Clark Gregg

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The West Wing: An Oasis From Political Madness

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

The worst kept secret with my affection of television is that I believe The West Wing is the greatest achievement in television history. I would gladly debate that point with anyone brave enough to try. That line in and of itself seems to be a microcosm for the political landscape we find ourselves in. Let’s be clear, the notion that I am right and you are wrong if you disagree with me in the slightest, is not a new idea when applied to political dialogue. For at least the last 50 years (maybe even longer) the two-party system has created a divisiveness among its electorate, suggesting that there is an absolute right and absolute wrong way to see things, depending on which side of the aisle you sit.

At some point the narrative changed. From the ‘I believe this and give me a moment so I can explain that and see if you feel the same way’ that eventually gave way to the ‘I’m right, you’re wrong and until you agree with my stance, you’re an idiot’. We are going to try to use The West Wing as a vehicle to explore what the problem really is at its core while still maintaining some sense that we can always get better. And secondly, that the gold standard of modern scripted fictional television can provide the ideals of government that we should continue to strive for.

The nature of democracy, specifically our democracy is that we are never going to get there. We will never wake up with 100% of the country completely in agreement about everything. So the next most logical goal to reach for is to create a political landscape where we keep talking. Not to slam the other side. Not to create further division. Not to widen the gap but instead, to narrow it. When it comes to politics and the practical sense of the governing of a nation’s people, we should act like intellectuals, not school yard bullies. As articulated by Jeff Breckinridge (a Black Civil Rights Lawyer from Georgia) debating reparations with Josh Lyman (a White jewish man from New England) in the episode, “Six Meetings Before Lunch”.

Jeff Breckinridge: You got a dollar? Take it out. Look at the back. The seal, the pyramid, it’s unfinished. With the eye of God looking over it. And the words Annuit Coeptis. He, God, Favors our Undertaking. The seal is meant to be unfinished, because this country’s meant to be unfinished. We’re meant to keep doing better. We’re meant to keep discussing and debating and we’re meant to read books by great historical scholars and then talk about them.

Sadly, it seems, this 2016 Presidential Election campaigns have been worse than I’ve ever seen. I’ve been following the political process and Presidential Elections specifically since the first George Bush. Every year it seems the popular cliché is that this election is a “lesser of two evils” situation. It’s always been popular to say, but this year I’m afraid the sentiment is more accurate than in past years. For the first time I can remember, there are more people wishing there were other options than those set on who they will vote for. While choosing who to vote for is every American’s right, there is a great deal of vitriol being tossed around from both sides. When the very nature of our system is to keep talking, keep evolving the debate. As opposed to spewing hatred for ‘the other side’.

Disclaimer: If you are waiting for the portion of this article where I divulge my political allegiance. Explain why my candidate is better than the other side. You are misunderstanding the point of this exercise. I have no intention of getting into the meat and potatoes of the political debate. The point to be had here is that neither side is right or wrong, but that the process was never intended to be this angry or combative. Something to consider the next time you get into a political discussion with someone who doesn’t share your view. In the “Game On” episode when President Bartlet faces off against Governor Ritchie of Florida many things are said, but one thing rings out stronger than all the others. A quote I think of every time I hear a politician or pundit drop the “partisan politics” line as a means to create animosity for the other side.

Jed Bartlet: I don’t think Americans are tired of partisan politics; I think they’re tired of hearing career politicians diss partisan politics to get a gig. Partisan politics is good. Partisan politics is what the founders had in mind. It guarantees that the minority opinion is heard, and as a lifelong possessor of minority opinions, I appreciate it.

Politicians will be politicians. In order to be one, the individual has to engage in a game of sorts. This plays out in every election cycle. One elected official cannot possible appeal to all voters. So, they play a numbers game. Using whatever resources at their disposal they will identify trends, tipping points, hot button issues and hopefully present themselves to fall on the winning side of those issues. For the politician, it’s about serving their best interest which generally means doing what is required to get re-elected. The day we discover a politician that is willing to fall on the grenade, throw away his lifestyle, security and career away for standing up for an issue they believe in is the day that politician decided to stop being a politician. My more pressing concern is that of the electorate. The people need not adopt the attitude and persona of the politicians they vote for. And that my friends is the crux of my issue.

I am sure it hasn’t always been this way. I remember watching my grandparents around election time. My Grandmother was a blind democrat. Put simply, she grew up the daughter of farmers and believed Democrats were for farmers. She really needed no other criteria. My Grandfather who did lean Democratic at times was much more open. He took the approach of “Show me what you’ve got, you have to earn my vote” and he would have no problem voting the other way. So by the time I was 10, they would not even speak to each other about politics. If the conversation had the potential of going south, they’d prefer not to talk about it, then vote however they were going to vote. That sense seems to be gone now. They both paid attention, both took in the debates of the issues of the day, but never dug in their heels to belittle or attack someone who disagreed.

Take a step back from the details. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Trump supporter, Clinton supporter, or even a steadfast Sanders or Johnson fan . Maybe it’s the 24 hour news cycle. Maybe it has something to do with how social media and technology have made the world smaller. I think the clear takeaway is that no matter who you think you’re going to vote for, it is a lesser situation. Despite popular belief, I do not think Trump’s attack on political correctness would fly 50 years ago. Similarly, I can’t imagine anyone 50 years ago voting for a candidate with real trustworthiness issues. I’m not going to so far as to call this a lesser of two evils, but it is less. Less than we should expect. Less than what came before them. We are not raising our expectations for our future President we are diminishing it. We are so used to looking at the landscape and thinking, “That’s the least crappy candidate. That’s my pick. The one I hate the least.” When did we decide this was good enough. Both parties want to believe they are rolling out Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. It may not be a choice of lesser of two evils, but there is no doubt the expectation has become lesser.

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Idealistic as it may seem, we should expect more. For the moment, forget the issues. Forget the economy, forget foreign policy, forget education reform, forget national defense. We should expect more from the candidates. College educated shouldn’t be enough. Serving two terms as a Senator who took a vulnerable seat shouldn’t be enough. To be completely transparent about it, this aspect of the conversation isn’t left to Trump or Hilary. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but no President I’ve been legally of age to vote for fits that bill. Not Trump or Hillary. Not Obama, not George W, not Bill Clinton. Maybe George Herbert Walker Bush, maybe. Ask yourself if any President in the last 25 years even comes close to measuring up to what you once believed a President should be. The one thing that Herbert Walker on back had (Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Kennedy, etc not even talking about the Lincolns, Roosevelts, and Washingtons of our history) was gravitas. The moment they spoke there was a reverence. The idea that issues aside, we are in good hands. Intelligent hands. Hands of a leader in control. We can debate the subtle merits until we’re blue in the face, but the bottom line is that these candidates in today’s politics lack most of that. The sensibility of intelligence, leadership and gravitas.

Sam: Before I look for anything, I look for a mind at work. No one’s saying a President has to have a tenured share in symbiotics, but you have to have

Ainsley: What

Sam: Gravitas.

Ainsley: And how do you measure that?

Sam: You don’t. But you know it when you see it.

Political correctness made its way back into this discussion.  Again, with no intention of pumping up one or discrediting the other, this needs to be addressed.  When did we decide treating all people with the same level of reverence or respect was a bad thing?  Political Correctness is necessary.  It sets a guideline for acceptable language in scenarios that call for it.  Am I going to request political correctness when I’m watching Monday Night Football with the fellas? No, but I do think it has a place in dialogue by governmental leaders.  And when did we decide telling it like it is was anything other than excusable bad behavior?  To take that further, when did we decide we wanted average Joe’s in positions of power and leadership?  Despite what some said years ago, Joe the Plumber would make the worst public servant imaginable. To quote a completely different Sorkin show, “I’m a fan of credentials”.  I want my leaders to at the very least create the illusion that they are more educated than me, more cultured than me, more aware than me, more adjusted than me, and better at working with people and solving problems than me.  We all really, should want the best the country has to offer.  And being just another guy/girl, ‘being just like the rest of us’, or being plain-spoken are not good things to look for in the leader of the free world.  At the end of the day, if our leaders are just like the rest of us, then get everyone in the mix and work off shear numbers.  If the sample size was larger, maybe the cream would rise to the top.  Barring an asinine theory like that, give me the smartest, most qualified, engaged people this country has.  Or in other words, I want a heavyweight.

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

I know that it flies in the face of what we’ve been programmed to believe, politically. We now live in a very divided America. Granted, I could suggest any number of topics from Black Lives Matter to the 2nd Amendment to Military Funding to the Economy. Chances are pretty good that anyone chosen is likely to fall any number of ways on those issues. As if we use the issues to define us. To say, I am different from you because of this. Why has that become the approach we take? Why is our default position to be combative? Black Lives Matter ALONE seems to have divided the nation in half. There is no middle ground. At least 20 years ago, two adults could discuss the issue of Abortion or Gay rights or Government spending and they could have that conversation with it never getting anywhere near the verbal violence such debates incite now. The fact of the matter is and has always been that what we are arguing about are slight. We all support free elections. We all believe that all of our citizens deserve certain rights. We all want our children to grow up in safe schools where education is a priority. We all want a strong America. We just disagree on some of the nuances of how to get there. A sentiment that is beautifully articulated by Sitting President Walken (played wonderfully by John Goodman).

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

This brings me to a point that is bound to rub some people the wrong way. The fact that any subject is given the distinction of being an ‘issue’ generally means it is important to enough people who it is worthy of the discussion. However, I have always seen ‘issues’ as rankable and not just some grocery list absent of order. Towards the top, we are always going to have ‘issues’ like the economy, education, taxes, citizen’s rights, foreign policy, right to choose, and military issues. Those and some others have always inhabited the top. In sports rankings we tend to refer to that as the top tier. Grouping certain things of like importance together.

It may not be an important first step, but it seems logical that certain issues should take a back seat. To cite specific instances from The West Wing (just for the fun of it), changing the name of North Dakota to just “Dakota”, Topography Equality, Legal protection against the burning of the American Flag, campaign finance reform, a ‘wolves-only’ highway, all should not be the thing that derails your opinion of a would be public servant. Now yes, some of that is done to make light of the point I’m trying to make. But I have run into many of the “Amy Gardner’s” or “Lt. Commander Jack Reese’s” of the world. Those who will weigh one thing that is particular or special to them allowing them to rationalize the derailing of bigger issues.

Yes, the amount of money set aside for Military spending would be important to someone like Lt. Commander Reese. But should that really be the deal breaker? Reese in the show cites military spending as the end all be all for why he planned to vote for Ritchie (Bartlet’s opponent in the re-elect). Similarly, Amy Gardner. Amy is actually one of only a handful of characters among the 250 some recurring characters on this show I admittedly ‘hate’. Mary Louise Parker is a very attractive woman, but politically speaking, I have a problem with anyone who has that one ‘deal breaker’ issue. In Gardner’s case the ONLY issue that existed was that of a pro-women’s issue agenda. Now that is an important and worthwhile issue to support. However, any deal breaker issue becomes a problem when it derails other positive legislation.

