Walsh tells Jack to take the keycard and give it to Jamie (a CTU geek)-- the mole will be revealed, he tells Jack. And then Walsh gets shot 42 more times (and the Sean Callery music swells). Jack takes the card and makes a fast getaway. This is Jack's first major bloody encounter in the history of 24. Jack's face shows it all- this is the Jack we've grown to know, the one who is no longer cracking a half-smile like in the last hour. No, people, this is serious Jack. This is the real Bauer.

Jack calls Jamie at CTU and they figure out some nonsensical way to read the keycard over the magical airwaves of the inter-phone-web. Look, I'm no engineer, but this part of the episode is pure "Star Trek." In any event, the card is read and Jamie sends Jack the damning evidence- it appears that the keycard points to Nina Meyers being the mole. Oh boy, are they really telling us who the mole is this early in the season? 24 playing it straight? I don't know about you, but I'm confused!

My thoughts: The plot twists tonight were excellent- the relatively simple nature of the overall plot is actually the perfect setting to make things turn suddenly complex. The writing is strong, the pace is perfectly done and the characters are all interesting. This is a show that's on a mission. There's absolutely no filler here- I had forgotten how strongly this series started.

I think the differences between Season One and the series' end are striking. This feels like a completely different series in so many ways. The production values are smaller in Season One, but they're also a lot leaner and more focused. The action doesn't bounce around too much either. This is pure thriller at its best.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

24 Season 1: 12AM-1AM Retro Review


A man looks over both of his shoulders as he enters his safehouse. His faith in padlocks is amusing, if not silly. He goes to his communications station and identifies himself as "Superspy" and commences a transmission of some very vital intelligence. Cue stock footage from ENEMY OF THE STATE.

In Los Angeles, a well-dressed man named Walsh gets a summary of Superspy's report within ten seconds. Senator David Palmer is targeted for an assassination attempt today. Bam! There's your premise for the whole season, people!

And Senator David Palmer is busy chillaxing on the balcony of his "Senatorial Suite" (can't call it "Presidential" yet, that would be presumptuous). Palmer's wife, Sherry is a completely loyal, loving wife as she pours midnight coffee and gives adroit political advice. Ah, pass the cream, this is one stable political couple!

Meanwhile, some guy from THE LOST BOYS is playing chess with his teenage daughter, who's wrapped herself in a bathrobe, an obvious sign that she just showered (or is an unemployed vagrant). After Kim Bauer thanks her father for moving back into the familial abode, Jack Bauer tells her to scoot off to bed so he can eat a cup of yogurt and continue working shit out with his wife, Teri, who is sitting in the kitchen and doing some online banking or something. Is that a PowerBook G4 Titanium laptop? I had one of those... ten years ago!

Jack's about to eat his yogurt, when he decides to give his estranged wife a little neck rub as a prelude to further marital peace/lovemaking. As the Bauers walk towards the bedroom, Jack stops to tell his daughter that she can't play off one parent against the other, and to turn down her emo-blasting music.  Ah, but poor Kim's not the smartest kid on the block though- why say you're going to bed, blast your stereo and then sneak out? That's like trying to rob a bank across the street from a police station (I actually know a guy who did this- he got arrested really quickly). So, Kim's teenage antics immediately rile up Teri. She wants to take away Kim's civil rights or some bogus nonsense. Television parenting... I love it. Jack gets rescued from this burgeoning episode of "Family Ties" by a call from the office. There's a briefing going on! Where does Jack work? Let's find out...

Meanwhile, Kim is cruising down the empty streets of Los Angeles with her brunette pal and they busily discuss the difference between "men and boys" and how being a skeevy sophomore in a community college who preys on 16 year-old girls is the most reliable demarcation of those two words. I swear, if I ever have a daughter, I'm going to force her to carry a Glock.

As this happens, Jack is driving to work (still don't know where this dude's going- maybe a Denny's? They're open 24 hours a day, right?). Anyway, my first nitpick occurs as Jack pulls up to a stoplight. A city bus has an ad for Senator David Palmer's presidential campaign on its side. This is illegal- the First Amendment does not provide the right for politicians to advertise on municipal property. In fact, cities refuse to accept such ads. They may do that sort of thing in Canada (where this show was probably filmed) but in the US of A, we have higher standards! But this is a TV show, and they needed to provide a visual moment of foreshadowing.

