Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's now 1AM...

Note: it has become clear that the writers simply ran out of gas with the main storyline of Jack chasing Fayed, they couldn't come up with enough good stuff to fill all 24 hours. So rather than declare the day over and let everybody go home to catch up on their sleep, they have decided to fill in the last handful of hours with this silly Audrey/China/Russia storyline.

On to the 24isms...

* There were at least two helicopters at the scene within minutes of Cheung making his getaway... and they're there to ferry passengers and not join in the search for Cheung?

* Cheung is shown uploading data from the mysterious Russian chip. Notwithstanding the problem he is having, which is a tried and true 24 plot device used to stretch out the drama for a while, it is amazing that Cheung had all of the necessary hookups and readers and decryption software for the Russian chip. Were the Russians in the habit of providing the technical data for their secret chips, just in case someone stealing one needed to crack it?

* The whole premise of the Russians attacking our bases in Europe in response to the Chinese getting this chip. And note the Russians don't seem to be ticked off that we have the chip, they're just mad/scared the Chinese have it. So... they're scared that the Chinese are going to use it against the Russians, it makes all the sense in the world for the Russians to attack us, right? Just how does attacking the United States make things easier for them vis-a-vis China? (note to writers: you're slipping... even worse than normal).

* Even with the mole, it is ludicrous that the Russians would have troops on the move, preparing to attack our European bases, inside of an hour or two of their learning that the Chinese MIGHT be getting the chip.

* The non-barking 24ism: if this chip was such a big deal, why did the Russians not say anything about it earlier? They knew what was going on, yet never thought to mention something along the lines of "Hey, there's a chip in those bombs we really don't want the Chinese to get their hands on"?

* That Cheung would have Audrey in the US, ready to use her as bait for getting the chip. This presumes he would have known that the terrorists had access to these particular bombs and he would have had to have presumed that Jack would somehow have been involved in the case and in a position to steal the chip.

* The second non-barking 24ism: previously, Jack has rigged PDAs to blow up and otherwise disabled devices to keep the other side from getting the information. Here he seems to have done nothing of the sort. I know Jack is perfect, but why?

* While it's not quite a full-fledged 2ism, just how and why does Mike develop such a sympathy for Audrey and Jack, so much so that he is willing to help Jack keep her from being questioned?

* Does Division have psychiatrists just sitting around in their business suits at midnight waiting to be called to go interrogate psychotics such as is the case with Audrey?

* I know 24 compresses time, but Audrey was in the bed at CTU about 5 minutes after she was last seen at the site with Jack.

* And Audrey's dad: so convenient that he too was awake, in the LA area and dressed in a business suit at midnight and could show up so quickly.

It's 12 AM and Jack is not only jumping the shark, he's actually making me wonder what else might be on TV tonight...

As far as 24isms, there really aren't any worth mentioning, nor were there any in the previous hour (which is why I didn't bother posting). Sure, there's a whole lot of things that don't make sense and stick out, but nothing that rises to the level of a true 24ism.

For example, if Jack grabbed a cell phone from one of the terrorists who were with Fayed, just how was CTU to know he did so and how was CTU supposed to figure out the cell phone number they were supposed to be tracking? How was Jack's conversation with Cheung encrypted, given that there would be no reason to think that Fayed and the Chinese had coordinated their encryption codes? How was CTU supposed to figure out that Jack was travelling north, as they could tell which tower he was using, but unless the call jumped towers, they shouldn't have been able to tell where Jack was within that tower's coverage area? It's midnight, the bombs have been found and handed off to the military and the CTU staff that has been there since 7AM is still there? Where is the night shift? The Attorney General (or whomever that was) shows up at midnight to show Hayes the video of Chad Lowe blabbing about Fayed? Hayes claiming to Buchanan that she 'had thought this out', when she had all of 5 minutes? And the whole weak story line that releasing Fayed a couple of years earlier was such a big deal, and was going to ruin careers, given that everyone involved had followed
procedures in place at the time for detaining suspected terrorists. Sure, the policymakers might have something to be embarrassed about, but looking to the foot soldiers to blame for what happened is weak, weak, weak. The likelihood that the abandoned hotel would still be abandoned two years after Jack could have last seen it. All of the fussing over the 'international incident' that would result if the Chinese got their hands on this imaginary super-secret Russian security chip, and absolutely no mention of the international incident concerning the Chinese consulate's security officer kidnapping an American citizen (twice: first Jack and now Audrey), holding her as a hostage and having his men engaging in a firefight with CTU security teams?

The big problem I have with the show is that I don't care about what happens to Audrey. I care if there are terrorists with nuclear bombs or poison gas or biological weapons or if there is going to be an attempt to assassinate a candidate for President. Those are the story lines that make me watch hour after hour of the show... and not some lame story line about watching Jack try to rescue Audrey... and not what is likely to be some five or six hour lame story line about Jack and/or CTU going after Cheung to recover this non-existent chip.

