For those playing the “24” drinking game, the ‘damn it’ counter hit four tonight, and if you have a ‘We don’t have time, Chloe!’ rule, that makes five. Whew, I’m feeling funny. Kidding, of course. I wait until the episode’s over before I start drinking. It helps me keep from crying as I write these recaps.

Imagine leaving work in the middle of a crisis, without telling anyone but one of your subordinates. You’d get fired, right? Now imagine that you’re an ex-con who’s secured a sweet government job using an alias, and you’re leaving work because another ex-con (and a violent one at that) has come for payback, and is leveraging your secret past in order to make a Big Score. Is there any chance that you’re leaving work, the safest place in the world for you to be right now? Hell, no. Kevin’s game is a giant bluff, and as an ex-con, Starbuck has to know that. Call it now girl, because no good will come from trying to make him disappear. Guys like that, they don’t disappear. It’s like feeding a cat.

The way I see it, if the worst thing that happens to Starbuck is that she loses her job – and her relationship with Buffy will surely be collateral damage in the fallout – but she’s able to keep herself out of jail while getting Kevin locked away for a laundry list of charges ranging from assault and battery to blackmail, she should consider herself fortunate. Besides, if she came clean to Buffy right now and told him everything, don’t you think that he’d still want to protect her? Damn right, he would. “There’s a violent con in my apartment, sweetie.” Buffy brings a team of goons with him, they bag Kevin and his loser friend, take them to CTU, and make them squeal like pigs.

Instead, she’s going to compromise CTU, just like Samwise Gamgee did. Fugh. And you know what the ‘F’ stands for.

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“You did time in juvee? Is it wrong of me to be incredibly turned on right now?”

But here’s the big question: CTU has facial recognition software, which they use to identify known felons. If they put her picture in there, wouldn’t her criminal record as Jenny Scott show up? When your job involves counterterrorism, I’d make damn sure I had no ex-cons in my house. Just sayin’.

Meanwhile, Jason Schwartzman (formerly known as George Harrison. Hey, the nickname is too good not to use, even if I didn’t think of it) spends the entire hour in the company of two escorts. Niiiiiiiiice.

I liked the exchange between Slumdog President and Madame President, because both sides had valid points. Slumdog would indeed be toast if he didn’t make an example of those who tried to depose him, while Madame Prez has every right to pull out of the deal since, hey, she’s the big dog in this arrangement. We’ll see where it goes from here.

But for the love of God, please end this ‘save my dying brother’ subplot at once. This is worse than the Starbuck subplot, not to mention the basic idea is ripped straight from the first “Saw.” Do we need to change Sark’s nickname to Jigsaw? Also, isn’t it dangerous to be around someone who’s dying of radiation poisoning? The best answer I can find on the web is ‘maybe,’ but if it’s me, I’m giving anyone with radiation poisoning a wide berth. Even my brother. Sorry, Steve.

Last but certainly not least is the damaged little flower that is Jacqueline Bauer. She willingly goes undercover in order to earn the trust of Vladimir Guerrero (nickname pending), despite the fact that he was obsessed with her and, well, had an unfortunate tendency of hurting her, let’s put it that way. Crazy Jackie clearly has a death wish, and that is why she is going to be the most interesting character to watch this season, bar none. She even stares down Vlad as he’s about to shoot her in the head and dump her in the river…and begs him for the privilege. And I don’t think that was an act. It may have served as a brilliant stalling tactic, but from here, Jackie has one more sunrise in her future, if that.

On a lighter note, watching Jack follow the action, instead of leading it, made me think of Tom Arnold in “True Lies.” “You know what? I’m sick of being in the van. You guys are going to be in the van next time. I’ve been in the van for 15 years, Harry.” For the first time in ages, Jack is in the van. I have to admit, it’s a nice change of pace.

All right, Gregory Abbott, take us home. Baby.