- The following recap takes place between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Events occur in real time.
24 is an action-adventure series on Fox that is notable for unfolding in real time, provided that you consider a ratio of 44 minutes of actual time for every hour that passes onscreen "real time." It stars Emilio Estevez as Jack Bauer, a government agent who foils various terrorist plots through heroic determination, frequent torture, and a superhuman ability to avoid eating, sleeping, or going to the bathroom for days on end.
Jack is an on-again, off-again employee of CTU, a federal counter-terrorism unit with alarmingly copious security lapses and a tragically lax attitude toward background checks. Each 24-episode season takes place over the course of a single extremely long and eventful day, in which no one seems to get tired or have their hair mussed unless they're dying gruesomely in the process.
It was originally developed by Fox under the working title Tortureman!, the name still used when the show airs in some international markets, including Singapore and Burma.
- Warning: SPOILERS follow for those living in a cave for the past five years, or those easily surprised by repetition.
On the day of the California presidential primary, Jack Bauer discovers that Eurotrash terrorists plan to kill candidate David Palmer for his attempts during his tenure in the Senate to ban imported dance music from American nightclubs. Despite the kidnapping of his wife Teri and his stupid but hot daughter Kim, Jack manages to foil the assassination attempt and bring the terrorists to justice, in part by crushing a suspect's testicles in a Vise Grip. Unfortunately, Teri is shot dead by Nina Meyers, an unwise hire of CTU's Equal Opportunity for Traitors program, and Kim remains stupid. (But hot.) Also, a lesbian terrorist blows up a plane, gets naked, and promptly vanishes for the next season and a half.
Arab terrorists plan to detonate a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles, and only Jack Bauer can stop them. Decapitating a pedophile to get properly warmed up, Jack tortures his way through L.A.'s Muslim communities (with a brief and embarrassing wrong turn into a Sikh neighborhood) in a desperate search for the bomb. After razing a mosque with his bare hands, Jack discovers that his hot new girlfriend's crazy sister has ties to the terrorists, and dangles her upside-down over a shark tank until she surrenders the bomb's location. With mere minutes to spare, Jack packs his obnoxious boss and the bomb onto a small plane and sends them cheerily into the Sonoran desert to their irradiated doom. Meanwhile, Kim is attacked by the abusive father of the child she's babysitting, mows down a nun in a hit-and-run, gets briefly kidnapped by cannibal midgets, causes a plane crash, accidentally severs her boyfriend's leg, and is nearly eaten by a cougar. She is saved when the cougar sees her in a tank top on a very cold evening, and has to go off and spend some time alone in the bushes. In the shocking final moments of the season, President David Palmer is nearly killed by an infection of gay germs after shaking hands with the naked lesbian terrorist.
Jack exploits CTU's dubious hiring policy to get Kim a job, figuring that keeping her in the highly classified nerve center of the nation's counterterrorism operations will be an easy way to make sure she stays out of trouble. Meanwhile, Jack goes undercover in Mexico to bust a drug dealer and quickly gets addicted to both heroin and sex with hot Mexican drug-dealer mistresses. Unfortunately, the drug dealer gets briefly confused, accidentally ordering 300 kilos of weaponized Ebola instead of high-grade Colombian blow. When the plague materials are shipped to the United States, Jack must set a new land speed record for heroin withdrawal (23 minutes, 12 seconds) and make with the finger-breaking to track them down. President Palmer, eager for a divorce thanks to the lingering effects of the gay germs, realizes that implicating his horrible wife Sherry in the bioterror plot will effectively circumvent his prenup. Pausing just long enough to shoot Nina Myers in the head, Jack throws Sherry off a building. Unfortunately, she exhales a protective cushion of venomous lies and walks away unhurt. Jack finds the terrorists -- there are always terrorists -- and calls in an F-16 air strike to destroy them and the biotoxin. For most men, this would be known as "overkill;" for Jack Bauer, it's called "Tuesday."
In a daring change of pace for the series, Jack Bauer sleeps in on a weekend, electrocutes the paper boy with wires from a floor lamp until he discovers the location of his missing Sunday paper (under the bushes next to the front porch), orders a pizza, and watches the Angels-Brewers game on ESPN. He has a quiet dinner out at California Pizza Kitchen, falls asleep in front of the TV, and gets up in the middle of the night to drink milk from the carton and pistol-whip a squad of Russian extremists building a dirty bomb in the garage next door. Also, Sherry is awful and eventually gets shot, and CTU director Tony Almeda must do battle with his own goatee when it turns traitor and attempts to flood the building with nerve gas.
Terrorists attack, killing or maiming every single person Jack Bauer cares about in the span of a single morning. No one attacks Kim. Jack springs into action, tracking down the chief suspect and beating the man with his own severed arm before threatening to disembowel his children. Following a highly useful lead attained through his thoroughly effective and entirely legal torture tactics, Jack discovers that the sinister liberal forces of the ACLU are plotting to kill Americans with their own civil liberties. After foiling a plan to machine-gun a nursery school in Beverly Hills, Jack learns that the terrorists have laced the U.S. Constitution with a fast-acting poison, and plan to use it to instantly kill the President during his annual revision of the historic document to correct spelling errors and tidy up any unnecessary amendments. In a thrilling climax to the season, Jack manages to set fire to the Constitution before grinding it to ash under his heel, thus saving the President and, by extension, America itself. He then climbs into his SUV and drives off into the sunset at approximately two miles per gallon, before being suddenly abducted in a surprise attack by the entire population of China.
Jack escapes from prison in China, having spent the last 20 months being tortured himself. In a cruel twist worthy of O. Henry, Jack has forgotten how to effectively torture other people! Will Jack be able to relearn how to torture in time to save America from the dastardly machinations of former astronaut 7arry F731nhardt? Unable to cope with not being able to torture anymore, Jack starts to cry -- his tears setting off a nuclear explosion in the heart of Los Angeles. Jack quickly finds his estranged brother and attempts to torture him, but is unable to continue when interrupted by their father. The tables are turned when Jack's brother turns out to actually be a traitor. Jack and his father are taken captive, but with the help of a talking pig they escape to his father's lab where a working prototype of a warp drive engine is being produced.
Following the initial success of 24, Fox attempted to launch a number of spinoffs, including one that laughably starred washed-up former Brat Pack member Kiefer Sutherland. To date, none has lasted more than a season, but Fox keeps trying.