The Return of ‘24’: In Case You Missed the First 193 Episodes

Daniel Smith/FOX

The wait is over. Tonight, 24 returns.

Although each season has the ability to stand alone, the full impact of the show cannot be felt unless you’ve experienced the entire Bauer k-hole. Not until you truly understand how many times Jack has been betrayed, how often there has been a mole in CTU. How many times he hasn’t been thanked for saving the United States of America. How Chloe O’Brian and Jack Bauer make Jordan and Pippen look like any two members of the 2013-14 Knicks. And the frequency with which Jack has said “damn it!” with the fury of a hundred tornado warnings.

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24 Wiki

If you haven’t spent the past two months rewatching all 8.0833 seasons, shame on you for being gainfully employed. But at least “rewatching” implies once having watched the entire show, so for that, well done. For the rest of you, it’s too late. There’s no time to watch almost 200 hours of television by this evening. So, below is a quick catch-up for those both rusty and ignorant. This doesn’t dare tackle every plot, theme, motif, and symbol, but it at least gets you in the proper head space for tonight’s much-anticipated television event. And, of course, tomorrow’s recap — the first of 12 — on the Internet’s Grantland.com.

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Season 1

It’s Super Tuesday, the day of the California primary, and someone’s trying to kill our future first nonfictional black president, David Palmer. To make matters worse, there’s a mole within the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU). Because Jack is top dog and leading the investigation, his daughter, Kim Bauer, is promptly kidnapped (seven years before Taken). And then his wife, Teri, is kidnapped, because that’s what it’s like to be related to Jack Bauer. Since the word on the street is that Jack will do anything to protect his family, the terrorists (led by the super-evil GAINES) try to get Bauer to assassinate Palmer and take the fall. Jack behaves as if he’s going along with it, but in the first of many examples of this kind of behavior, takes down the terrorists before they have a chance to kill a head of state.

But it’s not over. Because those were just the baby terrorists. As 24 teaches you, there’s always someone with more terror in their heart than the first terrorist you find. In this case, it’s the head honchos: THE DRAZENS, a family looking for revenge against Palmer and Bauer, because our two heroes were part of a secret classified initiative to take down Papa Drazen (Victor) in Kosovo years earlier. So, needless to say, the Drazens are still pissed, which is why they want Palmer dead, Jack framed, and Jack’s family super-dead.

Victor, imprisoned, is freed by his sons. And then Jack is captured. And then Kim Bauer is kidnapped — again. And then Jack is sent in by the terrorists to go kill Palmer — again. A phone is rigged to detonate and kill Palmer, but because Jack is an expert at botching evil, it doesn’t kill Palmer. Jack proceeds to pull an assassination fake-out to trick the Drazens and hopefully rescue Kim.

But then the mole strikes. It was initially thought to be Jamey with the bangs, but we finally learn who’s really been giving the Drazens intel: NINA MYERS, a higher-up agent at CTU and the most evil woman in the world. Not only does she tell the Drazens that Palmer’s still alive, but she also goes mole-on-mole and kills Jamey, resulting in the most ghoulish security camera image ever captured.

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AHHHHH.

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Now that the Drazens know they’ve been hoodwinked by Jack, they return the favor. Evil Nina tells Jack that they found Kim’s dead body in the harbor, Jack starts to cry, which means the countdown for Avenge-A-Loved-One Jack has begun. After Jack kills everyone, he asks to see Kim’s body and learns there is no “Kim’s body.” Because Kim is not dead. Which means Jack finally knows it’s Nina.

Jack returns to CTU and looks for Nina, who has just tied up Jack’s wife for discovering she’s Evil Nina. Sensing trouble, he begins to look for his wife. And then he finds her, tied up, facing the wall. And then he spins her around. She’s been shot. She’s dead. Nina killed Teri. So Jack holds her and cries.

AND THEN THE SEASON ENDS.

Season 2

David Palmer is president, there’s a nuke in Los Angeles, and Jack Bauer has retired from CTU. Bauer was out the game, because life is hard, but gets called back in the name of “saving the United States of America, again.” So he goes undercover as a bad guy and learns that they’re going to blow up CTU. And then they blow up CTU. Behind the explosion: NINA MYERS. But how? Isn’t she in cust— IT DOESN’T MATTER, IT’S NINA MYERS.

