A silent clock is a rare occurrence on 24 in which the digital clock displayed at the end of a scene or episode is silent, without the typical beeping of the clock. It occurred thirteen times and was used to punctuate the endings of highly emotional scenes. Seven of them took place around the time of the death of a significant character; the other six did not.
Because of often drastically varying circumstances, as well as the infrequency of the silent clock, there does not appear to be a strict pattern for use of the device. Additionally, "silent" refers only to the lack of beeping sounds. During twelve out of the thirteen total silent clocks, other sounds are audible: the majority of the silent clocks were accompanied by noises in the background, and some had faint music accompaniment.
Three silent clocks have occurred in the middle of an episode, rather than at the very end; these were in Season 2, Season 7, and Live Another Day.
Season 8 is the only season to have two consecutive episodes end with a silent clock, following the deaths of President Omar Hassan and Renee Walker.
Live Another Day is the only season to have two silent clocks within the same episode, following the death of Audrey Boudreau and the surrender of Jack to the Russians.
Reasons for use Edit
The effect of the silent clock could be accentuated by the split screen that is put in place immediately prior, depending on the circumstances. Upon the death of Teri Bauer, the screen was split between the scene of Jack cradling Teri's body alongside black and white clips from "Day 1: 12:00am-1:00am" to show that Nina Myers had taken away the life from the Bauer family. Immediately preceding Ryan Chappelle's death, there was no split screen, possibly to create the expectation that the episode was not quite over and he would somehow escape, until the appearance of the silent clock, confirming that he had indeed died. By contrast, there was also no split screen leading to the final moments of "Day 6: 5:00am-6:00am," but instead of heightening tension, this omission was to preserve the tenderness of the farewell between Jack and Audrey.
As stated above, the silence can be used to signal the passing of a character in the show. As well as occurring in this way for Teri and Chappelle, the silent clock during Day 5 commemorated Edgar Stiles' death, during Day 8 for Renee Walker's death, during Day 7 representing Bill Buchanan's sacrifice, during Day 8 commemorated President Omar Hassan's murder and the honorable way in which he died, and the silent clock in Day 9 for Audrey Boudreau's death.
The silence is often used to convey sadness at a certain situation. The second silent clock during Day 7 was while Jack was mourning Bill's death, in a way not dissimilar to the one in Redemption when he was contemplating the death of long time friend Carl Benton.
The silent clock following David Palmer's assassination attempt at the end of Day 2, as well as the first one during Day 7 (as Renee Walker was being buried alive) were used to create tension and highlight the seriousness of the situation, in contrast to the usual somber nature of silent clock scenes. Both clocks are accompanied by the sound of breathing.
Uses of the silent clock Edit
|"Day 1: 11:00pm-12:00am"||11:59:57pm|
|Jack, after returning from the Drazen's hideout, searches for Teri Bauer at CTU, only to find that she and their unborn child have been killed by Nina Myers.|
|"Day 2: 9:00pm-10:00pm"||09:35:56pm|
|George Mason, dying of radiation poisoning, turns over command to Tony Almeida and sadly departs CTU for the final time.|
|"Day 2: 7:00am-8:00am"||07:59:57am|
|During his morning address to the nation, President David Palmer is victimized by an assassination attempt by Mandy and collapses to the ground in front of the crowd.|
|"Day 3: 6:00am-7:00am"||06:59:57am|
|Jack is forced to execute Ryan Chappelle as one of Stephen Saunders' demands against releasing the weaponized virus.|
|"Day 5: 6:00pm-7:00pm"||06:59:57pm|
|Edgar Stiles succumbs to Sentox nerve gas and collapses to his death while Chloe O'Brian and the rest of the survivors at the Situation Room watch helplessly.|
|"Day 6: 5:00am-6:00am"||05:59:57am|
|Jack says goodbye to Audrey Raines at James Heller's house and walks down to a cliff over the ocean, not knowing what's going to happen next.|
|Jack and the orphaned refugees from the Okavango School are airlifted out of Sangala's capital, leaving hundreds of citizens behind.|
|"Day 7: 12:00pm-1:00pm"||12:59:57pm|
|Jack and Tony begin to bury Renee Walker after Jack pretended to kill her. Her face is covered with dirt as she heavily breathes in fear and disbelief.|
|"Day 7: 8:00pm-9:00pm"||08:11:52pm|
|Jack kneels over Bill Buchanan's lifeless body after Bill sacrifices himself to save President Taylor and end the siege at the White House.|
|"Day 8: 7:00am-8:00am"||07:59:57am|
|Dalia Hassan hugs her daughter after President Allison Taylor discloses that CTU was not able to rescue President Omar Hassan before his execution.|
|"Day 8: 8:00am-9:00am"||08:59:57am|
|Jack stands over Renee Walker's lifeless body, in a hospital emergency room, after she was shot by a Russian sniper. He cries, and kisses her goodbye.|
|"Day 9: 10:00pm-11:00am"||10:32:27pm|
|Kate Morgan breaks down after she fails to protect Audrey Boudreau after she was shot by Cheng Zhi's remaining shooter.|
|"Day 9: 10:00pm-11:00am"||10:59:57am|
|Jack exchanges himself for Chloe O'Brian after she was captured by the Russians and leaves with them for Moscow.|
Background sounds Edit
Only the silent clock following Edgar's death ("Day 5: 6:00pm-7:00pm") was accompanied by complete silence. Though the clocks of course lacked the usual digital beeping sound, various other sounds were audible during the other twelve silent clocks.
