Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Simmons contracted an alien plague from a leftover Chitauri helmet from the Battle of New York, so she threw herself out of The Bus about 40,000 feet above the Atlantic so as not to infect her fellow agents. She didn’t realize she’d discovered a cure, so Fitz decided to dive after her, but handed over his ‘chute to Ward at the last minute. She lived. Another person who lived: Coulson, though he began to question the hows and why of his resurrection. His self-ordered physical said he was a perfectly fine human being, thank you very much, but his heart said he was some kind of robot clone decoy.
Cold Open! Coulson finally gets to do some field work, snowmobiling into enemy territory to extract some guy named Agent Shaw who has stolen black-ops info stored in a capsule in his nostril. Once Simmons pulls the bogey-tube free, Coulson announces that they’ll be dropping off Shaw and his intel at The Hub, which sends everyone into a feverish tizzy because probably The Hub has stuff in the cafeteria that’s like foot-long Hulk Dogs and Captain A Cupcakes. Or maybe there’s a chance you’ll get to see Loki while you’re there, and even though that probably means you’ll end up dead, who cares really, because LOKI! Skye is psyched about The Hub also, but only because she thinks it’ll allow her access to her parents’ classified file.
Sadly, we don’t get to see Loki at The Hub. But we do peep Agent Victoria Hand, who towers over Coulson like some kind of super-serum situation and also has a pink stripe in her hair and is one of Marvel’s very few lesbians in the actual comics and so we’d better get to see her doing lady-lady things before this season if over! She invites everyone with Level 7 clearance or higher to listen in on the bogey-capsule intel debrief, so Ward and May follow Coulson inside while Fitz and Simmons skip off to do whatever nerd stuff. Skye does not have Level 7 clearance; nor is she an agent. So basically the retina-scanner panel just chains her ass right to the wall. She gawks at Coulson like, “For real?” And he just smiles that little smile of his and shrugs.
The bogey-capsule reveals some pretty startling information: A Russian separatist group has acquired a piece of tech called an “Overkill Device” that can vibrate its way into any weapons system in the world and detonate at its leisure. This group plans to use some nuclear bombs in Georgia to gain its freedom from Russia. Sounds like a job for Ward and May, right? Wrong! It’s actually a job for Ward and Fitz. The latter spends ten minutes trying to make his way through a set of sliding glass doors, to no avail. May feels weird about letting Fitz go into the field because he’s Fitz. Simmons feels weird about letting Fitz go into the field because she loooooves him. But when Victoria Hand says a thing is happening, that goddamn thing is happening. So Simmons sends Fitz on the way with a sandwich. (Which also is my love language, to be honest. You feed me a grilled cheese sandwich and my heart is yours.)
Skye’s got a sneaky hacker intuition that something is amiss with this plan, so she coaxes Simmons—who says she doesn’t want any of Skye’s “bad girl shenanigans,” which is a lie—to help her hack into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s database. Their covert plan includes science, at which Simmons excels, and also flirting, at which Simmons is awful. (Unless you are a lesbian, in which case this awkward geekiness is a siren song to your pants.) When Agent Sitwell catches Simmons trying to work around a wall panel, he confronts her and she babbles at him for several minutes—”I like men who are about my height, but heavier than me”—before giving into instinct and zapping him with a laser gun. While she’s flipping out about attacking a superior officer, Skye makes a break for the S.H.I.E.L.D. computer lab, where she first tries to hack into her parents’ file before deciding Ward and Fitz are more important. She pulls up their mission specs and realizes S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t provided them with an extraction plan.
Skye chases down Coulson to tell him about her discovery, but he tells her to trust the system about 100 times before chasing down Hand, himself, to shout at her about Skye’s discovery. She tells him what he told Skye, about trusting the system, and also she legit goes, “Romanov never needs an extraction plan,” and Coulson rolls his eyes at her so hard because there’s only one Natasha Romanov and she’s Natasha Romanov. So Coulson seeks out May for some therapeutic babbling. She does tai chi while he yammers on, rolling her eyes at him one good time, and he finally comes to the conclusion that he should trust the system.
This one time, May does not agree with him. Like at all. So she and Skye and Simmons decide to make an extraction plan of their own, which is a good thing because:
As soon as Ward and Fitz cross the border into Russia—thanks to a big assist from Fitz’s new Russian mobster girlfriend, who really likes his curly hair and electrician savvy—they find themselves under attack by separatists. They hide out in a drainage pipe all night and even though it is very likely that they will be dead by morning, Ward throws out the sandwich Simmons made for Fitz because of tracking dogs. He throws it like ten inches away from where they’re hiding, which is ineffective which makes it even more offensive. The next morning, they zip themselves up in a chameleon mag pouch and hitch a ride on the bottom of a truck headed for the separatist’s lair.
Once Simmons starts disarming the Overkill Device, Ward signals for their extraction—and then he realizes their extraction’s not coming. They’ve been sent in on a suicide mission. He tries to give Fitz a head start on escaping, so he can maybe get to safety while Ward finishes disarming the world’s largest vibrator, but Fitz says he’s staying until the end this time, dammit. Ward gets it. It’s about Simmons. He tells Fitz he knows he would have gone after Simmons last week, and Simmons knows it too, so make a run for it and they can live happily ever after and make some real smart babies with real sexy accents. But Fitz won’t go.
It’s OK, though: May and Skye and Simmons are on their way to do a rouge extraction for their boys, and guess who else is there? Coulson, duh. He’s started to think the system isn’t worth trusting after all. Especially because they’ve made him into a cylon but won’t tell him so.
In the command room at The Hub, Agent Hand sends a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. bombers to the separatist compound and then smiles a sly little smile to herself when she realizes Coulson has gone off-book to save his team. Is it because she respects the way he’ll protect his family even if it means going against her orders? Nu uh. Not the Victoria Hand I know. She’s smiling because she’s got Coulson’s number and some dirt on him. She’s whip-smart and as opportunistic as all get out. Come back soon, Agent Hand! Your ways bewitch me!
Back on the bus, Fitz and Simmons geek out about how accidentally bad ass they both were in each other’s absence, Skye tries (and fails) to make Ward act like a human with feelings, and May promises Coulson to help him get to the bottom of what happened to Skye’s parents. See, ’cause somebody dropped off that girl at an orphanage many years ago, and that somebody was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
Oh, and Coulson also tries to access his medical records, but is straight-up denied.
All in all, another solid episode of a show that’s finally finding its feet. Changing up the interpersonal dynamics was a smart move. It made Fitz and Simmons more lovable than ever, which, frankly, I thought was going to be a very hard thing to do after the first few episodes. It’s time for an episode devoted to May, though. I love to see her stoic badassery, but Skye burned her good and proper this week. “Which non-expression is this?” she asked. I want more May!
What did you think of “The Hub”?