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Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review: 1.20 - 'Nothing Personal'
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 04.30.2014

Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Coulson took a splinter team to try to recapture Marcus Daniels, who targeted Coulson’s lost love. Meanwhile, back at Providence, Ward ingratiated himself to Skye in order to get her to decrypt the information downloaded from the Bus, but she realized that Ward was actually working from Hydra and did her own bit of espionage. Plus, May left the team, unwilling to face Coulson’s anger.

Season 01, Episode 20: Nothing Personal

Former agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) leaves a Senate hearing, only to find the detail assigned to provide surveillance on her knocked out or otherwise incapacitated. She enters an alley, which puts her face-to-face with May, who took out the team who was following her. May wants answers for Coulson, who she reveals is at Providence base, to set Coulson at ease that it wasn’t Hydra who rewrote his brain. Hill says Fury told her that he buried who was behind T.A.H.I.T.I. when he decided not to bury Coulson. Just then, police pull up, but May is already gone.

At Providence base, Coulson, Trip, and FitzSimmons try to figure out what happened while they were gone, but the surveillance has all been erased. They see May leave, followed by Ward and Skye, and they try to determine what happened. Because the base hasn’t been damaged, they rule out an attack, and there’s no one left in S.H.I.E.L.D. to give them orders. Coulson admits that he told May to leave, which prompts Trip to declare that they don’t need May with everything else they’re going through. FitzSimmons leave to make food, with Fitz going to start the griddle and Simmons looking for ingredients. Meanwhile, Coulson runs scenarios in his head and lays them out for Trip. Fitz discovers that one of the fake windows is set to night while the other is set to the day time. Simmons sees a trail of blood down the wall as Fitz frees the stuck window. Coulson questions if they’ve had a wolf in their midst the whole time as Fitz finds Skye’s message “Ward is Hydra” and Simmons discovers Koenig’s body.

On the Bus, Ward spraypaints the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on the side of their SUV black and Skye continues pretending that she doesn’t know anything about Ward’s deception. She goes looking for a weapon, but Ward surprises her and she has to make an excuse about looking for the satphone. Ward says he talked to Coulson already and the sooner they decrypt the drive, the sooner they can rendezvous with the team. Ward wants to know why she picked the location that she did (a diner in L.A.) and Skye says it was already built into her encryption, plus it was where she first met Mike Peterson and it’s a public place with a lot of witnesses. Ward grabs the gun out of the back of Skye’s waistband, and when she questions him about taking it, he says the last thing that they need is to get busted on a weapons charge. Ward promises not to let Skye out of his sight until the situation is over.

Back on the Bus, Fitz is in denial about Ward being Hydra, while Trip is convinced that he is. Coulson remains ambivalent while Simmons performs an autopsy. She determines that Koenig died ten hours ago by asphyxiation, after May had left the base. She also says that based on the angle of the lacerations on his throat and trachea, the killer had to be at least 6’2” and strong enough to lift him into the ceiling. Simmons is sure that Ward is the killer, which sets Fitz off. He starts slamming things around, and Coulson explains the importance of focusing on rescuing Skye because she’s playing Ward like he played them. Coulson says they’re going to find Skye before Ward figures out what her plan is; however, Coulson himself can’t figure out Skye’s plan. Outside the diner, Skye has to explain to an increasingly impatient Ward that working from her laptop, it’s going to take at least an hour to decrypt the hard drive, while in the base, Trip works on restoring Providence’s communications with the outside world.

