Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D… well, let’s just say trust is a little hard to come by these days. S.H.I.E.L.D. has fallen. The team itself remains wary of whom they can actually count on, thanks to the events of last week. Hydra, which has been quietly infiltrating the organization for far longer than anyone can really comprehend (pawning a little background from Zola and Winter Soldier here) has finally prevailed. And just when we thought we had everyone figured out, Ward — Ward, of all people! — has gone to the dark side.
Or has he? There’s been a lot of speculation about whether or not Ward is actually as Hydra-brainwashed as he seems to be, and we still have a handful of episodes to get through before the end of the season, so this should be a fun ride. (Though something tells me this isn’t going to be resolved neatly, if at all.)
Let’s jump into the episode. We fade in on none other than… Raina! Who is keeping herself busy in her prison-like cell by folding papers that look a lot like flowers, or maybe one of those fortuneteller things you used to make in school. She seems to have a collection of them, though, so we’ll assume they’re flowers. She hears gunshots, then Newly Initiated Big Bad Grant Ward (now with more bruises!) enters her room, bearing a gift as well as a jailbreak. “It’s from the Clairvoyant,” Ward says as Raina opens the package, which is a red flower dress… because of course it is.
On the Bus, Coulson is watching the aftermath of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s destruction, which is being reported via pretty much every single news outlet in the world. I guess it’s good to know that people are actually taking notice of these things, since a bunch of secrets were dumped onto the Internet. (And, at one point, trending.) Skye alerts him that there are only three S.H.I.E.L.D. bases that are currently secure, and also admits that he was right about everything all along. Coulson warns that Hydra is still out there. The good news, however, is that the team is intact and they can continue to fight… right? Man, this is one time that I wish I was The Clairvoyant so I could warn them about plot details…
Raina and Ward travel to a barber shop in Cuba, where a confused Raina meets Garrett, a.k.a. The All Mighty Clairvoyant. Garrett introduces himself and admits he never had any gifts — just high-level security clearance, as Coulson figured out a few weeks ago. Oh, and a persuasive personality. I suppose that always helps. Poor Raina literally looks like someone told her Santa Claus doesn’t exist, but Garrett just congratulates her for her work on the Centipede Project and doesn’t seem too bothered by her disappointment. Raina’s kind of pissed about being duped, but Garrett convinces her to take a seat in the barber’s chair, inviting her to “change the world.” He then welcomes her to Hydra before triggering the chair to descend into a trap door underneath. Speculation for those who believe Ward is purely brainwashed: his reactions in this scene seem to make it pretty clear that he’s acting of his own accord. Which means that he really is the big baddie, or he’s playing a very, VERY convincing double-agent role.
FitzSimmons, along with Trip, are trying to fix the hull of the plane while back in the control room, Skye tells Coulson that “The Cube” — another base — has been taken back by S.H.I.E.L.D. I guess that makes four secure bases now? Before Coulson can get too optimistic, he gets a transmission from Glenn Talbot, a.k.a. Heroes‘ Adrian Pasdar (fun fact alert — in the Marvel comicsverse, Talbot is an old enemy of The Incredible Hulk.) Apparently Talbot is sending in a peacekeeping force to take control. He wants to get the lay of the land, but unfortunately for Talbot, Coulson pretty much trusts no one at the moment and immediately becomes suspicious that his real plan is to take down what’s left of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson then decides that they’re getting out, the quicker the better.
There’s just one small problem — Trip wants to come along. Unsurprisingly, Simmons is all for this, and unsurprisingly, Fitz watches this whole exchange in the background looking really annoyed and really jealous. To be fair, Coulson is wary of trusting Trip because he was literally Garrett’s right hand man, though Trip insists that he was thrown the same way everyone else was. After Simmons backs Trip up, Coulson reluctantly agrees to let him stay, under the condition that he’s Simmons’ responsibility. (The recapper, meanwhile, can’t help but think that this is similar to what happened when Barton took in Romanov all those years ago.) Fitz is still not having any of it, and this scene pretty much culminates in a shake-up that’s been building since Simmons left to go to the Hub in the first place.
Meanwhile, the Bus isn’t exactly in great shape. Fuel lines are leaking, but Trip can’t do anything about that until they land. According to Simmons, they’re low on supplies. And Fitz tells Coulson that stealth capabilities are down. Is there anything good? Yes! According to Skye, they have Internet access. (“Yay!”) Coulson tells her that since every government agency in the world is on their ass, they need to literally vanish and become “Agents of Nothing.” (Sidenote: I’m so glad someone finally used what has become a bit of a joke since the events of Winter Soldier.) Skye asks if Coulson has heard from Ward, to which Coulson suggests she give him a call.
And in one of those really fun double-meaning scenes, Skye calls her beau and tells him that by scrubbing all their IDs, “Grant Ward no longer exists.” Ward, in return, tells her Hand picked up some Navy jets, so they were taking the long way to the fridge — hence the delay. Does she know where Coulson is going? For once, Skye’s ignorance is a good thing here because she doesn’t know, and therefore Ward doesn’t know, either.
