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TD: Friday's Wild

Date: 3/10/2006

2006 Archive  
Posted By: Matt


Volume IX, Number XXXIV – March 10, 2006

Welcome to this edition of the ninth (we truly wish just as much as you do that we were making that up), yes, ninth, season of Two Dukies Pick the ACC. Rob and Matt invite you to sit back, come out of lightspeed too close to the system, get OVER it already - - it was all because of a pill of unknown origin - - and see if we make more fun of ourselves, the team that played Chapel Hill last Saturday, U-Con, or Florida State below. Talk about easy targets!

The TWO DUKIES name and material are, for some ridiculous reason, affiliated with http://www.dukies.com, and for even more ludicrous purposes, copyright 2006 Rigel Enterprises, Ltd. All rights reserved, and even though you may have had reservations yourself, we'd like to seat you anyway.

Matt's comments in blue.
Rob Mac K's selections in green.
Guest Dukie duhomme's comments in red.

MIAMI (FL) (16-14, 7-9) (8) v. #3 DUKE (27-3, 14-2) (1)

(Brace yourselves - - if you've read more than three of my editions before, you know it's coming, and awaaaaaaaaay we go!)

Well, well well. How ya doin. You know, it wasn't that long ago that Duke played Miami in the City and County of Durham, North Carolina. The result? A convincing win, a new all-time leading scorer for the program, and an essential lock on the mythical regular season ACC championship.

That was nigh on nineteen days ago. Following two completely lame wins, one of the least necessary and stupidly-timed roadtrips in Division I this season (the only other possible contender - - Michigan State's stop in Honolulu for a quick loss and a bunch of leg cramps before jetting off to Maui in style), a crisp giveaway loss, and an absolutely humiliating performance in Cameron (IN CAMERON!!!), and, well, here are the HurryClowns again.

I for one am glad to see these guys. Clemson, of course, featured truckloads of athletic forwards that Duke doesn't bother to recruit anymore, what with all the dozens of guards on the roster and all, and the upper half of the bracket was also depopulated by Blue Devil nemeses the Quasinoles, who seem very intent on finding out how those new NIT rules work, up close and personal. Miami, though? Well, there's a pretty short bench in the mix, and not too many inside guys who can hurt the Blue Devils, nor do the Clowns rebound or handle the ball particularly well. So that's good.

But let's chat a bit about the recent direction of the program first. Shall we? Thanks.

This is the worst coaching job in Mike Krzyzewski's tenure at Duke. Bar none. None. None. When K took the 2004 team to the Final Four and deservedly earned the NCOY nod, and coached the hell out of a banged-up, undermanned squad last season, I thought I was over a large segment of my criticism of his tactics, and would mostly just be the guy sitting in the corner of the tavern, smoking a pipe and complaining about never playing any true OOC road games. Not such a big deal, really.

Ah, but this season's coaching "performance" has restored my complete faith in the idea that K often has absolutely no idea what he's doing. And wait! Stop right there, chief - - I know. He's a "Hall of Fame" coach. Copy that. But guess what? If the Hall voters saw about five minutes of the "fourth quarter" of Saturday's "contest," particularly before Markie put the team on his back for a late run, they wouldn't allow Krzyzewski anywhere near the facility without a ticket - - at double the normal price. It's just the same old shit; a total lack of in-game adjustments; the absolute refusal to run any offense but the motion(less) and any defense but the overplay; and the latest breakthroughs in K's continuing search to find out what happens to young athletes who play every minute of every game while laboring under an intense media microscope.

Anyone else tired of this? Hey, don't take my word for it - - it was one Michael Krzyzewski that told us before the season how excited he was to have a full bench again, for the first time in years, really, and I started hearkening back to the 1998 team, and how fun it was to have two squads of guys to run at the opposition. Steve Lavin is still having wages deducted from his ESPN paycheck after that year's Duke team excused the Westwood Weenies from Cameron with a 120-point lasering, with most of those points coming on threes and a wealth of acrobatic post moves. Ahhhhh. Ten guys. Ten guys.

