Written by Joel Surnow & Michael Loceff
Directed by Brad Turner
Original Air Date: 13th January 2004
I don’t think anyone would have had Jack Bauer making out with Nina Myers on their 24 bingo card when season three premiered, but just to show you how unpredictable the series can be, Jack locking lips with his wife’s killer is the gasp inducing cliffhanger that the episode opts to end with.
It’s a very charged scene with which to end this particular hour. Even back in the first season when the character of Nina was on the side of angels (her actual words), there was always a nervy chemistry between both Sarah Clarke and Kiefer Sutherland, one that carried the weight
of an affair that had ended prior to our first introduction to both characters whose destinies would be entwined going forward in a very different way than to where they started.
Going into the second season, the two characters were firmly pitched as enemies, the writers finding a new way to portray their dynamic. If the first season initially portrayed Nina as a very dependable and trustworthy character, albeit one brooding over having loved someone who could never love her back, the reveal of her treachery reformatted the character’s connection to Jack as one drenched in violent possibilities and even arch manipulations.
The return of Nina always seems to open the gates for new storytelling avenues every time she has returned and it’s giving this stretch of the season an extra charge which it kind of needs at this point. There was a threat that the season was going to turn into Jack, CTU and the Salazar brothers basically running around darkly-lit locations in the desert, which would have been a disappointing turn given how brilliantly fraught the earlier episodes of the season had been.
However, the season has got fire in its belly once again as Jack finds himself being outsmarted by Nina, while Chase attempts an escape from his brutal treatment that inevitably ends in tragedy.
While Jack makes out with Nina, Claudia, who he was kissing only an hour ago, gets killed in a manner that reminds the audience that getting attached to characters in this series is a futile thing to do.
Chase’s escape gets the adrenaline going again, but Claudia’s death is unbeknownst to Jack as he tries to get Nina on his side. It’s another reminder not only of 24’s ability to kill characters without warning, but also why being emotionally connected to Jack can lead to tragedy. Of course, one could complain about the series utilising the ‘woman in refrigerator’ trope once again, but in this case the writers really had no choice since Vanessa Ferlito opted not to continue with the series beyond her initial commitment.
They could have had the character exit the series alive, but then it wouldn’t really be 24, would it? The moment Chase thanks her as he is driven to safety only to realise she has taken a bullet is one of those stomach churning moments that the series is powerfully capable of, and that even with its frequent moments of brutal violence and torture, it can still hit deep with more quiet reveals such as this one.