This week’s Agents of SHIELD episode was both the funniest and had the best action of any episode thus far this season. Last week finally told us what Simmons has been up to along with giving us some truly fantastic Fitz moments. This week took the focus away from the “kids” of the show and put it squarely on mom and dad, as May and Coulson set off on an undercover assignment to retrieve a mysterious painting. We got some seriously kickass moments from both May and Coulson, a lot of humor, and even some sweetness, in what proved to be a nice change of tone from the previous three episodes this season, all of which have been rather serious. So let’s jump right into tonight’s episode (while keeping an eye out for laser grids), “Face My Enemy”, written by Drew Greenberg and directed by Kevin Tancharoen.
“Face My Enemy” kicks off in Miami, where a black car pulls up on a street and a bishop climbs out, looking at something behind the camera. As he stares a younger priest comes running up over the cracked asphalt to him. The young priest’s face is smeared with what looks like ash, and as the camera pans around we see the ruined, burnt hulk of a church known as Santa Maria de las Flores. The priest leads the bishop inside to where a painting of Mary and baby Jesus rests on a chair, completely unharmed by the fire. The painting dates from 1500’s Spain and was the only item spared by the inferno, clearly a miracle. The bishop says that he’s going to have the painting tested, to which the priest objects. “Shouldn’t it be enough to believe in the miracle?” he asks. “Should it have to be proven?” But before any more measures are taken, the priest has one more thing to show the older man. He turns the painting over and clearly carved into its wooden back are some familiar alien markings.
A short time later in South Beach, a couple is walking along a shorefront road discussing when they should get ready for their party that evening. As the couple kisses, we see that the man is none other than Lance Hunter, who reaches inside her purse as they engage in their public display of affection. He pulls out a flashdrive, which he holds in the air behind the woman just as a moped drives past and Skye snatches it from his hand. “The rabbit’s in the hutch,” she says over their coms as Hunter winks at her. She drives back to the hangar where they have the Bus parked and plugs the flashdrive into her laptop. On it she finds tickets to a party tonight, which would normally have cost $25,000 if not for their five-finger discount.
Speaking of the party, we see a black car pull up in front of it and Mack climb out, dressed as a chauffeur. He opens the back door for Coulson, and asks if he likes the car. It’s a 1962 Rolls Royce, which Mack restored himself. “I noticed,” says Coulson. “I’m still not letting you work on Lola.” “In time, sir, in time,” Mack replies. May emerges from the other side of the car, looking stunning in a short, silver, sparkly dress. “This is fun, right?” Coulson asks. “Isn’t this fun? Look, cufflinks!”
May is not amused, however. “I will pay you 500 dollars right now for a pair of flats,” she says desperately. The two head to the building’s entrance, where a hostess asks for their IDs. Coulson pulls out his own and May’s, as May tells the woman, “I like making him carry my things. It gives him purpose.” “Plus she can’t run off without me,” Coulson adds as the hostess lets them through. The party is being hosted by Gabriel Soto, who is charging such exorbitant prices for tickets as a benefit to raise money for the burnt church, with the main attraction being a chance to view the “miracle painting” in person. For the moment, however, the painting is under guard in a storage room downstairs, which Hunter informs Coulson and May upon his arrival at the Bus. He says that the woman, “Whispered it in my ear, if you know what I mean.” “Yes, everybody on the planet knows what you mean,” Coulson replies.
Skye reminds them that the partygoers are mostly diplomats and officials, none of whom are particularly fond of SHIELD at the moment. Coulson’s well aware, which is why he kept the mission to just two agents, and he asks sky whether he needs to explain covert operations to her again. Skye rolls her eyes, but is distracted when an unfamiliar and somewhat terrifying sound comes over the channel. “Yeah, that’s May,” Coulson says. “Is she ok?” Skye asks. “Is everything ok?” “Yes,” Coulson replies, “she’s laughing. I think the worst of it is over now.”
May joins Coulson wearing a big smile, and through her teeth tells him, “My face hurts.” He reminds her to maintain their cover, and then tells the team that they’re going radio silent before switching off communications, much to Skye’s chagrin. Coulson holds out his hand to May, and with a weary acceptance she takes it and the two start to dance along with the other couples around them. Coulson’s impressed that she still remembers the steps, but they’re not dancing for fun but in order to have an excuse to check out the building’s security from all angles, and the quietly call out guards and cameras to each other as the move around the floor. While they case the scene, they reminisce about the dance elective they both took at the academy, although May dropped it after two weeks. She just wanted to graduate so she could get to actual field assignments.