Anyway, Jack is on the phone with this really attractive lady who appears to be 9 feet tall based on the camera angles. She has perfect makeup at 12AM, which tells me she's probably having relations with someone at work. And what is this place? It looks high-tech, like some software company or something. Maybe it's Netscape- remember those guys? They were big 10 years ago. I wonder who bought them out. The tall girl finishes with Jack and goes over to a suave guy named Tony, who I think is her male secretary, as he's busy making calls for her. I spy a soulpatch! (on Tony, not the tall broad).

Jack pulls into the parking lot at work and calls his wife again to regroup with her on their family tragedy ("Our daughter ran out to drink beer and get felt up! Oh no!"). I wonder why Jack bothered to make the call, as he knew it would only last ten seconds (he's walking through security at this point) and then it hits me- he's a genius. He doesn't want a long conversation with his wife, but he has to show that he cares, so the "Honey, I have to go" call is the perfect situation. Well played, family guy!

Jack's office is lit like a dungeon. What's going on here? Is this a photography studio? A lab that grows biolumniescent organisms? I'm dying over here! Just tell me what Jack does for a living!

The tall lady walks over to Jack and suddenly appears to be a woman of average height. Still, she walks tall- and she's completely attracted to Jack based on her body language. Jack tells Tony to get some background information on Senator Palmer's staff for a briefing, and Tony doesn't like that idea. What's the big deal, male secretary? Is it racist to look at a black guy's staff? Woah, that's a Freudian disaster of a sentence.

On the other side of town, Kim and her friend arrive at a furniture discount store to meet up with greatest examples of men in the entire world- these are men that wear wrinkled clothing and drive around in a fully-carpeted purple van. I suddenly want a grape soda. Dammit! Kim introduces herself to a young chap named Rick and announces to her potential suitor that she is aware of his proclivity towards partying and so wishes him to know that she herself is prone to such diversions. Now, in my day when you asked someone if they "partied" that meant smoking weed. Are these dopey kids that fell out of a GAP catalog really that forward thinking? Or do they subscribe to the Rojay version of the word "party" (which entails helium balloons and Grouch Marx glasses)? Time will tell.  They run inside the furniture store, and commence to be inconspicuous delinquents by blasting music, turning on all of the lights and screaming loudly. And as I look around the furniture store, I am left wondering "Who shops at this store? Blanche DuBois?" The place looks like a Cajun whorehouse!

Back at Jack's office, I finally hear that our guy works at a place called CTU. Interesting, never heard of it before, but it sounds like a trade/technical university, like DeVry. But then that dapper guy with the intelligence, Walsh, shows up, and that makes me begin to question my numerous theories on this poorly-lit place of work. Walsh works for the government and he informs the briefing at CTU of some terrible news: Senator Palmer is being targeted for an assassination. Alright, CTU is a government agency and they're supposed to stop this stuff from happening. But CTU refuses to do so with good indoor lighting. Good luck with that eye-strain, people.

Walsh asks for Jack to stick around after the briefing lets out and he asks Jack to trust no one, not even people within CTU. There's foreshadowing again! Someone inside CTU may be aiding the people trying to kill Palmer. In other words, there might be a mole in the agency. Woah!  Mind. Officially. Blown. And speaking of assassins, there's a beady-eyed European dude on an international flight who is our first suspect! He's scheduled to "shoot" Palmer for some magazine or something the next morning. And he's wearing black! He must be a villain. He's sitting next to a very pleasant young woman who appears to be drunk off her keister. She overhears the "photographer" talking with Palmer's staff (again, Dr. Freud) and asks if he does, in fact, know David Palmer... friggin groupie.  So far, she appears to be an inconsequential character. Stay tuned.

