24: Live Another Day "2:00 PM-3:00 PM" Review: Decryption Drama

By Cory Barker

May 20, 2014

24: Live Another Day S09E04: "2:00 PM-3:00 PM"

Well, how about that? Last week's episode of 24: Live Another Day featured quite a bit of movement, particularly of the chasing variety, and yet it still was a bit boring. This week, Jack spent more than 30 minutes sitting at a computer terminal near a landline phone, and it was the most thrilling hour we've seen since Live Another Day debuted. Not only was "2:00 PM-3:00 PM" a fine reminder that 24 is capable of making stationary moments seem exciting and intense, it also—and more importantly—started to reveal how the shorter episode order will change the trajectory of the narrative.

While the first half of this hour efficiently and effectively moved Jack through the American embassy and to Lt. Tanner's keycard, it was that second half that really merged the episodic story with the ongoing plot. Suddenly, Jack had the information he needed to "prove" Tanner's innocence, Chloe struggled to convince Open Cell that helping Jack was the right thing to do, Kate and Erik and the military were closing in, and Mark had no choice but to finally inform President Heller and Audrey of what's been going on in London with Jack and the drone threat. 

The triumph of this episode was how well each little story worked on its own while also really crystallizing the bigger picture. 24 has tried to tell stories about a "different" Jack a few times over the years, but Live Another Day has underscored that archetype even more emphatically. This is a Jack Bauer who doesn't kill; instead he chokes dudes out relatively gracefully and painlessly and makes sure they're wearing vests so he can just pop them safely in the chest. Thus far, he hasn't even been especially interested in any personal benefit of his mission. He wants to prevent the attack, and he's willing to be taken into custody to do so. Nevertheless, this is also a Jack who recognizes how royally he's been used and screwed by the United States and its various agencies and armed forces. While there's a lot of value in a Jack Bauer who is purely out for revenge or blood, I'm enjoying this almost subdued, more direct version of the character. Even the way he calmly assured the hostages that he wouldn't hurt them, and that it was all a show, was kind of great. If Day 8 Jack Bauer was completely unhinged, it sort of feels like this version has been re-hinged, or something.

This episode also got quite a lot of milage out of the history between Jack and the Raines family, even in just a few short scenes. Both William Devane and Kim Raver did fine work in personifying the confusion of learning that Jack is back, but also the matter of how to progress with him in the fold in London. Though the two didn't have much time to reestablish their characters' connections to Jack, they made the best of it. There's something to be said for actors who make speakerphone conversations between people in other buildings seem dramatic and important. Devane, Raver, and Kiefer Sutherland all did that here.

Chloe and Kate's respective stories haven't been particularly successful so far, but they're mostly a product of the time jump and the show's willingness to beat fairly simple exposition into the ground. Did you guys know that Kate couldn't see the truth about her husband and it's possible that she'll never be good at her job again? And did you also know that Chloe joined Open Cell, an organization that released upwards of 30,000 intelligence documents to the web, endangering thousands of agents on the ground? Those beats have been pretty sloppy, no doubt. Yet, they're just fine enough, and driven by solid performances from Mary Lynn Rajskub and Yvonne Strahovski, that there's not too much to complain about. Strahovski's Kate is the type of character that 24 loves to create, so the fact that she clearly believes Jack with only some evidence is something we're going to have to run with.

Perhaps most surprising of all is not what this episode got right, but what it didn't get wrong. Mark and Erik—the season's two obviously slimy, antagonistic characters—have been as neutral and even-handed as can be, given the context. As the situation with Jack started to unravel in this episode, Mark did the right thing by informing President Heller and Audrey, and then following up with a mostly fair argument about the things Jack has reportedly done. Did he push a little hard about Jack's maneuvering to free Chloe and her involvement in Open Cell? Sure he did. But as a voice of skepticism and fear over what a free, empowered Jack Bauer could do to an already fragile situation and family, Mark's assertions were believable and clear. 

Erik isn't much of a character yet, but this episode did right by him while Kate tried to take matters into her own hands with the hostage situation. He didn't submarine her subterfuge, but he also didn't lie to the military officers either. While he recognizes the possible issues with Kate's decision-making, he's also not trying to cut her down at every turn. Both of these characters could have been so much worse, and variations of them have been truly awful on 24. So this is a fine start. 

Above all else, though, it's impressive that Live Another Day managed to merge the majority of its early storylines in just four episodes, creating a series of great scenes that felt mostly earned. Everything fit together very well, despite some of the aforementioned sloppiness or exposition reliance that led to the showdown in the embassy. 24 has always known how to establish flimsy characters or circumstances just enough to make us care about them, but this kind of stuff used to take the show much longer to produce. In a normal season of 24, the last 20 to 30 minutes of this episode would've normally come in Episode 8 or Episode 12, not Episode 4. Live Another Day's ability to arrive at those cool moments so early, despite the shoddy stuff, is an impressive feat, and one that illustrates that the writers can absolutely expedite the familiar formula in a purposeful fashion. We're only a third of the way through this sucker, but the events of this episode definitely bode well for the rest of Live Another Day


– The stuff at the Al-Harazi hideout was a bit more detached from the rest of this week's proceedings, but that doesn't mean it wasn't as good. From the moment Naveed plotted to take Simone away from her mother, it was clear that things weren't going to go well. However, I'm not sure I expected Margot to have a thug hack off a chunk of her daughter's pinky just to make sure her son-in-law was committed to the cause. I guess after four years, I've forgotten how quickly the awful violence can set in on this show. 

