â€œYouâ€™re cursed, Jack. Everything you touch, one way or another, ends up dead.â€
(Secretary Heller, father of Audrey Raines)
Those of us who have followed the show from its first season recognize the supreme irony in those words uttered by Secretary Heller. That’s because the first season’s plot line revolved around Jack saving the life of a black Senator running for President – David Palmer – hence the idea that only Jack’s special “touch” in running the operation to protect the next President could save his life. But Jack’s zeal in protecting Palmer led directly to the death of his wife, the estrangement of his daughter, and his slow descent into a hellish nightmare where Bauer’s tactics and even his motivations began to mirror those of his enemies; torture, revenge, and a constant friction with his superiors at CTU and the government.
Heller’s comment also begs the question; is Jack a fallen angel? Has his descent into darkness gone so far that he is now not fit to mix with “normal” people? One realizes that a big part of Jack’s love for Audrey comes from the fact that she is his last link to this “normal” world of girlfriends, quiet dinners at home, and conversations about the normal drudgery of ordinary life rather than the life and death of empires. And the fact that Audrey’s father has now told him in no uncertain terms to stay away from her only completes Jack’s total isolation from all that is good and decent in the world.
Of course, Jack will probably ignore him. And I would guess that Audrey’s chances of surviving this year just plummeted because of that. Yes, everything Jack touches lately eventually dies. He hasn’t had a partner in years because given time, they either take a bullet meant for Bauer or are caught up in one of Jack’s rogue operations and get killed off unceremoniously. One by one, his friends have fallen, their association with him being enough to cost them their lives. In a way, it reminds me of that old movie Death Takes a Holiday.
Not to be confused with the ponderous remake Meet Joe Black starring Brad Pitt as Death (MJB had a 3 hour runtime), Death Takes a Holiday was an extremely literate and intelligent film, well acted and had moments of levity as well as a serious examination of many issues surrounding man’s mortality. Written by the great playwright/screen writer Maxwell Anderson and based on the 1929 Broadway hit of the same name that was written by Alberto Casella, the film starred a young Frederic March in the role of Prince Sirki/Death who visits a rich man’s house (Guy Standing) to discover why people fear him so. He is captivated by a young woman Grazia (Evelyn Venable) who longs for a release from her dull existence.
As long as Death is on a vacation, no one dies, flowers continue to bloom, the world experiences a day without anyone or anything dying. Early on, the rich man recognizes Death for who and what he is and tries to bargain with him to give him more time on earth. Intrigued, Death explores the reasons people wish to cling to life so desperately. He finds out when he falls in love with Grazia and wishes to take her with him. In the end, the rich man bargains his life for that of Grazia who even after finding out who Death really was, wanted to join him.
What made the film so compelling was the underlying tension (missing from MJB) that if you angered Death by not doing what he wished or crossing him in any way, your life could be forfeit. In the context of 24 , I found it revealing that when Jack was trying to snap Audrey out of her catatonic state, he whispered in her ear “I want them to pay for what they’ve done.” Jack’s desire for revenge now appears to be almost all consuming. Even his offer to commit suicide to prevent the circuit board from falling into the hands of the Chinese makes sense if you consider that with his own death, he would also be killing his Chinese tormenter, Mr. Cheng as well as denying them their reward for kidnapping he and Audrey.
So is Heller right? Has Jack become Death, the Destroyer of all he touches? I think the answer is yes. And even if Jack realizes it, he will be unable to give up Audrey who gives him his only fleeting contact with the world of the living.
Little Ricky tries his luck in trying to communicate with Audrey to no avail. She’s a basket case and Nadia tells him to get her back to CTU pronto so that they can have a shrink examine her. As Jack is being shepherded into a helicopter, he begs Doyle to let him speak to Audrey, knowing in his heart of hearts that she will come out of her stupor just for him and give them the information necessary to track Cheng and that missing circuit board.
Nadia is having her own problems. Thrust into the role of Acting CTU Director by Bill’s firing, she feels a little overwhelmed. When Morris comes a calling, she summarily rejects his transfer request. Chloe’s boy toy tries arguing but doesn’t get very far. Referring to his “personal soap opera,” Nadia orders Morris back to work.
Back at the White House, Karen gets Daniels to sign off on an Executive Order closing the borders so that Cheng can be prevented from leaving the country with the board. Correctly, Daniels points out the this is a futile exercise because we can’t even keep “migrant workers” from crossing the border.
