Monday, August 17, 2020

MCU chronological rewatch -- sorting the movies into tiers

The combination of Covid-19 "stay at home" orders and Disney+ led the family to rewatch the MCU movies in chronological (not release) order, starting with "Captain America: The First Avenger" (1940s), then "Captain Marvel" (1995), and so on. The only MCU flick we didn't watch was "The Incredible Hulk," because it's not available on Disney+ and I was too cheap to rent it.

Overall, the MCU is very impressive, and collectively, far better than the Star Wars cinematic universe. The worst MCU movie ("Iron Man 2") is nowhere as bad as "The Phantom Menace," and the best MCU movies surpass "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Rogue One" (though the last half of "Rogue One" is spectacular).

Okay, here we go:

#1 - "Thor: Ragnorak"

Before this movie, I found Thor to be a dull character. Director Taika Watiti brilliantly fuses comedy with thrills, and just about everything works perfectly here. Hela is an incredible antagonist, played with chillingly hamminess by Cate Blanchett, and wait, there's more, with Jeff Goldblum's even smarmier Grandmaster. Thor gets so many funny lines, from "that's what heroes do" (as he throws a ball against a window, only to have it bounce back and hit in the face) to how he flatters the Hulk and Banner separately, each time saying he likes the current incarnation and not the other one to "he's a friend from work!" (when he is matched against the Hulk in the arena). Oh, and how Thor keeps trying to calm Hulk down by saying "the sun's getting low," which is (I think) mockery of the lame Black Widow-Bruce Banner forced romance in "Age of Ultron." This movie was so fun it reportedly made Chris Hemsworth change his mind about being done playing Thor.

#2 - "Avengers: Infinity War"

Yes, it ends in a cliffhanger (but so too did "The Empire Strikes Back"). It starts strong with Thanos crushing the Asgardians and the Hulk, and then never lets up. Lots of funny lines too. I got chills when Thanos finally made his appearance on the Earth - walking out of a mist of purple fog.

#3 - "Captain America - The Winter Soldier"

Until the rewatch, this was number 2 on my list. Its drop reflects my greater appreciation of "Infinity War," not any discontentment with this one. I love conspiracy thrillers, and this movie is as close to "24" as the MCU gets.

That's it in terms of individual rankings. The rest are sorted into tiers:


"Ant-Man" - super funny; only thing that keeps it from breaking into the top 3 is that the villain is sort of derivative of the one from "Iron Man"

"Black Panther" - great villain who's almost sympathetic (one of my boys asked, "would Killmonger be the hero if he didn't kill all those random people?"), and T'Challa is a really good lead

"Iron Man" - started it all

"Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 1" - it's like "The Avengers," but funny

"Spider-Man: Homecoming" - that reveal of Vulture was a knock-out


"Ant-Man and the Wasp" - not as good as the first, but always good to see Walton Goggins

"Avengers: Endgame" - very moving but so much didn't make sense

"Captain America: Civil War" - liked it better the first time I watched it; still, introduces T'Challa and Peter Parker

"Doctor Strange" - really weird, appropriately so

"Spider-Man: Far From Home" - best for the chemistry between Tom Holland and Zendaya


"The Avengers" - bloated

"Avengers: Age of Ultron" - how can a movie featuring James Spader's snarky tone be so blase?

"Captain America: The First Avenger" - kind of boring

"Captain Marvel" - it's fine, but nothing special except for the Flerken

"Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2" - I liked the addition of Mantis to the GotG, but eh

"Iron Man 2" - the worst

"Iron Man 3" - better on rewatch

"Thor" - Shakespearean tone and MCU don't mesh well

"Thor: The Dark World" - too long

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Fictional POTUSes in TV and movies

I rewatched "White House Down" last night, and one thought I had was, man, Channing Tatum was lucky he was guarding Jamie Foxx (who's spry and athletic), and not Trump or Biden! That inspired this list of
TV and movie POTUSes and my thoughts on whether I'd vote for them if they were real:

James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) on "White House Down" - DEFINITELY YES; he's like a cooler version of Obama.

