Agents Of SHIELD Recap: Tahiti Was Not A Magical Place
And we’re back for an Agents of SHIELD recap after the midwinter break, which is a thing that did not used to happen in television, but is now apparently a thing we all do. At the end of the last episode way back in early December, Coulson let himself be taken hostage by the Centipede folks, because they want to learn what happened to him after he died. Ready? Let’s go.
We open with one of those scenes where everyone is dressed in black on account of how they are probably some sort of ne’er-do-wells. One bad person is selling a Chitauri scrap of something or other to another bad person, but the SHIELD folks come in with a flash bang grenade that allows them to have the cheesiest most low-cost special effect ever, which is basically that they just light the hell out of the room.
Fancy! We have some fistfights and some grunting, because those don’t cost any money, FX-wise. The Chitauri scrap seller runs away but is now the object of some elaborate SHIELD Rube Goldberg trap that involves FitzSimmons deploying some tiny little helicopters and Skye hacking an elevator, so that everyone gets to play their part. Bad guy ends up on the roof where he’s told that he’s going to help SHIELD get to Centipede. Okey doke.
Coulson’s been gone for 36 hours, and looks like Agent Hand is now in charge. (She was many episodes back. You don’t remember her. Do not do what I just did and go spend 20 minutes trying to figure out who she was. She runs the Hub and is the one that sent Ward and Fitz off sans extraction plan in episode seven. Got it? Great.) Also, SHIELD is piling agents on the precious precious plane, which makes our core group of SHIELDies very sad and put upon.
Oh hey look Skye is hacking again! But they need her to! Because even though now this plane is a veritable flying city of specialized super-trained agents and the full NSA-style resources of SHIELD, only Skye knows how to use a computer.
Ooh! Agent Hand wants her off the plane. Immediately! God, we love Agent Hand now. Ward steps up and woodenly explains that Skye is a member of the team, but Hand defers to May, who agrees that Skye should go. We’re liking this episode better all the time. FitzSimmons and Ward rally around Skye and give her a phone and a pep talk, so we know she is going to somehow miraculously hack something and we won’t be rid of her.
Cut to Coulson dreaming of the mythical magical Tahiti that was his own personal death waiting room/recovery room/not sure what. But then he wakes with a start and he’s somewhere grimy and dark and terrifying instead of a sunny tropical place. He’s hooked up to some machine that makes him remember things, but doesn’t force him to say what it is he remembers to his captors, and he will not give up the ghost about dreaming of Tahiti.
The captors are men of one million words, and they explain to Coulson that oh yes he will tell them things, or they will kill his brain with the memory machine and also too that Coulson is sad because he watched Agent Peterson die, which left Peterson’s young son dad-less, which is what happened to Coulson, according to their clairvoyant that no one gets to meet. The clairvoyant, being not the greatest clairvoyant in the world, can only see that Coulson died when his heart was ripped to pieces (ouch) but can’t see what happens after that, so back in the memory machine he goes.
Skye is running around the city trying to hack back into SHIELD via computers at the local coffee shop. This fails, but she then figures out a plan that involves going shopping and stealing a car. Whatevs.
Back on the SHIELD plane, all the other agents are irritating everyone because they are dullards and are not part of the super fun time bonded SHIELD crew we’ve come to know and meh. Ward is sad because the person interrogating our friend from back at the beginning of the episode is insufficiently aggressive, so he’s going in.
Oh good lord, Skye’s car theft was somehow that she was going to be able to use a car computer owned by some banker (which may or may not be significant — we just can’t bring ourselves to care) to hack into SHIELD. Thank god this is a fictional agency because if this thing were actually tasked with keeping us safe, it would be awful. It doesn’t work but now she has another plan that involves crashing the stolen car. No matter what, it will mean that she can break into SHIELD with a butter knife.
Coulson’s managed to escape his handcuffs, but there’s nowhere to run to, really. He ends up outside in a sort of sagebrush hellscape surrounded by creepy mannequins.
It’s an old town that was built as a nuclear testing ground and it is in the middle of nowhere. Perfect for your high-tech interrogations. It’s nice to have wide open spaces for torturing people.
OK, back to Skye and the dumbest hack ever. She crashed the car she stoled so she could get to the banker’s house and then say she was the police?? Can someone flowchart this thing for us please?
Oh, christ. Her plan is that she’s impersonating May and quizzing the banker because she’s following the Centipede money and he’s part of the trail. He says he’s going to lawyer up, but she tells him if he does that, the immunity deal she is offering is off the table. Jesus Christ, show. A megamillions banker is going to know that a random government agent is not a person that can offer him immunity. For fuck’s sake, our MOM knows that. He complies, because he is dumb, like everyone else.
Agent Hard is very sadmad that there’s a great effort being put forth to rescue Coulson, because he’s just one agent. This makes Ward very sadmad too.
