Happy Wednesday, readers! Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back after a bye week, and it just keeps getting better and better with no signs of slowing down. A mystery is finally solved, but it just opens the door to even more questions! Yes, there will be spoilers.
Hey, remember that guy at the very end of “A Fractured House”? Y’know, that mysterious dude at the tattoo parlor with all of those strange alien markings inked all over his body. He’s back, and he’s mackin’ on some artist who also knows about the markings. The two are just getting back from a night of drinks at a bar. They just met, but the artist feels like she still knows him from somewhere. The mysterious guy reveals himself to her (sort of), takes out a knife, and starts carving the symbols onto her body. Yeesh.
At S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, Coulson’s affliction is becoming more and more frequent — from once or twice a month, to one every day. Skye still has no idea what they could possibly mean. If it’s a map, it’s a map that leads to nowhere as far as she’s concerned.
Meanwhile, May and the other agents are out looking for Ward, who escaped during his transfer. They track him down to a bus station. Before Triplet can act, Ward discreetly reveals that he’s armed with a dead man’s trigger and enough C4 to take out a block. Trip backs down and Coulson tells the other agents to stand by and wait for the next stop — Bobbi and Hunter are in another location while May keeps to the skies in the Quinjet.
Skye comes in bearing crime scene photos of the woman we saw at the beginning, her body covered with bloody carvings of the alien symbols. Coulson knows her as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but her full bio states that she’s an art teacher in upstate New York. He and Skye go to investigate her home. There they find a room full of paintings full of nothing but those symbols. And it seems she’s been to T.A.H.I.T.I. as well. What does it all mean?!
The victim is actually a Level 6 S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who, according to her file, died of cancer several years ago. What’s more is that her paintings, Coulson’s carvings, and the symbols they found in the burned down church make up different pieces of whatever puzzle they’re trying to solve. But it’s still not complete.
May’s team track Ward all the way to Atlanta. He gets on a bus to Dallas and discovers an undercover Bobbi. Her cover was almost perfect if not for her “reading” the same page in a book from when they crossed paths minutes earlier. He sends a polite warning like he did with Triplet and switches to a bus going to Boston. This time, however, he doesn’t notice Hunter already sitting a few seats behind him. Curious how *he* doesn’t get a suspicious look — he’s dressed as cowboy.
During the autopsy of the Level 6 S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (whom MacFitz pilfered from the morgue), Simmons discovers that the agent was injected with the same GH formula Skye, Garrett and Coulson were given. Remember, the only people in the know about these symbols are May, Skye, and Coulson. Simmons has only seen these symbols once before. Being the smarty pants she is, however, she’s already put together that almost everyone who was injected with the formula has gone crazy and started carving those symbols. Furthermore, she also found another set of DNA underneath the victim’s nails. Also injected with the GH formula. The next logical step is to find all the T.A.H.I.T.I. patients and find where they are now.
Problem: all of the patient files have been destroyed. The only way is to use the memory machine Raina used on Coulson. This isn’t going to be pretty.
After some protest, Simmons and Skye hook Coulson up to the memory machine. From there we are transported into the past to when Coulson was overlooking the T.A.H.I.T.I. project. There are six other patients, two of whom we’ve already met, the Level 6 agent and the tattooed killer. Some of the patients were terminally ill and volunteered for the project. At first the GH formula completely cured them; however, they all soon started experiencing psychotic breaks and carving symbols on the walls. One doctor had a theory that the alien host is somehow transferring some of its memories to the recipients, creating a schism in their minds and making them carve out these symbols. Coulson is getting worse on the outside, but he soldiers on until he is able to call out the names of the patients. Everyone but two of the T.A.H.I.T.I. patients have died of unnatural causes. The killer, they figure out, is likely a former assassin for S.H.I.E.L.D.
The memory machine made Coulson a little crazy, so as a precaution, Skye opts to lock the director up in Ward’s old cell. On their way down, Coulson pushes the unsuspecting agent into the cell and locks her in. He’s compelled to find the other patients and get answers some answers from them.
In Boston, Hunter follows Ward to a bar where he arranges a meeting with Bakshi. Ward wants a meeting with Whitehall, but Bakshi turns him down. Ward then follows up with an exchange — he can give Bakshi a face-to-face with Coulson if Bakshi gives him a meeting with Whitehall. Too bad for Bakshi, Ward meant killing all of his men and tying him up with a pretty little bow for May’s agents to find. Meanwhile, Ward is on his way to confront his brother, Christian.
Meanwhile, Coulson locates one of the patients, a family man playing toy trains with his kid. The father is clearly agitated when Coulson tries to get answers from him. That’s when we realize that the killer has already been there and waiting for Coulson. They fight it out in the family’s oversized garage. They smack each other around up to the second floor (it overlooks the whole first floor) until Coulson sees something familiar in the father’s metalwork. It’s a complete three-dimensional model of the symbols the he and the other’s have been carving. Suddenly, everything makes sense to him. It’s not a map, it’s a blueprint to a city. The killer sees it too and he has the same idea. Also of note, neither of them feel compelled to carve the symbols anymore.
See? Didn’t I tell you that the answer leads to more questions? Word around Twitter says that the answer lies within the pages of Marvel’s Inhumans, which is also one of the next movies lined up for Phase Three.