David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) on "24" - DEFINITELY YES; he sent Jack Bauer after terrorists; does anything else need to be said?

Wayne Palmer (D.B. Woodside) on "24" - maybe; not as cool and inspiring as his older brother, but he did support Bauer as well.

Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) in "Olympus Has Fallen" - NO WAY; just compare how he handled being coerced by terrorists versus Jamie Foxx in "White House Down"

Charles Logan (Gregory Itzen) on "24" - NO WAY. Have you seen "24"?!?(Great actor, though)

Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) in "Independence Day" - Probably? He did give what is possibly the greatest ever Presidential speech...

James Marshall (Harrison Ford) in "Air Force One" - maybe. He seemed kind of boring, but he did fight off hijackers by himself.

President White (Donald Pleasance) in "Escape from New York" - um, no.

Fitz Grant (Tony Goldwyn) on "Scandal" - Probably. He was Shonda Rimes' conception of a Republican, which meant he was basically a moderate Democrat.

Thomas Kirkland (Kiefer Sutherland) on "Designated Survivor" - yeah, I know he's not Jack Bauer (we can only dream), but he was a straight-up nerd who told it as it was.

Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) on "24" - probably? She was fine; her sniveling husband and conniving daughter were not.

Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) on "Scandal" - Yes! I started off really disliking her (because she was set up as an antagonist to star Olivia Pope) but by the end, I was rooting for her.


Now, there are a few notable fictional Presidents missing from my list. I haven't watched "The West Wing," "The American President," or "House of Cards," so I can't say whether I'd vote for any of them. Also, I skipped some of the Presidents in "24" and other shows that I've watched. Create your own list!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Who else could finish "Game of Thrones"?

HBO's "Game of Thrones" comes to an end on Sunday. Many fans have been upset with this last season that a petition to remake the entire season has attracted almost half a million signers. Of course, there is no cost at all to signing these sorts of Internet petitions, and you have to wonder how much money the signers would be willing to pay to realize their dream. At an estimated $15 million per episode, with six episodes in season 8, it would cost $90 million or more. So each signer would have to pay on average $180....

Anyway, I've never subscribed to HBO, and I ditched cable years ago, so I am stuck in the story at the end of "A Dance With Dragons," which was published in 2011. To put that in context, "Leviathan Awakes" -- the first novel in "The Expanse" series -- was published in 2011, just a month before "A Dance of Dragons" was.

That's an interesting comparison because "The Expanse" novels are kind of like "Game of Thrones" in space, with the same kind of dense political intrigue, layered characterization, factions, and realistic violence.

Since then, author James S.A. Corey has published seven more novels, not to mention a few novellas, with the ninth and final novel scheduled for publication next year. I think the probability that the last Expanse novel comes out before "The Winds of Winter" (book 6 in the "Game of Thrones" series) is pretty near 100%. I don't gamble, but if I were to, that's a bet I'd make.

Anyway, Corey is actually the pen name for two guys, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Franck, it turns out, used to work for "Game of Thrones" author George R.R. Martin as a research assistant. Hmmmmm....

Maybe book fans should get together and petition Martin to turn the writing of books 6 and 7 to someone else who will actually finish them. It sounds like James S.A. Corey should be free.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

NYT rates the 20 best shows since "The Sopranos" -- and my response

A while ago, the New York Times ran an interactive article identifying the 20 best shows (in the author's view) to have aired since "The Sopranos" debuted 20 years earlier.