Referencing the show. Gardner does her level best to sink a bill that would provide revenue to the education system along with a few other very important causes because the language of the bill did not advance Gardner’s women’s issue enough. To some degree these deal breakers become weighted just as much as issues like the economy, education and foreign policy. Now I’m sure one could argue they are just as important. I would just politely argue that cannot possibly be true from an objective logical perspective.

Not all issues are equal in weight. That’s factual. How Donald Trump feels about Daylight Savings Time or how Hillary Clinton feels about Congressional Term Limits should not in any way come close to say the economic state of this country. Yet there are people who seem to put too much value in smaller issues. Maybe even issues that aren’t an urgent concern. We should be able to focus on the bigger issues and find ways to seek common ground there before tackling some smaller issues or even issues that really might not be urgent issues to begin with. A notion that was addressed shortly in an episode called, “20 Hours in LA”.

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

 

Let’s be perfectly clear, issues are and should be the driving determining factor for any voter. By no means am I suggesting that the issues important to me should overshadow what is important to you. What I am proposing is that we all accept that there are some macro issues that should always take priority. Consider your own financial/bills situation. There’s no one reading this I’m sure that is going to consider their Netflix bill as being more important than their mortgage. Yes after a long and stressful day at work, maybe knowing you can unwind and binge watch a little West Wing is monumentally important. But if you don’t have a home to watch it in, how important really is the Netflix subscription. Yes, I may be underselling the importance of secondary issues with that analogy, but the bigger point should be obvious.

While we’re considering the difference between big universally important issues and those that have a particular significance to an individual, can we also look to shed the combative nature of American Democratic politics? As has been mentioned previously in this article, “the things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us”. Using that idea, it’s high time we take a step back and see the bigger picture. Like an artist painting from six inches away, sometimes taking a step back can re-calibrate our perspective.

At times, the electorate are divided among issues like foreign aid, military involvement, economic bailouts for suffering countries, base closings, support of allies and potential military presence in countries that may or may not appreciate our presence. These issues and questions can often be just as divisive as social issues like a woman’s right to choose or gay rights. At the end of each of those conversations, one very obvious question needs to be asked. Are we for Freedom or are we not? Because if we are for freedom, it can’t be limited to…well anything really. The very nature of the concept of freedom is devoid of limitations.

To say that we’re for freedom within our borders or as long as it doesn’t cost us anything is contradictory to the very notion of what freedom represents. So if you think pulling out of conflicting nations is strategically recommended, don’t think we should put troops in harm’s way, or take the approach that we need to completely fix 100% of our own problems before we put even a single resource on someone else’s soil, then you have a fundamental conflict with being the democracy we are. That is perfectly fine by the way, but call it what it is. When you can realistically identify that a person is against those things just mentioned, then that person needs to come to grips with the reality that they are not for an American Democracy.

The fact of the matter is that if America is the leader of the free world. If America represents what it is supposed to represent, then every one of its citizens has to be in support of Freedom. And not just conceptually. You have to be for Freedom everywhere and for everyone. Now that same Freedom that allows us to choose our own religion, where our kids go to school, what we do for a living, also has to extend to less admired Freedoms. Burning of the flag, saying whatever one wants, the freedom of assembly. Freedom only works if its free across the board. It must also extend to Freedom for all of its citizens even if you don’t agree with other citizen’s choices. It must extend to all religions, even those absent of any such a faith at all. It must extend do those who disagree with you. And yes, it must extend to those countries and peoples who are not quite there yet. Those countries that have yet to break free from the oppressive rule of a mightier and less Freedom loving power.

Never has such a sentiment been more adequately portrayed than in the episode “Inauguration Part II: Over There”. In this fictional masterpiece, one very obvious theme is that this particular President does not, will not put American lives in danger lightly. Often there have been points of conflict. The reluctance to put soldiers into the equation almost always is overshadowed by the greater good of the pursuit of Freedom. Which absolutely is a prime virtue of this American Democracy.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Television

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Television

As the episode progresses, it is clear that Jed Bartlet’s epiphany on whether the troops should be used to ensure those that want Freedom can pursue it, is not the end of this motif. While the President battles over to do it and risk lives vs not to and let tyranny prevail, his staff deals with a similar angle. Senior staff being what it is, is naturally concerned with the political fallout of the decision either way. Regardless of what side of the fence you may be on, Aaron Sorkin (as he does often in this series) provides a very simplistically beautiful way to see this issue. Sometimes, you just have to back up and see the whole picture. And sometimes that picture is very simple and lacks complexity.

C.J.: The guy across the street is beating up a pregnant woman. You don’t go over
and try and stop it?

TOBY: Guy across the street is beating up anybody, I like to think I go over and
try to stop it, but we’re not talking about the President going to Asia or the President
going to Rwanda or the President going to Qumar. We’re talking about the President
sending other people’s kids to do that.

C.J.: That’s always what we’re talking about, and in addition to being somebody’s
kids, they’re soldiers and sailors, and if we’re about freedom from tyranny,
then we’re about freedom from tyranny, and if we’re not, we should shut up.

TOBY: On Sunday, he’s taking an oath to ensure domestic tranquility.

C.J.: And to establish justice and promote the general welfare. Stand by while
atrocities are taking place, and you’re an accomplice.

TOBY: I’m not indifferent to that, but knuckleheaded self-destruction is never
going to burn itself out, you really want to send your kids across the street into the fire?

C.J.: Want to? No. Should I? Yes.

TOBY: Why? And don’t give me a lefty answer.

C.J.: A lefty answer is all I’ve got.

TOBY: Why are you sending your kids across the street?

C.J.: ‘Cause those are somebody’s kids, too.

Now while that may be a little lefty heavy, the sentiment remains. The very foundation of Freedom suggests that the pursuit is never over, especially when “Someone is getting beat up”. As a free nation of power and influence, we are inherently compelled to assist when Freedom or the pursuit of Freedom is threatened. An idea that is made clear yet again in the same episode. This time President Bartlet finds a way to promote Will Bailey to Deputy Communications Director and drive home the bigger point at the same time.

BARTLET: Will, I think some of these people don’t know who your dad is. Will’s the youngest son of Tom Bailey, who’s the only guy in the world with a better title than mine. He was Supreme Commander, NATO Allied Forces Europe. We didn’t know we were going
to do this. I would have asked you to invite him.

WILL: Well, you got quite a response from him watching on TV, sir. I think he’s going to reenlist.

BARTLET: Actually, I meant he could be here now when I tell you Toby’s asked me to
commission you as his deputy.

WILL: I’m sorry, sir?

BARTLET: Toby wants to make you deputy.

WILL: Pardon me?

BARTLET: I’m appointing you Deputy Communications Director. It covers a wide range
of areas of policy and execution and counsel to me.

WILL: To you… the President?

BARTLET: [to the gang] That’s what you want to hear from your new Communications–
WILL: I-I accept.

BARTLET: There’s a promise that I ask everyone who works here to make. Never doubt
that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. You know why?

WILL: It’s the only thing that ever has.

BARTLET: …and affixed with the Seal of the Unites States. And it is done so on this day and in this place. Congratulations.

BARTLET: [holding a piece of paper in his hand] You know, it’s easy to watch the news
and think of Khundunese as either hapless victims or crazed butchers, and it turns
out that’s not true. I got this intelligence summary this afternoon. “Mothers are standing
in front of tanks.” And we’re going to go get their backs. An hour ago, I ordered
Fitzwallace to have UCOMM deploy a brigade of the 82nd Airborne, the 101st Air Assault,
and a Marine Expeditionary Unit to Khundu to stop the violence. The 101st are the Screaming Eagles. The Marines are with the 22nd M.E.U., trained at Camp Lejuene, some of them
very recently. I’m sorry, everyone, but this is a work night.

The final point I’d like to drive home and reinforce with context from the West Wing is the nature of how we view politics in this country. The founding fathers of this country and the framers of the Constitution had a few things at the forefront of the construction of this country’s government. 1) Most decisions structurally were made in a reactionary manner to reject anything adopted from the British model (let that marinate for a moment-might alter the way you see ‘how this country was made) 2) Freedom of its citizen’s will be paramount to almost anything else. 3) The party system wasn’t instituted to divide the country but to allow the electorate the opportunity to be heard, view or debate the minority idea. Yet in 2016 within this American Democracy, we have grown not only divisive but almost angry and combative. The divisions are stark and clear. With the addition of the 24 hour news cycle and social media making the world smaller, we have taken a structure meant to encourage debate and the sharing of ideas and have replaced it with emotion filled, borderline verbally abusive tactics to convey that I am right and you are wrong.

Cable news might be the worst contributor to this notion. Any number of networks claiming to be fair and balanced or always in pursuit of the truth, when in fact, those ideas are conceptually false. Fox News is not fair and balanced as they admittedly support a strict adherence to the Conservative agenda. CNN is not the most trusted name in news either as they can’t be completely trusted if they are slanting left consistently. Ever want to have a great bit of fun during an election? Watch the cable news coverage of that election based on who is losing. Watching those anchors and analysts fidgeting in their chairs as if they are actually watching the end of the world is entertaining no matter who you are. So instead of shaping our news coverage based on a model that would more likely mirror the sense of the founding fathers encouraging debate and the explanation of perspective…our news media takes sides.

Now the influence of news media may not mean a great deal to each individual’s decision. It is fair to assume that most of the electorate can read between the lines. However, the presentation of this ‘sharing of ideas’ (if we can even call it that anymore) has illustrated just how far we’ve fallen. For me it started with the McLaughlin Group back in the 1980s and it continued from there from everything from Meet the Press to Face the Nation to each and every hosted program on cable news. Go watch Anderson Cooper or Bill O’Reilly (no spin zone, that’s funny) without noticing one person disrespectfully talking over the other. From a tv production standpoint, what we see now unconditionally assists more than anything else into this condition we find ourselves in. My beliefs are what’s right in the world while your beliefs (if they differ at all from mine) are stupid and therefore what’s wrong with the world. The day I hear a cable news anchor/host say, “That is a fair point, no allow me to counter.” is the day I will get off this news soapbox.

The 24-hour news cycle, social media, advances in technology and a society that is often fearful that the world is getting progressively worse and worse with each passing year all contribute to an angrier electorate. Now while I’ve heard “worst election ever” each and every election I’ve witnessed since George Herbert Walker Bush, I do believe that this 2016 election is actually the worst. Now, again, I am not referring to the candidates themselves. Granted, I could make that argument as well, but that isn’t the focus of this piece. The shear vitriol that the voters seem to be throwing at each other is the bigger issue. I am a dog person. However, I can absolutely understand and grant the notion that there are people who would prefer to be cat people. Not my choice, but cat people are not lesser people. They are not heathens for preferring cats. They are not sub-human for not wanting to choose dogs over cats. While the analogy is simplistic is it really that unrealistic? Of course not. It only seems ridiculous because of how we approach political conversations amongst ourselves. We have conditioned ourselves somewhere in the last 25-50 years that those that disagree with us are stupid and a detriment to this country as opposed to viewing the conversation as an opportunity to evaluate all perspectives.

