Monday, May 24, 2010

Season 8, 2pm-4pm:Viewer discretion is advised

I have wanted to know from before I know when, just who is advising my discretion?  Is FOX purposefully obfuscating?  Why would they put this show on in prime time if they didn't think it was suitable for someone who just might tune in too late to hear the warning?  Maybe they're trying to warn us without taking credit for warning us.  Maybe they don't want to warn us, but they think somebody thinks we should be warned.  Maybe we won't believe the warning if we knew who that somebody was.  Maybe they think if we think they're warning us we wouldn't think they were cool anymore, and everybody knows TV ratings run on cool.  Why don't they just stop with the passive voice (try using E-Prime) and put credit out in the open? 

And what are they (whoever they are) warning us about?  What do they think is so dangerous that we might blanche at the sight?  What do they think we can handle?

Well, what has 24 been about since day 1?  Listen to Jack (I could mean either Bauer or Nicholson here): honor, loyalty, truth, defending.  24 is a morality play, perhaps not surprisingly twisted by the centuries since their heyday.  For example, our only beacon of justice, President Taylor, fell far short of that this year.  And, OK, Jack really doesn't really represent humanity as a whole.  He is more trying to pull humanity from the brink.  So, yeah, I just talked myself out of that dead end of an analogy.

But whether or not 24 is a morality play, it shows us again and again what happens when you live "bad" and what happens when ou do "right."  Be nice, tell the truth, don't hurt people (unless you have a good reason, like they're bad), be true to your friends.  That's the moral of the story.  Look at the bad people--Logan killed his toady, even after toady was so competent, so loyal.  Logan then shot himself and will wind up either dead or severly brain damaged--a fine finish to a fine foil.  Most/all other baddies, even though they fully believed their cause was just have wound up dead because Jack thought his side was just.  President Taylor finally told the truth and took the path to face justice, though I don't see what good that will do.  All Jack was trying to do for the last half of this season was tell the truth. And look where that's gotten him: hounded, captured, shot by his best friend (more on that later), finally set free by the truth (the least Taylor could do once she saw the light), but now facing a life on the run, probably with his daughter used as bait to try to flush him out. 

Wow, and here I was trying to make a case for the mysterious "they" of the conspiracy that warns us about the show being afraid of the truth.  But as I look back on the run of 24 that I've seen over the years, all I see are conflict and dead and tortured souls and bodies and all sides of the conflicts using the same methods, spouting the same reasons, winding up in pretty much the same boat--dead if they're lucky.  Yeah, we should use discretion watching this show--there are no good guys, everybody's a bad guy, and nobody escapes unscathed.  Life is pain, highness.  I sure wish I hadn't watched this show and found out the truth!  Oh, wait, it looks like the truth is what "they" were trying to hide all along!

Why would they want to hide it?  Because I'm not gonna go out and buy all those fancy cars they're advertising if I realize life is pain.  So, now I finally figured out who is warning me--the car companies!  But why, then would they sponsor a show they've warned me not to watch??

Whew, good thing I'm gonna consciously step back from the brink there and not think too much.

That doesn't mean nothing else occurred to me over the course of the last couple hours.  I thought about my hope--that Jack and Taylor were stinging someone.  I knew that idea had too many holes to fly, but that would have been a great way to end the series.  So many twists over the years, so many big conspiracies.  Pulling one last big one over on us and exposing the biggest conspiracy ever--now that would have been a fitting end. 

But that's not where we went.  All we got was Taylor finally realizing Logan was Wormtongue (I always wondered why Theoden would have a guy by the name Wormtongue as a counsellor), then coming clean, and ready to face the music, no matter the consequences.  Not so heroic as Theoden.  And we get Jack MIA for most of the last hour, leaving everyone else to pick up the pieces. 

But he does show up on the crooshal missing circuit that Logan says isn't worth watching when he hands it to Taylor (after finally getting it from Jack)--man, oh man, how stupid can Logan be??? (I know the answer--he's given Jack the only leads he's gotten for the last few hours, all the while thinking he's so clever.)   Taylor watches it, and even though her phone rang in the middle of her watching it and my reception of FOX went on the Fritz there for about 10s, it convinced her to come clean. 

And he closes off the series saved by Chloe, watched from above--is she a guardian angel?  No, just Arlo's drone.  He thanks her, she cries, but Tony doesn't show up.

