Because Jack’s Back: Life Lessons from 24

Because Jack’s Back: Life Lessons from 24

I’m pretty sure the first TV series my husband and I ever binge-watched was Season 1 of FOX’s 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland. We had a baby and a toddler at the time and still somehow managed to watch the entire season in one weekend. (Sadly, I am not overselling the nature of the binge. I’m pretty sure our routine that weekend consisted only of five vital elements: baby bottles, crackers, diapers, pizza and Jack Freaking Bauer.) And nothing can match that first season—Day 1, for fans. It was addicting and new, and so—even though a few seasons in there were real duds—we were thrilled when FOX brought 24 (now called 24: Live Another Day) back to us last week in all its familiar glory.


Ruminating on the best moments of 24’s new premiere and seasons past, I’ve realized we can joke about the show’s brazen defiance of reality all we want, but this outrageous, endearing and once-groundbreaking (now arguably predictable) series offers its fans a lot more than a 24-hour thrill ride. It actually offers us a few kernels of truth mixed in with the impossibly narrow escapes and oh-no-she-didn’t plot twists. 

1. Sometimes the ones who save us are the ones we least expected to need. 

I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t like Chloe O’Brien for a long time. And I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say here that her ability to come to Jack’s rescue again and again over the years wasn’t always as calculable as it is now. I mean think about it … the nerdy girl in a bad mood huddled over the computer screen grousing about every little thing at CTU? How was she ever going to be the hero? And yet she was the hero time and time again. Chloe’s heroism and loyalty were a pleasant surprise over the years—sometimes a game-changer too.

And when we look at our lives, we might also miss our heroes at first glance. Loyalty can catch us off guard. Deep gut-level care can come from unexpected angels. When times get hard, don’t be surprised if your hero turns out to be the Chloe O’Brien you never saw coming.

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2. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as an unexpected rebirth.

The formidable and beloved Game of Thrones matriarch is not the first actor, female or male, to get another chance to re-wow us as a new addition to the 24 cast. I mean, who would ever have imagined Designing Women’s ditsy Charlene (aka the cougar mom from Garden State) playing a first lady as emotionally fragile as she was courageous on Days 5 and 6? But Jean Smart pulled it off. Brilliantly.

Personally, I love the comfort of familiar faces, and it’s such a fun reminder that people who have left our living rooms do sometimes return. (Even Jack Bauer!) But it’s rebirth—any beloved actor’s transformation into a new character—that I love the most. These transformations remind me that as long as we are breathing we are capable of change … and so is everyone else. Except Freddie Prinze Jr. Sorry, Day 8. (Still love you, Freddie!)

3. If something can go wrong, it will. 

This truth reveals itself in every. single. episode. Fans and haters of 24 alike know that “what could possibly go wrong” is ALL THE THINGS. Could an already nightmarish kidnapping get botched? Yes. Could a good guy get charged with treason? Yes. Could the entire town of Valencia, California get blown up? Yes.

And sadly … sometimes life’s like that. No, Valencia doesn’t get blown up. (Thank God. I mean, I have friends and family there, I’ll have you know.) But sometimes you get a double ear infection on the one day of your life your commute to work involves flying across the state and back again. (True story.) Sometimes your car won’t start, and when you try to push it into a better position for jumping, you accidentally lose control, and slam it into the neighbor’s chimney. (True story.) You get the idea. So don’t get too comfortable or too cocky about controlling your own destiny, people. You have no idea what a day can throw your way, which brings me to number four …

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4. You can never really know anyone.

Jack Bauer learned this the hard way at the end of Day 1, and we, the audience, have learned it again so many times since, we’ve lost count. And we’ve also probably lost our ability to believe the best about any character presented to us as a good guy. I mean, last week every time Benjamin Bratt gave even a hint of side eye, I was considering the possibility he was a double agent. (And if you weren’t, then maybe you should patent your resistance to cynicism and start selling it, because I—for one—would totally buy that.)

And maybe that’s sad. Maybe knowing deep down that everyone has the potential to disappoint and hurt us deeply is no way to go through life. But then again, neither is believing no one would ever … [insert disillusioning deed here]. We gotta be smart about where we place our trust. We can’t operate like everyone is as goodhearted as President Palmer. Then again, we also can’t go around treating everyone around us like potential terrorists. Why? Because number five …

5. Time is precious.

Life is made up of both seemingly uneventful minutes and highly significant seconds; days we cherish and days we’d just as soon forget. Still, it’s all life. It all matters. And as the digital clock clicks the seconds away—beep-boop-beep-boop—we would do well to remember that in this life we can do a lot of things: We can notice the people we really need, we can reinvent ourselves, we can give others a second chance, we can survive adversity, we can choose friends with our eyes open, and maybe—like Jack—we could even start making remarkable sacrifices for the greater good. (Hey, remember: Anything can happen.) But the one thing we can never, ever do is turn back the clock. Time spent cannot be recouped.

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Whatever you do, make your seconds count.

Greg Williams | FOX You gotta love it when the cast of 24 goes all Downton for their comeback ...

Cast of 24 going Downton for the win. | Photo: Greg Williams/FOX

24: Live Another Day is on Monday nights on FOX. Are you watching?

Authors bio: Brooke from, Spokane has the potential to offer a special quality of life offered no where else on earth. Our story is one of unwavering enthusiasm, and belief in the transformative power of Spokane’s continued redemption and rebirth.

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Meet Tamara Rice

    Tam is a lover of words and Jesus and family, though perhaps not in that order. She’s an editor, writer, a breast cancer survivor, and an advocate for mental health and for victims of sexual abuse.