The perspective extends further than conversations at the work coffee machine or the danish cart. It is apparent that the voters are not the only ones taking an adversarial view. The very leaders we elect also subscribe to this idea of Party over Country. At every step we should be asking “is this best for the country” and the sad thing is that question is never asked in all honesty. The question generally comes down to “is this best for the party”? The two-party system has become a contact sport. Democrat vs Republican and there needs to be one clear winner and one clear loser. Thus, is our problem.

I will give one very hot bed example. Apologies in advance, this is not the political portion of this piece either just a random issue that is very divisive and should identify the point. The slight alteration to the second amendment to hopefully decrease the number of mass shootings and violent crimes or refusing to even talk about the second amendment because no one wants to make any sort of legislative compromise even if it means saving American lives. Now I’m not saying that gun control will eliminate violent crimes. I am also not saying that to fix the problem we must remove 100% of guns. However, the bigger point to be made is that even an issue such as gun control that has very clearly drawn lines of support vs opposition should still create some level of compromising discussion. However, I dare you to bring that up in a public forum and count the seconds that pass before people resort to name calling and profanity.

We have become angry and party-centric. The two-party system wasn’t created to inspire adversaries. It was created to appropriate all perspectives into the dialogue. Yet, the government and the people who vote them in all seem to be on the same page. It’s almost brand loyalty at this point. If party A is not the winner, then they must be the loser. That’s where the concept needs to change. We all, from voters to The President need to all get on board with the idea that we collectively should be making decisions that benefit all and not just those that belong to one party over the other. The West Wing has been a beacon for what we should strive for, not what we currently are. And yes, I know, some of what is seen in this series is unrealistic and ideological. However, a great deal of it is not that far-fetched and should be the inspiration for what we hope to be.

Both sides should see ways to identify with the other. We should be able to shed the party-centric mentality and give credit where credit is due. Not everything needs to be an opportunity to advance one party past the other. Never should ‘beating the other side’ be a motivating factor, but it often is. We should in every way, every conversation be trying to advance the country not the party. Anything less than that is irresponsible.

AINSLEY: Well, it President Bartlet, I’m on the government payroll. And I believe that politics should stop at the water’s edge. To be honest with you, I think it should stop well before that but it turns out there’s no Santa Claus and Elvis isn’t cutting records anymore. See, I don’t think you think the treaty’s bad, I don’t think you think it’s good, I think you want to beat the White House.

KEENE: Yeah.

AINSLEY: You’re a schmuck, Peter. Today, tomorrow, next year, next term, these guys’ll  have the treaty ratified and they’ll do it without the reservations he just offered to discuss
with you.

Every now and then, there is a moment where the above is not the sentiment shared. Go to any travesty, any devastation that befalls this country because it befalls all of it equally. 9/11, mass shootings (at least before they became so frequent that we are almost desensitized to it), or any natural disaster. Americans come together. Without hesitation or qualification. Why does it take tragedy to bring out the inner American in most Americans? Well, the artistry in some of what Sorkin creates is Art imitating Life almost literally. We won’t even mention how the young, engaging minority democrat wins in a Presidential election over the old white republican Congressional stalwart and go straight to a story line commonly referred to “The 25th”.

In “the 25th” we discover the President’s youngest daughter has been kidnapped. The President is so beside himself over the issue at hand that he acknowledges that he is unable to preside over the country objectively. He does what he must and invokes the 25th Amendment turning over the office of the President to the next person in the line of succession. In this case, that would involve turning over his office to the highest ranking official on the other team. Yet, Sorkin again finds another way to articulate the approach we should have and not the current approach we cling to.

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

The West Wing on its own, in a vacuum is the greatest achievement in television history. Beyond that simple idea it continues to breed more than that. New information presents itself with each viewing. It may have you question your convictions or maybe it will solidify them. It is more than a show. I could go on and on about the genius of Aaron Sorkin, but that’s not what this is about. Ask me later, I have no hesitation in discussing the West Wing on any level relating it to any topic, but for another time I guess. Beyond the obvious form of entertainment which it swings for the fences at every turn, it is the ideology of what we as Americans engaged in the political process should constantly strive for. Even the show is not perfect. It is not a documentary about political utopia. But it does consistently show how people of differing perspectives can come together for the greater good. Or put in other words, “The West Wing can serve as an oasis from our own political madness” or at least the current level of political madness of the 2016 Presidential Election seems to be.

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Warning: Spoiler Alert

On the alien planet searches feverishly for Will with Ward breathing down his neck the entire time. Fitz gets close and reaches for Ward’s gun. They tumble-down a sand dune. When Fitz gets up, Ward’s gun is not the only one pointed at him. The threat of Jemma dying a slow and painful death if Ward doesn’t return didn’t actually appear to be the disincentive Ward thinks it is. Regardless, Fitz complies. Just over the ridge, Ward’s men see something that brings them to their knees. The remains of what appear to be a statue or shrine with the Hydra octopus that seems larger than life.

Mack assembles the team he has at his disposal. May, Daisy, Lincoln, Bobbi, Hunter, and Joey. Using heat signatures, they can see Hydra is bringing in truckloads of something. Inhumans. Joey asks how this works. Lincoln, then Bobbi, then Daisy all give different answers. Mack interrupts them and lays out the plan. Extract their people, quietly.

Fitz gets far enough away from Ward to descend down Will’s bunker. Fitz finds Will quickly. Ward and his men follow. Ward puts Will in an execution position while Fitz screams that they need him. Outside the bunker Will and Fitz march ahead of Ward and his men. They speak quietly. Fitz explains that they are here to bring back the creature. Fitz also has a moment to get into pleasantries. Comparing this moment to the many scenario he ran through his head as to how this first meeting would go down. Reality as it turns out, its more bloody and stinky. Will even drops a “I see why Jemma loves you” line. Fitz mentions they need to lose Ward just before the extraction, Will is on board, telling Fitz to follow his lead.

At the castle, Jemma was able to free herself after Lincoln took out the power. Now in a dark compound, Jemma runs to avoid Hydra scouts. She runs past one of the containment units, Andrew’s containment unit. He pleads with her to let him out. They have a solid back and forth, Jemma resisting and Andrew leaning on his training to convince her to open the door. She does and Andrew takes out the two men searching for her.

Will is leading the convoy to the ‘no fly zone’, he suggests that Fitz stay close. A dust storm settles in. Ward is annoyed more than anything. This is a variable in the equation that they don’t have time for. In the cover of the dust storm, Will takes out two of Ward’s men. Ward eventually has enough, and decides to push through regardless of the storm. Ten feel later he finds his two dead men but no Will or Fit. They fan out to find them when three gun shots takes out the remaining men. These gunshots came from Coulson.

Daisy makes her way into a corner of the compound looking to see who or what Hydra has been delivering in. Then ‘Iron Chef’ appears to take her out. Joey sees it before she does. He yells out her name and runs over to take the bullets for her. His power and the rush of the moment actually melted the bullets mid fight. Then Lincoln takes out the Iron Chef.

The SHIELD team have barricaded themselves inside the portal room. Hydra will be bearing down on them momentarily. They try to brainstorm what exactly happens next. Lincoln is the only one thinking big picture. Despite their personal feelings, Fitz and Coulson are not more important than preventing this creature from crossing over. Putting the issue of what if that thing comes across first on the back burner, Daisy claims that they can’t leave over a dozen Inhumans there. May interjects, “Yes you can. They’re dead. Andrew or Lash, can’t really tell the difference anymore killed them all.”
Ward rambles on about his newfound purpose after seeing the Hydra statue. Coulson would clearly rather he keep his thoughts to himself. A distance further and Coulson stops short. He pulls out his binoculars to look across the distance to find Will and Fitz trudging forward.

Most of Mack’s team are content to stand over the portal guns drawn and take out anything that comes through that is not Coulson, Fitz or Will. Once again, Mack steps up as acting director. He even needs to follow-up his plan with the comment, “That’s an order” when he directs everyone except Daisy to head back to Zephyr 1.

Will and Fitz are almost at the extraction point when Fitz notices something in the distance. The remains, ruins even of what was once a thriving civilization. Something Jemma never saw. They push on and eventually Will collapses. Probably from the fact that he isn’t Will. Clearly this Will has Will’s memories and knowledge, but there is something very different. Calmer, less brash. Fitz kneels down to take a look at Will’s injured leg. I knew it. When Fitz gets down there, what he sees does not resemble the shin bone of a human. Will is not Will, that’s the creature.

Fitz: You’re not Will…
Creature: Will died saving Jemma…for me.

Fitz reaches for something but the creature kicks him down a sand dune. They slug it out. Fitz making an admirable effort considering what he’s fighting. As Fitz efforts start to fail him, Coulson and Ward emerge above them in time to see what looks like Will about to drop a very large rock on Fitz’ head. Coulson fires on the creature. It goes down but doesn’t stay down.

The creature rises and continues towards the now opened portal. Coulson and Ward continue fighting and Coulson gains the upper hand. The creature has now been shot about 6 times and he keeps getting up. That is until Fitz picks up a flare gun, takes aim and shoots the creature in the back. “Will” is immediately engulfed in flames then lies motionless.

The portal opens and yet again the frequency vibrations are giving Daisy some ‘issues’. Her and Mack stand together over the portal. Daisy looks over and says “we’re out of time” just as her eyes roll back in her head as she passes out.

With the creature neutralized and Ward down for the count, Fitz screams at Coulson to hurry before the portal closes. Coulson sees the image of Rosalind smiling back at him. It was then that Coulson knew what had to be done. Using his prosthetic hand, Coulson crushes Ward’s chest slowly. Then he removes the hand and drops it on Ward like the Kingpin and his rose. Just as Fitz and Coulson head for the portal, a snake-like tentacle can be seen leaving Will’s burning body.

Time has run out, May executes Mack’s order on time. Unleashing the Zephyr’s arsenal on the castle, if Coulson and Fitz aren’t out now, they aren’t getting out. As we watch the castle come crumbling down, a personal containment unit ascends towards the sky with Mack’s voice, “open the doors I’m bringing them in”. Everyone waits patiently in slow motion as each person exits the unit. Jemma stares inside of it as Fitz exits. There is no Will. Jemma’s emotions show through painfully, but she embraces Fitz regardless. Fitz and Coulson share an alarming stare. There is darkness behind Coulson’s eyes.

Malick’s vehicle speeds towards the airport when his driver slams on the brakes. There is a slow reveal to what looks like a zombie version of Grant Ward. It appears the creature found a new host. Hydra’s greatest agent. Grant Ward and the Hydra Creature as one entity, I guess you have to ask yourself…just how evil can Grant Ward get?

