24 Day 8 Torture Count: Hour 6

On this week's episode of 24 we a lot of torture talk (Jack Bauer threatens to use torture) and several continuations of torture sequences from the last episode. There is only one instance of torture in this episode.

Torture Count

Official Torture: Attempt 0 / success 0 / accurate 0

Terrorist Torture: Attempt 1 / success 1 / accurate 0

Bauer Torture: Attempt 0 / success 0 / accurate 0

Vignette Torture: Attempt 0 / success 0 / accurate 0

Summary

There are a number of things to talk about from this week's episode. However, all but one are continuations from last week's episode. The only major update is that the doctor assisting Josef Bazheav and his brother is killed by another member of the Red Square Russian crime syndicate. The doctor continued to help Josef (albeit under duress) until he was killed.

I think of primary interests this week, however, is the continuation of the Renee Walker storyline. At the end of the last week's episode, Vladimir Laitanan attempted to verify whether Walker's cover was valid by pretending to execute her. That story was picked up again this week after she and Laitanan had returned to his warehouse. Laitanan sees no value in getting involved in nuclear arms trade. He thinks the risks are too high. Instead, he plans on taking $5 million of 'up front' money by killing Bauer (who is acting as Walker's buyer).

Part of this plan is to bring Walker back into his fold. After returning to the hideout, Laitanan pressures Walker to sleep with him and to begin working for him. He says that he misses her and that he can give her something to live for. At first she refuses. He throws her agast a couch and chokes her. He tells her that he is to be respected, and that she is not to cross him. Laitanan then lets Walker take a shower. When he returns later he tells Walker of his plan to kill Bauer and take the money. He given no other options, and she chooses to keep her cover and have sex with Laitanan.

Analysis

As the Walker/Laitanan scenes go on, the level of trauma which Walker had previously been exposed to becomes more clear. Throughout the scenes, Walker appears visibly nervous and begins to act irrationally. She breaks contact with Bauer and CTU at a critical moment and does nothing to warn Bauer about the trap that Laitanan has set.

When one reads accounts of torture one common denominator is the presence of a sexual component. Sometimes this can be subtle, but just as often it can be quite overt. For instance, during the Argentine "dirty war" there were stories about stories about inteligence officers of the secret police having contests to see how many women they could arrest, torture, and rape in one day[1]. When I was writing my Master's thesis on 24 and Battlestar Galactica, I noted how sexual undertones had been completely stripped from 24. I believe this is because the producers of the show want to portray torture as either a normal part of the criminal interrogation processes (as when Bauer tortures someone) or as an act of selfish revenge. Adding a sexual component to torture makes the deliberate delineation of torture messy. How would fans of the program react if Bauer threatened to castrate someone he was interrogating? How would viewers have reacted if Davros had raped the police officer's wife in the second episode of the season? I would be willing to bet neither would have gone over well. Instead, the producers and the networks they work for remove this key bit of realism in order to please audiences. However, a side effect of this is that viewers are no longer being exposed to the reality of torture.

It will be interesting to see how this relationship develops next week. It is very exciting to see the producers of 24 break the formula in so many ways.

Torture Charts

[1] This is a story recounted in Diana Taylor's monograph Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina's "Dirty War"