– DAMMIT TRACKER: Still at one, right? Talk about playing it cool. KILL TRACKER: Nada. Jack definitely maimed at least four guys in this one, though, so he's got that going for him.

– As bad as some of the exposition has been in the first four weeks, I'm not sure anything can touch the porous scene between Navarro and Jordan at the CIA HQ. Not only did it manage to squeeze in a reference to Kate's husband, but Navarro had to blurt out that tech nerd Jordan couldn't think straight because of his feelings for Kate. Okay, sure. That's definitely going to lead to some productive places. 

What'd you think of Episode 4? Definitely a good sign for the show's ability to modify the story to suit the shorter format, right?

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  • 377221 May 25, 2014

    An interesting thing they've got right so far is Heller's Alzheimer's. He's having good streaks and bad streaks. He correctly attributed the quote about having enemies to Churchill just before his small victory in Parliament, which mirrored the moment in the first episode that kicked off that storyline when he attributed a quote to the wrong Roosevelt. But he's in the early stages, so they just need to watch that they don't overdo it and have Heller do Peanut Butter Jelly Time in front of Parliament.

  • chrelle66 May 23, 2014

    What if Kate's husband is Chuck and the Intersect malfunktioned!?!

  • TNTroXxor May 22, 2014

    ROFLMAO@Dammit tracker

  • all-hail-lord-starscream May 21, 2014

    24 is lucking out with this season because it doesn't have to work that hard for us to believe it, we know almost all of the major characters from previous seasons so its not hard to know what's going to happen, but it is also taking the time to establish good new characters.

  • c07111 May 21, 2014

    Heller never learns, he always makes the wrong decision at the wrong time even thought his gut is telling him to believe Jack. The fact that they keep harping on what a good agent Kate is but she wasn't good enough to know who her husband was, makes me suspect she knew exactly who her husband was. Glad 24 is back because as far as adventure tv, no series does it better.

  • www_azrahn_com May 21, 2014

    Love Chloe's Gothic look, the only real concern in these 12 episodes that they do the cruelest thing possible to Jack, as we watch Chloe become the next Nina Myers... If I were Jack that would be the snapping point, although I am sure he would find the padded walls a surprising comfort.

  • SergioMorales May 21, 2014

    A jaw dropping review... i suppose if it were an episode of grey's anatomy this would not happen. smh...

  • ben45tpy May 20, 2014

    This episode was so much fun, I'm glad the series is getting into some good form. If you're sick of getting no love from the dammit tracker why not try the sunnavabitch tracker or the Kate-isn't-always-right-you-do-remember-she-was-wrong-about-her-husband tracker. Speaking of that I can't stop laughing every time they bring that up. Such a (unintentionally?) hilarious narrative conceit to let the CIA ignore everything she says for no reason.

  • Morlunnis May 20, 2014

    "Mark and Erik—the season's two obviously slimy, antagonistic characters—have been as neutral and even-handed as can be, given the context."

    Clearly they will develop into likeable characters in the next couple of hours, and then die.

  • JenMo73 May 20, 2014

    This hour was so exciting and fast that when then clock came up for the end of the hour I was like, "THAT'S IT?" Great episode and some interesting stuff happened.

    Cat Stark....I mean Margot is a crazy B****. Cutting your daughters pinkie off is down right cruel. I thought for sure she was just going to shoot the guy but wow. Loved that level of CRAZY!

    Audrey now knows Jack is back. I'm glad they didn't waste time on this. I have no doubt that Mark is trying to protect his wife but he should trust her as well. His jealousy of Jack and the trust he has in his wife will be that relationship's undoing. Jack's phone call with Heller was awesome!
    This was my favorite part:
    Heller: I hear you just shot two people out in front of the Embassy.
    Jack: I barely grazed them, sir.
    Heller: How do you know that?
    Jack: Because I pulled the trigger.
    You can always trust Jack's wound analysis! Also I'm happy Jack said something about being screwed over.

    I am really liking Kate, but I can't shake the feeling that she may be involved with what ever her husband was doing. However for now she is pretty cool. I'm a little disappointed that Heller didn't give Jack a chance but I think Kate and Jack teaming up will be more exciting. Plus this means Chloe can leave Open Cell and join back up with CTU (I'm sure Jack will insist). We do need a little more about what happened to Chloe so hopefully merging her back to her "roots" might be a good direction in getting that. I don't trust that Adrian Cross guy anyway.

    Good times good ride can't wait until next week! :)

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