Several of the shows on NYT list are also on my post-"Sopranos" list -- indeed, some of these would even make my all-time favorite TV show list, including:

  • "The Shield": Simply brilliant in terms of how it made you root for who would ordinarily be the antagonists of a show. I felt dirty hoping that corrupt cop Vic Mackey would get away with his schemes, which is a testament to the writing and the acting. Yeah, it wasn't as realistic as "The Wire," but it was far more interesting.
  • "Battlestar Galactica": The ending didn't make much sense, and it tended to sag in the middle of each season. But it was so dark, gritty, and intense in its peak episodes, with a more or less continuous story lasting 4+ years (counting the mini-series and "Razor" movie). I'm reading the unauthorized oral history of BSG (both incarnations), So Say We All, and I just got to the section about the mini-series.
  • "Lost": Another show whose ending (indeed, the entire last season) didn't make sense, but was still captivating throughout its entire run. The framework of mixing present day scenes with flashbacks (and then that mindblowing flashforward!) was subsequently adopted by one of my all-time favorites, "Once Upon a Time." [Strangely, "Once Upon a Time" did not make the NYT list, perhaps because it was too mainstream?]
  • "Veronica Mars": A teen noirish mystery that launched Kristen Bell's career. I didn't watch the third/last season, and haven't gotten around to the movie either, but that first season was twisty.

On the "just missed the cut list" of the NYT:

  • "Justified": This would also make my all-time list. I used to think Captain Kirk was the coolest character on TV, and Jack Bauer was the most interesting. Kirk has been supplanted by Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, whose misadventures in Harlan County, Kentucky, were laconically intriguing. I loved how Givens' character could be summed up in an eight word sentence he once told a bad guy: "You make me pull, I'll put you down." And of course he would make sure that he was justified in shooting.

But there are also a number of shows on the list that I, while possibly acknowledging their greatness, never watched or tried to watch but never really got hooked on:

  • "The Wire": I know that it is a common opinion that this is the best show ever in the history of television. I just found it dull and populated with boring characters. It's not that I don't appreciate characters with shades of gray -- notice that I loved "The Shield," and the main character in that is a bad guy! Pretty much every actor in "The Wire" that I've seen elsewhere has been better elsewhere, from Lance Reddick in anything, to Wendell Pierce in Amazon's "Jack Ryan," to Michael B. Jordan in "Black Panther."
  • "Grey's Anatomy": I've never watched this, so it isn't entirely fair for me to question its placement, but another procedural/soap opera didn't sound interesting to me. (It's also weird to me that this made the list but "Scandal" did not. See below for more on that.)
  • "The West Wing": This has seemed to me like the left-wing version of "24." Each presents a fantasy world where its proponent's fears are being realized, and stopped only through the proponent's heroism.
  • "Breaking Bad": I need to watch this. A major reason I haven't yet is that I'm not ready for my image of the goofy dad from "Malcolm in the Middle" to be overwritten by Walter White/Heisenberg.

And then there are the post-Sopranos shows that are on my list but absent from the NYT:

  • "24": Yes, it's more fantasy than "Battlestar Galactica" in a lot of ways, but for sheer adrenaline rush, there's nothing like it. I watched every season as it aired starting halfway through season 2, then watched them all on DVD, and then over the course of several months streamed them all while running on the treadmill. My wife has asked me how I can watch it over and over, and the answer is, I can never get enough of Kiefer Sutherland's intensity as Jack Bauer, yelling, "Tell me where the bomb is!! There's no time!!"
  • "Once Upon a Time": I didn't think this would be good, but I TiVo'd the pilot episode to give it a try. Within 10 minutes, I was hooked by the magical look of the Enchanted Forest in the flashbacks, and the puzzle of matching the present day residents of Storybrooke to their fantasy counterparts. And this is a show that featured multiple strong female characters (Emma Swan. Regina/Wicked Witch, Mary-Margaret/Snow White) who easily satisfied the Bechdel test every episode. (I didn't watch the last season, though, which was a soft reboot; the season 6 finale seemed to me to be a very good series finale.)
  • "The Last Ship": Military valor, end of the world pandemic, conspiracies -- yeah, I'm a sucker for all of that.
  • "Scandal": Another show that was basically fantasy, but it was as addictive as "24" was. I loved it whenever Olivia Pope was in "I'm in control" mode, which was most of the time. I liked it a lot less when she in "I'm moping over President Grant" mode.
  • "Star Trek: Discovery": I get that it's controversial. It's a lot darker than the usual Trek series (even "Deep Space Nine"). But I like that. Based on season 1 (I watched the DVDs, so can't watch season 2 yet), it's my second favorite Trek series. It could move up to #1 with more excellent seasons. It would have to get a lot worse to drop to #3.
  • "Hawaii 5-0": I don't claim that "Hawaii 5-0" is good in the ways that critics view shows. I find it hilariously entertaining, less so in the mystery of the week than in the character interaction (no show is complete with McGarrett and Dann-o bickering, and without the shrimp truck guy), and it's the only show on TV I can think of that features multiple regular actors who are of Asian descent, which is worth supporting alone for the Asian diversity factor (even if the show ended up making Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park leave because they weren't paid the same as Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan).

