For just a second, at the start of this episode, I genuinely expected to hear Kiefer Sutherland, in voiceover, saying “The following takes place between…”, because it’s a very 24-esque cold open: a man, seemingly in fear, runs up a flight of stairs, sends an email, then gets tased.
Once we know more about the email, it seems to be proof that everyone’s favourite made-up terrorist group, Al-Sakar (sp? – this is my third try, I think), was behind the attack on the Capitol; and, on top of that, it contains information about the whereabouts of its leader Majid Nassar, apparently on a compound in Algeria. So, General Cochrane asks President Kirkman eagerly, now can we start bombing, pls? Not so fast, says POTUS; the American agent who sent us this information has been captured and is also on the compound, and I’m not killing him. Nuh-uh, says Cochrane, he knew the risks; and, while POTUS’s attention is elsewhere he starts to prepare to attack anyway. Whereupon POTUS – finally – sacks him and appoints General Chernow (Mykelti Williamson, another 24 alum) in his stead.
Unfortunately Tom can’t sack his wife, who needs a solid relating to a former client, and gets it from Kimble Hookstraten, who makes such a huge meal of emphasising that FLOTUS now owes her one that we can expect the favour to be called in very soon. And a good week for Seth: I thought he might make it to Chief of Staff, but, although I was perhaps getting a little ahead of myself, he does become the President’s Press Secretary when the present incumbent – promoted way beyond his level of competence by the bomb – is ripped limb from limb by the press corps, although at least he didn’t promise a secret plan to fight inflation (Any excuse to use that clip. Any excuse. “Oh God…”).
The really, really, really good news this week, though, is that Governor Royce is back – obviously it’s terrible, because he’s a bad man, but Michael Gaston is a GREAT villain – and up to his old tricks. There’s going to be a civil rights march in Michigan, which Emily flies out to observe, with a view to deterring Royce from setting the dogs (or whatever) on the protesters. But when her plane lands, Royce’s stormtroopers refuse to let her leave the airport. You wanna play, bitch, thinks Kirkman; OK then. I’ll federalise the National Guard, send them in, and get them to escort Emily. Except that the Guard also refuses to acknowledge Kirkman’s authority, and instead makes it clear that it regards its Commander-in-Chief as being one John Royce, Governor of Michigan.
So Emily comes up with a neat plan which will allow everyone to save face, and thus gets Royce on the plane back to Washington for a sit-down with the President. What she doesn’t know, however, is that Kirkman has a little surprise waiting for Royce when he lands. It feels to Emily like a betrayal of trust: he’s “turning into a different person”, she grumbles to Aaron, as the two of them chat about the issues of the day, and tacitly ponder at which point to indicate an interest in seeing the other naked. Well, yes, Emily. He’s no longer Mr Secretary Kirkman of the Department of Housing and Development; he’s now President Jack Bauer.
It’s another insanely good episode. If the show has a weakness, it’s that the storyline featuring Agent Maggie Q’s investigation of the attack still feels a little undercooked: this week she looks into Congressman MacLeish, concludes that he had nothing to do with it, and is then pointed in his direction again when she’s the recipient of a phone call with one of those cryptic, late night, Deep Throaty morsels of information which really annoy me. Why couldn’t the caller just tell her what’s going on, rather than fire an unexplained room number at her? Because we’re only on episode 4, I suppose.