- Following Teri Bauer's death there was a quiet howling wind and the sound of Jack crying, apologizing.
- The silent clock following George Mason's departure had faint music accompaniment.
- Pained breathing and a heartbeat can be heard in the foreground following David Palmer's assassination attempt. (The only silent clock for which sounds were in the foreground, rather than the background.)
- For Ryan Chappelle's execution, the silent clock had a train whistle.
- The silent clock where Jack leaves Audrey was accompanied by the sound of ocean waves crashing into the shore.
- Music fading is heard in the silent clock following Jack's departure from Sangala.
- Renee Walker can be heard breathing during the silent clock where she was buried alive.
- Music is heard fading during the silent clock after Bill sacrifices himself.
- Crying from Kayla and Dalia Hassan accompany Omar Hassan's execution.
- Music fading and Jack crying is heard during the silent clock after Renee Walker's death.
- Music fading and Kate Morgan crying is heard following Audrey Boudreau's death.
- Music fading is heard as Jack leaves London for Russia.
Fan controversy Edit
An online fan controversy arose regarding the lack of a silent clock after the apparent death of Tony Almeida. In an online podcast interview on TVweek.com, writer and producer Evan Katz acknowledged learning about the dispute on various blogs and discussion boards. He explained to the DJ that "people were angry that Edgar got the silent clock and Tony didn't." He was surprised at the fan reaction, but understood it because Tony had been a cast member for five seasons.  Had Tony received a silent clock as well, it would have been the first instance of silent clocks in two consecutive episodes. Show-runner Howard Gordon explained that Tony's "uncertain fate" left the door open for his return (which occurred during Day 7) and cited the lack of a "silent clock" as a deliberate move to keep his death ambiguous. "We didn't give him the silent clock because we always wanted to keep alive the possibility for some kind of (admittedly) miraculous resurrection... which we will explain," and followed up with "He's definitely not the Almeida we once knew."
However, it is fairly clear that silent clocks are not about memorializing deaths or else Michelle Dessler and many others would have also received one. If they were about deaths, then several silent clocks that do exist (like those relating to Mason and Hassan) would occur at their deaths, instead of moments prior to or subsequent from their deaths. More than one silent clock is not actually about death at all (end of Day 6, end of Day 9). Instead, the reasoning for the clocks appear to be related to turning points in the story.
Background information and notesEdit
- The silent clock has been featured twice in two consecutive episodes: First in "Day 6: 5:00am-6:00am" and 24: Redemption and second in "Day 8: 7:00am-8:00am" and "Day 8: 8:00am-9:00am," the latter being the only instance of a consecutive occurrence within a single season.
- Season 4 is the only day without a silent clock.
- The silent clocks following George Mason's departure from CTU, Bill Buchanan's death and Audrey Boudreau's death are the only ones that do not happen at the end of an episode.
- President Omar Hassan is the first and only non-American to have his death memorialized by a silent clock.
- Jack Bauer is the only main character to have received three silent clocks. Renee Walker and Audrey Boudreau are the only characters to have received two.
- Ryan Chappelle is the only character to receive a silent clock without ever being part of any season's main cast.
- Ryan Chappelle is the only person killed by Jack to receive a silent clock.
- The 7:00am-8:00am hour is the only hour to have two silent clocks; first in Day 2, second in Day 8.
- Day 1, Day 2, Day 6, and Day 9 have had silent clocks in the final episode of the season.
- Day 5: 7:00am-8:00am does not feature a silent clock, despite the deaths of both David Palmer and Michelle Dessler before the first commercial break. Although neither character was part of the main cast for Season 5, both had been on the show for several seasons and had been part of the main cast before, and this episode is the only season premiere with such deaths.
- Teri Bauer and Omar Hassan are the only recipients of a silent clock to appear in only one season.
- Both silent clocks on Day 8 are inexplicably absent on the DVD's extended episodes.
- The fact that there was not a silent clock at the end of the 6pm to 7pm episode of 24: Live Another Day, after President James Heller is seemingly killed, is a subtle clue to the twist in the beginning of the following episode that Heller in fact survived the drone attack, similar to Tony's temporary death in Day 5: 7:00pm-8:00pm.
- The finale of 24: Live Another Day is the only episode in the entire series to contain more than one silent countdown; one for the death of Audrey Boudreau and one for Jack Bauer surrendering himself to the Russians.