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24 8.23-24: The last day of our acquaintance

There but for the grace of God goes Fox, who dares to air the series finale to one of their most successful shows in the shadow of "Lost," which was basically the biggest series finale since "Cheers." Man, do you remember the cast of "Cheers" on Leno's show after that last episode aired? They were smashed. Good times.

The "24" finale, however, was not good times.

The bad guys won. Allison had the video of Starbuck with the Russian. Mr. Blonde wiped his servers, so the backup copy of the video was gone. The recording of the conversation between I.M. Weasel and Suvarov, which Jack gave to Chloe, was confiscated by Dominic. Chloe and Buffy are looking at long stints in the slammer for treason. Jack is looking at either the death penalty or life in a deep dark hole somewhere halfway around the world, if he's lucky. Game over. Bad guys win.

Well, that's how this would have happened in the real world.

But not here. Instead, Jack, Chloe and Buffy are saved by a long-overdue crisis of conscience on the part of one Allison Taylor. One that, ideally, shouldn't have needed to happen in the first place - this is where frequent commenter Mr. Paulsen would make a crack about manufactured conflict, and he's not wrong - but there you are. That's a hell of a way to end your show about an ass-kicking counter-terrorist agent, with him being saved not by his wits but by someone else's guilty conscience. And by a hell of a way, I mean lame.

Jack should never have a passive role in how events unfold. He should have been at the center of it all, not on his knees getting a last-minute pardon. To his credit, at least he took his execution the way you would expect him to, by telling the guy to pull the damn trigger already. Still, being a fugitive should have been his choice. The exposing of the scandal should have been by his hand. Hell, he just whacked a small army of Russian goons, and it was one of the best episodes of the show in years. There should be a rule with the "24" staff to never, ever take the power out of his hands.

It was actually going well in the first hour. Jack finds that sweet location where he can take out Logan, and from there it all went wrong. Biting Dominic's ear off? Really? If I were in charge, I would have had Jack wound Suvarov in Logan's office at the very least, prompting Allison to sing like a canary not because her conscience is getting to her but because . The truth comes out, the peace treaty is killed, Logan is exposed as the puppet master, Allison's legacy is ruined, and Jack flees the country as a wanted but righteous man, becoming a folk hero in the process. Years from now, Kim will get a text message from an unknown number saying, "New Zealand is nice this time of year," or "Zihuatanejo."

I'd blame the limp-wristed ending on the producers' desire to maintain "24" as a viable movie property, but the strange thing is, this ending does not set up a potential "24" movie very well. How do you bring him back when both the Russian and US governments want to put him on trial for mass murder? Throw in the Chinese, and Jack is effectively banned from 60% of the world. Ah, well. It's over. As Marge Simpson once said, when Homer wasn't sure if a problem was properly resolved, "It's an ending. That's enough."

Our last song comes courtesy of the Pope-dissing firecracker Sinead O'Connor. She took her PR lumps after that incident on "SNL" but those first two records of hers were damn good. Thank you to everyone who read this column over the years. It's been fun sharing the experience with you all. My current plan is to not like another TV show enough that my bosses will ask me to blog about it. Wish me luck.

24 8.22: On with the body count

24 8.21: The knife feels like justice

Tonight's episode of "24" felt like a blast from the past. It was pretty lean in terms of storytelling, it contained a hellacious, if predictable, end-around, and ended with one of the most vicious torture scenes in the show's history. Pity it had one major, major flaw.

I liked that Dominic was so busy trying to nail down Bauer down that he took no notice of Chloe and Merv the Perv conspiring behind his back. Even when he noticed Chloe giving him The Look (you know the one), he just tinted the windows and kept on scheming. Fool. Nobody puts Chloe in a corner. Still, you'd think Dominic would show a little more diplomacy when safeguarding high crimes committed by the White House. By yanking that file away from Arlo, he may as well have stamped "CORRUPT" on his forehead.

As Jack is setting up the meet with White She Devil, I'm thinking to myself, "There has to be a better way to do this." Not in terms of getting her the evidence (more on that in a bit), but in terms of meeting out in the open like that. So as it's going down and he shows up, I knew he'd have a plan, and sure enough, he did. He didn't care about getting caught on camera - he knew the hit man who took out Crazy Jackie would be there, and could then settle two scores for the price of one. Get the intel, and make the motherfucker responsible for Jackie's death squeal like a stuck pig before ultimately killing him. Re-enter Mr. Blonde, to get the drop on Dmitri Sharpshooter.

But I have another idea.

