The gripping second season of "Jericho" continues as citizens of the beleaguered town are forced to deal with the return of Ravenwood, the mercenary group that nearly invaded Jericho months earlier. This time, Ravenwood is not simply a bloodthirsty rogue unit, shooting and looting across the Midwest. Now they are working for The Allied States of America and the country's doughy faced puppet master, Valente (Daniel Benzali).

Needless to say, Jake (Skeet Ulrich), Eric (Kenneth Mitchell) and company are not very pleased to see the return of Ravenwood or its sadistic leader, Goetz (D.B. Sweeney). Fans of "The Cutting Edge," however, might feel differently. Goetz and Jake both do a lot of chest thumping throughout the episode, and it seems to be just a matter of time before their tenuous relationship becomes volatile. Now if this were "The Cutting Edge," they could just settle their differences on the rink. Alas, it is not.

Hawkins makes a new friend

So what else is going on in town? Well, America's favorite deputy returns; and no, it's not Barney Fife (apologies to Don Knotts). It's Jimmy (Bob Stephenson)! Jimbo is out of the hospital and back on active duty. It takes him all of 30 seconds on the job before he makes an inappropriate joke and then nearly blows Hawkins' (Lennie James) cover. Good to have you back on the squad, Jimmy.

Knowing that Major Beck (Esai Morales) has been alerted of his ties to Sarah Mason (by Jimmy), Hawkins decides that he will use that revelation to his advantage. He goes to Beck and reveals himself as an FBI agent (that fake badge is still coming in handy) who has ties to the Columbus government. He begins to plant seeds of doubt in Beck's head about Cheyenne and the Allied State. The two decide to work together on the Sarah Mason case, although Hawkins obviously knows that Sarah is dead since he killed her himself. Still, he and Beck seem to have a good rapport together. Perhaps Jake should be jealous?

Because what is an apocalypse without a superflu?

Dale (Eric Knudsen) returns to Jericho with supplies for his general store, and he is still the same broody adolescent with uncanny business acumen that we all know and love. On his travels across the heartland, he had heard news about the Hudson River Virus (hinted at in the previous episode). Apparently, it is moving westward quickly, and leaving corpses in its wake. It's not quite like the superflu in "The Stand," but it is nevertheless a cause for concern.

Resourceful Dale manages to get his hands on a supply of vaccine through the black market. It is only available illegally because the Cheyenne government and "the company" Jennings & Rall (because what is a good conspiracy without a "company?") don't want people to be inoculated. Or at least not unless it is on their terms. Dale barely gets a chance to unpack the boxes before Goetz shows up and confiscates the entire supply. Because he's mean.

Jake, Dale and the always useless Emily (Ashley Scott) concoct a plan to steal back the vaccines and administer them in secret. They need a doctor to help out, and so Emily goes and recruits everyone's favorite moonshine swilling surgeon, Kenchy! Kenchy (Aasif Mandvi), who is shockingly sober throughout the entire episode, is hesitant to risk his neck but eventually agrees to help out. Despite a few tense moments (and a standoff between Goetz and Jake), the crew succeeds in procuring the vaccine and administering it to about 3,000 lucky folks.

Because it beats dropping a note in his locker

In the closing moments of the episode, Hawkins receives a secret message encoded on a fax. It's not a love letter, but rather a simple phone number. The code was supposedly only known by Hawkins and his team, but considering that most of his team is dead, Hawkins doesn't think it is from one of them. He bites the bullet and calls the number in the message. A mystery man picks up and tells Hawkins that he knows who he is and what his goals are. He says that he wants to help and will be in contact. Then he hangs up. Someone has a secret admirer!

End is near?

The problem of the superflu may be solved, but all is far from peaceful in Jericho. Ravenwood is still in charge, and the mysterious Valente is starting to suspect that Beck ma be questioning his allegiance to the Allied States. Things will only get worse before they get better, although with only four episodes remaining, how much more exposition can there be? The writers planned the final episode of the season to work as either a season or series finale. The way the ratings have looked the past couple of weeks, it's looking more and more like the latter. It will be interesting to see how much ends up getting resolved before the end.

What are your thoughts on this week's episode? Who is the mystery man that was talking to Hawkins? What are your predictions for the rest of the season? Let us know!

Story by Derek Krebs
Starpulse contributing writer