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Our Lady of the Sensible Pantsuit: Why Karen Hayes Keeps Me Watching "24"

Oh, 24, I keep giving you chances and you keep biting me.

I finally got around to watching this week's episode of 24 last night (blame it on the fact that I was out Monday night and, well, hardly find the show that interesting anymore) and was shocked to learn that there's only a handful of episodes left. This season has been plagued with such stop and go storytelling (guess we'll never learn if Charles Logan lived or died after being stabbed by a knife-wielding former First Lady) and such an over the top beginning (after detonating a nuclear bomb in Valencia, where do you really go from there?) that it's hard to take the show seriously. And don't even get me started on the Very Special Episode where Jack bonded with a mentally disabled guy in a plot to ensnare the dead-and-forgotten "Mr. Grendenko."

Still, it's a telling sign that a series is getting a little old and creaky when the most exciting thing about 24 that week isn't Jack's daring rescue of Audrey (who may or may not be insane) but the fractured marital relationship between Bill Buchanan and Karen Hayes.

What's that you say? How can the strained relations between two supporting characters be the most exciting thing going on? Here's the skinny. A few weeks back, weaselly Reed Pollack (Chad Lowe) and the Biscuit (Peter MacNichol) discovered that Bill Buchanan that actually detained Fayed two years earlier and released him, due to a lack of evidence. Now that said terrorist detonated a nuclear blast in the US, the Justice Department is looking for a scapegoat. And since both Bill and Karen were involved with Fayed's release (or in Karen's case, the routine processing of paperwork involving the release), either she or Bill will have to take the fall. Due to Karen's proximity to the president (both the real one and the Kari Matchett-sniffing Acting one), it's advised that it's Bill who be the fall guy.

Poor Karen. Just a few hours ago, she tried to resign to cover up just this very story to keep Bill in his position as director of CTU and now she's willing--for the greater good--to fire her husband and destroy his career (before he can check his voicemail messages, apparently). Bill is grief-stricken that his wife would turn on him as quickly as she does and hangs up on her. A distraught Karen tries to call back but Bill refuses to speak to her. Please tell me my favorite TV couple (loved that photo of them on their honeymoon in Hawaii, BTW) isn't splitting up!

While Karen's role as National Security Advisor might seem more pivotal, I did think that perhaps it would be in the interest of the country to keep Bill running CTU until the 73rd international crisis that day was completely averted (given that Jack had gone rogue for the umpteenth time and was running around with Russian missile schematics). Or at least until the end of the season. As for Karen, she and her always sensible pantsuits have given this season a much needed kick in the pants as she continues to provide both steely resolve and (as evidenced from this week's episode) grim determination that her career--or that of her beloved husband's--can be sacrificed in the name of national security.

Meanwhile, I do think that Bill chose the perfect replacement for himself in Nadia, who will be acting director of CTU until a suitable replacement for Bill can be found (read: next season). It's at least a fitting apology to the woman they had suspected of being a mole, detained, interrogated, strangled, and then released without giving her a mental health day or a change of clothes. And, hell, she'll do a better job than the dour Chloe, who's too busy arguing with ex-husband Morris (whose involvement in the Fayed affair is thrown back in his face) to do her job.

But if there's one reason I've stuck around with 24 this season, it's definitely because of Karen Hayes. And while next week's episode seeks to reveal just what the Chinese did to Audrey, the real reason I'm tuning in isn't to watch Jack try to reach out to her but to see just what the fallout is from Karen's betrayal of Bill, both politically and romantically and whether their marriage will be fractured forever.

Had you been in Karen's position, would you have taken the fall or would you have pinned it on your partner? Discuss.

Next week on 24, Audrey experiences a severe post-traumatic reaction to her captivity in the hands of the Chinese, while Acting President Noah Daniels receives a rather shocking message from Russian President Suvarov.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Jericho (CBS); Thank God You're Here (NBC); America's Next Top Model (CW); According to Jim/Notes from the Underbelly (ABC); American Idol (FOX; 8-10 pm)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS); Crossing Jordan (ABC); Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll (CW); Lost (ABC)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Medium (NBC); Lost (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: America's Next Top Model.

On tonight's episode ("The Girls Who Picks a Fight"), it's time for a clip show, featuring never-before-seen footage from Top Model, including Dionne and Renee going tooth and nail in an argument, and the girls put on a mock fashion show, including impersonations of the judges. Let's just hope they didn't raid Tyra's closet for that one.

9 pm: Lost.

If you missed last week's Desmond-centric episode ("Catch-22"), here's your chance to catch it again. Desmond convinces Charlie, Hurley, and Jin to accompany him on a journey across the jungle, while Kate turns to Sawyer after catching Jack alone with Juliet.

10 pm: Lost.

Lost is more than back on track for me. On tonight's episode ("D.O.C."), Sun reluctantly allows Juliet to examine her after learning that all of the Other's pregnant women have died before giving birth on the island, while Desmond enters an uneasy alliance in order to save Naomi's life.


Unknown said…
I'd provide a press release stating what happened--that the U.S. had Fayed in custody two years ago and released him due to lack of evidence. It should also probably say something about the presumption of innocence (which used to be important in this country). It's 2am and there are lots of other news items (nuclear explosion, hello!) that'll bury the story on page 8.
The CineManiac said…
I hate to saw it but I'm tired of 24. I finally caught up this morning after not watching it for over a month, which says something in and of itself, and truthfully didn't care that Audrey was still alive and crazy.
Also I don't care what happens to Chloe and Morris, or anyone else working at CTU these days, except Bill, and sadly now he's gone.
I don't care about all the white house nonsense, especially the crap with The VP and his advisor/GF.
I'm hoping there's a nuclear attack and eveyone dies, including Jack!
rockauteur said…
24 used to be my favorite show but it has really gone down hill this season, replaced by Prison Break as my favorite Monday night series. I hope the Audrey stuff reenergizes things but its annoying that there is no resolution for the President Logan stabbing, Beiruz getting captured by the terrorists two seasons ago, Mandy escaping CTU two seasons ago, and whether or not Audrey's father survived his self-car crash. Then again, I love the suprise moments where the characters appear and make me jump off my couch and "whoop." (like when Tony came back and saved Jack a few seasons back)
Anonymous said…
Karen and Bill have become my fav characters. Hopefully writers allow them to be at least in the same room for a change and not only phone talkings.
Unknown said…
I SO wish Jayne could come back for a 24 spinoff - but loved Karen and Bill, hate they killed Bill off the show!! Jayne is the best actress!!!

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