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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S1 E20 "Nothing Personal"

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Agent Hill and Agent Coulson, together again.
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Just when there's no one left to trust, Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) returns to team up with Coulson as S.H.I.E.L.D. is being destroyed around them.


Tropes:

  • Armor-Piercing Question: Deathlok asks Skye if she's willing to watch Ward die.
    Skye: [watching Ward have an induced heart failure] He's a murderer.
    Deathlok: Yes, he is. Are you?
  • Artistic License – Military: Providence base is on Canadian soil, so Talbot shouldn't have any right to confiscate the base, or even be leading armed troops into it, for that matter. Particularly jarring is when he makes a point that the base is on North American soil, as if the US military is responsible for the entire continent. Though he could have been there in an "advisory" capacity. And given what Coulson has said about Talbot, it's quite possible that Talbot is abusing and overstepping his authority.
  • As You Know: When Coulson demands that Fitz replay the security footage found off-screen on their return to Providence base, Fitz objects on the grounds that it will be the same as it was before, and summarizes what it shows.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking:
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    • Maria Hill. Of course, we already knew that from The Avengers; being Fury's second-in-command means she kicks ass.
    • Colonel Talbot can also handle his own in a fistfight against Phil Coulson.
  • Badass Boast: Coulson matter-of-factly states that he can take down Ward, a cold-blooded killer who's repeatedly demonstrated he can take on multiple assailants with no problem.
  • Blofeld Ploy: Skye is confident that Deathlok won't kill her. Deathlok says she's right... then shoots Ward with a device that stops his heart until she relents.
  • Broken Pedestal: Everyone has this at finding out Ward is HYDRA, though Fitz takes it the worst, to the point of first refusing to believe it's true, then refusing to believe Ward is irredeemable.
  • Call-Back:
    • The previous episode has a lingering shot of Skye looking at the rotating wall panels in Providence. This episode reveals she scrawled a simple note about Ward on it then jammed it so it would remain hidden until someone noticed the disparity between the stuck panel and the rest.
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    • "FZZT" establishes that there's an alert to the cockpit's display screens when the cargo bay ramp is lowered in mid-flight, which is how Ward knew Simmons intended to jump to her death and was able to save her in that episode, an event he later identifies as securing the team's trust in him. In this episode, the same alert is what clues the now-villainous Ward in to the fact that Coulson is on the plane rescuing Skye, though fortunately for them on this occasion he arrives too late. The shot of Skye struggling to put on a parachute before Coulson stops her is also reminiscent of the exchange between Fitz and Ward from the scene in the earlier episode.
  • Came Back Wrong: Early test subjects of the T.A.H.I.T.I. project reportedly developed various and severe psychological problems. Only memory replacement had any success in stemming the problems, and that wasn't even consistent.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Since Skye's the only one who can decrypt the hard drive, neither Ward or Deathlok can kill her until the job's down. Deathlok has to resort to alternate methods to force her cooperation.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Skye's trying to get away from Ward at the cafe, she runs outside and tries to get two cops standing there to take her into custody. They just sort of look at her like idiots until she starts shoving them, which is when they start throw her on the trunk of their car and start cuffing her.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • When they're fixing the communications, Coulson opens a drawer in Koenig's office and sees an Icer. Later he uses it to take out Talbot and his special forces team.
    • One from the last episode is finally fired: Fitz discovers a message left by Skye on one of the revolving wall panels, after spotting that she'd jammed the picture so that it didn't roll over to a daytime scene along with the rest.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • As shown in the end of The Winter Soldier, Hill is currently employed at Stark Enterprises. She also references Tony's Badass Boast back in Iron Man 2 by referring to it as privatizing world peace.
    • When Hill ends her phone call, it's revealed the person on the other end was Pepper Potts, her new boss.
    • Hill mentions having to deal with Congress due to the fallout of S.H.I.E.L.D., similar to what Romanoff did at the end of The Winter Soldier.
    • Hill maintains that Nick Fury is dead. May only smirks and says that she'll believe it when she sees it.
    • Skye references the Red Skull and the origin of HYDRA as an offshoot of the Nazis.
    • Just before Hill departs, Coulson starts to tell her "Tell Stark I said hi," before catching himself, and remembering that Stark thinks he's dead.
  • Cry for the Devil: Invoked when Skye tells Ward she'll never give him what he wants and turns away, and he looks genuinely heartbroken.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • When the cavalry finally arrives after May incapacitates the agents following Hill, she mocks their response time as disappointing and claims she'd have fired them if they were her agents.
    • Also, Skye's sarcastic "Hail HYDRA" to Ward, right after outing him.
  • Dull Surprise: When Coulson finally uncovers who was in charge of Project T.A.H.I.T.I., all he can do is sit there with a stunned expression and say "Huh."
  • Fake Shemp: The camera avoids Koenig's face as Simmons examines his corpse, presumably because it's not Patton Oswalt on the table.
