If you have been faithfully watching 24 since the very beginning, in those crazy and scary days of uncertainty after 9/11, you probably have been caught up in the increasingly arduous and uncertain life of Jack Bauer (played by Keifer Sutherland). As we have been given windows into eight days in that life, we have seen Jack unravel, spiral to the depths of despair, and yet always rebound in sheer perseverance and determination to save the day (and the people he is sworn to protect) against all obstacles.
Watching episode 18 of season 8, I (like many of the rest of you I am sure) was temporarily lulled into a false sense of happiness for Jack. He tells CTU and the world that “It is over,” and he takes former FBI Agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) by the hand and makes his way back to the life he hopes to construct with her. They go to his apartment and make love, and after all this time we are happy to see Jack attain some human connection, one that he so desperately needs.
Alas, this is not to be for more than a few fleeting moments. While we suspect Jack and Renee are thinking of a life together, a sniper named Pavel is sitting in a window across the street with other plans. He spotted Renee at the crime scene where President Hassan had been murdered, and the one surviving henchman Samir would have too much information, so Pavel gives him a lethal dose of something. In keeping with the infuriating 24 tradition, no one sees him and he gets away, but Renee notices him, causing his antennae pop-up.
We learn in this episode that the Russians are behind the whole plot, or at least Russian delegate Novakovich at the U.N., when Pavel calls him just as he happens to be going into a conference with US President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones). Obviously, the plot thickens as Pavel waits to take out Renee and Jack Bauer as well.
Meanwhile, back at the U.N. President Taylor meets with assassinated President Hassan’s widow Dalia, and she presents a plan to keep the IRK in the peace process by getting the IRK government to install her as its provisionary leader. While at first taken back by the offer, Dalia recognizes the importance of her husband’s work (and his legacy). Dalia has the inner fortitude to try this (against her daughter’s wishes), and she accepts Taylor’s offer. Needless to say when Novakovich finds out about this, he is not pleased and says the Russians are pulling out of the conference.
This sets the stage for the return of one of 24’s most slitheringly delicious villains, former President Charles Logan (played with icky delight by Gregory Itzen). This most Shakespearean moment is a dramatic delight as the disgraced, but pardoned, ex-President meets face-to-face with the current one. President Taylor knows she has to deal with Chucky, but she doubts he will be her friend to the end.
Back at CTU, Brian (No Neck) Hastings has been given a pink slip. He, of course, recruited Dana Walsh (now a known terrorist) and mishandled other events of the day, so Hastings is relieved of his duties and our girl Chloe O’Brian gets elevated to temporary head of the agency. No, this is not like a mistake or any typo; Chloe has finally received the recognition she richly deserves. Chalk one up for the good guys (and gals).
Hastings says “Bye-bye” to the troops and then slinks off, presumably to return to Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and perhaps to eventually have an operation to restore his neck. Chloe, flustered by being given authority, has to deal with the immediate crisis of Samir dying in CTU Medical (the list is endless of people who died there, including Tony Almeida who then came back to life, but that’s another story).
Once Samir kicks the bucket and Chloe understands that someone injected him with something a lot worse than steroids, who is she going to call? Since The Ghostbusters are not available, she calls her best bud Jack Bauer. This is exactly what Chloe would always do, but she picks the worst possible time.
Jack and Renee have finished making whoopee, and they lay in a passionate embrace briefly. Thoughts are no doubt of good things to come for them as a couple, reestablishing the domesticity Jack lost long ago but has always wanted. Jack has to get up and make some coffee (we have been waiting seven seasons to see Jack ingest something since season 1). Renee runs her hand gently along the scars on his back, knowing she can’t erase his pain but perhaps can create a new happiness for him.
Sniper Pavel sees Jack emerge from the love den, but he doesn’t shoot him because Renee is his main target. The phone rings and, though Jack tells her not to answer, Renee does and talks to Chloe. When Renee learns of Samir’s death, she remembers the guy she saw at the crime scene and puts two and two sadly together. As she runs out of the room to tell Jack, Pavel shoots her and then tries to get Jack but fails. Big mistake, Pavel!
Jack rushes Renee to the ER in a taxi, as Pavel slithers back into a hole somewhere to await instructions. The taxi driver makes a wild rush to the hospital, and Jack carries Renee in and the doctors push her into the OR. Jack gets yet another call from Chloe, and she updates him on all that has happened. Jack is trying to keep it together, hoping that all will go well, but the doctors come out with grim faces and one tells him Renee is gone.
At this point, dear readers, we have seen Jack plummet from a hopeful pinnacle to a nadir of frustration and anger. He goes into the OR and stares at Renee’s lifeless body. As he stands there helplessly, we are with him, thinking that even the trials and tribulations of the Biblical Job weren’t this bad. Jack walks over and gives Renee one final kiss, and we know from this that there is going to be hell to pay and Jack is taking no prisoners.
It is safe to say that Jack Bauer is the most long-suffering dramatic character in TV history. Some may think of Andy Sipowciz (Dennis Franz) from NYPD Blue, but even he had a chance for more happiness. Jack Bauer has lost so many people, but during the course of it all he has never lost his desire to do what is right, no matter what the personal cost. In doing so he has set himself up to be more than damaged and, as Secretary of State Heller (father of his now comatose former lover Audrey) once told him, to be a man who is “cursed” and that everything he loves seems to crumble in his path.
We don’t know for sure what will happen in the last six episodes, but I recall that the most dangerous Jack Bauer is the one who thinks he has nothing to lose. I remember the scene from the last episode of season 1, when Nina Meyers lied to him about his daughter Kim being dead, and Jack went on an explosive tear and single-handedly killed Victor Drazen, his son, and all their men.
Judging from next week’s preview, Jack is ready to do whatever it takes to get justice. Since he seems to not be able to find happiness, it may be the only way he can make some kind of peace for himself. In doing so, he may descend to even darker depths, but in the end the rest of the world will be a safer place, even though Jack Bauer will continue suffering, probably for the rest of his life.
Until next time, Klaatu Barada Nikto!