He and Coulson try to figure out Ward’s angle - with Hand dead and every weapon he and Garrett could possibly want from the Fridge, why would he have come back? Coulson quickly figures out that he was after the information on the drive. They locate the Bus in Los Angeles, but before they can act on it, they receive a warning that Providence’s perimeter alarms have activated. Perimeter sensors show multiple presences outside, so Trip and Coulson race to prepare for whoever is coming in. At the diner, Skye tells Ward to stop being so impatient and her laptop reveals that the diner isn’t the location to decrypt the hard drive at all. Ward notices Skye is worked up about something, so she plays it off as if it’s just everything that’s happened since she sat in the same diner with Mike Peterson, doing an excellent job of keeping Ward from figuring out that she’s onto him. She plays it up like she’s not as good at masking her emotions as Ward is, and he buys it, allowing her to slip a jab in at him without him even realizing it.

Back at Providence, Coulson’s team arms themselves and gets a visual on the door. Coulson says the door should hold barring some heavy artillery; however, a robotic voice announces that it has been deactivated and it begins to slide open. Coulson quickly realizes that it’s US Special Forces and not Hydra, and Colonel Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) comes in. Coulson and Talbot banter before Coulson steps out to face Talbot and his teams unarmed. Coulson wants to know how they found one of the most classified bases on the face of the planet, which brings Hill out to reveal that she told them the location (and disarmed the door). In a cemetery, a man standing by a grave hears a shovel so he goes to investigate and finds May climbing out of a grave. As she walks away, we see it’s Coulson’s grave, and she opens a small container in her car to reveal a flash drive. It contains a classified report to Fury about Project T.A.H.I.T.I. and May’s entire face transforms into a mask of shock.

Back at Providence, Talbot continues to grill the team, trying to get them to intelligence for a shorter sentence. He threatens torture, and Fitz tells him to do his worst. Simmons tells him to go after a Hydra agent who’s getting away, but Talbot says they’d better think long and hard about why they’re valuable, with no one to turn to and their former leader (Hill) turning them over to the government. Hill tries to convince Coulson the same thing, suggesting that they play it like he led Hill and the Army to Providence as part of a pre-existing deal between she and Coulson. She says Coulson will go free in exchange for possession of the base, but that the team will have to go through the system, including interrogation. He refuses, so she suggests giving Talbot meaningless intel about Providence while leaving out other S.H.I.E.L.D. installations. Coulson gets mad, believing she feels he’s a liability, which Hill admits. She says everything she and Fury did was for Coulson’s own good, and he says instead of worrying so much about Coulson, they should’ve been worrying about everyone else. Coulson reveals that not only is Garrett still alive, but that Ward is his secret weapon. Hill is aghast because she vetted Ward, and Coulson tells her if she wants to make it right, she needs to stop wasting time.

Talbot comes in and Hill and Coulson take out he and two of his men, and she tells Coulson that they need to leave. Meanwhile, at the diner, Skye continues to stall, which makes Ward increasingly agitated. Skye starts asking him about his history when he sees a police cruiser drive by outside of the restaurant. As the conversation continues, Skye keeps escalating her jabs at Ward, putting more and more venom into her voice. She calls him on his lie about killing Garrett, telling Ward her feelings about him under the guise of what he might tell Garrett. Ward tries to get Skye to leave when he sees police officers evacuating the restaurant, but she reveals that she sent the tip from her laptop, following it up with a “Hail Hydra”. As the police officers attempt to handcuff Ward, he takes out several of them while Skye runs outside. She tries to get the two officers outside to arrest her for being a wanted fugitive, but when they hesitate, she starts shoving them, which speeds the process along. Before they can cuff her, Ward shoots them both. She drives away in the police car before Ward can grab her, but a familiar figure is standing in the middle of the street. He launches himself into the air, and Skye screams when Deathlok lands on her hood and punches through the windshield.

