I was abandoned by the people I worked for ... as you will be someday.
~ Stephen Saunders to Jack Bauer

Stephen E. Saunders was the main antagonist in the third season of 24.

He threatens the United States with a highly lethal biological weapon, Cordilla virus, as he was abandoned in the enemy lines when working with the Delta Force team while on loan from MI6.

He was portrayed by Paul Blackthorne.


Before Day 3

Stephen Saunders was born in August 3rd, 1963 and he was a former member in the British Armed Forces, holding the rank of 2nd Major in the Army. Then, he served in the British Tactical Emergency Response Team, European Battle Enforcement and United Legion Technical Team before joining the Great Britain's Secret Intelligence Service as a field operations agent. According to Jack Bauer and Chase Edmunds, Saunders was described as a patriot and a good soldier before Bauer stated that something else happened to him.

He was originally part of Jack Bauer's six-man Delta Force team when MI6 loaned him to the United States for a secret mission in Kosovo to kill a Balkan war criminal named Victor Drazen. The mission, code-named Nightfall, was sanctioned and authorized by Senator David Palmer. During the mission, he was supposedly killed in the destruction of the Drazen compound. In reality, he survived from the blast, but was abandoned and captured by the Bosnian secret police, torturing Saunders for nearly six years before he was finally released.

After the failed mission in Kosovo, he lived a quiet civilian life in England before his wife died six months prior to the time he contacted his daughter, Jane. The abandonment by the Delta Force team caused Saunders to be very resentful towards them, including Bauer.

Day 3

In order to obtain his act of revenge, Saunders planned to hold the entire U.S. mainland hostage by threatening to kill millions of people with a type-3 pulmonary-immuno biological weapon, Cordilla virus. He acquired the virus from his associate, Michael Amador, the intermediary of rogue Ukrainian scientists whom Jack masterminded an unsuccessful attempt in Mexico to intercept the virus and prevent him from doing any such thing. CTU tried to track Amador, but Saunders suspected this, so he blew up Amador and one of his own men, Dorman, with a bomb implanted in a briefcase that was supposedly filled with Amador's money and passport that helped him to leave the country.

Saunders had an associate, Marcus Frederick Alvers, release the first vial of the virus in the Chandler Plaza Hotel, killing over 700 people, and threatened President Palmer that he would release more unless he did what he told him. First, he told him to say "the sky is falling" at a press conference. When Ryan Chappelle began to run money traces, Saunders saw it necessary to eliminate him, so his next demand for Palmer was to kill him. Chase Edmunds ran an unsuccessful attempt to capture Saunders, who had also expected this, and Jack was forced to kill Chappelle.

Palmer did not give in to any more of Saunders' demands, however, it was discovered that he had a daughter, Jane. Jack talked to Saunders on the phone and threatened to hurt Jane, while CTU began closing in on Saunders' real hideout. However, Saunders' men had taken Michelle Dessler hostage, and forced Tony Almeida to help him escape from CTU TAC teams.

Saunders got Tony to trade Jane for Michelle, but she ran, not wanting to go with her father's men, and Chase, along with the TAC teams, engaging Saunders' men in a shootout while Jack pursued Saunders. Saunders attempted to escape in a helicopter, but a flight of two U.S. Marine F/A-18 Hornets destroyed it and Saunders was captured. Saunders refused to give in the location of the other vials of the virus, until Jack threatened to send Jane into the hotel where the first vial of the virus was released.

The last vial of the virus was in possession of Arthur Rabens, whom CTU told Saunders to identify in several photos of people in the L.A. Metro Rail subway. As Saunders looked through the pictures to find Rabens, Teresa Ortega, the wife of Gael, who was the first victim in the hotel released by the virus, took a weapon and shot Saunders twice in the chest at close range as payback for her husband's death and she was arrested by CTU security detail.


Background information and notes

  • It is said in the show that Stephen was tortured by Bosnian secret police which is probably a writer's mistake. Bosnia and the USA are allies and he was probably tortured by Serbian police, Bosnian Serb police (Republika Srpska) or by a fictional rebel force in Bosnia.
  • Stephen Saunders' actor, Paul Blackthorne is just 10 years older than Alexandra Lydon, who played his daughter Jane Saunders. Blackthorne also originally auditioned for Amador's role before being reassigned to Saunders.
  • Saunders' prediction that Jack would be abandoned by his government, just as Saunders had been, has been proven true many times throughout the show -- in fact, it appeared to have been proven true for most seasons after Season 3:
    • At the end of Season 4, Jack had to fake his death to trick White House Chief of Staff Walt Cummings and President Charles Logan, who targeted him for assassination to avoid turning him into the Chinese. Jack was forced to sacrifice the stable relation he had with his daughter to do this.
    • Then, during Season 5, he was a central target of the Sentox nerve gas conspiracy which was sponsored by numerous members of the executive branch (including Cummings and Logan). The original plot of the conspiracy was to frame Jack for the murders of David Palmer in order to cover up the real reason for his death and make him as the scapegoat. At the end of the day, the conspiracy betrayed Jack again by turning him over to Cheng Zhi to be tortured for 20 months.
    • Later during Season 7, Jack was hauled out of Sangala to a hearing in front of the United States Senate for his use of torture on suspects by Senator Blaine Mayer.
    • During Season 8, he was again betrayed by a sitting President (this time Allison Taylor), who first turned him over to mercenaries to be murdered, then left him to fend for himself as an international fugitive. His freedom was ultimately lost for good at the end of Season 9.
  • On the 24 Facebook page, Saunders is nicknamed "The Ten of Diamonds".
  • Saunders is the only mastermind on the show who died inside a CTU building.


           24 Logo Villains

CTU Moles
Nina Myers | Tony Almeida | Jamey Farrell | Charles Logan | Christopher Henderson
The Drazen Syndicate
Victor Drazen | Andre Drazen | Nina Myers
Gaines Crew
Ira Gaines | Mandy | Jamey Farrell
Middle-Eastern Terrorists
Habib Marwan | Ibrahim Bin-Khalid | Abu Fayed | Asim Naseri | Jadalla Bin-Khalid | Navi Araz | Kalil Hasan
The Bauer Family
Graem Bauer | Phillip Bauer
Ramon Salazar | Cheng Zhi | Stephen Saunders | Benjamin Juma | Vladimir Bierko | Peter Kingsley | Michael Amador

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