Monday, January 12, 2009

The Return of Jack Bauer

I have a confession to make. '24' is among my guilty pleasures.

I don't mean 'guilty' as I want to distance myself from taking pleasure at terrorists and would-be terrorists meeting a violent and bloody end. Hell no! That's the best part. I don't mean 'guilty' because the show frequently features government officials as villains, although they usually splash the ones of the wrong persuasion with that paint. No, its a 'guilty' pleasure because as satisfying as it is to see an American showing backbone, I realize that the writers and producers still pull the punches and try to have all the threats and troubles somehow be rooted in America and Americans. Well, that and the fact that they jumped the shark a few seasons ago. In spite of these things, I still watch it and enjoy it tremendously. Why? Because Jack has given me some of the most satisfying moments I have ever witnessed on television, whether it was finally getting some quality "alone time" with his wife's assassin, or the summary execution of a Presidential assassin, Jack has given me more "YESSSS!!!" moments than any television viewer had any right to expect. And last night was no exception, offering up the cool and measured appraisal of a professional to a smarmy, self-serving politician whose idea of sacrifice is probably giving up pricey meals out with well-heeled lobbyists. But its much, much better in his own words. From the man himself, the first of hopefully many morsels of Bauery goodness this season:

SENATOR: Will the witness please state his name.

BAUER: Jack Bauer.

SENATOR: Mr. Bauer, I don't see your counsel present. Or is he or she not aware we're about to start?

BAUER: I've chosen not to retain counsel.

SENATOR: Mr. Bauer, I have to advise you that many of the questions we're about to pose to you are of a legal nature and might result in answers that could incriminate you.

BAUER: I understand that, Senator.

SENATOR: We can postpone your testimony until this afternoon if you'd like to bring in representation, something that I would strongly advise.

BAUER: What is the first question, sir?

SENATOR: All right then.

SENATOR: And isn't it true that you detained Mr. Haddad without due process and that you used extreme interrogation methods on him until he answered your request he is?

BAUER: Yes, sir.

SENATOR: Would you say that you broke procedure with this interrogation?

BAUER: Probably.

SENATOR: Probably? Well, that's a very cavalier answer. You don't seem to care about the implications here. Well, Mr. Bauer?

BAUER: I'm sorry, Senator. I didn't hear a question.

SENATOR: All right then. Did you torture Mr. Haddad?

BAUER: According to the definitions set forth by the Geneva Convention, yes, I did. Senator, why don't I save you some time. It's obvious that your agenda is to discredit and generate a series of --

SENATOR: My only agenda is to get to the truth.

BAUER: I don't think it is, sir.

SENATOR: Excuse me.

BAUER: Abraham Haddad had targeted a bus train of 45 people, 10 of which were children. The truth, Senator, is I stopped that attack from happening.

SENATOR: By torturing Mr. Haddad.

BAUER: By doing what I deemed necessary to protect innocent lives.

SENATOR: So basically what you're saying, Mr. Bauer, is that the ends justify the means and that you are above the law.

BAUER: When I am activated, when I am brought into a situation, there is a reason and that reason is to complete the objectives of my mission at all costs.

SENATOR: Even if it means breaking the law?

BAUER: For a combat soldier the difference between success and failure is your ability to adapt to your enemy. The people that I deal with, they don't care about your rules. All they care about is a result. My job is to stop them from accomplishing their objectives. I simply adapt it. In answer to your question, am I above the law? No, sir. I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent. I will let them decide what price I should pay. Now please do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions that I have made because, sir, the truth is I don't.

Simple, elegant, and to the point. The writers nailed this moment better than they probably realized, as the mask of arrogance worn by the Senator clearly prevented him from indicating that he even understood how directly he had been judged and found not worthy.