Back aboard the Bus, Ward and Deathlok argue about Deathlok grabbing Skye in plain sight. Ward tells Deathlok to leave because he can handle it, but Skye says he hasn’t so far. Deathlok says Ward has five minutes. He tries to reason with Skye, but she punches and pushes him repeatedly, and when he grabs her arms, she lands a wicked headbutt. He cuffs her to the spiral staircase that leads up from the hangar and she slams Ward for his betrayal. When he says it wasn’t personal, she gets even more angry, calling him a Nazi. Ward tries to play it off, saying that was the past, and that he’s just a spy, but she insists that he’s a Nazi. She asks if he’s going to kill her and he swears he won’t hurt her and that his feelings for her are real. He tries to kiss her, and she says she’s going to throw up. Ward’s anger boils through, and Skye calls him a serial killer, telling him he was right about not liking the real him. She refuses to decrypt the drive for him. Meanwhile, Deathlok plugs the drive into his arm and tries to decrypt it. When he fails to do so, Garrett’s text appears, telling him to go to Plan B. Skye tries to get free of the cuffs, but Ward and Deathlok come and demand that she decrypt the drive. She pleads with Mike, but he’s angry with her for leaving Ace with S.H.I.E.L.D., which means that he was completely vulnerable to Hydra, and even if Mike did try to rescue him, Hydra would just blow up the implant in his head. She says there’s still good in Mike and that he can’t hurt her. He says she’s right, that he won’t hurt her, and then turns and shoots Ward with some kind of electrical round that stops his heart and induces a heart attack. Deathlok threatens to let him die, and Skye finally caves, revealing that the location wasn’t a coordinate but an altitude, and that if she starts the hack, the drive will decrypt when they reach 35,000 feet.

Deathlok brings Ward back and there’s clearly some dissension in the ranks. He tells Ward to get to the cockpit and get the plane into the air. Ward prepares to take off, but Hill and Coulson’s team are waiting in the jumpjet on the runway. She and Ward banter back and forth, but Ward threatens that Garrett will kill Skye if they follow, so she resigns herself to let them go. But wait - Coulson’s climbed up the landing gear and made it aboard the Bus!

As the Bus takes off, Coulson sneaks through the lab and upstairs. He finds Skye in the interrogation room, they hug, and she tells him that she decrypted the hard drive. As they try to storm the cockpit, Skye wants to know how Coulson got past Deathlok, who comes out of the forward compartment locked and loaded. Coulson tells Skye to run to the cargo hold and Deathlok says he can’t let Coulson leave. Coulson drops the cargo bay door and tells Skye to forget her parachute and get into the car. He activates Lola’s headlight machine guns to keep Deathlok and Ward occupied and he backs Lola off of the dock and into the air. Coulson secures Skye and tries to get Lola flying, but he thinks either Ward or Deathlok hit the thrusters, as he can only manage intermittent bursts. At the last minute, Lola’s thrusters kick in and they manage to land relatively safely.

Back on the Bus, Ward says he’s putting the plane down to go after them, but Deathlok has other ideas. Garrett told Deathlok that Coulson and Skye don’t matter and he wants the information on the drive. Ward threatens to kill Deathlok if he tries another trick like he pulled to get Skye to cooperate, and Deathlok hits him with his own “it wasn’t personal” line that he used on Skye. At a motel, Coulson tries to get Hill to give him back-up, but she tells him that it’s over, that there is no S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore. Hill says that Coulson needs to take down Garrett and Ward, but when his vendetta is over, he should disband the team. Coulson refuses to let them cut deals and work in the private sector, even for Stark, so Hill leaves. Outside, FitzSimmons discuss Ward’s betrayal in the pool, with Fitz demanding Simmons tell him that she’s not Hydra. She puts her hand on his knee, which seems to let him relax a little. Coulson tells Trip they won’t be going anywhere that night, so Trip goes and shares his chips with FitzSimmons. Coulson shares his candy bar with Skye and they look at the stars. When Coulson returns to his room, May is waiting for him. He starts to apologize, but she shows him the file that she found in his grave, which proves to be from...COULSON! He tells Fury that he’s resigning from, and that they need to pull the plug on, T.A.H.I.T.I. because all of the subjects who have been exposed to the alien DNA have suffered a variety of nasty mental and/or physicals breakdowns. Video Coulson says that the only course of action that offered any success was to erase a subject’s memories of their death and rebirth and replacing the memories. Coulson sits, stunned, as he tells Fury that no one else should ever have the drugs administered to them.

