I kind of want to make a list of all the things I loved about this episode. Like Maria Hill, and the Skye/Ward moments, and Lola finally getting some use, and did I mention Maria Hill? Take a page from Coulson and buckle up, because we’ve got two episodes left this season, and if tonight was any indication, we’re in for a hell of a ride.
Washington, D.C. – Former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill is having one of those days. You know, those days where it’s so annoying because your government organization imploded, and people want answers, and god, Congress is like kindergarten, isn’t it? And, sometimes you just really need a cocktail and a lobotomy (as if working for Tony Stark isn’t enough to drive you to both those things on a daily basis.) We eventually find out that the person on the other end of Hill’s venting phone call is none other than Pepper Potts, and it’s good to finally see her name dropped in here when I had been waiting for it ever since the pilot and the Extremis conversations.
(Sidenote #1: I know ABC released some sneak peeks of this scene, but as I didn’t watch any of them beforehand, I honestly thought this Tumblr gifset was made-up text. Never have I been so happy to be wrong!)
(Sidenote #2: At the beginning of the call, Hill is talking to Pepper about a “Man Thing” which was a nice little Easter egg to comic book world: a “Man Thing” is kind of like the Swamp Thing, first appearing in Savage Tales #1 in the 1970’s.)
Anyway, Hill is also doing her nightly surveillance because everyone is on high alert after the events of Captain America 2 and apparently the government is trailing her. May shows up and knocks them all out, before telling her that Coulson needs help. He’s at the Providence base and by the way, he knows all about Project T.A.H.I.T.I. Hill seems unnerved, asking exactly how much he knows, to which May replies that it’s pretty much everything. She’s also afraid that Alexander Pierce was the one giving orders and playing with Coulson’s brain, because Pierce was the only one Fury took orders from. Hill tells her that the only intel Fury had was buried when Coulson should have been buried, and she’s also insistent about the fact that Fury’s dead. Given that we know Samuel L. Jackson is making an appearance in two weeks, I’m so curious to see if this is going to be a “surprise, bitches!” moment or if the team is going to be clued in ahead of time. Hill certainly went through great lengths tonight to convince the team that there’s no way he’s alive, even though May seemed to have her doubts.
Back at the base, Trip, Coulson, and FitzSimmons are watching a feed of Skye and Ward leaving together, and trying to figure out what happened. Nothing seems attacked or out of place, so everyone is thoroughly confused as to how two of their own agents could have simply left a secret base with the team’s main mode of transportation, without telling anyone where they were going. Coulson admits that May left because he told her to, and Trip’s a little haughty about this. (Look, I don’t blame him. Every man for himself, right?) In the midst of all this, Simmons decides that Coulson needs cheering up, and that means food. Specifically, that means pancakes, which she goes to find with Fitz. While Simmons explores the store room, Fitz notices the picture that we saw Skye tinkering with last week in the bathroom during her breakdown, and that it seems to be jammed from scrolling properly. He fixes it, simultaneously finding the message “Ward is Hydra” while Simmons discovers Koenig’s body.
In the hold of the Bus, Ward is spray painting over the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo while Skye looks on a little nervously. She’s trying to figure out a covert way to contact Coulson, but Ward’s keeping her on a pretty tight leash. I have to hand it to Skye: I never thought I’d be the one to say that she was the smartest character on this show, but this episode did nothing but elevate my respect for her. Also, I thought it was some of Chloe Bennet’s best work of the season.
Still playing the part of being in the dark about Ward’s true identity, she talks about how she geo-locked the drive to specific coordinates – a diner in LA. Ward is seemingly confused, but seriously, I don’t see the problem with this. If I was Skye, a diner would be at the top of my list. Skye apparently cares less about omelets than I do, though, saying that her reason for using that location is because it was where this whole crazy ride started. It was where she met Peterson for the first time, plus, tactically, it made sense because it was populated enough that it would be safe if she got in trouble. Skye’s doing a decently good job of staying calm when Ward seems to be all over her, telling her that he’s not going to let her out of his sight until they’re done with their mission. Oh, and he takes her gun, too…so Skye’s basically trying to be as confident as she can while realizing that she may be possibly in over her head.
Back at Providence, Fitz is more or less having a nervous breakdown over the “Ward is Hydra” revelation while Simmons examines Koenig’s body. She confirms that he died ten hours ago and the way he was killed could only have been done by Ward. Coulson manages to calm Fitz down by telling him that he believes in the fact that Skye has a plan. I mean, she wouldn’t have just left with him willingly if she didn’t have a plan, right? … Right?
