Last night’s episode of Agents of SHIELD was pretty much chock full of temporary, uncomfortable team-ups. And the best part? Placing bets on who’s going to betray whom first. It’s like a race! Spoilers ahead...
So in “The Frenemy of My Enemy,” Coulson has to break the terrible news to Fitz that he’s decided to work with Grant Ward, the guy who nearly drowned Fitz and left him with permanent brain damage. Fitz is not happy about this news, and later tries to attack Ward on board the team’s stolen quinjet, but the Ward-Coulson alliance is less a team-up and more a circular firing squad in any case.
Coulson tracks down Ward, now that Fitz has given him Nick Fury’s magical “toolbox,” and takes the face-changing Agent 33 hostage. Then when Ward comes for her, Coulson offers a deal: Ward helps Coulson infiltrate Hydra, and in return Coulson will use the TAHITI protocol to wipe Ward’s bad memories, leaving him a nicer, more amnesiac person. And then Ward will be free to go.
As Ward observes, it’s not a great offer. Plus Coulson makes a big point of saying he promises it with all his authority as Director of SHIELD — a position that he arguably no longer holds. Soon enough, Ward suspects a double-cross, and Coulson is already watching for Ward’s own double-cross. And Ward tells Agent 33 that he’s just using Coulson to get to his own end-game, which will leave Agent 33 perfectly restored, and the two of them free.
But given that Ward’s plan depends on the performance of the brainwashed Hydra operative Bakshi, both Ward and Coulson may end up holding the bag together.
Their plan goes wrong in so many ways, it’s actually hard to tell who betrays whom. Bakshi goes to meet with Dr. List, one of the top Hydra leaders (besides Baron von Strucker) who’s been experimenting on superpowered people like Ethan (the poor kid that the Inhumans let out to go backpacking). And Bakshi brings Deathlok, who can keep an eye on everything for Coulson — except that Bakshi immediately offers Deathlok for List and Strucker to experiment on and brainwash.
Deathlok nearly goes ballistic and kills List, Bakshi and the other Hydra goons, and meanwhile Coulson, Ward and the others are too busy holding each other at gun- and knifepoint to intervene. But after they “talk” Deathlok down, List takes Bakshi, not to see Strucker, but to look for Gordon the teleporting Inhuman. Instead, they find Skye, her father Cal, and Lincoln the Tomorrow Inhuman.
In the ensuing clusterfight, Lance Hunter gets badly injured, Deathlok and Lincoln get captured by Hydra, Skye sees Coulson with Ward, and then Skye and Cal get zapped away by Gordon the eyeless teleporter. It’s not actually clear if Bakshi has reverted to type and is fully loyal to Hydra, or if he’s playing some other game of Ward’s, or a little of both.
It’s kind of sad that Coulson gets reunited with Skye for such a brief moment, especially since Skye has just re-embraced the fact that she’s a SHIELD agent.
Actually, in an episode that’s full of people making weird alliances of convenience, it’s notable that one of Skye’s main choices is to reaffirm her old allegiance. She casually refers to herself as a SHIELD agent in front of the other Inhumans, early on in the episode, and thinking of herself as an agent guides all of her decisions in the episode.
Skye could easily have decided that her SHIELD status was revoked, after Coulson parked her in the Hulkproof cabin and then SHIELD sent armed men to come take her out. And given that she finally has a place to belong, with her mom and other people like herself, she might easily figure that the SHIELD thing was just a wrong turn she took at one point.
But instead, she decides that she still belongs to SHIELD, and that her first priority is to protect innocent people from the crazy rampage her dad is about to go on. Plus she genuinely seems to feel sympathy and even kinship for her dad, who’s full of regrets for all the Science Fair volcanoes they didn’t get to build together while he was missing her childhood.
The Inhumans don’t want Calvin “Mr. Hyde” Zabo in their secret day spa any longer, and they’ve already fulfilled his wish for a family dinner with his ex-wife Jiaying and his daughter Skye. So they plan to take him home to Milwaukee to “fetch some of his stuff,” then just dump him there. Skye convinces Jiaying to let her go along, so she can soften the blow.
(Also in Inhuman-land this week, Jiaying and Gordon are worried about the missing Ethan, as they should be, and Gordon is pretty stoked about the potential for using the apparently clairvoyant Raina to see trouble coming.)
And despite being a psychotic freakazoid, Cal really is kind of endearing in his endless sadness and regret — Milwaukee isn’t the place he remembers, and all the places he wanted to show Skye are gone. Instead, he’s stuck taking her to his old office building, which is full of roaches (and while there, Skye learns her real full name, Daisy Johnson.)
But in her zeal to protect innocents from her dad’s meltdown, Skye complicates things — she steals a cellphone and calls Melinda May, summoning a SHIELD team to come and get her and contain Calvin. She doesn’t realize that Melinda May is apparently no longer working for Coulson.
So what is going on with Melinda? She told Coulson that as long as he’s free, SHIELD still exists, but since then she’s apparently found out more about the secrets that Coulson was keeping from her and everyone else — like his weird off-the-books purchases, and his dealings with her ex-husband Andrew. And the Theta Protocol, which he talked to Koenig about, but may not have told Melinda about.
Is May really on board with the “Real SHIELD”’s initiative to hunt and investigate Coulson, as if he were a traitor? Doubtful. She’s probably just playing along, and possibly communicating with Coulson in secret.
But May definitely helps the Real SHIELD gang a lot this week — she gets Simmons to admit that the “toolbox” that Simmons has been trying to open is a fake, and Fitz took the real box to Coulson. And then she shares this info with everyone else, to Simmons’ chagrin. Then she convinces Simmons to work on hacking into Deathlok’s cyborg eye, so they can see what Coulson is up to. This is all supposedly in the interest of clearing Coulson’s name, except that Gonzales and friends seem to have found him guilty already.
May definitely does not seem happy to discover that Coulson is teaming up with Ward, when they see this through Deathlok’s cyborg eye.
And meanwhile, just as May seems to be believing that Coulson might be a collossal liar, Bobbi is reconsidering her position — finally wondering why they’re going after one of their own, instead of concentrating on fighting Hydra, which is still out there. (This didn’t bother her before?) She muses that Hunter may actually have been right — but meanwhile, Hunter tells Fitz he would never work with Bobbi again.
In the end, Mack and Bobbi turn up to look for Skye in Milwaukee, but they’re too late for the party. The fight between Hydra, Coulson’s team, and the Inhumans is over, and there’s nothing left but dead bodies. Plus Coulson, who surprises them by surrendering and offering to tell them everything
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