'24' episode 5: Jack Bauer sits in a room and cries a little bit

Last night's episode of "24" was really boring and it sucked.

1. Let's review. Here, very briefly, is the story of Naveed, a character so bland, and whose ultimate fate was so certain from literally the first minute he was on screen, that I actually just had to go look up his name.

a) Naveed's wife insists on having sex he really looks like he's not enjoying while his terrorist mother-in-law watches.


b) Naveed conscientiously objects to hijacking military drones and using them to destroy London, and is coerced into it via a chisel bit to his wife's finger.


And then, last night:

c) Naveed tries to covertly tip off authorities to the terrorists' whereabouts. They find out and whoop his ass.


d) Roughly eight minutes after being beaten up, Naveed is shot in the head, but only after learning his beloved wife had betrayed him.

One of 24's signature flourishes is to toss in a character every season who no one could possibly care about, and whose existence is entirely meaningless. RIP Naveed, who was That Guy, except he did sort of serve a purpose.

See, 24 has always been a little self-conscious about not making all its terrorists Middle Eastern. Their response, historically, has been to make their Middle Eastern characters wide-eyed, kinda-dumb, impotent lackeys, which suggests that at some levels of its subconscious, 24 is incapable of perceiving someone of Middle Eastern descent as a regular human being.

A non-exhaustive list of the Middle Eastern characters across 24's run who were not terrorists:

- Reza Naiyeer. Trusted his fiancee, fiancee turned out to be a terrorist, fiancee shot him.
- Yusuf Auda.
The closest thing to an empowered good-guy Middle Eastern person the show has ever given us. Helped Jack Bauer prevent an unjustified war. Was snuck up on by a random gang of racists (including Ron Swanson), bludgeoned by a brick, and killed.
- Behrooz. 15 years old or so. Watches his terrorist mom murder his girlfriend. Is last seen being tortured with a knife. The show never bothered to spend a single second establishing what happened to him.
- Yadia Nassir. Despite being the chief of CTU, white people decided she was probably a mole, and violently interrogated her. She was not a mole. She was eventually held hostage and shot in the head. (Correction, via Twitter's @FunkButter: it was actually Yadia's boyfriend, Milo, who was shot in the head, and not her.)
President Omar Hassan. The bold, righteous, morally upright, President of Kamistan, which is A COMPLETELY MADE-UP COUNTRY. Suffered one of the bloodiest deaths in the history of the show, via being slit in the throat.

A character like Naveed is completely at home in 24, a show in which Middle Eastern folks are either doing horrible things or having horrible things done to them, and almost without exception, nothing in between. Increasingly, I feel that I'm writing about this show for the same reason your local beat reporter is writing about a warehouse fire.

2. In the future, spam wins.


We got the briefest of glimpses at the inbox of an elite-level CIA data analyst, a person who ought to have a firmer grasp on entry-level computer use than anyone else on the planet. His inbox is a mess. Let's break some of these down.

- "You need to see this." You Won't Believe 50 Reasons You Need To See This Is The Best Thing You'll Read Today.
- "Cheap meds." In 2014, an email like this dumps straight into my spam filter. In 2022, the year in which this show is set, it's sitting in the inbox of the most sophisticated email client in the world. We lost, y'all.
- "Call me." Nobody would ever, ever send you an email titled "Call me" unless you were hardcore avoiding them. Poor anonymous person. You can't even get the god-dang CIA to pay attention to you.
- "Government reports." 24's prop producer is a hard worker who never mails it in.

3. This took 17 minutes.


It's pretty easy to joke on 24 for its wildly unrealistic commute times, but this one might be the worst I've ever seen.

Benjamin Bratt took 17 minutes (nine minutes of show time, plus eight real-time minutes of commercial breaks) to go from "CIA bureaucrat in the heart of downtown London" to "action hero in the middle of the forest." First off, Benjamin Bratt has to change out of his suit and equip his weapons and armor package (which I hope to God is called The Bratt Pack). This surely takes a bare minimum of five minutes.

That gives him and his team 12 minutes to reach this location, the coordinates of which are briefly shown on the data analyst's computer screen.


This means they have to gun it at an average of 85 miles per hour, through London, on a weekday afternoon. I have found logistical inaccuracies in a television show and I demand that what I did here be remembered.

4. This is perhaps the most boring episode in 24 history.


This episode featured 41 minutes of real-time content, and Jack Bauer got almost exactly five minutes of screen time, all of which was exactly as exciting and action-packed as that photo. I'm not leaving anything out here:

a) 30 seconds of Jack standing around in the Embassy in handcuffs. He doesn't say anything.

b) Two minutes of Jack talking to the President, asking to be sent into the field, being told no, and concluding the conversation by quietly saying, "Mr. President, I hope you will consider my request."

c) Two minutes of Jack meeting Audrey, his old lover. They stare at each other and whisper a few things and cry.

That's all the Jack Bauer we got. Y'all! This is a 12-hour season! We might only get eight more episodes of Jack Bauer, ever, and you want to kill an entire hour of Jack's time by making him sit in a room with shitty wallpaper? 

Just a whole lot of nothing going on in this episode. Naveed, the least interesting character possible, was killed via circumstances that the show telegraphed several episodes ago. A building blew up, but no characters were killed, and it was part of the "terrorists lure agents into their fake hideout and try to blow them up" plot point that the show has already done several times.

We're nearly halfway through this season, and the enemy isn't any more fearsome or sophisticated than "like four badguys hanging out in a cottage." No over-arching conspiracy of any sort. And if they made an action figure of Jack as he appears in this episode, none of his limbs would be movable and he'd be fixed in a sitting-down position. Step it up, jerks.

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