That's not the only time she cried.  The other time tonight got me all jumpity-jumping as this show does once in a while.  Chloe went Jack hunting, and Freddy gave her a gun as she headed out, and I'm thinking yeah, right, what good is Chloe with a gun gonna be against Jack.  Ye gods, how stupid is that--oh, wait, there has to be a reason she has that gun.  Yeah, we all knew Jack was gonna take it from her, and the writers keep hitting us over the head with the now standing orders to shoot to kill Jack on sight, so it had to come to this.  With agents closing in, Jack tells Chloe to shoot him.  She says she can't and starts crying, he keeps trying the yell louder and she'll do it trick, and it keeps not working, so he finally puts his gun to his head, and she finally shoots.  Turns out it was through and through the shoulder, which is the clue toady needs to figure that Jack gave Chloe the crooshall missing cirkit (isn't it obvious).  Toady gets his cheap thrill patting her down (she gets the thrill, too, otherwise she wouldn't have mentioned it), but still misses the cirkit in the obvious spot (not her mouth, that she keeps screwing up even more so than normal, but in her own phone!).  Later Freddy asks how she could be sure she wouldn't kill Jack, and she says she wasn't, which is what I figured, too, so how toady could jump from through and through to that's what Chloe planned is beyond me.

And now I'm wondering where I'll leave all of this.  I'll start the end by musing on the rumors of a 24 movie and ask one question: How are they gonna fit 24 hours of real time in a 2 hour movie?   On to: being tired of how many times someone invoked what a dead person would have wanted to try to convince someone else to agree with a course of action--completely self-serving in the worst possible way (claiming it's what someone who can't object wants!).  And some things I have learned from TV: From NYPD Blue I learned never to trust the police in an interrogation and always to lawyer up.  What I take away the most from 24--after seeing so many versions of threats and blackmail, I'll always call their bluff. 

I hope you've enjoyed listening.  If I ever think too much again, I'll try to let you know!
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Friday, May 21, 2010

Season 8, 1pm-2pm: Creeps

A bit busy this week, so my apologies upfront if this post doesn't do justice, er I mean vengeance, to the penultimate 24 episode.  But I want to get something out before the series finale.  Hmmm, it seems with all the hype this show generates for itself (e.g., the 2 night, 4 hour season premier), it could have hyped the series conclusion better.  Should I be happy for small blessings?


Lots of creeps in this series, but finally I got the creeps this week.  I kinda wanted to take a shower after one scene this week.  Jack ambushing Logan's motorcade.  To do it, Jack used a bunch of stuff he got from Sidewinder including an ersatz Darth Vader mask.  Now for me, Vader never seemed such a scary villain.  Yeah, he has the telekinetic strangle-hold going for him, and he doesn't deal with slip ups graciously, but somehow he didn't scare me all that much.  He didn't ooze maleficence.  Jason wears a mask, and he's scary.  And there's Hannibal, too.  Roll all those 3 together, and that's what I felt about Jack as he dons his personal protective gear, shoots out taxicabs in front of Logan's car in the tunnel, and starts picking off secret service agents on his way to Logan.  He was like a tank, unstoppable.  But with Sidewinder's warning that Jack's about to cross a line he can't turn back from, I saw this scene and stopped enjoying this show.  Jack felt like pure self-righteous vengeance, in human behind his gear.  He ceased having any semblance of heroic stature for me during that scene.


Jack continues and surprisingly gets Logan, Logan is the whimpering, whining sap we know and hate when Jack threatens to kill him, eventually giving up the Russian behind the assassinations (ah, but Logan doesn't give up the top dog, still the crafty one [ah, but Jack figured he wouldn't so he leaves Logan alive, plants a bug on him, and Logan dutifully calls the top dog to give an update]).  Jack heads off to knock off the next dog on his list, and he blows away almost all the Russian's security on the way to skewering the Russian (thankfully, we don't see much of this).  


Along the way we learn that Jack's not all bad.  Chloe finds out he's shot only to wound, not kill, the Secret Service guarding Logan.  Not such a bad guy after all, even though he gave some savage kicks to the heads of downed agents, and he flat out did kill the Russian security.  Did those guys know the risk when they took the job? Probably, but I still gotta feel they got the raw end of the bargain thanks to Jack.


And that's bothered me on and off this season.  All that Jack's doing in the name of saving the peace deal, and now uncovering the truth.  Seasons of yore I was troubled, but not this much, about Jack's end justifying his means.  Then it was a pretty clear calculus of immanent death to many or Jack's killing, maiming, stealing from, trampling the rights of a few folks.  Not quite Star Trek utilitarianism, but a somewhat colorable argument.  


But this year it's still just this nebulous peace deal.  Sorry, I harped on it a bunch a while ago, and now what Taylor will throw away for the deal, what Jack will do to get the truth out that will kill the deal (if you believe what everybody's saying) is just too much for me.


