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3/27/2007
COUNTDOWN TO THE COUP
CATEGORY: "24"

Questions have arisen about Vice President Daniel’s authority to use a nuclear weapon as well as how that weapon was being deployed before being stopped by the President’s re-emergence as Commander in Chief.

As for the first question, as long as Wayne Palmer was unconscious, Daniels had the necessary authority to order the strike. As I discussed here, the 26th Amendment to the Constitution gives the Vice President full executive authority in such cases. It was never a question of whether or not Daniels could actually order the use of a nuclear weapon but rather was it the right thing to do. Given the changing rationale used by the Veep - first, as a demonstration of American power; then as a warning to Fayed’s government to help find the loose nukes; and finally as proof that no one can harm American citizens without being hit themselves - it is amazing that the military seemed to acquiesce so meekly in the face of this madness.

The second question is of interest only as it relates to the accuracy with which the show portrays what might happen in real life. I can assure you that having the President simply give an order to an Admiral to launch a missile from a submerged submarine using a cell phone would probably not be the way the United States would go about using a nuclear weapon.

First, the President would have to give the correct codes that would “trigger” or activate the weapons. These codes (called “Gold Codes) change every day and it is the President’s responsibility to have them on his person at all times. Jimmy Carter used to keep them in his pocket (which led to an embarrassing moment when the coat containing our strike codes was sent to the cleaners). And Ronald Reagan reportedly kept the card containing the codes in his wallet.

The way the President would give the codes to the appropriate commands is secret but it is believed that the nuclear “football” - a suitcase containing confirmation codes as well as various scenarios for Armageddon - is outfitted with a secure satellite phone just for this purpose. The football is never more than a dozen steps from the President whether he is awake or asleep (although there have been incidents where the aide carrying the briefcase was left behind or not in position).

In the case of a single nuke being launched from a submerged submarine, the problems in communicating are increased dramatically. Regular radio transmission are out since radio waves cannot penetrate salt water thus making them useless for a submerged sub. Instead, the Navy has developed what they call an ELF transmission system. This is a technological marvel that sends extremely low frequency transmissions via satellite that can penetrate to a depth of about 20 meters. A submerged sub at a lower depth can deploy a buoy to catch any transmissions.

The biggest problem with ELF is that it is very slow - only a few characters a minute can be sent. This means that the go codes would take at least several minutes to be received by the sub making what was portrayed last night seem rather silly.

Not bringing the “football” into the plot is strange since in Season 4, the show spent several episodes in a search for the nuclear satchel following a crash involving Air Force One. It might have heightened the tension of the scene considerably if they could have shown how the football was actually used. But what we got instead was the Admiral using a cell phone to casually call the sub commander and tell him to go ahead and start World War III. One would hope that the batteries to that cell phone are charged on a regular basis. I suppose they could use one of CTU’s famous phones that never need charging and have all sorts of neat bells and whistles on them.

But that might be unrealistic - two different government agencies sharing technology? Never happen.

SUMMARY

We find Jack at the site telling the EMU’s to keep the drone pilot alive so that they can talk to him. Jack should know better. After all, everyone knows that when Jack Bauer takes a terrorist down, they stay down. Sure enough, the drone pilot succumbs and the guys at CTU are left with culling the pilot’s work station for clues about Gredenko’s whereabouts and the location of the loose nukes.

Bill calls Jack and tells him that even though the nuke on the drone did not explode, there are now “serious policy consequences” regarding the radioactive leak from the damaged bomb. Daniels is going to retaliate against Fayed’s country with a demonstration nuke.

To show how off base so many on the left are about the show, one of the top liberal bloggers, Kevin Drum who writes for the Washington Monthly blog asked the question yesterday “IS 24 LIBERAL OR CONSERVATIVE?….” His conclusion should not surprise you:

So what’s up? The hyperkinetic world of 24, where good and evil clash, torture is a necessary tool, and terrorist threats are everywhere, is indeed a paean to modern Bushian conservatism. But when the action switches to the Oval Office, hawks are almost universally portrayed as either ideologues who panic at the first sign of trouble or else scheming superpatriots who are desperate to push the United States into unjustified wars as a way of advancing their own mercenary agendas. If Joel Surnow’s name weren’t attached to the series, you might guess that it had been produced by Michael Moore.

