[This is a review of 24: Live Another Day episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]

So far, this season of 24: Live Another Day has demonstrated that the writers, producers, and certainly the stars haven’t lost a step when it comes to the formula that made 24 such a success for eight seasons. There’s a subtle art to building a show that takes place in real time like this one; it’s a lot like Rob Gordon’s rules for making the perfect compilation tape.

To paraphrase: You start with a killer to grab attention; then take it up a notch, but then you’ve got to cool it off a notch. The adventures of Jack Bauer follow a formula that’s fairly close to that premise, which allows the third episode ‘1:00pm-2:00pm,’ to cool off some before getting right back into it.

After tussling with the CIA twice over the first two hours, Jack and Chloe are ostensibly left to their own devices, while Kate and Erik attempt to clean up the mess left behind at Basher’s place. This divergence allows things to slow down some, so that 24 can begin to establish just who the bad guys are and what motivates them.

The last two hours gave us a glimpse of Michelle Fairley‘s Margot Al-Harazi and her daughter Simone (Emily Berrington), but aside from knowing they wanted Derrick Yates’ device, the reasons for it weren’t altogether certain. Thankfully, one of the things 24 is so well known for is its ability to run and talk at the same time. Essentially, it’s like Aaron Sorkin meets Arnold Schwarzenegger; characters are always running frantically, so the only time they have to toss out bits of exposition or backstory is when they’re in between destinations or stuff is getting blown up.

In this case, the exposition is focused primarily on establishing why Margot would want to use drones to assassinate President Heller – which, as it turns out, is because her husband was killed in a drone strike authorized by Heller three years prior. She’s living to avenge her husband, and that notion becomes a common thread throughout the episode.

In fact, the topic of dead spouses, children, and loved ones pops up with great regularity. It seems one thing that is a guarantee on 24 is that loving someone will either ensure their death or their betrayal of you in some way. Or, if you’re like Kate Morgan, it’ll be both.

Jack and Chloe have approximately 45 seconds for her to catch him up on the death of Morris and Prescott, who still haunt her enough that she misses Simone exiting the Tube because two passing strangers remind her of what she has lost. This forces Jack into making an appeal for her to honor the memory of the dead by fighting to do some good in the world. It is little more than a hokey platitude, but considering the time crunch, it’s a heck of a lot better than a “Dammit Chloe!” – which means maybe those four years have changed Jack just a little.

The third hour definitely cools things off a notch, but that breathing room allows for some character moments that help set up the plot to come. For one thing, Jack’s appeal to Adrian Cross (Michael Wincott) winds up proving that the people closest to major characters either die or betray them, when Adrian sets Jack up to be arrested while seeking to gain entry into an American embassy.

Meanwhile, President Heller’s appeal to Parliament gets off to a rocky start as his address is met with loud protestations rather than open ears. Thankfully, Heller doesn’t deal with those shouting at him as Jack does: By shooting them in the leg as a means of creating a distraction.

The hour’s final moments definitely succeed in underlining the extreme nature of the show, and how, even during a brief cooling off period, the exigent circumstances of 24: Live Another Day require quick thinking as well as the unsanctioned use of innocent bystanders’ kneecaps. It is thrilling, crazy, violent stuff, leading one to believe: maybe Jack hasn’t changed so much at all.

24: Live Another Day continues next Monday with ‘2:00pm-3:00pm’ @9pm on FOX.