‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Recap: Just Following Orders

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Mission Briefing
After murdering Agent Koenig, Ward has absconded with Skye, hoping to finally get the encrypted S.H.I.E.L.D. information off of the hard drive. Coulson and the team move to find Ward and rescue Skye, but Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) shows up to providence with the U.S. government, hoping to convince Coulson to stand down, since S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t rightly exist anymore.

The Agents
Everyone’s on deck this week, but not necessarily playing for the same side. Ward has essentially kidnapped Skye so she can decrypt the hard drive while Coulson, Fitz, Simmons, and Triplett are following the breadcrumbs left behind by Skye. Meanwhile, May is stirring things up behind the scenes, and Maria Hill provides some much-needed backup in a special guest appearance by Cobie Smulders.

Mission Fallout
May gets into contact with Maria Hill, who is pursuing work in the private sector after the dismantling of S.H.I.E.L.D. May wants the know the identity of the person behind the T.A.H.I.T.I. project, hoping it might finally give Coulson the answers he’s been seeking, but all Maria has to offer is a cryptic riddle left by Nick Fury (Director Fury is apparently a poet in his off hours).

Meanwhile, Coulson and his team are wondering what happened to the Bus and their missing agents. Surveillance shows May leaving Providence a little while after her fight with Coulson. Fitz wanders around the base and discovers a secret message scrawled onto one of Keonig’s Faux windows: “Ward is HYDRA,”  just as Gemma is discovering Koenig’s body stashed in the supply closet. Simmons examines Koenig and determines that Ward was the only one who was capable of killing him. Fitz freaks out, as he’s wont to do, and the team works on figuring out how to save Skye. Luckily, they discover that Bus is in Los Angeles, but not before Providence comes under attack. Maria Hill shows up with Colonel Talbot and U.S. military in tow. She urges Coulson to stop working under S.H.I.E.L.D. and accept that the agency doesn’t exist any more. She suggests that the agent allow his staff to walk away from S.H.I.E.L.D. and join the private sector. Coulson informs Maria about the Ward situation, and the agent helps the team escape so they can go after Ward and rescue Skye.

Elswhere, Skye tells Ward that the location needed to decrypt the drive is the same diner where she first met Mike Peterson in the pilot episode. Ward rushes Skye to decrypt the drive, but she expertly stalls for time, giving the HYDRA turncoat enough jabbering Technobabble to keep him satisfied. Skye needles into Ward about his allegiance to S.H.I.E.L.D., and reveals that she knows he’s really a member of HYDRA. She calls the police to the diner, but Ward quickly subdues them. Skye almost escapes, but is soon re-captured by Deathlok. Deathlok, always the pragmatist, tells Ward he has only five minutes to get Skye to decrypt the drive. Ward confesses that his feelings for Skye have always been genuine and the he was just “following orders,” but Skye his revolted by Ward’s true colors. Deathlok stops Ward’s heart and forces Skye to tell him the encryption site before starting it again. The agent reveals that the drive needs to be 35,000 feet in the air before it can be unlocked.

Before Ward can get the Bus in the air, he finds himself locked in a standoff with Maria Hill, who’s piloting another Jet. The two exchage verbarl barbs which gives Coulson enough time to sneak aboard the Bus. Coulson locates Skye and escapes the Bus mid flight in Lola, Coulson’s flying corvette, but not before the drive is unlocked.

The team shacks up at a skeezy motel, having lost not only their agency but their home. May surprises Coulson in his motel room. She reveals that the lead behind the T.A.H.I.T.I. project was Coulson himself. In a message sent to Fury before his death in The Avengers, Coulson reveals that the T.A.H.I.T.I. project was created to revive a mortally wounded avenger, but that the project should be shelved due to it’s horrific side-effects. Coulson learns that he was, in fact, searching for himself this whole time. How exestential.

Most Valuable Agent
This Week’s MVA goes to Skye for managing to outwit and outgame Ward at his own game. Not bad for a new recruit.

Mission Highlights
– Adrian Pasdar is back as the burly, no-nonsense, fake-mustache wearing Colonel Talbot. Let’s hope he sticks around a while.
– I love Ward’s insistence that he’s definitely not a Nazi. Evil terrorist? Sure, you’ve got me pegged, but a Nazi?! Whoa buddy, let’s not jump to conclusions.
– “If I come out, will you shoot me? Cause then I wont come out.”
– Chloe Bennet gives some of her best acting yet in this episode.