The episode opens with the Centre for Disease Control arriving on the scene and taking Jack through decontamination procedures. Dr. Sunny Macer, who has been promoted from her position as head of National Health Services in Los Angeles, and is now running CDC operations in Washington, is leading the charge. As Jack is getting naked, he fills Macer in on everything he knows about the bioweapon.
Meanwhile, Moss arrives back at FBI Headquarters and briefs Janis on the situation: Jack was exposed to the bioweapon and Starkwood has stolen it back from them, likely transporting it to their facility in Virginia by chopper. He orders Janis to gather as much intel as she can on Starkwood.
Speaking of Starkwood, Hodges’ goons have arrived back at their compound with the bioweapon and Almeida in tow. Hodges observes the landing procedures with malevolent glee. Tony is led away into the building, exchanging an intense look with Hodges’ right hand man Greg Seaton on the way, and Hodges remarks to Seaton that Almeida won’t be easy to break. Hodges inquires of one of his goons how long it will be until the bioweapons are ready to use. The goon replies it will be at least two hours, and Hodges is displeased. He says the FBI is already on their way and getting the weapons ready to deploy is their only leverage.
By this point, two more Hodges goons plus Stokes are already laying the beat down on Tony, who is refusing to talk. Hodges enters the room, and decides that a civilized conversation between gentlemen might be a better approach. He offers Tony a deal … give up any information he has on how much the FBI knows about their operation in exchange for his life. “I don’t know anything … Mr. Hodges …” is Tony’s sardonic reply. Seaton asks Hodges to speak with him alone, and they move to an area a short distance away, but still within earshot of Tony. Seaton suggests the only way out of this is for them to cut and run while they still can … destroy the bioweapons and flee before the FBI arrives. Hodges replies that they have invested too much in developing the weapons and he is not prepared to give them up now, and instructs Seaton to get back in line or pay the price. Stokes and his team drag Tony off to another room.
Cut back to Jack and Macer. Macer tells Jack they need to run more tests, but they should know whether he was exposed within the next 15 minutes. Macer’s associate notes that they detected a pathogen in the air, but the concentration was not high enough to harm anyone in the general population nearby. Macer tells Jack he saved a lot of lives. The CDC and Jack agree the best thing is for him to go back to FBI headquarters under quarantine.
Back at the White House, President Taylor and her daughter Olivia discuss potential replacements for Ethan Kanin as Chief of Staff. Taylor and Olivia both have a particular candidate in mind, and Taylor agrees to consider them both. She points out that a provisional Chief of Staff will have to be assigned and asks Olivia to take the position, because she needs someone she can trust. Olivia agrees. Just then, Woods enters, saying Moss is on the phone regarding another terrorist threat. Moss briefs Taylor on how Starkwood framed Jack for murder, and the bioweapon. He says the weapons are almost certainly at the Starkwood compound and they need to move to secure them. Taylor orders the Cabinet and Joint Chiefs to be assembled.
Meanwhile, in FBI holding, Walker is brooding. Moss enters the room and informs Renee that Starkwood was working with Juma to develop bioweapons. When Renee asks about Jack, Moss tells her he’s on his way back to FBI headquarters. When Renee wonders why Jack isn’t assisting the investigation on the ground, Moss tells her Jack was exposed to the weapon trying to secure it. He suggests Renee be the one to debrief Jack when he arrives. Renee is clearly upset. Moss apologizes to her for not trusting her more, and admits his personal prejudice against Bauer affected his judgement, but he also says that she should have trusted him too. A single tear rolls down Renee’s face as she agrees.
Cut back to the White House, where Pierce is on his way out of the building. Olivia approaches him and informs him she’s been appointed to provisional Chief of Staff. She asks him to resume active duty as head of her security detail, saying she knows she can trust him. Pierce is skeptical, but Olivia tells him the country is still under attack, and that she needs him. She arrogantly says she’ll assume his answer is yes, and walks away, as Pierce raises no objection, even seeming mildly bemused by Olivia’s massive balls.
