The great thing about "Prison Break" is that even when it does enter the occasional rut of repetition and predictability (and honestly, there aren't many shows that don't), things usually don't take too long to get back on track. That is why it was only a matter of time before the show broke away from the "card an episode" format and we received an exciting new installment that advanced several storylines.

A Day at the Track

Ok, so just because the card an episode formula from the past few episodes was not utilized this week does not mean that there were no cards involved. They are, after all, a major component to the season. We start off with the gang playing dress-up once more, trying to copy that elusive fourth card. Thankfully, after several disastrous incidents, they have finally realized that Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) should not be allowed to have any part in a mission where he would be interacting with other people. Unless of course street fighting is a required component of the endeavor.

The sequence is probably the coolest "spy game" installment yet, almost reminiscent of a mission from "Alias." It involves planting the card-reader in the manager's office at a horseracing facility, then causing an accident to occur during the race. This infuriates the forth cardholder to the point where he storms into the manager's office to complain, thus allowing them to copy his card with the planted device. Thankfully, the card copier manages to get to 100% just as the cardholder decides to leave the office. Funny how that works out, huh?

We're not going to dwell on how they determined that the cardholder would be so upset that he would be the only person seeking out the manager, or how they knew that the manager would remain in his office once the malfunction occurred. Let's just chalk it up to "Prison Break" logic and move on, shall we?

Things start to heat up, and cops swarm on scene to try and prevent a riot. Mahone (William Fichtner) tells Michael (Wentworth Miller) that he should escape before being recognized. Mahone then graciously volunteers to retrieve the card from the manager's office himself. He successfully grabs the card seconds before getting arrested. So much for karma.

Always be nice to the IT guy

Agent Self (Michael Rapaport) finds himself on The Company's naughty list after it was discovered that he was running background checks on The General (Leon Russom). He returns to his office to find an "IT guy" fooling around with his computer, and instantly freaks out. He starts yelling, bobbing his head and flailing his arms as only Michael Rapaport can do. Of course it is quite obvious to the viewer that the "IT guy" does in fact work for The Company, but Self doesn't necessarily know that. And if there is one steadfast rule in the world today, it is this: don't mess with the IT guy. He can make your life hell.

After the invasion of Self's privacy fails to turn up any dirt, The General does what he should have done in the first place and dispatches Termie (Cress Williams) to find out exactly what Self is up to. Naturally, everyone's favorite assassin goes about accomplishing this goal in the most Termie of ways: sneaking up on Self in an abandoned parking garage and giving him a not so subtle warning to stay out of The General's affairs. Why didn't he kill him, you might ask? Well, because he's Michael Rapaport. That's why.

Gretchen Gets a Backstory

So what does Gretchen (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) do now that she has escaped from the clutches of The Company? She stops by the house of what appears at first to be some random lady. Said lady is far from random though, she is dear Gretchen's sister. We get the obligatory scene where Gretchen finally reveals her secret life to sis, and we also discover that the little girl living with Gretchen's sister is in fact Gretch's daughter. Apparently, she gave her sister the baby shortly after birth, knowing that her life of killing, torturing and generally causing harm to a significant number of people probably wouldn't be setting the best example for the kid.

Backstories don't often play too large of a role in the "Prison Break" world, mostly because characters usually aren't alive long enough to warrant one. Gretchen's seems interesting though. This season, her character has become one of the more fascinating ones to watch, right up there with T-Bag.

So what does Gretchen do after leaving home? She follows up on the trail of Whistler. She seems to know quite a bit about the multiple aliases of the mysterious ol' Whistle…maybe she had been secretly working against The Company along with him? She pieces together a few clues and ends up back at Cole Pfeiffer's house, where she encounters the aforementioned T-Bag (Robert Knepper). Teddy ran into some trouble at Gate, and with the suspicion of an associate increasing, he decided that the best thing to do was make a break for it and retreat back to "his" home. That is where he found Gretchen waiting. They should make quite the interesting duo.

What About the A-Plot?

Back to the main story. After Self rescues the card copier from amongst Mahone's belongings, he tells the gang that there is no hope of breaking Mahone out of prison, and that the former federal agent is done for. He does helpfully offer to make Mahone "go away" though. Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) and Bellick (Wade Williams), united as they so often have been this year, both want to go back for Mahone. They worry (and rightfully so) that if either one of them were to get caught, the others would abandon them as well. Their fears are confirmed when Lincoln coldly tells them that if they get arrested, they are as good as gone.

There is much argument about whether they should be rescuing Mahone or going after the fifth card. Naturally, they can't leave Mahone to die, if only because William Fichtner is the best actor in the ensemble. So of course Michael and Lincoln eventually come around, and the team works together to pull off a daring rescue of Mahone as he is being arraigned in court. Things then conclude with Mahone calling up Termie to have a nice chat, in which each promises that he will kill the other. Awww, how sweet. I'll bet that they are in each other's fave five.

What's next?

Just as things were starting to get a little stale, this episode came along and mixed up the pieces a bit. The duo of Gretchen and T-Bag is sure to be short-lived, but there is no doubt that it will prove to be entertaining nevertheless. Throw in a little dissention among the ranks of the main group and all of the unresolved storylines thus far (Xing, the nosebleeds, Self's wife, etc.) and you've got a recipe for a pretty exciting season of television.

Story by Derek Krebs

Starpulse contributing writer