Jack Bauer couldn't stay off the grid forever. Four years after "24" ended, Kiefer Sutherland's iconic spy is racing the clock again in "24: Live Another Day" (7 p.m. May 5, Fox; 3 stars out of 4).

Detractors will say Day 9 repeats the same old formula from eight seasons of "24" as if that's a bad thing. Sure, it's familiar—but like a roller coaster you refuse to quit, it's a wildly entertaining, addictive thrill ride.

The last time we saw Jack, he went into exile to escape the U.S. and Russian governments after saving the day in a completely Baueriffic way—at great personal cost and appearing to be the worst of the baddies.

"Live Another Day" picks up the story four years later. Still on the run, Jack resurfaces just as the CIA intercepts intel about an assassination attempt on U.S. President James Heller (William Devane), who is in London with his daughter and aide, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver). She's married to Heller's slippery chief of staff, Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan), and just happens to be Jack's former flame.

Worried that Jack might be the killer, CIA operations chief Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) dispatches his team to track Jack down. CIA field operative Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) thinks there's more to Jack's resurrection than Fox looking for a May Sweeps ratings spike. She makes it her mission to uncover the truth—which will eventually involve the intriguing Big Bad played by "Game of Thrones" actress Michelle Fairley (RIP Catelyn Stark).

Before the two-hour premiere ends, Jack's once-loyal scream-catcher Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) also resurfaces. Like Jack, Chloe has gone underground since leaving CTU. She's using her computer prowess for a Wikileaks-type outfit that spills government secrets. Snarky as ever, Chloe sports heavy eyeliner, dark hair and a raging anger against business, government and Jack. Their fractious relationship adds dramatic heft to the story.

Chloe's new job also offers "24" a chance to do what it always has—comment on real-world issues through its hyper-adrenalized drama. This time it's taking on security woes, government secrecy and abuse, drone warfare, questionable surveillance and its usual targets—the twin evils of terrorism and government corruption.

"Live Another Day" starts its 12-episode run in a typically gripping if superficial and improbable fashion, but you'll get no complaints from me. Jack's back, dammit, let him do whatever it takes to deliver true justice.

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