So is 24 liberal or conservative? Schizophrenic, I’d say.

That kind of shallow and superficial analysis was proved laughably wrong last night as Jack responds to the news that the Veep is going to launch a nuclear weapon:

JACK: What is he trying to do, launch World War III? That will be seen as an act of aggression against the entire Middle East.

Some “paean to modern Bushian conservatism!” But keep trying Kevin. Eventually, you’ll realize that 24 is just a television show and not some metaphor proving your own moral superiority over conservatives.

Gredenko is trying unsuccessfully to reach his now deceased drone pilot to find out what happened to the nuke that was supposed to detonate over San Francisco. When he confronts Fayed with the bad news, the terrorist lashes back, accusing the Russian of incompetence. But Gredenko assures him that he can deliver the remaining two nukes to Fayed’s targets if he’s given another chance and the terrorist relents.

The Russian calls a Mark Hauser asking him for updated security protocols for an unspecified target. Hauser agrees but says it will take time to download the new codes from his office. Hauser is taking care of his retarded/disturbed brother Brady who apparently is some kind of computer savant. He directs Brady to access his office computer to download some files.

I’ve heard of savants who suffer from Autism but not mental retardation. Perhaps there’s another condition where savantism is prevalent but in this case, it appears that the writers simply made something up for an interesting plot twist.

They’d never do anything like that now, would they?

Back at CTU, Milo pines for Nadia, watching her in the holding room on his monitor while two nuclear weapons are still loose and about ready to be launched. Doesn’t he have anything better to do? Bill even saunters over and doesn’t say something like “Get back to work, clown!” Instead, he gives Milo the good news that Nadia will not be transferred to just any old jail cell. Instead, like Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other terrorists at Gitmo, Nadia will be given the status of “enemy combatant.”

Before Milo and Bill get into a discussion about waterboarding, Chloe interrupts to tell Bill that they got a hit from monitoring the watch list of Gredenko contacts. It’s the Russian’s call to Hauser and CTU gets an address where he can be found.

Meanwhile, one of the agents breaking down the drone pilot’s work station found a remote access module that proves the terrorist geeks hacked into Nadia’s system, proving her innocence. It also proves that whoever designed the security for this top secret, highly sophisticated, ultra geeky computer system should be fired and strung up by their big toes. Like people getting hacked who visit porn sites, Nadia evidently had her computer penetrated when monitoring extremist Jihadi websites.

Are their geeks better than our geeks? Looks to me like we have a “Geek Gap” developing and that this is something that should be addressed immediately.

Anyway, Agent Johnson gives the module to Little Ricky who is on the hook for making the politically incorrect decision to suspect an Arab of collaborating with Fayed. Will our Ricky bury the evidence and let Nadia rot in Gitmo? Stay tuned.

Jack alerts a TAC team to get ready for action and they take off for Hauser’s place. Little Ricky declines to go and one wonders exactly what he’s going to do with the module.

Back at the White House hospital, Karen meets with Sandra Palmer and lays out her case for waking the President from his induced coma. Reluctant at first, Sandra finally sees the wisdom of Karen’s words and agrees to order the doctor to attempt to wake her brother.

In the conference room, the Veep is informed that they can hit Fayed’s country using a sub launched missile within the hour. As Tom starts to go over expected casualty figures, Daniels gets a message and excuses himself. He is informed of Karen’s plan to wake the president and spoil all of his fun. The Veep gets the doctor on the phone and reads him the riot act. The doctor calmly informs him that it’s not the Vice President’s decision to make, that it’s up to Sandra Palmer and that if he objects, he should take it up with her.

But Daniels does leave the doctor with this sneering threat:

DANIELS: If the President dies or suffers any permanent debilitating injuries, I will nail your ass to the wall. Do you understand?

DOCTOR: (Gulping) Perfectly sir.

Jack and the TAC team arrive at Hauser’s house and the raid goes smoothly enough, although Mark Hauser is hit in the shoulder, severing an artery. His brother Brady goes into hysterics and Jack calms the savant down, learning that it is Brady who is setting up a proxy server to hide the security files download.

