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'Agents of SHIELD': Can Coulson be trusted?

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Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Tuesday’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Coulson has some serious ‘splainin’ to do.

After rescuing Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) from his “real” S.H.I.E.L.D. tail, Coulson (Clark Gregg) tracks down the most unlikely of allies in a bid to find Skye (Chloe Bennet): former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent-turned-Hydra spy Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). 

Using Bakshi (Simon Kassianides) to get a meeting with Dr. List (Henry Goodman), Ward naturally double-crosses Coulson by also sending in Deathlok (J. August Richards) as an offer to Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), who has been collecting super-powered people—like Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. (See also: Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron.) But List has other important tasks before meeting with Strucker, including tracking the teleporter, a.k.a. Inhuman Gordon (Jamie Harris).

Little do they know that Gordon has been keeping watch on Skye, who had pleaded with her mom, Jaiying (Dichen Lachman), to let Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) down gently instead of just abandoning him in his hometown of Milwaukee. Things go awry when Hydra arrives, forcing Gordon to grab Skye just before she can reunite with Coulson. Because Hydra gets its hands on Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) and Deathlok, Coulson decidedly turns himself in to “real” S.H.I.E.L.D.—though it won’t be an easy reunion.

“I don’t think anybody’s suspicions about Coulson being a zombie doing the will of the Kree on the part of ‘real’ S.H.I.E.L.D. have necessarily abated. But he shows up with some info and some goods,” Gregg tells EW. But even Coulson’s own team is wary after hearing rumblings that Coulson had been funneling money and resources into the mysterious Theta Protocol.

“May definitely has serious doubts at this point about Coulson’s agenda, whether he’s been lying to her this entire time,” Ming-Na Wen says. “He has. But on the flip side, she’s done the same to him. There is a sense of understanding, in a weird way. For May right now, there’s still some hope that he has an agenda that she just needs explained.”

But a simple explanation won’t come easily, since Coulson’s plans include working with Ward, who has made enemies across the board at S.H.I.E.L.D. “Simmons still wants to trust Coulson, but she has so much hatred for Ward,” Elizabeth Henstridge says. “She blames him for the relationship with Fitz breaking down. Both Fitz and Simmons are nowhere near forgiving Ward, so to see those two together, I think immediately makes her question. She’s very worried at this point. She’s also worried if she can trust May. All of a sudden May is the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0. She feels very alone because she was kind of getting there with Fitz, but then he goes off with the box, which was the plan. And now she’s realizing that she’s here on her own and potentially in a dangerous situation again. I don’t think she’s totally against Coulson, but I think she’s [like], ‘WTF, sir?'”

The issue of trust will be a running theme throughout the rest of the season, especially when it comes to Coulson’s new mission. “The impression I get is that Gonzalez [Edward James Olmos] is willing to let them go do this incredibly long-shot mission on the belief if they pull it off, fantastic, and if they get themselves knocked off in the process, it’s one less thing they have to deal with,” Gregg says. “There is some kind of respect between Coulson and Gonzalez and a hell of a lot of wariness. They’re just very different leadership styles.”

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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