Weekly Whedon-isms

“But Congress? Congress is like kindergarten - what is this Fridge? Who was in there? Who or what is a Man-Thing?”

“Unless you want to ask Fury for me.” “Fury’s dead.” “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“Let me help.” “Uh, no, I’ll get after it, you stay put.”

“Between Garrett and May and seeing Audrey...and pancakes.” “Coulson’s upset about pancakes now?” “That’s one way to cheer him up, isn’t it?”\

“Fitz is using the jumpjet’s relay to power it. He’s like a ninja with this crap.” “How’s he doing?” “Freaking out, but telling him to focus on the task was good advice. And you?” “Trust me - I’m going to have a major freakout later.”

“I should’ve knocked on wood just then.”

“I wish this bunker had a bunker.”

“Colonel Talbot? There has to be better things for you to do than chase four S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.” “I wasn’t a huge fan before chasing you into the tundra, Coulson - I wouldn’t push it.”

“If I come out, will you shoot me? Because then I won’t come out.”

“My condolences.”

“Get your people; we need to leave.” “We?”

“What are you doing?” “I’m just trying to have an honest conversation for once.”

“You always had that Hitler Youth look to you, so it’s really not all that surprising.”

“So even though you’ve been lying, to everyone, about everything, you’re saying that your feelings for me…” “They’re real, Skye, they always have been.” “I’m going to throw up.”

“Get the plane in the air.” “Can’t. I can barely stand.” “There. That should help.”

“Maria Hill - I’d hoped you went down with the Triskelion.” “And I’d hoped you weren’t the duplicitous lowlife you turned out to be, but here we are.” “To be honest with you, Hill - I’m having a pretty bad day, so if I were you, I’d get the hell out of my way.” “You give Skye up and we’ll talk about it.” “Yeah, that’s not happening.” “Y’know, I’ve never liked you Ward, not since our first sit-down, but I never figured you for John Garrett’s lapdog.” “Yeah, well, a lot of lost respect for Fury when he picked you for his second. If he need eye candy around, he could’ve at least picked Romanov.” “That’s funny - I’ll tell her you said that.”

“Wait, you came alone?” “I can take Ward.” “I know, but how did you get past Deathlok?” “Deathlok’s here? On the plane?” “Yeah, you didn’t take him out?” “New plan - run!”

“Buckle up!” “I told you to buckle up!”

“That’ll be twenty bucks.”

“Wow, I can’t believe he shot Lola.” “I can’t talk about it.”

“Say hello to Stark for...oh yeah, nevermind - he thinks I’m dead.”

“I thought you didn’t eat junk food.” “I’m on vacation.” “Until…?” “Until that man tells me it’s time to go to work.” “Not tonight - let’s live a little.” “In that case, I’m gonna go crazy - I may even eat another bag.” “I’ve never been homeless before.” “Not fun, but at least we have a pool.”

Reader Referendum

Last week, reader Tommy Gunn pointed out something interesting:

I have noticed one small thing over the past couple episodes. Coulson and Ward have an extended stare just before Ward goes on the plane and kills Hand. They also had another extended stare before Coulson led the Portland mission and said he was to stay behind. Makes me think something more can up between those 2, but i am probably over analyzing.

I went back and watched last week’s episode for a third time, and there was in fact a shared look between Ward and Coulson. Was that all part of Ward’s act (the last time he did it, he killed Hand; this time, he would’ve killed May and did kill Koenig), or is he working deep cover with Coulson?

Our own Jeffrey Harris seems to think it’s the former, and he thinks Ward’s reckoning is coming:

I have a feeling the clock is ticking on the life of Agent Ward.

