24
This show reminds me of the '72 Chevy Impala two-door coupe that I drove in high school. That beast of a car had an engine that could push four tons of All-American steel past 60 mph in less time than it takes to buckle your seatbelt. And just when you thought she was giving you everything, BAM! She'd pop into a phantom gear at about 80 mph and send your stomach into your spine with a hearty growl from her big block V-8. That's 24 in a lugnut. The drama has accelerated smoothly this season and maintained a pretty healthy speed of let's say 75 mph, but this episode put the proverbial pedal to the metal.

The virus is out and Michelle, trapped inside the hotel, lays it on the line with Tony: "I've been exposed; there's nothing anyone can do." Seventy-six...

Back at CTU, Chappelle gives the order, "Shoot to kill. Anyone who attempts to leave. No exceptions" Seventy-seven...

Jack plays cat and mouse with the bad guy hoping to get closer to the really, really bad guy, but the ploy blows up in his face — literally. Seventy-eight...

Gael starts hemorrhaging some 13 hours ahead of schedule and we learn that the deadly virus has been accelerated! Seventy-nine...

Hotel guests start bleeding spontaneously and a panicked guest decides to make a break for it, prompting Michelle to act on Chappelle's order. She double taps the guest in the back after he throws a chair through a window and BAM! We just hit 80 mph. Hold on tight, cause from what my friend Mr. Roush tells me, it's gonna be a helluva ride!

American Idol
One last automobile metaphor: If American Idol is supposed to be the Ferrari of reality programming, why can't they get this thing out of first gear? I mean if this is supposed to be the final round, shouldn't somebody tell the performers?! Sure they sound fine; they wouldn't be up there if they couldn't sing. But there's no connection to the lyrics. If you've got no heart and you've got no soul, then it's not a tribute to Motown, it's an insult.

Now I'm glad that Jennifer Hudson is still in this, but she and John Stevens should consider a Vulcan mind meld to combine their talents. Don't get me wrong. They can both sing but they're at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to energy. Somewhere between the two is that perfect balance of voice and poise that will give us the goose bumps we've been waiting for.

Thank you, Jasmine Trias, Diana DeGarmo and George Huff. You got the audience involved and nearly redeemed what was a dismal start to the show. Hopefully your fellow idols will take a cue and remember that they've been given the opportunity of a lifetime and that they should be making the most of it.

My money's on Fantasia. No doubt this girl is talented but, more importantly, she is consistent. She not only has "it" but you can tell Fantasia wants it.

Nova: Hunt for the Supertwister
I'm not really listening to anything the "experts" are saying. I just want to see a wicked Category 4 twister ripping trees out of the earth. But then the narrator throws out this nugget of information: "It's extremely dangerous to be near a tornado, especially after dark." Wow. Good thing I'm taking notes. Later we see a van packed with "tornado tourists" in South Dakota. These are people who have actually paid money to get up-close and personal with nature's fury. Why they didn't just save a couple grand and do a tour of Oklahoma trailer parks is beyond me. But as a parent of two young children, I have to say I was a little alarmed to see three toddlers lined up behind the driver's seat of their passenger van. I suppose they were buckled properly into their CPC approved carseats... I wonder if the newer ones come equipped with parachutes?

The Bob Dylan Victoria's Secret commercial
I tell you it's a good thing my wife is certified in CPR because if she hadn't come to my rescue when I choked on my grilled-chicken wrap after seeing Bob Dylan in a Victoria's Secret commercial, I might not have been around to write this. Once I'd recovered, I confessed that I couldn't think of anything more offensive than the original counter-culture figure of our generation redefining the term "sellout." Unfortunately, my wife, creative woman that she is, could think of something worse, "What if the model was singing and Dylan was wearing a thong?" So much for my appetite.

The Shield
It's good to see the Strike Team lighten up once in a while, even if they are investigating a triple homicide. Vic and his boys are assigned to work with the Decoy Squad, which brings their macho perp-busting rivalry to a head. A bet is made as to which team will bring in the shooter, and the team that loses has to take a walk of shame through the precinct, au naturel. Yes, it's a shameless ploy to show some more skin on a network that stakes its reputation on bare flesh, but it works because it builds the tension between the two units and makes for some great one-liners like "If I had known we'd be doing this I would have gotten my back waxed." And "I've seen you in the shower and it's not your back you should be worrying about."

For once, I found myself laughing and not wincing. There were no brutal disfiguring interrogations, no 80-year-old women being raped and not even a mention of the Armenian-mob heist or the footless corpses they leave in their wake. In fact, if it weren't for the building tension between Shane and Tavon, I might have thought I was watching a sitcom. But that's what's called a set-up and I should've seen the sucker punch coming. Sure, the episode ended with the inevitable shot of the Decoy Squad streaking past their fellow officers as the music blared Billy Squire's "Stroke me, stroke me...", but the real climax was the knockdown drag-out fight that followed Tavon's visit to Shane's house to clear the air — Vic's idea, naturally. Just when it looks like things are going to be cool, Shane calls Tavon "darkie" and all hell breaks loose. I'm no longer laughing. The two proceed to destroy Shane's living room, as well as each other, and Tavon looks to have the upper hand until Shane's pregnant fianc&#233 comes to the rescue with an iron upside his head. Yep, now I'm wincing. And in true Shield fashion it goes from bad to worse when Tavon leaves the house in a daze and crashes into a parked car a mile down the road. We don't know yet if he's dead or not, but two things are certain: We're not in Kansas anymore and this is not an episode of Friends.

Now, just wait 'til next week, 'cause it's about to get real ugly.
Daniel R. Coleridge is on vacation this week. Today's column was written by Daniel Roberts.