It is absolutely amazing to me that we live in a time when those who break the law by sneaking into this country illegally can be treated with the softest of kid gloves. They’re not “illegal immigrants.” They are “undocumented workers” or “migrants.” The fact that the writers felt it necessary to avoid the designation “illegal immigrant” says volumes about why our border policies are so screwed up in this country and why the current immigration debate is not about enforcing the laws on the books but rather on how best to create a “path to citizenship” for those here in violation of the law.
Meanwhile, the Veep’s blonde squeeze Lisa Miller arrives home only to be accosted by a man who turns out to be her secret lover Mark Bishop. We discover that Lisa has been carrying a relationship with Daniels apparently in order to advance her career when she whispers between nibbles that the only thing the Veep cares about is “his lunatic foreign agenda.”
So much for true love…
Trouble back at the White House when the Russian President calls on the videophone flanked by two tough looking generals. Suvarov bluntly tells the Acting President that the Russians know the Chinese have the circuit board and God help the United States if Cheng manages to leave the country with it. Daniels looks a little shaken when told of the probable escalation to Armageddon that would occur unless they can get that board.
Tom realizes that for the Russians to be aware so quickly that the Chinese have the board, there has to be a spy either in the White House or CTU. While he runs off to start the mole hunt, Daniels authorizes CTU to use whatever resources necessary to catch Cheng before he leaves the country.
And it appears that Cheng’s exit will be slightly delayed. Downloading the board’s schematics, one of his agents tells him that the board is busted and the only way to fix it is to bypass the security protocols. Cheng, chafing at the delay, announces that they must find someone with the technical expertise who can do the job.
Is it Chloe’s turn to now face death or assist the enemy? Cheng’s word’s are an echo of Fayed’s when he needed someone with the technical know how to build him a nuclear trigger. It appears that CTU is a one stop shop for the enemies of the United States who need someone with “technical expertise” in a hurry. And no one is better than Chloe at hacking through security protocols.
Since the only character who is not expendable is Jack Bauer, will this mean the death of Chloe? Yikes! Be still my beating heart! Then again, there’s the possibility that they could kidnap Morris to do the dirty work on the board thus giving him a chance to redeem himself. Either way, this looks like the big ending that the writers have been promising for weeks. Stay tuned.
After playing a little slap and tickle with Mark, Lisa heads for the shower and Mark heads for her PDA. It seems that Mark is a Russian spy and after downloading all the information from her Blackberry, he calls his handler, a Russian named (wait for it) Nikolai. We also learn that Lisa doesn’t have a clue that he’s a Russian agent. Well, duh. As if the Veep’s Chief of Staff would knowingly bed down a Russkie spy?
Back at CTU, a very affecting scene between Morris and Chloe plays out with Morris telling Chloe that she “crossed a line” with her jab about him building the nuclear trigger and that “It’s over. There’s no going back.” Chloe can’t believe that her prickly personality and total lack of interpersonal relationship skills has now cost her the only conceivable person on planet earth who could love her. She sobs uncontrollably and of course we feel badly for her. But then, we see Morris’ point, don’t we?
As Karen briefs Nadia about the possible mole (and refuses to answer her questions about Bill’s firing), the Doctor from Division is escorted into CTU and it is apparent from the get go that this fellow is trouble. Most medical professionals we’ve met who have been associated with CTU have been from the Josef Mengele School of Medicine – torture first, ask questions later. Nadia instructs this Dr. Bradley to make a quick diagnosis on Audrey because they don’t have much time.
As Jack sits pining for Audrey in a holding cell at CTU, Little Ricky and Nadia listen as the Doc tells them that Audrey is in a catatonic state and the only way to snap her out of it is through drugs. Good thing Audrey can’t here him when Bradley gives Nadia the odds of her survival. Doyle argues to give Jack a chance at snapping her out of it without drugs but Nadia, going by the book, refuses. Doyle sulks away.
At the White House, Daniels is obviously missing his squeeze. He calls Lisa and begs her to come back to him as soon as possible, hoping she hasn’t forgotten their date later. She breathlessly informs him that she’s on her way while Mark sits there grinning like a raccoon.
Tom then breaks the mood with bad news. The NSA has been able to track down who the mole is. They were able to trace calls to a Mark Bishop who was suspected as a Russian agent but the case was dropped for “lack of resources.” So, the Veep asks, whose the staffer. Lisa Miller, says Tom.