Jack then interrogates his old colleague, who’s a known terrorist and his wife’s killer. He’s in a horrible mood. Jack needs Nina to go on a sting operation with him, Nina keeps trying to escape, they end up in a plane that crashes, and then Nina threatens to kill Jack unless she gets a presidential pardon. Unfortunately for her, she ends up getting sniped. Eventually, this series of events leads Jack to SYED ALI (during all this, Jack also finds a girlfriend, the once-apprehended-by–SYED ALI Kate Warner), which then leads him to the nuke (by way of Kate’s sister, MARIE, who was in with the terrorists the entire time), which then leads him to fly the tamper-proof bomb over the desert so the city can remain safe (10 years before The Dark Knight Rises). In a Randy Quaid–esque move, however, George Mason — the district director of CTU, who had been previously exposed to radiation and knew he was going to die soon — took control of the plane and got Jack to jump out in time. Jack lives; George and the nuke safely detonate.

Now that the nuke has been dealt with, the attention shifts to who’s responsible. A tape surfaces, implicating some Middle Eastern leaders, but Palmer’s not sure it’s authentic. And then his cabinet votes to relieve him of his position as first nonfictional black president of the United States of America. And then strikes against the leaders’ countries are put into place. But then Jack and the gang (and, oddly enough, Palmer’s amazingly shady ex-wife, Sherry) get proof that the tapes are fake, fabricated just to start beef in the name of skyrocketing oil prices. Palmer is reinstated and flexes, but then is attacked with some sort of biological agent — yet another assassination attempt — which is what happens when you shake hands with MANDY.

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NO, NOT MANDY, NOOOO.

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Season 3

Jack, addicted to heroin, is the director of field ops at CTU and now not only works with Kim, but also her boyfriend Chase, who doubles as Jack’s work partner. Speaking of ’lations, David Palmer, still president and now recovered from the encounter with Mandy, is now dating his doctor. And then, rudely, some bad group drops off a dead body at National Health Services, infected with the Cordilla virus, which will kill pretty much everyone in Los Angeles County. CTU receives a message that the virus would be unleashed unless a man named RAMON SALAZAR was released. Because the United States government doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, Jack decides to go break RAMON out of jail himself, with the goal of figuring this out on his own. The two evade both the police and CTU until they wind up at an auction. A virus auction. Jack’s plan: to be the top bidder so he can find out who’s pulling the strings. BUT THEN NINA SHOWS UP AT THE VIRUS AUCTION AND WINS.

Ultimately, the virus ends up back with Ramon and Jack, but then explodes. Because it was fake. The man with the real virus: STEPHEN SAUNDERS, who’s released a vial in a hotel in Los Angeles, causing a quarantine. But then, of course, one person slips out. SAUNDERS begins speaking with the president, demanding that the regional director of CTU, Ryan Chappelle, be killed or else he’ll release more of the virus. Palmer and Jack discuss. And then this happens.

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Speaking of Palmer, his brother Wayne is having an affair with Julia, the wife of his biggest financial backer (Alan), a move that causes Alan to demand Wayne’s firing. President Palmer rejects this notion, creating a world of extortion on both sides. This ultimately results in Sherry aiding in Alan’s death, Julia not stopping her, Julia killing Sherry, and then Julia killing herself. Here is a chart:

NINA IS EVIL

Politics, right?

Back to the virus, and CTU agent Tony Almeida hears from Saunders that Almeida has to help him or else fellow CTU agent (and girlfriend) Michelle Dessler will be hurt. So Tony helps the terrorist, a move that is eventually stopped by Jack on the grounds of them working together to bring down Saunders. Michelle is saved, but Tony is ultimately charged with treason, the early beginning of his spiral. After eventually being caught by CTU, Saunders is brought in, only to be shot and killed by the wife of recently deceased (from virus exposure) CTU agent Gael.

Jack breaks down and cries. Because, again, saving the world is hard.

Season 4

Jack’s been fired from CTU on heroin-abuse grounds but is now working under Secretary of Defense James Heller, father of CTU and Defense Department liaison Audrey Raines. And yes — of course — she’s Jack’s new girlfriend. And then a train is bombed. The man captured in connection with this bombing won’t talk, so Jack shoots him above the knee and then he says the target is the Secretary of Defense. And, like that, both James and Audrey are kidnapped, with the plans to be a televised execution of the Secretary of Defense.

But Jack saves them.

Even though that plan failed, the terror is much larger. Head Terrorist in Charge (HTIC) HABIB MARWAN plots a nuclear meltdown, and when that doesn’t work, he gets one of his boys to steal a stealth fighter. That leads to the man shooting down Air Force One with President John Keeler onboard. While the president being hurt is important, the real drama surrounds what was on the plane: the nuclear football, the briefcase with all the codes for the United States’ nuclear arsenal. And now Marwan has it. The only issue for him is that Jack doesn’t want Marwan to have it, which could ultimately mean trouble for Marwan.

