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Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Recap: Ep. 216, “Afterlife”

This week’s episode opens with Coulson going car shopping. He’s at one of those used car lots being accosted by an ill-informed pushy salesman. You know the type: he thinks he can peg you just by looking at you, proving not everyone has heard the adage about books and covers. Coulson wants an SUV that can take a beating so the salesman tells him he has a 2010 Wrangler Rubicon – just like the one Hunter drives up in. The salesman’s all, “Hey, that’s my car! Get out, you thief, or I’m calling the cops!” So Coulson’s like, “Nuts to this!”, ices the salesman, and he and Hunter begin life as newly minted used car thieves. (I didn’t see anyone leave cash for that vehicle, did you?)

Skye wakes up dressed like the Supreme Being from The Fifth Element with acupuncture needles that emit some sort of electrical pulses all over her body. She asks Gordon all the requisite questions: “Where am I?” “How long have I been here?” “What’s for breakfast?” “What are you doing to me?” Gordon reminds her that she called for him and she’s been at “the place he told her about” for two days. And a quippy technician type chimes in and takes over for Gordon. He’s Lincoln, Skye’s Transitioner, and they’re administering treatments to Skye that will heal her and ease the terragenesis transition post-mist exposure. Skye’s more interested in when she can leave, though. She says her friends are in danger and Lincoln’s like, “Do you not remember how Gordon found you? You’re the one in danger.”

Gonzalez and Bobbi discuss last week’s altercation with Skye and Calderon (who is recovering from the wicked piece of wood through the chest) and Gonzalez doesn’t think Skye’s even human, referring to her as a “thing.” Bobbi reminds him Skye is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, not a “thing,” but Gonzalez only sees her as a dangerous weapon who can’t control herself. He’s also worried that Coulson has been secretly working with other powered humans on the sly. Bobbi doesn’t think so, but Gonzalez thinks the only way they’ll know for sure is to open Fury’s toolbox, which means they need Fitz.

Bobbi and Gonzalez approach Fitz and Simmons who are throwing all the subtly shady body language that says, “Eff off.”

Gonzalez: Robert Gonzalez.
Simmons: We know who you are, and we are quite aware of your commendable reputation. And under different circumstances we might even be flattered. Which is why this is so difficult to comprehend.
Gonzalez: We had to take the toolbox out of play.
Simmons: What’s inside that’s so important?
Fitz: Maybe it’s their favorite recipes?
Gonzalez: If that’s true, then we can pack up and move on. That’s why we need your help, Leo.
Simmons: And if he doesn’t help are you going to lock him up like you did May?
Gonzalez: You’re not prisoners here and exit protocols are still the same if you want to leave.
Fitz: Great! I’ll go start packing.

Bobbi thinks their loyalty is admirable but Gonzalez thinks it’s misguided. He thinks their loyalty to Coulson, particularly, means that he is more dangerous than the toolbox could be.

And during an off-roading adventure, Hunter and Coulson arrive at the site of Skye’s latest outburst and begin looking for clues. They find the piece of lumber that had impaled Calderon – and video footage of the incident.

Hunter: My god, Skye’s doing that? Glad she’s on our side. She is still on our side, right? That’s new! Did she just get abducted by aliens?
Coulson: We don’t know what he is. He took Skye’s father and Raina.
Hunter: Seriously? I was only gone a week.
Coulson: We don’t know where he comes from, where he goes, or who he works for. He doesn’t leave trails or clues. I’ve lost her.

Fully clothed and leather jacket donned once more, Skye asks Lincoln for a real answer – not some flowery non-answer – to the question, “Where are we?” Lincoln says the official name is Lai Shi, but everyone just calls it the place where Fish Mooney is being held “Afterlife.” The two take a walk through the Afterlife (hah!) and Skye wonders if they’re in China, since the location name is Chinese. Lincoln doesn’t know and says Gordon is the only way in or out, which sounds a lot like a prison to Skye.

Lincoln: You’re not very trusting, are you?
Skye: I woke up naked on a table in a place that no one can even point to on a map, so…call me crazy.

Lincoln reminds her she wasn’t totally naked (SEMANTICS, DUDE!), that she asked Gordon to bring her here, and that no one will force her to stay. He explains that no one lives at Lai Shi permanently and it’s more of a way station for inhumans to learn about their power. He’s a medical student from Cincinnati and he’s brought there “when he’s needed.” Then Skye notices that everyone is starting at her and wants to know the deal. Gordon said everyone there is supposed to be like her, so why is she so special?