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"24: Saving Jack Bauer" - episode 3

Previously on "24"....

The following takes place between 10:00 pm and 11:00 pm (Pacific time). All events occur in real time.

1:00 am (Washington, D.C.)

In a dark bedroom, a smartphone rings. CTU Agent ERIC CARTER rolls over, groans, and answers the call. The caller is CTU analyst ANDY SHALOWITZ, who apologizes for the late call but says this is a critical matter. Eric jumps out of bed and heads to the study, where he says, "Go ahead."

Andy reminds Eric about the downed U.S. drone being held by the Russians. "It's made by Atomic Aviation, so naturally we've been running trace programs to make sure there aren't any moles in the company."


Andy explains how the access codes for the drones change frequently based on a special algorithm on servers on the Atomic Aviation campus. The servers are supposed to be airgapped so that there's no remote access, but Andy managed to insert a backdoor months ago during a routine "inspection" tour by CTU. [more technobabble to explain this implausible idea, which just causes Eric's eyes to glaze over.]

"Get to the point, Andy!"

"Someone accessed the algorithm within the last half hour, and then deleted the record of that access. I think someone is trying to get the algorithm to the Russians."

"Dammit!" [Okay, I know this is Jack's line....]

10:10 pm (Los Angeles)

Chloe O'Brian and Kate Morgan arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport and park in short-term parking. On the shuttle ride to the terminal, Kate asks, "What is the plan, Chloe? We can't just fly into Russia."

"I just need to make some connections, and then we can figure out where to go. This way, we can catch any available flights based on where we need to be," Chloe says.

It's late in the evening, but LAX is still pretty active. Chloe finds a comfortable "business traveler" cubicle and gets on her laptop. Kate says she's hungry and goes off to look for something to eat. She asks if Chloe wants anything, but Chloe declines.

[split screen: Chloe gazing intensely at her laptop screen on one, and Kate walking along the terminal on the other.]

Kate goes into the women's restroom and stops at the faucet. She turns on the water, wets her hands, and rubs her face. She looks in the mirror and says, "Jack, I don't want to let you down again, but I don't know if we can do this." [referencing how Jack entrusted her with saving Audrey Raines Boudreau from Cheng's men in "24: Live Another Day," and how she failed]

"Every day I think about what I should have done that night. I let my husband down, I let Audrey down, and I'm afraid I'm going to let you down," she continues.

12:15 am (Chicago)

Tony Almeida looks down at his smartphone after it chirps. He frowns and then scowls. The text message on his phone reads:

A long time ago, I helped you deal with a troublemaker named Cordelia. Do you know who I am? [The WMD threat in Season 3 was the deadly Cordelia virus.]

Tony types back:

I know who you are. Why are you contacting me?

We have a mutual friend who's overstayed his welcome with his foreign friends. It's time to bring him home.

Tony smirks.

As far as I'm concerned, he's where he belongs.

