24 8.12: "Day 8: 3AM - 4AM"

Coming into this episode, the season arc needed a good kick in the pants; the writers simply haven’t been giving the audience much to enjoy to this point. This episode is a nice improvement overall, even if some of the elements feel borrowed from past seasons.

The latest step in the terrorist plot (which seems rather well organized for what was presented as a last-minute backup plan earlier in the season) is relatively elegant in its simplicity. Taking Kayla hostage allows the terrorists to use her as a bargaining chip for “File 33”. This effectively forces President Hassan to reveal to CTU and the Taylor administration that they have a great deal of vital US National Security documentation. (This is something Tarin would have likely known all about, given his prior position.)

The terrorists know that the US would never allow Hassan to hand over such information. Instead, it is a ruse to buy time to prepare the real means of knocking down the security capabilities in the NYC Metro area. Kayla is allowed to “escape” in a car rigged with an EMP device, set to detonate within or close to CTU. The net effect is the annihilation of counter-terrorism resources in the city.

This was a good twist because almost everyone involved should have known better. How many times has CTU been attacked or otherwise compromised? Yet the writers have already made it very clear that the new CTU has a number of weaknesses, not the least of which a lack of experience. Director Hastings is also a man of little patience. Nothing in the episode pointed to a sneak attack, but there is a feeling that complacency and inexperience played a role.

But even Jack missed this particular gambit, which was surprising. Usually Jack is the first one to put the pieces together and realize the true implications. He gets a pass because he was in the field, focused on the mission, but it’s still a bit uncharacteristic. Having CTU miss the signs and portents aligns with the theme of facing and learning from the mistakes of the past (or not, in this case). Jack is supposed to be the one person that has learned the lesson.

Of course, this does set up Jack as the only viable agent with enough experience to keep the investigation going while CTU picks up the pieces. Agent Ortiz and his team are on hand to help Jack as much as possible, but he’s just as likely to call on familiar faces to help. There aren’t many left, but this could be how Renee comes back into the picture.

As usual, the main weakness of the episode is Dana’s subplot, even if it was more involving than in the past. Granted, it’s all relative; the story is still dumb as rocks. Prady seems to have quick access to documentation and personnel that wouldn’t logically be available in the middle of the night, let alone in the middle of a major national security crisis. And the moment he stepped out of the conference room, Security should have been tossing him in a cell (or beating him into a pulp).

Which suggests, of course, that Prady isn’t concerned with the law at all. He may be a parole officer, but he’s also more than likely aligned with Kevin and his psychopathic friend. At least, that’s the hope; otherwise, his actions and timing are out of proportion, given the circumstances. (And again, why wouldn’t Dana just go to Hastings, tell him that Prady is interfering with her work and barking up the wrong tree, and be done with it?)

Once again, the problem here is that Dana is a ridiculously bad liar, which undermines the notion that she could have faked her identity so well that the CTU vetting process wouldn’t have uncovered the truth. It doesn’t seem likely that she could have hidden her PIN number, let alone her criminal past!

Overall, this was a much stronger mid-point episode than the rest of the season would have suggested, but there are still plenty of lingering issues. Dana’s story in particular has been the albatross around the season’s neck, and it’s apparently not going away. With the fate of the series in flux, one would hope the writers were trying to go out on a high note.


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Mar 17, 2010 4:20AM EDT

I agree that the Dana's story is a bit weak, but now with all of CTU's technology being useless due to the EMP, are her and Ortiz in the clear? There has to be some link that we are not seeing yet, at least I hope so.

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