"Day 5: 3PM - 4PM"
Written by Howard Gordon and David Fury
Directed by Tim Iacofano
In which Lynn McGill takes full control of CTU, including an order to take Jack into custody, while Logan is forced to choose between Russian and American lives...
Status Report - Final Analysis
The writers and producers openly admit that they try to structure the series in thirds. That is the unofficial format for most shows with even a hint of a season arc, and “24” is no exception. However, the seasonal act breaks usually involve a more smooth transition. In this case, the plot shifts focus in a matter of seconds, and the jarring effect on the story makes it hard for the writers to recover momentum.
It was a given that Erwich was a middle-man, but it was still a shock to see him killed so quickly. Apparently the way to move the story forward is to toss out the existing threat of a terrorist attack on Americans and shift back to the Russian plot thread. While there are elements in place that allow for that, it also betrays, once again, the haphazard nature of the writing for this show.
Bierko should make for an interesting villain, if only because Julian Sands is a great antagonist. (Note his creepy work in recent “Stargate: SG-1” episodes.) It makes sense that Bierko would look to eliminate complications in the wake of Erwich’s mess and the revelations about Nathanson. How he learned the truth about Nathanson is unclear, but the fact that Bierko wants the man dead provides the expected means for Nathanson to re-enter the story as a source of information for Jack.
Piled on top of these abrupt changes in the terrorism plot thread are far too many psychological issues related to Lynn McGill. Last season’s short-term CTU boss was bad enough when it came to tossing out accusations and getting in the way; Lynn seems to revel in the consequences of his own incompetence. That keycard is going to become one of those requisite annoying plot elements in the future, if past history is any indication!
So Logan, in his usual mode of covering for his own poor and self-absorbed choices, takes Lynn to task, and the inevitable reaction is paranoid fascism. Rather than let Bauer work with the autonomy that he supposed had, Lynn falls back on the cliché reaction of “arrest Jack!”, which always goes well. And thus begins a somewhat tired exercise in putting Jack on the run, which has been done enough times to make it more annoying than suspenseful.
This triggers a series of remarkably outlandish plot devices, which has a certain level of parallel thematic resonance. Audrey gets a call to do something immoral, which then sets her at odds with Lynn and forces a number of people to make difficult choices with countless lives at stake. Logan gets a call to do something immoral, which then sets him at odds with Novick and forces a number of people to make difficult choices with countless lives at stake. Thematically, does it work? Sure. But getting there is a rather ludicrous exercise.
Chloe’s decision to erase the phone logs, leaving an obvious trail, is a ridiculous plot element designed specifically for Lynn to have an excuse to abuse his power. The whole idea is to hide the call so that it cannot be proven that Audrey called Jack. Erasing the logs in an obvious way eliminates the direct evidence, but leaves whopping indirect evidence that does little more than widen the consequences. If Audrey believes that having Chloe erase phone logs could eventually be justified, she should know the same applies to her personal decision to help Jack.
Logan began the season with one goal in mind: forging a legacy. For him, it’s all about making choices that will give him maximum flexibility for spin control after the fact. So it seems rather out of character for Logan to risk a major international incident, sure to undermine the entire accord signed hours earlier, to protect American lives that might be otherwise saved through CTU efforts. It doesn’t make much sense at all, for someone who screwed Jack to avoid an international incident with China.
Here’s a thought. Why not inform Suvarov of the situation, since he’s already aware of what has been happening, and see if CTU can be aided by Russian personnel on Suvarov’s security detail? Why not give the anti-terrorist accord some weight by working together to resolve a threat that affects both governments? Logan doesn’t even begin to consider the long-term advantages, and unfortunately, the writers make sure Novick doesn’t bring that up either.
On the other hand, Logan does flirt with the idea of using the situation as a setup to foil the terrorists, but he does it incorrectly. If he wanted to do that, why not contact CTU first? Well, that would be too easy, and it might demonstrate competence. It would also distract Lynn from his dictatorial leanings. And of course, once Martha gets wind of it, the situation has to escalate from her actions before anyone else can intervene.
Once Chloe identifies that the chip provided by Nathanson requires DOD passwords and Lynn catches them in the act, the situation becomes a pretext for bringing Secretary of Defense Heller back for a few episodes. He will probably deal with Lynn harshly and then proceed to act with authority that he shouldn’t have under the circumstances, much like the fourth season.
Ultimately the lead sends Jack in the direction of a former acquaintance, while Lynn continues to follow Logan’s demand for swift anti-terrorism response by taking everyone taller than him into custody. This is where the logic completely breaks down. Lynn and Logan want the canisters found. Lynn assumes that Jack is secretly working with people in CTU against orders. Instead of tabling that issue for later and seeing what Jack has managed to uncover, he places control of CTU activities at the top of his list. Lynn is, essentially, a complete and utter moron.
Judging by the end of the episode, things aren’t looking good for Agent Pierce. The writers aren’t going to kill Martha, and killing off the Russian president would be too much to contain in terms of an international incident. So someone needs to die to ramp up the tension again, and Pierce is all too likely a candidate.
The despicable and illogical decisions from Logan and Lynn in this episode are a major contributor to its downfall. The characters aren’t making decisions that are based on existing character aspects; they’re making decisions for the sake of the plot and regaining tension. It is possible, as seen in previous episodes and seasons, for the situations to escalate in a manner that doesn’t betray a cobbled-together creative process. Unfortunately, this episode doesn’t have that quality.
Ironically, this episode was written by Howard Gordon and David Fury. This is not very hard to believe. Gordon has been the writer for many of the more challenged episodes of the series, especially when the writers are in “scramble” mode. Fury is usually better at taking a script and banging it into shape in short order, but the plot demands might have overcome his usual facility with character detail. Whatever the case, this lives up too far too many low expectations for a Howard Gordon script.
Overall, this episode begins the predictable mid-season slump, as the writers force the story and characters into directions that don’t quite add up in comparison to the first few episodes of the season. In fact, the primary plot thread takes such an abrupt turn that the audience is left wondering what the point of the past few episodes has been. Easily one of the worst episodes of the season.
Final Rating: 5/10
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