Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: "24" — Rick Moran @ 10:37 am

It could have been two of the best hours of network television in a long time.

The stage had been set for 22 hours. A nuke headed toward an unnamed American city. An implacable terrorist whose brilliant mind kept him one, sometimes two steps ahead of CTU and the entire US defense establishment. A plan so diabolical, almost satanic in its evil simplicity that it had the US on its knees. A drama at the White House with an incompetent jellyfish for a President being propped up by an ex-chief executive who, like Jack, was willing to do anything to save the nation. And a cast of supporting characters - heroes and villains - who carried out their assigned tasks with skill and courage.

This is the stuff of legendary TV. Instead, the writers either lost their nerve or just couldn’t bring themselves to face the consequences of previous plot threads they created. Instead of a bang, we got a piddle. Instead of a “High Noon” like confrontation between the forces of good and evil, we got soap opera froth.

It was something like hiring a $2500 a night hooker and when crunch time came, having her perform like a crack-addled, $5 whore.

In short, I feel cheated.

This may be one of those situations where the suits stepped in to massage the ending to fit some preconceived formula. Television producers are among the most clueless creative people in the business. It’s why Keifer Sutherland wanted to be an executive producer. Having creative control in the hands of, well, creative people makes for good TV. Unfortunately, given that negotiations for the fifth season were probably at a critical point when the writers were working on the finale, it may be that the suits demanded that the writers had to work certain guarantees regarding characters into the final two hours.

I’m guessing, of course. And maybe indulging in some wishful thinking. After 22 excellent hours, maybe the explanation for this tepid, unsatisfying ending is as simple as the writers just weren’t up to the task.

The first hour and 22 minutes were good. It’s only after the missile was intercepted did the show go to hell in a handbasket. I’ll summarize the first hour here and do the second hour later this morning with some final thoughts.


After finding out that Tony is a hostage, Jack and CTU scramble to redeploy their manpower and search the apartment complex for Mandy. Bill tells Michelle that they’ve got to proceed as if there is no hostage, that the number one priority is to get the hostile. Michelle accepts this in a superficial sort of way. It’s only when push comes to shove - when Mandy calls her (how did she get her cell number?) and asks that she duplicate Tony’s betrayal of CTU from last year - that Michelle realizes how much Tony means to her.

Thinking she holds all the cards, Mandy orders Michelle to clear the way for her escape. Wanting to comply, Michelle agonizes over the decision until Bill comes in and reminds her, indirectly, of the consequences.

One wonders if there had been an intervention like this last year if Tony would have carried out the terrorists instructions that ended up costing him his freedom, his job, and his wife.

That said, Michelle pulls back from the precipice and Bill and Jack set a trap for Mandy. But Mandy is too clever by half. Using her next door neighbors, who inexplicably do exactly as she says with no apparent leverage on them from Mandy, she tricks CTU into thinking that she’s blown herself and Tony up when CTU exposes their positions too soon.

CTU headquarters is plunged into mourning for Tony and Bill calls President Jellyfish to give him the bad news and explain that CTU has no expectation of being able to intercept the missile. This causes Jellyfish to quiver like a porn star’s fake bosoms. Palmer tries to calm him down by grasping at straws:

Jellyfish: Do you know how speculative that sounds? My God! We’re never going to find it in time…

Palmer: Don’t say that! We will stop it. But you must believe that if you’re going to lead today.

Jellyfish: How am I going to believe that? Every second that passes brings that missile closer to its target. Which for all we know is us!

Palmer then gives Jellyfish some lessons in “How to be a President Without Really Trying.” He tells the Spineless One to “demand success” from your people and you’ll get it.

If I were Palmer, I would have taken this miserable excuse for a man and whacked him upside the head a couple of times. Conducting a Presidential Leadership 101 class doesn’t help much.

Agent Burns who was briefly exposed during the Consulate Operation, is now at the San Diego airport ready to be whisked out of the country so Bill instructs him to develop an airtight alibi. Great idea except the Chinese have a better one - they kidnap the hapless agent and start to go to work on him.

Back at the apartment complex, Jack is replaying the tape of Tony’s “death” again and again, not quite believing what he’s seeing. Good thing too, because Mandy’s only slip up of the day was that she was talking on the phone at the same time the bomb went off. Seeing the door close as the couple next door get in the car and not hearing the sound of it on the telephone call, Jack realizes that Mandy is still at large. And Tony, after deliberately cutting himself on an eggshell(?), leaves a trail of blood that’s soon discovered and puts Jack on his trail as Mandy and her hostage try to escape.

By the way, one of the burning questions for all female Tony Almeda fans was answered when it was revealed that he is indeed, a boxer man.

After making a heroic attempt at escape by fighting Mandy with handcuffs and losing (Mandy is one tough woman. Tony gave her some shots that would have put an ordinary man down), Jack, following Tony’s blood trail catches up with them in the parking garage.

The cornered terrorist, still confident, looks at Jack as just another soft CTU agent. Bad move:

Mandy: Do you really have what it takes to kill him while looking him in the eyes?

Jack: Yes.

For the first time, Mandy looks scared. That’s because she believes what Jack is saying and says so. While Mandy’s attention is focused on Jack, Curtis flanks her and with Tony’s help, disarms and punches her lights out.