In the meantime, Taylor commences her meeting with the Cabinet and Joint Chiefs. She reviews intel on Starkwood and the bioweapons. The Director of the CDC reports on their preliminary findings: the bioweapons employ a weaponized strain of Congalese Prion variant engineered to kill its victim in 1-2 days. There is no treatment and no cure. Taylor’s military advisors discuss that it will be difficult to take control of Starkwood’s compound without meeting singificant resistance, and that they could have a small war on their hands. Taylor suggests an air strike, which her advisors deem too risky. The Attorney General jumps in, noting that any military action against a private corporation on US soil will require congressional approval to be legal. Taylor concludes by saying she will not entertain the possibility of another terrorist attack happening on US soil.
Back at Starkwood, Stokes tries one last time to get information from Tony, who is bloody and pissed off, but still silent. Stokes realizes there is nothing they can do to get Almeida to talk, and so raises his gun to shoot him in the head. Just then, two shots from a silenced gun explode behind Tony and Stokes drops to the ground. It is Seaton, having saved Tony’s bacon. Seaton uncuffs Tony, telling him that things have gone too far, and that he needs his help. Seaton says he doesn’t want to go to prison, and offers the location of the weapons on the compound if Tony can get the FBI to agree to immunity. Tony says he’ll make the call, and the two of them head back to Seaton’s office.
Jack, meanwhile, is en route to FBI headquarters. Macer receives Jack’s test results. She hands Jack her PDA and he looks at the results, sighing ambiguously. When he arrives, Janis tells Renee that he’s not in quarantine. Renee’s relief is short-lived, however, when Jack informs her that he was exposed to the pathogen. As Jack goes to change, Macer elaborates that he’s not contagious and doesn’t need quarantine. Renee enters the briefing room before Jack has put his shirt on, and is horrified at the scars covering his torso, concrete reminders of the pain he has suffered. Jack asks about the investigation, and about Tony’s status. Renee informs him that they don’t know anything yet, and that she needs to get all the information Jack has on the weapon. She also says she thinks Jack did the right thing by saving Carl, even though it compromised the mission. Jack thanks her, but looks as though he’s not so sure anymore.
By this point, Tony and Seaton have reached Seaton’s office. As soon as they enter, the phone rings. It’s Hodges, who orders Seaton back to the lab ASAP. Seaton plays along, and hangs up. As he sets up a secure line, he tells Tony about how Hodges is a patriot who lost his way, and how he should have called the FBI himself when he realized things had gone too far. At the FBI, Janis is briefing Moss on what she’s gathered on Starkwood. Renee arrives with Jack’s intel on the weapon. Just then, Janis informs Larry that Tony is on the phone from inside Starkwood. Tony tells Larry about Seaton and his proposal … the location of the weapons for immunity. Larry says he’ll run it by the President. Tony asks Larry about Jack, and Larry tells Tony that Jack was exposed to the virus. Tony is disconcerted. Larry has Janis set up a conference call with the President.
In the meantime, Taylor and Olivia are watching footage recovered from Sangala of the compound where the bioweapon was developed depicting Sangalan civilians in painful death throes. Taylor rants to Olivia that the United States has been feeding the monster that is Starkwood for years by giving them defence contracts, and that they allowed this to happen. Woods enters with one of Taylor’s military advisors and picks up a call from Larry Moss. Moss explains about Almeida, Seaton and his immunity offer, saying Almeida has been helping Bauer. Taylor agrees to Seaton’s deal, and digitally signs the agreement. She gives Moss authorization to move on Starkwood. Moss says they will be ready to move in 10 minutes, and Seaton gives them the location. Tony agrees to meet them on the ground. Just then, Jack emerges and notices all the commotion. Moss tells him about the raid on Starkwood and Jack demands to assist the operation. Moss responds that while he would love to have Jack’s help, given his medical status, they can’t risk his starting to manifest symptoms in the middle of the operation. Jack thinks about this and realizes Moss is right, agreeing to stay behind.
