Is it too much of an exaggeration that it is becoming difficult to breathe during episodes of 24? It’s not that the toxic centox nerve gas is actually coming through your television, but the last few weeks have been so intense that sometimes I forget to take a breath. Actually, sometimes I am afraid to take a breath because I feel if I make any sudden movements (as innocuous as filling and emptying my lungs may be), I might jeopardize the mission. Clearly reality hasn’t caught up to me yet, but I don’t care. I am true believer of the Holy Order of Jack, a missionary almost, and last night was one very powerful sermon.There wasn’t much that could prepare us last week for the news that Audrey Raines was in on this vast conspiracy, but let’s be honest. We all had a sneaky feeling in the back of our minds that Audrey was involved, we were just waiting for the explanation as to how she was involved. Buchanan had Chloe investigate Audrey’s activities for the last 18 months to try and see if there was anything out of the ordinary, particularly if she had any involvement with Christopher Henderson or Walt Cummings. Hey, I’m not one to tell these people how to do their jobs, but wouldn’t you have thought that as soon as they realized that Walt Cummings had one mole planted at CTU (Spenser), that maybe CTU human resources would have been told to run some background checks on some of the other employees in the building? Wouldn’t it just make sense?
Buchanan then had to break the bad news to Audrey that she was being detained on the grounds that Collette Stenger mentioned Audrey’s name during the investigation as having given up information important to national security. Although Karen Hayes wants to throw the book at Audrey, Bill wants them to be a little more lenient. Basically, he is trying to save Audrey from having to answer questions from Burke, our torture man. Bill wants to interrogate Collette Stenger but Karen Hayes says that is impossible because Collette has immunity with the deal she just signed. Now I don’t know about you, but on a day when the President has just declared martial law in Los Angeles, does anybody think that the most egregious violation of civil rights would be to interrogate a woman who has admitted to selling national secrets? I’m not saying we shouldn’t honor Collette’s deal, but if you were trying to save the lives of possibly millions of people, wouldn’t a few more questions be prudent?
If there was anything going for Audrey, it was that Jack wanted in on the investigation. Luckily, he was able to make it from Van Nuys Airport back to CTU in approximately five minutes. Listen, I can barely get from my bed to the shower in five minutes, so I have no idea that was possible. Although Jack is lobbying for a place, Karen says that he is perhaps too personally involved in this to be able to properly interrogate, and throws out the Nina Myers card just in case he wants to get into an argument about it. In the end, Karen decides to let Jack have a go at Audrey for ten minutes and if he doesn’t get any answers, she’ll hand Audrey off to Burke for a more “invasive” interrogation. That’s what I love about America. In Amsterdam, somebody will charge you to perform an “invasive interrogation” on you, while in the United States they’ll prod you and beat you up for free!
Jack goes to Chloe to try and see if she came up with anything on Audrey’s background, and surprisingly, there was a little something in Audrey’s past that threw up a red flag, namely a relationship with Walt Cummings. Now, it should be expected that Walt and Audrey would bump into each other every now and then. She works for the DOD, he works for the President, but you wouldn’t expect to see the two of them checking into the same hotel, especially when they stayed in the same room. Wow, so much for that whole “I never loved anybody else” speech Audrey gave Jack when she found out he was alive. Up until then, I thought that Jack would treat Audrey with kid gloves, but now it’s personal.
The process of filling up the CTU rosters with new bodies continues, and Shari Rothenberg introduces herself to Chloe. Some people may recognize Shari as the girl who played Ennis del Mar’s daughter as a teenager in the movie Brokeback Mountain. For those of us in New York, you may recognize her as Kate Mara, a semi-talented singer who sometimes performs the national anthem at Giants games. It’s bad enough that we had to deal with Ray Handley and Jim Fassel, couldn’t they have toned down the nepotism just a touch? Anyway, when Shari says that she is there to replace Edgar, Chloe is kind of upset, but eventually shows her to Edgar’s station. “He worked at station six. You may notice that the cushions are a little flat and the keyboard is slightly sticky from the residue of peanut M&Ms, but you’ll manage”.
I know this great guy for you. His name is Spenser…
Actually, Chloe asked if Shari was familiar with the matrix analyzer, and when Shari says yes, Chloe snaps at her and tell her to make sure the databases are current. Clearly Chloe loves bossing Shari around, but she doesn’t have a lisp and has never had a triple bypass, so she’ll never replace Edgar. I thought Shari was just going to be another member of the communications team, but she turns out to be much more. As she is sitting at her station, Miles, the government bureaucrat who is desperately trying to “play it straight” sees her, and by the look on his face, he doesn’t like her. Well, things are looking up for Shari, because if Miles hates her that tells me that she is actually pretty cool. Nobody can replace Sherry Palmer, but since Ms. Rothenberg spells her first name differently, we’ll let this one slide.
