As readers of David Medsker’s weekly blog are already well aware, “24” is back on Fox in a big way, and the show was back at the January TCA Tour in similar fashion, earning its own panel this time around. (The decision in July to relegate the series to a half-hearted “24”-sponsored luncheon, with critics being forced to fight from scrum to scrum in order to get their questions answered, earned my ire in this entry.) From the questions being posed, it was clear that, after a less-than-stellar sixth season, many in the audience have found themselves becoming fans of the show again in Season 7. In particular, it seems that the little moments are what’s doing it for them, such as the scene in the car with Jack and the cop, where Jack acknowledges that maybe they were right in questioning him.

“I think Jack Bauer is certainly in a position where he’s questioning a lot of the things that he has had to do either by his own choice or by orders,” said our man Kiefer Sutherland, “and certainly at the beginning of the season, you see him in Africa, very disconnected from the United States. And so he is wrestling with his own history, about what he actually believes was right and fair and whether or not he was, in fact, the kind of person that should have been put in the position to do these things. It’s a through-line that really travels all 24 episodes this year. And so there’s this constant balance of defending, for instance, in the Senate investigation, his own actions. On a much cleaner level and a much more personal moral level, he questions those things greatly, so this inner struggle is something that carries him through all 24 episodes.”

Of course, if you’ve been watching this season, then you’ve probably already noticed how many times Jack has been standing up for his actions after being condemned by others. This might…just maybe…be a case of the show’s writers lashing out at their critics.

“I would be lying if I said there wasn’t some of that in there,” said producer Howard Gordon, with a laugh. “Obviously, there was the conundrum of how do we do a show that had taken quite a bit of heat for allegedly advocating this way of law enforcement and this way of countering terrorism. It was a nuance and it is an evolving question that plays, as Kiefer said, throughout the entire season. So I counsel patience, and I hope people have the patience and the appetite and the desire to watch through the whole season, because I think the answer to these questions will not be known until the very last episode.”

Yeah, but here’s the issue: whenever Jack does something, he gets results, and whenever people don’t follow Jack’s methods, they don’t get results.

Sutherland agreed with this point, but he re-emphasized, “You really do have to watch the 24 episodes to see the conclusion that is drawn from this. Yes, based on the television show, if you look back over the seven years, the results that he gets help him move the plot forward, but in reality, I think they’ll tell you that less than 10 percent of the information they get from situations like this are helpful, in fact, can be misleading. So you have to realize that in the context of this debate, it is a television show, and we are driving the plot forward. It is dramatic, and we use it for those dramatic purposes as well. But underneath that, we certainly raise the moral questions of what is right and wrong.”

Boy, that’s some heavy stuff, I tell you what. Let’s lighten things up a bit by getting a few comments from Mary Lynn Rajskub about her experience of shooting “24” while pregnant, shall we?

“I wanted to become more of a method actress,” Rajskub assured us, “and so since they wrote my pregnancy on the show, that’s how committed I am to my acting career: that I decided to get pregnant as quickly as I could in real life.”

That’s possibly not true. But what is true is that Rajskub was grateful to the producers, writers, and basically everyone involved in “24” for being willing to work around her blessed event.

“I’m very, very lucky with my schedule on the show in general,” she admitted. “I don’t have to work every day, and I feel a little guilty, but it worked out very well. During shooting, every time I stood up from behind the computer, it would be cut and they’d bring in the body double. And then people were very nice and said, ‘Would you like a glass of water? Would you like to sit down?’ So it was a pretty dream scenario for me.”

And is it true that the baby, which has since been born, weighed a staggering nine-and-a-half pounds?

“Yeah, thanks for asking,” replied Rajskub, adding – with an appropriate series of hand gestures – that “he had to be taken out that way, not that way.”

TMI, Mary Lynn. TMI.

In closing, let’s jump back to Kiefer again – I mean, he is the star of the show, after all – and see how he feels about the fact that Jack Bauer has become such an iconic character.

“You know, it’s something I think I’m still trying to figure out…and I’m not trying to be funny,” said Sutherland. “We spend our time working, and we’re very focused on that. We had our 150th-episode party the other day, and we’re so focused on the episode that we’re shooting that when you actually look up and realize that you’ve made the equivalent of 75 films, which is a career, we’re kind of shocked about that. Every once in a while, I look up and I realize, walking down the street, that my name, apparently, is not Kiefer anymore. It’s Jack. And people will talk to me like that.

“I have to go back to the terrible events of 9/11 and the fact that this show was written a year before those terrible events,” he continued, “but the way it was broadcast at that time and when it was finally released…I remember I was walking around at least for a month, if not two, in a real cloud. And I remember one guy coming up to me and saying, ‘I can’t wait for your show to go on.’ And I remember thinking, ‘How on Earth could you be thinking of something like that at a time like this?’ And I said that to him. And he said, ‘Well, it’s exactly because of a time like this that I am thinking about that.’ And I think somehow, because this character had these unbelievable responsibilities and yet he was very human. He could take care of David Palmer, but he couldn’t protect his daughter and his wife. Nothing about Jack Bauer or the show ’24,’ I feel, is black and white. It lives in a very gray area, which I think is very human, and I think that people were very receptive at that time to accept something very human like that, because I think we were all very vulnerable for quite some time after that. And so I think that that’s how he might have permeated the culture on some level.

“But,” Sutherland reiterated, “it’s something that I’m continually trying to figure out.”