Back on the floor of CTU, the formerly-tall girl (Nina) is sticking her nose into Jack's official and personal business at the speed of light. The subtlety of her character is staggering- I soon expect her to start stamping her feet and demanding Jack get her a sippy cup and read her a story. Lady, you're attractive, you don't need to be a nag on top of that- lay off Jack!

And then the most impressive man in this entire episode finally shows up, George Mason. He's the bringer of a disc that contains semi-helpful information. Jack wants to know the source of this intelligence, but Mason, ever the professional, tells Jack that he cannot share such things with anyone. It appears Mason's boss, some fella named Chapelle, is not into sharing. Jack smiles through this conversation, but it appears evident that Jack hates Mason. In fact, thus far, I cannot find two characters that actually geniuinely like one another on this show. What a great set-up- people who are charged with keeping us safe cannot stand one another. I think the writers are laying on the human drama a tad bit heavily.

But I will gladly accept what happens next- Jack figures out Mason is not a buddy, so Jack shoots him in the thigh with a tranquilizer (so Jack can find something in Mason's past he can use to blackmail Mason into revealing the source of his intelligence). The source of my intelligence is a well-balanced breakfast and a high-protein diet. I eagerly await George Mason's secret recipe for awesomeness.

Back at the Bauer house, Teri is busy doing an inventory on her daughter's stash of weed when some dude named Alan York calls. He's the father of Kim's friend, Janet- the brunette that knows so much about real men. Anyway, Father of the Year lost his daughter too and they exchange woes over the phone. Ah, white people problems...

As this happens, the sexual tension between Nina and Jack is given a little more backstory- it appears these two fit, happening cats were once intimate. But now, Nina is being intimate with her male secretary, Tony. That's unethical in my book. But can you blame Nina? Tony screams virility! And it appears that Tony is not the biggest fan of Jack Bauer. Of course he hates Jack- they work together at CTU, where nobody gets along.

You know who does get along? Senator Palmer and his wife, Sherry Palmer. They chat about how tough it is staying up late, running for President, etc. And then David gets a call from a reporter about some scandalous story, which sets off David's dark mood. And amidst this crisis concerning an assassination attempt, David decides the safest place to ponder his mood is on the balcony of a well-lit hotel. Yeah, that makes sense.

Meanwhile, the photographer dude joins the mile-high club with that annoying groupie, who (after having done the deed) identifies herself as Mandy... like Patinkin, only less hairy. This little drunk pixie is apparently a pick-pocket, holding onto the photographer's ID card.  She stumbles about the plane as a flight attendant tells her they're about to land. Well, Mandy doesn't want to land. She wants to continue acting drunk and kills the flight attendant. And then she opens up her carry-on luggage which is filled with plastic explosives and full-on HALO (High Altitude/Low-Opening) equipment. I know this show was filmed pre-9/11, but this girl brought parachute gear on the flight! That's a bad sign!

Well, Mandy activates a triggering mechanism which was hidden in the plane's fire extinguisher (what?) and blows a hole in the side of the plane, which she flies out of in time. Oh boy, that's a professional assassin right there. Mandy, I like your sinister style.

Just as Jack is about to ditch work and meet up with his wife (who's riding around L.A. with Alan York, looking for their soon-to-be-grounded-for-life daughters), Tony informs Jack of the airplane bombing. So, Jack has to stay at work as Teri and this dude roam about, completely unaware that their daughter is in a purple van going off to another party. Oh, did we mention someone is trying to kill David Palmer? Yeah, this was one busy episode!

Thoughts: Going back to Season 1, Hour 1, this feels like a completely different show than what I just watched last week with the series finale. I see a lot of things that were largely improved over the years. We nitpicked our way though recent years of 24, but this first hour felt so odd in many small ways- and mostly it comes down to Jack Bauer. In this first episode, he's a sarcastic, soft guy. He has yet to go badass on us, and it's almost like this younger version of Jack is a totally different guy. He's so young! He's like veal!

The story is the first hours greatest asset- so much plot was revealed in the smoothest fashion. This is flawless storytelling. I'm really amazed at how organized this all feels. And that's another thing that contrasts it with the recent season. These guys knew exactly what they wanted to see happen, it seems.