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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S1 E21 "Ragtag"

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Ward's betrayal and HYDRA's shocking secrets are revealed as Coulson's team goes undercover on a mission that leaves no one unscathed.


Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Ward's. After Ward tried to burn down their home with his older brother inside, they pressed charges while his brother wanted him tried as an adult. Later, after Ward's been broken out, Garrett assures Ward that they won't come looking for him, simply being glad he's gone.
  • Adjusting Your Glasses: After having them slide down during her backflipping spree, May pushes them back up with the appropriately nerdy "by the bridge" method.
  • Adorkable: Coulson's reaction to the old Howling Commando equipment is like a kid in a toy store. What's especially hilarious is that he starts off completely professional, then goes full squee the second he lays eyes upon it.
    Coulson: Is that a handheld hypno beam?
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  • Appliance Defenestration: After discovering that all of Cybertek's records are on hard copy, Coulson tells Skye to expect a "large file transfer". Then he and May throw the file cabinet with all the records on Project Deathlok out a window.
  • Arson, Murder, and Admiration: Literally. Garrett hired Ward for HYDRA because of his attempt to kill his brother with fire.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • Coulson is going to stop HYDRA and make sure Ward and Garrett pay for what they've done. Also, he wants his plane back.
    • Fitz gives a list of technical reasons why the I.C.E.R. is a better weapon, and ends by saying it has a much cooler name. Even better, Coulson repeats it and then looks annoyed.
  • Artifact Title: The title of the show is acknowledged as such in-universe. Coulson finally admits that his team is not one of "agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.", but vigilantes who are trying to do the right thing.
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  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: Comes into play when Ward was supposed to shoot his dog Buddy.
  • Bait the Dog:
    • When Ward corners Fitz-Simmons after being ordered to kill them, we see a flashback of Ward's Pet the Dog moment. Then, Ward admits that he does care about them... and pulls the switch to dump both of them in the ocean.
    • Garrett orders that Deathlok be given a video transmission of his son, apparently letting Mike see what he wants. Mike later comments the image was of his son in a cell, revealing that HYDRA has captured him.
  • Batman Gambit: Garrett and Quinn have Deathlok assassinate a drug kingpin who has been linked to HYDRA in broad daylight, allowing him to be caught on camera. This allows Quinn to later sell the super-soldier project to the US military, using Deathlok's hit as a "freebie" to butter them up.
  • Bond One-Liner: Fitz gets one after using the EMP Joy-buzzer to disable Garrett's life support. Garrett survived, but it's the thought that counts.
    Fitz: Looks like the joke's on you.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Triplett borrows his grandfather's spy gear from the Howling Commandos because Team Coulson has nothing else. This stuff is older than any of them, and it still works!
  • Break the Cutie: Fitz finally realizes that Ward is in fact evil, in the worst possible way.
  • Call-Back:
    • Coulson and May infiltrate Cybertek, first mentioned in "T.R.A.C.K.S.". They're revealed to be behind the dendrotoxin grenade used in that episode, which was adapted from the team's own dendrotoxin weapons.
    • A Hydra operative at the end of the episode is wielding the Berserker Staff from "The Well".
  • Call-Forward: At one point in the flashback Garrett says "Speak up son, I'm not a mind reader", referencing his supervillain moniker in the future.
  • Catchphrase Interruptus: Garrett's GH resurrection kicks in in the middle of his "If the job was easy, it wouldn't be any fun!"
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Set up but not fired in the case of Fitz and Triplett's walkie-talkies.
    • Fired in the case of the joy-buzzer EMP, which almost kills Garrett.
  • Cliffhanger: Fitz-Simmons are locked in a storage compartment and dumped into the ocean by Ward, while the rest of the team is surrounded by a half-dozen Centipede super-soldiers and a HYDRA agent with the Berserker Staff.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Fitz and Simmons are supposed to be feeding a description of the I.C.E.R. to Coulson and May, but lapse into an argument in the middle of it, leaving the latter pair confused as they argue incomprehensibly over the radio.
  • Dark Lord on Life Support: Garrett is the first Deathlok, an Emergency Transformation taken after he was badly wounded by an IED. In the present, his organs are failing and the Centipede serum is just barely keeping him alive. He's healed after he takes the only sample of the distilled GH serum made by Raina.
  • Defiant Captive: Fitz-Simmons after they are captured by Ward and Garrett. Fitz does most of the defying, first by firing off the EMP that nearly kills Garrett, then by informing the room full of HYDRA soldiers that he's far from sorry and would gladly do the same again given the chance. Later, their continued attempts to escape and/or reason with Ward follow this trope.