Meanwhile, Vice President Charles Logan is sworn in as president. Charles Logan is not a good man. But, again, that’s less important than what Jack’s up to, which is storming the Chinese consulate, with the hopes of securing a man who is working with Marwan. This covert mission was launched by the former president of the United States of America: David Palmer. The big issue, however, is that an important Chinese politician was killed during the storming of the consulate. And the Chinese, led by CHENG, are not very happy about this. Not one bit. And to make matters worse, one member of the mission was captured and sells out Jack. So they’re coming for him.

The hunt for Marwan ends with him backed into a corner, and then theatrically falling off a building.

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But even in death, the warheads have still been launched. CTU detonates them in time. So the bad guys lose and CTU wins. Again.

As for the Chinese, they’re not done. They want Jack handed over to them. So President Logan says that they can have him to prevent a world war. But Palmer, Tony, Michelle, and Chloe O’Brian help Jack get away before he can be killed on the orders of White House Chief of Staff Walt Cummings. Still, Bauer had to “die.” So Jack Bauer is “dead.”

Season 5

David Palmer gets insta-assassinated and then a car bomb goes off, killing Michelle, all while Jack Bauer is going by Frank Flynn of Mojave, California. And then Jack gets framed for the assassination of David Palmer, as his face shows up on a security camera, implicating him in the crime. And then we learn of Russian terrorists with nerve gas at the same time as an airport in Los Angeles is being taken hostage. There’s a lot of action going on, especially since WALT CUMMINGS continues to send people in to kill Jack, because he’s so very good at ruining plans of evil. Walt’s cover is finally blown, and then Walt kills himself.

The hunt for the nerve gas continues, but unfortunately something terrible happens. One canister is used to attack CTU. And more than 60 people die. Including Edgar. Our beloved Edgar.

It’s really too much.

Edgar dying really sums up how this season had little-to-no chill. Insane things were happening at a terrifyingly rapid rate, even by 24 standards. What should not go overlooked, however, is that Jack’s brother, GRAEM, is now known to be a bad human. And President Logan is quite involved in the conspiracies that are taking place. And will go to the furthest reaches of the illegal, immoral spectrum to not be implicated. He is the worst president.

This season ends on a bittersweet note, with the day filled with death (Tony Almeida, also dead?), but the serious terror threat averted yet again. And then Jack is captured by the Chinese. And they’re beating him in the bowels of a container ship headed to China.

Season 6

In perhaps the rudest barter ever recorded, Jack is freed from the Chinese by President Wayne Palmer (yes, that Wayne and that Palmer) on the grounds that he will be surrendered to terrorist ABU FAYED in exchange for the location of the man thought to be responsible for previous attacks. So yes, the body of Bauer is currency and his going rate is high, based on who is the most mad at him at that moment. Jack figures out how to get out of the pickle, however, and then continues to learn how entrenched with terrorism both his brother and father are.

Also, we’re dealing with suitcase nukes this time, one of which went off outside of L.A., in Valencia. Real bad. And it gets worse — because Jack just got a call from Audrey. But not a happy call. Apparently she went to China looking for him and then Cheng got her. And then she passes the phone. AND IT’S CHENG.

In the all-too-familiar exchange, Cheng wants a nuclear component in exchange for Audrey. Do the Chinese get what they want? Yes. Does it get damaged? Of course. Can someone fix it? Absolutely: Jack’s dad.

Complicating things even more is that Bauer’s nephew, Josh (Graem’s son), has been kidnapped by PAPA BAUER and is being forced to be around for all the terror, in the name of the “family business.” Because of this, Jack’s got to be careful. Not being careful: the government, whose plan is to firebomb the rig that contains Cheng and Papa Bauer and the nuclear chip.

They carry out this plan, but not before Josh gets away via helicopter, with Jack not too far behind.

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Season 6.5: Redemption

Bauer is doing missionary work in the African country of Sangala (not a real country), just trying to get yet another new start. And then he’s charged by the U.S. government on the grounds of torture charges. But Bauer doesn’t want to go, something he stands by until the school he works for becomes the target of a funding cut as long as it protects Bauer. But before that can even be considered, his school is ambushed by the rebel soldiers of GENERAL JUMA. Knowing he must protect the children, he leads a crew to the Embassy, hoping to protect them before they can be captured. They run into interference quite often, but every time Bauer kills everyone.

