Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review 1.14 - 'T.A.H.I.T.I.'
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 03.05.2014
Agent John Garrett assists Coulson and the team as they try to track down a cure for Skye! But will the team find more than they bargained for? 411'S Wyatt Beougher checks in with his full review of "T.A.H.I.T.I.!"
Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The team tried to track down Ian Quinn by hijacking a package intended for him, but they were outsmarted by an Italian intelligence team that was on Quinn’s payroll. Fitz and Skye managed to find Quinn, but by the time the rest of the team arrived, Mike Peterson was Deathlok and Quinn had already shot Skye twice, leaving her for dead.
Season 01, Episode 14: T.A.H.I.T.I.
Coulson and Simmons escort Skye with a medical team to a surgical suite in what appears to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. base in Zurich, where they immediately begin surgery on Skye. In the waiting room, Coulson angrily tries to contact Fury to no avail, while Fitz and Ward blame themselves for Skye being in the position she was in to get shot. May says Quinn is the only one to blame, because he shot her, when Coulson slams his phone down and walks out. After a “passage of time” montage at the exterior of the facility, the surgeon walks into the waiting room with awful news: they removed the bullets and patched Skye up, but both her small and large intestines were perforated, and the only thing that they can do is make her comfortable and decide how long to keep her on life support. The surgeon says to call her family and get them there immediately, to which Coulson replies that they are her family. May storms out, and we cut to Quinn in the interrogation room. May barges in and begins working Quinn over, but Coulson stops her and tells her that Quinn doesn’t matter, only Skye does. Coulson says that just because that doctor said she couldn’t do anything else for Skye, the doctors who brought him back to life can probably help her.
A S.H.I.E.L.D. forklift loads a sick bay onto the Bus that contains Skye and all of the medical equipment that’s keeping her alive. Ward questions Coulson about whether bringing Skye to Bethesda (where Coulson was treated) is really a good idea. Coulson reveals to Ward and then to FitzSimmons that he was dead for multiple days before being brought back to life, and he orders FitzSimmons to break the law and read Coulson’s file, which is classified above their clearance level. Coulson wants them to analyze the file and fill in the blanks that he couldn’t understand, because if they were able to fix his heart, which had been torn in half, they should certainly be able to fix Skye. In the cockpit, May flexes her hand, and she and Ward discuss Coulson’s death and return and Skye’s condition. Ward expresses doubts about Coulson’s plan, but May says that if there was even a miniscule chance to save one of them, Coulson would take it, and that it beats the alternative, which is killing the man who shot Skye. Ward admits that it was nice to see May display some emotion. They get hailed by S.H.I.E.L.D. command for disobeying a direct order, and a pair of fighter jets fly up on either side to escort them. Command tells them to prepare to be boarded and relinquish command.
Enter Agent John Garrett (Bill Paxton), who banters with Coulson and informs him that they’re to immediately turn Quinn over for transport to the Fridge. He introduces Agent Antoine Triplett (BJ Britt), who replaced Ward on Quinn’s detail after Coulson cherry-picked Ward, and sends him to secure Quinn. Coulson questions why Garrett is really here, and he surmises that Garrett is after Quinn too. Quinn confirms and laments that Coulson’s “Italian job” cost his team weeks of work. Coulson explains that Quinn shot one of his agents, and Garrett is surprised that Quinn pulled the trigger himself. Garrett concedes that he’s lost three of his own men chasing Quinn, and he understands why Coulson won’t relinquish him yet. Meanwhile, Trip goes looking for Quinn, instead finding Ward. They exchange pleasantries, but when Ward refuses to relinquish Quinn, they come to blows, with Ward coming out on top. Before he deliver the knockout blow, Coulson orders him to stand down, because Garrett convinced HQ to let him interrogate Quinn onboard the Bus while they make the trip to Bethesda. Garrett and Ward shake hands and Garrett says that saving Skye is top priority because she might know something.