Lincoln: Things here have always been done a certain way. These people are descendants, but most of them are waiting to be chosen. They carry the genetic marker and have been brought here to be evaluated, cultured, and prepared for the change, should they be selected. But that only happens to one person every few years.
Skye: They actually want to go through?
Lincoln: This tradition has been passed down through countless generations.
Skye: And I jumped the line.
Lincoln: Not only did you go through without permission or prep, but you did it old school, with a diviner in a Cree temple. That hasn’t happened for thousands of years. You can see why some of these people might be a little envious.
Skye: I would switch places with any of them in a heartbeat! I didn’t want this!

Skye asks Lincoln about Raina and Cal, wanting to know if Gordon brought them to Lai Shi. Lincoln says that Gordon takes people all over and there is no one at Lai Shi who will hurt Skye, proving once more that he is excellent at double speak and not answering questions. (He should think about changing his major to law before it’s too late.)

Gonzalez is interrogating May with not a lot of success. He says she helped Coulson, someone not even Coulson himself could trust, to escape. He wants to know if she’s loyal to Coulson or to S.H.I.E.L.D., and she’s like, “Oh sweetie, they’re the same thing, didn’t you know?” Gonzalez falls back on how Skye almost killed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and May knows that Skye’s powers aren’t Coulson’s fault. Gonzalez counters that she would never have had the powers if the voices in Coulson’s head hadn’t led them to the temple in Puerto Rico. May says they went there chasing Hydra like they were supposed to be doing, and Gonzalez thinks Coulson should be put on the Index as well as Skye. He shows May the file labeled “After Action Report Bahrain” and reminds her that she knows first-hand what happens when powered people get out of control, having had to be the Calvalry once before. Gonzalez says he wants to avoid having to put Coulson and Skye down and needs May to help find Coulson. She’s like, “Coulson will find you, because he’s the one man you can’t put down.” (That’s an awful lot of blind faith, I think. I mean, sure, Coulson’s good, but he’s not infallible. Thor could put him down, I bet.)

Meanwhile, Coulson and Hunter have tucked in with some whiskey by the fire back at the Retreat and Coulson is feeling guilt about letting S.H.I.E.L.D. and Skye be lost to him in one day. Hunter reaffirms his ride or die-ness for Coulson and says Gonzalez sucks to boot. Coulson defends Gonzalez, saying he’s a good guy who has given his life to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hunter’s like, “But good guys don’t usually stab you in the back, though…” Coulson realizes there are only bad options to take in their present situation and isn’t really liking having to choose one of them.

Simmons and Bobbi have a chat in the kitchen over tea and Simmons just wants things to go back to normal. Bobbi says it can if they can only get inside the toolbox, and Simmons is almost certain they don’t really need Fitz to open it. She says the solution to the box isn’t a tech solution, but a lab one, and Bobbi’s got a bright idea. (And Jemma is being so easy about betrayal? Hrm…)

Lincoln shows Skye to her semi-permanent Lai Shi living quarters and tells her she should try to relax which is comical to her. She’s lived in several different version of confinement in recent days so this is just another in a long line of efforts to protect her from herself. Lincoln says the gloves Simmons made compromised Skye’s transition process because she doesn’t know jack about alien biology, and that’s cool. He wants Skye to show him her power tomorrow so she can learn to control it, but Skye’s all, “No, I’m getting rid of this power. That’s why I’m here.” Lincoln’s like, “Ooh. The thing about your powers is…they’re irreversible. But Gordon’s bringing deep dish from Chicago, so be happy!”

Gonzalez’s S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives at the Retreat and Coulson, with a huge grin plastered on his face, tells Hunter that he called them. Hunter wants to know what the hell is going on, and Coulson says he’s choosing one of the bad options: they’re going to hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive and they can steal one of the agents’ quinjets. Gonzalez orders a battering ram to tear the door down, giving Coulson and Hunter roughly an hour. Bobbi doesn’t think Coulson tripping an alarm at the Retreat was an accident at all, meaning they need to figure out why he would bring them to the Retreat. (Do they really want that answer?)

