After leaving Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team, but still not prepared to abandon them completely, May (Ming-Na Wen) seeks out help in the form of former Deputy Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) who has moved into the private sector and gone to work for Tony Stark. May also retrieves and encrypted flash drive from Coulson’s grave which, after the other events of the episode have been dealt with, will finally give the agent a few answers about Project T.A.H.I.T.I. and the reason why so much effort was spent to hide the truth from him.
The main focus of the episode is spent on Skye (Chloe Bennet) buying time and pretending to decrypt the hard drive for Ward (Brett Dalton) who doesn’t realize she’s already figured out he’s HYDRA. Back at base, which is stormed by U.S. Military led by Hill, Coulson’s team discovers the body of Agent Eric Koenig (Patton Oswalt) and a message from Skye alerting them to Ward’s true allegiences. Some members of the team take the news better than others – like the increasingly mopey Fitz (Iain De Caestecker).
Eventually Skye runs out of time for stalling or escape attempts, especially after John Garrett (Bill Paxton) sends in Deathlok (J. August Richards) to make sure the mission succeeds. Hill, helping out Coulson’s team temporarily before returning to her new post, gives Coulson the distraction needing to save Skye (even if it is at the cost of Lola) leaving the threats of Ward, Garrett, and HYDRA left to be dealt with over the season’s remaining two episodes.
I enjoyed Smulders return here, even if I was surprised the show decided to cast Hill as a classic white hat rather than use the HYDRA opportunity to morph her a little more into her more morally-ambiguous comic character. The late reveal works well, and the Lola escape (although ridiculous) is fun, but the episode does have some pacing problems by stretching out Skye’s stalling tactics while seemingly little to no time takes place to get Coulson’s team to L.A. in time for Skye’s rescue, and spends way too much time on Fitz reaction to the news about Ward when a single scene could have been used more effectively. The big question left to ponder is whether we’ll see Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) before the season concludes or if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will end on a cliffhanger leaving the fate of Coulson’s special squad, and the former spy organization they used to work for, very much up in the air.