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Coulson and Rosalind sit down and Rosalind’s dining room table for a gourmet candle lit dinner of DJ’s fast food burgers. They discuss what little progress Coulson and his people have made getting a pulse on Malick’s movements. Rosalind outlines her next day and how she plans to meet with Malick. Before she can go any further a single bullet flies through her living room window striking her strategically in the throat. Coulson jumps into action, but there’s no saving her. She dies within seconds. From a solid full city block away we trace the bullet’s path…to Grant Ward.

Before Coulson can completely grasp what has just happened, his phone rings. On the other line, is Ward, taking great joy in the sound of panic in Coulson’s voice. Quickly, Coulson grabs a second phone and texts that he need immediate extraction. That’s about the time that Ward explains that tonight is the night Coulson dies. Ward has his men in route to do the deed.

Coulson gets the drop on the first guy, then uses the first guy as a human shield to get over on the second guy. As he hears a third coming, he surveys the room. Coulson is about to go ‘MacGuyver’. Using an spray can air freshener and candles, Coulson creates a explosive diversion that aids in taking out guy #3 and #4. Coulson eludes guy #5 by jumping out of a window, and hits without killing guys #5 and #6. That’s when Mack arrives, Coulson jumps in and they pull away.

Upon their return to base, Coulson heads straight for his office. May prevents Daisy from following. Inside he removes his bloody shirt. Out of his pocket falls the matches Ros had from the first pub they shared their first date like moment. The camera goes outside the office where most of the team have gathered. They can hear Coulson angrily causing damage to his office.

After Coulson’s momentary fit of anger, he escorts May to the interrogation room. Coulson wants to eliminate Ward and is willing to make his own team uncomfortable to gain new intel to help in accomplishing his goal. Beginning with details of when May and Ward were intimate. Each team member takes turns sharing whatever information they can, while Coulson’s demeanor never changes. Focused on the task. Daisy is able to shed some light into the psychosis of an adult from a damaged childhood.

Mack escorts Banks into the base. Banks claims that all he wants to do is get the guy who got Ros. Mack introduces Banks to Fitz and Simmons. They begin by showing Banks the mission patch from Will’s jacket. Banks recognized it immediately. A project NASA was working on when he and Rosalind joined up. The project was headed by an independent contractor, hired by Gideon Malick.

Ward meets up with Malick. Malick is not entirely pleased with what has transpired. He has no ill will towards taking out Rosalind, but risking Coulson at this point in the plan is in his estimation, reckless. Ward believes that the plan will go off without a hitch, all because he thinks he knows Coulson so well as to predict his moves.

Hunter attempts to give his condolences to Coulson. Without a word, Coulson goes right for Hunter picking him up by his neck. With his replaced hand, Coulson punches through a brick support just right of Hunter’s head. Hunter tries to apologize for not getting Ward earlier Then Coulson pulls back and blames himself. Everything that’s happened since Coulson brought Ward in is on Coulson.

Hunter wants another shot, one he will get. Coulson has a plan. That plan involves crossing lines the Director of SHIELD should not cross. Coulson temporarily hands over control of SHIELD to Mack as acting Director of SHIELD. Coulson will not divulge the details of his plan, by design.

Simmons tries to convince Fitz that opening another portal, even to get Will, is irresponsible. Especially considering Hydra has been trying to open a portal for decades. “That’s just an old wives tale that Hydra mothers tell their goblin babies.” Just then, gunshots are heard. Banks turns to Fitz and Simmons, gun raised. Fitz asks him not to do it, but Banks isn’t in control of himself. Malick’s Inhuman pusher (who strangely enough is played by Mark Dacascos, the host of Food Network’s original Iron Chef America). Banks’ gun levitates and shoot him in the forehead. Fitz and Simmons are spared as they are to meet with Malick, whether they want to or not.

Malick wants Jemma to share details on what she saw on the other side. Simmons nor Fitz are willing to concede anything. Jemma quickly deduces that Malick needs her because Hydra has no idea how to get back. Ward suggests they separate the two, perhaps to squeeze something out of them individually.

Coulson, Hunter and Bobbi stage a robbery. Just before we can figure out why, Coulson approaches a thirty something male in the back. All he says is, “how’d you find me?” before Coulson hits him in the face with the butt of a shotgun.

With Fitz and Simmons separated, Ward does what Ward does. Monologues like a seasoned late night talk show host. Simmons doesn’t give him anything. But Ward was never going to hurt her. The same cannot be said for Iron Chef. Next Ward moves to Fitz. Fitz’ concerns begin and end with Jemma. He holds up relatively well until he hears Jemma’s screams. Ward has no intention of doing anything to Fitz. Making him hear her screams should be enough.

Ward gets a call. Its Coulson with a little something Ward did not anticipate. Coulson aims his phone’s camera at the man they kidnapped from the jewelry store. That person is Thomas Ward, Grant’s younger and presumably innocent brother . The move gets its desired result. Thomas pleads to not be killed. Bobbi explains that no one in the plane wants that. When they explain that they are using Thomas to draw out Grant, Thomas declares that they better finish him off. Then we get a little truth about their childhood.

Grant calls back but Coulson is not the one to answer the phone. Grant starts in with what he will do to Fitz when Thomas’ voice is heard. They need a trace on his location and talking to Thomas might distract Grant long enough to get the trace. Thomas ironically pushes back a little. Asking why Ward killed their parents and Christian and even admitting that Thomas proactively moved and changed his name to stay hidden from Grant. Coulson pulls the phone after Bobbi gets the trace. In no uncertain terms, he lets Grant know that yes, they traced the call. And they are coming to put Grant down.

Ward, Malick and FitzSimmons are held up in the castle we saw a handful of episodes ago when Fitz brought Simmons back. Malick plans to open the portal. Problem is that the castle is surrounded by a ‘fortified Hydra’. In order to prevent any more harm to come Jemma’s way, Fitz has volunteered to go through the portal himself.

As acting Director, Mack makes the decision to take Daisy, May, Lincoln and Joey (Joey’s first official action) to prevent Hydra from opening the portal. Meanwhile Malick’s plan involves Ward leading Hydra troops on the other side. An idea that does not sit well with Ward. Standing over Coulson’s dead body is far too important to play general in someone else’s dream.

With a clear opening and hands bound, Jemma runs over to Fitz hoping to deter him from the decision he’s made. Iron Chef makes a move but stops short.

Fitz: You touch her and the deal’s off.
Simmons: Fitz, you can’t do this.
Fitz: My mind’s made up Jemma.
Simmons: We can’t let them bring that thing back to this planet…Fitz! Please, just let them kill me.
Fitz: I can’t do that. I won’t. I lost you once. I can’t lose you again. I just…not strong enough to live in a world that doesn’t have you in it.
Simmons (puts her head on his should and whispers): Come back to me. Just don’t bring that thing back with you.
Fitz: Only thing I’m bringing back is Will.

Ward enters the room in full desert fatigues willing and able to lead they Hydra forces on the other side. They open the portal and Hydra’s men start filling in. Up in the sky, Coulson identifies Ward’s heat signature. The problem is, Ward just jumped through the portal. Coulson doesn’t wait. Grabs a parachute and jumps off the plain. “I’m ending this tonight”. He aims right for the room in question. Before Malick can give the order to close the portal, he hears a sound behind him. Its Coulson diving into the portal.

On the other side, Ward leads the men through a dust storm. Coulson lands on the planet tumbling head over feet. His landing plants his skull firmly against a rock. He appears to be unconscious. Not good under most circumstances, especially not these.

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Ward meets with Malick in the hopes of creating an understanding concerning a certain ‘vault’. This vault is rumored to house Hydra’s strongest weapon. Malick plays this one close to the vest. He claims the vault is nothing more than a rumor. Easy notion to sell if Malick hadn’t sacrificed the last living heir to it in Alex Von Strucker. Malick lets it be known that while Ward is resourceful and crafty, there’s no room in Malick’s plans for Ward or his short sighted vendetta. Then Ward takes out the team of men Malick left to harm Ward.

May watched from a distance as Andrew’s containment room was moved onto a flatbed truck to be sent to Rosalind’s containment facility. He’ll be put into stasis in human form in the hopes of delaying the inevitable. Fitz explains his lead to Simmons. He believes there is something to the ‘ram symbol’ he found in the castle that seems to match the mission patch on Will’s jacket. Daisy bumps into Lincoln, who slept for the first time in a while despite trying to avoid May. That’s not the only thing he’s avoiding. There is the awkwardness surrounding their kiss.

Mack voices some concern over Coulson’s new-found ‘closeness’ with Rosalind. Mack is almost accusatory about what that might mean. Moments later Coulson enters a basement like room where he outlines to everyone what comes next. Dr. Garner’s containment will be a sort of Trojan Horse. Teams of two will attack the intel grab from different angles. It’s time to find out what they’re doing, what they want and whether they can be trusted. Speaking of trust, May volunteers for Lincoln to be with her. There are a number of ways this could go.

Daisy activates a signal from inside Andrew’s containment room intentionally to get the ATCU’s IT department tripping over itself. Then Mack plays the role of an agent from the FBI’s cyber division informing them of two visitors en route. That would be Bobbi as the legitimate agent and Hunter as the hipster hacker turned FBI asset. With Daisy talking in his ear, Hunter sells the part well. All of this it appears, was done intentionally so that Rosalind would be tipped off.

Early impressions are that Simmons is procrastinating by way of organizing the books Fitz had sent in. The Ram symbol keeps appearing as a symbol of a blood sacrifice. She’s concerned that Will wasn’t sent through the portal by NASA, he was sacrificed. Fitz pushes through believing that they can find something in these books. Simmons has an emotional moment where she all but begs him to stop. Stop doing all the right things. Then she storms out.

With Hunter playing the hacker turned asset in place, Mack relays the building’s floor plan to Bobbi so that she can excuse herself to find the Inhumans and perhaps even a sample of the rumored cure. Now Hunter just needs to buy her time by stalling.

And now, a scene I’ve been waiting 3 years for. With that in mind, transcribed for anyone who missed it.

Fitz: Where do you get off!? Are you seriously mad at me?
Simmons: I’m mad at myself for roping you into this, it’s not fair. I’m mad that you’re so willing to help.
Fitz: So, as opposed to what? What do you expect?
Simmons: I don’t know, get angry. I cannot find a way out of this without hurting someone I care about.
Fitz: Do you think that I’m not angry? I’m sick to my stomach. I’m furious, but not at you. ‘Cause we’re cursed. The bloody cosmos wants us to be apart.
Simmons: The cosmos doesn’t want anything.
Fitz: Yeah well, I beg to differ. We had years, side by side. It just never occurred to us. And then when it does, we don’t have the courage to talk about it.
Simmons: You only mention it when we’re at the bottom of the sea facing certain–
Fitz: You wait til I’m bound for a war on an aircraft carrier, then you get swept off to some far flung planet. With him. Top marks. Pilot. Astronaut hero man.
Simmons: I would do anything–
Fitz: Do you love him?
Simmons: I don’t know…I…yes.
Fitz: Yeah…yeah, of course you do. He’s strong and smart and you gave each other hope on the edge of nowhere.
Simmons: Don’t do this Fitz.
Fitz: You think I didn’t look for dirt on him? I DID. And there’s nothing. I can’t hate him, he’s great. Why else would you fall for him. He did everything right.
Simmons: AND YOU DOVE THROUGH A HOLE IN THE UNIVERSE FOR ME!
(Fitz stares into Jemma’s eyes frantic almost like a mildly scared animal and dives into to the type of passionate kiss that has been building for three seasons. Fitz then slowly as if a sign of respect considering the line he just crossed backs up. Jemma takes a moment to reflect on what’s just happened and she willingly returns the favor.)
Fitz: We’re cursed.

