Written by Chip Johannessen
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Original Air Date: 11th December 2001
The fifth hour of 24 is something of a breather after the relentless pace of those first four hours, although in the world of this television series, a slower hour is still one bristling with incident.
Opting to devote most of its running time to Jack at an LA police precinct and Teri at the hospital where Janet York is on the operating table, this is probably the talkiest hour of the show, and yet communication is in frustratingly short supply for the characters who really need it.
Teri and Alan desperately want Janet to survive, Teri especially because she wants to find out where Kim is, all the while Jack wants to interrogate Pentikoff after the shoot out from last week/a couple of minutes ago.
As already seems to be the case this early into 24’s run, Jack is willing to do everything he needs to, which makes not only this episode somewhat of a fascinating one, but something which makes the viewer wonder how 24 as a whole will play with current audiences set to discover it on streaming services.
The pilot episode of the series established Jack Bauer as someone who was willing and ready to arrest his own agents for taking bribes. We may not have witnessed this, it was something that took place before the events of the Presidential Primary, but it established just how much of a good guy the hero of the show was that he was unwilling to look the other way while his fellow agents were pocketing money on the side.
Yet, for his good guy status and the resentment he seems to face from other agents for having done this, we’ve increasingly seen Jack Bauer break the rules himself, even in that same very episode when he tranquilized his superior in order to gain information. This rule breaking Jack is something we will see again and again over the course of 24’s run.
While Jack Bauer may not work for law enforcement and is instead in the employ of the American Government, working for an organisation that feels more like the CIA but who operate on US soil (but with considerably more sweeping powers than the FBI), he falls into the realm of the renegade hero or cop figure.
That type of character has obviously come under scrutiny in recent times, particularly in correlation to disillusionment and justifiable criticism of American law enforcement in the last few months. It’s not like that type of character was a new creation when 24 debuted in 2001; before Jack Bauer we had John McClane in Die Hard, Dirty Harry and Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon series, cops working within the system but who were willing to break the rules in order to get the job done.
It’s interesting to see how 24 was in full grasp of this style of character for Jack Bauer as early as the fifth episode of season one, and later seasons will go even further as the series started to use its storytelling to explore stories related to America’s War on Terror.
Jack spent the last hour with Officer Hampton who died in his presence and yet he is more than willing to break her killer out of custody and play games not only with grieving LA officers, including Hampton’s partner, but also his own superiors (represented by a returning Xander Berkley as George Mason) in order to break out Pentikoff to find his daughter and uncover more of the plot to kill Palmer.
24 always takes a stance with which it wants us to cheer Bauer on throughout the series, he is after all the leading character, backed by a fully committed performance from Kiefer Sutherland. Yet, watching in 2020, while one can still enjoy the series as a dark, escapist thriller (and once again, nobody has ever filmed night-time LA side streets in the manner that this series did), its utilisation of this particular character trope without much criticism (although there will be some in later seasons) cannot help but sometimes give one pause for thought.
‘Since when don’t we talk about things?’ asked Sherry (Penny Johnson Jerald) in the ‘Pilot’ and in a wonderful irony for the episode, all the while Jack and Teri are desperately needing to talk to those who can’t or won’t because of their circumstances, Senator Palmer learns that nobody will tell him anything about the darkest moment from his own family’s past.
His confrontation with Keith (Vicellous Shannon) is one of the very best moments of the episode, a key sequence where one of the very few characters in the episode gets a chance to communicate with someone and yet no answers are forthcoming. Palmer’s insistence on Keith telling him what happened to Nicole’s rapist leads him to nearly lose his temper, possibly giving him the answer that he’s looking for and dreading.
The look of dawning horror and realisation on Palmer’s face is magnificently played by Dennis Haysbert, who brings the gravitas and charisma that you’d want from a Presidential candidate, but who is also slowly realising that he’s not a character in a West Wing-style drama, but something more approaching a Shakespearean drama, and one that he’s never been in control of.