Monday, August 30, 2010

24 Season 1 Retro Memorial: The Richard Walsh Postage Stamp

Long overdue, but promised nonetheless, I give you Richard Walsh's very own entry into postage Valhalla:

Nope, I didn't write tonight's retro review. I drank bourbon and made a picture instead. Aye, t'was a long day in the salt mines, my friends. The review will be coming quite soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

24 Season 1: 10AM-11AM Retro Review

What is genius, I ask you?

In my estimation, it's seeing something no one has ever considered before- something that is divine in its beauty and simplicity. For example, take a simple hand towel. For most of us, we look at the hand towel as a (wait for it...) a towel you use to dry your hands. Enter the genius that is Jack Bauer. He looks at a hand towel a little differently... and it's the scariest friggin' thing you could possibly imagine.  But more on that in a bit...

Ted Cofell is a smart guy in his own right. He makes a lot of money and he spends it well, on bullet-proof limos and private jets waiting to take him out of town at a moment's notice. Unfortunately for Ted, his limo isn't Bauer-proof.  But Cofell isn't an easy man to break, according to Jack. I don't know where Jack gets this notion-- to me Cofell is kind of a wimp. But in Bauer we trust. Jack calls Nina and asks her to slap together an interrogation package. Yeah, bro, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

Back at Gaines' Rancho Del Muerte, the Bauer girls are sitting on stacks of hay, reminiscing over cups of Celestial Seasonings about the days they were free from all this terror nonsense. The lighting is soft- it feels like it's been sunset in this friggin' barn for the past 4 hours. Does Ira Gaines operate in some trans-dimensional realm? Is this show being shot on a soundstage? Mind. Officially. Blown. Anyway, sensitive kidnapper Rick comes by to tell the girls he's really sorry about how stuff is going, but that he's still unable to help them escape. Thanks, Rick- can you maybe find another way to be useless? I bet you can.

Jack gives Nina practically no time to Google the guy and read his Linkedin profile, but nevertheless she provides Jack with a pretty good psychological profile on the fly- Cofell is left-handed,  he cheats at cards, he only dates women from Wayne, N.J. and he cuts his own hair with a flowbee. All of this means he's scared of clowns. Jack Bauer, be a scary clown, Nina says (I think that's what she said, I was eating these chocolate covered pretzels during this scene and the crunching sound kind of cut out some key pieces of dialogue).

Before we go any further, I want to point out something nutty-- at 10:13AM Jack parks the limo, gets out and starts rolling up his sleeves, staring at Cofell through the window menacingly. The show cuts to break and comes back at 10:17AM and Jack finally gets into the back of the limo to start the interrogation. What was Jack doing with his sleeves for 4 minutes? What terror did Jack cause this Cofell guy with his fashion alterations? Did Jack take off his business shoes and throw on some tennis shoes a la Mr. Rogers? Did he wash the limo and wax it? We've seen Jack to two loads of laundry in a commercial break, but he can't open up a car door in that span of time? It's funny, I tells ya!

Now, what was that stuff I was saying about genius earlier? Ah, yes- the hand towel. So, it goes like this: Jack takes a hand towel, pours a bottle of water over it and ties a knot off of one end. As he does this, he tells Cofell about gulags in Siberia and how the Soviets didn't have electricity or indoor plumbing, but what they did have was an appreciation of simple pleasures- like stuffing hand towels down the throats of their prisoners. But Yuri, you ask, how can a prisoner tell you what he knows when there's a hand towel stuck in his throat? Wait, you impatient capitalists! There's more to this towel process! So, as the towel is accepted by your digestive tract, your stomach begins to slowly digest the end of it, but that's when your captor pulls the towel back out of your throat, taking the stomach lining with it! In Russia, towel digests stomach, da? Yikes. Well, the good part is you don't die instantly. The bad part is you die over the course of a week, and it's a painful death, not the kind where you can eat ice cream and party in Vegas with showgirls and mountains of cocaine (by that calculation, Oliver Stone's been dying for the past 30 years, but I digress).

Bauer makes his plan known, but Cofell throws him a curveball- he makes Jack open up Cofell's wallet and look at a picture of Ted's wife and two wonderful children. You have a family too, Ted? Dammit! That blows the whole interrogation plan out the water. Now, what is Jack supposed to do with this perfectly useless hand towel?

As this goes on, Andre Drazen arrives at Gaines perpetually Michael Bay-lit compound to tell Gaines that he's off the case. Gaines whines about how he's going to find Bauer and Drazen relents, giving Gaines 30 minutes to get things back on track, otherwise it's all about killing Kim and Teri and moving onto a contingency plan. Rick hears this and runs off. Meanwhile, Drazen opens up his stylish 2001-era cell phone and starts speaking some vampire dialect to someone. Oh boy, Jack has to contend with some Ann Rice-type villains now?

