"This country continues to owe you a great debt of gratitude," President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) told terrorist-battling Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) in the third season finale of this still-suspenseful series. That was then.
As the new season begins, the stalwart but scandal-plagued Palmer is out of office and his political foe John Keeler (Geoff Pierson) occupies the White House. Jack, having been dismissed by icy new Counter Terrorist Unit boss Erin Driscoll (Alberta Watson), now works for Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane) and secretly romances Heller's daughter Audrey (Kim Raver, from Third Watch). Jack insists he's content to be wearing a suit and leading a less dangerous life, but only a fool would buy that. By the second episode—four air over two nights—a bold terrorist move forces Driscoll to reinstate the notoriously independent Jack on a temporary basis. "You will not make any unilateral decisions," she commands. Oh, sure. He reads her loud and clear.
You may well have misgivings about yet another season for this show, particularly with Haysbert out of the picture. It's almost a joke how often Jack has crammed a lifetime of derring-do into a 24-hour period. But the plot, which involves the abduction of a high government official, will absorb viewers once again. Devane (Knots Landing) is an old pro at playing men of power, though he strains credulity when he displays Rambo tendencies. And Watson's formidable character presides over a hotbed of bureaucratic intrigue that features a couple of interesting new CTU staffers: manipulative Marianne Taylor (Aisha Tyler, from Friends) and nebbishy Edgar Stiles (Louis Lombardi, an FBI agent on The Sopranos).
Jack doesn't hesitate to step far outside the law to accomplish his mission, and the writers will stop at nothing to keep the audience hooked. For 24 fans, the ends justify the means.