It appears, as I feared some hours ago, that the writers have hit the wall. They don't have enough original material to have Jack spend the entire 'day' chasing down the terrorists who would destroy America. As a result, this 'day' has had an awful lot of repeats from previous 'days' and there has been way too much Peyton Place personal storylines.

Here are 10PM's 24isms...

* The communications between the White House bunker and the submarine. The admiral using a cell phone to relay messages. The almost instantaneous relay of messages between the Admiral and the submarine. Communications don't work that well between submerged submarines and the home office.

* The submarine firing an unarmed missile. Do US submarines carry dummies, using up valuable space, just in case a President wants to play pretend? Given the speed at which this whole scenario played out, the dummy would have had to have been kept in one of the submarine's launch tubes (no time to take out a live missile and repace it with a dummy).

* The length of missile flight time being sufficient to allow the target country to detect the incoming missile on radar and get word to the Ambassador in order for him to call the White House. Remember all the time wasted in previous episodes where we watched the submarine maneuver into perfect firing position, just off the coast. Once a missile was launched from that close in, there would be just minutes before impact, especially if, as I suspect, the target country didn't have the ability to detect the offshore launch itself, but rather only could pick up the missile once it got airborne.

* Do commanders have the ability to abort a missile once it is fired?

* While it isn't a 24ism, as it could happen, the President aborting the missile all because the target country offers up a single general, who at the time, had provided nothing of value.

* The unlikelihood that the President would have concocted such a plan without letting his senior staff know. Other than jerking us viewers around, there was absolutely no plot-based justification for keeping Lennox and Hayes in the dark.

* The less than 10 minutes it took for CTU to set up and mount the mock rescue of Fayed. Less than 10 minutes to round up another group of CTU agents, get themelves an armored truck, load their weapons with blanks and get to the intercept point.

Here are 9PM's 24isms...

* The big 24ism tonight, and perhaps for the season, and perhaps for the entire life of this series, involves the Cabinet vote on whether President Palmer should keep control. The text of the 25th Amendment specifies that the "the principal officers of the executive departments", namely the Cabinet, vote on whether the President is able to carry on his duties. Well, the National Security Advisor, as important as he or she may be, isn't in the Cabinet and thus, regardless of the status of his or her resignation, wouldn't be entitled to vote... making the whole scene about whether or not she had resumed her postion an irrelevant discussion.

* Furthermore, the show shows guys in uniform sitting around the table, when presumably only Cabinet members would be taking part. Yet there aren't any Cabinet positions held by uniformed members of the military, and, unless I am mistaken, members of the military may NOT serve as Cabinet members.

* The vote was 7-7, including the National Security Advisor. Yet there are 15 members of the Cabinet, which, together with the Vice President, add up to 16 votes. The language of the Amendment refers to a 'majority' of the cabinet. As it does not say a majority of the members of the Cabinet who bothered to show up up and vote, I presume that removing a President from office would require 9 affirmative votes. The anti-Palmer faction only had 7 votes, some of which may have included the non-Cabinet military.

As to the rest of the night's 24isms...

* There are some wonderful inconsistencies with CTU's computers and security programs. It seems like half the time, their systems are getting hacked and with nobody the wiser, while other times, the CTU personnel are able to, with just a few keystrokes, find such things as the way in which this previously undetected breach was able to be installed, that Milo forgot to set some parameter, etc.

* Buchanan mentioned that the Supreme Court would back up Hayes' assertion that she had been in effect reinstated as National Security Advisor... without Hayes ever having told him that the matter was being referred to the Supreme Court for a decision.

* A minor point: since when does the Supreme Court do anything on 10 minutes notice? Sure, an individual Justice may issue a temporary stay of execution rather quickly upon receiving the request, but the Court as a whole doesn't do things fast at all and would likely reject any demand that they speed things up.

* Gredenko's attorney reviewed and blessed the pardon/amnesty papers within just minutes of the topic of Gredenko receiving immunity having come up. Did Gredenko have his attorney sitting by the phone waiting for the call? Why would Gredenko have an attorney at all?

* Fayed's plan - whatever it is - to bring together his nukes with the power plant to wipe out half of California. What bit of physics magnifies the magnitude of a nuclear explosion if said explosion takes place at a power plant? Even if the plant in question was a nuclear facility, all an explosion would do would be to add some amount of radiation to the mix.

* Gredenko's giving up Fayed in the bar. Why, if he was into giving him up, wouldn't he have just led Jack to Fayed? Why chop off your own arm to get away with Fayed if you're not planning on getting away with Fayed? And why chop off your own arm if you don't have the medical supplies you need to stop the bleeding and ward off the inevitable infection that would result from using a non-sterile axe?
Here are 8PM's 24isms...