  • Drowning Pit: Fitz-Simmons are ejected from the Bus in a container into the ocean. Unless it's airtight and buoyant, it'll rapidly become one of these.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Garrett claims that after an IED blew a hole in his side he stuffed his intestines back in, closed the wound with duct tape, and then walked out of the hot zone.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: Offscreen, sadly. In Cybertek, Coulson and May get into an elevator with a Mook. Once the doors close, we hear a (brief) scuffle, and when the doors open again the Mook is unconscious.
  • Emergency Transformation: After Fitz blows out his life support, Garrett has no choice but to take the only GH sample to avoid death.
  • Foil: The Coulson-to-Garrett foil is made even more apparent here. When Skye curses herself for being weak and not being able to let Ward die, Coulson assures her that the compassion she showed makes her strong. In contrast Garrett drills into Ward's head that any feelings, emotions, or sentiments are weaknesses.
  • Get a Room!: Skye suggests Coulson and Triplett do that later when they're mutually fanboying over the old S.H.I.E.L.D. spy gear.
  • Got Me Doing It: Coulson inadvertently slips into a brief imitation of a Scottish accent while repeating Fitz's description of the I.C.E.R.
  • Handshake Substitute: Tripp goes to fist-bump Fitz as he leaves, but Fitz doesn't quite get it right, squeezing Tripp's fist instead.
  • History Repeats: Ian Quinn tries to sell his organization's super-soldiers to the US military, justifying their necessity based on threats they themselves caused. Does this sound familiar?
  • Hope Spot: Fitz tries to "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight (without the fight) with Ward and the flashback shows young Ward letting the dog go. But then... (see Shoot the Dog)
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Ward is forced to shoot his dog, Buddy, by Garrett before heading off to join S.H.I.E.L.D. This dog has been his sole companion for years in the wilderness when he had nothing else. It's a "kill your weakness" exercise. He shoots into the air, which sends the retriever running to... retrieve. Then the dog gets shot by a sniper rifle anyway.
  • I Have Your Wife: This episode shows that not only can HYDRA get to Mike's son whenever they want, as Mike grilled Skye on last episode, they already have captured him. Mike is "rewarded" by getting to see streamed video of his son in a cell.
  • Improvised Zipline: How Coulson and May escape Cybertek.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Simmons has trouble remembering that Coulson and May can hear everything she's saying over the radio. Including things that are more "about them" than "to them".
  • Is This Thing Still On?: While feeding lines to Coulson and May over the radio, Fitz and Simmons get into an argument about the former pair looking too old to play the part. Simmons starts to mention May's approximate age, then gets reminded that the radio is still transmitting and switches to a more flattering number.
  • Just Following Orders: Why Ward ejects Fitz-Simmons into a random spot several dozen feet into the drink. He admits that he does care about them, but he didn't want to expose a weakness to Garrett.
  • Kick the Dog: A somewhat literal version when Garrett orders Ward to kill Buddy. Especially since it was originally Garret's dog.
  • Kill It with Fire: Ward was in juvenile prison for setting fire to his family home while his older brother was still inside. Ward claims he didn't know about the latter, but both Garrett and the audience know that's not true (and even if it was true, Ward likely wouldn't have cared).
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Simmons when describing May's age:
    Simmons: May looks barely a day over [Fitz motions to the still-transmitting radio] THIRTY! You're gorgeous!
  • Literal Metaphor: Coulson tells Skye to expect a "large file transfer". He and May then drop a filing cabinet out a window.
  • Love Is a Weakness: This was Garret's lesson to Ward. Later, Ward admits that he does care about Fitz and Simmons, but calls it "weakness" right before ejecting them out of the plane.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The Deathlok program started in 1990. The comic-book Deathlok originally came back to the "present" of the mid-Seventies from a dystopian 1990, and the second Deathlok character/comic book premiered in 1990.
    • The labels "Brand Corporation Security" and "Metrobank Correspondence" can be seen on drawers in the Cybertek archives. Both Brand and Metrobank are subsidiaries of the infamous Roxxon Corporation, as is Cybertek.
  • Nerd Glasses: Coulson and May wear these as part of their disguise when visiting Cybertek.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Raina is able to recreate the GH serum from the samples Garrett collected, but only enough for one dose. Since Garrett uses it to save his own life before it can be brought in for mass-production (and the only source of the raw materials is currently buried under a mountain), there's no way to make more.
  • Not So Different:
    • Raina claims this applies to her and Mike, but he blows her off pointing out he has a bomb in his head and HYDRA has his son.
    • Raina says to Ward that what she's discovered about Skye's genetics suggests she and Skye have something in common.
  • Off with His Head!: Garrett mentions Deathlok punching the drug lord mentioned in the episode's head clean off his body. Also counts as a villainous Offscreen Moment of Awesome.
