Jan 22, 2013

Rescuing Boys on 24, Part 4: Josh

After rescuing the gay-vague teenager Scott (Michael Angarano) on Day Six of 24 (2007-8), terrorist chaser Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) struggles with his own “bad father,” Phillip Bauer (James Cromwell), an industrialist who has been secretly selling nuclear devices to the terrorists. Philip Bauer is the most villainous of the “bad fathers” on 24, not only capable of murdering his children, like Navi, but of murdering them purely in the interest of financial gain.

He kills his son Graem  (Paul McCrane) and then abducts his teenage grandson, Josh (nineteen-year old Evan Ellingson).  He uses Josh to set up a trap for Jack, but Jack manages to elude capture and rescue the boy, with a hug that seems more paternal than the one he bestowed upon Derek last season.  Later Josh is captured again, and again Jack rushes to the rescue. This time the hug is a little more effusive.

Finally the evil Vice President, conspiring with the elder Bauer, orchestrates a third capture.  At this point one doesn’t quite understand the strategic importance of constantly capturing and recapturing Josh, except to give Jack someone to rescue; he is a symbol of Jack and the elder Bauer’s competition, proof that one of them has “won.”  This time Josh manages to free himself and nearly kills Bauer before Jack comes storming in.  As Day Six draws to a close, Josh seems not at all traumatized, for a boy who has faced a nuclear explosion, the death of his father, and three murder attempts since breakfast.

 Like Derek, Josh seems to actually enjoy the adventure.  He rejects the idea of returning to his mother and begs Jack to take him along.  Jack promises that they will end up together, but he has something that he “needs to do” before their relationship can become permanent.  After another teary-eyed full-body hug, he grudgingly lets Josh go.

Jack’s relationship with Josh, like his relationship with the other rescued boys in the series, slips uneasily between conventions of fraternal and romantic desire.  Obviously Jack is literally the boy’s uncle (and, since he was in a relationship with Josh’s mother before she married Graem, perhaps his biological father, too).  But the gradually increasing physicality of Jack’s emotional involvement plays quite differently than the emotion he expresses toward his own daughter in Days One and Two, or the sudden intensity of his interest in Behrooz or Derek; it is as if he cares more and more about Josh with each rescue, and begins thinking of him less as a boy to be returned to his mother than as a permanent part of his life.

Josh, for his part, never treats Jack as an uncle or surrogate father, but always with a feverish sort of physicality, always with an arguably romantic passion.  Again, the bond is not deferred by heterosexual imagining: Josh never mentions a girlfriend or expresses any interest in girls.

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