In the lab, FitzSimmons pore over Coulson’s file, finding a drug called GH 325, and while they agree that it sounds awful, they can’t argue with the results. Simmons is afraid because of Coulson begging the doctors to let him die, but Fitz says that Coulson died and Skye is still alive. Simmons gets a call, and she expects it to be Dr. Streiten, who was the doctor Coulson remembered during his flashback; however, Simmons is taken aback by whatever she hears. Garrett and Coulson go to interrogate Quinn, who is uncooperative until Garrett threatens to rip out his tongue. Garrett asks about Cybertek and Deathlok, but Quinn offers a snarky reply about shooting Skye, which earns him a backhand from Garrett. He says he didn’t shoot Skye because she got too close to Deathlok, but because that’s what the Clairvoyant told him to do. Simmons calls May to the lab and informs her that Streiten and all of the doctors involved in Coulson’s recovery don’t exist, and aren’t part of S.H.I.E.L.D. Garrett wants to know how a billionaire fell for the “psychic mumbo-jumbo”, and Quinn says that he was reluctant at first, but he learned quickly that obeying was in his best interest. Quinn says that it wasn’t luck that allowed him to kill Garrett’s agents, but that the Clairvoyant sees everything...except what happened to Coulson. Coulson tells Garrett that his near-death was an actual death, and they determine that the Clairvoyant had Quinn shoot Skye to force Coulson to find out the full details of his recovery, so that the Clairvoyant can see what happened.
May tells Coulson that Quinn shot Skye for nothing, revealing that Coulson’s treatment team doesn’t exist. Coulson says S.H.I.E.L.D. always has secrets, so they have to be somewhere else. May and Simmons question if they should put Skye through what Coulson went through, and Coulson says that they have to take the risk, even it means the Clairvoyant finding out what he wants to know. FitzSimmons discuss Skye’s condition and try to determine more information about GH 235. Fitz takes Simmons to the lab, where he’s set up the Echo Chamber, because he has a buddy in Triskelion records who has allowed them to access the records on the Bus. Simmons says if Coulson wasn’t healed by S.H.I.E.L.D., they won’t be able to find any record of it in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s administrative files, but Fitz thinks that by looking through travel records and reimbursements and whatnot, they may be able to find some clues. They begin their search with travel logs from the day Coulson got stabbed, then the day Dr. Streiten left the Triskelion. They continue their search as Coulson watches over Skye, and find an abandoned World War II bunker codenamed the Guest House. Fitz makes the connection between the Guest House and GH 325, and see that the only operative who previously opened the file is Director Fury. They open Fury’s travel log, only to find it encrypted. After lamenting Skye not being there to crack the encryption, Fitz tries to shove the 3d model of the file away, but he quickly realizes that it’s not encrypted, but that it’s a coded visual representation of the location of the bunker.
The Bus sets down and Coulson warns the entry team that the Guest House is not a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility so they need to be ready for whatever could be inside. Coulson, Garrett, Ward, and Fitz are the entry team, and Garrett volunteers Trip to stay behind to help Simmons prep Skye in case she needs to be moved quickly. The team approaches the door and rings the bell, but the two men inside use a coded protocol. Coulson doesn’t know the counter so he explains his case, but they just repeat the code phrase again. Ward shoots out the camera and Fitz hacks into the bunker. The two soldiers inside grab their weapons and split up to flank the entry team. Fitz sends a camera down in the elevator before the team drops down from the ceiling. They clear the antechamber but Fitz quickly realizes that they’re cut off from the rest of the team because of the literal mountain over their heads. Fitz hacks through the bulletproof doors and they enter the main room and quickly find cover. The soldiers start shooting indiscriminately, so Coulson warns them that if they continue firing, the team will defend themselves. A firefight ensues, but Coulson tosses a flash grenade and Ward shoots one of the soldiers. Garrett rushes the second soldier and shoots him point-blank in the abdomen. Ward tells Fitz to get some lights on, and he, Coulson, and Garrett track the blood trail of the soldier Ward shot. They find him slumped against a wall, dying, and Coulson says he’ll get him medical help and asks about GH 325. The guard says that the med staff don’t stay there and asks if he knows Coulson, and Coulson says that he might have spent some time there, to which the guard replies that Coulson will know about the timer then.