That's great that he was able to abduct - and torture the bejeezus out of - Renee's killer, but if he just wanted to make sure She Devil got the video, why didn't he just go viral with it? Post that puppy to YouTube, text her the link, have her record her own version in the event CTU discovers it, and send it to every TV station in New York City. She Devil said it herself, Starbuck's tape alone was more than enough evidence to blow the lid off. He didn't need to risk her life over it, which actually goes to Dominic's point that Jack has indeed lost it, and is acting not out of duty but out of grief and hell-bent on revenge. I believe Jack has it mostly together; he did check himself after unloading about 20 hay makers on the helpless hit man. But let's not kid ourselves, people: Jack Bauer is the Crow, and he will not stop until everyone responsible for Renee's death is dealt with. And by dealt with, I mean gutted like a deer, but not before having a little blowtorch work done. And taking the cell phone memory card out of hit man's stomach, staring him in the eyes the entire time...wow.

The bottom line is that Jack should go viral with the footage anyway, because once it's out on the web, the government will not be able to control the message any longer. It's an instant checkmate, and Jack, of all people, should know this. But hey, the "24" writers, for as advanced as their tech is, are slow on the draw with certain things. They actually used texting to their advantage this week, after passing on a golden opportunity to use it in an earlier episode. Before you know it, they'll be Facebooking, tweeting, and then, when no one's looking, sexting. Shhhhh!

I still have one question: has I.M. Weasel revealed how he suspected the Russians were involved in the day's events? I remember him offering his services to Allison, and then blackmailing Mikhail into submission, but never really being forthright - not his strong suit, sure - with either of them. He must have known something, but what? If he heard chatter, then who was chattering? I hear chatter about lots of things, but I don't offer my services to the President unless I'm 100% sure of my intel, especially if I'm a disgraced former President looking for redemption.

Time for tonight's song, courtesy of a mid-'80s AAA-hungry Brian Setzer. This is the first time I've heard this song since its release, and all I could think of was Marshall Crenshaw. I'm frankly surprised Crenshaw didn't write this, because it sounds just like him.

24 8.20: Put me down

24 8.18: You're with stupid now

First, let's meet the two newest members of of the "24" cast:

- Jim Ricker (Michael Madsen), an 'I can get things' kind of guy, off the grid and on the wrong side of a favor to Jack. Official "24" nickname: Mr. Blonde, of course. - Mark Bledsoe (D.B. Sweeney), a ridiculously mustachioed private security agent who isn't afraid to dabble in torture. Official "24" nickname: Toepick. My wife came up with that one, as you might imagine.

Welcome to the show, gentlemen. Now please, D.B., shave that damn thing on your face.

Do you want to know how busy Michael Madsen is? His appearance on "24" is already listed as the 34th most recent acting gig he's done. That man's a machine.

There is still something about President I.M. Weasels' motives that bothers me. I'm convinced he still has at least one card, and maybe two, up his sleeve. He can't just be looking for an image makeover, because he wouldn't resort to extortion - poorly planned extortion, at that - in order to do it... For as much as he's supposedly playing the hardliner with the Russians, he's also protecting them and himself by negotiating Starbuck's release into Toepick's custody, willing to live with the consequences in the event that "mistakes are made." No, the extortion actually looks like a cover for something worse, possibly that he's in league with the Russians, or a group that stands to take advantage of a post-treaty Russia. I don't think we've seen the full weaselosity of Logan yet, which is saying something.

On the Starbuck front, something deliciously awesome just presented itself as a possibility: Jack and Buffy spring Starbuck, and the three work together to blow the lid on the conspiracy. Now, who saw THAT coming after Starbuck revealed herself to be a double agent? I thought her story ended with a bullet to the head, fired by her fiance. Now, they look like the "24" version of The Losers, government spooks trying to clear their name. Hopefully, this will turn out better than the movie.

Allison, once again, takes a look at the path of righteousness, considers changing course, but ultimately opts for rockier terrain after I.M. Weasel works his bad juju on Allison in private. Thank God, then, that Ethan stood up to her and showed her just how serious he was about the mistakes she's making. I guess actors can hear me when I yell at the TV, after all.

Back to the Ricker character: the press release says that he will appear in the final six episodes, but I highly doubt that. It's not like that can say that he'll be in the next three episodes, because we'll know that he dies in the third one. Earlier this year, they said that Annie Wersching was in 23 episodes this season, and we all know how that turned out. (*shakes fist at sky*) Nope, Mr. Blonde will only be able to take so many phone calls from Jack before someone sniffs him out. Which is too bad, because he has a pretty sweet lair, with all that gear and security tech.