Lincoln takes Skye on a mysterious walk past a transition room they no longer use (according to him)…up to an isolated cliff with an a-MAH-zing view of the mountainside at Lai Shi. He wants Skye to let loose her power and she’s like, “Dude, we were designed to be weapons. You don’t want me to let loose.” So he pulls an “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”/ “You don’t seem like a chicken…” and reveals his power: he controls electrical charges. He can now manipulate and control the charges and even put them onto other things to do cool stuff like levitating his friends! He reminds Skye that they’re connected to something bigger and more extraordinary than she could ever imagine, and it would be terrible if she walked away from it.

Meanwhile, Fitz is packing up.

Mack: I hate to see you leave, Turbo.
Fitz: Only my friend Mack calls me that.
Mack: I’ll always be your friend, Fitz. Hopefully someday you’ll understand why I had to do what I did.
Fitz: If you’re here to try to convince me to open the box you’re wasting your –
Mack: I’m because I don’t want you to leave. I believe in what we’re doing and I want you on board. That box is taking care of. Simmons found a way in using genetic markers or something…

Fitz checks the research and realizes that Simmons has aligned herself with Gonzalez’s faction and has figured a way to open the toolbox.

And Coulson and Hunter’s hour is expiring soon: the battering ram is almost through the door. Hunter’s worried their reinforcements haven’t arrived yet, and Coulson’s like, “Stuck in traffic?” Hunter asks how many people are turning up and isn’t impressed at all when Coulson tells him “just one,” calling them a grave digger. But Coulson just wants to know if Hunter plays cards. Just then the door gives way and agents pour in to find Hunter and Coulson playing cards in front of the fire. Coulson brings a finger to his lips and then SURPRISE! The real Coulson and Hunter ice all of the agents from behind, revealing the card players as holograms. Nice one!

Back inside the Lai Shi compound, Skye’s feeling better about her powers. She and Lincoln run into Gordon and she still has some questions.

Skye: I need you to get a message to my friends and let them know I’m okay.
Gordon: I can ask permission, but they’ll advise against it. It’s better we stay quiet for the time being.
Skye: My father and Raina? Where’d you take them?
Gordon: I can’t divulge their locations, just as I can’t divulge yours. But you don’t need to worry about them.

Lincoln explains that “permission” would be granted by the Elders who are in place to protect Lai Shi from those people who are afraid of them. (These folks are a little too shifty for me.) And Gordon appears inside Cal’s red room, presumably the “disused transition room” that Lincoln explained away earlier. Cal is losing it, with broken furniture all over the place and a generally disheveled and unkempt appearance. He’s pissed that Gordon has been keeping him there and rightly guesses that Gordon found Skye Daisy Skye, and he wants to see her immediately. Gordon refuses and Cal makes the ill-informed decision to fight him. After several self-inflicted injuries, Cal gives in and asks why he can’t see Skye.

Gordon: Because you have no self-control. Your lack of discipline has risked everything we have built. You have not only sealed your fate, but the fate of your daughter as well.

(And just what the hell does that mean?!)

Moving into phase two of their plan, Coulson and Hunter trek through the woods wearing a couple of downed agents’ outfits. They approach a quinjet and get ready to steal it, but are thwarted by a voice telling them they’re surrounded. Sure enough, a team of agents and another quinjet are revealed from cloaking and Hunter and Coulson are captured.

Simmons tells Bobbi that microscopic pores on the toolbox that are calibrated to Coulson’s DNA are constantly shifting like a Rubik’s cube and make it difficult to find a solution, and just then an upset Fitz and Mack show up in the lab.

Fitz: I saw everything, Jemma. Did you really want me to find out this way?
Simmons: Well, I was hoping you would so we could work together on this. Do you have any idea how valuable the information inside this could be? You need to help me get it out, get things back to normal.
Fitz: Things can never go back to normal. Can’t you see what you’ve done? You’ve destroyed a man’s life, and for what? (picks up toolbox)
Mack: Fitz, put it down right now.
Fitz: Because of fear. Fear of what’s inside a little black box. Well I don’t believe in fear, I believe in trust. And I’m shocked that you would do this. You knew this would drive me away. You may as well have packed my bags yourself. You want me to leave, don’t you, Jemma?
Simmons: If we work for S.H.I.E.L.D., we have a duty to carry out our responsibilities. So perhaps it’s best if you do.

