Written by Robert Cochran & Howard Gordon
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Original Air Date: March 19th, 2002
On first viewing, this is an incredibly busy and gripping episode. After a few weeks of slowing down the pace, repositioning the series by making the Drazen’s the antagonists and Palmer and Bauer figuring out the motivations behind why they are being targeted, 24 throws itself back into the realm of incident and action, with Teri and Kim targeted at the safe house by one of Drazen’s assassins and a car chase ensuing.
It’s also the part of the first season of 24 where the wheels come of what has been a pretty well mined piece of writing craft, at least in terms of network television.
It would be a running joke amongst the actors and crew at the time about who had come up with the amnesia plotline but that nobody could remember, or they didn’t want to remember. Mention amnesia as a plot point in a television series and it almost immediately feels like you’re invoking a hundred million soap opera stories, or Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3.
Want to bring back a dead character by explaining how and why they were missing during the time they are absent from the show? Why, they had amnesia. (I recall the Australian soap opera Neighbours using that plot line under notorious circumstances).
The loss of memory is frequently used as a means to explain away a plot contrivance or as some sort of lazy get-out-of-jail free card with which to keep the plot going. It was used to brilliant satirical degree in the movie The Truman Show to explain how the lead character’s father wasn’t killed off to its unknowing star.
Things could be worse. You could be Dallas explaining away an entire season by playing the ‘it was all a dream’ card.
Teri’s amnesia would become something of a notorious sore spot with fans of the show and generally be regarded as one of its weakest plot lines, matched only by a sequence from season two that I’ll save discussion for when we get to it (and so not to spoil it for anyone reading these reviews as they watch the series for the first time).
What was becoming clear at this point in the series was just how much the writers were trying to keep trouble going for the Bauer family by throwing them into the mix of a never-ending action thriller. We’ve just spent all season watching Jack try and save his family, but now with the series having been picked up for the rest of its 24 episode run, the series has no choice but to spread more trouble and have Teri and Kim in danger yet again, but that’s not enough so we need to have the characters separated in order to mine more drama.
On the surface this is all still very exciting. There’s a great piece of split screen editing when Nina is telling Jack his family is safe on one half of the screen, but in the other we see the car chase involving them in full swing.
It’s all scored to perfection by Sean Callery who gives the music a violently performing choir along with a pounding percussion (it’s one of the loudest tracks on the original soundtrack release), and it’s all very exciting to watch…at first.
It’s only on reflection that you realise that it’s 24 in panic footing. There’s none of the grace or chaotic brilliance of anything that was mustered up during the first half of the season. It’s just chaos and nothing much else. It’s directed fantastically by Stephen Hopkins who once again makes the dusty and sandy winding roads into another part of 24’s LA playground, which is kind of apt really. 24 itself is now on a winding road, but one that it seemingly doesn’t know where it’s going to, as if the writers have really lost their way.
Or their memories.