  • Godwin's Law: As Ward and Skye argue, she calls him a Nazi several times even though HYDRA doesn't follow Nazi ideology or sport their imagery. Of course, being legitimately affiliated with the Nazis at one point (as well as just as evil as them, if not worse) makes the insults more justified than what's usual for this trope.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Coulson defied this trope in his final recording about the T.A.H.I.T.I. project. Even if an Avenger was mortally wounded, the risks of T.A.H.I.T.I. were far too great to justify using it. Nick Fury, however, didn't share that opinion when Coulson was lost in the line of duty.
    Coulson: It should never be administered to anyone ever.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Talbot plays both sides by threatening the team, while simultaneously saying he's their "only friend."
  • Guest-Star Party Member: Maria Hill eventually teams up with what's left of Team Coulson for this episode.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Sub Committee: Happened to Hill, just as with Romanoff.
  • Heroic BSoD: Fitz has an utter meltdown when he finally admits to himself that Ward is The Mole.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: In a variant, Garrett realizes that Skye may indeed refuse to decrypt the hard drive to save her own life, but she wouldn't let someone else die for it, even if that someone else is Ward. The final straw comes when Deathlok asks if she's a murderer.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: No fight, but Skye tries this with Deathlok, pleading with him to remember who he is. It doesn't work — Mike knows full well who he is, but he also bluntly states what the reality of the situation means for him and his family.
  • Imminent Danger Clue: While Hill complains about her obvious tails over the phone, she suddenly notices that they've disappeared or have been incapacitated. She immediately ends the phone call.
  • Incredibly Obvious Tail: Maybe not to just anyone, but this is Maria Hill and Melinda May: they're both easily able to identify the three people keeping Hill under surveillance as she leaves Congress.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Hill complains to Pepper that she "needs a cocktail" after having to give testimony to Congress.
  • Internal Homage: Just as in the pilot, someone needs Skye's help and she doesn't want to cooperate with them. Realizing that threatening her directly isn't going to work, they instead use their technique on Ward, despite him being their nominal ally. The difference is, Coulson's technique involves a (presumably faked) truth serum; Garrett's involves causing heart attacks.
  • Internal Reveal: Hill, Coulson, Fitz, Simmons, and Triplett finally learn that Ward is with HYDRA and murdered Koenig.
  • Ironic Echo:
  • Irony: Coulson recommended that Project T.A.H.I.T.I. be terminated because the awful side-effects outweighed the potential benefits of it. Coulson would himself become its first true success.
  • It's Personal: Hill's motivation to help Coulson save Skye is in no small part due to her having personally vetted Ward.
  • Just Following Orders: Ward justifies his betrayal with this. It gets thrown in his face later when he snaps at Deathlok for using him to force Skye's cooperation, only to be told the exact same thing.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • His conversation with Maria Hill shows that not only is Ward a traitor, a multiple murderer, and a member of an organization founded by a Nazi, but he's also not above making sexist taunts.
      Ward: A lot of us lost a lot of respect for Fury when he promoted you to be his second-in-command. I mean, if he wanted eye candy, Romanoff could've done just as well.
      Hill: That's funny. I'll let her know you said that.
    • Also the tone given over his shooting Lola.
      Hill: I can't believe he shot Lola.
      Coulson: I can't talk about it.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Deathlok nearly killing Ward with the heart attack-inducing device.
  • Kirk Summation:
  • Literal Metaphor: The only thing Fury told Maria Hill about the director of Project T.A.H.I.T.I. was that he "buried that information when he chose not to bury Coulson". May figures out that he literally buried the information in Coulson's empty grave.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Black Widow is directly referenced as such by Ward, who says that she would have made a better choice as Fury's right-hand eye-candy instead of Hill.
  • Mythology Gag: One of Congress' many questions for Hill was "Who or what is a Man-Thing?"note 
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Shared between May and Hill. May goes to Hill and tells her that Coulson needs help, since she can't get through to him. Hill decides to help by betraying Providence base to the government, hoping to talk Coulson into surrendering so he can make a quick transition into the private sector. What neither know is that Ward is a traitor and has kidnapped Skye, and while they do end up rescuing her, it's at the cost of Providence and all its supplies.
  • Nothing Personal: As an episode with this as the title, it has several examples.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Skye got this when Deathlok intercepted her escape attempt and this was also Coulson's reaction when Skye asks him how he got past Deathlok. "Deathlok's on this plane? New plan: Run!" Deathlok's good at causing these.
    • It happens to Ward when he realizes that Skye has been stringing him along this whole time.
    • Hill when Coulson reveals that Garrett is not dead and Ward is HYDRA.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: When Agent Hill realizes her Incredibly Obvious Tail have all been taken out, she hangs up her call to Pepper Potts and pulls a gun out of the small of her back. She had just came out of a Congressional hearing at a Department of Justice building.
  • Passed-Over Promotion: According to Ward, a lot of people lost faith in Fury when he promoted Hill to the #2 slot, derisively referring to her as eye-candy. If Fury wanted that, he says, Romanoff would have worked equally well and still have been a better choice.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: As noted elsewhere, Ward makes a couple of sexist remarks to Hill.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: "Go ahead, knock yourself out."