Ouch! Coulson and Hunter grumble as the agents haul them into a quinjet wearing their new metal bracelets, and just then, backup arrives. Mike Peterson pulls the hatch of the jet down and single-handedly takes out all of the agents holding Coulson and Hunter. Then he shoots a couple of small missiles from his arm and takes down the quinjet and two agents that were just about to take flight. Mike comes back for a bone-crushing handshake and introduction with Hunter and learns the schematics of the quinjet so he can fly it. Because, you know, cyborg.

Hunter: At some point, you might have mentioned that backup was a lethal cyborg.
Coulson: Truthfully, I just wanted to see the look on your face. Priceless.
Hunter: Glad I can amuse you.
Mike: I can hear you up here.

Gonzalez informs Bobbi that not only is Coulson working with powered people, but Hunter is on his side, too. He wants to stop them and wants to use May as a bargaining chip. And Skye and Lincoln share a bowl of popcorn as he literally uses the phrase, “I showed you mine now you show me yours.” He tells her that once it’s known what her power is, a guide will be chosen for her to help her learn to control her power. Skye wants to know how long that could take but Lincoln says that depends on the gift and the physical versus internal changes that have occurred.

Lincoln: You’re a piece of cake compared to the other one. Total physical transformation and we still have no idea what her gift is.
Skye: You told me I was the only one.
Lincoln: What?
Skye: You said that I was the first person to transition here in a really long time.
Lincoln: That’s not what I meant –
Skye: She’s here. You lied to me.
Lincoln: I said, there’s no one here who would harm you, and that’s true.

I knew that double speak was too good to be true! Lincoln insists that Raina is on her own path and they must care for her just the same as anyone because she’s one of them, and Skye’s like, “I’M NOT LIKE HER!!!” and everything begins to shake.

She runs out of the room and directly to Raina (how did she know where Raina was?) for a confrontation. They hurl accusations at each other (“My friends and my father have been hurt because of you!” “No one made you come into the temple with me, you came by yourself!”) and Skye begins to use her powers on Raina. “That’s what you are,” Raina says, and before Skye can do lasting damage, Jiaying, Skye’s mother, puts a swift stop to things. Skye tries to convince Jiaying that Raina can’t be trusted. Jiaying tells Skye that she and Raina need to squash their beef because they’re the same now, and Skye is like “I can’t stay here if she’s staying here.” Jiaying offers to be Skye’s guide and doesn’t think this is a good time to tell Skye she’s her mother and tells her that she can stay or go as she pleases.

Then Gordon bring Jiaying to see Cal. She confirms for him that, yes, it was Daisy Skye that Gordon brought to Lai Shi and gives him a hug. Cal asks if he can see Skye and, with perhaps a little too much satisfaction, Jiaying says, “No.”

A jet lands on Gonzalez’s headquarters as he pays May a visit – along with a gun. He gives the gun to her and tells her she should kill him if she really thinks he’s a traitor to S.H.I.E.L.D., or else hear him out. He says that he would like to offer her a seat on the board of his S.H.I.E.L.D. so that Coulson has a strong advocate once they bring him in. Gonzalez says Coulson is acting like a fugitive and a threat and no threat to S.H.I.E.L.D. is taken lightly. May picks up the gun and slides it back, scoffing at Gonzalez’s cheap ploy of giving her an unloaded gun. He unloads the gun and I wonder how it is that such a seasoned agent doesn’t know the weight of a loaded gun by now. As Gonzalez insists that the factions cannot afford to be enemies if S.H.I.E.L.D. is to survive, Fitz is given a final pat down and leaves headquarters.

High above the clouds, Coulson, Hunter, and Mike regroup. Mike has some new information about List, the Hydra faction Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t take down. Over six months, Mike has learned that List has been hunting powered people to perform experiments on him. Coulson knows that List is connected to Skye’s father – and that they’ll need Grant Ward’s help to gain access to them for S.H.I.E.L.D. Bad option! (No, good option, man! Ward is so awesome now.)

Simmons tells Bobbi and Mack that she’s done everything she can to open Fury’s toolbox, but no luck. And in the back of a cab, Fitz pulls the real toolbox out of his bag, along with a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich (with just a hint of pesto aioli) from Jemma. He’s so happy and they are so adorbs.

The Questions: Will we meet these Elders who are silently running the show at Lai Shi? Why do people constantly forget that Fitz and Simmons aren’t just scientists, but S.H.I.E.L.D. agents? What is Raina’s power? And what is Fitz going to do with that toolbox?

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