Coulson is getting even more of the memory shock treatment thing, but he’s not breaking yet. There’s a squabble between Mr. Po and Raina over methodology that results in the mysterious and not all that talented clairvoyant deciding they’d like to talk to Raina instead. Raina looks like she’s won the lottery and oh also too now Mr. Po is dead, because when you fall out of favor with the clairvoyant, your life is over.
Ward is picking a fight with May about her not sticking up for Skye, but turns out that May tossed her off the plane specifically so that she would be outside the SHIELD system and could operate freely. Oh hey you guys, did you remember they had a plane?
Raina has switched to some nice interrogation of Coulson rather than the naughty. She’s made super soldiers with Centipede, but she can’t bring them back from the dead. Coulson, however, has risen from the dead like Jesus, and she wants his secret. And maybe he kind of wants his secret too, since he’s still fairly uncertain as to his whole path to resurrection.
Skye is hack hack hacking away via the banker’s computer to try to trace some of the Centipede monies, but since she’s still wearing the patented SHIELD No Computing Bracelet, she can’t touch the computer, so a random security guard helps her. Handy! The big payments are flowing from Raina, but didn’t we already sorta know that? This seems like a lot of work to figure out that Raina is a Big Bad with coin to spare since we already knew all that.
Raina is continuing to work Coulson, reminding him about how he loved a lady once, but there was that whole part where he died, so it didn’t work out. Raina knows all about her and how she cried for days after SHIELD told her he was dead. Looks like she’s finally manipulated him hard enough that he’s going to go back under the memory machine and learn about his own regrettable demise, but first we have to go back to the plane, where FitzSimmons have some new improved sleepytime technology to deal with Centipede.
Meanwhile, Skye gives a call to SHIELD to let them know she’s got a hunch where Coulson is in the desert, but Hand wants to take the full crew down to bust up some Centipede labs. Ward tells Hand he’s taking his team to the desert to find Coulson, gosh darn it.
Coulson’s already succumbed to the memory machine though, so he’s remembering Tahiti, which used to be a magical place of attractive women rubbing him and dudes bringing him drinks, but then he sees a doctor walk past in full scrubs demanding to know who ordered this. We don’t know what “this” is, but Nick Fury ordered it.
Cut to Skye heading into the deserted desert town where Coulson is being held all by her lonesome because what a great idea! She’s appropriately creeped out by the mannequins everywhere and then gets spotted by a Centipede soldier. He’s chasing her down but then oh serendipity of serendipities, one of the eleventy million black SUVs owned by SHIELD rolls up and runs the guy over. Look who is here, everybody! SHIELD, come to save the day, and Skye. We’re much happier about the former.
Coulson is still having his brain chewed up by the memory machine, and he’s remembering that the magical place that was Tahiti is just a cover for him coming out of surgery.
He lies to Raina about it though and says he sees nothing. Hmmmmm.
Meanwhile, his brain is racing through some little shop of horrors type remembrances of surgeries past. Coulson is lying on a table begging the doctors to let him die as a fairly creepy little spider robot type thing hummingbirds around his brain, which is just hanging out there for anyone to see.
This is right when May and Skye roll in to unplug the memory machine and save him. The day is saved, Coulson is brought back to the ubiquitous plane, the less charismatic Agent Hand is sent packing, and Coulson takes exactly 30 seconds to thank everyone except Skye, who gets an extra special moment of bracelet taking off. She tries to get Coulson to talk about it, since she heard him begging for death, which makes you a wee bit concerned for a person, usually. He lies and says none of it was real, but he is a super lying liarpants, since he then rolls up on the doctor that he remembered doing the surgery.
Yes, yes, it is that dude from Firefly. No, not that one. That one. Never let it be said that Joss Whedon isn’t loyal to his actors. The doctor comes clean and tells him that Coulson was dead for seconds, or minutes. He was dead for days. Firefly doctor wasn’t brought in until surgery number seven. By that point, Coulson had literally lost his will to live, so the doctors tried to give it back. They’re not speaking metaphorically here — they tried to cram a good memory into his skull, but it didn’t really take.
Welp. That’s depressing. But because the showrunners never trust you to just sit a minute with your emotions or any grief you might feel for a character, the last 30 seconds are the big reveal that Mike Peterson, though amputated and burned, is alive and it looks like he’s been updated with that snappy brain/eye chip that can order you around and kill you. Neat!
Look, had the show handled Coulson’s journey to the truth of his death and resurrection better, this might have been a momentous episode, but the possibility has been teased so long, and in such silly ways, that it is difficult to shift gears and actually care about Coulson, even though what he went through was terrible. The show’s got the rest of the season to fix its thus far critical inability to make you like the characters, and let’s hope they manage to do that. See you next week.