The Veep is incredulous. And he looks devastated when Tom tells him that the two are probably sleeping together. Daniels tells Tom that they have a big problem because he’s been sleeping with the mole too. Always thinking ahead, Tom tells him that he might have a way they could turn the situation to their advantage.
Back at CTU, Doyle enters Jack’s holding cell and gives him the bad news about Dr. Bradley and his little black bag of poisons. At the same time, Little Ricky uncuffs Jack, telling him when Jack asks why to “make it look good.” Deliberately turning his back and walking slowly away, Jack doesn’t need an engraved invitation. He promptly puts Doyle in a choke hold and squeezes him into unconsciousness, gently lowering him to the ground.
Whoever said Jack Bauer is a thug is a liar. If I were to put my own brother in a choke hold, I couldn’t have done it any more gently.
Jack then proves that Oscar de la Hoya has nothing on him. He floors the guard outside the door with one punch and then repeats the feat with a second guard. Making his way to CTU Medical, Jack makes it three for three by cold cocking Dr. Bradley’s assistant with a terrific right cross.
Maybe Jack missed his calling. Don King would most definitely be interested in promoting him I’m sure.
So Jack takes the catatonic Audrey and together they escape from the Medical floor. With alarms going off and his friends searching frantically for him, Jack makes his way into the bowels of CTU, not wishing for escape but only hoping to play for enough time so that he can speak to Audrey himself. Morris catches Jack on his video monitor and Nadia is about to tell Chloe to seal off that part of the building when we realize that Chloe is no where to be found. She wouldn’t just leave the building would she? Not with all those crazy Chinese looking for her? Would she?
Well how else do you think they were going to capture her?
Jack uses Doyle’s key card to access corridors, finally finding a storage room where he can have a little privacy and a few minutes breathing room. He immediately sets about the task of trying to snap Audrey out of it by reminding her who she is, what her name is, who her parents are, and where she was born. Poor Audrey still has the blank stare on her face although she seems to perk up a bit when her mother is mentioned.
But time is running out as Nadia has her people using a blowtorch to get through the door. So Jack simply hugs Audrey and tells her very tenderly that he loves her. They make an interesting couple. Audrey is catatonic and Jack is an emotional cripple. They were made for each other.
Doyle and Nadia break through the door guns drawn while Jack tells them he won’t hand Audrey over to Bradley. Suddenly out of the blue, Audrey says the word “Bloomfield.” Bradley says it could mean anything. Jack says it’s a clue to where she was held. Nadia tells Morris to track down the meaning of the word and informs the Doc to wait in her office, that Audrey is her witness now. With that, Jack gives her up and surrenders himself.
We learn that Russian troops are on the move, that the Russian President wasn’t bluffing about the consequences of allowing Cheng to leave the US with that board. Things are progressively getting worse.
And it really hits the fan when Lisa walks in, refreshed from her shower and, um, encounter with Mark. The Veep lays everything out for her; that Bishop is a spy, that he knows they’ve been sleeping together, and that she better help them now or her goose is cooked. She’s got to go back to Mark and tell him they’ve recovered the board. That should buy them some time anyway.
I thought the touch of making her an “enemy combatant” if she tried to expose their affair an especially interesting bit. Using that threat for personal political gain is about as hardball as it gets.
Back at CTU Medical, we are re-introduced to the Secretary of Defense James Heller, Audrey’s father, and a pretty good guy to have on your side (He took down two terrorists after being kidnapped last year.) But here, he plays the concerned father, telling Audrey that he’s taking her out of there. Audrey looks blankly ahead, not even seeing him. He tells Nadia he wants to see Jack before they transport Audrey.
Meanwhile, Doyle informs Nadia that the word “Bloomfield” might actually mean something. It’s the name of a copper company with a facility in Los Angeles. And since they found copper filings on Audrey’s clothes, it may be where Cheng was holding her. Doyle races to the building with CTU TAC.
The dreaded confrontation between Jack and Heller, two stand up guys who liked and respected each other at one time. But Heller, speaking as a father, informs Jack that he is not to see Audrey ever again. He is death incarnate. And he loves his daughter too much to see her hurt anymore by Jack. Jack swears that he can still help her, get through to her again. But the father is unmoved. And Jack is now faced with the prospect of losing his one and only link to the world of the living – a prospect that he will probably not accept.
A good episode despite the lack of carnage.