Tony and Seaton are now in position at the coordinates Seaton gave the FBI. Inside the lab, Hodges’ goon tells him the weapon is still about an hour away from being ready for deployment. Hodges notes that they have confirmation that the FBI’s arrival is imminent. Moss contacts Tony via comm and Tony gives him the tactical approach based on what he sees on the ground. Moss’ teams land on the ground by chopper inside the Starkwood compound. Hodges hears the sounds of the helicopters and knows the time is now. Larry’s teams and Tony storm the building identified by Seaton as where the weapons are, but find it completely deserted. Moss realizes Seaton has played them. Seaton tries to play it off like Tony is the bad guy and he told him what he wanted to hear so Tony wouldn’t hurt him, which makes Tony severely pissed, but Moss is having none of it. Tony is intensely steamed to have been played by this pipsqueak.
Cut to Hodges, observing a video feed of the FBI raid. Hodges remarks to his goon that Seaton bought them some time by leading the FBI to the other side of the compound, and tells his goon to keep them there.
Split screen: Jack watches events unfold on the video feed at FBI office; Seaton looks smug; Hodges sweats a little; Moss’s team searches the warehouse top to bottom. Pan out on Moss, who tells Renee that the whole thing was a diversion. Jack tells Renee the weapons have to be in Starkwood, and Renee agrees. She tells Larry to keep looking. He orders his men outside, along with Seaton. Tony follows, looking intense. Larry orders a grid search of every building in the compound. Just then, a bunch of Starkwood Hummers screech in. The FBI is under attack! Moss orders his men to hold their fire. The leader of the Starkwood assault emerges from a vehicle, and Tony does a double take when he realizes it is none other than Stokes, whom he believed was killed by Seaton about 40 minutes earlier. Suddenly, we realize that Hodges, Seaton, Stokes and Starkwood played Tony and the FBI like a violin from the beginning, giving new meaning to Hodges’ words at the beginning of the episode: “know the psychology of your subject”.
Stokes calmly tells Moss that they cooperated with the order to search that particular building, and now they are being asked to leave. Moss replies that they know Starkwood has WMDs on site, and they will not leave until the weapons are secured. Stokes replies that the FBI is on private property, and that Starkwood is prepared to defend it if necessary. He further states that if the FBI advances, Starkwood is prepared to fire. A standoff ensues. Boop beep.
This was a very enjoyable episode, with many good points and very few bad. Let’s start at the beginning. Good on Sunny Macer! After the whole not-Simes debacle, it was nice to receive a bit of hardcore fan gratification with the re-introduction of a relatively obscure minor character from a previous season. While it is a conceit of convenience the writers have taken with bringing back so many characters in Washington this season that were centered in Los Angeles during previous seasons, it’s still conceivable that Macer could have accepted a job in DC during the nine years between Season 3 and Season 7. And while it would have perhaps been even more interesting to bring back Nicole Duncan, the other NHS character from Season 3, who had a little bit more depth established to her relationships with both Jack and Tony, it is still nice to see a familiar face.
The entire Hodges/Seaton/Almeida/FBI storyline was sheer brilliance from beginning to end, with some fantastic acting from everyone involved, and a lot of fun intrigue without anyone getting killed. Watching this episode for the second time to do the summary brought this sequence even more into focus for me and I realized how well the writers executed this arc, and they threw a lot of possibilities out into the air to throw us off. During first viewing, I had no idea it was coming. It seemed as though the look exchanged between Tony and Seaton when Tony first arrived at Starkwood suggested they might already be acquainted, coupled with the opening conversation between Seaton and Hodges about the possibility of destroying the bioweapons to cut and run, made sense as far as Seaton saving Tony and wanting to save his own ass. So I was a bit shocked when Seaton flipped and ended up loyal to Starkwood. But in retrospect, we realize that the entire thing was a set-up from beginning to end. This is confirmed by Hodges’ words to Seaton: “know the psychology of your subject”. Hodges made a point of saying he had read Almeida’s profile, and with his resources, would have had to know by now that Almeida and Bauer were working together. He, Seaton and Stokes were in on it from the beginning. Make Tony believe Seaton had turned by staging the death of Stokes at the crucial moment, organize an immunity agreement, and lead the FBI astray to gain the upper hand and hold them off long enough to get the bioweapons ready for deployment. It’s fucking brilliant. Not only was it entertaining, it was also pretty unpredictable, very well played and well paced, and really drives home just how much more sophisticated a villain and an opponent Jonas Hodges has become compared to almost any other 24 baddie.