Fast forward to 2005-2006. How many minutes do you think J.J. Redick has averaged this season? Don't look it up - - just guess real quick. 35.8? 34.9? 36.2? Nope - -the number you're looking for is 37.1. On average, then, J.J. spends just under 180 seconds of game time getting a breather - - and that includes early season blowouts; this may be the wrong time to mention that in the 16 conference games, J.J.'s minutes went up to 38.1 per game. 38.1. Make that just under 120 seconds of average pine time. You know, it's funny - - if Duke won its 14 ACC games by an average margin of 1.5 ppg this season, I missed it; I thought we had some fairly convincing wins in there where we were comfortably ahead. But why beat, e.g., Wake by 10 when you can beat them by 20 and drain J.J.'s energy in the bargain? No-brainer.

Astonishingly, some Duke fans have turned their ire on J.J. Redick, noting that he "always slumps in March," and blaming him for, well, I guess, playing all those minutes.

Okay, I respect differing opinions with the utmost seriousness, but this one really confuses me. J.J. is to blame. Yeah! Now here's a cause I can get behind - - what a jerk! Never mind the fact that without J.J., this team might be 20-10 or 19-11. Never mind the fact that Duke has ALWAYS structured its offense around one guy over the modern Coach K era (thanks to reader and great friend H.G. for saying this over e-mail better than I could) - - Ferry, Laettner, Hurley, GHill, (Gaudet; sorry, no help there for this discussion), Collins, (never mind 1997, but it was Capel by year's end), (there's an exception in 1998 also), Brand, Battier, JW, and now Redick. It just sort of works out that way. No, no - - let's ignore all of this and briskly attack the likely NPOY for taking too many shots, because as some fans, both online and off, are maintaining, if J.J. didn't shoot so darn much, Shelden would score 40 a game, Josh McRoberts would cure cancer, and Lee Melchionni would crush glaciers with his bare hands. Even Al White was dumping on J.J. the other night for taking dumb shots against UNC-CH - - and I admit that there were certainly some questionable ones - - but then I asked Al how his movie career was going, which swiftly promoted the end of the conversation. Al and I certainly did agree that this has been *some* coaching job.

Right. Meanwhile, back in the real world, it's fair to say that Pocius, Boykin, and Boateng have really come in handy this season - - they held down the free throw lane in TeeHee after K sent the starters to the locker room prematurely like nobody's business. Now, it's one or the other - - either these three guys were the worst trifecta of recruits in galactic annals, or they have been dramatically and detestably underutilized, to the detriment of the rest of the squad. (DeMarcus looks relatively fresh because he was out for a while.) Which is it? Neither answer reflects too well on our coach.

Then there's McRoberts and Paulus. Does McRoberts do anything on the court? Sorry, but I have to ask. He logged a respectable amount of time on Saturday, and either Noel or Terry should have been forced to match up with him, surrendering several inches - - but that didn't much matter, since Josh swallowed an invisibility potion, altered a couple of shots, seized the heck out of exactly three boards, rained down four points and called it a night. Paulus actually contained, for the most part, serial killer portrayal specialist Robert John Frasor, but that's sort of like saying you contained a stray fart. On the offensive end, Greg smoothly enabled UNC-CH to play five-on-four, and racked up five mostly preposterous turnovers while canning two of eight shots (0-4 from three). Sigh.

