[The recap was written between the hours of 7 and 8 p.m. and contains the usual assortment of spoilers for Monday (April 16) night’s episode of 24.]

Look, I’m not going to argue that Jack Bauer has done a lot for the fictional United States of America. He’s stopped or diverted nuclear attacks, temporarily saved presidents from assassination, partially prevented the spread of biological weapons, voluntarily sacrificed himself to terrorists and gotten hooked on smack. There’s no question that the government owes him a few favors (if you assume that civil servants are entitled to make demands of the government).

I think, however, that there may be limits.

"President Palmer, when I come out to Washington next month, you’re buying the first round… You owe me."

Absolutely.

"Bill Buchanan, I’d like you to strip naked and streak on the field at Dodger Stadium… You owe me."

Sure, if that’s the kind of guy Jack is.

"Chloe, I’m sick of driving around Los Angeles, so you’re going to chauffeur me around for the next 10 years… You owe me."

That seems fair.

"Mr. President, I’m going to steal vital components from the nuclear devices I just secured and turn them over to the Chinese in exchange for my ex-girlfriend, even though that has the very real possibility of setting off a nuclear crisis far worse than the one I just averted… You owe me."

It’s here that if I’m the leader of the free world, even one whose brains have been scrambled by a really difficult day at the office, I’m going to call shenanigans. Yes, President Palmer and Mike Doyle and Bill Buchanan and several other people with various quantities of common sense had reservations about Jack’s plan, but he got really serious and promised that he’d never let the Chinese actually get the Macguffin, prompting this slightly paraphrased exchange.

"I promise, Mr. President."

"Cross your heart and hope to die?"

"Ummm… Sure."

"Literally?"

"Literally."

"Jack, how do I know you don’t have your fingers crossed behind your back?"

"I promise, sir… Stick a needle in my eye."

"Fine. Go for it, Jack, you wacky rogue."

That’s why I love the Palmers. They’re usually willing to just let Bauer be Bauer. And I may be joking about it, but the line "Mr. President, you owe me," was like the epitome of Bauer-dom.

Beyond having a higher than usual ration of implausibilities (gaffes in logic that true 24 fans swear I’m supposed to ignore), it was a tense episode, albeit a good deal less action packed than last week’s. We got an explanation for how the Chinese subplot relates to the first 17 hours of the season (badly, but I’m not sweating the details), we got plenty of Chloe and President Palmer collapsed on national TV.

And what was up with that, anyway? I’m President Palmer and I’ve already passed out, blacked out and been blown up multiple times today, do I really want to be giving a live speech to the American people? Sure, I guess I want to show I’m in charge. Do I really want to give the speech with the press assembled on an over-lit stage? Well, no. And after my long speech under the hot lights, do I want to open the floor for a Q&A session? Say what you will about our current president in real life, but he has the sense not take questions from the media any more than’s absolutely necessary. But even though President Palmer’s on-stage swoon couldn’t have been more easily predicted, I can’t have been the only one close to yelling at the screen to get the guy off the podium and safe, saving the world from President Sy Tolliver. That being said, Ol’ V.P. Daniels actually made sense when he treated Palmer’s deal with Bauer with the proper derision.

Good fun.

Highlights of the episode:

  • Why aren’t we looking for another mole in CTU? I don’t know how else Cheng knew that Jack recovered the nukes before even President Palmer. And who would win in an Evil Stereotypical Asian showdown — Cheng or Agent Lee from Prison Break?
  • Tom Lennox has to be the most frustrating character on TV. Just when you start to begrudgingly respect him, he turns around and lets Vice President Daniels pull his second 25th Amendment trick of the day. You’ve still got the tape, man. Use it.
  • After several weeks of romantic squabbles between Milo and Nadia, it was good to have Morris and Chloe back having inappropriate conversations about their relationship in the middle of a crisis. I also adore that Jack called Chloe for help and her immediate response was "Can’t it wait?" Nothing can ever wait with Jack Bauer.
  • If I were a man-in-uniform, I’d be vaguely offended by the fact that Jack was able to gain access to a nuke by telling two soldiers that he was an agent and then yelling at them and that Mike Doyle was able to convince those same soldiers to cold-cock Jack just seconds later by yelling even louder.
  • V.P. Daniels trying to get morally self-righteous about President Palmer blackmailing him was a little like Charla and Mirna accusing the Beauty Queens of playing dirty on Amazing Race: All-Stars.
  • No reference to President Logan. No reference to Daddy Bauer. But Jack did mention Curtis. Poor Curtis.

    Thoughts on this week’s episode? Have the past two episodes put 24 back on track for you? Does it still have work to do? Or do you figure that even when 24 is awful, it’s still perfect and your devotion never wavered for a second?

  • Posted by:Daniel Fienberg