So, Jack takes the limo to another location, to have Cofell meet one of his associates- Kevin Carroll, hopefully giving Jack a new angle on the man who may (according to Nina) be the wrong Ted Cofell altogether. Jack gets Ted to a parking garage, jumps into the backseat and suddenly Ted attacks Jack with a Microtech Halo knife. This tells me this is the right Cofell. And then the right Ted Cofell starts speaking vampire too! Holy shit, Jack, do you have a crucifix and some garlic knots in that limo? This shit just got real... scary. Well, Cofell's eyes turn blood red and Jack tries to give the guy some meds to reverse the vampire transformation, but it's too late, Ted "dies" and Jack loses his only lead to finding Gaines' compound. Maybe the Wolfman will show up and help move the plot forward.

Enter the Wolf himself, Kevin Carroll, or should I say Alan York? Oh man, what a plot twist. I love this stuff- the evil Alan York, the fake one who killed the Zombie Janet York, shows up to meet with Cofell. Jack traps Kevin/Alan in the back of the limo, does some stunt driving and then smashes Kevin's face into the bulletproof divider by slamming on the car's brakes. And then Kevin and Jack enter into a pretty elementary lesson on contract law. Generally, a contract must consist of an offer to do some act and acceptance by another party of said offer. A bilateral contract is one where both parties exchange offers and they each accept the other person's promise. Jack and Kevin make a bilateral contract- Jack promises to let Kevin go if Kevin leads Jack to his family's location. Kevin doesn't accept Jack's promise at first, and this offends Jack because he gave Kevin his word. Jack reiterates that he's giving his word, and Kevin rolls his eyes and says "Yeah, yeah, okay, relax with this giving your word nonsense! I accept your promise to let me go. We have terms!" Jack then throws in a remedies clause- this is what you put out there if the other party breaches the contract. If Kevin fails to bring Jack to his family, Jack gets to find out how good Kevin is at withstanding pain. Kevin wisely does not offer his own remedies clause as Jack is the one who has the gun. In a negotiation, we call Jack's gun "leverage."  Ah, can you tell what I do for a living?

Meanwhile, Gaines' 30 minutes are up and Eli (the rapist) is sent to kill the Bauer girls. Lucky for them, sensitive kidnapper Rick slipped Teri a pistol earlier in the episode. As Eli comes into the barn to rack up a few more felonies, Teri (after a failed first attempt) gets her act together and shoots Eli... twice,  Kim's like "Woah there, big momma, take it easy" but then Teri tells her "Easy nothing, sugar- I had to shoot this cat twice, the bad dudes outside this barn are waiting to hear two gun shots, ya dig?" Pretty good scriptwriting, right? These 24 writers are dyno-mite!

Overall, this was a great episode- a connection between David Palmer and Jack Bauer was revealed as well as some badass thing called "Operation: Nightfall." You tell me that has nothing to do with vampires! Great plot twist. (I'm so confused!).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

24 Season 1: 9AM-10AM Retro Review

Man, it's tough to die on "24" if you're a 90 lb. woman! First, it took a horde of rabid alpacas to finally dispatch Janet York to the afterlife (it was a deleted scene on the DVD, trust me) and now we have CTU moley mole Jamey exhibiting faint signs of life, despite losing all of her freakin' blood. Is this some bizarro universe where waifs wander the countryside, scaring the living crap out of everyone and where Natalie Portman is the world's strongest human? Where the heck am I going with this?

Anyway, Jamey is carted off to get some vital fluids, and Nina breaks it to the gang that their co-worker tried to commit suicide. Everyone seems mildly upset for about two seconds except Milo, who suddenly starts freaking out quietly. You can see him thinking "Crap, am I going to crack next? Who will inherit my Warhammer soldiers? What's sex like?"  But before Milo can even start to weep openly, Nina closes up the worst pep-talk in the history of middle management by saying "We all have to get back to work... now." Yeah, thanks, temporary boss. Well, Tony took her speech to heart and brings over some of Jamey's personal belongings for new leads but Nina suddenly doesn't care about going back to work- she wants Tony to take care of Jamey's son instead. "Tony, can you resolve all of this kid's future psychological damage in 5 minutes while I freshen up? Thanks!" 