As for Taylor following the advice of Logan.  Remember back in the first hour or so when I mentioned the trick the writers use of having a character comment about a plot event that just can't be believed as a means to make it believable?  They do it again here when Logan tells Taylor she's the president who preferred justice over saving her daughter.  This same Taylor who now is covering up the Russian involvement in the assassinations.  And Logan uses that to convince her that she has to keep covering up.


Where does that leave me?  Finally figuring the only way I come out of this season not needing a shower is if Jack and Taylor are in cahoots setting up an elaborate sting.  Could that be the final twist we won't believe?


At least when Jack stole the SUV someone was unloading cases of bananas from, the owner didn't come running out yelling for him to stop.  24 still has a way with eschewing cliches!  


Oh, and sorry to say, but that one more agent Chloe went to find wasn't Tony.  It was Freddy in the holding cell.  I guess I can't wait to see what happens when he meets up with Sidewinder.  I have the impression Freddy will be out of his depth, even though he's been talked up as the most competent CTU field op. 

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Monday, May 17, 2010

"There's one left"

I got pretty excited tonight when Chloe told Arlo, "There's one left."  Logan-plant took all the field ops to look for Jack (after Jack kidnapped Logan).  Chloe turned Freddy's observation into a lead to Sidewinder, but then she needed someone to go after him.  Arlo told Chloe all the agents are out looking for Jack, but Chloe had an idea.  Here I was hoping we see Tony, finally, after the commercial break.

I don't have time to see (with y'all) where all this leads tonight.  But stay tuned, I'll aim to remember whatever I thought was important while watching tonight later this week. Sphere: Related Content

Known associates

With Logan back and Chloe tracking down Jack's known associates in the area, how long do you think it'll be before we see another beloved figure back?
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Season 8, 12 noon-1pm: Entropy

Catchin' up here after driving cross country.  You'll have a day or so before I get to this week's hour, but maybe I can get some thoughts out on last week's hour tonight.  I watched it on a laptop in 2 sessions today--1/2 before a swim, 1/2 after.  Let's see how good my continuity is.  I was a little continuity-shocked as the first 30 min ended with Russian assassin setting up to shoot a meet Jack set up, that the Logan-plant at CTU thought he was clever enough to figure out.  Seems everybody underestimates Jack.  When I came back to watch the 2nd 30 min, it starts with President Taylor meeting with new Islamic President (wife of recently assassinated president) trying to iron out the peace details.  The juxtaposition of those two made me do a "bugita-bugita-wha???"  But I got over it.

Here's what I'm seeing here--how hard it is to hold secrets in the 24-verse (I wonder how hard it is in the multiverse).  For example, Chloe's trying to track down Jack gone rogue.  Logan-plant, virtually running CTU right under Chloe's nose, captures Freddy after Freddy helped Jack.  Logan-plant interrogates Freddy and doesn't believe Freddy when Freddy says he doesn't know where Jack is, so it's detention for Freddy.  Chloe sneaks in to see him for 90s (I'm still amazed at how much writers can do with so little time--stay tuned for more from this time slot), and Freddy reiterates that he knows nothing , but as the 90s are nearing the end (we see Arlo's timer in split screen), Freddy says somebody local is helping Jack.  That's it, and Chloe is off to the races.  First, she could have already thought that one up and followed that idea, but second, that's all she gets and she's gonna find Jack???

The only way to keep a secret is to never tell it!  Jack, a couple weeks ago, convinced Freddy to help him--remember, Jack used the old give-him-the-gun-and-he'll-trust you trick?  Jack said he couldn't do it alone, and he was right--he needed Freddy to go to the safety deposit box with Dana, but he didn't know it when he started on that sleigh ride.  So, sharing that one little bit, and now we can just bet Chloe's gonna find him.

Now, I know next to nothing about entropy and information theory, but it looks like entropy there differs from the entropy I'm thinking about with respect to secrets, although I just bet someone could or even has applied the same mathematical formalism.  What I'm thinking as a low entropy state is a secret known by one person.  In the 24-verse, entropy increases like lightning.  OK, it took forever for Dana to show us her true colors let alone for Logan to raise his head.  But so much of plot development in this show revolves around uncovering secrets (where's this person? what do they know? what's the next target? who's behind the conspiracy?).  And that's CTU's job and what Jack's the best in the world at doing, so we shouldn't be surprised at how quickly they find the answers to these questions.

