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The ‘24’ Absurd-o-Meter: Five Kinds of Absurdity!

In Daily Intel’s 24 Absurd-o-Meter, we each week count down the most incredibly ridiculous (ridiculously incredible?) plot points in the last hour of Jack Bauer’s crappy day. This week, Jack goes for a ride under a truck, Fayed goes for a ride with a chain around his neck, and basic dramatic logic takes a ride out the window. Shall we count the ways?

5. Nonameistan continues to go unnamed. “My government has alerted me of the nuclear missile headed to my country,” proclaims “the ambassador” (from where? can’t say!) as he negotiates with President Palmer. Think about how often President Bush says “Iraq.” Now think about the contortions 24 goes through every episode not to name this country. Though, from the looks of this week’s finish, we won’t have 24’s Middle Eastern issues to complain about anymore. Absurdity factor: 3 (of a possible 10)

4. Are you the Keymaster? There’s what seems to be an unintentionally hilarious moment when President Palmer learns some new intel and declares, “Perhaps it’s the key to breaking Fayed,” the hardened terrorist mastermind behind the day’s attacks. Cut to Jack Bauer’s punching Fayed in the face, which is clearly very, very far from the key to breaking Fayed. Absurdity factor: 4

3. Just try talking when it’s not so loud. While Jack hitches a ride in the undercarriage of Fayed’s getaway truck, he attempts to tell CTU his position but can’t make a clear call because it’s too loud. Indeed, the show goes to great lengths to show how incredibly! loud!! it!!! IS!!!! — but, of course, only when the truck is in motion. Jack’s on that thing through a commercial break and another few minutes. There were no red lights? No four-way stops? Slow turns? C’mon! Absurdity factor: 6

2. Fake-outs: What America does best. First President Palmer employs the time-tested “fake nuclear attack” ploy to get An Arab Country to Be Named Later to cough up the name of a Fayed supporter in their government. Then Jack stages a faux-rescue of Fayed in order to get him to lure CTU to his base. The juxtaposition of the two similar tactics was such sloppy storytelling that maybe it was deliberate — could it be that it isn’t 24 that’s run out of any strategies save time-wasting misdirection, but America? Nah, it’s the show. Absurdity factor: 8

1. Good timing, evil China dude. The Audrey Raines–kidnapping Mr. Chang happens to call Jack at 10:55, just after America’s favorite agent has finished neatly disposing of Fayed, his nukes, and seventeen hours’ worth of plot. Suddenly, and neatly sequentially, a whole new story line begins. What a convenient turn of events! Absurdity factor: 9

Bonus: Introducing the Reverse Absurd-o-Meter, which will hereafter be bestowed whenever a character takes the road less traveled and shows a patently un-24-like amount of common sense. This happened four minutes into the episode, when National Security Adviser Karen Hayes tries to put a cockamamy scheme in action. She asks her husband, CTU L.A. director Bill Buchanan, to concoct a story about having a solid lead from Fayed on the location of the suitcase nukes. Bill: “You’re asking me to provide a pretext to bring the missile down? Karen, I can’t do that. Fayed’s not talking, and Gredenko’s dead. I don’t have anything.” Yeah, jeez, Karen — what kind of show do you think this is? —Ben Wasserstein

The ‘24’ Absurd-o-Meter: Five Kinds of Absurdity!