|Birthdate:||August 3, 1963|
|Significant other(s):||Diana White (lover)|
|Died:||Day 3: 12:10pm|
Shot by Theresa Ortega
|Played by:||Paul Blackthorne|
|Stunt double:||Oliver Keller|
|First episode:||"Day 3: 3:00am-4:00am"|
|Last episode:||"Day 3: 12:00pm-1:00pm"|
- "I was abandoned by the people I worked for...like you will be someday."
Stephen E. Saunders was a former MI6 agent and soldier. While working with Jack Bauer on Operation Nightfall, he was abandoned in enemy territory by the Delta Force team and was presumed dead for several years.
Six years later, he contacted his daughter Jane and returned to the United States. He masterminded a terrorist plot where, using the threat of the extremely lethal and contagious Cordilla virus, he forced President David Palmer to acquiesce to his demands to initiate a take-down of the American intelligence/military apparatus. Through the use of his daughter as leverage, he was eventually captured by CTU and forced to halt his plot, but was killed by the vengeful wife of one of his victims.
Before Day 3
- View Stephen Saunders' profile at Character profiles.
Two years prior to the events that took place in Day 1 (six-and-a-half years before Day 3), Saunders was assigned to work with Jack Bauer on Operation Nightfall. The mission, which was authorized by Senator David Palmer, required a Delta Force team to take out Victor Drazen, a Balkan war criminal.
Bauer was ordered to gather a six-man team that would infiltrate Kosovo by air, eliminate the threat posed by Drazen, and move to a distant extraction point where they would be extracted by a helicopter. MI6 loaned Saunders to the United States for the operation.
During the mission, things went wrong and an explosion ending up killing not only Drazen, but his wife and daughter as well. Bauer's team was ambushed and he thought he was the only one to survive the operation. It was later revealed in Day 1 that Drazen's body double was killed in explosion, not Victor himself.
Saunders was held prisoner and tortured by the Bosnian secret police for two years, and the U.S. government refused to negotiate to get him released. Eventually, Saunders was freed and he lived a life in England. Four years prior to the events that took place in Day 3, Saunders contacted his daughter Jane. His wife died six months prior to the time he contacted Jane.
With the world thinking he was dead, Saunders did business covertly with men such as Middle Eastern arms dealer Sayid Kolobe and bio-terrorist Ari Consul. He eventually purchased the deadly Cordilla Virus, designed to cause a widespread epidemic that would take millions of lives, from Michael Amador, the intermediary of rogue Ukrainian scientists who believed he auctioned it in Mexico. Saunders' associate Marcus Alvers used the first vial of the virus at the Chandler Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. He passed on the other 11 to his couriers in San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, another in LA, and two each for Flagstaff and Washington, D.C., to hold the entire United States hostage and force the President to enact his demands.
Saunders acquired the Cordilla virus from his associate Michael Amador. When Amador was captured by CTU, but then apparently escaped, he contacted Saunders for help with fleeing the country. Saunders asked him if one of the CTU agents was Jack Bauer; when Amador confirmed this, Saunders knew that Bauer could not be so easily outsmarted, and that Amador was being carefully tracked. Saunders sent a subordinate named Dorman with a briefcase for Amador, but when it was opened, a bomb inside was triggered and it blew up both men.
Saunders then called Bauer, and demanded to speak with President Palmer. He was put through, and told him about releasing a vial of the Cordilla virus in the Chandler Plaza Hotel. He informed Palmer that he would be releasing more vials if his demands were not met.
Saunders first demand was to have Secret Service pick up a package and bring it to Palmer. After Aaron Pierce proved the package was safe, Palmer discovered a non-traceable phone. Saunders called him and told him this would be their way of communicating with each other. His second demand was for Palmer to hold a press conference, on any political issue, and use the phrase "the sky is falling" somewhere in his speech. The President followed through with this demand also.
When Ryan Chappelle began to run money traces, Saunders saw this as a threat to him and he wanted Chappelle dead. Saunders contacted Palmer and ordered the execution of Chappelle, or he would infect another city. He gave Palmer a location where Chappelle's body was to be given to his men by 7 AM. After struggling with the decision, Palmer was forced to agree to buy CTU more time and had Jack Bauer carry out the task.
