In this hour's stunning final minutes, Jack suffers a personal loss that is sure to haunt him well beyond the series' final moments.
As the hour opens, Jack apologizes to President Taylor for letting Hassan die, after he had promised her he'd save the former president of Kamistan. (She tells Jack it's not his fault.) Jack also pleads with her to keep the peace agreement alive. (She tells him that's impossible.)
Renee tries the same, reassuring Jack, "You did everything you could." But his reply is familiar to longtime fans: "It wasn't enough." As always, nobody's harder on Jack than he is!
While Jack has his pity-party, a Russian "EMT" sticks a needle into Samir's neck, injecting a fatal toxin that will soon put down yet another 24 baddie before he can talk. The assassin then slips away undetected to place a call to his boss, Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Novakovich (Graham McTavish), who previously had told Taylor that if Hassan died, his country would no longer support the peace agreement.
It seems this "EMT" recognized Renee at the crime scene from her undercover days with the Russian mafia — and though Novakovich seems unconcerned by her presence, his underling is determined to get rid of her ... and Jack, just for good measure.
Before Taylor can officially announce the dissolution of the peace conference, one of President Hassan's former advisors brings her a plan that could save the agreement at the eleventh hour. Then, he and Taylor set about convincing his widow, Dalia, that she can fill the power vacuum left by her husband's death and serve as provisional president.
She reluctantly agrees — which, of course, doesn't sit well with Novakovich, who tells Taylor that Russia will not sign a peace agreement with a political "figurehead" like Dalia.
Unable to make any headway with him, Taylor takes her problem to a now-recovering Kanin, who informs her that none other than disgraced President Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin) has been filling up his answering machine with offers to help smooth things over with the Russians. Very reluctantly, Taylor decides to speak with him.
Meeting with Logan at the U.N. shortly thereafter, Taylor gets to witness firsthand how persuasive yet repellent the former President can be, as he explains that he has "leverage" over the Russians that will force them to sign the agreement.
"I can promise you no laws will be broken, nothing will tarnish you or your presidency, but the details must stay between me and the Russians," he tells Taylor, before offering his mea culpa. "I made mistakes, terrible mistakes that stained the office of the presidency, and for which I will be paying the rest of my life, but I still can be of value to my country. We both know you wouldn't call me unless you were out of options. Please, let me help you."
Taylor's response is simple: "God help you if you make me regret this."
While Taylor is tied up with that matter, she gives Secretary of Homeland Security Tim Woods (Frank John Hughes) the OK to make whatever changes are necessary to CTU's power structure in order to ensure Dalia Hassan has adequate security. And, as he explains to Chloe, that means relieving Hastings of CTU command and naming her the temporary director. She protests, in typical sort-of-humble/sort-of-pissy Chloe fashion, but the decision has already been made.
"There's nobody that has more experience in that building than you do," Woods tells her. "Just try and make the transition as quick and painless as possible."
I certainly didn't see that one coming, but hey, great for Chloe, finally getting to sit in the big chair, whether she wants to or not!
Somewhat surprisingly, Hastings handles the transition quite graciously and with humility. "Everything that happens here is my responsibility — the successes and the failures," he tells Chloe. "I recruited Dana Walsh into this agency. I let the snake into the garden."
After a brief but heartfelt goodbye to the seemingly stunned CTU staff, Hastings turns the reins over to Chloe. Her first order of business is dealing with an S.O.S. from Ortiz, who has just returned to CTU when the toxin in Samir's body takes effect and flat-lines him. Chloe orders an immediate toxicology screening to find out if he was poisoned, then tells Ortiz, "I'll be in Hastings' office...my office."
Amidst all the bureaucratic maneuvering, we take what seems like a breather with Jack and Renee — who, thinking their work is done for the day, go back to his place for a romantic interlude. But this being Jack and Renee, they can't even get it on without being scoped out by a Russian sniper in a neighboring building. Not sure about Jack's pillow-talk skills though — between kisses, he whispers to Renee: "I'm so thirsty. Do you want me to get you something to drink?" Hot.
But that's really an excuse to get Jack out of the room so Renee can take a call from Chloe, alerting her to the possible involvement of the Russians in Samir's death. When Renee stands up to go talk to Jack, the sniper makes his move, shooting her in the chest.
A stricken Jack then rushes in, sweeping Renee up in his arms and carrying her, bloodied and wrapped in a bed sheet, down to a waiting cab — which speeds to the hospital with Jack-like abandon. Mere moments later, the surgeons emerge from the operating room to give Jack his daily dose of heart-rending news: Renee lost too much blood, and there was nothing they could do to save her. Cue the second 24 silent clock in as many episodes.
• In an otherwise quick-moving episode last week, the Russian foreign minister's brief conversation with Taylor seemed kind of an odd throwaway, but this new story direction was clearly the reason for his first appearance. It would have been nice if that was handled a little more smoothly — especially if this is our new head baddie — but the writing on 24 isn't what it used to be.
• That said, you can tell the writers do love putting words in Logan's mouth again. One of my favorite gems: "I have close friends in Moscow. In some ways, people there appreciate me more than the people in my own country."
• And I hate to say it, but Logan's reappearance made me miss the slimy sort of electricity (if there is such a thing) that he brought to nearly every scene — definitely one of the ultimate love-to-hate-him characters in recent TV.
• I wasn't alone in thinking there was a good chance Renee wouldn't survive this day of 24, so calling her death shocking would be an overstatement. But having it come so close on the heels of Hassan's brutal murder was definitely surprising. And yet again I'll just say, poor Jack...
In this hour's stunning final minutes, Jack suffers a personal loss that is sure to haunt him well beyond the series' final moments...