(Jemma and Coulson undercover as father/daughter)
Jemma Simmons: All mom ever wanted was your love. To be with you! In our two-story Victorian home in the Cotswolds! But could you even give her a moment, what with your banking job requiring you to travel to the States from Tuesday to Saturday every other week? No! You may not have had any time for her, but you had time for your work… and your prostitutes!
Phil Coulson: Prostitutes, plural?
Episode 1.13 “T.R.A.C.K.S.”
Directed by: Jeff Edwards
Written by : Lauren LeFranc and Rafe Judkins
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally returns after a painful month long hiatus. Here’s a recap and review of the last episode to get you ready for the show’s return. “T.R.A.C.K.S.” was written by Lauren LeFranc and Rafe Judkins and was directed by Paul Edwards. LeFranc and Judkins also wrote episode 7, “The Hub.” Edwards’ credits include Lost, Fringe and Heroes among many others, but he clearly understands the genre. This was a fantastically structured episode that also delivered powerful performances.
The episode begins straightforwardly enough. The team goes undercover to catch Quinn (David Conrad) who is moving an expensive package from Cybertech by train through the Italian countryside. Coulson (Clark Gregg) uses his pull to take over the operation from the Italian authorities lead by Russo (Carlo Rota). It’s always great to see Rota as a guest star and he certainly delivers here. Coulson is determined to follow Quinn back to the Clairvoyant. The team goes undercover with Ward (Brett Dalton) and May (Ming-Na Wen) assigned to tag the package with a tracker, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Skye (Chloe Bennet) to monitor the signal so they can track the package to Quinn, and Coulson and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) act as a distraction.
May says she hates going undercover and as it turns out, she has one of the worst days of all of them. I loved how their undercover personas actually reflected their real roles. Ward follows after the haughty high maintenance woman of mystery. Fitz and Skye play a young couple backpacking through Europe – something not uncommon for friends fresh out of college to do. I loved that Coulson and Simmons pretended to be father and daughter as that is a nice nod to the role Coulson plays in the team. It was hilarious watching Simmons obsess about her backstory because she excels at preparation. I loved the look on Coulson’s face when she accuses father of having multiple prostitutes. And in a fun cameo, Stan Lee stops by on the arms of two suspicious looking beautiful women to chew Coulson out for being a terrible father. Fittingly enough, this writing team is the same one that wrote Simmons’ failure at undercover in “The Hub.”
Ward asks May if she feels like their missions are getting personal. He’s noticed a change in both Coulson and Skye. May attributes Coulson’s focus on the Clairvoyant to the fact that he had Coulson tortured. Outwardly, Ward is concerned that personal matters may adversely affect tactical decisions. May tells him that’s why she doesn’t have any. Ward suggests that Coulson may not be so accepting of their relationship, and May springs it on Ward just as she slips out the window that she’s already told Coulson and he was ok with it. By the end of the episode, Ward is convinced that Coulson’s seeming obsession is the cause of Skye’s injury.
I loved Fitz attributing his good American accent to watching lots of American tv and saying that some of it was quite good – lots of nice teeth! I also loved Skye accusing Fitz of getting flustered when she kisses him. He denies it, saying the kiss was something like you’d give your Granny. However, he suddenly reverts back to his Scottish accent right after she kisses him.
The episode becomes really interesting in how it unfolds. We first see Coulson and Ward have to jump from the train. Then the episode jumps back to Ward leaving to tag the package and being attacked by two of Quinn’s men. He’s injured but able to tell Simmons to go to Fitz and Skye, then running after Coulson. Ward and Coulson think they see the train vanish. Ward is worried about the others on the train, but Coulson says May will look after them. Then they find May’s glasses and know she’s not on the train.
There was another nod to the larger universe when they speculate that alien technology might have made the train disappear. Coulson hopes not as he doesn’t want to have to deal with Asgaard! They then wonder how their cover was blown. Interestingly, Coulson’s first thought is that the Clairvoyant tipped them off. They find a hotwired truck that’s running and take it, just assuming it’s fortuitous. They take a call from Russo who blames Cybertech. He tells Coulson most of his men are dead.