It is interesting that in this episode, Jack’s storyline really took a backseat to everything else that was going on. He had very little screentime compared to usual, but I think it was smart for the show to focus this episode more on Tony, especially with him having been mostly absent throughout the second act. As I mentioned in the debrief for this episode, it was a definite role reversal for Jack and Tony, with Jack being stuck at home base, unable to control anything, and Tony on the ground executing the action. It was fresh, something we haven’t seen before. And although Jack didn’t have the main focus in this episode, Kiefer Sutherland really made every scene count for a lot. It was quite an emotional episode for Jack, and took his relationships with Walker and Moss to the next level. I was glad that the Walker/Moss dynamic got a little bit of momentum in this episode as well, as the writers have been scratching the surface of that for awhile, but not really going anywhere with it.
I also thought the way they’ve handled the details about the bioweapon is smart. It has the potential to create mass destruction, but at the same time, making it a non-contagious pathogen, making the crisis localized, and not making the focus on the global ramifications of the release of a contagion, will give it a different angle than the bio-threat in Season 3. I’m more interested right now in the focus on the standoff between Starkwood and the government, and political ramifications of that, as opposed to the potential collateral damage of the weapon itself.
It’s nice to know Pierce will play a prominent role in the action through the third act. I’m still waiting for Olivia’s questionable tactics to come back and bite her in the ass. She looked incredibly uncomfortable when Moss was informing Taylor that Jack Bauer was innocent.
I thought it was interesting that after fighting Renee all day about trusting Bauer, Moss is so quick to trust Almeida. I get that he trusts Jack now, but the last time these two saw each other, Moss was convinced that Tony was guilty of genocide. I’m not complaining, but it seems like a bit of a leap. I was glad that Moss used his common sense when he deduced that Seaton played Almeida, and that Tony had done nothing wrong in this situation.
I thought Carlos Bernard’s performance in this episode was really fantastic. His scene with Jon Voight was riveting and electric, and Carlos totally held his own. There were a lot of wonderfully emotionally ambiguous moments, where you can tell Tony is feeling something incredibly intensely, but it’s difficult to identify exactly what those emotions are. These include the beat where Tony considers Hodges’ offer, and the moment when he finds out that Jack was infected.
Definitely his scene with Jonas Hodges. It was very dense and both actors were spectacular. The dialogue was sparse, but well-chosen. Vintage Tony, vintage Jonas.
My biggest complaint about last week was that I felt like there wasn’t much to chew on. This week, the exact opposite is true. The episode had some great action, including the FBI raid on the Starkwood warehouse, which reminded me a lot of two scenes in Season 3, the first being the virus exchange in Mexico when CTU finally storms in, because of the night-time setting and the long lead up all episode, but also of the scene where Chase and his team storms the apartment where Saunders has his switcher, and realized they’ve come up empty and Chappelle will have to die, for obvious reasons. But it also had some very sophisticated character development going on — on all fronts. There were tons of little moments where we were left to interpret exactly what a character was thinking or feeling, leaving things a bit ambiguous for later. The episode moved the story forward well and I am very excited to see what happens next week in this standoff between Starkwood and the FBI. While I’m somewhat relieved that Tony is with the FBI and protected a bit, I am also worried for his safety. And it’s a bit ridiculous how many times I had to relate some version of “so and so briefs so and so on the bioweapon” while writing the summary.