  • Oh, Crap!: The general reaction of Coulson and company when they find themselves in a basement with a half-dozen Centipede super-soldiers and a HYDRA agent carrying the Berserker Staff.
  • Older Than They Look: Lampshaded with May. Fitz grumbles that he and Simmons should have gone in undercover instead of Coulson and May since they're younger. Simmons shushes him, reminding him that May barely looks a day over... "thirty. You're gorgeous."
  • One-Word Title
  • Pet the Dog: In a near-literal example, Garrett orders Ward to kill the dog who had been his companion for years, and the only one he had for his first six months. Instead of complying, Ward fires into the air, sending the dog off to retrieve. It's later implied that the dog died anyway, as in a flashback shown seconds later it is seen in sniper crosshairs, although it is not clear if Ward's the one pulling the trigger.
  • Properly Paranoid: It seems absurd that a company on the cutting edge of technology uses filing cabinets, then you realize how much trouble a hacker would have trying to access them.
  • Recruitment by Rescue: Garrett recruits Ward by offering to get him out of being tried as an adult for attempted murder and arson. When he accepts, soldiers bust in to get them out.
  • Redemption Rejection: Fitz desperately pleads with Ward that it's not too late, and he still has some good in him. Ward replies by ejecting Fitz and Simmons from the airplane.
  • The Reveal:
    • Garrett is revealed to be the original Deathlok with cybernetics from the '90s. This colors the entire Centipede project as Garrett's efforts to keep himself alive; Raina even comments that he's simply afraid to die.
    • We know Skye was an 0-8-4 of some type, and that everyone in her village was slaughtered, as well as most of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team sent in to investigate. Raina tells a story she heard where the people were killed by two "monsters": Skye's parents. Raina also claims to have some similarity to Skye, but this isn't elaborated upon.
  • Rock Beats Laser: In the Cybertek raid, this sort of thing works both for and against the S.H.I.E.L.D. team:
    • Skye uses an old Howling Commando computer scanner, which she loves because its method of scanning is so obsolete that nobody even deploys countermeasures anymore.
    • On the other side, Cybertek's files are completely hack-proof because they use the pre-computer system with a room full of filing cabinets.
  • Shoe Phone: The old Howling Commandos gear is disguised as everyday objects so they'll be easy to sneak past customs and such while undercover. This allows Fitz to sneak the EMP buzzer onto the Bus. When Ward catches him with it, he assumes it's a gag. Then Fitz uses it to disable Garrett's implants.
  • Shoot the Dog: After the Hope Spot, the running dog in the flashback is in the crosshairs of Ward's sniper rifle and in the present he drops FitzSimmons out of the Bus, into the ocean.
  • Shout-Out: When Quinn is trying to convince the military to buy super-soldiers from him, he uses the phrase "Better, stronger, faster" to describe them.
  • The Spartan Way: Garrett leaves Ward in the middle of the woods with nothing but a bag of clothes and a hunting dog, effectively telling him "I'll be back in a couple of months. Figure it out." He doesn't come back for six months.
  • Squee!: Coulson and Triplett gush about the old spy gear so much, Skye suggests they get a room.
  • Start of Darkness:
    • This episode goes into Ward's background and his recruitment by Garrett.
    • Garrett explains how he lost his loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D.: he was critically injured on a mission and felt they didn't try hard enough to help him out. He patched himself up and later went on to become the first Deathlok.
  • Take a Third Option: When a teenage Ward was left alone in the wilderness with no survival equipment, for the first several weeks he thought his only options were to die or try to survive with sticks and rocks. Eventually he realized he could steal supplies from cabins in the area.
  • Tranquil Fury: What May describes as her current state in reaction to Ward's betrayal. Unlike throwing a tantrum like Fitz did, she plans to hold onto that anger and hatred until she can unleash it on Ward.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Garrett's fading health makes it harder for him to keep up his friendly, chatty demeanor. His ordering Fitz-Simmons killed is also apparently out of spite, considering how eager Garrett was to forcibly recruit Fitz in "Turn Turn Turn".
  • Villainous Friendship: While Ward is mad at Garrett for using him as a bargaining chip, he clearly still genuinely cares about him. He's positively distressed when Fitz messes up his life support with the EMP.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: For all the bad things Quinn may have done, it turns out that S.H.I.E.L.D. was the only organization that ever had anything on him and their reputation has been ruined by the HYDRA uprising and their new classification as a terrorist organization. In fact, Quinn was a vocal critic of S.H.I.E.L.D. before ever having any kind of run-in with them, which only works in his favor at this point. He becomes the one to peddle superweapons to the U.S. military.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Ward calls Garrett "John" for the first time in this episode.
  • You See, I'm Dying: Garrett reveals his failing health to Ward.

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