"24'' shocker! We didn't see THAT coming ...
Oh, wait a minute … bad idea.
That collective gasp that you heard just before 9 p.m. last night was stunned "24'' fans watching in horror on the split screen as a scary, rage-filled Tony Almeida – who has gone from dead to alive, from the dark side to Jack's side already in Day 7 – snuffed out a wounded Moss by smothering him with his bare hands.
TONY IS EVIL AFTER ALL! NO! NO! NOOOOO!
Not our Tony. Not my Tony (favorite ''24'' character ever, even during his soul patch phase, even more than Edgar).
No wonder USA Today's Life section Monday touted last night's episode as four-star viewing, not only a pivotal episode but a nearly ideal one … "with some longed-for resolution, an emotional reconciliation, an exciting central sequence, and at least one surprise that's sure to leave you gasping.''
You can say that again – especially that last part.
And just when we thought the creepiest, most disturbing image so far this season was the one that happened an hour earlier -- a bug-eyed Jack writhing around the floor after getting a whiff of a bio weapon chemical that the docs say will eventually kill him.
So much for hero worship this season.
Bill Buchanan. Blown up in the White House.
Larry Moss. The FBI's main man in the windbreaker was likable – stubborn and distrusting of Jack just enough keep things interesting but ultimately competent and willing to make the tough call. Now a goner (and he took that whole Jack-Freckles-Larry sexual tension triangle down right with him.)
Tony Almeida. Good guy gone bad – very bad. Didn't see that coming for, oh, the last 15 hours or so. In fact, after his large-and-in-charge one-man stealth attack inside Starkwood last week, I would've bet they were grooming his character for a spin-off after they killed off Jack next season. Already had a name for it and everything: ''12.5.''
Jack Bauer. Ailing. Exposure to the bio weapon is starting to compromise his abilities, including his memory. Although, unfortunately, when his daughter Kimbo showed up last night, he remembered her. When he starts forgetting to say ''damnit'' we’ll get really worried.
But seriously, who's left to root for?
Aaron? That poor guy has been relegated to hanging around in hotel hallways while the slimy First Daughter (hate her) does the nasty with a Washington reporter.
Chloe? Where is she, by the way?
Even the villain we loved to watch – an excellent Jon Voight as smarmy Jonas Hodges (JoHo) -- has been temporarily taken out of commission and hauled off to jail (along with his handout materials for the President). Besides, he was just a small cog in a much bigger machine. Aren't they all?
So where do things go from here? With just six hours to go, this season's game has dramatically shifted. Feels like a do-over – the kind of move that both kind of ticks off us fans and makes us shake our heads in amazement at how the writers have sucked us in for such an incredible ride (seven years in!).
Since Kiefer Sutherland has signed on for a Season 8, we know Jack's not going to die. Kimbo will likely come to the rescue of "Daddy'' with that experimental stem-cell procedure (that deliciously promises a risk to her; fingers crossed).
But ultimately, for Jack to be our hero for another day, won't he have to take out his old pal Tony – our Tony, my Tony – for the season-ending showdown? Who can bear not to? Who can bear not to?
-- Kendra Meinert, firstname.lastname@example.org