In the Guide’s weekly Solved! column, we look into a crucial pop-culture question you’ve been burning to know the answer to – and settle it, once and for all
It is a question that has plagued the greatest minds of pop culture for almost two decades: when, exactly, does Jack Bauer go to the toilet? After all, 24 is a real-time series, and in every season the counter-terrorist agent is tasked with the important job of saving the world. Does Bauer even wee at all?
A few years ago, the producers Evan Katz and Manny Coto attempted to brush this aside by essentially saying that Jack goes to the toilet whenever he is off screen, but that doesn’t offer much help. As anyone who has watched 24 will know, Jack spends the bulk of his off-screen time on the phone, or driving a car, or being handcuffed to things, or torturing members of his own family. No, if we are going to find out when Jack Bauer goes to the toilet, we must watch an entire season of 24. For the purposes of this investigation, I have chosen the first.
Now, the average human urinates between six to 10 times a day. For the sake of neatness, and also because we never see him eat or drink anything (including the yoghurt he opens and then immediately puts down in episode one), we’ll assume that Bauer will only need to go to the toilet approximately once every four episodes.
His first chance comes early. When he is called to CTU at seven minutes past midnight in episode one, he makes the potentially fatal error of not going before he leaves the house. Redemption arrives at 12.26am when – after shooting his boss – he has a full 23 minutes of unaccounted screen time in which to do his business.
He will probably need to go again by episode five, and his best shot comes at the police precinct at 4.08am. True, it means going outside. However, it’s 4am and also we’re talking about a man who once got addicted to heroin and decapitated a man, so that’s probably not that big a deal.
Next, there’s an ad break between 9.27am and 9.35am, during which Bauer evades the police in a car park. This wouldn’t be the most comfortable time for a pit stop, but there is a cutaway scene and needs must. The good news is that he won’t need to go again until lunchtime, which frees him up to interrogate a suspect, rescue his kidnapped family and murder a guy. The bad news is that, shortly afterwards, Jack spends his entire lunchtime being interrogated by internal affairs. Worse, he is given a drink of water during his interrogation, which would only exacerbate the problem. Jack is effectively forced to hold it in until 2.55pm at the earliest, after David Palmer uses his governmental power to free him. Jack remains off screen for the rest of the episode, and rightly so. If any man had earned five minutes of quiet toilet time by this point it’s him.
The pace picks up dramatically from this point, so Jack will need to grab his chances where he can get them. To my mind, his best shot comes at around 8.32pm. Admittedly, this isn’t perfect either – it’s when he is lying on the floor being kicked senseless by Dennis Hopper’s goons – but needs must. The final rest break, as you would expect, comes as the final credits roll, shortly after Jack discovers that his wife has been murdered. It was a mindblowing tragedy at the time, but even sad people need to wee. There: problem solved.