The only person keeping the entire Federal government on point is... you guessed it, Jack Bauer. Bauer, fresh off his catnap with the alcoholic waitress, is driving around the neighborhood, trying to find his way out of the LAPD dragnet. He calls Nina, who's reading a copy of "Grief Counseling for Dummies" and asks her to give him some help in getting out of the area. Nina is 99% useless but somehow Jack doesn't yell at her. Maybe it's because he shot her a couple of hours ago and he's trying to not push things too much? Or maybe he's still into her? Courtship among borderline personalities is so tough to predict. I half expect Jack to throw a knife at her next time they're in the same room- ya know, just to let her know he still cares.

Well, Jack's lovely wife, Teri, snagged a cell phone off one of Ira Gaines' goons and puts a call into CTU for help. Teri, you've been calling CTU all night and into the morning- where has this gotten you? You're better off calling the Mongolian Navy! (That's a geography joke, go think about that one). Nina patches Jack into the phone call but before he and Teri can catch up on their awesome day, the goon returns, looking for his phone, which Teri has suddenly hidden.  While the line remains open, we can hear the goon repeatedly yell "bitch" and this makes Jack punch the steering wheel of his car. This is drama, folks! Nobody calls Teri the "b" word, ya dig? Wait 'til he finds out about the other stuff the goon did to Teri... yikes.

The Palmers have their 500th fight over whether to tell the public that their son pushed a dude out of a window after he raped the Palmer daughter. Even Mike Novick is becoming bored with this shit. All I can say is that David Palmer better start smoking a cigar and talking to a baseball bat real soon, otherwise I'm giving up on his entire storyline.

Nina is playing Minefield on her computer while Tony and Milo are doing everything to put together the pieces of this whole assassination plot. As this goes on for a few minutes, we learn that Jamey died (there goes my Natalie Portman theory, oh well!) and then Teri calls back to remind everyone that she's still being held hostage with Kim.  Nina patches Jack back into the phone call and suddenly the LAPD show up, forcing Jack to pull an old move he learned watching "World's Wildest Police Chases" on FOX.  The cops get out of their car, and walk alongside Jack's car but before they can ask him for his license, registration and PBA card, Jack guns it and leaves them scrambling to get back to their cruiser. I want to point out in this scene the awesome camera work and the well-staged shot when Jack pulls his move. The camera shows Jack in the foreground and stays with him as he speeds up, showing the cops disappearing in the distance. It's not a green screen! It's a real stunt! And it's 100 times better than anything I predict we'll see in a few seasons on 24 (retroverse still intact! Barely!).

Jack quickly finds a parking lot and parks his car and rolls under some other vehicles to hide for a few minutes. It's during this time that he starts multitasking- evading the cops and talking to Teri about the millions of ways they're going to ground Kimberly when they all get out of this mishegoss. Ira's goon comes back to the barn and finds his cell phone, and discovers that Teri's called for help. He (stupidly) talks into the phone and asks who's there. Jack responds with some trademark badassery that makes me warm and fuzzy with vengeance. But the good has the upper hand- he starts getting rough with the Bauer girls and Jack is left powerless to stop it from happening.

Instead, Jack decides to hot-wire the most unreliable vehicle in the lot- some 25 year-old sedan. There are a couple of movie-logic ideas behind the shitbox getaway car-- 1) it's an easy car to hot-wire because there's no on-board computer or alarm system. That I can buy. 2) The car is cheap, we can wreck it in a chase scene and it will cost the production a whopping $400. That I can also support, based on the fact that I only like to drive cars in this price range in real life. If you wreck it, it's no big deal- just walk away and get another beater.

And then we have what I call "The Emperor Moment"-- remember seeing "The Empire Strikes Back" for the first time and Vader has to take a call from some dude purporting to be his boss? I watched it thinking "Who the heck tells Vader what to do?" It's a bit of a letdown- to see an otherwise evil badass have to grovel at someone else's feet. Well, Ira Gaines gets a call from some dude in a private jet that, based on his accent, comes from a land where they talk about luxury automobiles constantly. This Drazen fella talks about David Palmer and Jack Bauer like he knows the guys personally. Plot thickens yet again! New characters! New motives! Gaines is suddenly rendered an errand boy. Interesting- I generally like this sort of twist, but let's see just what this new guy's looking to accomplish. Just stay away from trying to make a new Hans Gruber here. There's only one Gruber- and he's a permanent part of an LA sidewalk thanks to Detective John McClane.

Milo cracks an email off of Jamey's computer and this gives Jack a new lead to follow- the terrorist money guy named Ted Cofell. It looks like Ted went to Colgate and likes money- this makes him automatically evil in the world of 24. Rickey- please respond at your leisure. As Jack ventures off to choke some sound investment advice (and the whereabouts of his wife) out of Ted, yet another arrogant bureaucrat walks into CTU, this one is named Alberta Green (sounds like a locomotive, not a paper-pusher). Alberta is the interim head of the LA office now. Yay, more infighting and inefficiency. Even Milo can't believe the writers are pulling that old trick again.