But really, Skye does have a plan for all of this, and even it ends up backfiring I’m still going to give her a lot of credit for her smarts. She takes Ward to the diner and makes a big deal about how long it’s going to take her to decrypt the hard drive properly, while Ward pushes her to get it done as soon as possible so they can get back to the team (of course.) As she starts to work, we see that she’s not really doing work as much as she is stalling, because the coordinates aren’t right. Ward calls her out for being nervous, and Skye attributes her nerves to the fact that last time she was here, it was with Peterson before everything went wrong. Can’t a girl be a little nervous?
At the base, Trip is helping to repair the monitors while Coulson basically puts everything together from the past few eps: Hand is dead, and if Ward is Hydra, it means he’s working with Garrett, who’s also still alive despite what they were told. Coulson realizes that Ward is after the hard drive that Skye encrypted, just as communications come back online, allowing Trip and Coulson to see that the plane has landed in L.A. Before they can do anything else, though, they’re interrupted by a message that troops are on the ground. Said troops are led by Col. Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), and wait a minute, isn’t this supposed to be a secret bunker? I mean, it took a hell of a lot of time for Coulson’s team to find it in the first place, but I guess if Maria Hill has babbled about your whereabouts, it’s probably not that hard.
In a cemetery, a guy bringing flowers to a grave finds May in one, digging it up like it’s no big deal. I thought initially that she was digging up Fury’s grave to prove that he wasn’t dead after all, but it turns out to be Coulson’s. She finds what she’s apparently looking for – a drive with classified information for Level 10.
Talbot wants to take Coulson and his team away, but Coulson isn’t having it. Remember, this is the man who has spent weeks defending his team, refusing to believe that loyalty isn’t worthless, even though S.H.I.E.L.D. has technically fallen. While FitzSimmons and Trip try to reason with Talbot, who is attempting to get them to spill information, Hill corners Coulson. She attempts to plead her case, trying to persuade him to give up some meaningless intel to get out of this, and Coulson angrily tells her that she basically sold him out. Well, that’s partly true – turns out Hill made a deal with the government to turn over Fury’s base, in return for leniency. Coulson gets even angrier when he finds out that she’s still protecting S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secrets, and argues that she should’ve been straight with him from the beginning. He then tells her about Ward and Garrett, which seems to subdue Hill completely, especially because she vetted him. It’s pretty convenient that Talbot and his men choose that moment to come into the room, because by this point, Hill has had it and I don’t think she’s getting that cocktail anytime soon. Along with Coulson, she effectively takes everyone down and it’s totally, amazingly awesome. (Insert hashtag: MariaHillIsABAMF).
Back at the diner, Skye is talking to Ward about covers and double lies. It’s a smart conversation, where she’s tying to stall and covertly get him to slip up about his Hydra secrets at the same time. She brings up Garrett, and I’m not sure if she knew that this was the point where it was all going to go to hell, but the more she pushes, the more suspicious Ward gets. Skye finally shows him what she’s really been looking at on her computer: the fact that she’s tipped off the police to his whereabouts. “Hail Hydra,” she says bitingly, fully blowing her own cover, as officers come to arrest him. And that was the moment where I actually threw up my hands and said out loud, “go, Skye!”
Unfortunately, the officers are no match for Ward, who takes them all down, while Skye tries desperately to escape by getting the cops to take her in. Ward stops her, but she manages to get the police car and attempts to escape that way, until Deathlok shows up in the middle of the street and unleashes his best “Jesus take the – Bucky, no!” move by ripping the steering wheel out.
Back on the Bus, Deathlok tells Ward that Garrett ordered him to be his shadow. Ward promises he can get Skye to break, asking to be left alone, and what follows is, in my opinion, one of the strongest scenes of the season so far. Skye is upset – really, really upset. Here’s a girl who has been abandoned, who doesn’t really know who she is, and who found a family in Coulson’s team – not to mention in Ward, who took her under his wing more than anyone else. And now she’s just found out that not only has he been playing her the whole time, but that he’s working for an organization steeped in evil. There’s a nice reference to the Hydra backstory with Red Skull (nice to know that S.H.I.E.L.D. teaches you all the important historical moments) but Ward insists that despite everything else, his feelings for Skye are real. It’s a testament to Brett Dalton that I actually believed he was genuine, and who knows? He may really be in this case. But Skye is still hurt, and isn’t having it, even when Ward loses it. “I will never give you what you want,” she tells him.