It was hilarious watching Ward and Coulson try to navigate the lab without Fitz and Simmons. Ward attempts to clarify his relationship with May to Coulson. Coulson is stunned that Ward want to talk about it in the middle of a crisis. I loved that Coulson’s reaction to Ward was so different than his reaction to May. Ward tries to downplay the relationship and tells Coulson “it’s” never happened on the bus. Coulson tells him that if “it” is happening between his team members then it’s his business. He warns Ward that if he ever endangers a team member he’ll have him sent to Alaska. Finally, he tells Ward that if it’s just sex, he should become more comfortable saying the word. Clearly, Ward has a different perspective on his relationship than May, and I suspect if anyone were to be distracted in the field, it would be Ward.
Russo shows up and tells then he has their people. Suddenly he’s stabbed from behind by a very dishevelled May. She tells them wheels up in five, and then we flash back to what happened to May. After she’s knocked off the train, she finds Coulson and Ward frozen, hotwires the truck and is taken prisoner by Russo who proceeds to torture her. I loved watching May take out Russo’s people, especially when he stabs her and she smiles and says that’s just what she needed before taking the knife out and cutting herself down.
May refuses Ward’s offer of help but does let Coulson tend to her wound. I love watching Gregg and Wen’s scenes. Ward is clearly disturbed when he walks in on them. He’s jealous of the bond the two share – they are able to support each other in a way that May won’t allow Ward to do with her.
Getting a lead on the train, they find Simmons, who has been affected by the same toxin that froze Ward and Coulson. The next flashback takes us back to what happened to Fitz and Skye. Skye asks Fitz if he’s ever heard of an 0-8-4 ever being a person. He says no but only after he’s also said that the one thing they do have in common is that they are all dangerous. The comms then go out and they realize Cybertech knows they’re there. They’re attacked but Simmons saves them from the bomb. Fitz realizes that the bomb is actually using dendriltoxin – the same thing used in the night-night gun. Fitz is concerned about leaving Simmons safe and safe from prying eyes while Skye leaves her with a weapon. I loved Fitz shooting the Cybertech agent for Simmons.
Skye tells Fitz that they have to follow the agents who have stopped the train and taken the device. Skye has Fitz activate a tracker when they follow the package to Quinn. Skye insists on going in because she thinks that’s what Coulson would do and what he would want. It was fun watching how relatively comfortable Fitz has become with field work.
Skye finds Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) in a parabolic chamber and is captured by Quinn. Skye is relieved to find Mike alive. The device from Cybertech is actually a special prosthetic leg for Mike. Quinn toys with Mike, telling him he knows he takes his orders from the Clairvoyant. He asks if Mike would let him kill him. Mike says yes. He asks Mike if he’d kill Skye because nothing would hurt Coulson more than losing his pet project. Mike says no, he’s orders aren’t to kill her. Mike leaves and then Quinn shots Skye twice, the second time while embracing her. He very gently lowers her to the floor and looks genuinely sorry, explaining that he has his orders too. I wonder if he also has an eye device fitted? Mike takes out all of Mancini’s (T. J. Ramini) agents. Fitz is about to be shot when Ward, Coulson, May and Simmons show up. Coulson gets the drop on Quinn, and Mike is told not to engage S.H.I.E.L.D.
The team finds Skye and Simmons quickly suggests putting her in the hyperbaric chamber to stabilize her. They bring her back on board the bus and the entire team deliver outstanding performances. A special shout out for Elizabeth Henstridge. She is completely business-like in delivering her report on Skye’s condition but then breaks down completely in the supply closet. Fitz comes to her, knowing her, and she ends sobbing in his arms. Ward loses it. Thinking he blames himself, May goes to him and tries to comfort him. Ward says she never should have gone in by herself. But he actually appears to blame Coulson. And after all, she went in because she thought that is what Coulson would do. Gregg is once again strong throughout, but especially in his devastation over Skye.
The final scene shows Mike trying to get to see his son, and the final shot links Cybertek to Deathlok. It will be interesting to see just how this famous Marvel character will manifest in the series. It seems that Mike is destined to turn into him, but I would have expected more cybernetics than just a leg.
Are you excited for the return tonight? Do you think Skye is going to make it? Do you think they will resort to secret S.H.I.E.L.D. technology – T.A.H.I.T.I. – to save her or will her history as an 0-8-4 save her? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.