Elisha Cuthbert discusses 24’s infamous cougar scene

The scene in 24 Season 2 Episode 11 (“Day 2: 6:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.”) where Kim Bauer runs through the forest and encounters a cougar is one of the most memorable scenes in the series – for all the wrong reasons. The infamous scene has been frequently parodied, referenced on other TV shows, and is still being discussed nearly eleven years later.

Vulture interviewed Elisha Cuthbert, 24 producer Robert Cochran, Melissa Barker (Cuthbert’s stunt performer), and Innis Casey (who played Kim’s boyfriend Miguel) to get their thoughts on the notorious scene.

Either something in the woods spooked it and I happened to be in front of the cat, or maybe it was because I was so ill. Maybe it sensed that I was weak. Nothing would have provoked it. I have no idea why it decided to bite me but it definitely did.

Because of the show, I had all these, like, cuts and fake blood on me. So when I got to the hospital, they knew an actor was coming in that had been attacked by a mountain lion. They thought I was, like, totally mauled. I was like, “No, it’s just my hand! I just got bit on the hand!” So the fake blood kind of threw the nurses a bit. I remember that being funny.

I don’t know if I was aware of how much viewers didn’t like the cougar scene. I was definitely aware of how frustrating my character was starting to become to people, because I was always in peril. TV Guide had named me the character you most loved to hate. Which was kind of like a compliment, but also backhanded: “We love hating you.”

24 series co-creator Robert Cochran added his thoughts:

It certainly got a lot of the kind of attention we weren’t expecting. It probably wasn’t until some weeks later that we began to get the feedback that maybe fans weren’t so happy with that. We certainly got the message.

She was always being kidnapped or threatened or locked in a room or God knows what. I always felt the cougar thing was kind of a cumulative reaction to Kim, almost like the last straw. “What’s going to happen to this girl next? Oh my God, a cougar.”

There may be something about teenage girls getting into trouble that irritates people. This season, Homeland’s had that issue with Dana. People just find it irritating that teenage girls should be … I don’t know what people are thinking. Elisha did a great job. She did everything we asked her to do.

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I tell my friends that when watching season 2, they should fast forward past every scene that Kim Bauer is in (with the one exception of when Jack is in the plane saying his goodbyes to her on the phone) . Season 2 is a fantastic season as long as you fast forward past her scenes. IMHO, the best stretch in the ’24’ series ever is from episode #9 to episode #15 of season 2 which is the 7 episodes leading up to George Mason’s heroic act of taking down the plane (which is arguably the best episode ever of ’24’). The show was so well-written and intense during that 7 episode stretch.

And ironically, that 7 episode stretch includes the cougar and ‘Johny Drama’ cabin scenes which really just took away from how great ’24’ could have been that season if it just focused on the main plot and didn’t spend any time on Kim’s constant and silly ‘getting caught in danger’ scenes.