Upon reaching the embassy, Bauer is greeted by the man who indicted him. So, again, he gives himself up and is taken into custody.

Season 7

The U.S. president is now Allison Taylor, and she is good. Bauer’s back in the States and CTU needs his help. Again. They need him because apparently Tony Almeida is not only not dead but has gone rogue and is now working with the terrorists, more specifically the Juma regime, the ones from Sangala that Bauer just dealt with. As Bauer peels back the layers, he learns Tony isn’t a terrorist. He’s working deep cover. Super super deep cover, with Bill Buchanan and Chloe, essentially the last two colleagues Jack can trust who haven’t been killed.

So Jack plays along, he and Tony obviously break out, and they learn that General Juma is in Washington D.C. And not at Ben’s Chili Bowl, but in the White House. And then, just like that, Juma has taken the entire White House hostage, including the president, the president’s daughter, Bill, and Jack.

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Knowing something has to be done, Buchanan sets off an explosion, killing himself in the process, but allowing Jack to take back control of the situation. And then, ultimately, kill Juma. After that, for maybe the 200th time in this show, Jack alerts everyone else that “[Terrorist X] was not working alone.”

The culprit this time: Starkwood, a private military company, led by JONAS HODGES. They’ve been developing a bioweapon and, wouldn’t you know it, have been testing its effects with the help of Juma on the children of Sangala. This doesn’t sit well with Bauer. Because Jack loves the kids. So he’s got to kill Hodges.

But he can’t, yet, because it became clear Tony was even more undercover than one could have imagined. He wasn’t really good or bad, he was just trying to get close to the man responsible for killing Michelle. So he could kill him. He was playing everyone, including Jack and Jack’s new go-to, off-the-grid, rules-are-for-cowards, future-probable-girlfriend-partner, FBI officer Renee Walker. But right as Tony finds the man (named Alan Wilson), Jack shoots Tony in the shoulder. Because he needs both men alive.

Also: Jack’s exposed while making sure the pathogen wasn’t released and the Eastern Seaboard wouldn’t get destroyed. Which means he’s at risk of dying. Which means he’s probably going to die. Just kidding. You already know he’s on TV tonight.

Season 8

Jack is finally going to get out of the game, leave New York, and be with his family. He’s on great terms with his daughter and is now a loving grandfather. You can’t help but feel like this is a fitting way for a show to end, since he has saved the United States of America more than 650 times.

But then Jack learns of a hit. On President Hassan of Kamistan (yes, again, a very fake country). And then there is an assassination attempt. And then talk of uranium. And, of course, the president’s brother is the mole. And yes, this is most certainly the time when Jack is quickly framed as having killed an NYPD police officer.

Jack has to go undercover, again, with the help of Renee Walker, who is highly unstable after going dark for some time. He is captured (duh), tortured (of course), and then frees himself by killing a man with his feet. Jack’s on the hunt, then learns there’s yet another mole in CTU, this time DANA WALSH, someone of near-Nina level abilities of deceit, while also being the fiancée of CTU officer Cole Ortiz. When captured and choked out by Bauer, Dana tells him they’re going to kill President Hassan. But when Jack gets to him, they have already killed President Hassan. 

Jack and Renee finally sleep together, and then a sniper kills Renee in bed, because that’s pretty much the only thing left on the “let’s ruin Jack’s love life” checklist. Also, with relatively nothing left to give, Jack is out for blood. He finds the man who killed Renee, discovers how far this conspiracy goes, and then kills him. And just like that, Jack has his sights on the president of Russia. A real statement said on this show:

“We can’t stand by and let Jack assassinate the president of Russia.”

Fair.

Before Jack pulls the trigger of the gun aimed at the Russian president, Chloe talks him off the ledge. And then he demands that she shoot him in the shoulder. She says no, Jack puts a gun to his head, and then Chloe screams:

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As the final episode, the season, and the series wrapped up, both the American and Russian governments are looking for Bauer. There was also Charles Logan, who sent a man to kill Bauer, only to have the order suspended by President Taylor in the final moments. President Taylor apologizes for all he’s been put through, claims that she will resign, and urges him to run before he’s captured again. And then Jack calls Chloe. And he tells her to make sure his family is safe. And then he gives her a speech about how she’s had his back all these years. And then Chloe starts crying. And then you start crying.

And then Chloe says she’ll buy him some time and tells him “good luck.” And then he looks up in the sky.

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Chloe then says to the few in the room at CTU, “Whatever happened here didn’t happen.”

And Jack starts running.

Filed Under: 24, TV, kiefer sutherland

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Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ rembert