By Andrea Towers
March 05, 2014 at 06:06 AM EST
Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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“Oh, dear. I’m a mess.” Those words, said with all the English delicacy that Jemma Simmons can muster, pretty much sums up what I believe should be fans’ emotional state after this episode. Returning after a month-long break, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. came back in a big way. From the beginning (poor Skye!) to the end (Lorelei!) to all the action in between, the hour was an intense ride that really showed the ways in which the series is finally starting to find its feet and take advantage of its storytelling.

We pick up almost exactly where we left off in the previous episode, with Skye pretty much close to death after getting shot by Quinn and being brought into the S.H.I.E.L.D. trauma center in Switzerland. The show isn’t holding anything back, and we’re not taking any easy roads out of this, either…because from the looks of it, Skye’s pretty much screwed unless someone can perform a miracle. (Or find a miracle serum.) The entire team camps out in the waiting room, while Ward and Fitz continue to blame themselves for the situation. May tries to talk them out of their guilt — it’s on Quinn, not them — and Coulson is just upset, leaving angry phone calls as he tries to get in touch with Director Fury.

We basically find out that the bullet perforated Skye’s stomach and penetrated her small and large intestines, and the only options are keeping her on life support or taking her off of it. This is where May finally loses it and, like any good bad-ass, she takes out her anger by marching right into the room where they’re holding Quinn hostage, proceeding to beat the ever-living crap out of him. I admit it — I cheered. Go Melinda May!

It’s Coulson and Ward who get her to stop, telling her she needs to fly the plane to Bethesda, because they’re going to try to save Skye another way. Coulson wants to bring Skye to the doctors that brought him back from the dead, because if they could resurrect him from being impaled by an Asgardian, they could certainly repair a simple bullet hole, right? Right. The drastic measure forces Coulson to come clean to FitzSimmons about everything that happened after the Battle of New York, which eventually gets around to everyone, so by the end of the episode, no one’s really in the dark anymore about Tahiti.

Both Fitz and Simmons are basically in shock about the truth concerning Coulson’s resurrection, with Simmons claiming that it’s “medically impossible.” Coulson hands over his medical records, clearance level be damned, and instructs them to find out about what was used to save him so they can use that information to fix Skye. I’m pretty sure at this point, Simmons would jump out of a plane for Skye, so it doesn’t really take much convincing. (I also really want the Skye/Simmons slumber party now. Someone make this happen.)

Ward finds May piloting The Bus and asks about Coulson, seeming surprised that she already knew what he was just finding out. He’s a little skeptical of the whole thing — flying halfway around the world to try to find a magical miracle cure that may not even work and really, how does that make any sense? May shuts up him pretty quickly, telling him “people like us need people like him. So yeah, it makes sense.” (To her credit, May does show the smallest hint of emotion when Ward tells her he enjoyed watching her go after Quinn, but that may have been more satisfaction than anything else.)

Their talk is interrupted by three S.H.I.E.L.D.-issued planes who are attempting to descend on The Bus, because apparently, not handing over Quinn for interrogation meant that the team disobeyed a direct order. So what’s S.H.I.E.L.D. going to do? Make them hand him over, of course. Coulson’s not happy about this, and not just because it means that he now has to deal with more authority. “They scratch my plane, I’m gonna be pissed,” he tells Ward. (Well, now you understand why Fury was so upset that you pretty much destroyed his plane AND the bar…)

Turns out that the S.H.I.E.L.D. guys that come aboard to find Quinn are Agent Garrett (Bill Paxton) and Agent Triplett (B.J. Britt), with Garrett being Ward’s old handler and Trip being the guy that replaced Ward when he joined up with Coulson. It’s a slightly awkward reunion all around, through less intense than I expected. I actually enjoy that the show didn’t go the cliché route of making Paxton’s character the bad guy, and I thought his chemistry with Clark Gregg really added to the episode.