There’s a bit of a cute flirtation where Skye teases him about who he’s going to be next time they see each other. “Maybe Tom Brady,” Ward says, as the Boston born-and-bred recapper approvingly gives a thumbs up in the middle of her note taking. Garrett is seemingly disgusted by the way Ward is able to cover himself so well, positing that he doesn’t even think Romanov could pull that off. I beg to differ, but instead of starting that argument, let’s get into the argument that Ward and Garrett have after Ward hangs up with Skye. Garrett basically calls him out for his crush, and a pissed-off Ward tells Garrett that shooting Skye wasn’t part of the plan, that things weren’t supposed to get messy. Ward was only supposed to find out about Coulson’s revival, but things went sour once Garrett realized Coulson didn’t know anything. “Don’t forget what the assignment was, who gave it to you and don’t forget why. We’re close,” he threatens.
Raina (or “Flowers” as Garrett calls her) wants to know what her purpose is, and Garrett tells her that he needs her to finish Phase 3 of the Centipede Project. Raina tells him that she thought Phase 3 ended when she couldn’t get the truth about Tahiti from Coulson, but Garrett reveals a bunch of corpses he’s been testing on. He also has some stolen vials from the Guest House, before it was blown up, but he hasn’t been able to test any of them. Ward then hands over the hard drive with the information he took from the Bus, before heading off on his own mission with Garrett — to raid the Fridge.
In Coulson’s office, Skye is giving up her badge and is pretty broken up about it. “I finally felt like I was a part of something, and now it’s worthless,” she says, before realizing that Coulson has to have it much worse. Coulson reveals he was just out of high school when he was recruited by Fury, which, given what we learned about Garrett and Coulson being trained together last week, leads me to be even more curious about Coulson’s back story. (Also, why would he have been recruited in high school? Things to ponder!) As Coulson prepares to hide the badges in a hidden safe, he notices the numbers around the edges lighting up with what looks like coordinates. “There’s only one person that could’ve sent those,” he says with renewed hope. Of course, it’s Fury, but since Samuel L. Jackson can’t come visit every episode, these things have to be done stealthily. The coordinates point to somewhere in the Canadian wilderness — basically the middle of nowhere — and Simmons, along with Trip, is skeptical of this whole thing. How can they be sure it’s not Hydra? Coulson refuses to believe that, going on a passionate rant about how Fury gave him his badge and how he swore an oath to serve when everything failed. The team is going to the coordinates, whether Coulson has to forcibly drag them there or not.
Meanwhile, back at the Super Secret Undercover Lab in Cuba, Ward and Garrett are preparing to raid the Fridge. Raina again expresses her disappointment at Ward not being The Clairvoyant because there was something she wanted to ask him. After Ward tells her he’s known Garrett since he was a teenager, Raina wants to know how he managed to gain the team’s respect so fully. He tells her how he jumped out of the plane to save Simmons, and how he let things get intimate with May to avoid suspicion (all fun things that bosses Jeff Bell and Jeph Loeb mentioned in last week’s post mortem chat.) “You don’t seem like her type,” Raina deadpans, to which Ward boldly replies, “I’m everyone’s type.”
I have to say, after so many episodes of him seemingly being one note (and now understanding why), I’m really enjoyed Brett Dalton as a confident, snarky bad boy. He goes on to say that he was trained from day one to be a specialist, so this team thing? Not really a part of his deal. Raina wants to know how he can’t feel like he owes a man who would lay down his life to protect him, and Ward seems to break a little at this. He does, he admits, but he owes Garrett everything.
May visits Coulson in his office, with the intention of confiscating his weapon. Given that the two already are on shaky ground, that doesn’t go over quite so well. Coulson has faith that Fury’s alive, but May is worried that Hydra is controlling his actions. She lets it slip that Fury wasn’t in charge of the Tahiti project — he just ordered it, which meant no one really knows what happened to Coulson’s mind, and moreover, what might have been put in there. She reiterates that’s why she was put on the plane, but Coulson refuses to give up his weapon. Meanwhile, Trip is trying to convince FitzSimmons that Coulson is leading them into a trap. Fitz wants to stick behind Coulson, and Simmons is inclined to believe her new friend, which makes Fitz more than a little moody. In the second double-meaning statement of the night, he tells them that now is the time that they stick with someone they believe in.
The Fridge. Location: Classified. The only way in is through the roof. Ward pretends to bring Garrett into custody, only there’s one problem: the guards won’t let them in without Hand’s presence. After Garrett tries to reason with them to no avail, he pretends to radio her and a helicopter comes up and starts firing at them. Ward shoots back convincingly while running for cover, begging the guards to open the door because Hydra is on their tail. The ruse works, and soon Garrett and Ward are inside. Ward shoots the guards during their elevator ride and puts on a gas mask with Garrett, preparing to infiltrate.
[Pause for… a quick but cool clip from Guardians of the Galaxy! I’m super excited for this film.]