Tony ends the text chat.

1:30 am (Washington, D.C.)

The President has reconvened a meeting with the National Security Advisor, the Chief of Staff, and a couple of generals. The National Security Advisor updates the group on the status of the downed drone: the current estimate of time before the Russians break the software encryption has narrowed to 12-24 hours.

The Chief of Staff suggests two possible approaches, one diplomatic, one military. The diplomatic one is to offer to exchange a few high level Russian spies currently serving prison sentences for espionage for the drone.

One of the generals asks, "What guarantee do we have that the Russians won't have already cracked the software before the exchange?"

"We'd have to insist that the drone be turned over immediately."

The general persists: "What makes you think they're go for this? The intelligence value in that drone has got to outweigh whatever concern they might have for their own people, if any."

The Chief of Staff shrugs. "We don't have to choose one or the other approach. We can proceed on both. In fact, they might provide cover for each other."

The President asks about the military option.

"We deploy SEAL Team 6 on a covert mission into Russian to destroy the drone."

The skeptical general scoffs. "How the hell are we going to insert a Special Ops team into Russian territory to find that drone - and destroy it - in 12 hours?"

"Well, we don't have any better options," the Chief of Staff says.

The President asks the general if there are any other military options on the table. The general admits that there aren't. The President exhales and then directs them to proceed with both options.

10:45 pm (Los Angeles)

Kate sits next to Chloe and asks, "Where do we stand?"

Chloe says, "Belcheck is on. He's on his way to Moscow. But I'm having trouble getting someone else we need."

Chloe tells Kate about the background between Tony Almeida and Jack Bauer. "Everything changed for Tony after his wife Michelle was murdered. We thought Tony got killed in CTU, but it turned out he survived. He got connected with some seriously bad people, but we thought he was doing it to infiltrate them. It was all a ploy to get close to the man who ordered his wife's death. He was all set to get revenge but Jack stopped him. So he hates Jack now."

"Why do we need him? He sounds psychotic."

"Next to Jack, he's the best field agent I know." Chloe pauses. "I don't know you that well," she adds.

"Try again," Kate suggests.

12:52 am (Chicago)

SIDRA walks in behind Tony Almeida and sees him clutching his phone in a death-grip. "What's wrong?" she asks.

He shakes his head. "Stuff from my past, trying to drag me back."

"Don't get distracted, Tony. We got a nice score tonight, but it was way more dangerous than it should have been. You need to be on top of things."

"I know. This is nothing."

Tony's phone chirps again, and he instinctively responds. A video fills his phone's screen. It's footage of a man being beaten viciously.

"Is that Jack Bauer?" Sidra asks.

Tony grunts. "He's in some Russian helllhole. Not surprising considering how many Russians he massacred eight years ago, and then again four years ago."

"Weren't you close to him at one point?"

He glares at her. "That's in the past. Besides, when I was so close to getting the vengeance I wanted, he stopped me. But when he wanted vengeance, he went berserk and slaughtered everyone he thought was responsible. As far as I'm concerned, he can rot in that hellhole."

Sidra says, "Good. I'm working on a way we can sell the guns we kept from tonight's busted deal. Don't get distracted."

Tony looks at the last paused image of Jack's bloody face. "I won't."

beep beep, beep beep

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"24: Saving Jack Bauer" - episode 2

Image result for jack bauer 

The following takes place between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm (Pacific time). All events occur in real time.

7:00 am (somewhere in Russia)

Jack Bauer is being restrained by two Russian prison guards just outside a prison cell. Gregor Stolnavich, whose uncle Anatol Stolnavich, was killed in "24: Live Another Day," is delivering a brutal beating to Jack Bauer, mostly body blows but a few shots to the head. After years of captivity and abuse, Bauer is in no shape to defend himself even if he weren't being held by the guards.

Another man emerges from behind Stolnavich. He's about twenty years older than Stolnavich, so around his 50s. "Gregor," he says in Russian, "enough with this nonsense. We have more important things to do than engage in petty revenge."