Jack gets to Ted's office just as Ted is leaving to catch a plane to anywhere-but-here. Ted makes it to his limo and the car ferries him away. Or so he thinks! Jack's behind the wheel of the limo (fancy footwork, right?) and I believe we're going to learn of some novel interrogation techniques in the next episode once Jack gets the limo to a safe, private place (sorry, retroverse be damned, I love the next episode too freakin' much!!!). Until next time...


Monday, August 16, 2010

New Post Coming Tomorrow!

Greetings, loyal and patient readers!

A family appliance emergency has caused me to be diverted away from delivering a new retro-review tonight-- a toaster oven died a glorious, Klingon death- you can use your imagination as to how that all played out.

Perhaps it IS a good day to toast!

Anyway, a replacement toaster-oven was procured and all is back to normal. And so goes the life of a part-time blogger. Tomorrow is blog-night. I hope you can all join me. See you then!

Monday, August 09, 2010

24 Season 1: 8AM-9AM Retro Review

And we're back!

Last time on 24, Ira Gaines won the booby-prize on the new hit FOX series "So You Think You Can Assassinate?" Aaron Pierce does not allow this sort of nonsense- not in his house!

Meanwhile, Jack Bauer is hauled before the heretofore legendary Frank Simes, liaison between the Secret Service and CTU. We heard his name only once so far this season, when Jack called him, asking to be placed on the guest list for the Palmer breakfast, but all signs point to Simes being a cool dude.  When he first sees Jack, he sasses Bauer with some truly cynical retorts. I half expect Simes to pinch Bauer's cheek and say "What do you think this like the Army where you can shoot 'em from a mile away? No you gotta get up like this and, badda-bing, you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit. C'mere."

Bauer explains to Simes that he's working double-triple deep cover and that nobody knows what he does, so please take off these damn cuffs and let me return to my loose-cannon ways.  Simes is almost persuaded, which is amazing unto itself. But then he makes Bauer sit as he puts a call into Agent Pierce. Pierce never answers his cell... (sigh) why does he even bother owning the damn thing?!?

Back at CTU, Almeida is back to interrogating Jamey through her 3 feet deep bangs. When did Cousin It get security clearance to work at CTU? Sheesh! Well, under Tony's direction, Jamey calls a very upset Gaines to tell him that "all your base are belong to us" or some other nonsense- I honestly wasn't paying attention-- Nina Meyers was stripping down and putting on fresh clothes... yeah.

Speaking of fresh, we return to Jack, still cuffed to a standpipe, now yelling at a disinterested Simes that he can help the Secret Service find the REAL assassin! In a moment of spastic hilarity, no-named Secret Service Henchman 21 (I believe) throws himself on Bauer from behind and tells him to shut his yapper. Bauer flips out and tries to hit the guy back, and this finally causes Simes to say "You're not helping yourself here, Jack"-- as to imply that if Jack used a different tact, he might convince this Vic Damone  look-alike to take the cuffs off of Bauer. Oh, Simes- you're breaking my heart! I love it.

Jack tells Simes the truth, about his wife and daughter being hostage, etc. Simes feels for Jack, but he doesn't want to stick out his neck for Bauer- and if he ever met Teri at a previous social event, you can bet he's absolutely going to let Gaines kill her, to benefit the entire 213 area-code. So, Henchman 21 and two other agents take Bauer through an elaborate maze of steam pipes and construction workers, in order to escort him back to CTU Division. Yeah, this was a good idea. Jack learns what steam valves can do when let open, and he proceeds to set off a Secret Service Clam Bake on his captors. Ah, no one needs to send in their dry cleaning this week!

As Jack evades pursuit, he jumps over a fence and rolls down a hill to a very conveniently placed road. Jack unfortunately carjacks the only vehicle being driven by a Margot Kidder look-alike. Oy, this is gonna get annoying. Just shoot her, man!  Well, Jack doesn't shoot this waitress with a heart of gold, but instead they drive into a construction site and break into the office to make a phone call. Yeah, this is practical thinking.