But enough with all of these stall tactics. Jack has ten minutes to get some answers out of Audrey, and you know he is going to make them count. There are very few moments during the course of a season when we think that Jack Bauer may have lost some control of his emotions, and this is one of those times. He loved Audrey before he had to fake his death and he hoped to continue a relationship as long as the Chinese don’t hunt him down. His daughter isn’t showing him any love and his best friend was just killed by his old mentor, and another one of his closest friends was assassinated, and that plan was put into motion by a man that Audrey slept with. Jack probably was getting through this day knowing that Audrey might be the only thing he has left to look forward to in the world. Now that hope was gone, and Audrey had better hope that Jack still had a little compassion left.
The interrogation started normally. Audrey tried to convince Jack that she had nothing to do with it, but Jack screamed at her to sit down. He then proceeded to ask Audrey everything from how Collette Stenger got her name to if her father was involved. Now, we are pretty sure James Heller had nothing to do with this, but Audrey would be the second one of his children to give up important national security details, even if it wasn’t in purpose. When Jack asked Audrey about Walt Cummings, you know he was doing it to test how hard he should push her. If Audrey was honest about her relationship with Walt, Jack would know she was telling the truth. If she tried to hide something, Jack was going to push back harder.
Audrey chose option B, and didn’t admit to any relationship with Walt until Jack started bringing more evidence. When Audrey still wouldn’t admit to anything happening between them, Jack had to get serious. Finally, Audrey starts to explain, and says that their relationship was complicated. 18 months ago was when Audrey was still trying to recover from losing Jack. She did sleep with Walt Cummings, but had to cut it off, well, because Walt wasn’t Jack. I wish Audrey would have come to me with her problems, because I could have saved her a drive out to Pikesville, MD and at least fifteen minutes of torture, because I could have told her that Walt was no Jack, just by looking at him.
First comes the choke slam, them comes the tombstone
Jack doesn’t know if Audrey is lying to him again, so just to be sure, he throws her up against the wall and starts to choke. He threatens her with more pain, but Audrey is beyond a response at this point. It really hurt Jack to interrogate Audrey, but it hurt Audrey even more knowing that she was a threat to national security. Jack thought that he got all that he needed to know from Audrey, and I certainly didn’t think he was too easy on her, but Karen Hayes wasn’t satisfied. She thinks that Audrey played Jack, and decides Audrey still needs more questioning.
Ever since I saw Miles give Shari that dirty look, I was trying to figure out what his problem with her was. After Chloe asked Shari to upload some information to the subnet, Miles started going on and about how she was not qualified, and Shari would say that she was provisionally qualified, and Miles saying he’ll yank that provisional authority and she will be gone. Hey, in Amsterdam, you pay people to yank your authority, but in the United States you get it for…oh sorry, used that joke already, my bad. [ Late Edit: Chloe fans have e-mailed me saying I didn't give her enough credit for the put down that got rid of Miles. That was an error of laziness, and I apologize]
Even Chloe noticed that Miles was being a douchebag, and so she asked Shari what the deal between the two of them was. We learned that it all started two years ago when they were working in the San Francisco office. Ha! I bet Miles loved working in the San Francisco office; he probably even volunteered for a little “deep cover” work. Then again, maybe I should stop making assumptions about Miles, because the reason why he and Shari had a beef was because Shari had filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. Now perhaps Miles started off grabbing her ass in the copy room so people would stop wondering why he brought a guy with him to all of their weddings and bar mitzvahs, but it got progressively worse. He got a warning, but they didn’t have enough evidence to make it stick. Chloe had been listening, but was already bored with the details, and so when Shari said “I better not make any mistakes”, Chloe brushed her off with a “Yeah?” in such a way as to let Shari know she wasn’t interested in any more of her drama.
As I said before, Karen Hayes wanted to push Audrey harder, so she had security escort her to a different holding cell. Did anybody else notice the new uniforms for the CTU guards? I guess they couldn’t find any government agency that had left over read shirts, so they decided to go with that confidence inspiring white on top of black ensemble of the TSA that inspires so much confidence in all of us travelers. I’m just sure they’ll do a GREAT job at protecting CTU. Jack sees that Audrey is being moved and attempts to take them out, but Burke has a stun gun ready for Jack. With Jack unconscious for a minute, they are able to move Audrey without any problems. BTW, no need to worry about Jack being hit by the stun gun. He has faked his own death so many times, it must seem as natural to him as a pacemaker by now.