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Bobbi navigates through Mack’s instructions. Footsteps are heard approaching Andrews containment. The assumption is that it is Bobbi, but as it turns out it’s Malick. Malick is prodding Andrew for information by appearing to be the only person in this situation that wants to put control over Andrew in Andrew’s hands. Bobbi has found the lab. No Inhumans and no cure. She does stumble up what look like fish oil pills. Duh Duh Duh. The ATCU is not trying to prevent the spread of Inhumans, they are trying to turn them.

Coulson walks Rosalind into the containment that held Joey at one point. Then without warning locks the door behind him. She makes a caddy comment about needing persuasion if she’s going to spend the night in that room. Coulson replies that its him that needs persuading. She needs to convince him, she’s not Hydra. Or she’s never leaving this room.

Lincoln sits in the co-pilot seat waiting for May to say something. The silence is so unnerving that he eventually starts talking. He begins with an ‘unapology’ apology for bringing Lash out of Andrew. May wanted him along so she could find a way to apologize to Lincoln on behalf of Andrew’s behavior. She blames herself for not knowing earlier.

The Coulson/Roz fight continues. Neither one willing to back down. Both making bold accusations about the other’s intent until Coulson references her slip up. Early on she referenced Tahiti. The only way she could know anything about that is if she had a high level source within SHIELD or she’s Hydra. Coulson drums back up her dead husband ploy which actually illicit a real emotional response. Coulson drives harder suggesting that they aren’t trying to build a cure, they are turning as many Inhumans as possible. Then Rosalind makes the connection. Malick. He has his hand in everything. Advising the President, helping to create the ATCU, head of the science division, and her source for the Tahiti intel.

Daisy and Mack look over the last file download while Hunter makes it to Bobbi after she’s already taken care of the situation. Daisy pulls up records that show at least one of the men of authority in this facility is in fact an Inhuman. That very authority figures walks through the doors facing Bobbi and Hunter. He levitates the guns on the floor and opens fire without touching the guns. They are able to avoid getting hit, but Bobbi has a trick up her sleeve. Her briefcase not only holds her sticks, but also a way to connect her to them. Now she can throw them and they will fly back to her. The fight continues and this new foe is formidable, but a shot to the back of the head from Hunter levels the playing field, so to speak. Just as they take a moment to breathe, Banks arrives offering to get them out of there.

Coulson permits Rosalind to make a call. Banks will lead Hunter and Bobbi to the NW parking lot. May hovers overhead and sees no evidence that is true. Until the parking lot itself opens up revealing a terribly convenient helipad. At the edge of which is Bobbi, Hunter and Banks.

Ward is able to infiltrate the ‘vault’ he’s been looking for rather quickly. So quickly in fact that Malick is waiting for him. After some complimentary small talk, Malick suggests that Ward might just be Hydra’s second head that has grown right next to Malick. And to the history lesson. Ward believes that Hydra was formed using Nazi resources in World War II under the direction of Red Skull. While most of that is true, Hydra is much much older.

Malick’s claim that Ward was too small time plays out in this final scene. A very long time ago, an Inhuman walked this earth that was destined to rule it. He was so feared that he was exiled, using the monolith, banished to a far off planet. Meanwhile Rosalind tries to explain her timeline with Malick. Simmons interrupts her and interjects the NASA theory. Fitz begins to lay down pictures of this ram symbol from over the years. One becomes the next, becomes the next, until two familiar images reveal themselves. The ram evolves into Will’s mission patch. And one of the ram images when turned upside down looks strikingly similar to the Hydra logo. Malick will gladly tear SHIELD apart as a gesture to Ward. But in return, he hopes Ward will assist in continuing to build their Inhuman army and for information on exactly how SHIELD just did something Hydra has not been able to do in a thousand years. Bring someone back from the other side. And if all goes well, Malick and Ward will rule beside this super villain when the time comes.

But for now, its time for Ward to pay someone a visit. The good Dr. SHIELD used airborne sedation to turn the monster off. Ward is more interested in turning the monster on. A notion that at least for a moment scares Andrew. With the mustard gas billowing in, Andrew tries to reel back, but the sound of him transforming can be heard.

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Warning: Spoiler Alert

We begin this week with a flashback. On the heels of last week’s revelation that Lash is Andrew Garner, the show runners seem to be tipping their hand as to how. The vacation that Andrew and Melinda took six months ago. A theory that had been floated ad nauseam, but we’ll come back to that later. New beginnings for Andrew and Melinda, or so they believed.

As it turns out the droves of fans that clung to the fish oils exposed to natural bodies of water theory just got squashed in the second scene. Andrew having just got off the phone with Coulson talking about the research he’ll be doing through Jiaying’s ‘things’, Andrew opens an old book and instantly coughs jumping back out of his chair. That wasn’t dust he inhaled. Moments later, Andrew is covered with the blackish coating that is all too familiar.

Coulson and Daisy argue over the events seen at Rosalind’s holding facility while Andrew walks behind them appearing to be bored with their conversation. Daisy believes everyone should have the opportunity to be who they are, even if that means being an Inhuman. Andrew doesn’t agree. He outlines scenarios where an out of control Inhuman is justifiably a risk. Then Coulson cuts in talking about what happens if putting a bullet in Lash’s head doesn’t do the trick. Essentially right in front of Lash.

The big news of the day is that Coulson will meet with the President of the United States under the cover of a consultant for the ATCU. He’d also like Daisy to try to convert Rosalind over to her side of the fence. In the meantime, they need an example of an Inhuman that isn’t on either side of the extreme. Andrew volunteers to re-evaluate one of their guests, Joey Gutierrez.

May and Bobbi sit in the cargo hold of a SHIELD plane and Bobbi is having a one way conversation while May dwells on what the first son of Hydra said as he died. The information that SHIELD has been tracking Lash is news to May and has new meaning now. May cuts through the pleasantries with Daisy in the hopes of finding Andrew before something happens.

Garner meets with Joey Gutierrez for that psych re-eval. Joey is learning to control his power and can now use it to create things. Andrew hears ‘control’ an snaps into a day-dream where he becomes Lash and robs Joey of his life force. He snaps out of it to hear Joey mention that he could be an asset to SHIELD but his fate is in Andrews hands. He has no idea how true that is. The evaluation continues and Joey’s optimism seems to slowly but surely anger Andrew. Then May burst through the door ordering the security detail to remove Joey.

Hunter walks into the ladies locker room as soon as he hears Bobbi is back. Bobbi lacks the matter of fact excitement that Hunter displays. Without waiting more than a moment, Hunter sees Bobbi and May’s success as a sign to turn up the heat on Ward. Bobbi quickly lets it be known that she doesn’t want either one of them focusing on revenge.

Fitz sits in the lab trying retrieve whatever data he can from Simmons’ old phone. The one she had on her alien planet hiatus. Everything seems to be working in Fitz’ favor when he finds the birthday video. Then he stumbles across the first photo of Jemma and Will. To this point, Fitz has done a good job disguising his anguish since Jemma told him everything.

Mack reluctantly meets with Lincoln at an undisclosed location. Lincoln has been trying to track down his friends. The result of that search is depressing. In Lincoln’s mind, everyone at SHIELD except Daisy and Mack are suspects. And only because Mack and Daisy fought with Lincoln a few episodes back against Lash. Lincoln knows Lash is inside SHIELD and only needs Mack’s help to prove it.

Daisy’s attempt to bring Rosalind over to the, ‘we don’t have to store them like comatose popsicles’ perspective is not going well. Just before Daisy storms off, Rosalind makes a decent point. “For every Daisy Johnson there is a Lash”.

With the security agents and Joey out of the room, May begins her subtle beat around the bush attempt to get Andrew to admit that he is Lash. She describes the terror on Alex Von Strucker’s face when he explained what Andrew turned into. Andrew walks away to get some distance between the two. She persists and Andrew yells for her to stop, then turns around and ices her before her questions brought Lash out.

Fitz is refocused when he discovers the first of Jemma’s recordings. A series of audio or video recordings of Jemma talking directly to Fitz as if he were on the other end of the line each time. The story of how they first met bring Fitz to talk back to the video as if she could hear him. Jemma’s continuing thoughts of Fitz in her time of need might just be enough to draw his focus away from the image of Will. Fitz watches with tears on his cheeks hanging on her every word. And even when she decides saving her phone battery takes priority over these recordings, she smiles into the camera asks a Fitz who is not there if it would be alright if she kept talking to him anyway, without the phone.

May wakes up chained to what looks like a very large propane tank. Andrew begins to explain with May still chained. He describes the hunger and need to be near Inhumans without knowing why. Even that he broke off their ‘new beginning’ as a way to protect May from Lash. But now that she knows, he makes clear that he is still in love with her and consequently, needs her help.

A second Quinjet request permission to doc with Coulson’s flying base. It’s Mack and Lincoln. The ledger that Andrew found was actually a log on Inhuman genealogy. That’s how Lash keeps finding Inhumans, he has a list of them. Daisy remembers May seeming upset. Combine that with the news that May and Andrew are missing, and its time to turn the plane around.

Andrew’s explanation combined with May’s weakness for him is creating an equation that might just end with May giving in. Andrew moves in to the still chained May for a nice but misplaced romantic moment when Phil walks in. Coulson stays calm, but informs Andrew that if things get ugly, he isn’t alone. The conversation actually goes as well as could be expected until Lincoln hears Andrews commentary through his coms. Andrew/Lash is compelled to separate the good Inhumans from the bad ones. Lincoln can’t sit on the sideline and makes his way to where Andrew is. Less than ten words from Lincoln triggers Andrew’s transition to Lash. And now we have an Inhuman v Inhuman fight.

Lash is able to get his hands on Lincoln, then knocks him unconscious. Before he can remove Lincoln’s life force, he gets shot repeatedly by Mack. Lash stands up and Mack gets the heck out of dodge. Mack circles back around taking a few more shots. Nothing slows Lash down. He almost takes Mack’s life when Coulson grabs Lashes dominant arm with his ‘replaced’ hand. As Lash overpowers Coulson, Rosalind has her men in position and they open fire.

Lash takes each man out one at a time. Then with the men down takes to Rosalind who emptied a clip in his chest and it did nothing. Lash grabs her by the neck, raises her up in choke slam fashion and tosses her over the edge. Headed for certain death, Daisy catches Rosalind with her power and brings her down gently.

