Picks and Pans Review: 24

UPDATED 11/03/2003 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/03/2003 at 01:00 AM EST

FOX (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

[STARS 3]

"Know that we are all safe and that we will continue to be safe," President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) declared in the second season finale of 24. Yeah, right. And then someone tried to kill him.

On Oct. 28 the series that strains our nerves and our credulity returns with more hour-by-hour suspense, and amazingly it still works. Three years have passed, and Palmer, in the midst of a re-election campaign, learns that terrorists are threatening to unleash a deadly virus if a drug kingpin isn't sprung from prison. Proven world-saver Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) of the Counter-Terrorist Unit should be the go-to guy in a spot like this, but Jack has a secret weakness that may hamper his heroics.

Sutherland is excellent as a man on the verge of coming apart, and once again the taut editing will raise your pulse rate even if you've vowed not to get sucked into another doomsday scenario. Though now a CTU staffer, Jack's daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) remains an annoyance. But Chase (James Badge Dale), Jack's young partner, looks like a positive addition to the crisis crew.

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