In the penultimate episode of Live Another Day AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Cheng Zhi is such a lovely villain; it’s really great to see him play such a direct role in the season while before he mostly drifted in and out of the show being evil as needed. I don’t think that he’ll disappear into the ether again at the end of Day 9 – I think he’s gone a little too far for that to quite work out. This isn’t the first time 24 has threatened the start of a war because of lies and skullduggery, but never with a country as powerful as China. It certainly feels like the whole situation is teetering on the brink and I genuinely don’t know how far down this road the show will go. I’m not sure one more hour is quite enough time to fix everything, but then again, this is Jack Bauer we’re talking about here.
I had grown rather fond of the idea that the end of the season would be Jack and pals dealing with a clustershart of multiple threats at once, but I hadn’t considered the idea that Cheng would be in cahoots with the Russians, being all cahooty and whatnot. There’s no reason he couldn’t be; he’s no longer in the employ of the Chinese government, is considered to be an enemy of the state, and thought to be dead. I thought that reveal was deftly handled, and a good choice narratively; the two dovetail rather nicely together. I also like that Cheng’s motivation is mostly just hatred and revenge, and not some grandiose ideal. It’s petty, yes, but also human.
And Chloe – fucking Chloe – who was clearly embarrassed by her piss-poor attempt to run from Cross, proved herself to be very resourceful this week, surreptitiously recording her conversation with Cheng on a phone and leaving it for Jack to find. Oh, and she also escapes from the back of Cheng’s truck by beating him and his goons with a fucking pipe and jumps out of a moving vehicle. YES. Then she runs off into the woods, falls down an embankment, and knocks herself out. Well. Yeah, okay. I guess. I’m not really sure where they were going with this, or if they’re going anywhere beyond finding a way to have Chloe sit things out for the rest of the episode.
Hey! While we’re revisiting old villains, maybe that cougar who menaced Kim back in Season 2 can turn up to snarl at Chloe for a bit or something.
Anyway, in the meanwhile, Jack and Kate continue their fantastic firefight against Anatoly’s goons. The scene feels like a bigger fight than it probably really was, with wave upon wave of Russian thugs rolling up just as Jack n’ Kate finish gunning down the previous batch. I’m not entirely sure I can put my finger on why I liked this particular shootout some much, but I was definitely a little disappointed when CIA backup arrived and put a stop to it.
Jack discovers that the Russians tracked him down using his comms signal, the codes for which were known only to the CIA and Stupid Mark. Jack very quickly figures out the obvious and hops in his truck, speeding off to the Presidential pad in a righteous snit. I was so excited for this. I have been waiting for this particular bill to come due for oh so long.
I’m not sure how I feel about Jack’s vague phone call to Audrey. He calls her up to tell her things might get complicated and that he’s sorry, but of course he doesn’t actually tell her about Stupid Mark because…reasons. To protect her feelings? The motherfucker is charged with treason. I don’t think that’s the kind of thing that gets kept on the DL from the wife. And then there’s their emotional scene where she tells him she could never hate him and never has, and it’s all very tearful. I’m sorry. I don’t believe you. You might not hate him now, Audrey, but I seem to recall Jack brutally torturing your first husband right in front of you because he thought he might have some vital information. You’re telling me you didn’t feel the slightest twinge of hatred for that?
I don’t think I’ve even been as happy watching this show as I was when Jack stormed into the President’s situation room, and drags Heller and Stupid Mark away to have a private word. And then…then it all come out. Oh, yes. It’s so satisfying. Jack’s cold fury. The way he slammed Stupid Mark up against the wall and sticks a gun in his face. Heller’s shock and disgust at what his son-in-law has done. The oh-shit look on Stupid Mark’s face when he realizes he’s been flat out fucking caught, and his completely ineffectual attempts to spin it in a positive light.
And then Jack Bauer does something I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jack Bauer do before – he just straight up calls the Chief of Stupid an idiot, his voice dripping with contempt. I can die happy. Best episode ever.
Okay, not really. We’re not done yet, and I’m not quite that shallow. Close, but not quite.
Jack gets Mark to roll on the location of Anatoly’s residence, and he and Kate wire him up with radios and cameras so they can send him in and scope out the Russians’ security team and alarm system for them. Well, I would rather watch Jack yell at him some more, but at least he’s making himself useful for once. In the car outside Casa del Anatoly, Mark explains that he did what he thought was right, what he thought he had to do to protect the interests of the United States and of the President himself, insulating him from any dirty laundry. How he’s so regretful it got out of control.
Bullshit, you little wiener. The only interests you were protecting were that of your boner. Jack doesn’t really say much in response, and it seems like the audience is supposed to feel like this is Mark’s redemption or whatever. No. It was never about protecting Americans. It was about trying to have a pissing contest with Jack Bauer, overstepping his bounds, and trying to sell an American citizen to the Russians out of nothing more that pure jealous butthurt. There’s no altruistic, patriotic motive here. If there were, he would have come the fuck clean a long time ago and owned up to it when it became clear that Jack was no threat to the President. But no, his first instinct was to try to save his own bacon first. He’s only sorry because he got caught. Fuck you, Mark.
He actually does do a pretty good job of infiltrating Anatoly’s house, claiming that he wants to defect since he’s been found out. It would seem he’s rather good at playing pathetic. Quelle surprise. He makes it inside, but Anatoly is no fool and realizes something is a miss. He and Stupid Mark end up in a rather brutal struggle when Anatoly tries to pull a gun on him. It’s a really well choreographed scene. It’s not flashy in the least, but very dirty and undignified grappling. It is, without a doubt, the only non-shitty thing Mark has done all day.
Well, actually, I take that back, since in the heat of the moment, the two men crash through a glass door, and Anatoly ends up with a shard of glass stuck in his neck. Jack and Kate shoot their way in like a pair of cool-ass cucumbers with guns, and try to save our weirdly bearded Russian friend from bleeding out to get Cheng’s whereabouts from him before it’s too late. Unfortunately, it is too late, and they end up empty handed. Well done, Mark.
Back in the situation room, it’s time for Heller to take his meds. His motor functions seem to be suffering, because he spills his tablets all over the floor. The various military muckity-mucks take notice of this, and combined with his reluctance to raise the threat level, I think it’s going to cause some serious problems for Heller. It’s not very fair, but it’s clear that the generals are beginning to lose their confidence in him.
I was going to make a comment on how William Devane’s acting was a little odd this week. Heller often spoke with the inflections of an old man talking on a phone he can’t quite hear properly. But then, in light of his health issues, maybe it was a deliberate choice.
Audrey decides to reach out to her contact in London’s Chinese embassy with the partial schematics of the override device, in the hopes of buying a little time before the Chinese President Wei decides to start capping some fools. Of course, the meeting goes awry when Cheng’s sniper shoots everyone but Audrey and the clock ticks over to 10:00. I kind of hope Audrey doesn’t get captured because I don’t feel that it would be terribly interesting to have a season as full of scheming and machinations as this one has been to devolve into a daring rescue scenario for the finale. I could be convinced otherwise, I guess.
Live Another Day‘s 11th hour is an incredibly dense episode. There’s a lot of stuff and goin’s-on crammed into it, and it’s much better for it. We’ve got one more episode to go and I’m still not quite sure what the endgame is going to look like or how on Earth we’re going to fix everything. Given how well-planned most of this season has been, despite my misgivings on one or two points, I’m confident we’re in good hands. The finale draws ever nearer and I couldn’t be more excited.