Stolnavich turns to look respectfully at the man. "Yes?"

"The American drone," the man says. "We need your attention."

Bauer's eyes are swollen from the recent beating, but his left eye looks up briefly at the mention of "American drone." [note: I could be wrong, but I seem to recall that Jack understands a little Russian.]

Stolnavich punches Bauer in the face again. "Very well, Mr. Bauer, it seems I have some work to attend to. But don't worry, I won't forget about you."

The guards throw Bauer back into the cell and lock the door.

12:10 am (Arlington, VA)

Atomic Aviation, based in Arlington, Virginia, is the corporation that manufactures the downed U.S. surveillance drone that the Russians are trying to hack into to reverse engineer the American technology.

Inside one building on the Atomic Aviation campus, a shadowy figure shines a flashlight on a touchscreen next to a closed door. The figure types a six digit code into the number pad on the touchscreen, and the door unlocks. The figure slips inside quickly. Inside the room are several banks of computer equipment (not unlike what CTU used to have), and a table with a computer screen, keyboard, and mouse. The figure sits at the computer and logs in.

9:20 pm (Los Angeles)

Still driving toward LAX - traffic has gotten much worse in L.A. from the original "24" days, so there's no getting from any one point to any other point in 10 minutes - Chloe O'Brian is talking about what she has endured in the past four years, still trying to get over the deaths of her husband Morris and her son Prescott (not to mention the terribly conflicted feelings involving Adrian Cross, who was killed in London). She has been wracked with guilt over having gotten captured by the Russians in London and then being used as a bargaining chip to get Jack Bauer to trade himself for her freedom.
"Did you go back to being an anarchistic hacker?" Kate asks.

"No." Chloe was so disillusioned after London that she basically withdrew from society altogether. But about a year ago, her guilt over Bauer became so overwhelming that she worked on tracking down his status and location, and then laying the groundwork for rescuing him.

12:35 (Arlington, VA)

Back in the computer room in Atomic Aviation, the figure working at the computer in the dark gets a cellphone call.
"I'm working on it," the figure hisses into the phone.

"We are paying you a considerable of money for the access codes you promised, Mr. Stewart," says the voice on the other end of the line in Russian-accented English.

"Yeah, I know that. But I can't just download the codes. They change every hour based on a firewalled algorithm. I need to unlock the algorithm to be able to generate the codes for you, and I have to do it in a way that doesn't lead back to me, so I have to be careful in how I do it."

The door opens with a click. Stewart turns the computer screen off and darts to the side. A night security guard pops his head in. "Hello?" he says tentatively.

The guard notices the lights from the cellphone on the table. He draws his gun and sweeps his flashlight across the room, just in time to see the muzzle flash from a silenced gun. [Note: Yes, I know that in real life, silencers don't reduce the sound to a soft "pfft," but this is what Hollywood expects.]

9:45 pm (Los Angeles)

Kate does not want to talk about the past four years. Instead, she asks Chloe who else she has in mind to help with the rescue operation. "You mentioned ex-CTU personnel, but I don't think we can count on any of them," she says, "not the way Bauer left things before resurfacing in London four years ago."
"Tony Almeida is ex-CTU, but trust me, he left CTU on even worse terms," Chloe says.

"Tony Almeida? Isn't he a traitor?"

Chloe summarizes Tony's complicated history: from trusted CTU subordinate [seasons 1-2] to head of the Los Angeles office until he was fired for helping terrorist Stephen Saunders in an effort to protect his wife Michelle Dessler [season 3] to surprise rescuer of Jack in a time of need [season 4] to assumed death at the hands of Christopher Henderson [season 5] to reemerging as a mercenary who ultimately tried to get revenge for Michelle's death, even at the expense of Jack's life (a plot that failed) [season 7].

