As quality kills go, it was memorable even by 24
standards: chained to a chair and enduring torture, Jack Bauer escapes by sinking his teeth into the neck of a terrorist and tearing out the jugular vein (Some message boards are now singing the praises of "Jackula.") It was a tone-setter kill, one to show fans that though Jack was brutalized for two years in a Chinese prison, he still is tough enough (and perhaps hungry enough -- Chinese prison cuisine must be pretty hopeless) to punk any terrorist fool enough to challenge him.
And that is good news, because the security forces protecting the United States in 24
's universe are just as sorry as ever. They couldn't stop a weaponized virus, a reactor meltdown or Kim Bauer's idiocy, and now -- on top of weeks of terrorist attacks across the country that have claimed hundreds if not thousands of lives -- they've allowed a tactical nuclear weapon to be detonated in a Los Angeles suburb. On 24
, the good guys usually fall behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter.
So here's where we stand after five hours: Jack is back and he is just as disdainful of due process and other constitutional inhibitions as ever. He is damaged by his stay in China, but not so damaged that he can't put a bullet in a friend's neck. That friend would be Curtis, who you could tell would be taking a dip in the dead pool (joining Michelle, Tony, Edgar George, the hobbit and and so many more of Jack's unfortunate co-workers) as soon as he started gritting his teeth like some denizen of the looney bin. Turns out Curtis was carrying a grudge against a former terrorist turned aspiring statesman who had critical information ... and better hair, for that matter. His dark impulses overcame him and he trained his pistol on the erstwhile terrorist's forehead, leaving Jack "no choice." Jack Bauer, you see, does not know how to shoot to disable. Jack briefly grieved, and got over it as soon as he saw the mushroom cloud on the horizon. Mushroom clouds really piss him off.
The president is the brother of the slain President Palmer, and he's in a bad way. On one side, he's mired in a security crisis that would have even Ghandi screaming for blood and he's in the shadow of his elder, unflinching brother. On the other side, he's burdened by his activist lawyer sister, who is shaping up to be this season's Really Stupid Chick. My guess is that she is actually Kim in disguise. Anyway, the current President Palmer does a lot of soul-searching and looking about anxiously. He'll be lucky if he makes it to the end of the season without an enraged mob storming the White House and supplanting him with a musket-waving Charlton Heston or someone else of that ilk. It all depends on whether Jack can stop the Bad Guy.
Who is Abu Fayed, the bullet-headed terrorist leader with the sulfurous glare of a sadistic gym teacher. As I said, he's off to a big lead: He's already vaporized part of Southern California (why do the terrorists have such a mad on for L.A.? It's gotta be Pauly Shore.), and he has four more nukes at his disposal. But he's only setting himself up for the Big Payback.
Meanwhile, the search for Fayed has led Jack to his father and brother, and this is where things get really cool. Jack's brother Graham is the sinister nebbish that has been behind a couple of plots to take over the world and kill Jack. He is married to one of Jack's former girlfriends, and the connubial bliss they share is apparently the sort that only a marriage counselor with chronic money problems could love. He shouts at her, "You've never gotten over Jack!" Well, duh, ya little worm-lord. The only woman that ever got over Jack was Nina Myers, and that was because he fired two or three fatal slugs into her chest. Anyway, Jack drops in for a visit and a few telling glances with his sister-in-law. Yeah, it seems she still has the hots for him, and even more alarming, Jack's nephew is a tall, blond teenager whose good looks could not possibly have come from his short, bespectacled, bald father. (It will be interesting to see how this kid behaves; any stupidity that recalls is possible half sister calls the Bauer genes into question.) Jack decides it's time for the brothers to catch up, and so he escorts Graham into the study. Where he then ties Graham to a chair and begins torturing him. I'm guessing the first thing out of Jack's mouth was something like, "Two years in a Chinese gulag, and I never saw so much as a postcard from you!"
Such a display makes the mind reel at what growing up in the Family Bauer must have been like. There's probably a home somewhere for the baby-sitters unfortunate enough to cross the Bauer threshold; it's probably a house full of middle-aged women with nervous tics and a fear of sharp objects. Why, one can almost see Mary Poppins tied to a chair, head slumped forward and hair disheveled. Suddenly, young Jack Bauer pulls her hair so she is staring him in the face as he brandishes a power drill in her face and bellows, "DAMMIT, WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME! SO I'M GOING TO ASK YOU AGAIN, WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?!"
It gets even better to imagine the Bauer clan going on the Dr. Phil show. "So, Jack, you say the only time you ever really communicate with people is when you are shoving bamboo shoots under their fingernails. Why do you think that is so?" Of course, such a question would prompt a savage response from Jack, one that the audience just might cheer on.
So anyway, that's where we stand at present in Club 24
. I can't wait for next week.