Possibly the most disheartening thing about Saturday was the total lack of team drive and chemistry. Did any Duke player besides Melchionni (who assembled one of his career games) look like they really much cared to be out there? A brazen demonstration, to say the least, on Senior Night. The overall hustle was pitiful, and were it not for a late spurt by, largely, DeMarcus Nelson, the Tools would have run away with it. As it was, you can gauge how solid Duke's talent is (and how badly it has been misused) by recalling that the game really didn't end until Dockery was stuffed on a clueless drive into traffic with the Twinks ahead - - and ONLY ahead by the margin of Hansbag's asinine Tahj Holden Three. In other words, even in their most pathetic, disgusting noneffort since 1997, Duke still had a chance with a bit over 30 seconds left, and by all rights, the game should have been tied (although you may have to suspend your disbelief to assume that the Blue Devils would have grabbed the rebound of what should have been a backboard-shattering brickbomb). Interesting. What might have come in handy out there? Perhaps a little . . . oh, stay with me here . . . coaching??? We ask much, we fans.

I want to thank DeMarcus, Lee, and Shelden for showing up, and J.J. too, because it's pretty clear that this season has taken a large toll on him, and he just needs rest so badly. He was still playing very good defense all game long and hustling where he could, and he made all his free throws. It's also not Dockery's fault that his wrist injury (which I really, really hope has improved over the past six days) is completely limiting him as a perimeter option - - it is, however, the fault of our Hall of Fame coach that Marty Pocius isn't inserted into the game to provide some scoring in relief of an ailing Sean. Duke fans everywhere, please be quite thankful as you look ahead to next season that Jamal Boykin wants to play at Duke no matter what, and that Pocius is in the U.S. for a reason, and will almost certainly not want to sit out a season in order to transfer.

It sure is weird that a Hall of Famer can't figure out to play more than seven guys over the course of a grueling, thirty-game-and-counting season, and can't develop advertised top-tier freshman talent over the same period. By game's end, I was wondering what Horseface would do with Duke's roster - - and that is f-ing humiliating.

A few words about the Tar Heels, since I used their "game" with Virginia today to get in another 24 recap - - total kudos. I don't think they're nearly as good as their recent record indicates, but who cares? Scoreboard, right? They're winning, they (amazingly!!) developed a bench (how did they MANAGE that????), they are getting the most out of a group of players whom everyone (including me, right there leading the charge on this site at least) wrote off before the season began as a time-marking bunch of stiffs, and they're almost totally nonodious. Try to hate David Noel or Rey Terry, or Klang the Shorter, or even Frasor, whose only problem is that he looks like a guy who earns his living playing axe-wielding maniacs in straight-to-video horror productions. Ginyard and Green just go out there and do their business. QT is happy to be there. Sanders is a workmanlike player, and Wes Miller just plays ball, too. There's no excess trash talk, there's no lack of class - - this is just an expertly coached group of young players who are all maximizing their potential at the same time. Hard to hate that. A 2000-like Final Four run would not surprise me in the slightest, although at some point, it's going to become clear just how bad the ACC was this season relative to other leagues, and that will catch up with North Carolina. But they have done very, very well - - mostly because they totally resemble a vintage Roy-coached Kansas squad.

Back to Krzyzewski and this game. Logic suggests - - nay, it veritably pounds on the door like a relentless, remorseless bunch of neighborhood Christmas carolers - - that resting J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams in the ACC Tournament is a good idea, even in this game, especially if the HurryClowns are tired from Thursday and offer token opposition; they didn't exactly play epic ball against Clemson. NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE ACC TOURNAMENT. At least no one I know. If we win it, or lose in the final, great (although I do hope any loss does not come at the hands of UNC-CH, mostly because we're all tired of their nauseating band of obnoxious partisans), but let's not play J.J. Redick 40 minutes a game in order to do it. Let's some find some other ways to win. Give a substantial portion of our fan base what they want and run some double-stacks low, or run plays for McRoberts. Perhaps he'll show us something. Bench Paulus and start Dockery, and run Nelson or J.J. at the point for a few series to mess with the opposition. I've always thought that the Ancient Thug won all of those games because his bizarre defense and offensive sets were so weird and unpredictable that the other team had no idea how to react. In contrast, can't you just script a Duke game as you're watching it, particularly with this edition? You know exactly what's going to happen on virtually every possession, and if we do, so does the opposition. That's not good.

