I thought I'd write this blog to share my views on a certain plot device used on 24 that really winds me up: the incriminating recording, seen in all glory in the second halves of Season 2 and 5.

Now don't get me wrong - I really like the later episodes of those seasons. I much prefer 24 when Jack is on his own relying on his wits and ingenuity rather than having every law enforcement officer and his wife at beck and call. But the "recording" macguffin really annoys me because most of the time...the recordings don't prove anything!

Now I don't mind suspending my disbelief, if it weren't for the fact 24 itself acknowledges this error. Check back to Day 1: 5:00pm-6:00pm, when Mike says of a recording of an evil guy admitting his evil:

It may have been a while since I practised law, but unless Keith was sanctioned by a court, this isn't evidence.

Good point Mike! Good point 24 writers! Why throw this reasoning to the wind?


For a recording to be used as evidence, it has to be coupled with testimony from either someone involved in the conversation, or someone who made the recording. Legal technicalities aside, a recording with no context is useless - the people involved could just say "we were rehearsing for a play" or a thousand other excuses to absolve themselves.

Season 2

So first up, the Cyprus recording. A recording found in Syed Ali's apartment of him and some government officials planning to blow up the US. Even if it was authentically those people having that conversation, it's not evidence! But ok, we allow that, then get to the Alex Hewitt bits. Jack organises to have Hewitt taken to CTU so he can demonstrate the fake-audio technology by faking speech of someone just from voice samples. Alex is tragically killed, so Jack goes to his computer and...fakes speech of him using just voice samples. Err...hang on? Stop right there Jack, you've proven the current audio authentication doesn't work by making a fake recording!

But no, Jack goes and tapes Peter Kingsley admitting he faked the cyprus recording. OK, but two hours ago nobody knew who Peter Kingsley was. Who cares if he admits to faking the recording? Why not go down the pub and get Joe Bloggs to admit faking it, apparently that's proof enough. Imagine if during the Iraq war, someone burst into George Bush's office proudly toting a CD of Hilary Clinton and John Browne the BP executive cackling about how they faked WMD evidence. They'd be politely asked to leave.

And the final slap in the face of logic comes from the dialogue - "have you authenticated these are the voices of Sherry Palmer and Peter Kingsley?" Yes we have...but that means that our authentication isn't accurate. So maybe it isn't...meaning our authentication is trustworthy! But that means it is them speaking...making it not trustworthy...<head explodes>

Season 5

Now the recording of Charles Logan scheming away is the other time this plot device rears its head. Apparently recorded by Evelyn Martin, the recording is useless without her testimony verifying the context in which it was made. So don't leave her alone while you go get the recording! Her testimony without a recording is worth much more than a recording with absolutely no context. As soon as she was (probably) killed by Christopher Henderson, the recording was rendered null and there was no need to go chasing it through garden centres and planes.

And don't get me started on Chloe keeping a grand total of one copy of the recording on her computer, ready to be easily deleted with no backup...but that's a whole different story.

Martha Logan's recording she made was ok, and that's fair enough, and I liked the season finale of Season 5.

NB: As usual, this is me being overly critical of 24, despite it being my favourite TV programme - don't take my vitriol too seriously!

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