Looks like we’re going to get the history of Agent Melinda May this episode. Upward and onward!
Seven years ago, Agent May is in the shower getting clean – and her husband, Andrew, is helping her get a little dirtier. They’re planning for a family and they need to continue taking that all-important first step to procreation. (You know what I’m talking about!) May is heading out to a S.H.I.E.L.D. operation so she and Andrew plan to have some quality time when she gets back just as Coulson arrives to pick up May.
On their jet, Coulson and May begin to discuss the subject of their operation but get sidetracked with S.H.I.E.L.D. fund allocations. May thinks the budget has been dedicated to the Triskelion, but Coulson knows that Fury socked some dimes away to fund a new initiative which would form a team from the powered people S.H.I.E.L.D. encounters rather than releasing them. Coulson wonders if May would want to be included since she’s planning to be a mom soon, but she’s like, “Shut up and let’s do this.” The highly powered person they’re tracking is Eva Belyakov. She apparently possesses super strength so destructive as to crush the front end of a Jeep like she was the Hulk. The plan is to intercept her in public before Russian intelligence can in Bahrain.
In the present, May walks in on Bobbi and Agent Weaver talking about the tail they have on Fitz. They think he’ll lead them to Coulson, eventually, but also want to keep an eye on him to make sure his ideas don’t become crazy ideas. They’re also concerned about Coulson’s secret projects and ask May about Project Dethlok and Theta Protocol. May declines to offer any insights on Theta Protocol, so Bobbi and Weaver inform her that, under Coulson, the project has triple the budget of all of S.H.I.E.L.D. May offers to work her magic on Coulson on behalf of “the real S.H.I.E.L.D.” if they give her back control of her base and they’re all in agreement in the name of opening Fury’s toolbox.
Jiaying has brought Skye to a mountainside and wants to know about her life. Skye reflects on how S.H.I.E.L.D. had become her family in recent years – until she went and got all gifted with innate powers and stuff. She feels guilt about her gift so Jiaying tries to help her understand it.
Jiaying: Everything’s shaking already, vibrating at its own natural frequency. I believe you can learn to sense those frequencies around you and resonate with them so that not everything is shaking, only what you choose.
Skye is in slight disbelief, like, “How am I supposed to hear this stone?” But as she tests out hearing the stone’s frequency, she’s even more shocked: she’s hearing the mountain’s frequency instead. Jiaying encourages her to try to heighten the mountain’s frequency (“You can’t hurt me or that mountain, boo.” – Jiaying) and as she does, Skye causes a small avalanche on the mountainside.
Back in Bahrain seven years ago, Coulson and May meet up with Faisal Ahmed from Bahrain National Security. His people has eyes on Belyakov, who has perched at a cafe in a not-tourist friendly marketplace. Ahmed says that if S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t nab her, his people are going to capture her. Knowing that Fury would be livid if they bungle this operation, they resolve to make the very public setting work, though it has high backfire potential.
Coulson approaches Belyakov and introduces himself. He tells her that he is part of an organization that can help special people like her, but she rightly wants to know why the hell she should trust him. Meanwhile, May spots a little girl playing tag with everyone in the market – and two armed locals closing in. Agent O’Brien is tasked with intercepting them as Coulson asks Belyakov to come with him, but she refuses citing her need for pain. Just then, she gets up and punts a tray, resulting in a chain reaction: the locals pull their guns, all the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in the vicinity draw theirs, one of the locals grabs the little girl and shoots Ahmed, and a handful of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are shunted into an unknown doorway leading to…where?
Back in Lai Shi proper, Jiaying tells Skye that she should carb up and take a nap for the next time they practice flexing her gift. She goes to handle something else and tells Skye that she’s proud of the work she’s done, and Lincoln swoops in as she leaves. He tells Skye she must be special if Jiaying is transitioning her personally, because, as the leader of Lai Shi, she doesn’t do that, like, ever. Skye says she likes Jiaying, too, and he gives her some takeout for post-traning nosh.
In a helijet, Bobbi presses May about the extent of her knowledge of Theta Protocol. She doesn’t think Coulson ever told May about it, and declares that can’t sit by and keep getting blindsided by Coulson by things like that again. Bobbi says she doesn’t think Coulson is a bad guy, but his actions need to be public knowledge. May tells her that sometimes the price of doing the right thing is people not understanding why they make the choices they do. But you deal with it.
Flashing back to Bahrain, Coulson calls O’Brien inside the hostage location but all he says is, “Leave us alone.” Agent Hart says he and his team are going in, but May thinks she should be the one going in. Coulson tells her to let them do their thing first so they can get an idea of the kind of powered person they’re dealing with.