Lincoln is conscious again and overhears what’s been happening. Daisy mentions to Coulson that they have to get Lash into the containment module. Lincoln, apparently thinking more clearly whispers into his coms that he will get Lash where they need him to go. Before Lincoln can lure him, May jumps in between them. She delivers a quality speech that reduces Lash back to Andrew. Andrew just didn’t notice that he was standing in front of the containment module when May shot him repeatedly, thrusting him back into the module.

Fitz believes he may have something, a loose connection that may bring light to how Will ended up through the portal and on an alien planet. His mission patch looks strikingly close to the image found at the church a few episodes earlier. Fitz is beginning to hypothesize that someone else was pulling the strings. Someone or something that is powerful enough to control NASA.

Lincoln agrees at least temporarily to stick with SHIELD. More importantly, May has a tough decision on her hands. Andrew is sedated, but what to do when he’s not. Stasis is the logical first choice. They can put him in stasis while he’s still in human form to delay the transformation. The hope being, this might buy them just enough time to create a cure. May turns to Daisy for advice. By the end, May decides to have Andrew put in stasis.

Fitz finds Jemma looking through one of the few windows on the base to watch the sunrise. Once again, Fitz won’t go so far as to promise anything but he tells her he thinks he’s got something that might help open the portal. Fitz also mentions that he saw and heard everything on the sim card. He begins to preface his thoughts by accepting that he knew she was dehydrated and might not have been thinking clearly when she recorded those things. She turns her head slowly to look at him when she says, “I was as clear-headed when I said those things as I’ve ever been”. Jemma, without turning her head this time asks, “what do you think we should do about it? This is where I start screaming at the television. Fitz also looking forward says, “for now, let’s just watch the sunrise”.

The show draws to a close with a flashback of both Melinda May and Andrew Garner enjoying the blissful joy that neither of them thought they’d ever have. The a Ward sighting. Ward meets with Malick and they discuss Von Strucker, revenge and a grander scheme. Ward plans to cut off the head of SHIELD. Malick’s phone rings. It’s Rosalind Price. She plans to deliver Coulson to Malick at a future date. Coulson emerges from around the corner. This is clearly the morning after. Even their on-screen kiss makes me nauseous.

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Dr. Garner is alive. Coulson brought him back. Strapped tightly to a gurney, Andrew is alive and awake. As predicted, harming Andrew brought May out from the shadows. Once she hears word that he’s alive, she goes in and asks what happened? He tells the story we saw last week. Alex was there with two other guys. More importantly, and this is new information, Coulson put an agent on Andrew for his own safety. That agent took out the other two men. Then the blast flung him from the store.

Outside in the hallway, May intercepts Hunter from going in to see Andrew. She all but picks a fight with Hunter over the risk he took. Coulson comes out to break it up. Then he benches Hunter. May wastes no time asking to take over ‘Kill Ward’ duty. Now that she’s back, Coulson is happy to oblige.
Ward whines to his #2 about Hunter getting through their recruitment process. Sounded almost like a complaining teenager. “They all want me dead that much”, of course they do. Meanwhile, Alex Von Strucker is on the run. Afraid Ward will end him for not getting the job done. He reaches out to a family friend. An ally/colleague of Senior Von Strucker. The man agrees to help.

Daisy has a theory about Lash. Lash is in the ATC. That’s right, working for Rosalind. Coulson has an appointment with Rosalind to visit the ATC detainment facility. Daisy is concerned he’s getting to close to the situation, like an undercover cop who’s been under for too long. He shrugs it off, but I have my reservations.

May walks in on Bobbi jumping rope. Bobbi mentions Andrew and May snaps. May goes after Bobbi as if she risked Andrew’s life not Hunter. To May its all the same. Hunter did what he did to get revenge for what Ward did to Bobbi. As it turns out, May just had to test Bobbi to see where she was at physically as May wanted to recruit Bobbi to help in the assassinate Ward mission.

Rosalind creates an ’emergency’ to yet again postpone Coulson’s tour of the ATC building. Coulson isn’t buying it. Rosalind reluctantly agrees to let Coulson tag along…to her residence. There has been a break in.

Hunter is beginning to get stir crazy sitting on the bench. Now he’s getting in Fitz’ way. Hunter even finds a seamless way to put his two cents in about Fitz working to get Will back. Hunter sees it as giving assistance to Fitz’ competition. Fitz sees it as saving the man who kept Jemma alive.

Daisy finds Andrew walking the halls and interjects with a request. Daisy offers Andrew the opportunity to consult. He’s almost elated compared the boringness of recuperating. She’d like him to assist on trying peg this ‘Lash’. Andrew asks about Lincoln but Daisy has little to go on. Lincoln won’t come in. Mack comes around the corner and calls out for ‘Tremors’, Mack is leaning toward supporting the Lash is ATC theory. This puts their focus directly on Banks, Rosalind’s #2. They plan a little surveillance op. Hunter begs to come along.

Bobbi and May gain access into a large Cayman Island bank. An account that SHIELD monitors belonging to Hydra. One just went active. May and Bobbi parade around like a foreign dignitary and her assistant. Once inside, Bobbi places a small explosive inside a safe deposit box, places the box back in its slot. Moments later, all of the lock boxes are broken loose. They pull out box #38. Before they can identify the contents, Fitz informs them that they tripped an alarm.

Bobbi decides to take a diplomatic approach. Security is in their face by the time Fitz told them they had no time. With Fitz feeding her information through the coms, Bobbi tries to act her way through. Suggesting that this was all a front to recruit the head security agent as if she worked for his former employer. When that doesn’t work, they decide to do it May’s way and fight their way out.

In the surveillance van, they get a beat on Banks. Hunter follows at a safe distance. Daisy and Mack discuss what the next move is. Before they can decide, they hear a noise. Hunter has donned a bandanna around his face and ices Banks, putting him to sleep. Hunter’s idea was that one DNA sample and they could check for Inhuman genetic markers. An idea that was actually kind of sound.

The ’emergency’ that sent Rosalind and Coulson on a trip to her residence, may prove to be a setup. Short of knocked over furniture, it feels like a faked robbery. Plenty of valuables lying around. Furniture looks unused. He even finds a baseball bat with some of baseball’s best player autographs of all time (Mantle, Frank Robinson, Ted Williams). Something seems off. Rosalind accepts what Coulson is throwing back at her and aborts the effort. They head to the ATC detention facility.

Ward’s #2 returns prematurely from his hunt of Alex Von Strucker to hand Ward his cell phone. Gideon Malick is the voice on the phone. Malick has a proposition. After Alex came to him for assistance and assistance was granted, Malick plans to sacrifice young Alex. Putting him firmly in Ward’s side of the equation.

Daisy, Mack and Hunter find the ATC facility. They can’t just walk in, so Daisy employs a ‘dwarf’ (they didn’t specify it by name) to see inside. Mack questions that it might be seen. Daisy retorts with, “that’s why it’s the 2.0”. This dwarf can cloak itself. Once inside relays some difficult images. An Inhuman tucked in the fetal position inside a gel filled case. If that wasn’t Inhumane enough, Daisy is not thrilled at the sight of Coulson just standing by Rosalind’s side as they watch.

Jemma walks into the lab while Fitz is working, but not on the Will project. When she asks about the simulations, Fitz hesitates. She thinks it’s because the entire situation is awkward for him. He hesitates because he doesn’t want to disappoint her. He’s run dozens of simulations and none of them have worked to this point. However, he does reiterate that they (collectively) will not give up. Jemma leaves feeling better about the situation. Once out of view, Fitz hits a key command on his keyboard and up shoot several articles he’s found online about Will Daniels.

After the tour of the ATC facility, Rosalind opens up ever so slightly. She mentions how Coulson suggested at her apartment that she wanted him to like her. Coulson attempts to walk that one back, but Rosalind admits there is at least a little truth to that.

May and Bobbi find where Ward’s #2 has strung up Alex and have been beating him. #2 Stabs Von Strucker before the fight even begins. Bobbi is slightly rusty but it is to be expected. May is absolutely not taking on three men at once. Bobbi loses the upper hand on #2 and they both end up in the pool. She is able to grab her baton that fell into the water. Using that she regains control and gets out of the pool. #2 is still talking trash about not being able to beat him. With her out of the water and him still in it, she uses her baton to electrocute him to death. No more #2.

May gets Alex down and asks about Ward’s location. Alex continues on about wanting to finish the job. Wanting to do as instructed. But then Alex Von Strucker delivers the episodes major body blow.

Alex: I tried to do what Ward wanted. I tried to kill him.
May: Professor Garner?
Alex: We had him. I didn’t know he’d change into that thing.
May: That’s not true.
Alex: What is he?
May: I don’t know.

Dr. Andrew Garner is Lash. I’ll give you a moment to really comprehend what that means. The implications could be major. The notion that Lash’s Inhuman status long predates the event that changed Daisy and many others all but flies out the window. Needless to say, next week’s episode should shed some light on that story line. And perhaps why Lash/Andrew are so interested in getting Lincoln.

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Warning: Spoiler Alert

We begin tonight’s highly anticipated “Jemma” episode reliving the moment that Jemma gets pulled through the portal and onto a foreign planet. Once on the planet, Jemma shows signs of optimism. By hour 13, realism begins to set in. No sign of intelligent life as o yet. But neither are there signs of water or vegetation. By hour 71, Jemma begins to get a little crazy as she has not seen the sun yet. At hour 82, Jemma collects herself and begins outward to find food or at least water. Talking to herself along the way. Not in a going crazy sort of way but in a nervous woman before an important date sort of way.

At 99 hours the lack of water is beginning to affect her. That’s when she sees a dust storm coming over the horizon. After surviving said dust storm, Jemma finds a water source. She drinks from it then she swims in it. It’s not until she swims in it that she discovers it’s not a typical water hole or small pond. Something grabs her leg. It essentially resembles a very large tongue or tentacle. She swims frantically to the edge and severs it with a rock. At the 111 hour mark, she eats the tentacle.

Her only source of food, is the tentacle. So she goes in for seconds. Three weeks in and she still has the use of her phone. At least as far as recording goes. She talks to it as if Fitz can hear her. She needs him to read her mind and come and find her. She knows he won’t give up and neither will she. She stops short during one of her messages to Fitz when she hears something. What appear to be bamboo like stalks jetting out of the sand. She walks through them and the sound generates a smile. Until she falls through a hole in the sand landing feet below on her back, just in time to see the hole get covered.

761 Hours in Jemma wakes to find herself in a cell that seems to be constructed of those same bamboo stalks she admire moments earlier. Whatever put her there is at the very least humanoid. It’s first words to her are, “You’re still here?” as if she could just wish herself out of there. She tries to reason with him, but it appears whatever his plans, they are not as obvious as Jemma might think. She manages to trick him with a ‘you poisoned me’ ploy. She’s able to hit him with a food dish of sorts, grab his sword and run out of there.