Garrett tries to get Coulson to give up Quinn, which leads Coulson to question his motives. Turns out Garrett wants Quinn because of personal reasons as well — he lost three of his own men to him — and he’s been on the hunt ever since. Trip just wants to know how Coulson got such a nice plane (“He died,” Ward deadpans) before he tries to get Ward to give up Quinn’s location. The two erupt in a fight, before Coulson and Garrett break them up to explain they have come to a compromise: Garrett gets to interrogate Quinn, as long as Coulson can keep him on the plane.

And oh, what an interrogation. Quinn’s still smarting from May’s attack, and Garrett seems to have done his training at The Jack Bauer School of Intense Torture given the way he almost rips Quinn’s tongue out of his mouth. “I shot Skye because the Clairvoyant told me to” is all Quinn gives up when he’s pressed. He then tells Garrett it wasn’t just luck that led him to find and kill his men, that the Clairvoyant spoke to him on that, too. “You think it was just a roll of the dice? It was the Clairvoyant. The Clairvoyant sees everything. Except what happened to him.” After telling Garrett the truth about his death, Coulson finally realizes that this means what the Clairvoyant really wants is to figure out how Coulson survived, and that he’ll do anything to find out.

Meanwhile, Fitz and Simmons, baffled by medical records, are trying to figure out how Coulson is technically alive. They call in May, alerting her to the fact that despite what Coulson thinks, he was never treated in Bethesda. In fact, not only is the facility, including the doctors and the operating room, not a part of S.H.I.E.L.D., none of it exists at all. They tell Coulson about their findings, and he’s quick to shoot them down. “This is S.H.I.E.L.D., there are always secrets,” he argues, still not believing they can’t find a way to save Skye based on how he was saved himself. He expects May to talk him out of it, but she’s in agreement with doing whatever needs to be done, as long as they remember one thing: acknowledging that “if we do everything to save Skye, we’ll give the Clairvoyant exactly what he wants.” But guess what, Clairvoyant? Family trumps fear. Game on.

Fitz and Simmons figure out that Coulson was injected with some sort of element that acted as a miracle drug, called GH325. The only problem? Simmons has no idea where to find it. But surprise! Fitz does, and this is why these two are awesome, because they’re getting each other’s back in the smallest of ways and it’s such a joy to watch them work. Fitz has a lead from a contact at the Triskelion, which allows them to gain access into a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. files. (Spoiler alert: FitzSimmons knows how to use holograms. Coulson and Ward, take note.)

They find a file detailing a World War II bunker called “Guest House,” which Simmons determines is the “GH” in the drug. It’s not a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, but they figure out that given the Level 10 operative information, Fury has been there. Gaining further access looks to be impossible thanks to an encrypted file, but before the science bros can lament the fact that they don’t have Skye here to help them crack it, they discover that the encryption is actually a map.

Coulson, Ward, Fitz and Garrett take on the mission to go into the bunker, while May, Trip and Simmons stay with Skye on the plane. The place seems deserted, but upon attempting to gain access, Coulson is asked for a passcode. He tries (a little too nicely) to reason with the security men before Garrett gets antsy and just take the easy way out by shooting the security camera, which allows them to force their way inside.

Thanks to Fitz’s lock picking skills and gadgets, they manage to find their way through the facility, where they realize communication with The Bus has been cut. Soon after, they’re met by an attack from the guards of the Guest House. Coulson (again!) tries to reason with them, but to no avail, and the team takes down one guard and injures another. Coulson attempts to get the injured guard to talk, asking him about the drug, and the guard seems to recognize Coulson, which immediately throws him off. “Do I know you?” He asks the guard. “Do you know about the timer?” the guard asks in return, and the team soon realizes that the place is rigged to blow. Fortunately, Ward and Garrett have this covered. They attempt to disarm the explosives while Coulson keeps searching for the drug, finding instead the operating room that he was treated on. His flashback triggers memories that lead him to search a storage room, and with the help of Fitz, he finds the elusive GH325 in a locked cabinet. Coulson instructs Fitz to take it back to Skye, but he stays behind to search, his interest piqued by a large, metal door simply marked “T.A.H.I.T.I.”

