Episode lucky number seven centers around trusting the SHIELD system. After last week’s focus on Simmons, it’s the second half of the scientific duo in the spotlight. Fitz plays a major role as he plays backup to Ward in the field.
SHIELD agent is recovered with a dangerous secret up his nose — literally, Simmons extracts a digital drive from his nasal cavity that shows a Russian Separatist movement is in possession of an Overkill Device that will let the gain control and split from the government. After visiting the Hub, where all SHIELD agents walk, talk and (as Skye points out) dress the same, Coulson and his fellow Level Seven-Plus agents Mae and Ward devise a plan. They need a two-man team to sneak over the Georgian border to disable the device. Mae and Ward assume they’ll be going, but she means Fitz and Ward, promising a Fitz-luminating episode. Meanwhile, the endearing techie can’t even get a door open in the Hub.
“Don’t do anything rash while I’m gone, like jump out of the airplane,” Fitz tells his partner as he packs to go. Their relationship plot continues to thicken after Simmons’ brush with death last week. Skye has reservations on the idea of sending Fitz out with Ward, but Coulson assures her they know what they’re doing. That is, until Fitz blows their cover in a just-over-the-border bar where he asks what beers they have on tap. Just as they are about to be shot as suspected Separatists, the power goes out.
Back in the Hub, Skye warns her superiors about how Fitz’s absence has left the whole operation a wreck, but Coulson doesn’t take the bait to let her into SHIELD’s mainframe. She recruits a reluctant Hermione Granger — I mean, Simmons — to help her out by bringing up the potential that Fitz is being tortured.
Flash to Fitz using his technological prowess to bring power back to the bar. Two million rubles later, and they’re across the border. After surviving a firefight, they bunk in together for real male bonding in a tunnel before hitching a ride on a truck to get to the power plant where the device is being kept.
Meanwhile, Coulson presents the theme of this week’s issue: trusting the system. As if to justify his trepidation regarding the rest of the agency’s flippant approach to the mission, Simmons and Skye work on getting more information from the classified offices so they can help Fitz. This entails an awkward shakedown with a superior agent that ends with her shooting Sitwell with a tranquilizer gun.
Skye eventually gets into the Hub’s mainframe despite Simmons’ gaff and has two minutes’ worth of access. Instead of looking up Fitz’s status, however, she goes to the adoption document redacted by the agency first. Then she looks at the mission and finds their location and the lack of an extraction plan just before Coulson walks in on her. “You told me to trust the system,” she says. “And the system sent Fitz and Ward in there to die.” As it turns out, Skye isn’t the only one who’s had secrets kept from her. Coulson didn’t know there was no extraction plan, either, despite his Level Eight status. Feeling betrayed, the head agent joins Mae, Skye and Simmons’ rescue mission.
Back at the compound, Ward knows that the extraction team is a bust and tells Fitz this, offering to let him get out on his own. The field agent is trying to protect the scientist, but Fitz, still fussy after Ward saved his girl, is set on proving himself as just as tough a SHIELD agent. After they power down the device, they find themselves cornered by the showdown between their own agency and the rebels. The improvised extraction team — that is, the Cavalry and her three fellow agents — show up just in time to save them.
The reason for no extraction team, according to the Hub, is two-fold. SHIELD resources were needed elsewhere, and “it’s Coulson’s team. They didn’t need one.” Apparently, the system trusts its agents more than its agents trust the system. Fitz returns to Simmons, and the sexual tension, if possible, tightens. Fitz brags about having Ward’s back the entire time, saving him from a Russian pub mob and the other stuff, but is figuratively shot down when Simmons blurts out how she literally shot a man down.
Coulson tells Skye he found the protected file on her past, recapping her on the fact a SHIELD agent was the one who dropped her off at the orphanage. The agent was unidentified, but it was a woman. Coulson put in a request to dig further into the files. That’s enough for Skye, however. But he didn’t tell her why. He can’t, as he explains to May. “Some secrets are meant to stay secret,” he says. Then he asks if she can help him find out what really happened. It’s dangerous waters, but she says she can try. In the stinger, Coulson calls about his medical files, specifically regarding Tahiti, he finds that he’s been shut out — they may trust his team, but they don’t trust him.
This week’s episode showed that Coulson and his agents are a rare breed of SHIELD agent. They’re reluctant to “trust the system” and find it more beneficial to trust each other. With this episode, Whedon shows his viewers that the series always has another trick up its sleeve. We just have to trust the system.
Kate Everson is a Chicago journalist and University of Missouri alumna. By day she is an associate editor for four HR industry magazines. By night, she reviews films, outlines fiction novels with tough female leads and dreams of being the first person to win two Oscars in the same night for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. When her fingers aren’t getting exercise bouncing across her keyboard, she’s reading Palahniuk and Vonnegut, practicing her Batgirl skills in the dojo or waiting by the mailbox for her Hogwarts letter. As Katharine Hepburn said: “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.”