Threatening to sic the FBI on his helpless brother, Hauser tells Jack everything. He even suggests that his brother could be enlisted to help nab Gredenko since the Russian knows him. And here’s where Jack hatches his plan making another innocent civilian into “The CTU Special Guest Agent For The Week.”

Of course, Jack fails to mention the fate of many other civilian “Special Guest Agents” through the years. A cursory check of some of the local cemeteries would have told Hauser all he needed to know about that.

Jack takes Brady to see his brother who is bleeding out on a stretcher. “It’s worse than it looks,” says Mark - a sure sign he’s toast. But he tells his brother to do everything Jack says. He then makes a call to Gredenko telling him that his brother will make the handoff of the data. Gredenko suggests a meeting across the street from the Hauser house in a parking lot.

Back at CTU, slimy Agent Johnson who pretended to be watching Little Ricky’s rear end by giving him the module now does a complete 180 and tells Milo that Little Ricky has in his possession evidence that would clear Milo’s fantasy lover Nadia. Having primed his human bomb, Johnson watches with satisfaction as Milo catches sight of Little Ricky and makes a beeline straight for him.

Doyle is talking with Bill when Milo lunges at him, telling Bill after they’re separated that Little Ricky has proof of his dearest Nadia’s innocence on him right now and that he’s covering it up to protect himself. An astonished Buchanan asks Ricky if this is so. But before Ricky can answer Morris hustles over telling Bill that Doyle was not covering anything up, that he was confirming the authenticity of the module before giving it to Bill.

Milo is embarrassed and apologizes to Little Ricky. Strangely, Doyle leaps out of character and pats Milo on the back telling him to forget about it.

Something doesn’t quite ring true there. Methinks Little Ricky will exact revenge on Milo at some future date.

Buchanan makes his way to the holding cell to tell Nadia the good news. She is singularly unimpressed, having decided that since all her friends deserted her, she will punish them by pouting like a 12 year old. Bill appeals to her, asking Nadia to stay on and help find the nukes rather than resign in a huff and sue the hell out of the government. She says simply “I’ll stay” and that’s that.

Milo is setting up her station when Chloe comes over and practices some of her new found interpersonal relationship skills on Milo by observing that it will be hard on everyone to deal with Nadia after suspecting her but especially awkward for Milo. When he asks why Chloe blurts out that it was not a secret Milo has the hots for Nadia. A withering look from Milo sends Chloe scurrying back to her work station.

Sure enough, there is much awkwardness between Milo and Nadia when he tries to apologize for doubting her loyalty to the United States. She’s having none of it, even telling him that the CTU office was no place to start a relationship. For some reason, this makes Milo’s passion overflow and he grabs Nadia roughly by the back of the neck, gazes into her eyes, and then lays a big wet one on her lips.

It is unclear whether Nadia likes Milo or the rough sex. We’ll have to keep an eye on that in the coming weeks.

At the White House hospital, the President is showing signs of brain swelling. But Sandra is adamant about waking him up in time to stop Daniels from launching the nuke. Just then, the President’s heart stops and the crash cart is summoned. Looks like Daniels is going to sweep the table - get his nuke launch plus a move into the executive mansion.

Back at the Hauser residence, Jack is being very gentle with Brady, telling him what to do and sticking an “earwig” into his ear so that he can communicate with the lad.

I think Jack missed his calling. Perhaps he should have gone into Special Ed rather than terrorist hunting. He seems to have the knack, don’t you think?

At any rate, Brady moves into position in the parking lot as Gredenko pulls up. Jack has ordered one unit of the TAC team to take out Gredenko using a trank dart but as Gredenko exits the car to talk to Brady, the shooter finds he doesn’t have a clear shot. Brady is in the way. Jack hears Gredenko tell one of his thugs in Russian to shoot the kid but TAC still doesn’t have a clean shot. That’s when Jack tells Brady to be prepared to hit the ground when he tells him to.

After downloading the information on his palm pilot, Gredenko gives the order to kill Brady. Frantically, Jack tells the kid to get down and just in the nick of time, Brady moves, allowing the TAC shooter to hit Gredenko with the dart while the two thugs are dispatched with alacrity by other TAC teamers. Jack adds to the mayhem by clocking a terrorist emerging from the car with a shot from about 50 feet while on the run.