* Interesting that CTU was told of the impending missile attack. Why? They certainly didn't have any role to play in the launch.

* Gredenko is using Fayed in order to make the Americans think the Muslims are behind the attack. Yet Gredenko has known for a number of hours that CTU is aware of his involvement, so why hasn't Gredenko gotten rid of Fayed? In fact, since the cat is out of the bag, what is Gredenko hoping to accomplish with continuing these attacks?

* The call between Gredenko and Rain Man's brother was said to be scrambled... but Rain Man's brother was using a plain POS phone - no scrambling technology on his end. Gredenko could have scrambled the signal he was sending out but there was no way for the brother to have descrambled the signal, so all he would have heard was static and squeals.

* Can a sister really order a doctor to take medically unadvisable actions? There's been no mention of a living will or power of attorney in this situation so I don't know how Palmer's sister would have been able to do much of anything.

* The submarine had to move closer, it couldn't have launched from where it was? During the Cold War, subs were kept close to the target in order to minimize the target's response time; conceivably, if we were lucky, our sub strikes could have decapitated the Soviet command structure and possibly have led to a reduced and/or ineffectual counterstrike against us. But in this situation, the submarine was already in the ballpark of the target and moving a few miles closer wouldn't have reduced flying time a whole lot. A sub's maximum underwater speed is about 35 knots or so, so even moving at maximum speed for twenty minutes would have gotten the sub only 10 miles or so closer. With a missile flying no slower than 300 MPH (?), moving 10 miles closer would have cut all of two minutes of flight time. Furthermore, unlike the Soviets, whichever Middle Eastern country that was the target had no ICBMs of their own to launch (at least not those that could do us any harm), nor do they really have the system in place to do much of anything in the extra two minutes saved by moving the submarine closer to its target.

* Nadia sure prettied up since we last saw her being choked by Ricky Shroeder. No sweaty face, makeup all back in place.

* Palmer's speed of recovery from being brought out of the coma.

* The Vice President giving orders through the Joint Chiefs. Unless something has changed, I believe the chain of command goes from whomever is sitting in the President's chair through the Secretary of Defense to the Commander of the appropriate theater. The Joint Chiefs are advisory in nature and don't hold line commands.

Here are 7PM's 24isms...

* The suitcase nukes - made in Russia and presumably years ago - fit perfectly into the latest American-made drone. Did the drone makers, like Microsoft making sure the latest version of their software works with all the old stuff, design their drones to fit years-old versions of nukes? Was that a selling point in the brochures?

* It's not a 24ism, but the whole 'let's launch one now, save two for later' is proof that the writers don't have a whole lot left up their sleeve for later in the day. Had the terrorists launched all the nukes, then what would Jack have done for the rest of the day? But, by saving two of the nukes, Jack still has something to do.

* Gredenko sure knows a lot about the workings of American made drones.

* Yet another CTU breach. And somehow, the same group that so quickly can identify the problem and its origin is incapable of finding it before anything happened.

* Having discovered the source of the breach, why didn't CTU disable it so they could regain contact with the drone?

* Buchanan ordering up NEST teams to where the bomb was expected to blow up. NEST looks for nuclear bombs, they don't clean up the mess of a nuclear explosion.

* If the Vice President doesn't want Karen Hayes present, all he has to do is tell her to get out.

* Why the suspence over gradually turning of the drone? If the bomb was programmed to explode when it hit a certain position (and let's give CTU credit for being able to figure that all out so quickly), then all Jack had to do was simply crash it into the ocean.

* And while it makes good TV, the Vice President's reaction seems not to take into account that Russians were behind the Muslims who were behind the attacks. Everything he said about the Muslims and their getting support from their home countries applies to the Russians as well... and yet he's not going to nuke Russia?

Here are 6PM's 24isms...

* Why would the Russian President expect the consul to give himself up? The consul's been implicated in the detonation of one nuclear bomb and is alleged to know where the others are... so of course, we could count on him meekly turning himself in, right? Given the 'sensitivity' of the situation, wouldn't the Russian President have called someone else at the consulate?

* The Russian security guard who had Jack cornered but decides to talk his eyes off Jack in order to call for approval. Didn't the guy learn (from the head of security that he shot in the back of the head at the end of the previous hour) that it is a really bad idea to not pay attention? And what was with his hesitation before killing Jack? He killed the other Russian without asking. Why bother asking about Jack?

* Ricky Schroeder ordering the desk people around. They don't work for him. They report to Buchanan through a different chain of command.

* The 'Martha, you have to call the Russian President's wife'. Why not tell him directly what you were asking the wife to say to him? In fact, wouldn't it be more believable if the explanation come from the American Vice President than it coming from the Russian President's wife, who heard it from the notoriously unbalance Martha, who heard it from her treasonous and disgraced former husband?