"He was sentenced to life, but he managed to escape from a maximum security prison. He must have had some help." [short feature "Solitary" on the "Live Another Day" blu-ray discs] "The last I heard, he's gone back to being a mercenary."

"What makes you think he'll help? It sounds like he blames Bauer for not letting him get his revenge," Kate says.

Chloe pauses. "I'm not sure he will. But I think I can talk to him."

"I hope he'll listen," Kate says.

7:58 am (somewhere in Russia)

Stolnavich is in an office overlooking the lab where Russian techs are working on the downed U.S. surveillance drone. He makes a call on his cellphone.
[split screen with Stolnavich and Stewart, still in the Atomic Aviation computer room]

Stolvanich growls, "Do you have the access codes?"

"I'm close to getting it," Stewart says.

"Excellent. When can I expect to receive them?"

Stewart smiles. "Well, there's been a complication. I had to kill a security guard, which ups my potential exposure."

"Exposure? That is not my concern."

"Oh, but it is. Because my concern is your concern. I'm going to need additional compensation," Stewart says. "I think twenty million dollars should be enough to enable me to disappear into a new life."

"That is outrageous!" Stolnavich shouts.

"Should I just stop what I'm doing and just get the hell out of here right now?"

Long pause.

"Very well, you will get what you demand."

beep beep, beep beep, beep beep

Next episode

Friday, June 1, 2018

My fan fic idea for "24: Saving Jack Bauer"

