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October 25, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

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CIA agent Jack Bauer doesn’t mean to make every day take Your Daughter to Work Day. Frankly, it’s damned inconvenient when you’re busy saving Southern California — and the world — as he is in 24’s second season. But when his teenage daughter gets arrested by police who find a gruesome, dripping surprise in her trunk, well, it looks like she is going to get a second peek into Papa Bauer’s terrorist-hunting daily planner.

In a Malibu sheriff’s station, where 24 is shooting its eighth episode on an October afternoon, Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert) is using her one phone call to plead with Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) to come pick her up…now!

He’s trying to reassure her (Sutherland, off camera, is sitting behind the director’s monitors), but Bauer is a bit distracted, since he’s simultaneously monitoring a critical interrogation aided by Nina (Sarah Clarke), his traitorous ex-girlfriend who killed his wife, Teri, last season. And just as Kim is reaching critical whine, she hears a commotion on the other end. Her dad screams ”No!” and the phone goes dead.

Clearly, 24’s Jack Bauer is in the midst of another very bad day. The Fox thriller, which premieres commercial-free on Oct. 29, is coming off a very good year — having earned critical raves, a Golden Globe for Sutherland, and a writing Emmy for the show’s creators. But this year, just as the producers refuse to make things easy for Bauer — putting him, his daughter, or thousands of lives in peril at least once an hour — they’ve refused to take the easy route with their drama in a season that is, appropriately, do-or-die. After battling to maintain their groundbreaking yet risky real-time format (24 one-hour episodes add up to one 24-hour adventure/national nightmare for Bauer), they’ve concocted a horrendously topical terrorism story line for their emotionally damaged, trigger-giddy protagonist to tackle. Bauer wasn’t exactly Mr. Warmth last season, but now the grieving agent makes Andy Sipowicz look like Andy Griffith.

”Jack doesn’t really care anymore,” says Sutherland. ”Whatever boundaries he had last year are pretty much gone now. Last year’s promo was great: ‘I’m federal agent Jack Bauer, and today is the longest day of my life.’ Now maybe it’s ‘I’m federal agent Jack Bauer, and today is the most violent day of my life.”’

In case you were off the clock last year, allow us to fast-forward through 24’s first season: Bauer, a top agent at the government’s Counter-Terrorist Unit, was summoned to stop an assassination attempt on leading presidential candidate Sen. David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) by sinister Serbs — who, in turn, kidnapped Bauer’s wife and daughter. While Jack ultimately foiled the plot, revealed Nina as the agency’s mole, and saved his daughter from her captors’ clutches, 24’s season finale was far from a happy ending, as a frantic Bauer discovered his pregnant wife had been shot dead in the melee’s final minutes.

TV Show
Joel Surnow,
Robert Cochran
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