Getting outboarded by UNC-CH 45-34 isn't really that bad, and Shelden was a monster on the glass with 15 claims, so the rebounding is actually still on the mend. Duke also had 17 assists to 16 turnovers, so at least they weren't underwater in that area. But that transition "defense"! Ugh. That was just a sad, tired team out there on its home floor, and it was really depressing to watch.

Worst. K. Coaching. Job. Ever. Not even close.

How to fix it? Well, use of the bench, as late as it is, would still be a good idea. The team is going to Greensboro no matter what, and probably won't get shipped to Oakland under any circumstances. It'll still be Washington or Atlanta, but even with a Midwest ship, Duke loves the Metrodome, and the Metrodome loves Duke. (By the way, I've said this before - - if you've never been there, go; it's sort of like a Duke pilgrimage, and whether you're watching the Vikings or the Twins, it is one of the most underrated, powerful facilities in sports. And rest in peace, Kirby - - I was rooting for you and the Twins against the tiresome Braves in 1991 and will never forget how mindblowingly loud that building was after your homer in Game Six.) So this is a nice little forum for some experimentation. Play some new guys! Try some new sets! Zone? Hey, anything's possible.

As I said nineteen days or so ago, keep Diazhiteis to about 50 or 55, mount a normal offensive effort, and Miami won't win. On the night J.J. set the record in Cameron, Diazhiteis scored 42, and Duke won going away. That game was also the last recorded sighting of Josh McRoberts, unsurprising given that the Clowns have no real way of guarding him. This should not be a difficult game for Duke to win, but it certainly is possible for them to lose it. I'm really, really, really curious to see what has changed, if anything, since one of the program's most embarrassing losses in the last decade, well-coached, motivated opponent and all. In 2001, we rebounded from a much worse situation, but only because K made some adjustments. This time, though, there is no crippling injury (although I would argue that Dockery's has been pretty serious in its impact), so I'm not sure if the impetus is there for any real change.

I hope there is. It's much, much needed. I'll assume it.

Duke 84, Miami (FL) 72.

Duke 85, Miami (FL) 72.

So, think we’re all out of things to complain about with the new tournament format? Think again. Let’s take a look at this seeding madness. Now back in the day when the ACC limited itself to a reasonably manageable group of teams, the school with the best regular season record would earn the top seed and, as a reward, get to face off Friday with the team with the worst record, that being the eight seeded crew. Okay. So then Florida State gets invited to the party and the league decided to keep things simple and have the eight and ninth seeded teams play each other on Thursday night to decide who gets to take on the one seed the next day (at noon, which was, maybe a bit mean-spirited but kind of funny, too). So let’s create a fictional character named, ummm, Mike Oxbigg. Mr. Oxbigg is a contestant on a new upcoming season of ‘Survivor” which took three years to tape and during which time he has had no access to news of any kind and knows nothing about the current size and status of the ACC. He has just been voted off the Island, despite his strong alliance with Mike LaTorris, has returned to civilization just before noon today and decides to take in what he thinks is first-round ACC tourney action. After all, the one seed is playing the eight, right?

Well, Mike, they are but in the New Swoffworld Order, the eight seed finished ahead of four other teams. He blinks, somewhat confused, and then says, “Oh wait, on the flight here, I heard a couple of guys talking about how the Big East had expanded and now the bottom four teams don’t make it into the conference tournament. So I guess the ACC did the same… why are you shaking your head?” Because, my man, the bottom four ACC teams did make it to Greensboro. In fact, NC State’s punishment for dropping from a solid number two seed to a precarious number four is to face off today against the number 12, which is a squad that put an astounding THREE WHOLE GAMES in the league win column.

Look, with no round-robin in the regular season anymore the standings are pretty much meaningless anyway. I say, from now on, let’s use a more literal meaning of the word “conference,” that is, a gathering, let everyone do whatever they want for the regular season and then pull name out of a hat to decide the match-up for the end-of-the-year get-together. Don’t make sense to you? Then let’s e-mail this to Ian Malcolm and see if he can find order in that chaos.