Now that Kiefer Sutherland's run as President Tom Kirkland in "Designated Survivor" has ended due to cancellation, he's free to reprise his iconic role as Jack Bauer. From his prior statements, it's easy to get the impression that he's done with Bauer forever, but (1) he was obviously excited about "Designated Survivor" at the time; and (2) he wouldn't need to be in a new mini-series for much filming time in order to give closure to Bauer's storyline.
Okay, time for fan fic.... I'm assuming a full 12 "episodes" of the commonly floated idea of "24: Saving Jack Bauer." Here's how I'd start it.
The following takes place between 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm (Pacific time). All events occur in real time.
8:00 pm (Los Angeles) 
KATE MORGAN is in a seedy bar. Two empty beer glasses sit on the bar in front of her, while she drinks from a third glass steadily. The bar TV is tuned to CNN and the current story is about the tensions between the U.S. and Russia over a downed American surveillance drone that Russia has recovered and refuses to turn over. In response, the President has ordered more American military aircraft to bases in Poland and Ukraine.
A smug looking guy saunters over, sits next to Kate, and proceeds to hit on her. She tells him she's not interested in company. He tells her she looks like she could use a good massage, and he puts his arm around her shoulders. Big mistake! Kate grabs his hand, twists it behind his back, and shoves him away with her foot. A friend of the guy's calls Kate a nasty name and charges her. She dodges his attack and delivers a sharp jab to his back as he rushes past her. The smug looking guy gets up and takes a step toward Kate, until she does a spinning back kick to his head, knocking him out. The guy's friend turns around, ready for more fighting. Kate growls, "Walk away, you don't want to mess with me."
Kate's phone rings. Keeping her eyes on the guy, she answers it. It's CHLOE O'BRIAN. Chloe says, "Kate, it's time to rescue Jack Bauer."
10:12 pm (Chicago) 
TONY ALMEIDA is brokering a black market deal to sell a bunch of guns, silencers, optical scopes, com links, and other equipment to gang members. He appears to be alone, whereas the gang has four people. After inspecting the merchandise, the gang leader nods approvingly. Tony gestures toward the briefcase of cash and asks, "Are we good?" The gang leader chuckles and points to himself. "We are good. You, not so much." They draw their guns and point them at Tony. "We're gonna keep our money and your stuff, and you can keep your life."
Tony smirks. "You don't want to do this."
"Watch me," the gang leader says. He motions on his followers to start loading the merchandise into their car. Then a red dot appears on the gang leader's chest, and then there's a loud gunshot. The gang leader drops dead. Three more shots follow quickly, and the other gang members die too.
Tony packs up the equipment and takes the briefcase of cash.
11:23 pm (Washington, D.C.)
It's a top level meeting of the President's national security staff: the President, the National Security Adviser, a couple of military leaders, and the Chief of Staff. The topic is the downed surveillance drone. The Air Force General is explaining that the Russian military is no doubt trying to reverse engineer the advanced avionics and software of the surveillance drone. If they are able to do so, they will cut about 3/4 of the current drone technology gap between the U.S. and Russia. The President wants to know what steps can be taken to prevent this from happening. The general says that the primary failsafe is remote destruction, but the Air Force has not been able to verify that the remote order was received. Most likely the Russian military put the captured drone in a Faraday Cage to block signals.
"Okay, what are the backup protocols?" the President asks.
There are small explosive devices inside the drone that are supposed to go off in the event of tampering. They are just large enough to shred the internal components of the drone. However, the general admits, these are not foolproof, especially with regard to ensuring destruction of the software. [insert technobabble about opening sockets, etc.]
"Please tell me that the software is encrypted," the President says.
"Sir, the software is written in machine language, but it can't be encrypted in the normal sense, without leaving the encryption key on the device itself. It is, however, sealed behind a firewall." [more technobabble.]
"How protected is it?"
The general estimates that it will take the Russian military anywhere from 18 to 48 more hours to hack into the software.
"Well, that's it, then. We have to get that drone back before then," the President declares. "I want a work-up of proposals to make the Russians turn the drone over. We'll reconvene in two hours."
8:31 pm (Los Angeles)
Kate Morgan (apparently not drunk) drives up to a rundown apartment complex. She checks her phone and goes into the building. She goes to one specific unit and knocks on the door. Chloe O'Brian opens the door, and Kate enters the apartment.
"How do we even know if Jack is still alive?" Kate asks. "He's been gone four years."
Chloe opens her laptop, does her hacking stuff, and pulls up a video feed. It's taken from a Russian detention facility. It shows a gaunt figure huddled in the corner of a small cell. The conditions look awful. Kate peers carefully.
"Oh my god, Jack, what have they been doing to you?" she whispers.
Chloe says (for the benefit of the TV audience who missed "24: Live Another Day"), "Four years ago, Jack traded his life for mine when the Russians captured me. I owe it to him to try to break him out of there."
"We're going to need help to do this," Kate says.
Chloe explains that she's been trying to track down BELCHEK. She also knows some former CTU personnel who might be willing to help out of loyalty to Jack.
"I don't think we can count on CTU, not with the way things are going with Russia right now," Kate says.
"Let's get started," Chloe says.
6:45 am (somewhere in Russia)
At a military base, Russian hackers are trying to hack their way into the control software of the downed U.S. surveillance drone. Lots of technobabble here in Russian, translated through subtitles for the audience. The gist of it is that despite the hectoring by the commanding officer, the hackers are finding it more challenging than they expected. The officer issues a thinly-veiled threat, expecting successful results soon.
8:50 pm (Los Angeles)
Kate and Chloe drive toward LAX. Chloe uses her computer to make flight reservations.
6:58 am (somewhere in Russia)
Prison guards head toward a cell, open the door, and drag the prisoner out. It's JACK BAUER. He can barely stand, or maybe he can't and needs the support of the guards. A man walks out of the shadows toward Bauer and the guards.
"Mr. Bauer, I must commend you on holding out so long," he says. "The good news is that my superiors have given up on getting anything useful out of you."
Jack looks up.
"The good news for me is that my superiors are letting me have my way with you. You see, my name is Gregor Stolnavich. You murdered my uncle four years ago." [His uncle was Anatol Stolnavich, who actually was killed by Mark Boudreau, not Jack Bauer, but whatever.]
beep beep, beep beep, beep beep

[click here for episode 2]