Written by Joel Surnow & Michael Loceff
Directed by James Whitmore, Jr
Original Air Date: 17th December 2002
There’s an inescapable claustrophobic feeling to a lot of this episode. Jack and Nina might be stuck in a plane for a large chunk of the running time, but you can sense the walls closing in before the show literally explodes its way out of it for its cliff-hanger ending and prolonged action sequence of an episode in the next hour.
This is an episode full of great moments even if it doesn’t quite move the story too far along, but those moments do remind you once again of the different playing field that the series is occupying this season.
24’s first day spent much of its time running around LA, this one has extended its reach a little to other Californian suburbs such as Visalia where the series has no choice but to use a plane to get there. Sure enough it might look a CGI creation as we see at the end of the episode (and there will be a lot more of it in the beginning of the next hour), but both Jack and Palmer are reminded of just how different their lives are and how much more complex their paths have become by the time the final clock of the episode ticks down.
In a day and age of binging, and where 24 is available to stream in its entirety through Disney Plus (if you live in Europe or Canada that is), it’s easy to forget just how much the show got its stomach churning intensity from that week-to-week wait between episodes, and this episode’s final scene is a great reminder to anyone who has stuck with the show so far on how Jack and Nina have gotten to a place seething with bitter anger and a threat of death by murderous means.
For a series that would become famous, and sometimes infamous, for its action, violence and use of torture, it is sometimes easy to forget that it could just as easily slow down and hit you and its characters with moments of genuine heft and emotion.
In the previous episode, we had to watch George deal with saying goodbye to his son and a lovely call back to when we learned in the pilot episode that he had skimmed money, which as it turns out he was holding for a good reason (I imagine this is a little bit of retconning but it fits nicely with how the writers and Berkley turned the character into a more sympathetic and popular one).
There’s a similarly powerful moment in the final moments of this hour, as Jack reminds Nina, and the audience, of the loss that is still reverberating in his life. For all the efforts the series is making in reformatting the character of Jack Bauer into a more overtly tougher one who isn’t afraid of breaking the rules to get things done, the episode’s final scene is a powerful reminder of the humanity that lies underneath a character struggling with wanting to kill Nina and who we’ve already watched kill a witness and extoll the virtues of needing a hacksaw.
Honestly, the episode isn’t anything too special, but this episode continues to get a lot of mileage out of the antagonistic moments between the two that you get a real sense of enjoyment from the writers and even Sutherland and Clark at having a new way to interact and play these characters, but this is a series where loss and death are part and parcel of its language and in the final moments the episode goes to town with a soliloquy from Jack over the life that was taken from him and the loss he is still reeling from.
He talks emotionally about the weekend before we were first introduced to him and his family, the time he was spending with Teri and the way she was more of an extrovert than himself. His language is all past tense and bitterness, delivered to a character whose only motivations are survival by any means necessary. He is trying to talk to someone who has just killed a terrorist and is holding in her hands the location of a nuclear weapon. The stakes couldn’t be bigger, but the series distils the moment down to something quite powerfully personal, a reminder of how the series began with smaller, but not inconsiderable stakes.
The hatred and venom that comes from 24’s lead character towards his former friend and lover and now arch-nemesis is palpable; we feel it too I suppose and it’s a brilliant reminder of how we have also now taken against a character that spent a large chunk of season one as one of our favourites. It’s peak-Jack Bauer hatred for Nina at this stage and it’s coming just before an episode before the two will have to put that aside to help each other out in one of the series’ biggest set-piece driven episode so far.