Infected by a bioweapon targeting America, counter-terrorist hero Jack had taken the hit while trying to save his fellow citizens. Then, woozier and sweatier by the hour, he managed to foil the terrorists.
By Monday's finale of the Fox thriller "24," all Jack wants is _ no, not a Medal of Freedom or an attaboy from a grateful nation _ but to die in peace.
That's not going to happen. He's Jack Bauer, he's played by series star Kiefer Sutherland, and the series has plenty of life left in it. No wonder Jack's daughter, Kim, arrives at his bedside and demands experimental surgery for him that involves taking stem cells from her body _ surgery that Jack had nixed hours earlier.
"I'm sorry, Dad," says Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) to her unconscious father, "but I'm not ready to let you go."
The series' high-rev, pretzel-twisty 24-hour-real-time season ended with a double episode that spanned from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
It brought some welcome closure to the raging question of, "What's the deal with Tony Almeida?"
Tony had been a loyal, key associate of Jack's at the L.A.-based Counter Terrorism Unit. But he was believed dead two seasons ago. Now here he was at the start of the seventh season in Washington, D.C., with Carlos Bernard reprising the role, shockingly risen from the grave and hooked up with the bad guys.
Or so it seemed. But soon viewers learned Tony was only pretending to support this dastardly force, aiming to bring it down from within.
Or so it seemed. Then viewers got the strong impression he really did support the evildoers, which made him the mortal enemy of Jack and all good Americans.
But that still wasn't quite it. In the finale, Tony disclosed to Jack he had had one simple, nonpolitical obsession: to rise through the ranks of the multilayered crime organization to reach the isolated man at the top, Alan Wilson. Tony wanted to earn himself a face-to-face meeting with the boss _ then kill him for murdering Tony's wife years ago.
"Everything you've done today is for personal revenge?!" Jack gasped in his final confrontation with Tony, whereupon a spirited debate in situational ethics inconveniently unfolded.
"It's about justice!" Tony argued.
"Justice! You killed innocent people!"
"I did what I had to do to get Alan Wilson here," seethed Tony. "And now, he's gonna die."
"You kill Alan Wilson, and no one's ever gonna know the full extent of his conspiracy."
Jack had a point. Wilson had turned out to be an even bigger demon than Jonas Hodges, the villainous military contractor played deliciously by Jon Voight as the season's showcase baddie. But Hodges was blown to pieces in a car a few episodes ago, an attack set in motion by the president's chief of staff as payback for Hodges killing her brother. Making matters worse, the chief of staff was the president's daughter.
This was a sticky situation for President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) when her daughter confessed. But, being highly principled, the grief-stricken Mom saw no choice. Olivia (Sprague Grayden) was handed over to the authorities.
Next season, maybe President Taylor will still be in power and continue to be haunted by this scandal.
Maybe Alan Wilson (played by Will Patton) will also still be on the scene. He wasn't killed in the finale. Nor was Tony, whose act of vigilante justice Jack was able to stop. Spiteful and raging, Tony was taken into custody.
Both could be giving Jack new headaches when he comes out of that coma for another challenging day. Until then, with another viewer-pleasing "24" season concluded, he could use some down time.