However, that reminds Coulson of their first mission in the field, which began at a coffee shop and ended up with May stuckin the bay for 5 hours, all because their SO had no exit plan. “Come on, we used to have fun like this in our youth,” Coulson says, prodding her to admit that she enjoyed it. She did, but she warns him, “Nostalgia is fine, but I prefer reality.” In particular, the reality of Coulson’s condition. She noticed his hands shaking on the Bus flight over, although she doesn’t think anyone else did. His symptoms are getting worse, but the team just thinks this is a standard operation, unaware that it’s personal for Coulson. “If I think this mission is too much for you, I’ll pull the plug,” May tells him. That brings up something he’s been meaning to discuss with her. He wants them to make a plan on what she’ll do in case he goes the same way as Garrett, but May doesn’t want to talk about it. Before they can get into it, something more pressing comes up when Coulson spots General Talbot from across the room, meaning their cover is blown.
Coulson sidles right up to Talbot, who has a drink in his hand and seems a little out of it. He tells Coulson that it’s nice to see him, which is a bit surprising but perhaps means they’ve put their differences behind them. Still, Coulson’s curious to know how many drinks Talbot has had, and he confesses he’s had one too many and asks Coulson not to tell anyone. Coulson agrees if Talbot agrees not to blow their cover. He says his operation will benefit them both, and he’s already benefitted Talbot so much already, helping to get his promotion. He just doesn’t want any interference from Talbot, and Talbot agrees not to interfere unless he has to.
Back on the Bus everyone else has returned, except for Trip who was unfairly left babysitting an empty plane while everyone else had something more to do. Hunter is not-so-subtly bragging about his success with the woman from whom he stole the flash drive, and doesn’t seem to understand why women just all seem to like him. He thinks it might be a magnetism thing, but Skye “agrees” with him that she doesn’t understand it either. That leads Hunter onto the story of his ex-wife, much to Mack’s frustration. Hunter launches into the story of meeting his ex-wife, who stood on a pier overlooking the Outer Banks in the moonlight looking like a goddess, only to eventually trick him in the end. Their conversation is interrupted when Coulson comes back on the line, telling them that Talbot is there and they’ll have to call an audible. He’s going to get the painting now.
Getting the painting first means that May has to go flirt with their host, Soto. She tells him how much she admires what he’s doing for the church, and claims she doesn’t even care about seeing the miracle painting she’s just there for the cause. That and the “company,” she adds, almost throwing herself at him. “She just said more words than I’ve heard her say in a year,” Skye says, listening in. May starts to flirt with Soto in Spanish, before deciding that she wants her picture taken with him and calling her husband over. “You’re husband,” Soto asks, confused by her flirtatious attitude. “We’re modern,” replies May.
Coulson pulls out a phone to take a picture of the pair, but it takes a long time because he’s really performing a retinal scan via his phone. They take their leave from Soto and head downstairs. Coulson wonders whether Talbot is “still pissed because we kidnapped him that time.” They find the elevator to where the painting is being stored, with a guard posted right outside. Coulson punches him out easily, although May insists she could have handled it. He pulls out his phone and holds it in front of the retinal scanner, where it creates holographic eyeballs in midair for the scanner to read. The elevator doors open and they head inside, Coulson shaking the hand he used to punch the guard in pain, and as the doors close he tells May, “I really like that dress.”
The elevator takes them to the basement, where Coulson says they’ll have to do this fast and dirty, to which Skye replies, “That only makes it more interesting.” “Ahh, the exuberance of youth,” Coulson replies, as they round the corner into a hallway. He pulls his phone back out and holds it in front of him, where it reveals a bunch of invisible beams crisscrossing the floor. “Laser grids, why is it always laser grids?” he asks. He backs up, says, “I got this,” and psyches himself up for some thrilling acrobatics to make it through the laser grid. May has other plans, however, and walks straight into the lasers, setting off alarms. “They already know we’re here,” she tells Coulson, who realizes she’s right but who looks a little disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to show off his skills. Inside, they search for the painting but it’s not there. Skye searches online and discovers that Talbot had the painting removed before they got there. Coulson doesn’t understand why he’s after the painting or how he even knows about it.
We then see Talbot, who has the painting in his room and is on the phone with someone. He says that he has the painting, but that SHIELD is there, potentially causing problems. We see that on the other end of the line is someone using a tablet with the HYDRA logo on it! The camera pans up and it’s Dr. Whitehall. Talbot asks if he should come in, but Whitehall tells him to stay put, because he has a new plan.
“I assume this all makes you happy,” May says to Coulson as they make their escape from the building. “Failed in our mission,” Coulson says, “outnumbered, trapped, hoping not to get killed… Feels like the old days.” May says that she’ll always have his back, and he insists that they have a real discussion about their contingency plan in case he should turn into Garrett. They’re suddenly stopped as they find themselves illuminated by a pair of headlights belonging to Talbot. Coulson says that they’re leaving because the party ran out of coconut shrimp, meaning there’s no reason to stay, but Talbot knows they were after the painting. Talbot knows that Coulson is the only one who can figure out the writing on the back, and wants to give him a chance to study it (in a secure facility, of course). Coulson agrees to meet him in an hour at his hotel after checking in with the rest of the team, and Talbot leaves them alone.