At last, Jack Bauer will get some sleep. Despite the cliffhanger ending of this season's ''24,'' which saw President Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) collapsing from a poisoned handshake and the much-abused Agent Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) being wheeled off to the hospital, enough time will elapse for both men to recuperate before the fall season picks up the storyline. ''It's going to be about two, two-and-a-half years later,'' executive producer Howard Gordon tells Zap2It.com. ''Many things may have changed. It's a fair amount of time for old wounds to have healed and new ones to have been inflicted.''
As for whether some audience favorites, like the conniving Sherry Palmer (Penny Johnson Jerald), will be back, Gordon says, ''Nothing is impossible.'' According to trade reports, Fox has declined to renew the contracts of Jerald and Sarah Wynter (who plays Kate, a civilian entangled in Bauer's exploits), but Gordon says that doesn't mean they won't show up from time to time, as turncoat Nina (Sarah Clark) and assassin Mandy (Mia Kirshner) did in surprise appearances this past season. ''In fact, Kate does make an appearance, but she's not been cast as a regular,'' Gordon says. ''The same goes for Penny. This is real fluid. They are characters that live in our universe, and it's entirely possible that they'll be back.'' Guess ''24'' is one show where, despite the president's experience, actors are willing to make a deal on a handshake.