24 7.16: "Day 7: 11PM - 12AM"

The episode starts with the typical "24" brand of discontinuity: within a matter of seconds, Jack goes from being completely alone to being surrounded by a full Hazmat team. Ironically, this happens at the same time that the writers demonstrate a firm grasp of the series' continuity by bringing back Dr. Macer from the third season. It's just one oddity in an episode that started off a bit slow and bizarre and ended on a high note.

The "slow" would be the long and somewhat unexpected mourning by any and all for Jack's medical condition. Yes, it is one hell of a twist to have Jack Bauer on the brink of horrible and potentially deadly illness, given all that he's endured (see the scars as a reminder), but some of the sympathy rings false coming from some of the characters. One might mistake Agent Walker for his lover, given how crushed she is by the news, and Agent Moss is far too respectful for someone who, less than an hour earlier, wanted Jack tossed in a cell for the rest of his life.

That contributes to the "bizarre", which also characterizes the events at the White House. It's a bit convenient that the President would suddenly pronounce that she always felt that Jack was innocent. If that's how she felt, she didn't exactly come out and say it. Nor does Olivia say a word about that little leak to the press that named Jack Bauer a murderer and semi-terrorist. Far worse, however, is the notion that Olivia would go from being the estranged daughter to the acting Chief of Staff in the space of a few hours. Is she remotely qualified for such a role? And why wouldn't anyone object?

Once the operation against Starkwood begins to ramp up, things get a lot more interesting. it might have been better to see Jack debriefed first, of course; there are more than a few loose ends regarding his status and his involvement in the past 15 hours worth of insanity. Of course, most of the impediments to the restoration of his career are dead and gone, so his health situation needs to be resolved before he can fully be brought back into good graces.

Taking the time to show the psychological effect of being sidelined on Jack was smart, and that will likely continue into the next episode (at least until he's forced by circumstance into action again). With the treason of Starkwood now fully exposed, and a significant threat to the nation now coming from within, it's the perfect time to bring the overall philosophical arc of the season to fruition. Right now, it's on the backburner, though, and perhaps rightfully so.

For all the other faults of the episode, the ruse at the Starkwood facility was well-done. For a moment, it looked as though this would place Tony in yet another intractable situation, but he's come out of this crisis looking like a troubled but true patriot. Hopefully he won't be making the ultimate sacrifice before the end of the day, because he should get the chance for redemption as well. (There is, after all, going to be an eighth horrible no-good day.)


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