The single best thing about tonight's episode was that Jack knew that Chloe would double-cross him, worked that into his battle plan, and appears to forgive Chloe for setting him up. That is friendship, right there. And while the writers have sent Allison hurtling into WTF territory, it's good to see that they haven't lost their minds about what makes Chloe tick. She's done underhanded stuff in the past, yes, but she wasn't director of CTU then, saddled with a Presidential order. He knew she'd play ball, and he worked that to his advantage. Now when does he let her in on his ruse, and will she be so accommodating the next time?

With the series planning a big-screen conversion, you would think that Jack and Chloe and the series on a good note, but for that to happen, it means that Dalia Hassan has to find out the truth about Allison covering up Russia's involvement for the sake of the treaty. If that happens, Allison will be disgraced, just like Logan. My question is: does Allison deserve that? Yes, she's making some major mistakes here, but she's no I.M. Weasel. Is there a way that Logan can take the fall again, but Allison can be redeemed before it's too late? I honestly hope so. It doesn't seem right that she goes down as a baddie.

Tonight's blog title comes courtesy of Aimee Mann, the unofficial title track to her 1996 pop classic . Mann has stated that she hated working under the major labels' thumb, but as much as it pains me to say this, she also did her best work when she did. Don't get me wrong, it's great that she has been able to make a living outside of the system - in fact, she's made far more money on her own than she ever did working for the Man - but A&R men are not always wrong when they tell their client that they don't hear a single. Just sayin'.

24 8.18: What price paradise

24 8.17: Bury my lovely...again

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!

Someone damaged .

Two weeks ago, I said:

This week, I get punched in the face. Actually, this was worse than a punch to the face - it was a full-scale mugging. My beloved Crazy Jackie, picked off by some douchenozzle Russian hit man. These guys haven't meant shit to the plot for half the season, and now the Russians are suddenly the phantom menace. Fuck that.

Can you tell I'm unhappy about the latest development?

Look, I knew that Jackie would die shortly after a moment of bliss with Jack (did anyone else notice that her hollow, raccoon eyes suddenly looked perfect for their big kiss?), and it stands to reason that the Russian mob would be the ones pulling the trigger. But now? You kill my favorite character on the show with six hours left and leave me with President Buck Buck Brawwwwwwk as a replacement? I'm sorry, but those terms are unacceptable to me. Maybe they knew that killing her in the final hours would be too predictable, so they offed her now. That's a logical play but also a shortsighted one, because now they've only pissed people off by killing her now; I think noted philosopher Eddie Murphy said it best when he said, "Ha ha, very funny, muthafucka." Thank God they didn't subject Agent Aaron "Old Yeller" Pierce to a similar fate, that's all I'm saying.

So yes, the Russians are in deep with this whole thing in ways we couldn't anticipate. In the early hours, it was merely some criminal kingpins profiting off the IRK's instability, but now it looks as though Mother Russia has a vested interest in it as well. And the only hope of getting the Russians to sign the peace treaty is...Charles Logan? Hell, he was as dead as Tony Almeida last we saw him. He conspired with the Russians to have David Palmer killed, for God's sake. He's your Hail Mary? Madame President finished their chat by saying something along the lines of "I better not be wrong about you," but has Logan ever been sleazier than he was in those few minutes? There are six hours left, which means no good can come from this, except possibly killing Logan once and for all.

While we're discussing outrageous predictions, though, I did get this one right:

Wow. I thought they were saving that one for the movie. And as soon as she inherited the crown, Chloe proved her worth by moving up the toxicology report of former terrorist mastermind Samir - did anyone else know that he was one of the guys that Jack shot when trying to save Slumdog President? Why on earth would he stay behind? - and confirming her suspicion that he was poisoned. Better call Jack and let him know what happened. "Oh hey, Renee..."

Fuck. Still not over her death yet.

An amusing Fox crossover moment came during Madame President's scene with Logan, as his executive assistant is played by Reed Diamond, a.k.a. Dominic from "Dollhouse." He was sent to the Attic on that show for betraying the director of the dollhouse, and he's serving President Buck Buck Brawwwwwk here. Just throwing that out there.

So Crazy Jackie's dead, and Chloe's in charge of CTU. Logan's in play, and Starbuck still hasn't given them a lead. (Apparently my from last week was rejected.) I may not agree with the decisions the show is making, but give them this: they're making things a lot more interesting now that they know they can play dirty. Still, damn, man. Not Jackie. Not now. This is the most heartbreaking death in the show's history for me. Jackie is also the second character to receive two ceremonial silent clock ticks, one for her , and another for her much more real death tonight. You will be sorely missed, Renee/Crazy Jackie. And because you're so special, your death merits two songs: the one that I referenced in the title, and one using your Christian name. (*wipes tear*)

24 8.15-16: I would die 4 U

24 8.14: Our time is running out

And it's official: this will be the last season of Premium Hollywood's "24" blog.

