On last week's 24, Michelle Dessler's day went from bad to better to worse in mere minutes. Soon after learning that she was immune to that ghastly virus, the CTU pinup was kidnapped by Saunders' goons and nearly got her eyeball gutted. But you won't catch portrayer Reiko Aylesworth complaining.

"It's the best stuff that I've been given," gushes the 31-year-old actress, who prior to this season's outbreak had been relegated to 'round-the-clock desk duty. What's more, she adds: "It's been great to work on different sets!"

Viewers also seem to be enjoying the change of scenery following that midseason detour to Mexico. Ratings have spiked in recent weeks, with Tuesday's installment notching season-high numbers. Even the cast can feel a difference, Aylesworth says. "Ever since the virus broke there's been a renewed level of intensity and focus. Everyone has really stepped up."

And as the clock ticks to the May 25 finale, Aylesworth admits that "nobody knows" who'll survive to see another day next fall. "I think Kiefer [Sutherland]'s the only safe one." That said, she's happy to report that "everything points to me coming back. But you never know. Look what happened to [Jack's ex] Sarah Wynter. They could just have me stuck in crosstown traffic or something."

Producers have to notify Aylesworth by June 15 whether or not they're picking up her option for a fourth season. "That's when I either break out the champagne or have a good cry," she says. "But they've given me such good material this year that I could feel satisfied if they didn't bring me back." Pausing, she adds, "But I don't wanna leave."