I tend to agree with Jeff - I’d be surprised if Ward makes it out of this season alive. Four episodes ago, that wouldn’t have bothered me a bit, but now, with Brett Dalton showing that he’s got some pretty terrific acting chops? I think it would be a huge blow, to the point where I’d actually rather they kill off Garrett instead, if only one of them can live.

Theory of the Week

I’m not entirely sure how Coulson telling Fury to pull the plug on Project T.A.H.I.T.I. makes him the person who authorized Fury to bring him back from the dead and wipe his memories...well, at least not the bringing him back from the dead part. Coulson *did* tell Fury that the only method that might avoid all the negative side effects was to change the subject’s memory. Plus, we also got actual confirmation (in the form of Coulson’s video message to Fury) that the DNA used in Project T.A.H.I.T.I. was alien in origin, so let’s revisit the discussion that Skye is Ms./Captain Marvel. The origin is awfully close to the Carol Danvers’ one, and it’s not like there haven’t been several characters who used the name over the years. Plus, it’s probably the only way an underfunded team with no backup has a shot against a Hydra-bankrolled team that also features Deathlok.


Well, the best rumor first - pretty much every source I’ve read tends to think that this show is a lock to be renewed for a second season, especially if ABC decides to option Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter to series. We should find out no later than two weeks from now, when the networks reveal their 2014-2015 lineups.

Also, ABC has released summaries of the remaining two episodes, and they seem to be hinting that one or more members of Coulson’s remaining team are actually working for Garrett. Lends some credence to my Trip theory, but after tonight’s pool scene with FitzSimmons, I’m starting to think that Fitz might be a traitor as well. It would certainly his explain his anger at finding out the rest of the team knows Ward is Hydra. Plus, Trip seems capable of doing everything that Ward and Fitz have done for the team.

Man, another solid, solid episode this week. It wasn’t a villain of the week episode, they continued along with a course that seems like it’ll tie up a lot of the remaining loose ends, Adrian Pasdar brought the perfect amount of dickishness to Talbot, and Cobie Smulder’s guest spot as Maria Hill both felt like a natural fit for this storyline and was fantastically well-done. With How I Met Your Mother wrapped, I wonder if there’s any chance of Hill becoming a semi-regular fixture on the show, considering they killed off the strongest female character who wasn’t a part of the team.

As far as strong female characters go, I think my favorite part of the episode was actually the way that Skye gradually worked up to revealing to Ward that she knew his true allegiance. Sure, it wasn’t groundbreaking by any means, but Chloe Bennet stepped her game up this week, which is good, because Brett Dalton would’ve left her in the dust if she hadn’t. I think the best part of it was that it felt like an actual human response to the betrayal - the shock from last week was replaced by a survival instinct, which gave way to anger (which manifested itself as an awesome headbutt), and then resignation and sadness. If you’d have told me after the fourth or fifth episode that I’d be claiming something Skye-related as my favorite part of the episode that didn’t involve a wet dress or lingerie, I’d have been incredibly doubtful. Not bad for a show that started out with an entire cast of cliches (and Coulson).

Speaking of cliches, Coulson being the person behind T.A.H.I.T.I. who wanted it stopped, only for it to be used to bring him back, was about as cliche as could be (right down to the information being hidden in Coulson’s grave), but it was still such a surprise to me that I didn’t mind it a bit. I seriously doubt I’m the only one who thinks that if they tried to pull off this kind of storyline in the first half of the season, it would’ve just fallen flat. Thankfully though, we did have that uneven start to the season, as I think it makes those of us who are still around appreciate just how much better this show has gotten. That shouldn’t be too terribly surprising, though - this is a Whedon show we’re talking about.

The 411: Another very solid episode in a run of above-average to great ones. With only two episodes remaining this season, I think it’s highly unlikely that this show limps across the finish line. With Garrett and Coulson almost certain to collide head-on in the very near future, I’m anxious to see how the remaining pieces fall into place next week.
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  8.8   [ Very Good ]  legend


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