Your “24” Season 8 refresher guide, damn it

As we ponder which pop culture reference to use as our opening to the return of Season 8 of “24” – would ‘We love the smell of terror in the morning’ work, or should be go musical and simply say ‘Welcome to the terrordome, again’? – we realized that the seven-month layoff between seasons produces some rather large gaps in memory when it comes to the previous day’s events, and this is coming from the person responsible for blogging the damn show. As a means of getting everyone (especially me) up to speed with both the returning characters and the new ones in anticipation of the upcoming two-day premiere – once again competing with the Golden Globes, ugh – we’ve prepped this handy little refresher guide on what you can expect this season. And as a precaution, we’ve included a SPOILER ALERT! warning when appropriate. Man, IMDb is helpful and all, but sometimes it blatantly gives the game away.

RETURNING FOR DUTY
Name: Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland)
Last seen: In a coma, finally succumbing to the nerve agent that he inadvertently exposed himself to while trying to stop a major attack in Day 7.
Present whereabouts: Seemingly cured of any and all ill effects of the nerve agent and preparing to relocate back to Los Angeles to be closer to his daughter and granddaughter, who’s named after Jack’s dead wife.
Likelihood of surviving to final clock tick: 1,000,000,000%. If they kill Jack Bauer, it won’t be on the small screen. And even if they did decide to kill him on TV, they’re sure as hell not going do it the same year as the final season of “Lost.”

Name: Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajksub)
Last seen: using a laptop, which was practically still smoking from the fire that it was pulled from, to pinpoint the location of Season 7 baddie Alan Wilson.
Present whereabouts: Working her tech magic for the newly reinstated CTU office in New York.
Likelihood of surviving to final clock tick: 90%, though we suspect that should Chloe die, Jack would just fall to the ground like a marionette.

Name: Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert)
Last seen: Going against her father’s wishes and consenting to the doctors’ request to use her stem cells to save Jack.
Present whereabouts: Still on the east coast with the intent to move back west. The mother of an infant at the end of Season 7, her daughter is now roughly four years old, even though we believe only 18 months have passed since this season and last.
Likelihood of surviving to final clock tick: 100%. Like cockroaches, Keith Richards and U2, Kim Bauer cannot be killed.

Name: President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones)
Last seen: Sending her treacherous daughter to the slammer for a laundry list of grotesque offenses, thereby guaranteeing that her husband never has sex with her again.
Present whereabouts: New York, where she will sign a landmark treaty with President Omar Hassan. Or at least that’s the plan.
Likelihood of surviving to final clock tick: 95%. She’s damn tough, and even some of the Presidents that die on camera don’t really die. Take, for example…

Name: President Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin)
Last seen: Flatlining in an ambulance after being stabbed by his wife, former First Lady of Crazy Martha Logan.
Present whereabouts: Unknown, but word has leaked that Logan will return at some point this season.
Likelihood of surviving to final clock tick: 100%. Hey, if Martha couldn’t kill him…

Name: Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) (SPOILER ALERT!)
Last seen: Sneaking into the holding room of Alan Wilson, with the intent to make him squeal like a pig for orchestrating the day’s events, not to mention the death of her boss, Larry “Dudley Do Right” Moss.
Present whereabouts: Unknown, but we’re guessing it’s somewhere dark, cold, and ratty.
Likelihood of surviving to final clock tick: 5%. We already had a sneaking suspicion that Renee, a.k.a. Jacqueline Bauer, was destined to fill that ‘dead/damaged lover’ slot in Jack’s life, but then IMDb revealed this, um, revealing fact: as of press date, Wersching was credited for appearing in 47 episodes of “24.” You do the math.

THE ROOKIES
The re-opening of the New York office of CTU will serve much like the introduction of the FBI in Season 7. New bosses, new agents, new techies, and most likely, new moles. But damned if this bunch doesn’t appear to be squeaky clean. For now.

Name: Omar Hassan (Anil Kapoor)
Title: President of the fictional Muslim nation of Kamistan and assassination target.
Potential 24 Blog Nickname: Slumdog President
Likelihood of surviving to final clock tick: 100% Swear to God, I got in a conversation with two Indian men at a local liquor store about Anil Kapoor (an ad for “24” appeared on the TV behind them), and they both proceeded to recite a laundry list of Chuck Norris-type facts about Anil Kapoor. Apparently, Kapoor can do seven lengths in an Olympic swimming pool…underwater. I was going to inquire about Kapoor’s roundhouse kick, but thought better of it, grabbed my booze, and left.