Garrett reveals that the whole place is rigged with Semtex, a potent plastic explosive, and Ward finds the timer, which shows less than ten minutes. Without a soldier alive to turn off the detonation sequence and no Skye to override the safety protocol, Coulson tells Garrett and Ward to find them a way out of there, while he and Fitz looks for GH 325. Trip and Simmons make small talk before Trip starts hitting on Simmons. May tells them that comms are down and if she doesn’t hear anything within the hour, she’s going in. Just then, Skye starts convulsing, so Simmons, Trip, and May attend to her. In the bunker, Coulson and Fitz find a room labeled “Viewing” and enter it. Coulson sees the machine that implanted the false memories in his brain, which triggers a flashback and leaves him momentarily frozen. Ward says the clock doesn’t have anything to do with the detonator and that he can’t find it, so Garrett suggests that they use Semtex on the doors. Coulson finds a biohazard containment door and he and Fitz enter. Fitz suggests they put suits on, but Coulson says they don’t have time and enters the inner room, which is filled with vials and jars and other medical equipment. They search, but Coulson finds a refrigerator filled with more vials and jars, including two large biohazard canisters. The door is locked, so Coulson uses the keys he lifted off of the second guard to open it. They open the canister as Ward tells them that they have four minutes to get out. Fitz grabs the GH 325 and Coulson sends him and Ward to get it back to Simmons, saying he’ll be right behind them as he stares transfixed at something. Coulson finds a door marked T.A.H.I.T.I. and enters it, finding another laboratory with a stretcher.
Garrett and Fitz set the charges and Ward shoots one with his pistol to detonate them, blowing the doors off of their hinges. Garrett sends Fitz to get the drug to Simmons, and sends Ward after him, despite Ward’s attempts at protesting. Garrett goes after Coulson, while on the Bus, Simmons questions whether using the drug would be what Skye would want. May says they didn’t come all that way to fail, and Fitz’ voices comes over the radio as Skye starts cardiac arrest again. Garrett finds a shell-shocked Coulson, who shouts that they can’t give Skye the drug, and Garrett hurries him out of the mountain. Fitz tries to give Simmons the drug as she’s doing chest compressions, but she doesn’t know how much of it to inject or where, and Ward tells May to get them off of the ground. Garrett and Coulson rush through the facility, running up the Bus’s cargo door just as the explosions started and imploded the mountain into the ground, filling in the bunker. Coulson yells for Simmons not to give Skye the drug. Simmons says she was losing her anyway, so what harm would it do. Skye goes from a flatline to a spiking heart rate in moments, but she quickly falls back to the bed and her vitals stabilize. Trip calls Simmons a miracle worker and Coulson leaves the room. May asks if something happened, and Garrett says he doesn’t know - one minute Coulson was fine, the next it looked like he’d seen a ghost.
Garrett and Trip pay another visit to Quinn, with Garrett offering good news and bad news. He starts with the bad news - the Clairvoyant no-showed, the site the Clairvoyant wanted to be led to is now buried under one hundred tons of rock, and that the only psychic ability that he showed was being able to trick a “rich, entitled dirtbag” into committing murder. He tells Quinn that Skye will live to testify that Quinn shot her point-blank in the stomach, and that they have a video of him admitting it. Trip leads Quinn out and Coulson thanks Garrett. Coulson says “until next time” and Garrett replies that it might be sooner than Coulson thinks, because Trip has eyes for Simmons. May visits Coulson in his office and wonders why he isn’t happy that they saved Skye’s life. She wants to know why Coulson didn’t want to use the drug on Skye, and Coulson flashes back to what he saw in the lab, which was the GH 325 collection system, a bunch of vials hooked up to a series of tubes. Coulson traced the tubes to a hatch marked GH and after pushing a button on the wall, a tube slid out, revealing the upper half of a badly damaged blue body floating in some type of solution with tubes running into the chest cavity. Coulson plays it off as being worried that Skye would suffer the same kind of pain that he did. He says that she didn’t, but May doesn’t seem to buy it. Coulson sits with an unconscious Skye.
A redheaded woman in a green dress walks through the desert in Death Valley, and we cut to a newlywed couple. The woman goes inside for a map, and the man loads up the car. The redhead grabs a water bottle from the man and begins talking to him, mentioning Midgard. She asks about the man’s wife, and says that she admires his loyalty. She uses mind control to get his help, and the new bride walks out to see her husband driving down the road. He swears to protect her and keep her safe, and she reveals that her name is Lorelei.
“People like us, we need people like him.”
“They scratch my paint and I’m going to be pissed.”
“How did Coulson swing such a sweet ride?” “He died.” “That’s tight.”
“No thank you, my head is still ringing from my last visitor.” “At least your last visitor left you with a head; I’m not always that considerate.”
“Deathlok?” “Catchy, isn’t it? Sounds like a wrestler from the 80’s.”
“What if they don’t want to help us?” “Then I’ll say pretty please.”
