Image Credit: Greg Gayne/FoxChloe may have a long history with Jack, but I understood her reticence in tonight’s star-filled extravaganza. (A semi-burned Michael Madsen! An extra-chinny D.B. Sweeney!) Still, Jack’s always been on the side of good so there’s no reason to doubt his motives now, which is why I was thrilled to see her continue working on his behalf — at least initially. Pretty sneaky of the ole girl, downloading the contents of Sweeney’s phone so she’d learn the secret location of torture central (speaking of which, you must read this old but still riveting account by Vanity Fair’s Christopher Hitchens, who agreed to undergo a little water boarding for himself. Thought of it right away when I saw Dana going horizontal). But then — ugh! — conscience struck, and Chloe was back in all-business-no-matter-what-the-costs mode. She can’t betray the president, even if Taylor is lying in bed with that skeevy Logan.

At least Ethan didn’t turn out to be a major disappointment. Next to Jack, he was the only one who spoke some sense in tonight’s episode by imploring Taylor to stop the insanity and expose the Russians for the Hassan-killing cowards they really were. For a second there, I wondered if the producers were setting up a potential romance between these two (the hand touch!) but any hope of Cupid’s involvement was scuttled when Taylor choose to heed the advice of Logan. It’s pretty amazing how, on the one hand, I could revel in Gregory Itzin’s winning portrayal of a dishonest yahoo like Logan, and yet get all hot under the collar at the same time over what the writers had done to Cherry Jones’ Taylor.

I did like how we got a quick glimpse of her anguish; a president can and should shed a few tears, for pete’s sake. And I also appreciated how Ethan didn’t mince his words when he said how suppressing vital information about the Russians was “grounds for impeachment, possibly criminal indictment. You crossed the line, Madame President.” But she still did what Logan recommended? Yes, I know; perhaps the writers wanted us to begrudgingly appreciate the maddening amount of compromises that our Commander in Chief must make in order to achieve the greater good (Logan said as much) but I was still counting the seconds until Ethan gave his resignation. So glad he did! I just hope this wasn’t the last week we’ll see marvelous Bob Gunton (another 24 veteran who I hope makes the cut for the 24 movie). Until then, how much lower can you go, Allison?

And speaking of marvelous actors, welcome Mr. Madsen! Here, he gets to play a generally shady (and partially singed) dude named Jim Ricker who’s been entrusted to provide Jack with an arsenal of guns and electronics to infiltrate or commandeer or obliterate… something. It looks like Madsen’s on board for the rest of the season, so I suspect he’ll become Jack’s new Chloe while she now fights to block his every move. And she almost got her man tonight: She prevented Jack from learning the exact whereabouts of the hideaway where Sweeney’s Blackwater-type guns-for-fire were going to torture Dana until she revealed the evidence linking the Russians to Hassan’s death. But capture Jack she didn’t: An attempt to ambush Jack at a CTU safe house was foiled when Chloe said something to him on the phone to expose her duplicity. Was it the monotone way she described the building’s whereabouts and schematics? Or was it the way she mumbled, “be careful” to Jack before he entered the safe house? Whatever it was, Jack was on to her; he only went through with the ruse so he could enlist Cole’s help in tracking down Dana (“Your hands are dirty, too!” Jack barked). That means we get another week of angry Katie Sackhoff, and I think I’m okay with it!

Now that the season is almost over, I think it’s high time we rate these final episodes — so I’ll give this one a B-minus. The B is for Jack’s bitchen leather jacket, the split screen featuring Sweeney, Itzin and Reed Diamond, and the excellent way Gunton said, “I’m not abandoning you, I’m listening to my conscience. You’ve got Logan now. There’s only room for one of us.” The minus is for the 10 million times that Taylor whined “we are almost there” in an attempt to justify her ridiculous behavior. Oh, and it’s also for Freddie Prinze’s “Boston” accent; never bought it, never will.

What would you give the episode?

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