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Image: "24"
Brian Bowen Smith  /  Fox
Kiefer Sutherland is back as Jack Bauer in season eight of "24," which kicks off Jan. 17.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 1/21/2010 10:26:06 PM ET 2010-01-22T03:26:06

Grandpa Bauer just wants to take his granddaughter, Teri, to the zoo. But once again, as season eight of “24” arrives, he’s pulled into saving the country and the world from terrorists.

In the opening hours, Jack juggles cuddling his granddaughter with saving agents from an exploding helicopter, and even gathers up weaponry from the Counter Terrorist Unit arsenal as if they were produce from the local grocery into his leather man bag. And it isn’t even time for dinner yet.

If you think that’s wacky, you haven’t been watching this pulsating show, which can rock a couch parrot right off its perch. In this world of questionable plots and nonstop action, “24” has captivated the audience’s attention for the past seven seasons. This show has never let a little thing like plausibility get in the way of runaway action.

With viewers digging in for the newest installment, it’s time to reflect on seven favorite moments of inspired lunacy that make fans love this show.

No. 7
Day 7: Hidden sewer, swimming terrorists
There’s something about terrorists in scuba gear under the White House that can give someone the giggles. The plot to take over the White House simply by swimming through a hidden sewer duct by way of the Potomac seemed utterly absurd. How could security in our nation’s capitol be breached so easily? But that was before viewers heard about the Obama White House party crashers. This season, all they need to do is show up for dinner in some fancy togs.

No. 6
Day 6: Jack’s 24-hour snap back
For almost two years, Chinese capturers have pounded Jack mentally and physically until he surfaces as a broken man — just in time for his government to sacrifice him for another cause. Jack’s retrieved just so they can turn him over to be tortured by yet another terrorist he has ticked off. Yet that’s not the implausible part. That comes the moment he rips out the jugular vein of his enemy with his bare teeth.

Image: "24"
Kelsey McNeal  /  Fox
Jack contracts what is supposed to be the ultimate virus, but that's OK! Give doctors a few measly hours and some of daughter Kim's stem cells, and they'll come up with a cure.

No. 5
Day 7: Deadly virus is no match for Jack
If there’s anything “24” writers love more than a deadly gas, it’s a deadly virus attack. Last season, Jack was exposed to the ultimate virus and he was sure to be a goner. But whatever time these characters live in, it’s beyond our contemporary medical advances. Give the doc a couple of hours, and a dying man can be saved with just a quick stem cell cocktail — from his daughter Kim, the mainspring of most “24” craziness. She almost passes on the chance to save Dad, but she opts to do the right thing.

No. 4
Day 3: Jack goes from hero to heroin
Jack often blurs the moral boundaries, but when he goes cold turkey to kick a heroin addiction he acquired while undercover, he does some very wicked things. Like killing his boss. Ryan Chappelle was a much-disliked bureaucrat, but audiences were shocked when President Palmer ordered Jack to murder him to appease a terrorist.

Right up to the point where Jack put the gun to the back of Ryan’s head, viewers couldn’t believe he would actually pull the trigger on an innocent colleague whose only crime was being a bad boss. It did set a precedent in the show that Jack could cross any moral boundaries.

No. 3
Day 7: Resurrection of Tony A.
Dead is never really dead in “24.” Jack was declared clinically dead on Day 1, but survived. So why not dispatched character from the dead in a deliciously surprising moment. But in his second life, Tony was very, very bad. Sure, he’d already gone to prison for treason after Day 3 and screwed up his relationship with Michelle with his drinking on Day 4, but by Day 5 he’d gotten it together. And before the day was done, so was his happy life.

But that didn’t stop the writers from resurrecting him on Day 7. Hard to say the most implausible part: Was it when he sprung to life again? Or when bad Tony told his vile pals that his dying former buddy Jack was still valuable because they could harvest the deadly virus from his body to continue their dastardly plan?

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No. 2
Day 6: Daddy dearest
Want to know where Jack gets his crazy? It all starts with your family, my friends. Jack’s all about dedication to his country, and even when he slips into those awful gray areas of torturing others, it’s all for the greater good of all citizens.

But on this day, viewers learn that Jack sprung from Satan’s loins. In a particularly intense scene that took sibling rivalry beyond all boundaries, Jack tortured his brother Graem into admitting his involvement in the deaths of CTU’s Michelle Dressler, Tony Almeida and President Palmer. Dad intervened, made Jack leave the room — and then killed his son Graem and put the blame on Jack. Papa Phillip later tried to kill his own grandson as a means to his naughty ends. Hey, family dynamics can be complicated.

No. 1
Day 2: Kim as cougar bait
Really, can anyone dispute that the top slot must go to Kim and her cougar encounter? Jack’s daughter has come to symbolize absurd plot lines in the series from Day 1, when she was kidnapped three times through her own stupidity — and even survived a cartoon fall in a teetering car that slipped off a cliff.

But Day 2 romp with the big cat trying to track her down has become legend. The snarling animal almost gets Kim when she’s caught in a snare before the kitty moves on. Faster than you can say kibbles and bits, a creepy kook wanders along to free Kim. Of course, she slips away from this predator too. Kim always gets away to pop up in another whacked story line. We can't wait to see what Kim brings on this season.

Susan C. Young is a writer in Northern California.

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