Deathlok is trying to decrypt the drive on his own with no luck, and gets a message saying that Garrett is done waiting. “Plan B.” Plan B is apparently using Skye’s feelings to force her to save Ward’s life in order to give up the information to unlock the hard drive. Skye tries to appeal to his humanity by referencing Peterson’s son, but it’s pretty futile at this point. He uses a weapon on Ward that stops his heart, essentially goading Skye into letting him die. And to her credit, Skye very nearly does. She saves him at the last minute, though, because Skye’s a lot of things, but she’s not a murderer. She also releases the drive information, telling him that the geo-lock is based on altitude, and it will unlock at 35,000 feet.
As Ward readies the plane for take-off, Hill shows up and orders him to stand down and surrender. The two engage in a pretty nasty verbal battle, where Ward makes me want to punch him in the head for even insinuating that Hill is nothing less than a pretty face. (And we also have our weekly Romanov references. Please keep them coming, show.) Just as they’re about to take off, Coulson sneaks into the plane to rescue Skye. Go, Coulson!
There’s just one small thing: Coulson doesn’t know that Deathlok is on the plane, and isn’t exactly prepared for how to handle that. He improvises by opening up the cargo ramp, where Skye is about to make her escape with the help of a parachute. Forget the parachute, Coulson says. We’re using Lola.
Finally. I mean, this flying car has been sitting around forever and no one uses it! Although after tonight I see why. Maybe that’s what happens when you ignore a pretty awesome piece of potentially helpful Stark tech (somewhere in the heavens, Howard is smiling because 1940’s World Fair be damned, this thing really did manage to become a reality.) I’m not sure what Coulson is more shaken up over – the fact that Lola is a bit rusty when it comes to flying, or the fact that Deathlok basically shot at his beloved car a lot. Nonetheless, they manage to land safely after escaping and Coulson even has time to pay the valet. What a guy!
Ward wants to put the plane down and go after them but Deathlok stops him, saying that Garrett wants them back. Ward’s a little pissed that Deathlok tried to kill him, to which Deathlok answers that he was just following orders. I wonder if this moment is going to affect anything between the two, though Ward seems to be pretty entrenched in his Hydra loyalties at the moment.
At a motel somewhere in L.A., the team (and Hill) are slowly realizing for maybe the first time that there is basically no more S.H.I.E.L.D., which means no more Fury, which means no more back-up, which means they’re completely on their own. Coulson is still struggling to hold onto the belief that the organization can be saved, and Hill gently tries to convince him that he should disband the team when this is all over. “Stark would take you in a heartbeat,” she adds, and really, it broke my heart to hear Coulson admit he couldn’t even say hi to his friend, because Stark still believes he’s dead.
FitzSimmons share a moment at the pool, where Fitz basically forces Simmons to admit that she’s not Hydra. Can someone please get these two a room, and maybe some truth serum? Because if they don’t have it out about their feelings before the end of the season, I’m going to be really upset. Meanwhile, Trip eats junk food (this is an important fact, y’all) and Coulson and Skye bond over being homeless. Coulson promises they’ll find Ward and Garrett, and that’s when Skye tells them she left a little present on the hard drive that should help. Again, I’ll say it – score one for Skye.
When Coulson gets back inside the hotel, he finds May, who’s come back. Their reunion is cut short by May insisting there’s something he needs to watch, and she pulls out the drive she recovered from his grave. What’s on the drive? It’s Coulson. It’s Coulson giving a video report about Project T.A.H.I.T.I., giving his resignation, recommending complete termination of the project – designed to bring back fallen Avengers – due to the fact that the side effects are completely unstable. The only way the side effects have been able to be combated is through memory replacement, but even that has its drawbacks. Essentially, Project T.A.H.I.T.I. is something that no one should ever experience, ever. And with Coulson’s shocked face, we fade to black…
I really thought at first that maybe we were seeing a LMD in the video, but after thinking it over and hashing it out with a friend, it makes sense that Coulson was the one giving the report, and simply doesn’t remember anything before his own memory was wiped. And man, I can’t wait to see how this plays into the last two episodes.
Line of the night: “If I come out, will you shoot me? Because then I won’t come out.” - Coulson
What did you think of “Nothing Personal?” Did you love all the Maria Hill moments? And can we get Cobie Smulders on board as a series regular for next season? I hear she’s a free agent now. (More importantly: did she ever get her cocktail? I think Pepper still owes her one.)