The stranger doesn’t say much but he is clearly human. As she runs he chases after her. She manages to trip and cut herself. When he runs up on her she tells him he can kill her but she won’t accept being his prisoner. He’s more concerned with her slight bleeding.

Stranger: You’re bleeding.
Jemma: What do you care?
Stranger: It smells blood.
(He stands up and looks off into the distance)
Stranger: It’s coming. We have to go.

The “it” appears to be the dust storm Jemma has already experienced. This Stranger, or Will, seems to have been here long enough that events have clouded his judgment. He believes the storm is evil. The planet is evil. And the planet, which would be unlike anything Jemma’s ever considered before, has moods. Their social behavior towards each other starts to loosen. Will asks about Jemma being a doctor. Jemma asks how long he’s been here. He explains that keeping time is difficult without a sun. Then he asks what year is it. She replies with “2015”. There is a depressed look on Will’s face as he ventures to a different part of the underground cave. Will stands before what appears to be old NASA gear. Will arrived in 2001. Space Odyssey reference anyone?

NASA possessed the Monolith 15 years ago and they planned to use it as the ‘affordable’ new next step in space exploration. Will was only one of a team of people sent through the portal using the Monolith. A team of four were sent to map the terrain, take samples, study the stars. Will was the only one that wasn’t a scientist. Will’s job was to keep the other three alive until NASA returned to bring them home.

Will believes the planet has a way of getting inside your head. One threw himself off a cliff. Another set himself on fire. The last came after Will with a hatchet. Everything to this point has gone rather civil until Jemma revisits the notion that the planet is not evil and that there may be a psychological explanation. Will in generally pleasant and even polite until Jemma suggests by some extension that he may be crazy.

Looking over what evidence and resources Will had cultivated, Jemma found a map of the surrounding terrain. There is one area titled the “No Fly Zone”, which deems off-limits. We later discover that is where his team went, and the basis for his theory that they went mad and off’d themselves. Jemma has become stir crazy and disobeys him and ventures out to the no fly zone anyway.

She crosses a clearing and finds a messenger bag and a tool of sorts in the sand. Before she can really enjoy the spoils of her find, another dust storm comes. This time the storm is accompanied by a figure in the distance. Another humanoid figure but this one seems to have long hair and controls the dust. When she returns (fast) Will opens the hatch and they both descend. At first she’s indignant about Will keeping this information from her. Will and Jemma were not the first ones through. In the end all of that doesn’t matter, because the tool she found will help her to navigate the stars, and she thinks, help them get home.

Jemma says goodbye to Fitz and her ability to access videos on her phone as her next plan is to use the remaining battery power in her phone to power Will’s ancient computer tech. Jemma works feverishly. Before the phone finally dies, Jemma was able to find predict the next event. The Monolith creates a wormhole. Whose exit points seem to move, but its the planet that moves. Using the old computer Will brought in 2001, she was able to predict the next location. 18 days from now…in the no fly zone.

Jemma: Eat, sleep or shower. Which one are you doing first when we get back?
Will: Eat! Please. Who are you talking to? What are you gonna do?
Jemma: I’m going to eat in the shower, then fall asleep while doing it.

When they arrive at the canyon, the gap is three times larger than it was the last time Will was here. They arrive just in time to see the portal open. There is no time to get to it. But, as a backup, Jemma created a message in a bottle that would give Fitz all the information he would need to come and get them. They attach the bottle to rope connected to a gas-powered harpoon gun. They fire it off. It is on track to hit the mark when the portal closes a couple of seconds before the bottle arrives. The portal has closed. Despair immediately consumes them.

In the cave Jemma begins to accept that there is no going home. That this is in fact the embodiment of hell. Then Will shows that Jemma has turned around his own despair and hopelessness. Then we have the event that for the moment I will just refer to as ‘the event’. Jemma, not Will, instigates a kiss. They venture out like they are going on a date to watch the sunrise. A sunrise that occurs once every 18 years.

Before the sun, something bright appears. Fitz’ flare. During a moment when Will is hearing that Jemma thinks her father would have liked him, potentially embracing life on this horrid planet made brighter by Jemma’s presence. He is immediately reminded of Jemma’s desire to return home and the perceived concept that Fitz won’t stop trying to get her back. They run towards the flare. Will seems to tail off or Jemma’s just running too fast.

The evil doesn’t want them to leave. The evil appears amidst the dust in the form of an astronaut. Will runs back to tell her that is the evil and not anything to be trusted. The dust engulfs everything. Then she hears a single gunshot. The lone bullet Will saved to use on himself if it ever got to be too much. The assumption is that either he killed the evil, or he tried to and missed. Leaving us with the Schroedinger’s Cat like conclusion. Will is either alive or he’s not. And there is no way to know for sure until they open the figurative box.

At that moment, Jemma can hear Fitz’ voice. This brings us back to the moment Fitz brings Jemma back. She has been reluctant to see her rescue as completely great, and now we know why. This entire episode, it seems, was Jemma telling Fitz the story. When we are pulled back to present time and present planet, Jemma has become slightly emotional telling Fitz that story. That’s about the moment I realized that all of what we just saw was in the story. Including the ‘event’ and the assumed event that followed. Jemma begs Fitz to say something. Fitz just gets up without a word and leaves.
Jemma follows him to the lab, tears in falling down her face. She again, begs him to say something. A few keystrokes later, Fitz gestures to the computer screen. Jemma can see loads of research and even what appears to be another monolith sighting. Then once again, Fitz delivers a line that confirms my assertion that Fitz might just be the most deserving character (for whatever he desires) maybe in the history of fictional television.

(Jemma looks at the screen then up at Fitz with tears running down her face)
Fitz: We’re gonna get him back.

Courtesy of ABC

Courtesy of ABC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

A young couple, we assume are Inhumans, prepare dinner when there is a knock at the door. Alicia stands in the doorway. You’ll remember Alicia from last season, a striking red-head with the ability to be in many places at once. Before they can completely understand what’s happening, the “Turgent” arrived. That would be the big blue porcupine guy that has been tearing through each episode. The trio put up a fight, but lost in the end. Coulson, Bobbi, and Fitz try to collect as much evidence from the scene before they lose control of the scene (local authorities). Daisy and Mack pursue the Turgent. They open a door expecting to find it, instead they discover Rosalind and her many men.

Daisy loathes the idea of helping a government agency rounding up Inhumans. An arrangement she did not broker but does experience the benefit of. In the apartment, Rosalind begins piecing together part of the puzzle. There are no signs in the apartment that suggest they were newly turned. This couple was Inhumans before the outbreak.

Hunter and May meet in a parking garage. Hunter is ready to jump in to this Hydra infiltration head first. May has her reservations. However, in Hunter’s mind, you don’t get to hurt Bobbi and live. Everything else are mundane details.

The Turgeon is tracking his victims by using a strange email chain that has embedded in it a virus. Coulson decides its in everyone’s best interest to share their email intel with Rosalind’s people. A notion that Daisy and Bobbi are not thrilled about.

Jemma sits with Dr. Garner. This type of resistant back and forth, Andrew should be used to by now. Jemma is absolutely hiding something major. She’s still jumpy and there’s something in her eyes that suggest we are not done with the foreign alien planet. Coulson walks with Andrew trying to get whatever little information on Jemma Andrew will part with. Then unannounced, May walks in.

Fitz stands over Bobbi’s shoulder while she conducts tests on the hair sample they found. A sample that appears to be deteriorating on its own. Fitz insists she run it again, then Fitz picks up a binder and starts thumbing through it. Jemma comes running in and with a very un-Jemma attitude and tone, she demands that Fitz not touch her stuff.

Daisy has done a little digging and believes she has a suspect in mind. Coulson’s team make for the suspects location but not before inviting Rosalind and the gang. Inside, Daisy finds the young man hiding in the closet. This ‘suspect’ is an Inhuman but his gift is clearly more of a curse. He’s essentially allergic to other Inhumans. Mr. Porcupine has a name, Lash. Rosalind takes custody of this, “Frye” and Daisy has a huge problem with that. Coulson convinces Rosalind to take Mack and Daisy along to check out their facility.

Jemma walks in on Bobbi running on a treadmill as part of her rehab. Jemma has come to apologize for her outburst, but Bobbi will have none of that. Bobbi asks if she has told anyone else that she wants to go back. WWWWHHHAAAAAAAAAAATTTTT?!?! Jemma wants to go back to the alien planet she was so fortunate to be rescued from.

Daisy and Mack shoot the breeze inside the truck as they transport the Frye to wherever Rosalind keeps her Inhumans. As they approach an overpass, Lash stands on said overpass waiting for them. At the right moment, Lash jumps down landing on the transport. They do their best to subdue Lash, but two Inhumans fighting inside a truck derails its drive path. When Daisy comes out of it, she can vaguely see Lash’s silhouette. Then watches it becomes something else.

Bobbi walks into the hanger to find Coulson suited up and boarding the new bus. This throws up all kinds of red flags for Bobbi which goes all the way back to a previous scene where Bobbi had a bad feeling that Hunter was in trouble.

Ward’s #2 escorted Hunter in the trunk of his car. They march into the rebuilding Hydra headquarters. Resembles more of a garage. Hunter turns to get a good look at a map and potential intel on future moves when Ward appears. Hunter’s back is still turned. Like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Hunter refuses to turn. Until, the moment has become awkward. Hunter says, my name’s not Richie, then he lunges for a gun and we have ourselves a fire fight. Ward’s men look for approaching vehicles but see nothing. They especially don’t see that Melinda May is already in the building.

Ward tries to buy time before he can present his ace in the hole. He signals to his #2 to make the call. Shortly thereafter, he slides that phone towards May and Hunter’s location. The phone shows a live feed…of Andrew. The Hydra legacy and a couple of goons surround Andrew in a convenient store. May wants very badly for Hunter to stand down, but that’s something he just can’t accept. Hunter takes his shot(s) but Ward gets away.

In the convenient store the camera reveals blood and products strewn about, black dress shoes and black dress pants lifeless on the floor. Suggesting its Andrew without revealing that to be the case. Then little Mr. Hydra’s Son blows up the convenient store.

Jemma finally comes clean to Fitz without giving us, the viewer, anything much to go on. Fitz knows she wants to rebuild the portal. She needs to go back and she needs Fitz to help her do so. Next week’s episode appears to maybe be completely about what we don’t know about Jemma’s time on an alien planet. And just why she would ever want to go back.

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

We start this week with Lincoln on the run from the newly formed ATCU. He is chased through the woods until he emerges at the base of an electrical tower in a clearing. He uses his power to create a distraction. A wall sparks. Following their missed opportunity, the ATCU puts out a bolo on Lincoln. Lincoln is now playing the part of Dr. Richard Kimble, minus the whole wrongfully accused of killing his wife angle.