Meanwhile, Tony Almeida is reading from the "Interrogating For Dummies" handbook, asking Jamey how could she betray her country, etc. Dude, she did it for money, what else is there to ask her? She's got a sick mommy, all you got is a really expensive hair product addiction. Lay off of it, bud. Jack calls Nina's cell, just on a lark in case she's alive, and sure enough she picks up the phone! A pretty funny conversation ensues where Jack says "Holy shit, I'm so happy I didn't kill you when I shot you." And the waitress sits in the room looking at Jack like he's the world's worst boyfriend. Lady, you don't know the half of it.  Jack then talks to Jamey and states the obvious "You know I don't always follow protocol but I'm a man of my word." That's Jack in a nutshell- it's reassuring to be able to summarize a hero in 15 words or less. That's what we call an archetype. No need to complicate things, writers-- much appreciated!

If you're interested, let's add bi-polar disorder to Jack's psychiatric profile.  At first, he tries to sweet-talk Jamey into cooperating with him to save his wife and daughter. This doesn't work. So, Jack says to Nina "Bring me her boy!" Then, as he gets off the phone, the waitress and Jack share a moment where Jack tells her about his problems (all waitresses are amateur head-shrinks) and he even says "I'm not gonna shoot you." In a moment of defiant awesomeness, the waitress stands up, walks to the door of the office and says "You're not the only one who's got problems, I gotta get to court to be convicted of DUI!" You figure they've bonded, right? Wrong. Jack pulls out his gun (which he said he wouldn't use) and tells the waitress "I've killed two people today!" Woah, woah, woah!!!

And we also witness the first time Senator Palmer hears the name "Jack Bauer"- as Mike Novick (fresh off his ridiculous overacting from a couple of episodes) briefs Palmer on what exactly went down at the breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, Palmer throws down a scotch. That's the breakfast of champions. And then Palmer mumbles something about Bauer, saying maybe this isn't the first time he's heard the name. Like a mix of equal parts corn starch and water, this plot just got a little thicker.

It's at this point that the episode that the show goes off the rails. One of Gaines' guys wants to rape Kim, but Teri jumps in and says "Rape me instead." I don't have much to say about this plot point except that it's pretty horrendous. I'll just move on...

What else is happening? Oh yeah, the Palmer marriage is disintegrating before my eyes! Every time these two formerly happy people talk, you see the anger, distrust and resentment boil to a higher level. And then Keith shows up and tells his dad to take a screw for not obstructing justice like the rest of the family. Damn, I really want someone to shoot that fat moron in the face. Sorry. It was a long day at the office.

And then the most incredible thing happens. We see Jack Bauer sleep! Talking to the waitress, Jack just nods off, recounting his days doing fieldwork for the CIA, about how he's scared out of his mind. This all makes Jack kinda sleepy!  I got a confession to make right now- I cannot go to sleep without watching the Military History Channel. I've been watching it almost daily now for the last year. It's the same stuff every night- World War II documentaries. R. Lee Ermey screaming about mail.  I don't know why, but I find great comfort in this stuff. War. What is it good for? A good night's sleep, that's what. And Jack, reminiscing about his days knocking over third-world dictators makes him nod off peacefully too. Strange, I know!

Anyway-- we arrive at the moment of truth- the culmination of all the trust-building exercises Jack and the waitress have gone through (remember "I'm not going to shoot you" and "I'm going to shoot you!"). Jack needs the waitress to walk outside and bring the car to him so he can escape, even as the Secret Service arrive (Henchman 21 in the lead!). The waitress agrees to help and no less than a minute later she's outside, pointing to Jack and telling the Secret Service "That guy you're looking for is in there!" DAMMIT!  Jack has to do another one of his jumping/running things and he gets to the car himself (no help needed!). Yet again, the Secret Service are left in the dust!

At CTU, Nina and Tony talk to Jamey about her lack of options moving forward. They also tell her "we're bringing your son in to see you in handcuffs." Nice move, guys. Jamey asks for a few minutes alone to slash her wrists and Tony and Nina leave her unattended. A few minutes later they come back to see how she's doing and sure enough. she slashed her wrists! Ooops, that's how you close off your best lead in an investigation. And just then, Ira Gaines calls. Jamey can't answer your call at this time, please try back again when she has blood in her veins.

Wow.  The Teri Bauer rape thing aside, this was a really strong episode. I liked a lot of the plot development and I think Jack's own deep-seeded problems as a human being begin to show up. It's one thing to be a man on the run, but Jack is a downright crazy person. I also got a kick out of Simes- all business, Old Spice and pressed shirts. This is the kind of guy you hire to take care of things. Tony got rehabilitated as a character too-- it's funny how you adopt the attitude of your hero when it comes to surrounding characters. When Jack hates Tony, I hate Tony. When Jack doesn't hate Tony, I don't mind the guy either. But nothing will top the nuttiness of the waitress. That may not count as a Bauer romance, but it had all the peaks and valleys of a relationship with Jack-- and it ended pretty much like one too. Jack, always jumping and running... I love it.