Written by Robert Cochran
Directed by Davis Guggenheim
Original Air Date: 12th February, 2002
While the last few episodes have seen Jack running around LA, dodging secret service or getting stuck in traffic, the eleventh hour of 24 has him pretty much stuck in a limousine for the majority of its one hour running time interrogating the only person that he knows has a link to Gaines.
Or does he?
This isn’t a bottle episode by any stretch of the imagination as the episode cuts back and forward between Jack and the other plotlines that are going on around him, but there is something that approaches a two-person play when it comes to our lead character’s conversations with Cofell.
The series has already hoodwinked the audience when it came to the Jamey reveal, so naturally, like Jack, we’re cautious when it comes to Cofell’s proclamations that he is only a financial banker and that the person named Kevin he is on his way to meet is a machine tool salesman.
It’s here, however, that the spectre of one of 24’s most controversial subjects raises it head for the first time, although we’re still a season away yet from it being fully depicted.
Thanks to Nina’s background check on Cofell, Jack learns that the threat of physical violence might be more potent than actual coercion itself. Using a towel, Jack outlines a literally stomach-churning account on how Russian gulags used towels to rip the stomach lining out of prisoners because they simply had to make do.
It’s disturbing and horrible, but also strangely humorous. At this stage, we figured that Jack would never do anything like that, but then we hadn’t gotten to Day Two and beyond, and in hindsight his threats here don’t play as exaggerated as opposed to some dark promise that we now know he might be fully capable of delivering.
The scenes still work well, especially once again in hindsight when we realise just what sort of powerplay is going on between these two and the reveal that not only is Cofell involved with Gaines, but also a Serbian sleeper agent who isn’t even American, and is so devoted to his cause that he’ll choose dying of a heart attack as opposed to telling Jack any information.
The scenes between Sutherland and Currie Graham bristle with a dark energy and work well in repeat viewing because of the level of subterfuge going on from Graham’s character. It also leaves the audience asking the extent of the conspiracy going on around Jack, while also giving the audience a sense of the show’s political leaning, at least those from its two creators.
The episode marks Robert Cochran’s third script for the series (and just before he and Howard Gordon would go on to frequently collaborate on their episodes together in the manner of Surnow and Loceff), but there is a subtle sense that the episode is exploring the fear of the so-called ‘other’ in the manner that 24 would also make a stock in trade within its story telling over its long run.
For the majority of the season we have been led to believe that Gaines is the central villain of the series, but now that it’s initial thirteen episode run had been expanded to a full twenty four episodes, the series would need to find ways to keep going, and thus the reveal that Gaines is in the employ of a larger group of villains.
The previous episode gave us our first glimpse of Zeljko Ivanek (a wonderful actor whose presence in a television series usually means you’re watching a great show) as Andre Drazen who appears to have something of a personal grudge against Jack and Palmer and who also appears to be the string puller behind most of the day’s events. He is also Serbian, as is Cofell, so the conspiracy against our characters is coming from outside sources that are not American.
One of the biggest criticisms that was frequently levelled at 24 was that it contained elements of xenophobia and although it can be easy to forget, the series’ reliance of villains from outside America’s borders was there right from the off.
At this stage we don’t know the motivations of Drazen, but when they are revealed (no spoilers for anyone watching for the first time) they will muddy the waters a little in a manner that the series would seldom do again in later seasons, but in making the true ‘big bads’ of the day international, you can see the series setting in motion themes that would once again land the series somewhat in trouble during later seasons.