Now that were midway through the new seasonexcuse me, dayof 24, and Alias is back for its final run of episodes, Ive been thinking about my two favorite Jacks: Bauer and Bristow.
What is it about government employees named Jackespecially those in high-risk positions and whose last names start with B?
If Bauers cool in a crisis, Bristows an arctic cold front. Both characters have killed dozens of peopleoccasionally some who werent bad guys, yet needed to be sacrificed for national security. Both are such skilled torturers they make Losts Sayid look like a rank amateur. And both Jacks are fathers.
Bristows daughter, Sydney, is a super-cool spy; Bauers daughter, Kim, is a super-annoying whiner.
When Alias began, the Bristows were estranged, barely on speaking terms. Through the seasons, Syd learned to trust her fathereven if sometimes she probably shouldnt have. Jacks icy demeanor has thawed a bit where Sydneys concerned, and this season saw the unimaginable: Jack Bristow assembling a baby crib.
In contrast, 24 began with a relatively happy Bauer familywith Jack and his ill-fated wife, Teri, trying to keep their rebellious daughter out of trouble. Sadly, Teri died while Kim lived on to annoy viewers for two more seasons.
They wrote Kim out last season, but brought her back a few weeks ago (to be told her father wasnt dead after all). She couldnt even hug him or rejoice that he was alive. Instead, it was all about her and how every time shes at CTU, people die. (That was right before the sentox was released at CTU, killing dozens, while Kim, Jack and others were holed up in an airtight room. So maybe shes onto something.) Once the danger lifted, Kim pretty much severed ties with her father and fled. And we thought Jack Bristow was cold.
This pair of Jacks is alike in other ways, too.
Both routinelyat times arrogantlybreak protocol by ignoring their superiors direct orders.
Both believe the ends justify whatever means, lengths or actions are required.
Both have been arrested for treason or as a national security threat (Bauers the champ when it comes to frequencyhes been taken into custody multiple times).
Both regularly risk their lives to protect others.
Neither bats an eye at breaking the lawAmerican or internationalwhen it gets in their way.
Despite the similarities, theyre very different guys.
The preternaturally calm and impeccably-dressed Bristow is seldom in a hurry. Racing the ever-present clock, Bauers usually breathless and disheveled.
Bristows old enough to be Bauers father.
Bristow thought he killed his enemy-agent wife; Bauers enemies killed his wife.
Bauer worked alongside a mole at CTU; Bristow was a mole at SD-6.
Capable of virtually anything, these Jacks keep millions of viewers wondering what theyll do next. Were pretty sure Bauer will save the day on 24, but as Alias wraps things up, Im hoping Bristow will shock us by cooing and cuddling his new granddaughter.
Alias returned April 19 on ABC at a new day and time, Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
24 airs on Fox Mondays at 8 p.m.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications including American Bungalow, SatelliteORBIT and TVGuide.
From the April 26-May 2, 2006, issue