SUNDAY
24
"Relax, he's really good at this." You said it, Chloe. Jack's back, and all is wrong with the world once again — which means my prime time's finally got the jaw-dropping, plot-twisting, rock-'em-sock-'em roller-coaster ride it's been missing since May. (Sorry, Idol. I've missed you, too, but deep down you've always known you're just my midweek diversion until that next hour starts ticking away.) Let's sum up, shall we? Former president Palmer? Dead. (I know!) Michelle Dessler? Dead. Tony Almeida? Critical condition. Chloe O'Brian? Still the coolest cranky-pants techie around. Palmer's brother Wayne? Grieving, willing to help Jack, and hot-hot-hot as ever. (Helloooo, D.B. Woodside!) First Lady Martha Logan? Nuttier than a fruitcake. President Logan? Complete imbecile. Logan lackey Walt Cummings? Dirty, apparently. And our dear friend Jack Bauer? Being framed for Palmer's assassination, saddled with a wary-yet-ultimately loyal moppet, and trapped inside the Ontario airport with a slew of (ostensibly Russian?) terrorists. And that's just the first two hours. Damn, I love this show.

Jean Smart, if I may address you directly for just a moment: You. Are. Superb. Crazy-on-the-sidelines has certainly been done on this show before (remember Driscoll's cuckoo-for-Cocoa Puffs daughter last season?), but the onetime Designing woman somehow manages to bring just enough sass and savvy to the role that I can't wait for her inevitable chance to start kicking some butt. (Mark my words: It's gonna be awesome. I can feel it.) Elsewhere in the newbie report, does imperiled-teen-of-the-season Derek remind anybody else of Boy Meets World's Rider Strong? I must confess that the slight resemblance is enough to make me kinda like him. Oh, and the fact that he ran straight into an obvious deathtrap just to warn Jack. Stupid, yet endearing.

And as far as Jack's concerned, the guy's had some delightfully surly dialogue over his course of Very Bad Days, and I might have a new current favorite: "Let's get something straight, kid. The only reason you're still conscious is because I don't want to carry you. Now get in the van." Jack, ol' buddy ol' pal, promise me you'll remember that tone if and when Kim ever shows up again. No, wait — on second thought, I'd rather you just knock her unconscious on sight. — Chana Shwadlenak
(Scroll down for coverage of Monday night's episode.)