Ward is on the loose and the team is out to hunt him down. However, Coulson is sidelined as his compulsions have become more frequent and consuming. Everything comes to a head and the team finally finds out what the writing has been about.
At the end of the last episode Ward escaped his transport as he was being delivered to his brother. Given the high profile nature of his situation after his brother went public with the information, you’d expect that to be a big deal. Instead, Christian suppressed the news so no one outside of SHIELD is hunting for him. Coulson has deployed most of his agents, led by May, to retrieve Ward. Skye stays behind to help Coulson with his alien writing problems. His compulsions have increased in frequency to the point that he’s writing every day.
Skye’s running in to dead ends trying to figure out what kind of map the writing could possibly be. With Coulson becoming unable to function normally, figuring out the solution to this mystery can’t be put on the back burner anymore. They get a lead when Skye finds a report about a woman who’s been murdered. The woman was found with the same alien writing carved into her body. Coulson realizes that he recognizes the woman even though he’s not sure where. After an autopsy and some time, they realize that she was a SHIELD agent who used to be at the Guest House.
In an attempt to uncover memories from his time as the director of the TAHITI project, Coulson subjects himself to another round of torture in the MRI-style machine that Raina used on him. With Skye and the other SHIELD scientists watching him, he relives flashes of his time at the Guest House before he was a patient. He sees the agent who was killed as well as an agent named Sebastian Derek. During the flashbacks, Coulson sees that he knew that the revival process was causing the agents to become unstable. Derek was the last member of the group to show signs that he was losing it. It turns out that the memory replacement therapy prevented the seeming insanity that accompanied the writing fits. The experience destabilizes Coulson and the team decides to lock him up. While she’s escorting him to Ward’s old cell, Coulson tricks Skye and locks her in while he heads out to find answers.
While Coulson is torturing himself, May and the rest of her team are tracking Ward. They find him at a locker where he’s planted emergency supplies. He realizes that they’re following him and flashes them a glimpse of the explosives he has strapped to his body and wired to a dead man switch. That’s enough to keep them from taking him out, but not from continuing to track him. He also makes Bobbi who’s watching him at a train station. After threatening her with the bomb, he boards a different bus but doesn’t realize that Hunter is on that bus. Hunter tracks him to a bar where Ward’s set up a meet with one of HYDRA’s big wigs. When the team bursts in to the bar they find the HYDRA crew has been taken out and their leader is tied to a chair. On his face is a note that says that he’s a gift for Coulson. Later, Ward would call Skye to confirm that he did that to help them and that he’s still acting on their/her behalf. He hangs up before Skye can track him, but promises they’ll meet again.
After his information gathering session, Coulson remembered who the other agents were that had been at the Guest House. The other agents had been released to lead normal lives, but Derek had his memories resurface when he was subjected to pain. He remembered the other patients and realized that he needed them to get their memories back so that they could complete the writing. He was convinced that the way to get them to remember was to give them pain. That’s why his victims had died from cardiac arrest as a result of their bodies overloading from too much pain. Coulson heads to visit one of the other former agents to see if his memories have resurfaced, but Derek is already there and knocks him out.
Coulson awakes in the other agent’s garage with an unstable Derek holding them captive. He manages to get free and a fight ensues. The fight takes Derek and Coulson up to the top of a flight of stairs. The rest of the team bursts in with guns drawn on Coulson, as they believe that he’s become unstable. He assures them that things are okay now and that Derek won’t be any trouble either. It turns out that the design they had been drawing was 3 dimensional and that the other agent had actually built a full 3D model of the drawing without realizing it. When they saw the model, the urge that had been haunting both men immediately dissipated. Coulson said it was like they were homing pigeons that didn’t realize where home was. When they get back to the Playground, Coulson comes clean to the team about what’s been going on with him. He also shows them all a full image of the model and tells them that finding this thing (and figuring out what it is) is now their first priority and that they’re sure HYDRA is looking for the same thing.
- We finally see what they’ve been drawing
The mystery of the writing is finally solved, only to give way to a new mystery: what/where is this place or thing that they were drawing? For something that’s supposed to be alien, they seem very confident that they’re going to find it on Earth.
- Like a cat bringing home dead birds
I like how Skye is handling the whole Ward situation. While the stuff with her father seems to be getting to her, she’s still able to handle him. My guess is that she’ll end up being the key to taking him down, just like she was the one who was tasked with figuring out the alien writing.
- You want pain, come get some
A lot of times, Coulson is removed from the action or gets things done with his head instead of his hands. It was nice to see him go a little John McClane in this episode and take on the bad guy directly.
The first and last scenes of the episode featured some really fitting sound tracks. The jazz track to Coulson’s writing was “Blue Jays Dancing” by bill Gordon and the track to Ward’s shave was the appropriately titled “Who is He” by Bill Withers.
Because of the way the show was laid out it could be easy to forget, but they did acknowledge (at least in theory) that everything that’s going on is somehow tied together. Skye’s father, the Diviner, the writing, the Guest House, aliens, it’s all one big mess of issues that they still haven’t really figured out. True, they now have a better idea of what the writings were and Coulson’s no longer crazy, but they’re a long way off from figuring out how all of this stuff is actually connected. Everything that the patients said suggested that the alien “wants them to know” based on what they were feeling after they were injected. The question remains, what exactly does it want them to find at this location, especially given how long they suspect it’s been on Earth?
Even if things are only starting to come together, I hope that this episode represents Coulson getting back to normal. It was a really intense episode for him as a character. Not only did he have to fight his compulsions, he also had to deal with rediscovering the responsibility of what he was in charge of back at the Guest House. That entire sequence was really intense and really well done. It showed a much darker side of SHIELD or anything else that I think the MCU has produced so far. It made the TAHITI project look like something out of a horror movie.
I really liked Mac’s response when he summed up all of the crazy stuff that’s been going on in SHIELD all this time. I think Mac also gave us our first indication that Fitz is going to start getting fixed. He’s been doing things to help him adjust but when Fitz started talking about the way the brain works, it was clear that Mac realized that it meant that Fitz’s brain could also be repaired. It does seem like Mac is generally getting into a “I didn’t sign up for this” attitude though, which could be problematic. When he was talking to Skye about how bad it would be if Coulson had GH serum in him, it just screamed that he was gonna freak out when he found out. Still, Coulson did come clean to everyone. It will remain to be seen if that was enough to placate any suspicions that the team members (especially the new ones) have.
Ward’s scene at the end also suggested that there might be some problems ahead for Mac, Bobbi and Hunter. It’s been good to have them around, but who knows if they’re really prepared for everything that could be coming their way. It’s also good to see Ward out of his cage. It’s easy to forget that he and May were basically one-person armies before the show started. So it makes sense that he’d be equipped to start picking apart his enemies. Even though he could be a bit of a wild card, I do believe that he’ll keep his word to continue working for Skye’s benefit. Since her father is tied into the big mystery that means Ward will definitely get caught up in it as well.