We haven’t heard much from Christopher Henderson, and we aren’t quite sure where he is, but he is in his car, which probably means that he has been driving for a long time, since we last saw him killing Tony about 90 minutes ago. Los Angeles County is pretty big, so you would think that he would have run into a checkpoint between then and now, but apparently he’s been lucky. Henderson gets a call from Brennan, and it looks like Henderson is using the same cell phone he had at the beginning of the episode, which makes me wonder if anybody at CTU even cares that he has escaped. Wouldn’t somebody have traced a cell phone or two? I guess with no Edgar, they don’t have all of the sockets they would need to intercept that all-important NSA chatter to hunt down Henderson.
Like I said, Henderson got a call from a call named Brennan, who was one of the people who ran Wayne Palmer off of the road. Right after Henderson finishes talking to Brennan, we cut to the Presidential Ranch where Aaron has been waiting for Wayne Palmer. When he hears that Wayne made it to the checkpoint, but not to the compound, he decides to look for Wayne himself. Uh oh. You know that if Aaron left the compound either Wayne or Aaron is coming back in a body bag. Aaron makes it out to where he saw Wayne’s car go off the road? What’s that? He never saw Wayne’s car go off the road? Well, let’s pretend that he did. When he finds Wayne, somehow Wayne has taken one of the assault rifles from the people that were chasing him. I thought it was pretty strange, but Aaron didn’t wait around for any answers, and they made their way back to the road.
On their way back, they are ambushed, and what looks to be a rocket propelled grenade lands nearby. Wayne is injured badly, but Aaron is able to speed off down the road. Now would probably have been a good time for Wayne to start telling Aaron what he knows, but he’ll probably make us wait until he comes out of a coma before we get any more information.
Although I thought that Chloe didn’t want to be bothered by what was going on with Shari, she couldn’t help but notice that Miles was really giving her a hard time. I am not sure what Miles was upset about, but he went over to Shari’s station and inserted his access card into the slot in the most masculine way possible. He was probably upset about having to giveaway tickets to see Cher at the Staples Center, so he decides to take it all out on Shari, saying that she used an improper protocol on the matrixes. When Shari says the protocol checks out, Miles says “only if you have authority”, and who was there to give authority? None other than Chloe, who covers for Shari. Miles doesn’t believe it, but he can’t really do anything, so he removes his access card and returns back to his station, where he’ll probably check StubHub to see if he can still get tickets for Madonna or Streisand.
We know by now that the CTU attack was nothing but a diversion, but a diversion for what? Bierko and his boys managed to ambush a couple of police officers and their cruiser so nobody would bother them for any credentials. The destination? Wilshire Gas Company. After shooting a couple of people to show that they mean business, Bierko takes an engineer named Sam and tells him what’s going to happen. They need to release a substance so that it flows into the pipelines. Because of the pressure inside the pipelines, the chemical will react with the gas and become inert. In order for their plan to work, they need to release the pressure by 50% percent. Sam says that it will take him an hour, but Bierko gives him 15 minutes. By the way, if they were just planning on breaking into a gas company and shooting people until their demands were met, why all of the fuss about the schematics?
They didn’t prepare me for THIS at DeVry
Back at CTU, Jack had only one chance to save Audrey, and that was to find something that would break Collette Stenger’s immunity. Unfortunately for Audrey, Burke wasn’t waiting for Jack’s evidence and started pumping Audrey with that stuff that had Henderson begging for Mercy. If only Curtis had better luck with that sensory deprivation shit last year, maybe Audrey wouldn’t be in such pain. It would also give Curtis a chance to do something other than standing around and doing nothing. I hate to say it, but all of that government work has made Curtis a little soft.
Jack eventually found out the information that he needed. Henderson placed eight calls to Collette in the last few months, meaning she withheld information and her deal was void. He goes to the interrogation room where Stenger is being held, and asks her what her connection was with Stenger. The US Marshal that is guarding Collette says that Jack can’t question her, so Jack punches him in the face. It’s sad to know that our own Marshals are less effective at preventing torture than that pasty amnesty international lawyer from last year, but with him out of the way, Jack is able to get some answers. He doesn’t waste any time with Stenger, and to get her to cooperate, he simply points a gun at her head. She admits that Henderson told her to use Audrey’s name in case she got in trouble. He then asks her what the next target is, and when she won’t say anything Jack tells her she has three seconds to say something or else!
Collette gives up the information, saying that it is going to be a natural gas distribution center, but that she doesn’t know which one it is going to be. Jack leaves her alone, knowing that that she and her knockoff Versace dress won’t be sitting on the beaches of Tripoli in the company of hairy Mediterranean men with too-small bathing suits and Tom Selleck mustaches, but rather in the cell of a federal prison in the company of hair Mediterranean women in orange jumpsuits and Tom Selleck mustaches.