As Brady is sent off to the hospital to see his brother, Jack enters the Hauser residence and confronts Grednenko. It is clear the Russian knows Jack by reputation but appears unconcerned at the prospect of being tortured. Instead, he knows he has an Ace in the hole because he may be the only one that can help find the nukes and Fayed. He asks for amnesty and a promise that he won’t be sent back to Russia. CTU must decide what to do quickly because Fayed is waiting for the Russian’s call.

Back at the White House, things are coming to a head. Tom tells the Veep about the capture of Gredenko and that maybe they won’t need to launch the nuke to scare Fayed’s country into helping them find the other bombs if Gredenko can find them first. But the Vice President once again changes his rationale for using the nuke:

DANIELS: We can consider this strike as retaliation for American lives already lost. A reminder to the world that there are consequences to attacking our country.

Tom, who appeared resigned to the use of the nuke earlier, now looks shocked. But his protests do no good as Daniels orders the admiral to launch the nuke. But a perplexed admiral turns back to the Veep and says that the sub was ordered to stand down. Ordered by who, wonders the Veep. By the President of the United States says the admiral just as the phone in the conference room rings.

It’s Palmer, of course, hale and hearty (mostly) despite being in a drug induced coma. Would that I were to look so well when I get up in the morning. The President orders Daniels not to go shooting off any more nukes - or take any other military action for that matter.

This doesn’t deter our Veep. He summons the Attorney General and will attempt to invoke the Presidential disability clause of the 26th amendment in a brazen coup attempt. He must get a majority of the cabinet to sign off on such a move so my prediction is that over the next couple of weeks, Tom and Karen will unite in trying to convince cabinet members to stay with Palmer as President.

And Palmer may play right into their hands when Jack presents Gredenko’s amnesty terms for approval. Watch as Daniels tries to show that the President agreeing to such a deal is more proof of his unfitness for office.

BODY COUNT

Almost forgot this week’s butcher bill.

The Drone Pilot, drilled by Jack last week, goes to his final reward.

Two thugs are offed by TAC team members.

Jack gets another one on the run at 50 feet.

JACK: 15

SHOW: 390

By: Rick Moran at 9:40 am
21 Responses to “COUNTDOWN TO THE COUP”
  1. 1
    semanticleo Said:
    9:46 am 

    Uh, real life has little to do with Movies, or TV. I mean, in spite of the twittery reaction of cons to Fred Thompson, or worshipful adoration of RWR, there is this pesky little
    creature called ‘reality’, and I don’t mean reality TV.

  2. 2
    Jennie C. Said:
    10:37 am 

    25th amendment, Rick. The Veep isn’t going to get a bunch of 18-year-olds to vote him into office :)

    But I don’t think the AG is enough for him (unless the prexy goes back into his coma, but he looks good to me). He needs a majority of the Cabinet or of either just the House or both houses of congress.

    Somehow I doubt if HHS, Veterans Affairs, HUD, Interior, Commerce, Education, etc., are all in the room.

  3. 3
    Rick Moran Said:
    10:40 am 

    Jennie:

    Thanks for the correction.

    And the rest of the cabinet doesn’t have to be in the room. Conference call would do just as well.

    And the Daniels made it clear that he was calling the attorney general to get the ball rolling, not to simply take over

  4. 4
    Barry Dwyer Said:
    11:26 am 

    Call me paranoid (”you’re paranoid!) or just plain suspicious after watching this series from the beginning, but is it possible that Nadia really is the mole? And is Agent Johnson not just slimy, but something more nefarious, or slimier?

  5. 5
    Wes S. Said:
    11:30 am 

    The problem with “24″ isn’t that it’s necessarily politically schizophrenic (as Kevin Drum puts it), but it does seem to me that it’s taken a definitely hard left turn this season even as the writing has gone steadlily downhill. Frankly, they’ve run out of ideas for the show. A Presidential coup? BTDT. Attacking a nuclear power plant? Ditto. Torturing an innocent CTU employee by mistake? Yep. Sinister white guys using Muslim terrorists as patsies? Where have I seen that before…?