Name: Dana Walsh (Katie Sackhoff)
Title: Director of IT, CTU New York
Potential 24 Blog Nickname: If I don’t call her Starbuck, all hell will break loose.
Likelihood of being mole in disguise: 20%. She appears to be more of a Nasia Yassir (the lovely Marisol Nichols) type. Which is fine with us. After all, why bring in someone like Katie Sackhoff and ask your audience to root against her?

Name: Brian Hastings (Mykelti Williamson)
Title: Director of CTU New York
Potential 24 Blog Nickname: Sorry, Mykelti, but you’ll always be Bubba to us.
Likelihood of of being mole in disguise: 10%, but I’ll bet dollars to donuts he’s dead before the day’s over. Directors of CTU have a higher mortality rate than Jack’s girlfriends. (*pours out 40 in honor of Bill Buchanan*)

Name: Cole Ortiz (Freddie Prinze Jr.)
Title: Agent, CTU New York
Potential 24 Blog Nickname: There is surely a Mr. Buffy Summers joke in there somewhere, but man, that seems too easy.
Likelihood of of being mole in disguise: 15%. He’s an ex-Marine (that’s right, Freddie Prinze Jr. is playing an ex-Marine), so the odds of him betraying his country are highly unlikely. It would be a nice play against type, but “24” doesn’t really play that way. They tend to cast former weasels to play current weasels. See Sean Hillinger, a.k.a. Billy Walsh, from Season 7.

Name: Arlo Glass (John Boyd)
Title: Systems Analyst
Potential 24 Blog Nickname: TBD. Considering his relatively skint resume, including such roles as Drunk Guy and One-Eyebrow Smoker, we’ll need some time together before a nickname presents itself.
Likelihood of of being mole in disguise: 10%, though we wonder if he’ll produce trouble for Chloe and Morris.

That’s all we know for the moment, but the “24” blog will be back open for business Monday morning to discuss the first two hours. Fox, though needs to be slapped silly for scheduling the premiere opposite the Golden Globes, again. Yes, yes, moving the premiere to Monday and Tuesday would mess up “American Idol’s” schedule, blah blah blah. Nobody cares. Heck, the stars of “24” will be at the Golden Globes, for crying out loud. Jeesh.

  

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24 7.23-24: Make decisions that you can live with

Man, I saw more trailers for upcoming movies in tonight’s season finale of “24” than I did during the Super Bowl. Seriously, weren’t there ads for seven or eight movies? And do you know how many I stopped fast-forwarding through the commercials to watch? One: “Public Enemies.” Just sayin’, it does not look like a promising summer at the googoplex.

Maybe it’s just me, but I liked the second hour of tonight’s show more than the first one, which is odd, because they usually wait until the final minutes before fucking everything up. Remember the oil rig? The secret recording of President Logan? The last time the final seconds of “24” were truly nerve-wracking was when Jack hacked off Chase’s arm. (The best endings, of course, were the death of Teri Bauer and the poisoning of David Palmer by Mandy the bisexual assassin.) Tonight’s ending didn’t pack that kind of punch, but I like that they left us to wonder what Jacqueline Bauer did to Alan Wilson in the interrogation room (too late to give him a nickname, though I lean toward Coach Yoast, his character from “Remember the Titans”), and even having Jack end the season in a coma. Yes, we all know that he will be back for an eighth day, but perhaps Kim will die from complications while donating the stem cells that ultimately save his life. Hey, a guy can dream.

Having said that, Kim did not spend these two hours playing the damsel in distress, and in fact performed very admirably under the circumstances. She stabbed the girl in the leg and gave the cops a clean shot at her, and she saved the laptop that led the Feds to the location of Jack and Tony (more on that in a minute). No bear traps or Kwik-E-Mart holdups for our little Kimmy! Wow, maybe she isn’t as helpless as I made her out to be, but that’s no excuse for recycling a plot thread from the show’s first season, when Jack had to shoot Senator Palmer in order to save Kim and Teri. Silly, silly, silly, and that is the only reason I want her to go away. She brings out the worst in the writers.

