Friday, April 10, 2009
Ranking Jack Bauer's Love Interests on 24
He's not an easy man to love. We salute the women who've tried.
Saving the world on an annual basis has its rewards, but man cannot live by heroism alone. Even the most singleminded of tough guys needs the love of a good woman to make his world complete.
Over the past seven seasons of 24, Jack Bauer has typically had a love interest -- sometimes casual, sometimes more long-lasting, sometimes a heat-of-the-moment fling with no real staying power. Here's a recap of the women who have heard their lover screaming "Dammit!" into a cell phone more times than they can count, along with my rating of their suitability for their designated role.
Teri Bauer (Leslie Hope), Season One: The one and only Mrs. Bauer. Prior to our meeting Teri, she and Jack were separated, but were apparently in the process of working things out amiably when the first season commenced, turning Jack into the haunted widower we know today. Memories of Season One have faded some in the past seven years, but it's important to remember that Teri wasn't perfect -- in fact, we can infer that daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) inherited her boundless gullibility from Mom. It's hard to really judge the chemistry that Hope had with Kiefer Sutherland, given that their scenes together were so few. But Teri gets my highest rating because her lasting impact on Jack has been so evident over the years. You never forget your first dead paramour. Rating: 10
Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke), Seasons One-Three: In most superficial respects, Nina seemed perfect for Jack. They worked together at CTU, so they had a lot in common. She was headstrong and clever, the rare woman who could match Jack in that department. It's little wonder that during a problem patch in the Bauer marriage, the two embarked on an affair. Of course, there was the little matter of Nina being an amoral traitor who wound up killing Teri at the end of Season One. Even for a man who has seen and done a good many unforgivable things, this proved to be a dealbreaker for Jack, who ended up killing Nina himself in order to save Kim. On a different show, say, one with a psychopath at its center, Nina would have been just perfect. But while she would have been the one to call if you needed a government official assassinated with a bobby pin, she definitely wasn't the girl you bring home to Mom. Rating: 4
Kate Warner (Sarah Wynter), Seasons Two and Three: Bor-ing. Kate, who became Jack's unwilling sidekick when the crisis in Season Two ended up involving members of her family, wasn't even the worst-written female character during that year (that honor goes to the immortal Kim Bauer, Jack's apple-fell-real-far-from-the-tree daughter), but the lack of chemistry with Sutherland was hard to ignore, and many fans didn't want Jack to have a love interest so soon after Teri's death anyway. Perhaps the strain of having to suppress her native accent (Wynter is Australian) was part of the problem here. Kate was brought back for what amounted to a cameo in the opening episode of Season Three in order to get across the message that this relationship was not going to happen after all. Nobody missed her. Admit it: you had forgotten all about Kate until you read this, hadn't you? Rating: 2
Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), Seasons Four-Six: The longest lasting of the Bauer girlfriends and the one who was clearly put through the most hell, Audrey grated on most fans, and I could never quite understand why. Jack was indirectly responsible for the death of her ex-husband, something viewers who knew the big picture could justify but no doubt had to look a little fishy for Audrey. She was relatively willing to forgive him for faking his death and going undercover for the better part of two years, demonstrating the forebearance required of all Bauer ladies. Raver is a fine actress, and she and Sutherland had good chemistry even when the plots were at their most ludicrous. Unfortunately, Audrey's fate, a living hell where she was tortured by memories of her brutal captivity at the hands of the Chinese, sent the message to Jack that any woman who became involved with him was doomed to a life of continual danger. Amidst all the explosions, the end of the Jack/Audrey relationship served as a reminder of the personal stakes of 24. Rating: 8
Marilyn Bauer (Rena Sofer), Season Six: Listing everything wrong with this season would take a separate article, but nothing made less sense than finding out that superpatriot Jack had both a traitorous father and brother. Or that his brother Graem looked like Paul McCrane. And that Graem's wife Marilyn clearly had some sort of past with Jack, complete with a teenage son who looked a lot like Sutherland. 24 has always had a problem with allowing loose ends to dangle in its headlong rush to wrap up the season's major plot, and the Marilyn/Jack relationship is one of the primary examples. With Graem having gone the way of everyone else who ever crossed Jack, Marilyn is presumably again available, if on the opposite side of the country. Still, one's former sister-in-law....ewwwwwww. Rating: 3
Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), Season Seven: We're going on spec here, since Renee has yet to become an official Bauer love interest. The pair has yet to even exhibit much in the way of sexual tension, since so far Renee has been busy filling another stock role on 24: the Bauer apprentice in the ways of torture, narrow escapes, and jumping onto moving vehicles. Their interplay thus far has been interesting to watch, as Renee tries to remind Jack that innocent civilians can't be seen as mere pawns in his bigger picture, while he has persuaded her that little interrogation tricks like the strategic withholding of oxygen can sometimes come in very handy. With Renee's future in the FBI highly questionable and Jack having openings in both his personal and professional life, she could be set for a nice little run on the show. And the tears Renee has shed the last two weeks in the belief that Jack is terminally ill certainly go above and beyond what the Bureau requires. Plus, she has visible freckles, a real rarity on television. Producers, make this happen. Rating: 7