Josh Wolk
May 14, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

A look inside ”24”’s comeback

Just a couple of months ago, 24 seemed a lost cause — what with the Fox thriller’s single-story format stuck in a derivative terrorist chase with implausible subplots. (A baby in CTU? Is this Rugrats?!) Yet over the past six weeks, by focusing on Jack’s (Kiefer Sutherland) pursuit of a virus-wielding ex-spy (Paul Blackthorne) blackmailing the President, the show has returned to its gripping, tension-racked old self. ”We lost the thread a bit in the middle of the season,” admits exec producer Howard Gordon. ”But we’re happy with the way it’s winding up.”

24 is now freed of stagnant plot threads, like Jack’s weekly jonesing from his deep-cover heroin addiction. ”Around the 12th episode, Kiefer said, ‘I don’t know how much longer I can do this,”’ says Gordon. (Jack was given a methadone-like fix to hold him through the season.) ”But [the arc] did the trick of establishing him as someone who sacrificed so much for the job.” Fine, as long as his next sacrifice isn’t fighting an amnesiac cougar.

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