After not finding Daisy at their rendezvous point, Simmons decides to look up Coulson. He doesn’t remember her, of course – only his life as a teacher. But as Simmons pushes him more and more, it seems like she might be breaking through. She finds a hula-skirt doll on his desk, a symbol of Tahiti, indicating that his subconscious mind might be struggling against the Framework’s code. It’s a good showcase for Elizabeth Henstridge, who pours her heart into the scene and really gives it power from the years we’ve spent watching Simmons and Coulson’s relationship grow. Even after all that, though, it doesn’t quite work. After Simmons leaves, Coulson immediately picks up the phone to report a “subversive” to Hydra.
Luckily, on the way out, Simmons runs into the student who asked Coulson if Hydra are Nazis. Even though she still thinks of everyone in this world as creations of code, Jemma comforts him and tells him that he is right: “They’re all Nazis. Every one of them. Don’t you let anyone forget it.”
When Fitz, torturing Vijay with a gigantic evil-looking machine, is interrupted by the report of this subversive, he demands that every asset in the area be mobilized to catch her. Just as Coulson’s brain still has the T.A.H.I.T.I. connection, it sure seems like there’s something inside Fitz that remembers Jemma, even if he doesn’t quite understand how or why.
Luckily, Daisy overhears this report and goes to find Simmons. She’s interrupted by Ward, who wants to know why she’s acting so strange, but she’s able to produce a convincing in-universe excuse about their relationship. Nevertheless, Ward follows Daisy to her rendezvous with Jemma, where he makes a revelation: He’s part of the resistance! He joined this universe’s “resistance” in order to protect Daisy (secretly an Inhuman, of course, though she can’t access her powers inside the Framework). He helps them get away from the Hydra pursuers.
Going over things later, Simmons and Daisy realize that Radcliffe programmed the Framework to take away people’s pain, and it did. May’s biggest pain was the Bahrain incident, so in this universe she never killed that girl – with massive consequences for the world. Daisy’s most recent pain was Lincoln’s death, so now she’s in a healthy, happy relationship. The two women note that the universe is so lifelike it’s dangerous to stay in for very long, so they try to get out and get backup – but it doesn’t work. They’re trapped in the Framework, for now.
We soon find out why. Fitz goes to make a report to his superior, the Director of Hydra herself: AIDA! She’s closed the loophole to trap Simmons and Daisy and now wants to “tighten the noose.” But first she makes out with Fitz a bit, because isn’t that the whole point of an alternate reality?
Now it’s Daisy’s turn to try getting through to Coulson. Simmons’ attempt didn’t work, but Daisy is feeling very down about being trapped in a Hydra world, and brainwash or no, Coulson is the only real family she has. Luckily, this deep connection works, and the episode ends with Coulson asking “Daisy?”
Good premiere with lots of fun twists! Excited to see where this story line goes, though a VR world is slightly different than Marvel’s typical alternate universes and dark futures. Since most people are virtual, I think the show will need to be careful to establish the right stakes and make us care about incidental characters like the “Hydra are Nazis” kid.