The White House is under siege, and '24' is under water

Annie WerschingGreetings, 24-nicators. Your fearless recapper Brandon will be back next week, but I'll be enjoying your company tonight. Stick around and I promise you ... hold on, let me apply my Billy Mays prosthetic beard ... two, two hours of 24 in one post!

Iké Dubaku gets killed within the first few minutes of the episode, by another of Juma's operatives. That's hardly a surprise. Once the Big Bads arrive, the shelf life of an Intermediate Bad on 24 tends to be pretty short. Dubaku played his role over the first third of the season, and once that role was over, he had nothing else to do but die. The only question now, entering tonight's two-parter, was whether Tony Todd's General Juma or Jon Voight's traitorous industrialist Hodges was actually the Biggest of the Big Bads. By the end of the night, I think we had an answer - and it's not the one who ends the episode with a gun pointed at the president's head.

As several commenters noted in advance last week, it doesn't really make a lick of sense for Juma to be in D.C. at this point, for reasons both logical and logistical. So I'll spare trying to rationalize that, and instead settle for a pithy crack: even third world African dictators apparently don't want to live in third world African countries. Joining Juma are about a dozen other members of his elite military guard, included among them Dubaku's son Laurent. Juma lies to Laurent and tells him that his father's alive, the sort of contrivance that you know is bound to come back and burn Juma eventually.

Moss begins to organize FBI teams to arrest the conspirators on Dubaku's list. Jack, however, alerts Chloe first to delete one name off the list, Ryan Burnett, so that Jack can take care of him personally. Burnett is at the White House at the moment, as he has accompanied his boss Senator Mayer as Mayer meets with Ethan and the president to talk about, ironically, Jack. Burnett's really not happy to be at the White House, as he'd much rather Juma not attack the place while he's stuck inside. Which makes sense.

James Morrison Jack shows up at the White House and immediately pulls his gun on Bill. You have to love the fact that Bill's reaction is completely unfazed, and he proceeds to just chat with Jack like this is a normal conversation. I suppose if you work with Jack Bauer long enough, you come to expect that he will pull a gun on you at some point. After Jack finds out where in the building Burnett is, he puts Bill in a sleeper hold, finds Burnett, and a good old-fashioned torture session is thus underway.

The irony is not lost on anyone that Mayer spent so much time grandstanding against Jack's torture tactics, and now Jack has to torture Mayer's top aide. The only thing more deliciously ironic would surely be if Jack had to torture Mayer himself. I'm not really sure if that would have been ridiculous, or ridiculously awesome.

While Jack is dealing with Burnett, his apprentice at the Jack Bauer Interrogation Academy, Renee, is following another lead. She knows that Dubaku was murdered, and follows a lead on the fake orderly who killed him, which takes her to a warehouse populated by Juma's mini-army.

Thanks to some snooping by Janis (I'm sure everyone is happy to learn that Chloe now hates Janeane Garofalo as much as you do), Moss finds out that Jack is going after Burnett, and alerts the White House. Burnett spills that Juma's men are planning another attack in D.C., though President Taylor and a gang of Secret Service personnel bust in before Jack can get the exact location. Jack's interrogation session thus is incomplete, though he did get to taser a phone in the process, which was fabulous. Mayer and Jack shout at each other for a little while, and Taylor has Jack sent away.

Renee, meanwhile, sees Juma's men depart the warehouse and head to a houseboat. Huh? What we'll learn is that there's apparently a network of underground canals in D.C., and so you can swim from the Potomac River to the White House. Whatever you say, 24. After seven years, mocking how people get around from place to place on this show is so passe, so I won't add to that. Renee hides out on the boat until Juma and the rest of his team, save Laurent Dubaku, have gone, at which point she snoops around to find that the target is indeed the White House. Laurent spots her and starts shooting at her, but manages only to shoot a park ranger instead during a chase.

I do like the fact that this is a really proactive couple of episodes for Renee, given the fragile mental state we left her in at the end of the last episode. She seemed darn near catatonic at the end there last time, but now she rushes right back into things. The emotional wringer that she's been through shouldn't be forgotten, though, and I have to hope that it'll be addressed sooner rather than later. It'll just be weird if she's on the verge of a breakdown, then spends half a day acting like nothing's wrong, and then returns to having that breakdown at the end of the day.

Buchanan, awakened, checks back in with Tony. Tony reveals to Bill that the source of his intel is somebody who used to be in Emerson's crew and who has a direct line to Juma, at which point Tony makes a very suspicious face. Hmmm. Curious.

Laurent finally finds Renee, though Renee keeps him from killing her by announcing that Juma had his father killed. It buys enough time so that Moss and his FBI team can stop and shoot him. Renee tells Moss, who in turn tells Buchanan, who in turn tells Jack that the White House is the site of the attack.

Juma's men come out of the water and blast through some underground walls to find themselves in the basement of the White House. And then everything hits the fan. Secret Service agents and Juma's army start blowing each other away in the corridors of the White House, while Jack and Bill try to guard the president. Bill smartly creates a diversion, grabbing the president's electronic tracking bracelet (felons and presidents are apparently a lot alike) and running with it. Juma's men find Bill and take him as a hostage, but it buys enough time for Jack and the president to run off to a steel-reinforced lockdown room.

Jon Voight Jon Voight time! Jack shorts out the electronic lock on the door, thus defeating Juma's initial efforts to simply punch in the access code, so Juma calls his ally Jonas Hodges to devise another strategy to force the president out. You know, I heard once that blowing toxic gas through the vents in a lockdown room like this works ... don't remember where I heard that ...

Hodges does have another plan, though. He can access a manifest of all individuals in the White House at the moment, and among those individuals is the president's daughter Olivia. Olivia has been hidden away by our good friend Agent Pierce while all the shooting has been going on, and Juma demands that she be found.

The Secret Service and the FBI, meanwhile, have stood down in response to Juma's bluff, which nobody outside the building can confirm or deny, that he has the president hostage and will shoot her if anyone comes back in the building. With the president out of pocket, the decision on whether to proceed with an invasion rests upon the vice president, whom we now meet for the first time. Moss speaks to the VP to request approval, but the VP demurs. Simple math: VP + 24 = rarely good. It's not yet clear whether this VP is in Hodges's pocket, or simply out for the top job himself, or an ubervillain, or just a patsy. We'll find out more next week.

Juma's men track down Pierce and Olivia and bring them together with Bill, Mayer, and the rest of their hostages outside the lockdown room. Juma holds Olivia in front of the security camera and threatens that he will torture and kill her if President Taylor does not open the door. Jack tries to refuse, but Taylor asks what Jack would do if he saw somebody torturing his daughter. Actually, lots of people saw that movie; it was called "Captivity." Wait ... no, nobody saw that movie. Jack relents, and opens the door. As for what Juma will now do with the president, you'll have to wait for next week. Whatever the case may be, it's clear that Juma's not really the Big Bad after all. This is a suicide mission that he's on, and whether or not he kills President Taylor, Juma doesn't appear likely to be around much longer. Hodges, on the other hand, is just getting started.

Who will be the biggest villain of the season: Juma, Hodges, or somebody else entirely? Is this vice president a villain too, or just a tool? And what's the deal with Tony acting even more cryptic than usual? Do you accept that the show has tabled Renee's mental breakdown, or will it be weird to just forget it for a few hours and then return to it later? And does any part of you wish that it was Senator Red Forman whom Jack got to torture?