And in the present, Gordon is inspecting Raina’s quills and she is still wrapped up in being disgusted by her appearance. Gordon tells her that her gift is yet to be discovered, but she thinks she’s just a monster who is assaulted by nightmares every night. Lincoln appears and tells her she’ll get through it and Gordon’s like, “Shut your mouth and mind your business!” Gordon tells Raina that he’s gone through a physical change, too, and he thinks being at Lai Shi will help her. Raina wants to leave but Gordon says they’ll talk about it later and leaves himself. Raina tells Lincoln about her nightmares: she is being hunted and tangled in thorns, and Skye is happily having dinner with her father and some daisies. Raina thinks Skye got everything and she just got quills, but Lincoln tells her not to give up on herself yet.
Back in Bahrain, Coulson and May watch monitors of the action inside the hostage area and it’s all going to hell. As the agents move in, gunfire beings near the little girl, they undergo some friendly fire, then all communications go down. Twelve agents go down and Coulson and May are suddenly alone on the mission.
In the present, Jiaying and Skye reunite in Skye’s cabin for more practice. Jiaying has set up nine glasses and plays a note on the rim of one of them, asking Skye to use her power to hold the note on it and the rest of the glasses. She does and creates a very musical tone – until the glasses all shatter. Jiaying is proud of the progress but Skye is a little shellshocked. She says that things at Lai Shi feel like home, and that’s always a dangerous proposition to her.
Skye: Mistrust of home is my other superpower.
Jiaying: Where is this coming from?
Skye: I broke a crystal decanter once at a foster family’s house, and now the glass –
Jiaying: They sent you back for that?
Skye: Well, I tried some of the scotch, too. But, yes, something bad happens every time I feel settled somewhere. I’m 25 and I’ve never spent more than two years anywhere. The second I made friends at the orphanage – gone. God forbid I called a foster family “home” and it’s, “Pack your bags.” I got the news on my birthday once, which is a complete farce because I don’t even know when I was born. S.H.I.E.L.D. was the closest I ever came to having a family. I belonged there, saw what I could be. Even that ended with agents hunting me through the woods.
Jiaying: We’re not going to turn on you or abandon you. This is a safe place.
Skye: See, you say that but I know you’re not being straight with me. Why do you care if I stay or go? And why –
Jiaying: July 2nd. You were born on July 2nd. It was a hot night, and for some reason I decided to clean the house before I woke your father.
Skye: Oh my god. He said you didn’t age.
Jiaying: Cal, he ran over to the neighbor’s house to borrow their car, but didn’t speak any Chinese, so it was a mess.
Skye: It’s you.
Jiaying: Deep down, I think you knew.
Skye: I was too afraid to hope.
Aw! So Skye knows both her parents now. (We’ll ignore how Jiaying put the onus on Skye to know their relationship to one another without any real reason other than a passing likeness to go on.) But she’s still in shock. Skye is still reconciling the notion that her parents were actually out there looking for her all her life, and Jiaying confirms this. She says Cal put her back together after her brutal dissection and during the time they searched for her, he became an awful man, causing her to leave for Lai Shi. Then Jiaying implores Skye to keep their relationship a secret from anyone else, as they might see it as a threat. (O-kay.)
May returns to HQ and Simmons is overjoyed to see a familiar face. May tells Simmons that she now has control of the base and asks her if she knew that she was working on Dethlok technology and she clearly did not. Looking at the schematics, they both realize Coulson kept more than a few secrets and Simmons is on board with finding out the truth about Coulson’s activities.
Back in Bahrain, Coulson is on the phone trying to convince the authorities to allow May to go in an neutralize the hostage situation. They hear the sirens of local authorities and Coulson sends May in while he heads them off. He feeds them a story about a biological weapon being released while May calls Andrew for a pre-action pep talk. She tells him that she’s going into a hostage situation with a little girl involved, so he gives her tips on how to make her feel safe and reassures her of her badassery. Then, giving us her best Spider-Woman impression, May scales a wall leading to a side door and enters the building. She cracks one guy’s neck and realizes she has no radio support with Coulson, then takes out another guy. Behind another door, she finds Agent Hart who can only tell May that he needs her pain. Sound familiar? She subdues him as he raises his gun to shoot her – and then all the rest of the agents begin saying the same thing from behind her. She tries to get through to Hart verbally to no avail, so she escapes the room and locks the agents inside, realizing that she needs to take out the source.
And in the present, Simmons and May uncover that Coulson was always lying about where he was when he traveled and that he had been funneling money through shell corporations – and consulting with Andrew on the sly. May wonders why Coulson would order 100 bunk beds and Mack joins the discussion to add that he thinks Coulson was trying to build a base for powered people. He thinks that Coulson’s focused on exploring and training powered people and so has been gathering money and bunks and scientists – and psychologists. May is more adamant that they need to open Fury’s toolbox, telling Simmons that underestimating powers is playing with fire, best intentions aside.
