"Day 4: 12AM - 1AM"
Written by Joel Surnow and Michael Loceff
Directed by Jon Cassar
In which CTU takes custody of an associate of Marwan’s, but a physical interrogation of the suspect is put on hold when a lawyer from am amnesty group quickly intervenes...
Status Report - Final Analysis
If the previous episode had transitional elements, then this episode is purely transitional in comparison. Very little happens beyond moving the pieces around the board, which actually works to the writers’ advantage. It gives them a little time to add some layers to the storytelling, which is what gave the early part of the season such gravitas. Granted, the issues at play in this episode are handled somewhat ham-handedly, but when it comes to the question of justifiable torture, this season has been begging for a dialogue.
First, the writers need to give themselves a little breathing room, so they have Marwan prepare a retrieval operation on a nuclear warhead in transit somewhere in the mountains of Iowa (geography notwithstanding). Meanwhile, CTU is aware of Marwan’s plan, but rocked back on their heels. They don’t have any solid leads until they catch someone on the watch list named Yosik Khatami.
Lest the writers completely avoid the CTU soap opera, Audrey takes the time to inform Jack that Paul is still not assured of a recovery. This is one of those amazingly uncomfortable situations, the kind that just about rips your guts out: Audrey is basically using Jack as a confidante instead of a lover, as if Jack is willing to hear her hopes and fears about the man who is going to take her away. This is exactly the kind of distraction that Jack needs!
Yosik realizes that he made a stupid mistake and that he might be traced. Between Yosik and Navi, Marwan must be ready to shoot every underling in sight and just do everything himself! Marwan sends Yosik to a man named Prado, who apparently deals with fake identification and travel arrangements. It’s likely that the travel arrangements are via Hearse and a free tombstone, but that’s a minor detail.
Back in Washington, President Logan continues to exude a complete lack of confidence. Rather than address the nation from the White House, Logan immediately moves to an underground bunker, where he is presumably safe. Logan then proceeds to badger CTU regarding the hunt for Marwan. While there’s plenty of reason to question the competency of CTU at this point, considering their complete inability to stop Marwan thus far, the President is more interested in saving himself than anything else. This is not a good sign.
Tony notices Logan’s lack of strong leadership right away, and realizes it could be a problem. Buchanan wants to give the new guy the benefit of the doubt. Buchanan could easily remind Tony that he should be walking softly around CTU given his status, not arguing with the president, but Buchanan shows a lot of restraint. If anything, the writers are setting Tony up even more for a heroic death or full redemption.
Then again, Buchanan also tries to sideline Tony based on the possible conflict of interest posed by Michelle’s relationship to both men. This is somewhat comical, considering how many other situations this season have escalated due to personal issues at CTU! Michelle vouches for Tony, but now the pendulum swings out of Tony’s favor; if he’s being set up for failure, one way or another, it increases the chance that he would feel a need to make some grand gesture to make up for it.
Yosik is stupid enough to use the wrong credit card, but smart enough to know that he’s under surveillance. As CTU closes in, Yosik calls Marwan so his boss can hear everything going terribly wrong. Yosik is ordered to kill Prado, but Prado is smart enough to know that he’s got a clean record and a quick alibi. Killing Yosik and claiming innocence is his only real move, so he takes it. Marwan, amazingly able to speak while grinding his teeth to powder in frustration, plays a rather clever card: calling Amnesty Global and warning them that an innocent man is being tortured by CTU.
Meanwhile, Marwan’s team easily takes possession of the warhead in Iowa, just as Logan promises the nation that things are getting back under control. Mike Novick is not happy with CTU at this point, which makes one wonder who in Washington is going to get the happy duty of slashing the CTU operating budget at the next available opportunity. Logan in particular gets rather panicked at the thought of a terrorist running around with a nuclear warhead, which means they might want to postpone that morning briefing on the likely situation in the former Soviet territories, just to keep the man breathing.
Just as Curtis and Richards are about to start the usual torture fun and games, Buchanan calls it to a halt, thanks to the arrival of the Amnesty Global lawyer. Here’s where the socially aware commentary comes into play. CTU wants to torture someone for information, which is something they’ve been happy to do since the minute the season started. Hell, they torture their own people, if the situation calls for it! Buchanan has every reason to check with the Justice Department and the President; if he were to sanction torture despite the court order, and he didn’t have support from the government, an awful lot would come to light from earlier in the day.
A lot of fans noted that every episode seemed to have someone being tortured for information, and it was becoming a bit insane. This is the logical extension of that concern, if only because the writers get to bring in a character that speaks for those disgusted by the tactics of CTU. Of course, the writers also get to smack those viewers upside the head by making the Amnesty Global lawyer look like a moronic bleeding heart, protecting the enemy and tying the hands of the good guys.