    Humorist Dave Barry, who features a weekly “24″ liveblog on his website (blogs.herald.com/dave_barrys_blog), has suggested that “24″ doesn’t have writers anymore; actually the show features a Random Plotline Generator and a matching Wooden Dialogue Generator. Unfortunately, the Random Plotline Generator seems to be stuck in a loop and is regurgitating plotlines from past seasons; the only plotline they haven’t repeated this season is the cougar (and the reason we haven’t seen so much of the Kim-like Josh the last couple of episodes is that the kid is probably lost in the woods, caught in an animal trap).

    FOX apparently let CAIR program the Wooden Dialogue Generator, to judge from all the impassioned leftist whining about infringed civil liberties, Islam being a religion of peace, more infringed civil liberties, etc. And Drum is certainly right about the portrayal of conservative politicos on the show, particularly this season. (Except for William Devane’s “SECDEF Heller,” which was the exception that proved the rule.)

    Sorry for the long-windedness, but I’m coming to the conclusion that “24″ has jumped the shark for the last time. And I’m about ready to give up on it.

  6. 6
    Rick Moran Said:
    11:30 am 

    Barry:

    mmmmmm…I think you may be on to something there, pal.

    Did you note the smirk on Johnson’s face after little Ricky threatened him? I thought at the time it might have been bad acting but it could be something more significant.

    What if Johnson and Nadia are in cahoots? Johnson finds the module that clears Nadia which allows her to go back to work for Fayed.

    Then again, it may all be an illusion and I’m talking through my hat.

  7. 7
    Paul Said:
    12:44 pm 

    Can the President give an unlawful order. Surely the President cannot order a nuclear strike on a country because he did not like their last vote in the U.N. and expect it to be carried out. There must be protocols for launcing a nuclear strike.

    In this instance there does not seem to be any reason why the submarine captain would not surface to receive the message and inquire about the reason for launcing the attack. Preumably the country that is the target is not a serious threat to the submarine.

  8. 8
    jackbauerforpresident Said:
    1:26 pm 

    last week doyle and jack were compared as kindred spirits. i didn’t agree with it then and after last night i still don’t agree. it’s my opinion that doyle is a jerk because he likes to bully people. he seemed to enjoy choking nadia. his ethics are challengable because he’s not a man of honor where as jack is. jack does things because he has to. doyle does things his dishonorable way.

    the same for daniels. his motives aren’t honorable either. he’s a megalomaniac. his decisions are machismo-bullying and have little to do with ’sending a message’ to fayed’s country. daniels is hungry for power and blood. he’s disgusting. call it ‘friendly’ fire. the people around him have decisions to make, too.

    and i agree that some of the writing has included some repeat action, but i’m hoping those devices will take us to unexpected places, their knowing that we know that they know to keep the writing fresh. i’m willing to wait and see.

  9. 9
    Brady Hauser Said:
    1:28 pm 

    While watching the show last night, I thought for sure that Rick would nickname Brady as “Rainman”. Oh, well…

  10. 10
    Steve Said:
    2:00 pm 

    Interesting thought about Nadia and Johnson working together on behalf of the terrorists. However, they would be working for Gredenko — and not Fayed — as it was Gredenko who came up with the idea of the drones and the component would have been destroyed by the nuclear explosion had our hero not intervened.

    Are the Charles/Martha Logan and Phillip Bauer storylines done?

  11. 11
    MG Said:
    2:57 pm 

    Where do you bloggers find time to write all this stuff down. Amazing.

  12. 12
    Curtiss Said:
    3:13 pm 

    Rick and Barry are both on to something.

    Perhaps Nadia and Agent Johnson are in cahoots. Someone has to be the mole. There’s always a mole at CTU. It has the worst security ever. Nadia is the perfect mole, because everyone suspects her and now she’s been innoculated by what seems to be a false charge. Agent Johnson’s coming up with the module is just too convenient. But, then it was authenticated by Morris. That doesn’t fit into the theory, but it may become clear in the future.

    And, of course, Milo’ naivety has to be taken advantage of by someone, and it seems Nadia is in the perfect position to do it.

    But that’s just my opinion, what do I know?