As Ward and Garrett lead their team into the Fridge, Garrett tells him the Slingshot Program (how S.H.I.E.L.D. gets rid of dangerous technology) is a hoax. He blows open a vault (a.k.a. the “Toy Store”) where everything is hidden, and Garrett finds the plasma gun that they found in Peru. Garrett then helps jailbreak the prisoners from the Ice Box, including one Mr. Quinn, and on their way out, Ward suspects that something’s hidden under one of the floors. He uses the plasma gun to blast open to reveal…
…well, it eventually turns out to be the Gravitonium. But we don’t see that right away, because in Middle of Nowhere Canada, Coulson is trying to rally his team. He tells them that the mission has to be their choice, and that while he knows they might have doubts, he believes that Fury sent them there for a reason. The team ultimately decides to stick together, though once the actual trek starts, no one’s really impressed. For once, I don’t blame them. I’ve done the whole hiking thing (in summer AND winter) and it’s not very pleasant when it feels like you don’t have an endgame in sight.
FitzSimmons get a quiet moment to themselves and it’s the first time we’ve seen them really interact quietly since they started to separate. Fitz says the last thing he wants is for things to change, but Simmons says it’s already too late for that. And while it’s assumed she’s talking about the whole Shydra deal, the look on Fitz’s face seems to indicate that he thinks otherwise (watch out, Trip.) May and Skye, meanwhile, have a talk of their own, as Skye wants to know what May was doing for Fury. May tells her she was watching out for Coulson, and when Skye defends him, telling her his whole world fell apart, May says that he’s not alone in that. I want Melinda May’s backstory, stat.
With Fitz attempting and failing to find any signs of life once they reach their coordinates, the team slowly but surely starts to grow skeptical. They want to give up. Coulson, at this point, visibly loses it, in a scene that I think is some of the best acting from Clark Gregg, both on this show and in the Marvel movies. “We are not Agents of Nothing. We are still Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and that carries weight,” he demands as he breaks down, before apologizing for his outburst. In a fit of rage, he throws his seemingly useless badge, which quite promptly gets blown up by a small, automated tank. While the team cowers in fear, Coulson, convinced that it’s not Hydra, stands in front of the tank. It asks him to introduce himself and at Coulson’s verification, a hidden wall opens. They’ve found Providence, one of Fury’s secret bases, and here to introduce them to their new safe house is none other than… Patton Oswalt. Or rather, Eric Koenig, Level 6. The level of fanboy that Eric displays in Coulson’s presence rivals Coulson’s Cap love, which is kind of endearing, especially knowing how much Oswalt loves pop culture. He confirms that Fury didn’t make it out of D.C., much to Coulson’s dismay. He then tells them the Fridge has fallen, which catches everyone off guard. Naturally, Skye is worried about Ward, and runs off to call him, which makes Eric suspicious.
Eric then takes Coulson into his private room, which has some decorated windows meant to make him forget that he’s not stuck in a bunker in the middle of nowhere. (Those look a little like Tahiti-scape, no?) He says he’s been down here since the Chitauri invaded New York (a.k.a. since The Avengers) and then admits what we all know — that Fury’s not dead after all. He just needed Hydra to think they killed him. He tells him only a select few people are allowed to know about his survival, and in addition to Coulson, that includes Maria Hill, Cap, and “a couple of others” (uh, Romanov, Sam Wilson, and perhaps another Avenger or two?) Coulson isn’t comfortable keeping a secret this big from his team — not when they have such big trust issues — but Eric is insistent.
When Garrett and Ward get back to their Super Secret Undercover Lab in Cuba, Raina tells him there’s a complication with the hard drive: Skye programmed it to erase all data except if she accesses it. However, during Skye’s call with Ward, she gives him the location of Providence. (This effectively screws them over without realizing it, but Garrett still thinks Fury’s dead.) Ward convinces Garrett he needs some time alone to get the information, and Garrett gives him 24 hours. He beats him up so his “story” looks believable, and it’s a really brutal form of control as he yells, asking him who he is and punching sense into him until he looks rather pathetic. Skye looks so happy when Ward shows up at Providence that it’s almost depressing to you that things are going to go south sooner rather than later. Conversely, now that we know Ward is bad, it’s so fun to pick up on Brett Dalton’s facial expressions and subtle looks as he infiltrates himself back into the team.
Back at the Super Secret Undercover Lab in Cuba, Quinn chews out Garrett for putting him in prison in the first place, emphasizing how bad his life has been since he started working with him. And if that’s not enough to make him angry, Raina told him the truth about Garrett’s non-clairvoyant skills, so he’s decided he’s not going to do anything else for him. Once again, Garrett apologizes — no, he’s not gifted. But he does have one special gift. He shows Quinn the container with the Gravitonium, and yeah… I think Quinn will be quite happy to do things for Garrett after all, don’t you agree?
Coming on the heels of “Turn, Turn, Turn,” arguably the best episode of the season, was going to be hard for any episode, but I thought “Providence” did a great job at keeping the pace that the series has seemed to settle into in its past few episodes. What did you think of the episode? Are you enjoying Newly Bad Grant Ward? How much do you wish Patton Oswalt was really a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent? Sound off below!