With the information he needs, Jack makes it to Audrey’s interrogation room and gets Burke to stop. I have previously lamented at how the show gets a little too soap opera-ey, but when Jack held Audrey in his arms and she said that the only thing that kept her alive was knowing that Jack would come and get her, I thought to myself “wow, you’ve only been in there for like thirty minutes Audrey, toughen up you dumb bitch”. In all seriousness, it was very nice moment, and for Jack, who seems to be able to save everybody on this show from getting hurt except the people that he cares about the most, it was great to see that after making so many sacrifices today, he was able to get a small piece back. Who would have known that after actual terrorists kidnapped her and threatened to kill her on camera, her own people would detain her and actually do more damage?
Through this all, I may have actually had a small lump in my throat, but there was no time for further sentiment. We had to figure out which gas station was going to get hit, and unfortunately, the satellite coverage didn’t give them the ability to monitor all of the stations that they needed. Luckily, Shari went to Cal Tech, and I would have to say that she must have been a dumbass if she is doing Homeland Security as her post-doc. She says the same thing about the gas being inert at a certain pressure, so the thing that they should do is check for gas stations where the pressure has been dropping. Only one gas station fits that description – Wilshire Gas Company. Buchanan congratulates her by patting her on the shoulder, and moments later Shari turns to Chloe and was like “Did you see that, it was so inappropriate”. I hope Shari doesn’t come to the CTU Christmas party and drink the punch; they don’t call him “Deep Six” Buchanan for nothing.
Jack and Curtis had a team that was already in the air, but by the time they got to the gas company station, there was only four minutes left until the PSI was at a level where the Centox would be active. By this time, I am wondering why they even bothered sending in Jack and Curtis. I saw The Rock and learned that if you need to destroy VX nerve gas, you just need to heat it until it dissipates. In other words, just blow that shit up! I’m sure Donald Rumsfeld has a tactical nuke he was just waiting to use in cases like this. The two of them make it inside, and we get to the part of the show that we really like: Jack and Curtis go all Metal Gear Solid on us and shoot some bastards in the head. The first kill is very impressive. After the two of them sneak in, they see two guards, take one look at each other, rise up and. POW. POW. Two more Russkies are sent to that big bread line in the sky.
Now, I have all the confidence in the world in Curtis and Jack, but did anybody get a little nervous when they were storming the gas company, full of VX nerve gas, without gas masks? I know Curtis is fast and Jack can hold his breath a long time, but still, it was starting to bother me. Their team makes it to the control center of the gas company, but they lose the element of surprise and there is a gunfight. By this time, the pressure is low enough, and Bierko manages to not only deploy the nerve gas canisters. but to escape from the fire fight as well.
The other terrorists are dead, but Jack needs to find a way to stop the nerve gas from spreading. Since the gas pressure only made it to 50% moments ago, I thought the easiest thing to was to turn the pressure back up. In five or ten minutes when the pressure is back to where it will make the VX inert, it probably wouldn’t have killed that many people. Not that many people use gas heat in California, so it would probably only kill those dumb asses who wanted to bake a cake to celebrate their evening of martial law or are too cheap to buy a microwave to do all of their cooking.
Well, that plan was a little too easy for Jack. He must have seen The Rock as well, or perhaps flunked out of Cal Tech, because he decided that the best way to make the gas harmless would be to take some C4 to the main gas line and blow up the building. Curtis and the other team get far enough away, but Jack only has a minute before the nerve gas makes it out of the gas company. He gives himself 30 seconds to get out of the building before shit starts to ‘splode, and starts to sprint out of that place.
Phew! Jack is going to be OK. He dodges some explosions, but with the Slightly Faded But Nevertheless Useful Extreme Hoodie of Infiltration, that is not going to stop him. Jack is almost out of range when he looks back and sees that Bierko might escape. I’m not sure how Bierko could escape, because nobody has set up a hard perimeter yet, and as we all know, no bad guys can escape without a hard perimeter for them to break through. Jack chases after Bierko, which inconveniently places him very close to some of the main gas tankers. His hoodie may be Useful and Extreme, but it’s not made of kevlar, so I would worry about it’s effectiveness when Jack is standing next to a gas tank full of thousands of tons of gas about to explode.
Everybody is screaming at Jack to get back including Curtis and everybody at CTU, who are now watching this all on the satellite. Audrey has just finished freshening up, and it looks like the CTU Salon was able to get her in for a quick appointment because she is looking like a shampoo commercial once again. Anyway, everybody is there just in time to see the main tankers explode, and Jack and Bierko had no shelter except for a police cruiser. Jack has been through worse, but this one may keep him out for fifteen or even twenty minutes.
Like I said, I thought this was a great episode, combining so many of the aspects that make 24 great. Did you like this episode? Well Jack make it out alive? Will Bierko be of any use? What does Henderson want with Wayne Palmer?