  13. 13
    Jennie C. Said:
    8:09 pm 

    Paul, the way I understand it, for a nuclear strike, there’s a 2-man rule. Even the president can’t do it alone. Someone else (who has had their appointment confirmed by the Senate) has to confirm. I would assume the VP can as well.

    Now, maybe the SecDef or one of these Joint Chiefs (they are confirmed, right?) would have done it, but they should’ve showed it if so.

    Anyone with acting experience, I meant to ask: Why do actors always cry out of the middle or outside of their eyes? Haven’t they found some sort of fake tears that will actually come from the tear ducts, where tears really come from?

  14. 14
    Rick Moran Said:
    8:13 pm 

    Jennie:

    There is no “two man rule” when it comes to authorizing the use of a nuclear weapon. The decision lies solely and exclusively with the President.

    In missile silos and in subs, there are two keys that need to be turned to launch.

  15. 15
    Rick Moran Said:
    8:20 pm 

    And as far as actors crying, so called “method” actors conjure up feelings from their past and actually cry real tears. More technically proficient actors carefully study the physiology of crying and can actually produce tears by recreating all the physical manifestations of the act of crying.

    Only hacks use fake tears - which includes most actors in Hollywood who are horribly trained.

    I always liked Peter O’Toole’s marvelous line in My Favorite Year where he says “I’m not an actor! I’m a movie star!”

  16. 16
    DiscerningTexan Said:
    8:26 pm 

    Reads almost like a Billy Bob Briggs Drive-In review. Two bodies, three breasts, etc… Joe Bob says “Check it out…”

    (I agree about all the PC CRAP this year; Not to mention they purposely make the VP look like some kind of right-wing megalomaniac…) Coincidence? I don’t think so. For “right wing” producers, this is pretty standard Hollywood fare.

    But that won’t stop me from watching next week.

  17. 17
    DevX Said:
    6:46 am 

    Vice President Daniels is the most howlingly funny caricature I’ve seen on any TV show this season. Terrible writing, terrible plot. I too think 24 is jumping the shark this season.

    I almost expect Grudenko to be exposed as a Mossad agent, and its really the Jews who are behind this plot, and not Russia.

    This whole season has been stuffed with plot devices and characters that make it difficult to keep watching.

  18. 18
    Paul Said:
    2:07 pm 

    I notice that no one has answered my question in post 7. I may not have asked it in the correct form. Can an order by the President of the United States be considered an unlawful order? As I recall military people are not required to obey an unlawful order. The follow on question is could the order to launce a nuclear attack be condisered unlawful in this case?

  19. 19
    wooga Said:
    5:34 pm 

    I also noticed the Johnson smirk. It was featured much in the same way that Graham’s “shifty eyes” were always left in frame just a moment longer than expected.

    The smirk had to been on purpose. As Johnson’s obvious plot was foiled in every respect, he must have succeeded at some other plot. ‘24′ has previously used the following plot device with the “evil fiance Reza in the car” scene (and indirectly with the “rednecks lynch the ambassador” scene):

    1. make the audience think the middle-easterner is the bad guy,
    2. then reveal he’s not actually bad, stoking racial guilt feelings in the audience for jumping to conclusions about middle easterners,
    3. thereby making the audience less willing to consciously suspect other middle-eastern characters.
    4. That way, when you reveal a middle easterner to be evil down the road, the audience will not groan “that was so predictable.”

    In this context, Nadia turns out to actually be evil. We find out that her clearance was initially limited not because of generic ‘racial profiling,’ but rather specific intelligence related to Nadia.

    Why do I think this? Because Nadia is hot, and hot chicks are always hostages or villains.

  20. 20
    wooga Said:
    5:38 pm 

    And when I say “Nadia is hot,” I mean straight up physically hot, not “hot because her personality takes her pleasant appearance to the hot level.” Imagine Nadia being a bitchy character - she’d still be hot. Characters like Michelle are hot in the “personality +” sense only, and Chloe is hot to some people (not me) because of her attitude and computer ’skillz’.

  21. 21
    Rick Moran Said:
    6:02 pm 

    Wooga:

    Convoluted but surprisingly logical. I like it.

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