Written by Joel Surnow & Michael Loceff
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Original Air Date: January 15th, 2002
The eighth hour of 24 begins with Nina Myers taking a nice morning stroll, albeit one that’s come about after being shot and left for dead by Jack a few minutes ago. One of the great, strange joys of the show is that you don’t merely think of 24 as being episodic and that the nature of its storytelling means that events are literally picking up where the last one left off meaning little to no time has passed since we last saw our characters.
There is a stomach-churning burn to this episode. With a script from Joel Surnow and Michael Loceff, and Stephen Hopkins back in the director’s chair, the first time director and writers have been credited since the opening three episodes, 24’s eighth hour has a brilliant build that culminates with much in the way of drama and incident.
It was easy to think that any major attempt on Palmer’s life might have been saved for 11:43pm, but the series throws the wool out from under us by having Gaines and the fake Martin Belkin (Rudolf Martin) make their move eight episodes into the show.
A large part of the episode takes place at the breakfast that the Palmer Campaign and CTU have been talking about a lot these last few hours, with the Senator himself deciding to use the breakfast, which is a key part of his campaign trail, as a means to confess to the country about his son’s involvement in the death of the man that raped Nicole.
There is something about this storyline that becomes somewhat problematic as the show has went on. It hasn’t shied away from the impact that such a horrible crime can have on the one that is hurt the most by it, and the previous episode we saw Nicole admit to having tried her best to move past it, but it’s a still a story of sexual assault on a woman that’s being filtered through the male characters.
The assault happened prior to the events of the season, yes, but everything about it has been filtered through Palmer discovering that he was lied to and how it’s going to affect his son, who killed the rapist, with little to no screen time for Nicole. A lot of that might have been done to Megalyn Echikunwoke not being available; she is absent here and will be for a large part of the season giving the story little to no choice but to put of its focus on David and Keith.
It still makes for a superb drama, and the scenes at Palmer’s campaign headquarters are brimming with tension after the opening episodes and the genuine familial warmth that came from them being slowly and brilliantly replaced by something more icier.
Sherry is increasingly becoming more of Lady MacBeth-type character that the writers will run with more and more as the season goes on, but for the issue that it has with channelling a rape story through male characters around the victim of such a crime, it’s clear that the series is achieving some depth beyond the thriller aspect of exploring two families under the thumb of a high pressured narrative.
Palmer is still surrounded by his family, but they would rather be anywhere else that isn’t near him, while Jack is separated from his own family and all three of the Bauer clan are desperately trying to get back to each other.
Kiefer Sutherland was rightly lauded for his comeback here and deservedly so as he doubles down on a performance that while having considerable action thriller chops, is also an increasingly sympathetic portrayal. Jack Bauer is a character with an increasing level of complexity across 24’s nine seasons that it spends with him, but the increasing desperation that Sutherland portrays here is magnificent, not least in those desperate final moments when he finds himself being arrested and practically begging into his dislodged ear pierce to a fiercely vindictive Gaines.
The episode marks the first time David Palmer and Jack Bauer meet, their eyes meeting across the room and while it will take a few hours for them to be in the same room again, it is of course the beginning of one of 24’s most important relationships (the other won’t begin until season three and would be a completely different, but equally important part of the series, but one that the writers’ would stumble onto accidentally but brilliantly).
Both are presented as men trying to do the best they can for their loved ones, but where Palmer is striving to do the right thing and be honest, Bauer is literally putting himself in a position where he may have no choice but to kill Palmer and basically act as if he is a member of the conspiracy out to assassinate Palmer.
It’s an increasingly high pressurised episode that culminates not just with the assassination attempt that we figured the series was building its whole season around, but also in Jamey finally being figured out.
The episode ends with one of 24’s most ferociously mounted moments so far as Teri and Kim are dragged kicking and screaming to an open grave and have guns pointed at their heads.
While the episode is very much focused on Jack and Palmer’s storylines, it doesn’t forget about Jack’s family, even if they are stuck in a barn. The spectre of potential death haunts them throughout the episode and everyone is on point this hour in terms of performance.
It is somewhat of a cliché that two of the female leads at this point in the show have been kidnapped so they can be saved by the male lead, but Leslie Hope and Elisha Cuthbert do such a great job of selling their terror in those final moments that it’s hard to complain too much.
It may only be eight hours long at this stage, and while we don’t truly believe that the writers will kill off two prominent cast members this early, but 24 already has the aura of a show that has an edge to it that makes one believe that the series has the capability of actually doing something horrifying just to see the results, and while Teri and Kim live to fight another hour, there is that one brief moment when the audience cannot help but contemplate that maybe, just maybe, the series will actually follow through.
It doesn’t, but you can already tell at this stage of the series that it is one very capable of doing so.