And speaking of letting everyone do whatever they want, how about Duke’s defense over the last, oh, four games. Yes, I know that the total points earned by G’Tech and Temple were 66 apiece, but those two contests have in common with the FlaState and uAENsee debacles periods where Duke seemed to seem to fork over 10-12 points unanswered in a shockingly lackadaisical manner. In three of these occasions, that meant a second-half deficit to overcome (successful only against the woeful Bees), and if you want to talk about fatigue (the mental kind) there it is. Game after game of having to gut out a come-from-behind win, I think, really got to the guys, especially when two of those games were against squads Duke should have been pounding.

The exception, of course, was UNC. One of the hottest teams in the country comes into Cameron. On senior night. UNC wants payback for the game in Chappah Heeeel. So we all expect a serious fight, right? Well, all of us except the seven guys authorized to take the floor and play in the game. And you know how we, the fans, have come to assume Duke will follow a bad loss with a totally kick-as effort? We’re not the only ones, as the players assumed that as well.

Detecting a bit of fatigue on my part, as well? Yep, and not just the one from writing about an ACC first-two rounds that is starting to look that the NCAA first-two rounds. No, this fatigue is related to the feeling that this is the third year in a row where Duke’s chance of success in the regular season and, more so, the post-season action, comes down to:

First, is J.J.’s shot going to take early retirement? And

Second, can Williams avoid foul trouble WHILE still playing reasonably effective defense?

So what will happen today? Hard to see a Duke loss here, although of the four game trend of two bad wins and two bad losses continues, it could be, but I have a theory about what happens to Thursday-playing teams when they suit up on Friday that I will get into later when I need to fill some space.

Duke 73, Miami (FL) 64.

WAKE FOREST (16-15, 3-13) (12) v. #25 NORTH CAROLINA STATE (21-8, 10-6) (4)

Oh, Len, Len, Len. LENNNNNNNNN!! Un-be-liev-able. I wish, ever so fervently, that I had had the stones needed to pick Wake in Thursday's game, because in retrospect, it was so obvious. I have nothing but sheer contempt for a program that builds its entire season around beating Duke on its home court, thus making a strong case the NCAAs, then ekes out a win over its in-state conference rival (admittedly on the road) to back into the ACC Tournament and immediately folds to the league's worst team. The twelve seed! Len - - this is not how you build respect in coaching circles, eighth-ass blogging circles, or any circles, squares, or dodecahedrons. No control over your team whatsoever. Great work.

If there is any justice, Florida State will be dispatched to the NIT by the Spetsnaz for this travesty. After all, why should the school, the team, or the fans care, right? They already won their own personal Super Bowl, storming the court twice for good measure like total clowns; the rest of the season is just the Pro Bowl to them anyway. Send them hither forthwith, please - - and yes, even if it means that the conference gets four bids or you have to admit Sweaty. I don't care. This kind of crap just sickens me.

As for Wake, well, hi, guys! Why do you always play NCSU in the ACC Tournament? And don't you all feel just a little bit dumb about remembering how to play basketball at a rather late juncture? What a bunch of fools. At least THIS year's annual ACC one-and-done with the Pack does not feature a crotch-punching subplot - - although with Trent Strickland in the house, you just never know.

I maintain that State is a team that everyone has by now completely figured out, and, receiving advice by a dolt, can't do anything about it. Due to their unmerited bye, however, this is their second straight game against Wake Forest. Now, I know that Coach Evtimov and Consultant Herb are bad - - but are they bad enough to drop a second straight to the Dorcs?

You know what? I think that they probably are. What's changed since last Saturday? Wake is on some weird confidence roll, NCSU is just toast without any butter, and we have a very, very interesing equation here. Is a 3-13 team that just beat Len & the Limitations (check out their new greatest hits collection, "No One's Ever Been Hurt That Way Before," at a store near you!) better than a team that has sleepwalked through its last three weeks or so, and has not won a game since February 18?

