I have to admit, I’m a little wary of the new season of 24.  I mean, it’s already my favorite show, why do they think I need to hear how good it is from Stephen Fucking King?  If I want advice on Maine or a possessed car, I’ll call King, but that’s about it.  An endorsement from a weirdo billionaire who thinks America needs thousand page books about clowns is not a positive sign.  Why not have an endorsement from Nick Lachey saying, “This season of 24 is better than sex with Jessica Simpson”?  Hell, I’d watch Gilmore Girls if it had that going for it. 

The story opens with Buchanan and resident badass Curtis Manning picking up Jack at the airport.  The Chinese have apparently been torturing Jack for two years, with methods including gluing a big fake beard to his face and making his hand all scabby. President Wayne "Don Cheadle Was Not Available" Palmer has given the Chinese something valuable to get Jack back, but Jack’s still screwed.  Terrorists are blowing up buses in Texas, so Palmer’s going to trade Jack to one of the terrorists, Abu Fayed, in exchange for the location of the terrorist leader, Hamri al-Assad.  Fayed wants to kill Jack because Jack killed somebody, his brother or something. 

Jack’s down with the plan, and tells Buchanan not to notify Kim or Audrey, so we won’t be seeing them this season, most likely.  Honestly, Audrey I can do without, but Kim being off the show hurts me deeply.  I suppose it was unavoidable.  Ever since she hogged up half of Day 2 with her crappy babysitting, she's had a smaller and smaller role every year, culminating in Day 5's five minutes of screen time where she shows up, hangs out with a hopefully fake-bearded Soul Man, watches Edgar choke to death, and then flees the city. 

As the plot moves forward, I’m pretty sure that Fayed isn’t the real threat.  He’s just not competent enough.  His first move is to explain to Jack that he is the bad terrorist, and Assad is actually trying to stop the violence.  His second move is to basically let Jack go.  Sure, Jack escaped by biting through a guy’s throat, kind of a less-sexy version of Rosario Dawson biting Alexis Bledel in Sin City.  But still, Fayed, why not just shoot Jack?  Know how the bad guys in Bond films always lose?  Why are you copying their tactics?  Idiot. 

But the biggest giveaway that Fayed sucks is that his right-hand man is Kal “Kumar” Penn.  Don’t get me wrong, he was awesome as Taj in Van Wilder, and I’m glad he’s in the show. 
But terrifying he is not.  Did he get the gig because every Arab actor objected to being in the show?  Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the guy who blew up the bus in Texas was Filipino, and Fayed is Italian at best, so maybe.

But you can’t really blame an Arab actor for not wanting to get involved with 24, what with Day 6's potentially-insensitive plot involving detention centers for Muslim citizens, not to mention 24's history of being so hit and miss on its ethnic stereotypes.  Sure, David Palmer was legitimately black, probably too legitimately black to be president.  And sure, the Chinese torture prisoners, which technically isn't a negative stereotype in their culture.  But aside from that, 24 is just unacceptably lazy for the 21st century.  I mean, come on, that chick who was shacked up with Salazar in Day 3 might as well have been played by Charo.  And in Day 1, that Serbian assassin guy was way too sophisticated.  As the only Croatian guy I know remarked, "Hah, no Serb would ever wear sunglasses on boat."  Hopefully this year they’ll be giving the world's various peoples proper respect, even if they're all portrayed as terrorists.

Anyway, after he escapes from Fayed, Jack saves Assad a few minutes before helicopters blow up his hideout.  They interrogate a guy who tried to betray Assad, with Jack sticking him in the neck with a pen and Assad stabbing him in the knee, then killing him.  They find out about a plot by Fayed to smuggle a really small bomb onto a subway, and pretty easily put a stop to it.  As a result, Palmer gets on the phone and offers Assad amnesty if he renounces terrorism and generally tries to help.

In the meantime, Palmer’s sister is hanging out with the guy who dicked up the defense of Zion in Matrix: Revolutions, and America is going all Nazi Germany on the Muslims, a trend which leads Kumar to kill a redneck, bitch at his neighbor for saying his name wrong, and then take the family hostage.  Kumar’s redneck attack left him bleeding badly, so he has to force the neighbors to be his stooges, delivering the trigger to a nuclear suitcase bomb Fayed has.  Eventually, Jack finds Kumar, Kumar gets shot, and Jack finds out where the bomb is.

The last act of the opener was surprisingly brutal.  Manning hates Assad because he beheaded some of his friends, resulting in Jack having to shoot Manning in the neck to save Assad.  Afterward, Jack pukes his guts out, and I almost do too.  I really hoped Manning would stick around, as he’s the only Manning that traditionally delivers in January.  Kumar bleeds to death, another way too early exit.  Finally, the tac guys arrive too late to prevent Numair, a terrorist-scientist that Fayed got sprung from a mini-Gitmo in the Valley, from fixing the bomb and setting it off, destroying a chunk of LA.  Even worse, Matrix guy, after being cavity-searched at a detention center, overhears some Arabic which indicates there are five suitcase bombs in play.  Looks I may have been premature in dismissing Fayed!

Future episodes appear likely to showcase Nadia looking hot and Jack torturing the wormy conspiracy-guy from Day 5, both of which are compelling  developments.

This week’s Moment of Gravitas: Jack saying, “I didn’t want to die for nothing.  This way I get to die for something.”

Proposed Kimeo: When the storage thing explodes, a hunk of debris could have flown out and bonked Kim on the head.  Disoriented, Kim would run into the forest again, where she is imperiled by a badger.

Questions, comments?  I'm at craftinvegas@gmail.com.  The picture over here is of Nadia, not me.