Predictably, Jemma is almost completely out of whack, physiologically. Three months being hunted on a foreign planet does things to a person and Jemma is no different. Fitz attempts to re-acclimate her to the lab setting. From her perspective, there is something really wrong. Bobbi’s cell phone and basic moving part in the lab give her the jumps. But more importantly, using a camera trick, the show runners show there is more going on than the team can sense.

Hunter and May enter an old stomping ground for Hunter where he and his former associate proceed to get a little sauced and the native accent gets think enough that close captioning is required. Eventually, May convinces them to talk business. The former associate explains that he knows people they might be interested in meeting, but Hunter will have to fight his way in. Last man standing earns a meeting.

Lincoln hitches a ride from the only person he can trust. While they are on a first name basis, their relationship is still undetermined. Elsewhere Rosalind receives a call from the White House, but Coulson has hacked the signal. The two agree to meet but not until after Rosalind’s associate believes they have Lincoln’s location. As suspected, John-supposedly the only person Lincoln can trust, has turned on Lincoln. Lincoln makes the decision to leave despite John’s adamant demands for Lincoln to stay where he is. Lincoln gives the aluminum bat in John’s hand a love tap, but it’s enough to send John into cardiac arrest.

Bobby tries to get a grip on what Jemma is going through by talking to Fitz. Fitz doesn’t think he knows how to help Jemma. Let’s acknowledge the ironic elephant in the room. Fitz is specifically just the right person to help her. Fitz’ issue for the majority of season 2 is not unlike what Jemma is going through.

At the Fight Club like proving ground, Hunter is immediately intimidated by the human crusher pummeling his opponent. Hunter enters the ring thinking he’s about to fight ‘the Abomination’ (that’s a joke for the Marvel fanatics), but instead he’s set to fight the former associate that got them in. He played Hunter the entire time.

Hunter is vertical but not faring well. The big oaf tries hitting on May, not a smart idea. A moment later, May is surrounded by three large men. This might get comical pretty soon. The three men escort her to another room. She asks who’s first? Then proceeds to make easy work of them. Outside, both men are extremely bloody and it appears Hunter is getting his second wind. While his former mate, gloats to the crowd, Hunter slips on brass knuckles. Three shots and the bigger man goes down.

Rosalind is not buying what Coulson is selling, but that’s because her team is already en route to intercept Lincoln. The only flaw in that plan is, so is Coulson’s team. In addition to that though, Rosalind has an ace up her sleeve (as Coulson puts it) and he’s tired of waiting for her to play. Rosalind pulls out her phone and shows Coulson a picture of Daisy. Coulson will do anything to prevent Daisy from getting in Rosalind’s cross-hairs.

Lincoln in full on self loathing form. Everything is bad, he is the cause, and no one should care about his well being. Daisy tries to spin it back to her experience that was guided by Lincoln after she emerged from the mist. He’s not going for it, until…Daisy moves in, invading his personal space. In a good way. Lincoln agrees to go with Daisy just as Mack enters. And he is followed by a troop o Rosalind’s men. Coulson was prepared to turn over Lincoln to save Daisy. When Lincoln escapes, Rosalind orders her men to take Daisy, something Coulson simply will not allow.

Fitz decides that maybe a quiet candle lit dinner in an empty restaurant might be what she needs. Fitz is greeted by the host. The host then greets Simmons. The wine is a gift the restaurant. A celebratory gesture as Fitz has kept the reservation for months. This was the date they were to go on referenced in the season finale of season 2. The waiter begins to pour the wine and Jemma begins to lose it. There was something or many somethings that Jemma was lucky to survive. What is still as of yet unknown.

The something better that Coulson offered Rosalind that consequently saved Daisy is Coulson. Instead of fighting over who gets to do what, Coulson offered his services to the ATCU. Daisy and Mack are becoming quite the team. Mack did not tell Coulson of the ‘moment’ he walked in on between Daisy and Lincoln. There is trust building that wasn’t there in season 2.

Hunter, bloody, beaten, but not broken enters a room where he stands before Ward’s #2. After saying that the boss likes people to prove themselves, Hunter says, “sounds like an interesting bloke, can’t wait to meet him some day” as the Hydra logo is seen on the wall behind him.

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Courtesy of ABC/Marvel

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Last week’s season premiere stepped up the stakes and the scope for Coulson’s team. Working with what seems like a skeleton crew, the showrunners and actors seem to deliver on a mark they had not yet reached. Especially Fitz (played by Iain De Caestecker), who may have delivered the single greatest acting scene in the genre’s history. I only mention this to see exactly where “Purpose in the Machine” stacks up.

We begin with a flash back to England 1839. A long table with Victorian dressed men. They reach into a bag and pull out a small stone each. Most of the stones are black. One is not. The possessor of the white stone has the misfortune of venturing into a room with what looks like the exact same Monolith as the one in SHIELD’s possession. Screams can be heard while an elder man explains to a younger one that in the history of mankind, no one ever returns.

Daisy and Mack discuss the status of their team as undermanned as it is when Hunter burst through the door yelling “It’s Fitz!” At this moment, Fitz is still down in the Monolith containment room loudly, and still, challenging it to a fist fight. The team gets down there in time to pull him away and close the door a mere heartbeat before it liquefies. Fitz takes a moment to realize the risk he just took when he discovers something on his fingertips. Sand.

The sand, while generic by appearance, predates earth by a billion years. Fitz believes the Monolith is a portal to another dimension or wrinkle in time. This was the smallest shred of evidence the team needed to jump on Fitz’ bandwagon. While it’s not the number one priority, finding Simmons just shot up the to do list. Fitz now needs an expert on quantum mechanics, an expert on the Rosenbridge Theory, and sandwich. I know what the Marvel fans are thinking. But slow down. AoS operates independent of the MCU, or so Fiege keeps telling us.

Bobbi finally gets to do something outside the lab. Coulson needs to get to Dr. Randolph (the alien that’s been on earth forever played by Peter MacNicol-is Vigo). Randolph is refusing to assist. Too much heat on those he calls ‘not locals’. This time around, Coulson is not pulling any punches. He threatens to make certain government agencies away of a certain Asguardian’s location. The mood changes and Randolph agrees to help.

Randolph: Well…you’ll have to cover my release. And, if there is a portal, which I will have to see to believe, you are diving into very dangerous waters here.

In a parking garage, Ward monologues while driving what appears to be a high prices European sports car exceedingly fast with the car’s only holding onto the hood as if his life depended on it. Ward wants the owner of the car to prove he’s not dead weight, by telling him “where the kid is”.

The team returns with Randolph. He walks with caution around the Monolith, confirms its real, and asks how often does it do that (liquefy)? Despite Fitz’ assumption, the liquefying event is not random. And Fitz has spent his time working the elements that could cause it on THIS planet. Randolph makes only one promise. They will find her (Simmons), then Coulson must give his word that they will destroy it and not let anyone else pass through. A promise Coulson will be glad to keep. Bobbi hands him the parchment with the Hebrew word for Death.

Fitz: …before the Napoleon era it was moved again, lost track of it somewhere in…
Randolph: England.
Fitz: Yeah, how’d you know that?
Randolph: Because I’ve seen this word carved into the walls of a Castle in Gloucestershire, England. In 1853. TO THE PLANE!
(He stops short and slowly turns around)
Randolph: Am I allowed to say that?
Coulson: Let’s all go to the plane, I guess.

At the aforementioned English castle, Randolph makes a slight correction. The Hebrew word on the parchment doesn’t mean “death”. It means “death by punishment”. Yet even with that word etched in store throughout this castle, Coulson finds a secret entry way and decides with little hesitation to walk down the path. Even if it says death by punishment. Down the path, they find a room that resembles a torture chamber.

The “kid” Ward is after appears to be nothing more than an entitled trust fund baby. Ward aims to take everything. And falling in line with Ward’s previous monologue, moving forward if the kid wants something, he’s going to have to earn it. And earn it he does. Facing torture for banking passwords, the kid eventually fights back taking out Ward’s #2. Ward comes in from the shadows enlightening us as to the meaning of the kid’s namesake. He is the son of the most celebrated leader in Hydra history. The name doesn’t merit respect, taking out Ward’s right hand does.

Mack reluctantly delivers the Monolith to the castle in England. They lower it into a hole they believe was designed for it. FItz turns on ‘the machine’. The Monolith instantly liquified. Just as Fitz’ excitement builds, Daisy shows signs of pain. Intriguing as one theory is that the Monolith is Kree in origin. The machine is overworked and quits, solidifying the Monolith. Just in time as well, as Daisy’s pain grew into a nose bleed. After empty theories and Mack insisting that Fitz take a minute to breathe, Fitz figures it out. They don’t need to fix the machine. Daisy can open the portal by herself. They’ve constructed a rig to suspend a probe with a camera. The idea being if Daisy can hold the portal open, they can get a visual of the other side.

Daisy, using her powers, tries to tune to the correct frequency. With no one paying attention, Fitz attached the wire cable to himself and not the probe. Fitz jumps in with no regard for his personal safety. On the other side he begins yelling Jemma’s name amidst the harsh environment of this foreign planet. As the rig falls apart in England, Jemma’s voice can be faintly heard in the distance. Then we find ourselves at the edge of our respective seats as Fitz and Simmons reach for each other against the harsh elements of the planet. Back in England, everything is falling apart. Coulson demands they pull Fitz back. Don’t you dare do what you’re about to do.

Fitz is yanked back. Simmons appears to be pulled in the opposite direction. They find a way to get a solid grip. Then that grip begins to weaken as Fitz is pulled back harder. In one swift move we see the Monolith reduced to playground chopped tire material. In the hole we see Fitz emerge from the black rubble. He looks up. There is an expression that I confused for the pain of loss. He reaches into the blackness and…pulls Simmons up.

On the plane, all seems to be well. Both sides of the deal were held up, but Randolph has a question regarding Daisy. What is she? Coulson drops the “Inhuman” word and Randolph is not confused, bewildered, or shocked. “Now that’s a word I have not heard in a very long time.”

Throughout the episode tonight, we have seen May for the first time this season. Looking particularly melancholy. Acting as if her father (played by the wonderful James Hong) needs her when he clearly doesn’t. May has been hiding from her ‘unfinished business’ and its clear. Hunter finds her and tells her what she needs to hear. He also finds a way to say just enough to join him on his mission to put Ward six feet under.

Back at SHIELD, all might not be well. We still don’t know what Simmons went through on the other side. She startles awake holding a shard of metal like a prison shank. Fitz is asleep in a chair across the room. Simmons repositioned herself to fall asleep with her head in his lap.

 

Side note. I know that the romantic tension between these two is intentional and even necessary. But has any man done more to win the heart of a woman in the history of fiction? From the escape pod to bringing Simmons back from a harsh planet on the other side of who knows what, Fitz makes any normal mortal’s romantic gestures look like fart jokes.

 

The final Marvel-esque tease scene has ‘the kid’ requesting to take Dr. Garner’s psych class. Garner hints at the idea that most people take psych classes to figure out their family. The kid smirks and says, “You got me there”.