“Trust me, it’s better - you don’t want them hearing the horrible death we’re walking into. Humor, son; you Brits are too serious. Besides if the job were easy…” “...it wouldn’t be fun.”
“What do you think, Fitz, can you get us inside?” “To a certain, horrible death? Absolutely.”
“You said there was good news.” “I did? Oh yeah - you still have your tongue.”
“If it had gone the other way, if Skye hadn’t survived, would you have been prepared to throw Quinn off of this plane?” “You’re the one who made that threat - I just asked to keep him on the plane for a while.” “You’re right, it was me - my mistake.”
Theory of the Week
ALLLLLLLLL the way back like 30 weeks ago, when this show was last on (okay, okay, it’s only been four weeks, but it feels like a lot longer), I mentioned that I was stumped as to who the Clairvoyant could be. A few readers chimed in with their theories, but none better than unregistered commenter Matthew, who surmised:
Wyatt, I recommend reading about The Leader, aka Samuel Sterns, from Marvel's villains. He was actually in The Incredible Hulk movie with Edward Norton, the scientist that got hit to the side and had some of Banner's blood drip down onto an open wound on his head.
The reason I bring him up is because he is my top pick for being the Clairvoyant. His main ability is his intelligence, which is so advanced that he is able to use pattern solving, intuition, and processing information to quickly figure out information that he should have very little knowledge on. It's been shown to come across almost like clairvoyance. Throw in knowledge so advanced that he is able to build machines that seem almost futuristic compared to what anyone else has. He would be the perfect character to do everything that the Clairvoyant has been theorized at being capable of doing so far, plus he already has an existing presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Being a massive fan of the Hulk since my childhood in the 80s, I’m well aware of the character of the Leader, but until Matthew brought up his theory, it just never occurred to me that the Clairvoyant would be anything but a psychic. However, Matthew’s theory makes perfect sense, especially if you consider that Coulson and May have been so adamant about how clairvoyancy and other mental powers (like telekinesis) don’t exist. And while we know that’s not the case in the Marvel Comic Universe, it very well could be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, based on the fact that Fox still owns the rights to the X-Men, which would be the likely outlet for most of those types of powers (at least in the Marvel Universe). I guess we’ll have to wait and see how they handle Wanda and Pietro’s origins and the source of their powers in Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron before we’ll know for sure, but I do know that if Matthew’s correct, I’ll be a very happy viewer, as I tremendously enjoyed Tim Blake Nelson’s portrayal of Samuel Sterns in The Incredible Hulk and I think he’d make an excellent adversary for the team.
Now, as for this episode, who or what was the blue body that Coulson discovered at the Guest House? A Kree? Considering The Avengers featured the Ultimate Universe version of the Skrulls in the Chitauri, and that the Kree were featured in Ultimate Secret, I wouldn’t rule it out. Also, considering Ronan the Accuser will be played by Ned the Pie Man Lee Pace in this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and, depending on which Marvel Universe they decide to draw from, he may be a member of the Kree, it certainly seems more likely. He could also be an Atlantean, I suppose, but those ears didn’t really fit the bill. Plus, there’s always the possibility that Skye is a pink-skinned Kree, which would explain why Coulson’s experience with GH 325 was so painful, while Skye’s wasn’t. At any rate, between the blue man, Skye’s history, and the revelation that everything we thought we knew about Coulson’s death and return was actually just the tip of the Iceberg, we’re back to being conspiracy central, which is how a show about an espionage agency should be.