As for that first hour…

Man oh man, I can’t tell you how many times I either laughed out loud or said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Jack is doing the bidding of Mystery Girl (real name Cara) against his will, and tells Jackie that they’re threatening to kill Kim if he doesn’t cooperate. Seconds later, he tells Cara that he’s awaiting her next instruction…and she gives it to him, without a word of protest. I’m shouting, “Didn’t she just hear what he told them?” Those words should automatically trigger Kim’s death, yes? The only way around this that I see is that Cara would never actually have Kim killed before getting Tony, so it was an empty threat. Which is smart, because if Jack thinks that Kim’s dead, he kills Tony, then he kills Cara, then he hunts down every relative of Cara’s and kills them, their loved ones, their loved one’s neighbords, and their pets. Hell, Jack had a clean shot at her from inside the paddy wagon. He could have just killed her right there. I’m frankly surprised he didn’t.

“So what’s it like being the second-hottest woman on this show?” “That’s funny, I was about to ask you the same thing.”

And speaking of Jack taking shots, dude had pretty good aim when he shot Tony in the hand. This despite the fact that he’s suffering from a biological agent that attacks the nervous system. Funny how composed Jack could be when the moment called for it, and vice versa.

Then comes Tony’s big push to meet Alan Wilson. Ho, ho, and indeed ho, as our colleague Will Harris would say. Just like that, his motives became so transparent. He wants to take the big guy out! Could he be on the side of good after all? Well, no, as it turns out, but as retrofitted motives go, it could have been worse, especially when we discovered that…Michelle was pregnant when she was killed. Holy shit. As a father of two, I have to say that I would have elaborate revenge fantasies as well, had I been in his shoes. Kill my wife, and you only, only, have hell to pay. Kill my wife and son, well, you’re gonna wish the Devil was looking for you instead. I feel for you, Tony, I really do. But I still want to kick your ass for killing Dudley Do-Right.

Now back to that raid on the bad guy lair: Tony is about to hatch his evil scheme to blow up Jack and Alan Wilson with a bunch of C4, when the FBI not only finds them – last I remember, Chloe and Janis were still trying to crack the encryption on Bad Actor’s laptop – but they’re actually able to sneak up on them…by helicopter? Aren’t those things audible from a mile away? Classic moviemaking technique, that. If you don’t see it, then you can’t hear it. I also loved Jacqueline’s side saddle bit on the SUV, followed with the jump and roll. I’d love to see the real-life version of that. Jackie: Pew pew! Bad guys: Pip pip pip pip pip! Jackie: Dead.

But in the end, I’m not sure that anyone found themselves in a more difficult position than Madame President herself. After Kanin checkmated Hillary Clinton with the whole memory chip thing (which we all saw coming), I was surprised that Hillary actually showed genuine remorse and human emotion when confessing everything to her parents. I even felt a little sorry for her, which is something I never thought I’d say a week ago. But thank God that Hillary’s teary confession wasn’t enough to sway Madame Prez from doing the right thing and sending her sorry excuse for a daughter to the slammer. When she walked away from the First Man at the end, I was half-expecting her to have the First Dude escorted from the premises. After all, it’s not as though her marriage is going to survive a decision like that. On an unrelated note, I hope they bring Secret Service Agent Tim Woods back for another season. Not sure how you write him in, but he seems to be playing for the right team.

My hopes are not high that we will see our beloved Jacqueline Bauer again – odds are, she’s getting 20 years in the hole for whatever she was about to do to Wilson – and that makes me sad. I quite liked her character, and she can do Hell-hath-no-fury scorn like no other. Tony, of course, is still alive, but he may as well be dead since he’s just pissed all over the carcass of the Good Tony Almeida that we thought was killed years ago. I hated seeing them bring him back like this. Good people do bad things, yes, but they are still good at their core. I might be capable of committing unspeakable acts against anyone responsible for harming my family, but I wouldn’t kill half a dozen FBI agents to get to that person. I don’t know, maybe I’m just not hardcore enough. I can live with that, I guess.

So there you have it, another 24 hours of our lives, gone. I’m not sure if this show is ever going to give me what I want. Does it sound morbid to want more death and destruction? I don’t have bloodlust; I just want a show that doesn’t cry ‘Wolf!’ nine times out of ten. I think that all serial writers, the “24” writers in particular, should take a good long look at “The Dark Knight,” and how they mercilessly ratcheted up the tension until the very end, and none of it felt like a bluff or a false promise. There is a reason that movie made half a billion dollars at the box office, you know.

It is now three in the morning, and I have to take my son to day care in five hours. Time to head to bed. Thanks to all you wonderful 24-philes for reading my column, and I’ll see you all in seven months.

  

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