The lesson we can take away from Monday night's episode of "24" ("2 a.m.-3 a.m.") might be this: Ask long enough and eventually ye shall receive.
Finally, after weeks of begging and whining on the part of "24" fans everywhere, the Powers That Be at the Fox series saw fit to give us the return of James Cromwell as Jack Bauer's dad. He appeared only in the closing minutes of the episode, not long enough to make much of an impact this week, but his reemergence promises that the season's closing episodes at least will feature some top-notch villainy, if not wrenching Freudian drama.
Meanwhile, we learned that Bauer Sr. was in cahoots with Cheng Zhi (Tzi Ma) and his crack commando squad, meaning that from the rogue Russian suitcase nukes, to the semi-successful plot to assassinate President Palmer, to his grandson's kidnapping, the elder Bauer has been responsible for nearly every awful thing that's happened this season. And that doesn't even go into the possibility that he was the guiding force behind Jack's brother's evil schemes last season.
The inevitable confrontation between Jack and his father looms large in the next couple of weeks, but for this episode, Jack seemed intent on invoking the memory of a different kind of forebear: John McClane, the yippie-kay-yay-ing hero of "Die Hard."
When Cheng's agents launched their surprise attack on CTU (although was anyone really surprised by this?) Jack managed to be the only person in the building to avoid capture, gunning down terrorists single-handedly and even swiping a machine gun from one of their dead bodies, just like Mr. McClane himself. Ho ho ho!
This mini version of "Die Hard" was fun, and after last week's breather, the gun battles seemed a bit more exciting again. The same cannot be said for the story line involving acting President Daniels (Powers Boothe) sending his chief of staff (Kari Matchett) in for a liaison with a Russian agent in order to spread false information.
Not only have the White House machinations become ridiculous at this point, but Daniels must be wondering how his chief of staff could have been so coolly manipulative when offering to lie before the Supreme Court, but becomes a conflicted mess when asked to do something that might save some lives.
We should also take a moment to note the passing of CTU computer whiz Milo (Eric Balfour) who took a terrorist bullet to the head shortly after losing his girlfriend to crazy Mike Doyle (Ricky Schroeder). Milo's death played out like a teenage martyred-love fantasy, but that is perfectly consistent with the rest of the show, which often seems like a teenager's dream of how exciting civil service should always be.
With just two more episodes left this season, I'm going to speculate wildly on how the season will end. With producers promising to shake up the format a bit next year, I predict that Jack's dad will survive their climactic showdown and high-tail it to China, meaning Jack will have to hit the road next year to bring him to justice. It would be a neat trick to see an entire season of network TV set overseas. And hey, if Nixon and Big Bird can go to China, why not Jack Bauer?
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