Alright, I know I’ve ranted about this three times now, but let’s hope there are no more breaks in this season for any reason. I noticed quite a few comments about it last time out, so I know I’m not the only one who’s tired of the start-and-stop nature of this show, but to put things in perspective, this was the fourteenth episode, and if they had run a new episode every time they randomly chose to air a replay or took a hiatus, we would’ve completed all 22 episodes of season one at least two week ago. Hey, I can understand taking a midseason hiatus - I think it’s actually benefited the comic book property that everyone’s trying to catch up to, The Walking Dead, but wouldn’t it have made more sense to just take a three-month break instead of two one-month breaks with three new episodes in a five-week span in the middle? *sigh* I just don’t get it, and so that’ll be my final rant on the matter.*
After heaping a lot of praise on the past few episodes, I was fully expecting there to be a letdown episode somewhere in the next few weeks, and I think this episode certainly qualified. I had quite a few issues with the plot; however, let me start with the things that I think that they got right. After teasing dissension between Ward and Coulson at the end of the last episode, it was refreshing to see them not go down that route and instead have Ward blaming himself for Skye being in the position to get shot. Of course, that could just be Ward putting aside his feelings for the good of the team, but if that’s the case and they build up a gradual divide between he and Coulson, I wouldn’t be against it. But, at this point, Coulson has shown time and again that he places more value on his team’s lives than pretty much anyone at S.H.I.E.L.D., so for Ward to turn on him completely after a tactical mistake seemed forced to me. Also, I can’t say enough how much Bill Paxton added to this episode. Between Paxton, Peter MacNicol, and J. August Richards’ appearances after the pilot, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been doing a fantastic job with these guest stars (even Saffron Burrows and Titus Welliver were great in smaller roles). Paxton, though, salvaged this episode, as he played a perfect counter to Coulson - not only is he more ruthless in his methods, he also brings a lot more humor to the table, whereas Coulson is more empathetic and reserved. And while I’m not feeling the Trip/Simmons romance, Trip’s (mostly) friendly rivalry with Ward could actually benefit Ward’s character greatly if they play it up down the road (I know Paxton will be back for more episodes, but I’m not sure about BJ Britt).
And now for the bad… First off, while I can understand Coulson’s obsessive desire to save Skye, having sacrificed himself for S.H.I.E.L.D. and then going through the whole horrible recovery process, I’m not sure why Garrett agreed to go along with him so readily. Garrett was supposed to be the sweet talker, not Coulson, and even if the two do share as much history as they intimated at the end of the episode, I would still think that Garrett would want to follow orders and interrogate Quinn on his own based on Quinn actually killing three of his agents. I mean, I’m glad that everything played out the way that it did, but that seems like a pretty sizable leap of logic there. Plus, Coulson disobeyed a direct order by keeping Quinn on the Bus, ordered FitzSimmons to break the law by reading his file, and then later on, went ahead and allowed lethal force to be used on both guards at the Guest House without making an effort to subdue them and get the information that he needed? To say that seems out of character would be an understatement, but it gets worse. Two episodes ago, Coulson vowed that the team wouldn’t have any secrets, but then at the end of this episode, he lied to May about what he saw at the Guest House.
But the biggest problem I had with this episode was the huge, glaringly lazy deus ex machina that even found them the Guest House in the first place. Not only does the world’s premiere espionage agency (which, it has been repeatedly stressed, is built on secrets and subterfuge) leave the travel logs of its director openly available to anyone with access to their records management system, but the director leaves the location of what is arguable the greatest medical secret in the world in a file that was “decrypted” completely by accident? I realize this is a television show based on a comic book, so suspension of disbelief is a necessary prerequisite - I get that. But there had to be a better way to find the location of the bunker without something so insulting to the audience’s intelligence. It’s not like Fitz and Simmons didn’t have major roles to play in saving Skye - Fitz was on the entry team and actually got them into the bunker and found the GH 325, while Simmons was doing everything she could to keep Skye alive on their way to the medical facility and then later, on the plane.
Overall, though, this episode was pretty much on-par with the average of the up-and-down start to the season. Would I have enjoyed this episode more if it hadn’t been preceded by a month-long break? I actually doubt it, but I do admit that the long layoff had me going into this episode in a slightly irritated mood. And while there were some flaws with the plot and character inconsistencies, Bill Paxton’s performance rescued this episode and made it much more watchable. Here’s hoping that Jaimie Alexander continues the strong run of guest appearances next week as Lady Sif, and also that the show can rebound to the level of quality that we’d come to expect from the past few episodes. But tell me that’s not a testament to how good this show has been - last episode was essentially a train hijacking, this episode was a race to find a miracle cure, and the next episode features the team taking on Asgardians. Only in the Marvel Universe is that actually doable, and to the show’s credit, as long as next week’s episode isn’t a total bomb, they’ll have successfully pulled it off.
*Unless, of course, there’s another random month-long break in the next eight weeks.
The 411: This episode was a definite step back after ‘T.R.A.C.K.S.”; however, Bill Paxton’s Agent John Garrett saved the episode from complete mediocrity. If they can tighten up the plot holes and use less Crichton-y deus ex machina going forward, I’ll go back to giving this show a wholehearted endorsement.