On ''24,'' Palmer's back, baby! Sure, it's contrived how Dennis Haysbert's character returns to the action -- but when the guy's this cool, who cares?

By Lynette Rice
Updated May 03, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
24, Dennis Haysbert

”24”: Palmer’s back, baby!

Gee, here I was worrying there’ll be no more great comedies left on TV once Everybody Loves Raymond wraps, when all I had to do was watch 24! Logan hands over control of the U.S. government to an ex-President so he can go draft a press release? Chloe fears that she’s become some kind of psycho because she doesn’t feel bad for reenacting The Terminator? Jack deduces that a Marwan accomplice has fluid in his lungs simply by holding his ear to the dude’s chest? Heller and Behrooz remain missing in action but we just happen to get a surprise call from Tony’s galpal at CTU? Now those are some real knee-slappers! Comedy drought, be damned!

Oh, but what fun it still is to watch 24. It’s nice to finally see the marvelous Dennis Haysbert back in the game instead of stumping for an insurance company during commercial breaks. And despite what I may have thought about the comical way he was reinstated (Palmer’s told to deal directly with Buchanan at CTU, leaving Logan to pretty much go off and stick his thumb up his butt), Palmer — in all his wonderful Palmerness — quickly takes control of the situation and starts to boss the staff around. He soon learns that a Chinese man by the name of Mr. Lee not only has ties to Marwan but also may know the location of the nuclear warhead. But Mr. Lee is squirreled away at the Chinese consulate and only an act of terrorism (and the use of a couple of good ski masks) can spring him loose. Quick, David Palmer — what would the American people want their de facto President to do?

Thankfully, Jack is conveniently parked outside of the Chinese consulate and instructed by Palmer to take matters into his own hands. Donning a ski mask, just Jack manages to sneak inside the building and snag a frightened Mr. Lee — but not before two gun-toting Chinese guards sink a bullet into Mr. Lee and pull off the mask of a fellow CTU agent who rushes to Jack’s aid. It was a pretty quick scene, but I’m confident that next week’s episode will involve the Chinese identifying that masked man with the help of some fine Japanese technology (i.e. a coupla surveillance cameras that’ll surely come back to bite Palmer in the tush).

By this point I thought Jack had already provided Audrey with enough excuses to leave him once and for all, but apparently not — he kills her partially paralyzed Paul, as well! In a desperate act to spare Mr. Lee’s life so he’ll reveal the whereabouts of the bomb (and providing further proof that he’ll pull a gun on just about anybody who gets in his damn way), Jack commands a CTU doctor to stop an emergency operation on Paul so he’ll fix Mr. Lee instead. That gives Kiefer Sutherland the opportunity to reenact a scene from his 1990 movie Flatliners and attempt to revive Paul himself, but unlike what he did for Billy Baldwin in the movie, he can’t bring this one back to life. The limey’s good and dead — as is any hope for that ridiculous relationship between Audrey and Jack. That’s okay; I much prefer the Tony/Michelle romance and the inevitability of that passion-filled reunion.

Sadly, we’ve only got two more weeks before 24 leaves us again, not nearly enough time to deal with the whereabouts of many missing characters. IMDB.com seems to promise the return of Chase, which will likely result (gulp!) in the return of Kim. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original characters (except, well, for Kim). But I also loved the promise of new blood when we met Heller, Driscoll, Dina (come back to life, girl, and take that final bow!), Behrooz, and that guy resembling Opie who flew the freakin’ Stealth. I especially wanted to hear from him again. Mostly, I’m suspicious of Sutherland’s plans and whether he’d like to do a fifth season of 24. He’s gotta be itching to return to film, which would mean the upcoming finale may have to deal with the possibility of Jack’s departure (yet again) from CTU. It could be one helluva cliffhanger. I, for one, can’t imagine 24 without Jack, but I also couldn’t imagine the show recovering from a disastrous third season — and look what we got instead!

How do you think it will end? Will Jack stop the bomb and wrap up the season in a nice little bow? Can there be a 24 without Jack?

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