Raina wants out, but Gordon won’t take her back to civilization. He says he can take her to secluded places but not public because it’s too dangerous for her right now. She thinks this is unfair, but he urges her to stay because she simply hasn’t discovered the beauty reflected in the true nature of her gift. She agrees to stay, so long as Gordon continues to guide her.
Jiaying and Skye take a walk and run into Ethan who is about to go backpacking in Prague. Jiaying says he’s not gone through the mist yet, but Skye wants to talk about why she can’t tell the world her mom’s alive.
Jiaying: I’m responsible for everyone here. Favoritism undermines trust.
Skye: Don’t you want to tell people?
Jiaying: I don’t get that luxury. My rules must be enforced. People have died when the process for selection and training has been ignored.
Skye: But I already skipped that process.
Jiaying: And I protected you from the swift response that usually brings. It’s happened before.
With Jiaying continuing to tell her story, we flash back to May’s mission in Bahrain. As May kicks and punches her way down a stairwell, Jiaying explains that a woman who had been there didn’t trust her and stole some terragen crystals and fled to Bahrain. May comes across Eva, who is still ranting about needing pain. Eva sends May flying across the room, and in the present Skye puts two and two together and realizes that this is the same story she heard about May, aka the Cavalry.
Skye thinks May going in and killing Eva was the end of it, but we see that Eva wasn’t the source after all – it was the little girl all along. Jiaying recounts that Eva didn’t steal the crystals for herself, but for her daughter, Katya. Jiaying saw darkness in Katya and didn’t think it was wise to allow her to activate her powers, but Eva felt otherwise and absconded with them and her daughter. In the flashbacks, Katya kills the rest of the locals and brings in more as May sits shot and bleeding, trying to convince her to stop. Jiaying explains that Katya went insane with the power to leech pain off people and control them with one touch. Katya kills the latest batch of locals and brings the agents in as she creeps toward May, asking for her hand. May tries again to convince her to stop, implores Katya not to kill her teammates, and outside Coulson hears a gunshot. He runs inside to find Katya dead in May’s arms, and Jiaying feels like it was her responsibility to take care of that problem, not S.H.I.E.L.D.’s. Jiaying tells Skye that the people at Lai Shi have seen first hand what a woman will do for her daughter (what kind of mess…?!) and so they must keep their relationship secret.
As Coulson helps May limp out we can see Gordon and Jiaying watching the aftermath. The other agents are in awe at how May took out roughly 30 guys to save the agents, nicknaming her The Cavalry, but she’s torn up inside about having to kill Katya. Back at home, she showers, but it’s a sad one this time. She’s so haunted by what happened in Bahrain that she begins to pull away from Andrew and submits for a transfer to a desk job. In the present, she finds herself doing the same thing, only this time her friend and her ex-husband are in the files she’s collating.
Jiaying is trying to convince Skye to have dinner with Cal. Skye’s like, “He’s a lunatic!” but Jiaying says that both of them owe this to him for never giving up on finding Skye. Skye agrees and inside his red room, the place has been decked out for dinner. He’s clean and gives Skye a bouquet of daisies as he begins to apologize. Skye cuts him off, telling him that it’s because of him that she now knows, and has learned from, her mother. And Jiaying prompts Cal to tell Skye about the day of her birth.
Cal: July 2nd! It was a gorgeous summer night, beautiful big moon in the sky. 1988. Do you know, your mother – she actually cleaned before she told me? You see, there was only one car in the village, and we didn’t own it. So I had to negotiate with the man. He didn’t speak English and my Chinese was terrible.
Skye: Wait, ’88? I’m 26? That is so messed up! To 26.
They toast to her real age, and Cal continues his recollection of Skye’s birth. Lincoln comes in (for what, exactly?) and realizes that Raina had a dream of this, but it wasn’t really a dream. Raina’s latent power seems to be precognition.
And in a fast food restaurant, two guys have been waiting 20 minutes for the bathroom. Inside, Fitz is running an experiment to open Fury’s toolbox – and it works! A holographic menu pops up and Fitz begins puttering around with it, eventually making contact with Coulson and Hunter via Coulson’s tablet. He tells them that he stole the toolbox but is being followed. Fitz wants to join them but needs some tips on how to escape this sticky situation, so Hunter’s like, “I got you, boo.”
The Questions: What will Raina’s new power mean for her future? Will Skye and her parents be able to be a family now? Has Coulson located Ward yet? Should May and Simmons align with Gonzalez’s S.H.I.E.L.D.? And is Fitz right for helping Coulson?