Tough, tough call. But I can see the master plan opening up here - - Duke is getting the easiest prospective bracket draw that it can, making a dump impossible (not that K would ever even think about it, no matter how much sense it makes), but there's still going to be plenty of time to exhaust J.J. Redick and the rest of the team with three straight games in three days. Wake winning would help that cause along, right? Plus, the Zany Zealots are hot to trot, and the Carnegie Melon hasn't wandered the sidelines looking blank for a week.

Wake Forest 80, North Carolina State 78.

Wake Forest 77, North Carolina State 74.

Best announcer comment overheard by me in Thursday’s mega-first-round. Regarding a certain Georgia Tech player scoring 12 points in the first half in a losing effort against Maryland:

“Dickey was big inside.”

Yes, once again I wrote these games out of order and this is the last one and it’s late and I really can’t figure either of these teams out. Sure, wake was expected to be a little bit down, but with Gray and Williams still on the squad, well, we’ve seen a certain other team do pretty well with a prolific outside scorer and a strong center. But, no, they seemed to quit from day one, only to put up one of their best games yesterday when it mattered the least.

While this year’s N.C. State crew, apparently jealous of J.J.’s record-breaking streak, decided to best nearly a decade of Coach LoveBug’s midseason slides by turning in one of worst late-winter showings for a team not (a) losing a top player to a season-ending injury or (b) replacing the head coach with Pete Gaudet. I have never, never seen a team with a strong winning record quit so completely on their coach. I should just take a pass on this game entirely.

Oh! Which brings me to my second-day ACC action idea. Every year of the 8-9 game play-in, the hapless challenger would stay competitive with the top seed until roughly midway through the second half at which point things would completely fall apart. My little theory was that they were warmed up, having played just the night before, while the top seed hadn’t seen action since the previous weekend. Plus, in a confidence building boost, were fresh off a victory. However, the energy and exuberance batteries run dry a bit after halftime (remember a certain Duke team with a 3 and 58 record that beat N.C. State in the play-in game and then ran up a big lead over the Childress/Duncan Deacons before fading away and signing the “Do Not Resuscitate” papers and putting us all out of our misery?) and the inevitable happens.

For fun, let’s see if that happens in every game today, huh? And, maybe even this one.

North Carolina State 67, Wake Forest 60.

VIRGINIA (15-13, 7-9) (7) v. #10 NORTH CAROLINA-CHAPEL HILL (21-6, 12-4) (2)

It sure wasn't hard to figure out where to place tonight's "24" recap/ideafest! Okay, so in the 2/27 episode, the supporting (i.e., non-Kiefer) cast largely carried the action while Jack drove around and accomplished a few things, none of them very impressive, but we'll get to that in a second. Kudos to Jean Smart, as the First Lady, for a fantastic performance as she rode with the Russian prez (looking all the while like he was pissed that he wasn't going to get any in-limo, in-transport action from his cute trophy wife) on the way to what was referred to as "the airport," although the announced route that the motorcade took there didn't make any sense whatsoever unless they were going back to Ontario, the scene of the day's earlier long-forgotten hostage crisis. Now, this does not bear scrutiny, and I'd like everyone with a blog out there to note that I, just having had enough of rampant, pervasive grammatical idiocy, used the metaphor "bear scrutiny" the way it is supposed to be used. (Deafening applause.) Thanks.

