I hope you’ve got your lanyards handy, because Agents of SHIELD got serious again this week. Last week’s episode was all fun and action (and Philinda), but this week was drama, suspense, and emotional moments. While last’s week was more of a standalone episode, giving us some small progress but not doing much to advance the plot, this week took some major steps forward. We didn’t get any concrete answers to the show’s main mysteries, but they did shake up the status quo quite a bit. Simmons undercover experience with HYDRA came to a head, and Coulson’s secrets are becoming less secret. We learned more about the Doctor, none of which sounds good, and Raina was put in a tough position. Oh, and there’s Bobbi Morse, who is the best. So let’s dive right into “The Hen in the Wolf House,” written by Brent Fletcher and directed by Holly Dale.
Tonight’s episode opens with a wedding. No it’s not a flashback to Coulson and May getting married, nor a flash forward to FitzSimmons wedding. It’s not even an imaginary wedding taking place in Ward’s head between him and Skye. Instead, it’s a wedding filled with men from the Navy, wearing their uniforms and watching as one of their own is toasted by his slightly drunk best man. His toast sounds a bit interesting to us SHIELD fans, given the nature of the Marvel universe, as he says, “The world is full of people seeking change. Hoping to become something else, something better.” As he rambles on about their exploits in Tijuana, much to the groom’s embarrassment and the bride’s frustration, one of the guests asks a waiter if they have anything stronger to drink than the champagne but she’s told that’s all that’s available. The toast finally ends, they all raise their glasses and take a drink, and that’s when things start to go bad. Many of the guests’ mouths start to turn black and they begin coughing, while others start to see an entire transformation into the sort of corpses we’ve seen as a result of contact with the Obelisk. The waiters all pile into a van outside and make contact with Bakshi, who asks about the results. They tell him that there were eight dead, some just sick, while the others were scared but very much alive. Bakshi is disappointed and tells them that Dr. Whitehall will not be pleased that they’ve failed again.
Coulson is getting briefed about the incident, too. May tells him that six of the dead were in the Navy, and all of them were part of an anti-HYDRA unit. The similarity to the Obelisk-related deaths they’ve seen means they have to assume that HYDRA has the Obelisk. The team (minus Fitz) discusses their options, and while some want to send someone into HYDRA to find out, Coulson would rather wait for Simmons to make contact. As they talk, Skye notices some alien carvings on Coulson’s desk, but when she asks about it he dismisses them as sketches. She says she’s talked to her Rising Tide contacts but no one knows any more about the alien writing. She asks about the source for all of the images he’s given her, but he tells her it’s classified. She doesn’t want to hear that, and tells him that given that he is the boss man, he could declassify it. “I could. I won’t,” is his response. He says he already answered that question, but she says he just skirted it and there’s a difference. It’s a difference he’s comfortable with, and he warns her not to question his authority or they’ll have a very different conversation. She leaves, followed by the rest of the team, but on the way out May turns to him and says, “You know, keeping her in the dark won’t end well.”
Skye’s father, the mysterious Doctor, is busy operating on a patient with a gunshot wound. He’s removing the bullet in a small, dark operating room that feels like it’s in a basement, and he’s working alone. The wounded man’s friend is talking to the patient, waving his gun around and telling him they’re going to get revenge. Clearly these are some shady characters. Suddenly a red light starts flashing on the wall, next to a security camera. The Doctor looks at it and nods, and Raina comes in. The patient and his buddy aren’t happy about the breech in discretion, but the Doctor doesn’t listen. He reminds Raina that he told her never to interrupt him while he’s working, as the patient’s privacy is important. “I’m in trouble,” Raina says, which disappoints the Doctor’s hope that she was bringing good news. She tells him that she needs to borrow the Obelisk temporarily, but there’s no way he’ll agree to that. She says please and starts to beg, but he cuts her off and tells her to stop. He says the begging reminds him of when he first found her, hungry on the street with a head full of fairytales. “You said you’d make them come true,” she says.
He strokes her face and asks who wants the Obelisk, who it is that has made her so afraid. When she says that it’s Daniel Whitehall, his hand moves to her throat as he asks if Whitehall scares her more than he does. She says that Whitehall is very powerful with lots of resources, but the Doctor says he’s a butcher. “What are you?” Raina asks, as his grip tightens. “I’m a man trying to put my family back together,” he says. She tells him that he’s losing control again and that he needs her. “If you’re not careful you’ll lose Skye forever if she sees you like this,” she says. “I’m the only one who can bring her… and I can’t breathe.” He releases her, and then smashes the glass cabinet behind her in frustration. He says that the Obelisk is the only thing that will make Skye understand him and he won’t turn it over. Raina insists that Whitehall will cut her to pieces, which the Doctor doesn’t deny. He suggests that she go beg him for mercy, because “maybe he’s turned soft in his old age.” Raina goes to leave, with tears in her eyes, but on the way out she turns back and says, “I really wanted to bring you Skye.” “That’s not her name,” the Doctor replies. As she leaves, the patient’s friend asks if they can get back to work, telling the Doctor to try to keep it together.
Simmons is busy at work in the HYDRA lab, as Turgeon, her superior, looks on. She asks what kind of cow could produce “carbide milk,” but as he says the file just says “Bessie.” They don’t get to discuss the HYDRA cow anymore, though, because they’re summoned to a conference room and given a file to look over. Turgeon spots Whitehall waiting in the hallway and whispers to Simmons that he’s “one of HYDRA’s new heads.” Whitehall comes in and greets everyone, saying that he needs their help. They’ve been trying to reverse engineer the “artifact” (the Obelisk) using tissue samples from its victims, but the results haven’t been so successful. He shows them images from the wedding reception, but assures them that “many” of the deceased were enemies of HYDRA. He has loftier aspirations, however, and he’s waited his whole life to get his hands on the Obelisk. He notices that Simmons isn’t listening and is reading through the file, and he calls her out by name to ask her opinion. He tells her that Bakshi tells him that she has a passion for these sorts of projects, and he wants to know where his other scientists went wrong. She says that she’s not sure they did, that they’re dealing with alien technology and alien metal that reacts with our biology in unpredictable ways that are impossible to predict without a sample. Whitehall asks if they’ll be able to weaponize the Obelisk’s effects if they can get a sample, and after a pause she says they can. As he leaves, Turgeon is jealous that Whitehall knows her name, but she has other concerns. “Do you know what this means?” she asks. “This could kill millions or billions of people.” “Pretty awesome, huh?” he replies.
Skye has snatched the painting they stole last week and almost runs over Hunter as she takes it back to her bunk. “Don’t mind me just standing here,” he says, annoyed. Fitz watches, with “Simmons” by his side. “Did Skye just steal that painting from our lab?” he asks her. “Simmons” however is much more interested in watching Mack work on a vehicle. She points out that Mack has a very impressive physique. Fitz says that he must agree, since “Simmons” is just a part of his subconscious. She’s excited by this comment, because it means that he’s coming to realize she’s not real, but Fitz isn’t interested in having a conversation with himself. She tells him that he has real friends again and doesn’t need her any more. “But I miss you…. her,” Fitz says. “But she left you and moved on,” Simmons says. “Maybe it’s time for you to do the same.”