"Day 5: 12PM - 1PM"
Written by David Fury
Directed by Jon Cassar
In which Jack attempts to get to Walt Cummings before he can aid the terrorists more than he already has, and in the process, uncovers the true motive behind the terrorist attack...
Status Report - Final Analysis
This episode was written by David Fury, who cut his teeth under Joss Whedon on “Buffy” and “Angel”. Some fans were somewhat concerned over the idea of a “fantasy” writer coming on board a series like “24”, but it wasn’t the content of his previous material that got him the job. It was the fact that Joss Whedon’s series were highly structured, often incorporating several ongoing plot threads within a relatively self-contained episode. Also, Fury himself had gained a reputation for pulling together a complex script in a matter of days, which is the kind of timeframe that “24” producers apparently consider the professional norm.
When it comes to “24”, it becomes difficult to separate the sins of one episode from the merits of another. One hour can end on a ludicrous plot twist, which then sets the direction for the next hour. In this case, the idea of Jack Bauer hunting down Walt Cummings to answer for conspiracy charges was a bit over the top. It was Fury’s responsibility to make sense of it and carry the story forward.
Logically, both Bill and Lynn object to the idea of exacting revenge on Walt, since that sort of vigilante justice is largely frowned upon within anti-terrorist circles. Once again blurring the lines between lawful action and apparent necessity, the writers present a number of cases where individuals act out of sense of “ends justify the means”. Jack seems to be the good guy in all of this, but without any lawful authority, how are his choices any different from Walt’s choices?
After all, Walt claims to have worked with the terrorists towards the goal of detonating the nerve gas within the terrorist compound and eliminating a global terrorist threat. Consider that in comparison to Jack’s secret operation in the third season, which was also conducted without the knowledge or consent of the President. In that case, Jack wasn’t planning to use the engineered virus to kill Salazars, and he didn’t kill innocent people to get the job done, but he was operating in questionable territory with potentially catastrophic consequences.
More to the point of the episode, Jack is operating without authority to take down someone close to the President. Thankfully, the writers don’t make this some shadow operation. Jack tries to do it the right way, contacting Mike Novick to help get support. Given the extent of the conspiracy to date, it seems a bit foolish to think that cell phone conversations wouldn’t be recorded, but given the constraints, it’s not the worst plot convenience in the world.
In the middle of all this moral complication, there’s the emotional mess that Jack’s return has created. Audrey isn’t sure how to deal with the fact that Jack is back, but happened to be living with someone for six months. Diane is trying to get used to the fact that the man she was beginning to love, a potential father figure for Derek, is unlikely to ever come back. Jack is left with feelings for Diane and Derek, but more importantly, a desire for family and lingering feelings for Audrey.
Of course, when does Audrey decide to discuss her feelings with Jack? Yep, right as he’s planning to meet with Novick. Audrey wasn’t very good with the timing during the fourth season either, so this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. What is surprising is the fact that Jack is rather open about his emotions. Being out of the game has restored a bit of his humanity, which is likely to be an issue when the demands of the day force him to suppress those emotions yet again.
Meanwhile, Walt finds his situation crumbling when orders come down to kill Jack. Not surprisingly, this takes the central question of weighing consequences and transfers it to another level. Walt reveals the scope of his conspiracy to justify a wider American military presence overseas to safeguard oil flow. In other words, Walt was going to use terrorism as a pretext for an aggressive national security policy. (Gee, sound like a familiar theory?)
Initially, Logan is incensed at the idea of killing a former president and bringing his administration into an unlawful action, but then the question of necessity comes up. Walt draws the line between what should be done and must be done in a very different place than Logan or even Jack, and he drapes his actions in the necessities of patriotism. Walt threatens Logan with a disgraced presidency, and sure enough, Logan believes that he is trapped.
As weak and annoying as he may be, Logan is a character with a fascinating and even perfect portrayal. It’s hard to accept a leader who is so easily led by his advisors, but it makes for an interesting character study. Logan is a man in search of dignified legacy, continually struggling to live up to the demands of history. While it often leaves him in a position to be vilified, and rightfully so, it also gives him a haunted demeanor, which the actor portrays beautifully.
Score one for Agent Pierce! He’s been the go-to agent since the first season, a strong and capable supporting character, and he comes through big time in this episode. Like any good agent, he takes note of a situation and the context of orders. Does he step out of operational boundaries by choosing to help Jack? Of course he does, and he offers to fall on his sword for doing so. But he also demonstrates a distinct desire to live up to the spirit of duty above all else, and thus acts out of a sense of necessity, in keeping with the overall theme.
Bill does the same thing when he refuses to follow the order to abandon the search for the nerve gas. He recognizes that something is out of the ordinary, especially since Jack and Novick are out of communication with CTU. When Lynn balks at the idea of violating orders, Bill berates his lack of experience and operates, once again, out of a sense of necessity. Necessity demands quick and decisive decisions, the kind of decisions that Bill has made since the beginning of the season. (Of course, those decisions are also questionable decisions, providing another example of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions.)
Jack, of course, puts Walt to the knife out of necessity, despite the fact that Logan is standing not ten feet away. If any scene in this episode strains credibility (and of course, many do), this is the one. Jack gets the information he needs, but in the process, takes a big step back towards the man who couldn’t have emotional attachments. It seems rather obvious that this is going to be a main focus for the season: which way will Jack go in the future?
Logan doesn’t seem to understand the possibilities. In Jack, he has a person who is apparently dead to the rest of the world, with specialties in counter-terrorism and torture, and is completely at his mercy. Why not find a black ops position for him? For that matter, keep him out of the spotlight until the time comes for activation (each season of “24”, naturally!). That would be the most efficient and logical way to deal with the Jack Bauer crisis!
Of course, Logan is just feeling his way through his presidency, and so he wants every potential problem to simply go away. And in this case, he’s banking on the hopes that the Chinese will never discover Jack’s survival, despite the fact that the terrorist activities currently plaguing his administration will ultimately involve Jack to some degree. Especially since the terrorists have completely uncovered Walt’s attempt at using their fervor against them, and Jack must now prevent the terrorists from using the nerve gas against American citizens.
Considering how the series usually goes, this is not a huge shock. Jack could hardly be involved in an operation that left the local time zone! What makes the episode work, however, is the use of the recurring theme of necessity vs. morality. The theme is not a new one, but it elevates the episode above the average transitional installment.
Overall, this episode is another strong transitional installment, with a dash of the usual question of necessity vs. morality tossed in for good measure. As usual, some of the plot points don’t quite add up, but in this particular case, the story relies more on solid character work than outright contrivance. The story could still use a bit more philosophical depth, but in general, the season is settling in nicely.
Final Rating: 8/10
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