The mid-point of the season is coming, and already, there are signs that the writers are keeping to the familiar pattern. By the end of the twelfth hour, there will be a twist that will change the complexion of the eighth season completely. Or rather, that is the promise that has been made, and it fits the usual intentions.
As such, this is a typical episode designed to push the characters and events towards that twist. That means a lot of focus on the process of uncovering Tarin's involvement in the terrorist plot. All things being equal, the writers did a good job of making that reveal as effective as possible. It didn't feel forced, and if anything, it made sure that the Kayla/Tarin relationship would pay off as a plot element.
It also revives the potential that President Hassan can justify his actions over the past several hours. As harsh as his response to betrayal may have seemed, his instincts were true. This shouldn't be ignored or downplayed; it should be a key point of discussion as the long night continues. A lot of people have criticized Hassan, between the Taylor administration and his own family, after all. Once the crisis with his daughter is resolved, he should be pressing that point (assuming the terrorists haven't succeeded by that point).
And that's a very real possibility, since it's just about the only thing that would be considered a stunning turn of events at this point. If Kayla were to die, that wouldn't necessarily be unexpected. After all, the terrorists have already demonstrated the will to kill for their cause, regardless of the victim's identity. Killing Kayla would probably been seen as a victory.
It's also not going to work if the big twist is related in any way to Dana, Cole, and their little probation officer problem. Never mind that Dana has a particularly bad track record for deception for someone who managed to change her identity so flawlessly that she was hired for a high-profile counter-terrorism job without raising a single red flag. She could have easily dodged this whole mess by making it very clear that national security is more important than a lunatic violating probation. How hard would it have been to say: "Sure, I could take some time to resolve this minor detail. Hope you don't mind the idea of a dirty bomb going off while you're in town because you can't wait for your slot on the priority list."
Why not have the officer call up Director Hastings? At this point, it's not like it's the worst option. Dana knows that being away from her post is only going to make matter worse, so why not let Hastings set the officer's priorities straight? It's not like Hastings has a habit of listening to people. For that matter, assuming that this man is even a probation officer in the first place, couldn't he be charged with interfering with a federal investigation?
Whatever the case, this just extends a plot thread that has already long since worn out its welcome. If it becomes the next major aspect of the season, it would simply kill whatever lingering potential this season has. Within the context of the season thus far, the only logical way to force the story up to the next level would be to denotate that dirty bomb in the middle of Manhattan.
In terms of this episode, the writers deserve credit for doing a great job with Marcos and his standoff with Jack and CTU. It would have been easy for Marcos to fold as soon as his mother was brought into the equation. Instead, the writers kept to their theme and reminded the audience that Jack has come to terms with the horrible things he's done in the name of national security, and that it means he's ready and willing to add to the list if necessary. He may be more hesitant to resort to extreme measures, but that doesn't mean that he'll back down if matters come down to it.
Overall, this episode was a slight improvement over the previous hour, but it is still depressingly average. With the mid-point of the season coming with the next episode, there is the anticipation of a big twist on the horizon. The nature of that twist could very well decide the success or failure of the season.