This is not nearly so nuanced as it could and should have been. CTU believes that they have just cause to get information by any means necessary. Clearly, Prado knows something, despite his clean record. Even Edgar is incensed at the thought that someone aiding the terrorists would be allowed to walk out without so much as a shot to the gut. Jack, of course, sees the rules and restrictions of the law to be an inconvenience, and one best remedied with due haste.
The series is most fascinating when pointing out how the good guys, typically personified in Jack Bauer, can be reduced to the same methods as the terrorists they are charged to counter. Earlier in the season, there was a clear symmetry drawn between the two sides of the conflict; both used Draconian methods to further their respective agendas. This time around, the terrorists are using non-violent methods to achieve their goal, while Jack and CTU are reduced to advocating torture.
The writers don’t quite communicate that message. If they had, they would have made the whole situation far less comforting. The writers frame the episode to ensure that the audience sees CTU as the one with the more compelling argument, when a slight shift in tone would have forced the audience to recognize that the right thing, if indeed that is true in this case, is not necessarily the moral thing.
After a conversation with the Amnesty Global lawyer, Jack quickly figures out what the other CTU agents should have been able to work out for themselves: Prado had no time to call a lawyer, so someone on the outside had to have made the call. Indeed, the timing is so suspect that it’s impossible not to conclude that the terrorists had someone on the inside at Amnesty Global waiting for a possible phone call. Either that, or Amnesty Global delivers faster than Domino’s.
Buchanan and Jack decide to get the President to authorize their “behind closed doors” interrogation, but Logan doesn’t seem to get the concept right away. When he does, he’s more concerned by how his reputation will suffer should the public discover that he allowed someone to be tortured as his first move as Acting President. With campaign concerns more in mind than the fate of the nation, Logan balks, wanting more time to consult with his people.
Jack, barely able to wait through the entire conversation before taking matters into his own hands, tells Buchanan that he’ll resign, if he’s given the chance to face Prado as a private citizen. See, Jack is willing to incur serious legal consequences, if it means stopping another nuclear incident and a massive loss of life in the process. Jack seems to think that it would let CTU off the hook. (Hopefully no one in the audience is foolish enough to think that this gambit wouldn’t be transparent enough to leave CTU liable.)
The writers note that the bomb won’t be in place for at least 90 minutes, after which someone must prepare the warhead for denotation. It doesn’t take much to work out that math. 90 minutes would deliver the warhead to the target city sometime in the middle of episode 20. It should take only an hour or so for someone to prepare the warhead for detonation. So somewhere around episode 21 or 22, CTU should finally get the information they need to hunt Marwan and then the warhead down, and then the race will be on to stop the detonation in episode 24.
The real question is where, out of Iowa, the target city might be. Des Moines? Springfield? Chicago? Getting there in a matter of a couple of hours out of Iowa is hard to imagine. And yet, Jack manages to get around Los Angeles a lot faster than humanly possible, so why not? CTU is forced to let Prado go, to go along with Jack’s plan, and Edgar is not happy. Either the writers are setting something up for the next episode, or they just wanted the audience to know that they haven’t forgotten about earlier plot elements.
After wasting a lot of time to ensure that Jack’s interrogation takes place at the very end of the episode, Jack gets the information he wants. Or so he thinks, since there’s no guarantee that Prado was providing accurate information. But this opens the door for the writers to use Jack’s tactics and the whole issue of torturing terrorism suspects as a distraction while they slowly move the main plot forward.
The action will come with the manhunt for Jack. The season gathers a bit of symmetry now that Jack is likely to be on the run again, unable to rely on official help from CTU. Edgar’s anger could be used as a reason for him to back Jack despite orders to the contrary. Chloe, of course, will be likely to help as well, since her future with CTU is already over. At the very least, it will give the appearance that the writers had planned to bring Jack full circle over the course of the season.
This initial introduction of the dialogue on prisoner torture doesn’t quite allow for conflicting point of view, which is a shame, since the result is a seeming advocating of such methods. The message is that bleeding hearts and government should let the intelligence community do their job free of intervention. The writers don’t quite take this to the next level, since they fail to point out that such thinking is not so different from the terrorists’ point of view. Without oversight and accountability, CTU becomes as dangerous as Marwan.
The CTU drama is reduced to a few annoying scenes, which is a plus. There’s a bit more structure to the events at this point of the season, which gives the comforting illusion that the writers might have finally stumbled their way into an outline for the rest of the season. That alone should highlight what has been lacking for several episodes; even the half-hearted attempt at taking the story into deeper territory in this episode is far better than the aimless wandering that preceded it. It’s not perfect, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Overall, this episode still doesn’t meet the potential of the series as a whole, but it is a step in the right direction. There’s an attempt to add layers to the central plot thread again by bringing up objections to the CTU predilection for torturing suspects, and while the writers champion CTU’s point of view a bit too much, it’s hopefully to provide meaningful ground for future exploration.
Final Rating: 7/10
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