Written by Robert Cochran & Howard Gordon
Directed by Ian Toynton
Original Air Date: 9th December 2003
It’s very apt that the sun is going down at this stage of season three. There’s a feeling of finality of sorts running through this episode as events come to a dramatic head but which are only setting in motion the next stage of the season’s story arc.
We open with a callback of sorts to season one as Kim is held at gunpoint by latest CTU mole Gael, which not only reminds one of when Kim’s mother was also placed in danger by a CTU mole, but when Kim was prone to being kidnapped or held hostage every other hour. The season is now seven hours into its run and it is perhaps the longest the series has ever gone without Kim being placed in danger.
Jack may have talked at length about wanting his daughter to be safe only a few episodes ago, but he has a pretty selective memory regarding his work environment given the body count that comes about from working at the place.
Kim being in danger sets in motion another grandstanding episode that gains much suspense and drama from being more interior driven than the previous episode. Where last week’s episode was all full of high octane action and a fantastically delivered helicopter chase, Jack being confined to an airplane and CTU dealing with the fall-out of Gael’s treachery keeps everything to one or two sets, but this is no mere watercooler episode.
There are two feelings in the air running parallel to each other that make Cochran and Gordon’s script here one of the sneakiest of the season, but which in retrospect also make the season up to this point also very, very sneaky.
The revelation lying in wait come the final moments of the episode is one of the best ‘gotcha’ moments of 24 ever, a magnificent slice of drama and thriller that is best summed up by the beleaguered feeling experienced by the characters and audience who wonder what has been going on all this time.
It does leave one with many questions as to certain interactions between certain characters earlier in the season; if Jack was really working with Hector Salazar the whole time and if Jack, Tony and Gael were planning this, why did they talk to each other in certain ways or with certain characters when they didn’t have to?
Of course, the writers of the series have always been honest about not having the most concrete plan going into a season of the show, with the series’ ferocious pace chewing up the story more than the writers had been able to plan it out. This is a case in point, but if you can just let it go for a little, then there is something brilliantly jaw dropping about how the episode leaves you with the revelations that Gael isn’t a mole, and that he, Tony and Jack have been working secretly to get Jack back undercover with Hector and Ramon, only to then smash cut to the final clock, leaving you entertainingly with more questions than answers and reeling from what you’ve just learned.
Michelle, Ryan, even Ramon himself are all shown looking stunningly confused, left with the feeling that while they are in the middle of everything, they have in truth known nothing all season. I’ll get into the ins and outs of this twist with the next hour where a full explanation of Jack dominates the opening moments of the episode, but it spins a new flavour for the season going forward, while leaving you wondering how successful the season has been in withholding such a vital piece of information.