With Mandy in custody. CTU is back in the ballgame. And Tony and Michelle’s emotional phone conversation with Tony actually saying the “L” word while a little sappy was nonetheless nice to see.

And Agent Burns? He’s taken to the Chinese embassy where’s he’s grilled by the intel chief. After being threatened with the prospect of being spirited out of the country and thrown into a communist labor camp, Burns talks. He names Jack as being responsible for the attack on the Consulate.

The fact that we never find out what happens to Burns is one of the many annoyances in the final two hours. But this was a minor one compared to some of the other major disappointments to come.


Mandy kills one neighbor in the apartment and is responsible for the young couple’s death when the car blows up. Again I ask what leverage she had on that couple to make them walk to the car? She had a gun on them yes, but it was dark and raining and there had to have been a spot where they could have made a break for it. Just. Not. Believable.

The Chicoms take out two CTU agents at the airport before hijacking Agent Burns.

Jack: 42

Show: 237

Chloe: 1

Stop by around 10:30 AM Central Time for a recap of the second hour, a final body count, and some final thoughts.


Reader Greg points out in the comments that Tony did not step on eggshells but rather a busted light bulb. That makes more sense.


  1. Kind of like trying to put lipstick on a pig!

    Comment by diamond — 5/24/2005 @ 7:40 am

  2. Not eggshells, broken lightbulb. And Burns was told he could walk if he only gave a name - so I assume he walked.

    Comment by Greg — 5/24/2005 @ 10:19 am

  3. I am still mulling over last nights two hours, but have been distracted by the French Open. I am going to go back and re-watch before I say more. I don’t want to be unfairly harsh on the ending, actually I like the idea that there is a Jack B. out there, new identity and could go “Freelance” Think about it.

    Comment by diamond — 5/24/2005 @ 10:24 am

  4. i liked it and figured they’d ‘jason bourne-d’ him. they have set up the ‘triangle’ with michelle and tony and jack and i hope they use it to help jack. the next season should be about the chinese (who pose a serious and growing situation with the usa) and walt/
    jellyfish out to get him. jack will meet his soulmate. i can’t help but think that palmer will come in again somehow if even for a bit as jack’s support system. jack, palmer, michelle,tony and chloe are the core of the show, being the most popular characters. i’ll be disappointed if they are abandoned. they will help jack find himself, save himself, and get some reward—FINALLY—after all his sacrifice. (i was also thinking that they could’ve used north korea rather than china.) i checked at 10:30 and your post on the 2nd hour wasn’t up yet so i’m interested to see your thoughts and explanation as to why you were disappointed. i’ll be anxious for next season for the redemption of jack bauer. and if they pusue the china factor, i’d hope they wouldn’t go pc on us. in many ways it’s a touchier issue. the fanatacism of terrorists is a no-brainer.

    i don’t think i understood your comment about kiefer wanting to be executive producer. will your enlighten me???

    Comment by sue — 5/24/2005 @ 11:13 am

  5. oh, yeah—i’m looking forward to seeing cummings and jellyfish take a well-deserved dive. novik needs to stay and stick it to em’. jelly would be just the one to fire him though and allow more corruption in the white house. maybe the writers will pursue the corruption idea, tying it into the china factor. they could include nuclear items being sold to the chinese by the president or chinese carrying suitcases full of money into the white house (sound familiar?)

    i hope they don’t pick up the story 4 years later with a new prez and let jelly and cummings off the hook. that would bum me out.

    i love possibilities and the finale set us up for some good ones. they’ve raised the bar with this season and i hope the rise to the task.

    Comment by sue — 5/24/2005 @ 11:23 am

  6. Sutherland is an executive producer on the show. When actors become indispensible to the show, they want that E.P. job so that they have some kind of creative control over both the direction and the script.

    My speculation about the producers dictacting an ending to the writers has happened many times before in TV history. And it almost always makes for bad TV.

    Comment by Rick Moran — 5/24/2005 @ 11:25 am

  7. Did the Chinese kill the two CTU agents waiting for Agent Burns, or just tie them up? If they killed them that’s a bit hypocritical, isn’t it?

    Comment by Kevin Wadsworth — 5/24/2005 @ 10:01 pm

  8. It was easily the best finale out of all four seasons. And I bet you they drop the entire ‘China’ storyline in the fifth season: it’d be too hard to stretch it out for 24 episodes.

    Using her next door neighbors, who inexplicably do exactly as she says with no apparent leverage on them

    Dude, did you miss Mandy shoot their roommate in the head? I think that might have convinced them.

    Did the Chinese kill the two CTU agents waiting for Agent Burns, or just tie them up? If they killed them that’s a bit hypocritical, isn’t it?

    They were tied up and gagged. There’s no point tying up dead men, is there?

    Comment by James — 5/24/2005 @ 10:53 pm

  9. Slight correction. What gave away Mandy’s ruse was the lack of any sound of rain hitting the car through her phone, not the sound of the door closing. And if a woman I thought was a friendly neighbor suddenly killed someone in my presence and said she’d kill me if I didn’t do exactly what she said, I’d probably do it. Especially when the instructions are to walk to a car and drive away, which is probably what I want to do anyway.

    Comment by Dave — 5/28/2005 @ 12:24 pm

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