It’s time for the season’s penultimate episode of ’24’, and quite possibly the next-to-last time we’ll ever see Jack Bauer in action. ‘Live Another Day’ has been (despite that horrible title) one of the best seasons of the series yet, and things don’t slow down a bit this week.
Hour 11 (no time jump again this week, which means that next week will cover 13 hours of Jack’s day) begins with President Heller receiving news that the Chinese carrier Shenyang has been hit by torpedoes fired from an American submarine. Meanwhile, Jack and Kate are still involved in a shoot-out with the Russians right outside the building where Cheng has Chloe and the override device. Cheng sees Bauer on one of the security cameras and makes his getaway, but not before removing the tracker from the device – and also not before Chloe can leave Jack a very important clue via a cell phone.
Backup arrives and the Russians are eliminated. Jack and Kate enter the building where they find the slaughtered bodies of Open Cell, including Adrian Cross. Jack finds the cell phone that Chloe left behind and hears a recorded conversation which reveals that Cheng is alive and well. Jack also realizes that the Russians must have been tipped off to their location, and only the CIA and the White House could have tracked him. He pieces together that Mark has been working for the Russians and the Russians are working with Cheng, so he races back toward the President to tell him what he’s learned.
President Heller tries to convince the Chinese President that the attack on the Shenyang was caused by Cheng. The Chinese President isn’t buying it. Heller tells him that he’ll do whatever’s possible to obtain both Cheng and the override device as proof. When the conversation ends, Audrey asks her father if she can contact a friend at the Chinese Embassy, whose father is a member of the Politburo. She hopes to buy enough time that cooler heads prevail before a war breaks out. Heller tells her to go ahead and give it a shot.
Jack arrives at the Presidential residence and asks to speak with Heller and Mark in private. Once they get to another room, Jack pulls his gun on Mark and tells the President what he’s been up to. Mark, to his credit, doesn’t try to weasel his way out of it, but merely states he was doing what he thought was right at the time, because he originally thought Jack was a traitor. He confesses to forging the President’s signature, which ticks Heller off to no end. Just as Heller is about to arrest Mark for treason, Jack tells him that he can still use Mark. The plan is to get Mark to meet his Russian contact. Then, once a camera planted in Mark’s lapel gives the CIA a good view of the security system, they’ll knock it out so that Jack and Kate can come in with guns a-blazin’.
Chloe, now in the back of a truck with Cheng and his men headed to who-knows-where, attempts to take matters into her own hands. She grabs a convenient steel pipe and goes all Beatrix Kiddo on the Chinese guards. She manages to knock enough of them out of the way to jump out of the moving truck directly into a wooded area. Cheng stops the truck to look for her, but gives up when a group of British military personnel come driving by. Chloe, in the meantime, has tumbled down a hill and knocked herself out.
In retaliation for sinking the carrier, the Chinese government launches a bunch of fighter jets and knocks out a pair of American surveillance satellites with missiles – meaning that the U.S. military can no longer track the jets. This happens shortly before the American military commanders notice Heller drop a bottle full of medication on the floor, and one can see the doubt in their eyes. When one of them asks to raise the military’s threat level to DEFCON 3, the President (perhaps only to prove that he still has all his faculties) agrees.
Mark manages to talk his way into his Russian contact’s house, but he’s not there very long before the CIA takes out the security cams, and the Russian figures out that something is up. He goes for his gun and Mark tries to stop him, resulting in a struggle that shatters glass and ends with the Russian receiving a fatal cut to the neck. Having fought his way into the room, Jack tries to get information about Cheng’s location from the Russian, but it’s too late.
In the episode’s final scene, Audrey meets with her Chinese contact. However, just as she gives the girl some info to pass along to her father in the Politburo, a sudden hail of bullets from a sniper kills the girl and the Secret Service agents, leaving only Audrey alive. Audrey then receives a phone call from Cheng, telling her to sit down on a bench and follow his instructions if she wants to live.
This episode is a pretty strong lead-up to the finale, though I have some minor issues with it – most notably the fact that the Russians (well, at least a faction of them) are indeed working with Cheng, even though everything we’ve seen previously indicated that the Russians wanting Bauer had nothing to do with the plot involving the override device. It’s also a big cliché to put Audrey in danger for the final episode, especially since she’s spent the rest of this season completely out of harm’s way.
Who will survive the finale? Chances are pretty strong that Jack Bauer won’t get killed off, but that doesn’t mean everyone around him will make it. (It would be hard to kill off President Heller after his escape from death just a few weeks back, though.) Will we find out that Cheng is working for someone even more evil? Will Tony Almeida make a cameo? Or Jack’s daughter Kim? Or that damned cougar? Stay tuned… the clock has almost stopped.