If last week closed to the sound of the studio blinking – we can’t show a chemical factory meltdown, there would be panic! – tonight’s episode featured the jarring sound of metal on metal as the show hit its first real snag. Dudley Do-Right uttered one of the most painful Straw Man lines in the show’s history (“The rules are what make us better,” ugh), and Jack winds up killing yet another person that could have blown the case wide open. For as much as we love Jack’s tendency to torture first and follow protocol later, would it kill them to have him bring the authorities a living bad guy once in a while?

Actually, that whole conversation by the pool was laughable. DDR is all upset about Jacqueline’s willingness to do things Jack’s way, but not once did either Jack or Jackie say to DDR, “We’re not going to hurt the wife or the child! We just have to make Vossler think we’re going to hurt them.” Jesus, that’s Negotiation 101, isn’t it? I thought that Jackie was being hard on the woman at first, but then I realized that if she’s too nice and explains everything, it won’t put the proper fear of God in Vossler. When his wife/widow says to her afterward, “You’re a monster,” I was hoping Jackie would return with something along the lines of, “Your husband is a traitor to his country, takes his orders from a brutal African dictator, and just participated in the kidnapping of the First Man, so you can suck it. Oh, and he’s dead now. Smooches.”

“Can you do me a favor and give me that smoldering stare just long enough for everyone in the office to know that we’re sleeping together? There, that’s perfect, thanks.”

I was amused at the sister of Col. Ike Turner’s girlfriend – her real name is Marika, but you just know that we have to call her Tina – blackmailing Ike. I’m surprised he didn’t laugh out loud when she did it, since he knows she’s in a wheelchair and was probably thinking about feeding her to dogs the entire time.

Once again, President Taylor shows tremendous stones for realizing that what Ike Turner is asking of her is no different than what she asked of the people who lost loved ones on the colliding planes. I was also glad that they had one of Ike’s henchmen remind him that if they kill the First Man, they will have played all their bargaining chips. Ike’s willingness to do it anyway leads me to believe that the show is about to abandon this entire plot – and two things in the scenes for next week’s episode confirm that – and I gotta say, I’m not sure how I feel about that. This isn’t going to turn into Jack Bauer Week on Court TV, is it? God, how boring would that be? But you just know that the rabid Attorney General is looming off camera with the pitchfork and the torch. If they don’t pick that thread back up, it will be a tremendous oversight. When they do pick it up, it’ll be sanctimonious and dull.

So the First Man takes a gunshot to the midsection and is going to live, while Vossler takes a knife to the stomach and dies instantly. Hmmm. Yes, the First Man’s shot is off to the left, but that means it punctured a kidney and would speed up the organ failure, yes? I don’t know much about that sort of thing, to be honest – just that a lack of a kidney is what saved John Locke on “Lost” a while back.

And sure enough, just as I predicted (not that it was a stretch, I know), Janis is wise to Billy Walsh’s philandering ways. Of course, there is no reason for us to witness that exchange unless it leads to something down the road, so what could that something be? Is Erika the mole, and using Billy’s clearance to set him up? That’s the most obvious answer, so let’s come up with a better one: Janis is the mole, and will use Billy’s affair as a means to pin the whole thing on Billy by saying, “He’s cheating on his wife, he can’t be trusted.” Nah, that’s just as lame as Erika using Billy for clearance. They should just have Billy be the mole, hiding in plain sight. No one expects him to actually be the bad guy, right? So make him the bad guy.

One last thought: Ike Turner has proceeded to screw up a whole bunch of stuff in the last two hours. The location of their ops center was blown, he didn’t pull the trigger on the chemical plant failure, and the CIP device has been destroyed. His attempt to use the First Man as leverage has failed, and now his backup hideout has been ransacked and the First Man recovered. This man works for, as we mentioned, a brutal dictator. Isn’t he as good as dead right now? Anyone remember the shot in “The Last King of Scotland” of what Amin did to his wife when she tried to hide the evidence of her infidelity? Isn’t that what’s waiting for Ike? If his head isn’t on a stake by season’s end, we’ve been gypped.

The ‘Damn It’ counter went into overdrive this week. I counted four, which puts us at 14 for the season, far behind where I thought we’d be after eight hours. Pick up the pace, you slackers.