Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Coulson discovered that his magical time in Tahiti might have been a little less “magical” and a little more “necromancical.” Unfortunately, The Clairvoyant figured all this out before him and ordered his minions to create a team of super soldiers to kidnap Coulson to help him remember what the actual heck happened to him after Loki blasted him with that laser gun in The Avengers. Also, we met Agent Victoria Hand, who is a lesbian and a real BAMF in the comic books, but hasn’t done much besides say “protocol” on repeat on this show.
Mr. Vanchat, a Chitauri artifact pirate, is in the middle of making a deal when Agent May and Agent Ward bust up his meeting with a flashing Roomba. With an assist from FitzSimmons and their Seven Dwarfs drones, and Skye and her elevator hacking skills, they chase him to the roof where he finds himself flanked by S.H.I.E.L.D. at large, including Agent Hand, who has taken point on rescuing Coulson. Just kidding, she doesn’t give a crap about Coulson; she just wants to track down and shut down Centipede.
Coulson’s team, however, is much more interested in returning their boss to his rightful place as Captain of the bus. Skye takes matters into her own hands by trying to hack into Mr. Vanchat’s financial records and trace the flow of money in his account backwards maybe a real estate transaction or something that will provide them with a good guess about Coulson’s whereabouts. Hand is, unsurprisingly, unimpressed with Skye’s initiative. She’s still got that bracelet that shuts down all 4G and WiFi connections every time she touches anything electronic because of the stunt she pulled at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ (when she realized S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to sacrifice Ward and Fitz to Russian terrorist) so of course she’s just sitting in her little cubby waiting for Hand to come scold her so she can demand to be set free.
Aaaaand that’s exactly what Hand does. After consulting with May, who assures her Skye is doing them no good aboard the bus, Hand arranges for a team to come dock up and take Skye back to HQ. Skye looks at May like a wounded puppy and Ward looks at May with that bamboozled face he’s always wearing that could mean literally anything at. How could you? Who are you? Do you want a sandwich? The music says he feels a little bit betrayed, though. While Skye is waiting for her escort to exile to arrive, FitzSimmons sneak her a satellite phone that is good for one free call back to base and Ward tells her to enjoy her ride, which will be arriving in exactly 12 minutes. On the way to escaping, Skye snaps at one of the random S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to keep his grubby little hands off Lola.
Skye isn’t the only one who feels like Hand — who is frankly flabbergasted that everyone from Director Fury to Maria Hill is freaking the eff out about Coulson going missing — isn’t doing enough to track down their leader. Ward decides to tackle Mr. Vanchat’s interrogation himself by having FitzSimmons open the roof of the plane and dangle him out in the atmosphere a little bit. He starts giving up his contacts pretty quick after that. And so Ward goes up to the cockpit to whine at May about how she didn’t stand up for Skye, who is their family. May just rolls her eyes and goes, “I wanted her on the ground so she can figure out a way to work around that bracelet and get us a lead on Coulson, dumbass.”
Which is what she does. After accidentally shutting down the wifi in a coffee shop, she takes a different approach and steals a rich guy’s car and smashes it into some trash cans so she can have OnStar tow her to his house where she can use his garage door opener to break in and call his office and masquerade as the LAPD so she can lure him home and log in to his Cayman’s account so she can hotspot microgrid the parallel network file system daisy chain or whatever computer hacker words. The plan goes off without a single hitch. Probably because Skye stole some clothes to make her look like Melinda May and it imbued her with a sense of serenity and otherworldly power. Really the only snafu is when a couple of security guards show up, but she’s a real spy now, so she just flips them onto their noggins and ties them to chairs until she can get her recon done. What she discovers is an abandoned nuclear test site that Centipede bought a couple of months ago. She calls her team — and uses her and Simmons’ safe word(!), manscaping to ensure they’re not being overheard — and they agree to meet her in the desert, much to Agent Hand’s incredulity and dismay.
Coulson actually is out in the desert, hooked up to some psyche-hacking machine that allows people to access their hidden memories, which seems like a real bad idea, if you ask me. I never play hide and seek in my traumatic brainspace. Po isn’t being very patient with Coulson. He keeps shoving his head in the machine and electrocuting him with like a cattle prod and saying menacing things that make Coulson never want to cooperate with him. Raina shows up while he’s on the phone with The Clairvoyant and has a cryptic little conversation with him before handing the phone back to Po who gets his head frozen/poisoned! By his own phone! Gross!
Raina’s interrogation method is much more effective on Coulson. She knows he wants to know what happened to him after the Battle of New York, but more than that, she knows how heartbroken he is to have lost his cellist girlfriend. She plays his broken heartstrings like a ukelele and next thing you know he’s shoving his own head into the psyche-hacker and remembering that Tahiti wasn’t really Tahiti. It was a cold, sterile operating room where a robot put his brain back together while he screamed at the doctors to let him die.
He’s crying out in the real world what he’s remembering in the dream world when his team descends on the compound and stands in a straight line like they always do, like The Power Rangers, before splitting up to conk some baddies on the head and rescue their hero. Skye and May find Coulson first and pull the plug on the machine while he writhes around and begs for death. When he wakes up, he recognizes Skye’s voice and says her name and clutches her hands and it’s the first tears I’ve actually ever cried while watching this show, which is really saying something considering I cry at grocery store sale commercials.
Back on the bus, Coulson is a little beaten up, but seems to be feeling pretty spiffy now that he’s had a shower and suited up. He gives Agent Hand his gratitude and she says she’ll see him soon (which better be true, dudes!) and then his whole team gives him a big group hug.
But in the night, he visits one of the doctors from fake Tahiti and finds out he wasn’t dead for eight seconds; he was dead for multiple days while Nick Fury scoured the planet looking for someone who would do Dark Magic on him. They gave him false memories because he was such a cheerful guy and everyone loved him and they didn’t want him to be irreparably fucking traumatized when he realized he’d been resurrected from the grave by an alien robot spider. Coulson bounces before the doctor can finish his apology.
In the tag: Mike Peterson is still alive! Only now he’s got one of those robot eyeballs so Centipede can control his every move! Oh, Mike! All he wanted to do was buy his son a full set of Avenger’s action figures and now look at him!
What did you think of “The Magical Place”?