24 Retrospective: Day 3

Another day, another day. Get it? Whatever.

Welcome back to my retrospective of 24, or as it should be known, Bad Things Happen to Jack Bauer. The writers put Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) through the wringer. Even when his heart stops like in Day 2, he’s not allowed to die. Killing Jack just makes him angry. So how’s he been holding up since then? Strap in, because Day 3 is doozy. As always, thanks to Wiki 24.

To recap, Day 2 ends on a cliffhanger, with President Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) being hit with some sort of weaponized contagion. Pretty appropriate considering a deadly virus is Day 3’s threat. Strangely though, the story behind the attempt on Palmer’s life and following events take place in 24: The Game, which came out around season 5. It turns out the nuclear bomb and the attempt on Palmer’s life were the machinations of a German arms dealer with a grudge against the U.S. In the end though, Jack kills him. How’s the game? It’s a mediocre 3rd-person shooter with clunky driving segments but surprisingly solid voice performances by the cast of the show. I’d only recommend it for die-hard fans (FUN FACT: a crossover with Die Hard called Die Hard 24/7 was on the table at one point).

So, how’s Jack doing this time around? Well, he’s back at CTU as Director of Field Operations. Oh, and he’s addicted to heroin. No, I’m not joking. Jack’s on smack!

So, despite Day 2 ending on a high note for Jack, he’s not doing great. After teaming up in 24: The Game, Jack and his partner Chase (James Badge Dale) worked a case on the Salazar cartel in Mexico. He used heroin to maintain his cover, but it’s pretty clear that it was to alleviate his suffering over Teri’s death. The cartel is threatening to unleash the Cordilla virus unless the U.S. releases its former leader, Ramon Salazar (Joaquim de Almeida). That’s until Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke) shows up. Her shenanigans from Day 1 to Day 3 cement her as perhaps 24’s best villain. But her death comes at the right time and the right place, in the same room in which she killed Teri Bauer years prior, at the hands of Jack.

Day 3 contains some of the most exciting moments in the series, with a helicopter chase over Los Angeles and a last minute save by a jet’s missile. 24 truly becomes a Hollywood action movie on TV this season. The main cast is given more to do as well, as Michelle (Reiko Aylesworth) takes charge in the field only to be stuck in a hotel with the virus. The show makes a memorable point about the greater good when she kills an infected guest. It’s all masterminded by Stephen Saunders (Arrow’s Paul Blackthorne), a former comrade of Jack’s thought dead, now gone rogue. The back half of this season is definitely among the series’ strongest.

That being said, there are definitely some contrived moments in this season. Saunders has vials of the virus scattered throughout the country but, of course, this mostly takes place in LA. What is it about terrorists and this city? Also, Saunders’ daughter conveniently goes to school in the area, allowing CTU to use her as leverage. The writers could have had an agency in a different city pick her up, but they needed Jack to threaten to expose her to the virus.

Jack ends the season in an even worse place than where he starts. Sure, he somehow staves off his addiction for a whole day (though if anyone has enough willpower to go cold turkey, it’s Jack Bauer), but let’s go down the list of what happens in Day 3.

  • He’s in withdrawal from a heroin addiction everyone now knows about
  • He kills his ex-mistress/wife’s killer, Nina
  • President Palmer is giving up his re-election bid
  • He has to murder his boss
  • The Salazars kill his lover, Claudia (Vanessa Ferlito)
  • Almost 1000 civilians, including children, die
  • His brother-in-arms returns to betray the U.S. before dying for real
  • Kim almost dies again
  • He has to cut off Chase’s hand
  • His friend Gael (Jesse Borrego) dies in agony from the virus
  • Tony (Carlos Bernard) is going to jail for giving in to Saunders’ demands to save his wife Michelle

I told you. Call this show Bad Things Happen to Jack Bauer. It’s borderline hilarious how bad this day is for him.

Day 3 ends rather poignantly, with Jack breaking down into tears in his car before driving back to CTU. It’s his lowest point in the series thus far.

Jack’s Onscreen Kills: 14

Despite the show going full action movie this season, Jack has substantially fewer kills than in Day 2. In fact, if you count the offscreen kills mentioned in Day 1, Day 3 is tied with Day 1 as the season with the fewest kills.

Silent Clock(s): “Day 3: 6:00am-7:00am” at 6:59:57am, accompanied by a train whistle (in the background, as opposed to the foreground breathing and heartbeat from last season)

24 continues the tradition of having one Silent Clock per season. As I mentioned above, Jack kills his boss, Ryan Chappelle (Paul Schulze). This is because Chappelle becomes a nuisance to Saunders and while he’s in control of the situation he gets President Palmer to cave into a few demands.

America’s refusal to negotiate with terrorists has been controversial at times, but this is the flip side of it. It’s one of the darkest moments in an already dark series, with Jack executing an innocent civil servant on the orders of the President. Ryan is a jerk like Mason but he has virtually no redeeming qualities. However, it’s chilling to watch him die.

Ryan is an interesting case because he’s the only character to receive a Silent Clock not part of the main cast and the only one killed by Jack. Also, no splitscreen precedes his death, making us hold out hope until it’s too late.

Kim Bauer Moment(s): President Palmer has more on his plate than just the threat of a viral outbreak. After dealing with a minor scandal with his girlfriend, a businessman with political sway threatens to withdraw support for health care legislation over an affair between his wife and Wayne Palmer (D.B. Woodside), the new Chief of Staff and David’s younger brother. David, in an uncharacteristic bonehead move, asks Sherry (Penny Johnson Jerald) to resolve the conflict. Of course, things go south, leaving Sherry, the businessman, and his wife all dead.

It’s an interesting idea to have David juggle multiple crises on the same day, but we already saw it in Day 1 and that was better handled. Sherry conspired against David in Day 2 and he should have no reason to trust her.

Kim gets off the hook mostly for Day 3. She’s working at CTU and dating Chase, but it’s his ex-girlfriend who dumps his daughter on the newbie, Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub). Kim just has to deal with taking part in an operation posing as Saunders’ daughter, which is contrived but not terrible compared to the scandals and the baby.

In contrast, I give the writers’ credit for introducing a mole (Gael) only to reveal he’s not a traitor and part of an elaborate sting operation.

“Damn It” Count: 13, with a DPE (Damn Its Per Episode) of 0.54

Aside from one episode where he utters his catchphrase three times, Jack’s DPE drops dramatically. Maybe he’s chiller because of all the heroin who took the day before.

Aaron Sarnecky is The Pop Break’s Television Editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., among other things. He is a TV/Film grad of Rowan University and the fraternal twin of staff writer Josh Sarnecky. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed.