When You Take the Gun, Take the Ammo: or, Jack Bauer’s Curse Revisited

One thing that drove my dad crazy was when the good guy escaped from the bad guy in a movie or TV show and didn’t take the bad guy’s gun after knocking him out.

I realize it was a plot device (can’t have the good guy armed, to make it more exciting), but it really is an example of lazy writing. You can keep the danger level artificially high by making the hero artificially vulnerable. In my mind it just makes the hero artificially stupid. Colonel John Casey would never do that.

My son and I are watching the 24 series in sequence (we are just about to start season seven). Jack Bauer, the Kiefer Sutherland character, is as hard-boiled and efficient as trained agents come. He generally picks up weapons as he goes along (as any kid who has ever played a shooter game knows to do these days), but he rarely searches the body for extra ammo clips. When you are fighting your way through a mob of well-armed bad guys that is more than foolish, and I cannot believe a well-trained agent would not pause the few extra seconds to strip the body of everything useful (clips, cell phone, radio, etc.). The only time the writers have this done is if they have an immediate need for something on the body.

Yet 24 is supposed to be the ultimate in realism. It is supposed to take place in real time. Even the commercial breaks happen in real time – when you come back from commercials, 3 to 5 minutes have ticked away on the clock. We joke that some day when we come back we will hear someone say, “Sorry, Jack, LA is gone! You missed it!”

So Jack should do everything by the book, and take stuff that he doesn’t need for the plot twists. Just like a real agent would do, never knowing what would come in handy.

Perhaps one reason Jack doesn’t act like a trained agent or military vet in the circumstances is that, unlike many series, 24 does not appear to have a dedicated armorer from the credits (just prop masters who, certainly, have to know their way around guns). They also do not credit military or intelligence technical advisors (other than a Navy advisor presumably for water scenes). While civilians may well understand gun safety and proper handling of weapons, squibs, etc., they are not conditioned to think about ammo loadout for combat teams or how quickly weapons burn through rounds in a firefight. Guns run out of rounds when writers find it convenient.  Quite possibly the closest the writers and costume designers have come to real combat gear is Arnold suiting up in Commando

My son gets angry with me for yelling at the TV, “Grab the mags, grab the mags!”  “He can’t hear you,” he calmly says.  “Maybe he can,” I mutter.

Now, the rest of this post takes a different turn, but still ranting on 24 (which we do enjoy, even if it makes the military tend to look like warmongering fools with no sense of consequences). If you Google (I prefer Bing, because they are a little less obsequious to China) “curse of Jack Bauer” you generally get a reference to a little speech by Defense Secretary James Heller (William Devane) in season six. Jack used to work for Heller, and fell in love with Heller’s daughter, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver). Heller is telling Jack to never see Audrey again.

What follows is a major spoiler for the series so far, so if you don’t want major events spoiled, read no further. You have been warned! Dun dun dun dunnnnn.

My son and I enlarged upon this conversation a bit.  We both checked the web to see if we could find anything like it but couldn’t, so here’s our contribution.

Jack: “What do you mean I’m cursed?”

Heller: “Well, let’s see. There was your wife, Teri? Remember her? You brought her here, to CTU, safest place in Los Angeles. She was murdered in the basement, just below us here. That was after she had been kidnapped and raped that day.”

Jack: “Uh, yeah.”

Heller: “And your daughter, Kim. She was kidnapped. Twice, or maybe three times, I believe. Arrested. Had to kill one… no, two men. One she shot in the back. The other one she wounded, but you told her over the phone to just keep shooting until he was dead. Remember that?”

Jack clears his throat: “Yes.”

Heller: “Lovely girl. How is Kim? ”

Jack: “She hasn’t spoken to me in years.”

Heller: “Ah. And Nina. Your lover. That’s right, she’s the one who killed your wife, Teri. Just downstairs here in CTU. Turned out to be a double agent. And then you murdered her, too. Just downstairs here in CTU, safest place in LA.”

Jack: silence

Heller: “You were originally at odds with George Mason from Division, but then became friends with him. I forget. What happened to him?”

Jack: Mumble mumble.

Heller: “What was that?”

Jack: “He was dying of radiation poisoning so he blew himself up in a nuclear explosion in the Mojave Desert.”

Heller: “Yes. That was it.”

Heller: “I remember a nice chubby intelligence analyst at CTU who was always secretly helping you against orders. Edgar Stiles, I think his name was. Brilliant chap, but a bit socially challenged. But always there for you. How’s he doing?”

Jack: “He got caught in a nerve gas attack on CTU. I watched him die. I couldn’t do anything to help.”

Heller: “Died? Here in CTU, safest place in LA? Sorry. And your good friends Tony Almeida and Michelle Dessler. Weren’t they a lovely couple? And they went through so much to be together! Married, separated, then reunited and out of this ugly business to carry on their lives together after risking their careers and lives for you and each other many times! Let’s see…. She was blown up by a car bomb to try to frame you and Tony was killed by Christopher Henderson, the man who recruited you into CTU and trained you, correct? Wasn’t Tony killed right here in CTU, safest place in LA?”

Jack: “I get your point about CTU.”

Heller: “And what happened to Henderson, who was more than a father to you than your father was?”

Jack: “I executed him.”

Heller: “Speaking of your family, how is your brother? Wait, I know. Didn’t you have him tortured? And didn’t you find out he had ordered the assignation of President Palmer and framed you for it, and plotted your murder? And didn’t your father kill him? So how’s your father? No, no, I have this one, too. After your nephew, who is all of fifteen and following the family tradition, shot him, you left your father to die in an air strike on an oil rig in the Pacific. Good times, good times.”

Heller: “President David Palmer. Your good friend. You saved his life, he saved your life. You helped him out of several major crises, and he was your staunch supporter. His assassination was a terrible thing. And they tried to blame it on you. Your brother was behind that, and your father. Always that Bauer connection.”

Heller: “Finally, Bill Buchanan. Another Division suit who came to CTU, took you a while to warm up to him, then you were great friends and allies. Worked together well, had each other’s backs. He was in and out of CTU, and you worked together even when he was officially off the books and under investigation. Now he has been forced to retire along with his wife by the Vice President himself, neither of them ever to work again. All because of Jack Bauer.”

Heller: “Which leads me to my daughter, Audrey. Jack, every person who has loved you or tried to help you or befriended you has turned up dead, retired, or not speaking to you. My daughter is now in a vegetative state. If you come back into her life she will probably end up dead. Do her a favor. Stay away.”

My guess is he won’t. And my guess (not having seen past season six) is she will die when he comes back into her life. But who am I to see the future?

And Jack – take the extra few seconds to pick up any extra clips and the bad guy’s cell phone after you kill them.  You never know when they will come in handy.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s