Did you like how I made Fox's decision to kill the show all about me?

Truth be told, I'm relieved. Ask anyone who blogs about a show and they will tell you that the single-best way to ruin a show for someone is to write about it. Even really good shows like "Lost" get exhausting after a while (biggest, mythology, ever), but "24," frankly, has been spinning its wheels for years now, and I know that my frustration with the show reflected in my writing. I really did try to make this as entertaining as possible, but that can be difficult when all you want to do is say "Fuck this show," and hit Publish.

Now that I know it's over (ooh, another potential blog title), though, I plan to have as much fun watching this show as possible, even if Starbuck is the sorriest excuse for a mole in TV history. And fingers crossed that I get another interview with Annie "Crazy Jackie" Wersching before they call it a day.

I am always amused at how cavalier TV politicians are about committing high treason. (There's a Karl Rove joke in there somewhere, but...nah.) We always knew Weiss was a weasel, but not even I thought that he would sell out Madame President like that, especially after that rousing speech she gave when the cabinet members actually entertained the idea of giving up Slumdog in order to stop the bomb. That was worthy of the that our own Will Harris assembled earlier this year. Say this for the lack of screen time Cherry Jones has suffered this year - when she is on screen, at least they give her good stuff...

...though in return for that good stuff, they have her assign the nation's best field agent with the menial task of escorting Slumdog President and family out of the blast range. Of course, it turned out to be a very good thing that he there, or they'd all be dead. Two firestorms in two weeks! Wheeeeee! Actually, I liked seeing Jack go all Call of Duty on General Brucker's goons, picking them off in the smoke screen like fish in a barrel. (That general has a great agent though, as he has made memorable appearances in "Fringe" and "Damages" before appearing here.) I was sure that Jackie was going to get picked off though, but it's too soon for a dramatic death scene like that. That one comes in Hour 23. Book it, Dan-O.

Now that we know that Starbuck is a terrorist, isn't it curious how Samir is suddenly ringing her phone like it's Booty Call Hour? Was she really not communicating with him up to this point? You have to think that he needed a thing or two from her before she killed Jimmy James, and either way, how conspicuous is she that they're in a crisis and she's constantly on her cell? Especially when - this just occurred to me - her phone was blasted in the EMP? She must have sent Samir a text message with the new number of the replacement phone NSA handed her. Or not; maybe they thought we wouldn't notice. Silly, silly show runners.

Starbuck did say something interesting during one of the calls, though. It's clear that there is no real relationship between Samir and Starbuck, and that this is a reluctant business arrangement on her part to help him. So who is it that she answers to? Who would be interested in recruiting a young, attractive female with a criminal past for a position of vast interest to national security? If they're American, that would explain how "Dana" has been able to escape detection up to this point. God, this couldn't be the makings of a perfect storm of sleaze, could it? Remember who's making a late appearance before the final clock tick? Three words: Buck buck brawwwwwwwwk!

But nah, that's too easy. There is no way an ex-President could get involved with something like that...right? Tony Almeida's behind bars, so he couldn't be the phantom menace, as it were...but Alan Wilson could be. His story is still unresolved; all we know is that Jackie nearly tortured him to death at the end of Day 7. Maybe his lawyers secured some kind of pardon for his troubles, and now he's trying to secure more work for his defense contractors by executing another attack on US soil. It makes sense on paper, but that is usually the best indication that the show has other plans.

Lastly, let's discuss poor, poor Tarin, who was forced to assume the role of the delivery driver for the bomb. This is surely a test on Samir's part, since he has unofficially questioned Tarin's commitment to the cause from the moment he expressed regret for getting Princess Jasmine involved. Tarin activates the ticking clock within the ticking clock, with a pained expression that said, "I am far too handsome to die like this." Doesn't he have 42 virgins waiting for him in the afterlife? Hey, no one wants to die, but dude, . You had to know that this moment was coming.

Which brings us to our song of the week, by my beloved Muse. Time is indeed running out for both Madame President and the show as a whole. The show's producers seem to be excited about flipping the franchise into a feature film property, but I don't know how that's possible without massive commercial breaks. I remember when Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken tried that in the '90s with "Nick of Time." Didn't work out too well. But on the plus side, maybe they'll cut out all that useless stuff like Mare Winningham and her closeted terrorist son. That can only be a good thing, right?

24 8.13: And if you don't look now, then you're gonna get Starbucked

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