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Even with the real-time thriller days of 24 behind him, the clock’s still ticking, counting down toward Kiefer Sutherland’s next brush with the White House.
As Jack Bauer on 24, Sutherland routinely saved the President of the United States’ life (or at least tried) over the course of nine seasons on Fox. For his next act on television, though, Sutherland will abandon the days of protecting the president, and will instead become the president, as the protagonist of ABC’s Designated Survivor. The new thriller focuses on Tom Kirkman (Sutherland), a low-level cabinet member who is all but fired from his job one morning, only to become the next president later that evening, after a massive explosion wipes out everyone else in the line of succession.
Longtime 24 viewers aren’t used to seeing the erstwhile Bauer in a sharp suit and thick-rimmed glasses (except for when he pretended to be a German arms dealer back in season eight; another story for another time), but they’re certainly used to seeing him operate alongside the highest office in the U.S. Here are seven of Sutherland’s most memorable presidential encounters over the course of his 24 career:
1. The First Worst Day Ever
In the show’s inaugural season, Bauer is tasked with thwarting an assassination attempt against David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), a senator on his way toward becoming the nation’s first African-American president. Saving Palmer’s life requires Bauer to jeopardize Palmer’s life on two different occasions during the show’s first day: once when Bauer is being set up as the patsy for the assassination, and again when Bauer inadvertently brings an explosive device to Palmer’s Los Angeles headquarters. Both times, Bauer beats the bad guys, saves the future president, and earns himself one of the most powerful people in the world as a new confidant and friend.
2. My Sherry Amour
Bauer and Palmer never appear in the same room again after season one (except for one grim final occasion), but season two sees Jack teaming up with the woman who would have been First Lady, if not for her Lady Macbethian machinations: Sherry Palmer (Penny Johnson), David’s ex-wife, and a co-conspirator in a plot to destroy her former husband’s presidency. Despite her untrustworthiness, Jack has no choice but to work with Sherry in order to defeat the conspirators and save Palmer’s presidency. They succeed, only for President Palmer to get gravely injured in a subsequent attack.
3. Palmer Saves the Day
There’s no greater testament to Bauer and Palmer’s years of mutual admiration and friendship than the end of season four, which saw Jack faking his own death in order to evade the real thing. He’s helped along by several trusted colleagues, including Palmer — now a former president, thanks to his disillusionment with the office in season three. Even without full access to the presidency, Palmer’s reach is vast enough that he’s able to bend every rule in the book in order to save Jack’s life. That’s what years of sacrifice in the name of one noble leader will get you.
4. The Rise and Fall of Charles Logan
Saving Jack was Palmer’s last great act on 24. In the opening minutes of the season five premiere, the historic character is assassinated by a sniper, luring Jack out of hiding and back onto the field. Over the course of the harrowing day, he finds out that the person responsible for David’s death is none other than Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin), the new President of the United States, and a total snake. As soon as Bauer finds out about Logan’s role in his old friend’s death, he stops at nothing to topple the corrupt politician. Jack succeeds, effectively getting Logan removed from power — but it’s certainly not the last time the two enemies will meet.
5. White House Down
The seventh season of 24 sets the action in Washington, D.C., and at one point during the day, terrorists invade the White House. They’re inches away from the new president, Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones), until Jack saves the day once again — with a clutch sacrifice play from his old friend Bill Buchanan (James Morrison). With that, Jack solidifies another close personal connection to the leader of the free world, albeit not nearly as strong a bond as he enjoyed with the late, great David Palmer.
6. The Iron Man Cometh
In the eighth and then final season of the show, Bauer and Logan once again cross paths, and it does not go well for the former president. In what just might be his finest act in 24 history, Bauer suits up in head-to-toe armor, becoming a veritable Iron Man, in order to abduct Logan and interrogate him for crucial information about some Russian enemies. It also yields Logan’s greatest moment of cowardice in the entire series: “That’s Jack Bauer! That’s gotta be!” It must be seen to be believed.
7. Heller on Earth
As if he wasn’t already close enough to the presidency, the most recent iteration of the show, 24: Live Another Day, sees former Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane) as the new President of the United States. Heller is not only Jack’s boss during season four, but also the father of Jack’s great love, Audrey (Kim Raver). There’s no universe in which Jack Bauer becomes President of the United States — save for Designated Survivor, of course — but he was this close to becoming the POTUS‘ son-in-law… if not for all the ways Jack jeopardized both Heller and Audrey’s lives over the years, that is.
Designated Survivor premieres Sept. 21 on ABC. Will you watch? Bookmark THR‘s The Live Feed for more Designated Survivor coverage after the premeire.
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