Oh, and speaking of questions, that's just what Chloe uses to convince Arlo (nice to see him getting more important and unfortunately, less sleazy, now that Dana's dead) that the Logan-plant is involved in a coverup.  She tells Arlo that Logan-plant isn't even asking the right questions!  How's that for minimal information leading down the path to higher entropy (more widely known secrets)?

Chloe uses that observation to bring Arlo on board with her, but her wiles--OK, she really doesn't have any wiles, so it's her powers of persuasion, which we already know are pretty bad--are almost not good enough to work on Freddy in detention.  Freddy finds that everyone (OK, just Chloe and Logan-plant) wants him on their side (you figure out how the grammar is supposed to work in that construction!).  And he comes to realize, like we did years, days, hours ago, that there are no good guys in the 24-verse.  Finally, Chloe says basically, "you can sit here feeling sorry for yourself; I'm gonna go help Jack," and that does it for Freddy--he looses the tidbit I mentioned above.  At least she didn't tell Freddy, "You did the right thing."

All the while Jack is connecting up with Sidewinder.  Nice to see Madsen back, but I already figured he wouldn't be one and done.  He actually tells Jack, "No," when Jack asks for help.  Then he qualifies it with, "Until you tell me what's really going on."  And here I'm thinking, "Jack's motivation here is really pretty stupid," and I'm thinking Jack's about to realize that he's gone over the top and will return to being a retired grandfather.

No such luck.  Jack sits down, sighs, and says the Russians are gonna pay for taking Renee from him.  First, that seems a bit personal for Jack, the good soldier, but OK, he's had a bunch of bad days.  Though he should know from lots and lots of experience that successful vengeance doesn't keep you warm at night.  Second, a few weeks ago he said he wanted justice.  Now, it's looking like pure vengeance.  And it makes me think on the difference between justice and vengeance.  I'm thinking vengeance is personal, justice is societal.  Justice depends on the culpability and actions of the perpetrator.  Society defines what the punishment is depending on those qualities (making me wonder whether victim statements have any purpose in a trial--at least any purpose in promoting justice). Purposes for punishment include incapacitation (to prevent repetition), rehabilitation, retribution (I'm fuzzy on what this one's about), deterrence, and these measure the proportionality between the deed and the punishment.  Vengeance is driven by the victims, not society, and the victim's loss and emotion measure the level of payment.  I'll leave it to you to figure out which would be better, more fair, or whatever metric you want to use to compare justice and vengeance.  I'm still working on it.

Jack sets up his own ambush with a call to the reporter who flung with the assassinated Islamic president.  Jack and Sidewinder ambush the ambush and play "capture the assassin" (they win).  Jack heads off into torture-land for the first real time this season, but assassin isn't talking.  I'm not going into detail on what we saw (no water-boarding because Jack really is a good guy), but I'm glad I was on a computer screen and I could escape from the maximized view.  After trying more than a couple different means to cause pain, Jack concludes, "This isn't working."  Wow.  Now there's a revelation about torture.  I'll also mention that there was a good bit of vengeance-seeking in the torture scene, too.  (Maybe that's another reason torture of terrorists has so much popular support.)  Confirming that Jack's after vengeance against anyone he thinks is culpable, Jack had started the torture before even exploring the electronic options at hand--assassin's cell phone!  In this high-tech show, electronics are the first place he always looks!  But once he figured the torture path wasn't getting anywhere, he found the cell phone, then figured out assassin swallowed the sim-chip.  No need to go into detail, but ipecac (I'm not gonna link to Family Guy here--you can find that link on your own) didn't play a role in Jack retrieving it.  And what did he find on that phone?  Logan's phone number.  Convenient that just this episode Logan asked for how to contact the assassin.

Jack didn't look happy at finding such a big name "connected" (but even a tenuous connection like this in the 24-verse leads to higher entropy).  Seems like he should have felt pretty good.

Logan is doing a good job continuing to look slimy as his plans fall apart.  His plant is still very toady and loyal talking with him, even when he's about to take the fall for everything falling apart.  And I'm left wondering when will the writers throw us the true curveball of the mole being a nice guy, not an overbearing meany?  Wait, is anybody nice in the 24-verse? Sphere: Related Content

Friday, May 7, 2010

Travelin' man

Don't worry if you don't hear much/anything from me this week.  I'm on the road again.  I don't know if I'll catch up on the episode I'll miss this week, probably not before the next one comes around.  Wow, I wonder what will happen to my internal continuity.  And darn, I'll miss Jack dealing vengeance--or will it be justice--to the Russian assassin.  Wow, that's some suspense there. Sphere: Related Content