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Although she's been referred to on the show and played a heavy part in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Maria Hill hasn't been seen on the show since the pilot. This was because Cobie Smulders was finishing up How I Met Your Mother, where she was in every episode of the final season.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Skye delivers two to Ward. The first is a thinly veiled one at the café just before she reveals she's turned him in. The second is more open on the Bus as she calls him a Nazi.
    • Hill gives a smaller one to Ward, calling him a "duplicitous lowlife."
  • The Reveal: May gives Coulson a recording that reveals who was ultimately in charge of Project T.A.H.I.T.I.: Phil Coulson. It also shows that the purpose of Project T.A.H.I.T.I. was intended to save the Avengers if any of them were seriously injured or killed.
  • Revealing Hug: Near the beginning of the episode, when Ward hugs Skye, she goes along with it, but we see her less-than-thrilled expression over his shoulder.
  • Sadistic Choice: Deathlok gives one to Skye in this episode: either tell him the location necessary for the geolocked data files, or watch Ward die of a Deathlok-induced heart attack.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: Simmons is shown spotting the blood trails leading up to the supply room ceiling, but finds Koenig's body off-screen, and what's shown is Fitz's reaction to hearing her scream of alarm.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Hill tries to talk Coulson into selling his team out to Talbot, but when Coulson explains that Ward is The Mole and Skye is with him, she immediately changes her mind and helps them escape Providence.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: As former Deputy Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., the government would love to stuff Maria Hill in a deep, dark hole and pry all her secrets out of her, but they don't want to mess with Tony Stark's army of lawyers. (Therefore, by proxy, Tony and Pepper are invoking Screw the Rules, I Have Money! off-screen.)
  • Ship Tease:
    • Ward×Skye is discussed at some length, includes kissing, and Ward stating that he likes the cover of "impatient boyfriend". Skye unlocks the hard-drive rather than let him die but whether this is because she doesn't want him to die or if anyone would do is ambiguous.
    • Fitz×Simmons gets a nod at the end when they have a tender moment.
  • Ship Sinking: Ward×Skye is sunk by Skye. She calls him disgusting, a "lying backstabbing traitor", a Nazi, and a Serial Killer. When he insists he does have feelings for her, she says she's going to throw up. She also has a double meaning when she tells him she'll never give him what he wants.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Another previous Whedon series gets referenced, as Coulson's "Huh" in the final scene is a lot like Mal's reaction to River in the box, as well as when Oz woke up after his first night as a werewolf.
    • Ward saying Fury should have picked Romanoff as his second-in-command/eye candy might be a reference to The Spirit, where Scarlett Johansson plays Samuel L. Jackson's second-in-command. She even says she's "great eye candy."
  • Talk to the Fist: When Ward tells Skye that she can't win, she responds by headbutting him.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Fitz has a bout of this in hurt frustration after finding out Ward betrayed them all.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Deathlok and Ward are a villainous example of this. They don't get along but need to work together to further Garrett's goals.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: The main theme plays triumphantly as Coulson sneaks aboard The Bus.
  • Title Drop: Ward tells Skye that his acting as The Mole is "nothing personal". Deathlok also tells Ward this after stopping his heart.
  • Trojan Horse: Skye hints at one related to the hard drive, and implies that they can use it to track down Ward and Garrett.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: A bullet-riddled, flying, smoking Corvette drops out of the sky and lands on the curb in front of the Nokia Live theater, and the only person who reacts to it is the oblivious parking attendant stationed there, who tells Coulson that parking there costs $20. Which Coulson then pays.
  • Use Your Head: When Ward tells Skye that she can't win, she responds by headbutting him.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Ward has a couple during the episode:
  • Was It All a Lie?: Inevitable once Skye told Ward she knew about him. He insists that it wasn't. She has a hard time believing that. In fact when he claims that his feelings for her were real, she's sickened.
  • Watch the Paint Job: Coulson can't even bear to speak about the damage to Lola after being forced to drive it out of the Bus while under fire.
  • Weaponized Car: Lola has machine guns which come out of the headlights.
  • Wham Shot: When Coulson hits play on the final report on Project T.A.H.I.T.I., the face that appears on the screen is his own.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Coulson blasts Hill over her and Fury's decision to keep the T.A.H.I.T.I. project a secret from him. He also calls her out on leading the military to Providence Base, not only selling out his team, but also destroying any chance they have of rescuing Skye.
    • Deathlok gives a bit to Skye when she tries the "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight tactic. He trusted S.H.I.E.L.D. to take care of his son. Now S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone and his son could be killed by HYDRA on a moment's notice, on top of the fact that he's a cyborg with a bomb in his eye socket.
    • It's more like What the Hell, Hero Antagonist?, but Simmons unflinchingly delivers one to Col. Talbot for deciding to pressure the team at Providence for more information instead of going after Ward, even after they've told him that Ward was an infiltrator, has stolen the Bus and taken Skye hostage.
  • Where It All Began: Exploited. Skye tells Ward that the hard drive can only be decrypted in the café where she first met Mike Peterson, when it's actually only able to be decrypted at a certain altitude. The trip is both meant to buy time for Coulson to find her message and bring them to a familiar area so they'll be easier to track down once the truth is known.

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