(Note: This review covers the second half of the Monday night mid-season event. The first half was covered under a previous review.)
This is the precise mid-point of the season, and it's not hard to see how this would represent the biggest turn of the season arc thus far. Everything from this point on will change for everyone involved, assuming they survive. This might even go down in the annals of "24" as one of the most shocking plot turns ever.
On the face of it, it's ridiculous. Could terrorists really find their way into the White House so easily, and take control of the premises with such relatively little resistance? Would those same terrorists begin by killing everyone in sight, only to start taking hostages when familiar faces are suddenly involved? Would law enforcement really find their hands tied so completely?
More to the point of the season thus far, would a President who was willing to play "no tolerance" with terrorists for most of the day, including defying them when they held her husband ransom, bow down to them when her daughter's life was at stake? Granted, she had recently lost her son to terrorists (and thought it to be suicide for many months), and her husband might still die, but as Jack says, she's the President. She already made the choice for her and her family. If she walks out of that room, the terrorists get precisely what they want, even if they die before it all ends.
Senator Mayer may somehow believe that Jack is to blame for President Taylor's capitulation, but his only mistake was letting her look at the camera, especially when it was obvious that Juma had something terrible planned. Jack did drop the ball on that one, and as a result, he was placed in a no-win situation when the President chose to surrender.
The real problem, of course, is the notion that there wouldn't be a dedicated, secure line out of the lockdown location to ensure communications with law enforcement. As ridiculous as the rest of the plot might be, that is the item that takes the cake. The Vice-President's unwillingness to authorize a rescue operation is predicated completely on the possibility that Juma is holding the President hostage. The entire plot hinges on that one oversight.
Bill's decision not to torture Burnett, however, feels a lot more organic. Jack may be disappointed, but he shouldn't be so shocked. He's made it clear to Agent Walker, for instance, that he doesn't hold it against someone if they can't bring themselves to use his techniques and go to his extremes, so long as they recognize that it's sometimes a necessary option. Bill has been willing to sanction Jack's actions before, and he's more than willing to bring together a team to achieve a necessary if legally questionable goal (as the fight against the conspiracy attests). It's hard not to understand Bill's point of view.
Despite the issues with the plot, this is still one of the most exciting episodes of "24" since the beginning of the sixth season, and it gives this season the jumpstart that it needed. It's the kind of story that never could have happened in Los Angeles, after all, and it's a lot more symbolically meaningful to the audience than some random presidential retreat. It takes a massive willing suspension of disbelief to ignore the plot conveniences along the way, but the writers do a nice job of making them easy to overlook.