So, apparently there’s a difference between “Tahiti” and “T.A.H.I.T.I.” Tahiti, as we know, is a slew of false memories designed to make Coulson think that he went on a relaxing vacation instead of, you know, dying. T.A.H.I.T.I. is the name of the secret facility where he was actually revived. Clever, right? (And no, I have no idea what it means, if it means anything at all. I’ve actually spent far too long trying to be smart and figure this out, but I’m at a loss. Then again, I would have never figured out S.H.I.E.L.D. on the first try, either.)

Unable to disarm the timer, Garrett goes to rescue Coulson, finding him wandering through the facility as if in a daze and freaking out about how they can’t give Skye the serum. He doesn’t explain his sudden change of heart, though, and the team manages to escape right before the Guest House collapses, leaving Garrett to note that at least the Clairvoyant won’t be able to track them there.

Back on The Bus, Trip and Simmons are having a bonding moment over Simmons’ loyalty to Skye. Their sweet exchange is interrupted, however, when Skye starts to take a turn for the worse, which results in the three desperately trying to keep her alive until Coulson and the team return. Once Fitz returns with the magical serum, they inject it despite Coulson’s warnings, and after a few scary moments (seriously, I was actually starting to think they might go for it), Skye stabilizes and seems to improve. Instead of being relieved, Coulson looks upset, which doesn’t go unnoticed by May and Ward.

Garrett and Coulson return to Quinn, telling him that because Skye lived, they won’t be killing him — instead, Skye will testify against Quinn. Garrett also calls out the Clairvoyant for being a “no-show,” claiming that maybe Quinn was the one that was being played all this time, instead of thinking he was playing everyone else. Garrett removes Quinn from The Bus and hints to Coulson that he may be seeing him soon (we know that Bill Paxton has at least a four episode arc, so let’s all hear it for more Agent Garrett!) Personally, I never would have thought Paxton’s guest appearance would be so fun, but I really enjoyed what he brought to the team.

While Skye recuperates, May comes to talk to Coulson to find out why he’s not happy about saving Skye’s life, and why he was so against trying to save her with the thing that saved him. Coulson doesn’t really respond, but through a flashback, we see what happened after Coulson entered the T.A.H.I.T.I. door, and how he found a bunch of GH serums hooked up to a series of tubes, which were hooked up to a chamber also called “GH.” Inside the chamber? A seemingly half grown man with guts and organs lying in disgusting blue goo, whose identity – and origins – remain a mystery. It’s understandable that this kind of thing would freak anyone out, but let’s just think for a moment about how Coulson is remembering how he was just dead himself, and the fact that he knows Skye could be a part of that, now…well…let’s just say that I can see why he was a little spooked. But what’s done is done, and Skye is alive, and it also means that near death experiences aside, Coulson and Skye are linked in a way that no one else will really understand. This should prove interesting for their already close relationship, and maybe having shared PTSD-like reactions will help them to grow even closer.

Initially, I was surprised when the episode seemed to end at least five minutes ahead of time, but that was before we were treated to what could be considered an extended tag. In Death Valley, a woman is seen crossing the desert, coming across a motel with two newlyweds. While the wife is inside checking out, the girl approaches the husband, at first seemingly flirting (because obviously, all versions of flirting involve asking, “is all of Midgard this desolate?” Unless you’re Thor. Then it involves smashing your coffee cup on the floor and demanding “another!”) She compromises the poor man, persuading him to give her a ride down the highway, where he also mentions he’ll protect her at whatever the cost. Ah, Lorelei. Ever the whore. (Nice introduction, right?)

Next week, the Asgardians descend on Earth as we see more of Lorelei, and also Jaimie Alexander’s Lady Sif (check out that fight scene preview!) But what did you think of this week’s episode? What are your theories on the half-grown man? And did you really think Skye would die? (I kind of wanted them to go there for shock value. But it was still a good scare.)

Episode Recaps

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) assembles a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to handle strange new cases.

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  • ABC
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