Warning: This contains spoilers.
What’s the one thing scarier than foreigners? FOREIGNERS WORKING TOGETHER.
Episode 11 of 24: Live Another Day took the show’s conservative politics to the point of no return by revealing that not only is Evil Chinese Man Cheng still alive – and still evil, and still Chinese – but he is working with Evil Russian Moustache Man Stolnavich – who still has his impressive moustache.
What do these foreign superpowers do together? After effectively starting World War III by firing on the Chinese military with a US sub, they do the only thing they can: take everyone hostage.
24 has always relied on two dynamics: hostages and moles. With Benjamin Bratt’s deceitful role wrapped up and swiftly forgotten, Live Another Day now has to cram half a season’s worth of the other into two more episodes. Episode 11, then, may be calmer than last week’s wonderfully terrible nonsense, but it is no less ridiculous.
We find Jack and Bauer 2.0 in the first hostage situation left over from last week: surrounded by Russian’s following Mark’s tip off, they look like they’re destined to die. But luckily, 24’s answer to every hostage situation is right around the corner: good old American gun power. The CIA soon arrive and shoot down the Russians, freeing Jack and Kate to chase down Cheng. (Mental note: “Chase Down Cheng” should be the name of the next 24 video game.)
But just when you think people are safe to go about their business, we catch up with Chloe, who has just seen Cheng kill off all of her hacker colleagues. He takes the device and, after discovering Jack is onto them, one other item: yes, Chloe herself.
“What’s in her head is extremely valuable,” he says to no one in particular. After years of playing this part, Tzi Ma has nowhere left to go on the crazy villain scale. Cheng is now so loud and angry you half expect him to turn into Chow from The Hangover at any minute and start shouting “motherfuckas!” before blowing everyone up.
Jack, meanwhile, has found Adrian Cross and the other ex-Wikileaks members – and a mobile phone with a recording of Cheng’s voice on it. Shocked that he still exists, he immediately phones President Heller to tell him – and, naturally, terrify Audrey, who spends the rest of the episode looking like a scared rabbit being forced to watch Watership Down.
Heller informs the Chinese that Cheng is behind the US attack but, being foreign, the message doesn’t get through their leader’s big foreign ears. Heller, naturally, looks perplexed. William Devane has really come into his own these last 11 episodes: pause Live Another Day at any point when he is on screen and you will be treated to facial expressions no normal human is capable of.
“I think we should raise to DEFCON 3,” one soldier tells the President. He makes a serious face.
Meanwhile, Jack discovers that Mark was the one who tipped off the Russians. Oh, Boudreau. Snivelling, whining, silly Boudreau. He confesses, prompting Heller to arrest him for treason – angry face – but Jack demands that Mark be used for an operation to get into Russian Moustache Man’s home instead. That’s right, folks: it’s another hostage situation. This time, Jack’s in charge.
Mark blags his way through Moustache Man’s security gate while wearing a secret camera in what is some of the worst “I’m not wearing a hidden camera” acting ever broadcast on TV. (Tate Donovan’s brilliantly gormless facial expressions even rival Devane’s.)
Of course, Russian Moustache Man finds out that Mark is only pretending to ask for sanctuary and attempts to kill him. Hostage number four. Fortunately, Jack is there to save the day once more, as he and Bauer 2.0 shoot their way into the estate with their American guns – only to discover that Moustache Man has got himself stabbed in the neck with some glass.
One bad guy down, you think. Excellent. Now there’s only Cheng and Chloe to resolve. That’s easy-peasy for Jack Bauer, even if the Central Line has delays. But then, Audrey decides to go to the Chinese Embassy and show them evidence that the US is not responsible for the military attack. Chatting in the gardens outside, her contact is suddenly shot dead by a sniper. Who could possibly be behind it? That’s right: Cheng!
Another US prisoner held at gun point? Is there anyone in this programme who hasn’t been taken hostage? Does the CIA not provide basic anti-hostage training to its agents? And, more importantly, when will foreigners realise that these situations never end well? Because one thing is clear after 24 has recycled its favourite plot device over and over within 60 minutes: whoever is kidnapped and wherever they are, Jack Bauer always wins.
Unless, of course, 24: Live Another Day has got a particularly surprising finale in store. 12 hours squeezed into one? Anything could happen.
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