I can understand that the Russian president would not want to use LAX. Besides abortive NBC "dramas" featuring Heather Locklear and Blair Underzero (thanks to Al White), who does? However, please don't ask me to accept that they would go BACK to an airport that, just a few hours ago, was the scene of a massive terrorist operation, complete with holes blown in the wall by CTU tac teams and everything. In fact, while we're at it, I don't understand why they weren't using a helicopter to leave like they did when they arrived, except for The Needs of the Plot, of course. But don't foreign dignitaries, particularly more significant ones, usually use military bases to fly in and out of? No? Okay, because the motorcade's route made no sense for any existing military base either. Let's just assume that they decided to take a route to LAX designed to cut out I-405, the San Diego Freeway, d/b/a "the 405," which is something that I wish *I* could do when visiting Los Angeles, and I'm not usually traveling with (a) a trophy wife with a cute accent, (b) the cares and concerns of the leadership of the Russian people, (c) a jittery Jean Smart, and (d) a police escort - - unless they want to catch up and chat with me about blowing past that fundraising no-right-on-red back at La Tijera.

Meanwhile, back at his retreat, Logan got word that the First Lady had knowingly jumped into the motorcade, which made for a vexing problem, inasmuch as Logan had handed over the coordinates of the special RusskieRoute to TerrorHoncho Julian Sands faster than a menu at Bennigan's. Whoops. A phone call to Jean accomplished nothing, but thankfully, we were treated to a series of beautifully acted, hilariously subversive scenes where Logan dithered around and tried to figure out how to save his wife from the impending terroristic machinations, while his (now) chief adviser, played by bald, bespectacled character actor Jude Ciccolella (making an absolute living in his fourth of five seasons on "24," and good for him) kind of reminded him that he was screwed. One hysterical Nixonesque prayer scene later, and it was back to the motorcade, where it came out that the terrorists did not want to chat about any revenue-generating right-on-reds the limos might have ignored, but instead wanted to (SPOILERS!!) fire artillery at it. This made for a cool, "Clear and Present Danger"-inspired scene, and gave Secret Service Agent Aaron something to do, even if what was clearly shown as three footbound attacking terrorsts suddenly became two without explanation due to sloppy editing, and even if the LAPD arrived with about 400 boys within 30 seconds, as though a high-value target like Randy's Donuts was being attacked or something. Fun scene.

Back at CTU, meanwhile, everyone wondered why I was writing more about "24" than about the ACC Tournament, and reached the conclusion that I'm just weary of Virginia and North Carolina-Chapel Hill playing each other and need something else to write about. Plus, whereas Mike Krzyzewski has ignored my fan mail for years, the "24" producers clearly pay a great deal of attention to it, since we were treated to loads of scenes involving the Kim Raver and Mary Lynn Rajskub characters working together to help Kiefer covertly and make shrieking hobbit Sean Astin, losing his stuff, even madder. Thanks, guys! Astin eventually ordered virtually everyone in the building arrested, which was too much for Curtis, who engaged in a brief staredown standoff with CTU security before prevailing and ordering Astin taken into custody under the CIA's "You're Being a Dink" clause. Kim Raver's smirk was absolutely priceless. Strong.

Finally, we had Jack, who doped out that the nerve agent was manufactured by one of the show's trademark sleazy defense contractors (and critics say that realism gets fractured?), and things got interesting when his old boss at CTU turned out to be a muckety-muck at the company, and not in HR or accounting, either. No, Chris Henderson, played by Robocop Peter Weller, was up to his eyeballs in chemical weapons creation. Shocker! Despite Audrey and Chloe's assistance in penetrating the company's fantastically decorated HQ and even sending out Chris' secretary by calling in some totally plausible yet fake errand, Hendo got the drop on Jack by . . . tasering him as soon as Jack entered his office?? Well, most corporate executives I know usually keep a taser handy when making a series of annoying phone calls, and besides, Kiefer all but managed to announce his arrival with a twelve-piece band. You know how Bond plots sometimes require 007 to act like a complete moron? Same deal here, and it didn't let up, as Jack trusted Henderson to take something like a 35-minute "stroll" across the company's "campus" to show him the evidence of the nerve gas production. (This was one of those 24 episodes where the production team allowed Kiefer [and of course, Kiefer is part of the production team] to take it very light with only a handful of scenes, and it's a credit to the rest of the cast and the writers


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