After last week's pretty darn terrific hour, "12:00am to 1:00am" is back to standard plot-filler status; apart from Tony's infiltration of the Starkwood compound, we mostly just spent our time setting up pegs, or knocking down a few loose ends. Nothing wrong with that, of course—my only real criticism of the hour is that we spent far too little of it with Jack, but since he spent the whole time sweating and twitching at FBI headquarters, maybe that's for the best.
Picking up at Starkwood, the confrontation between Larry and Hodges plays out about as you'd expect; Hodges gets all self-righteous and demands Larry leave, and Larry has no choice but to back down. He does manage to create a diversion just big enough for Tony to slip away, and it's with Tony that we get most of the episode's suspense. He's the lucky bastard who gets to do recon into enemy territory to try and find where those pesky bioweapons are being housed; the President needs confirmation from him and Jack before she's willing to proceed with an air strike, and given how pear-shaped everything went last time, it's understandable she'd want assurances. Tony briefly connects with possibly the only honest man left in Starkwood, chairman of the board Doug Knowles, and the two of them find the most likely location for the materials. But then some of Hodges' men drive by, and Doug decides that the only way to save the mission is to distract them himself. Necessary or not, the move works; too bad it winds up in Hodges murdering Doug back at the office. (Nicely done scene, too.)
Jack is definitely not enjoying being sidelined from the main action, but he's not enjoying the effects of the bioweapon even more. I was expecting the writers to use Jack's worsening condition to make it harder to get an ID on the cannisters, but points to them, they didn't; when Jack collapses, they get a medic in to give him some stuff to hide the symptoms, and the issue is, for the time being, resolved. The medic also mentions what we've all been waiting for, the experimental and highly unlikely but probably going to save the day cure. Too bad they'd need stem cells donated from a close living relative—given the way Bauer goes through family, that means Kim, and he's not having any of that. So we lose some points here, because this means Kim's probably going to show up before the end of the day, and who the hell wants that?
Not much going on at the White House, apart from worrying about the upcoming air strike, but we do get a juicy side-plot with Olivia and her pet reporter, Ken. He demands a visit, and won't take no for an answer; and when she shows up, he manages to worm out all the details of the evening's events. He convinces her to have sex to keep the story quiet, and then tells her he's still going ahead with the story, sex or no. Olivia pulls out her cell-phone and reveals that she recorded their "session," and if he doesn't keep his mouth shut, she'll let the video out to any number of interested parties, including his wife. Y'know, I'm not sure what to think about Olivia, but the cell phone thing put me in her corner—Ken was a whiny asshole, and seeing him put in his place so neatly was extremely satisfying, even if she did have to sleep with him to get the job done.
I also dug Tony's infiltration of the compound; it was a neat way to stretch out the time and get the most out of Tony's efforts, mixing tedium (oh look, another key pad! More concrete flooring!) and tenseness in equal measure. He even manages to take out a couple of stooges in the process, and get himself a shiny new uniform. He eventually finds the bioweapons, takes a picture with his cell phone, and sends the pic to Jack, who confirms it for what we all knew it was. The air strike is a go, so everybody's happy because that means things are all going to be wrapped up, and earlier than usual at that.
But wait! Hodges isn't out yet. He manages to get a private word with the President (via a proprietary line in the Ops room, impressively enough), and tells her he's got 13 nasty missiles that are just choked to the gills with the bioweapon; and that currently those missiles are pointed at thirteen major cities, and if the Prez doesn't call off the air strike, he's going to start launching. The Prez does that usual "You son of a bitch!" thing you do when you know you're beaten, and calls off the strike, to the dismay of her military advisors. On the phone, Hodges insisted that the Taylor keep their conversation private, to avoid causing panic (you could make a seriously dangerous drinking game based on the amount people in this series worry about "causing panic"), and Taylor seems to be obliging, which seems a bit of a stretch to say the least. Keep it off the airwaves, sure, but to not tell the joint chiefs? Here's hoping she just didn't have time to explain.
Next week has Hodges making a personal visit to the White House. You gotta wonder, what's his end game in this? Voight is a good enough actor that it's easy to go along with whatever he says, but so far, his plan doesn't look like it could have had a happy ending, even if Jack and his team hadn't gotten involved. Maybe that's the point; maybe he's just another crazy bastard. Guess we'll find out next time.
—Whenever a villain starts talking about "Man, we had a great past together," you should probably run.