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Sometimes we get a 'splodey hour of 24, and sometimes we get a talky one while we wait for future explosions to arrive. Tonight's hour, "3:00am - 4:00am" was of the latter variety. For all the shouting, most of what happened here was done to set up the final hours of the day; and while that's not a bad thing, some of those conversations weren't all that exciting to watch. Still, we did get our first real look at the conspiracy Hodges hinted at when he was arrested, and we did finally discover what their real game plan was, which is swell. And hey, Chloe's back. It really isn't a traditional 24 climax unless Chloe's snarking behind the scenes.

Although Jack now knows the truth, Tony manages to escape from the FBI before Bauer can unclench his jaw long enough to say the bastard's name. Tony meets up with Galvez at what I guess is somebody's house (it can't be Galvez's or Tony's—maybe the evil chick that gave Hodges the red pill, Ally McFake?) and there ensues the usual awkward dance between two bad guys who can't possibly trust each other trying to get the upper hand. It's a little thing, but I found it kind of funny after all their teamwork to get the cannister away from the perimeter, the second these two are in the clear from an immediate threat, they turn on each other. Tony being Tony, that doesn't last long, and when Ally (who I don't think has been named yet) arrives, Galvez is dead and the cannister is in their possession.

It's through Ally and Tony's discussion about what to do next that we finally understand the scope of the current operation. Hodges' craziness jumped the timetable, but he had at least part of the idea; the group that the fake lawyer represents, the one lead by Will Patton and a bunch of disguised voices, have aims to topple the current government. The original plan was to use the bioweapon at Starkwood and hit a number of different cities at once, using the ensuing chaos as a chance to step in and take command. There's still time for that plan—with the cannister they've got, the group can always synthesize more—but Tony urges them to push forward now. Hodges and Juma's actions have already set President Taylor and her staff on edge, and one more major attack is all the situation needs to push them over.

I guess that means that whatever ambiguity I'd been thinking Tony had is gone; technically they could have some big reveal that he's done everything just to get at the secret group, but I'm kind of hoping they don't at this point. When Jack tells Chloe about Almeida's betrayal, she mentions Michelle's death from way back on Day 5, and it's a weird moment—I'm not sure I want to connect the Tony from back then to the Tony of right now. It's almost eaiser just to pretend that the current Tony is a new character entirely; it would take away the emotional sting, but it would make his turncoating more reasonable.

Still, at least he's a face we can hate. Will Patton is too distanced from the action right now, and with Jonas Hodges down for the count, the show needs a prominent villain. Speaking of Hodges, the pill didn't kill him, much as he wishes it did. They've got him at the hospital under guard, and Jack comes up with a plan to get his cooperation by convincing the world that he's already dead, thus protecting his family and giving them something to bargain with. Jack's interrogation here wasn't bad—as always, he's a scary mofo even when he isn't breaking people's faces—and the way Hodges choices reflect back on Jack's own actions was a decent turn. But they barely learn anything from him they didn't already know. Just enough to figure out that there's going to be another attack, and that the next plan is to hone in on all relevant nearby terrorist activity; Hodges at least spilled the beans that the big group was intending on hiding their attacks under guise of terrorism, so that's a start.

Of course, in order to get that much, in addition to promising that Hodges "death" provide him with cover, President Taylor also had to offer him Witness Protection, which doesn't sit at all well with Olivia. She gets more and more upset at the idea of the man who killed her brother going free that, after a conversation with Aaron about the nature of justice, she's inspired to call up an old friend. (Hey, it's Leland Orser! And it looks like his character is gay. Neat!) The implication here is that Olivia has decided she wants to bump off Hodges, which is really the sort of plot you'd be expecting in the first ten hours of the day; now it just seems like a distraction.

Back at the FBI, Jack has convinced the president to get the CTU servers back online. It's the only way they can track all known terrorist activity, something that Janis is not happy about in the slightest. Not that it matters; Chloe gets called in to do the heavy lifting, since she's the only person capable, etc, etc. Still, Janis's snide comments (including a "Hello, Big Brother," when the CTU systems take over every computer in the office) drive an already twitchy Jack into full blown screaming mode. He yells at Janis that "President Palmer" has ordered them to do what their doing, and that Janis's concerns over civil liberties are less important than the lives that could be lost.

It's a tough moment, and even Chloe realizes that something is wrong—that whole "Palmer" thing is a tip off for sure. And really, this isn't the time for Jack to break down, because the big evil group has made its decision; they're launching another attack that morning, and they've already got the perfect stooge to pin it on. The question here is, since Ally established that the stooge wasn't going to have any direct terrorist connections, does this mean that Jack and Chloe's efforts are for naught?

Grade: B

Stray Observations:

  • Chloe hugging her kid was awfully sweet.
  • When Jack tells Renee Tony's a baddie, she says, "How do you know?" Jesus, woman, it's Jack Freakin' Bauer! That's just what he does.