CTU Los Angeles was able to trace Saunders' location and Chase Edmunds ran the operation, while Jack used a helicopter to transport Chappelle to the train yard. When Chase learned that Saunders was using a device to relay calls from the location, and that their lead was a dead end, Jack was forced to go through with the execution. Saunders' men took Chappelle's body into their van, and one of them confirmed for Saunders that the corpse belonged to Ryan, while Jack had no choice but to head back to CTU.
Saunders' next demand to Palmer was to obtain a list of covert US agents posing as citizens in numerous countries. Palmer would not go with this demand. When CTU learned that Saunders had a daughter, they grabbed Jane and began interrogating her. Jane revealed that she has a private number to contact Saunders if it was an emergency. When it became apparent that Jane had no more useful information, Jack had Jane call Saunders on his private line. As Saunders was in the process of ordering Ian, his courier in San Francisco, to infect the population there due to Palmer not cooperating with his demands, he stops due to the ring of the private cell phone for Jane. As he picked up Jane's call, his associate Osterlind discovered the call was being monitored. Saunders told Jane that he wanted to speak with Jack. Saunders threaten Jack, telling him what he is capable of. As Jack responded back of what he is capable of, with Saunders knowing that he meant threatening to hurt Jane, Adam Kaufman and Chloe O'Brian were able to close-in on Stephen's real hideout.
Osterlind insisted on leaving the building, but Saunders was convinced that CTU would use satellite to pick up on their location. When Osterlind refused to stay, Saunders shot and killed him. He then patiently waited for CTU to arrive and corner the building.
After Bauer demanded for Saunders to surrender, Saunders called Tony Almeida, the Director of CTU Los Angeles. Saunders demanded for Tony to clear a path for him, to which Tony questioned why he would carry out such an outrageous demand. Saunders then provided proof that his men had captured his wife, Michelle Dessler, after she left the Chandler Plaza Hotel, and threatened to take her eye out if Tony didn't meet his demands.
Tony was forced to comply, and he ordered Agent Tom Baker to follow a Code 9 and move everyone into the front. After Baker lead everybody away, Saunders walked out of the building and successfully escaped. After getting to a safe location, Saunders called Tony and asked for him to deliver Jane to him. He said he would call back with further instructions.
After stepping down as the CTU director and letting Jack take over the operation, Tony grabbed Jane and began to escort her out of the building. When Chloe told Jack that Saunders had Michelle, Jack ordered a lock down, but Tony managed to get to the garage and escape in a car. With help from satellite, Jack was able to catch Tony and convince him to work along with CTU.
Tony went through with the trade off, and Michelle was exchanged for Jane. Not wanting to go with her father's men, Jane began to run away, causing Saunders to expose himself in an attempt to call her back. Now having a visual confirmation on Saunders, CTU and the TAC teams burst onto the scene and a firefight began. In the midst of the chaos, Saunders managed to run off. Chase, Tony and the rest of CTU agents handled the hostiles, while Jack chased after Saunders.
A helicopter arrived to pick up Saunders and opened fire at Jack, forcing him to take cover. Fortunately, a flight of two Marine fighter jets arrived and destroyed the helicopter, successfully preventing Saunders' escape. Bauer was able to bring Saunders into custody and demanded the location of the remaining vials. When Saunders refused to cooperate, Jack brought him and Jane to the Chandler Plaza Hotel where the first vial had been released. Jack was able to force Saunders to comply by threatening to send Jane inside the hotel, where she would be infected with the virus.
Eventually, all but one of the vials around the country were neutralized. Saunders identified the last remaining courier as Arthur Rabens, who was located in Los Angeles. While looking through photos of people in a subway, Theresa Ortega arrived at CTU. She was mourning the death of her husband Gael, who sacrificed his life to help the people in the Chandler Plaza Hotel. Before Saunders could identify Rabens, Theresa shot him twice in the chest at close range with a pistol she discovered in Gael's desk. Theresa was then subdued by CTU security. Michelle and the officer guarding Saunders attempted to revive him, however, he quickly succumbed to his wounds just as Rabens' picture came up.
Stephen Saunders: I was abandoned by the people I worked for... like you will be someday.
Stephen Saunders: Sometimes, a fire is needed to be lit, to put out another fire.
Background information and notes
- It is said in the show that Stephen was tortured by Bosnian secret police which is probably a writers 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.
- Paul Blackthorne, who played Stephen Saunders, is just ten 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 Day 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 Day 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 murder of David Palmer in order to cover up the real reason for his death and make him 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 Day 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 Day 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 Day 9.
- Note that Saunders claimed that he would let his daughter die for his cause, yet still saved her.
- 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.