* The Vice President making up the story about Assad being involved in the assassination attempt in order to pressure the ambassador. It's inconceivable that the Secret Service would have allowed Assad to have brought anything into the White House bunker... it's not as if Assad had some US government clearance that might hav caused the Secret Service to have not paid as much attention as they should have. No way a terrorist, former or otherwise, gets within reach of the President without a full body search. At the minimum, this means there had to have been inside involvement. In any event, if the Vice President wants to intimidate the Ambassador, why make up anything? Just call the guy in (by the way, did we just have this guy cooling his heels outside the bunker, just waiting to be called back in?) and tell him you're going to nuke his country if they don't cooperate.

* And the premise that all it takes to gain a Muslim countries full cooperation in the war on terror is to threaten to nuke them. This presumes that the Muslim country is in a position to do what we ask, we know they're in a position to do what we ask, but we've never bothered to give them a good enough reason to do what we're asking. How silly is this?

Here are 5PM's 24isms...

* It's not just 24, but when will people making discreet phone calls learn to not turn their back to the door they left open? Actually, the Russian security guard won't be learning his lesson as he is dead.

* Presenting Karen Hayes withdrawing her resignation as some kind of problem. First, as she serves at the pleasure of the President, the Vice President, acting as the President, can certainly fire her. At a minimum, he can refuse to include her in any discussions.

* I wasn't aware that the Air Force was in the habit of parking Air Force 2 so close to other aircraft at Andrews.

* Nobody at CTU thought to monitor phone calls coming out of the Russian consulate?

* And while Jack can do no wrong, I do have to question his walking towards the door and away from his hostage before he had gotten through to CTU. What was the point of moving towards the door? Was he planning on opening it up and asking the Russians nicely if they would wait while he called CTU? Surely he couldn't have been afraid if the Consul overhead his conversation with CTU?

* Lennox's deputy claiming he wasn't a murderer, right after killing who knows how many people in the bunker's media room. Inasmuch as he was willing to kill in order to further his plan, what was the problem with killing Lennox. And why was the assassin willing to not kill Lennox?

* Claiming that the 'signature' of the bomb matched what Muslim terrorists used. I wasn't aware that they used miniature recorders to blow people up.

Here are 4PM's 24isms... (two weeks in a row on time)...

I got nothing. The writers actually pulled it off... not a single hole in the plot, not a single 'no way'. Sure, there are a few close calls, but nothing that actually rates a full 24ism. For example, Logan references the Russian consul as being afraid Logan would rat him out. But with diplomatic immunity, the Russian wouldn't fear the Americans, at worst, he would only be afraid his Russian superiors would be unhappy. .. and only then if he had been freelancing and not acting on their instructions. Jack and Logan taking their sweet time getting dressed. Jack fitting so nicely into whoever's suit he was wearing. The requirement that Logan meet the Russian inside the consulate, as opposed to meeting him somewhere else... or, perhaps, even simply calling him on the phone? Morris keeping his old sponsor's phone number on his PDA years after she left the program. The drone Gredenko obtained... a rather fancy James Bondish, Rube Goldbergish way of getting a nuclear bomb to its destination (as opposed to simply having someone drive the bomb to where it is supposed to be)... and unless there's a baggage compartment somewhere on the drone (does Gredenko get a luggage tag for the nuke he sticks in the luggage compartment of the drone?), the drone really wouldn't seem to be configured to deliver a suitcase nucleare bomb (aren't the missiles fired by our drones attached via strut to the wings?). Gredenko assuming that America and the Arabs would destroy each other. Sure, we could easily take them out, but apart from the three bombs, what else could they do to us? President Palmer being so calm about not seeing Lennox for the better part of an hour. The bomb maker getting access to the Presidential bunker, a place I would presume would be off limits to just about everybody. The bomb maker using defective parts that not only leak, but do so in the space of about, what, five seconds after being activated? And Assad assuming, in the space of about a second and a half, that the blinking, leaking voice recorder was a bomb, as opposed to thinking that the blinking, leaking voice recorder was simply a defective voice recorder, albeit one that was blinking and leaking.

All in all, some close ones, but nothing that is over the top.

ACTUALLY, I threw in the towel too fast on this episode. There is a full blown 24ism.

Why is Gredenko playing with Fayed at all? Gredenko had the bombs (or, at a minimum, had access to them) in the first place. He has the drones to get the bombs where he wants them. So why does he need Fayed? Why bother giving Fayed the bombs if he only is going to get them back later? Why run the risk of being double crossed. Why make Fayed go through the trouble of figuring out how to arm the nukes? If Gredenko had access to the nukes, he certainly had access to people who could activate them. And Gredenko doesn't need to have Fayed involved for his plan of having America blame the attacks on Muslim terrorists... these days, a nuke going off in America will be blamed on Muslim terrorists.

Here is the link to the rest of this year's 24isms....