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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2 E8 "The Things We Bury"

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Coulson and his team race against HYDRA to find the city described by the alien map while Ward finally confronts his older brother.

Tropes:

  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: During their stop in Oahu, Coulson gives Skye a very dangerous watch with instructions to get it engraved, and Tripp a very dangerous button and a claim ticket for a tie with orders to deliver them to a specific dry cleaner. The dangerous objects Coulson wanted delivered to set up an EMP burst that would make phase two of his plan possible. The tie was simply a gift from his ex-girlfriend that he had spilled something on.
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  • Asshole Victim: It's pretty hard to feel sorry for Christian, and his and Grant's parents after Grant kills them, since Christian was an abusive bully to Grant and Thomas, their mother was horribly abusive, and their father covered it up.
  • Bait the Dog: Grant threatens Christian until he confesses, and when he does they seem to amicably reconcile. Later, during a meeting with Whitehall, it's revealed that Grant not only killed Christian but his parents, too, and framed Christian by using his confession to make it look like a murder-suicide. Rejoining HYDRA is the cherry on top. note 
  • Batman Gambit: Coulson's plan for hacking into the military satellite network requires two officers in Hawaii meeting at the right moment, and wearing what he needs them to be wearing, while he and his team are in Australia. The items in question are a suit (freshly tailored with the button) and a watch (who doesn't put one on in the morning?) and as he says himself, when you met someone for the first time, you shake hands.
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  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Peggy states that she'll have Whitehall locked up so that he'll be forgotten. When Alexander Pierce organizes his release, nobody knows how dangerous he is.
  • Berserk Button: The Doctor still hates it when people use "Skye" instead of her real name, not that he's been willing to say just what that is.
  • Best Served Cold: The Doctor has been planning his revenge for his wife's death for 25 years.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Ward's mother physically abused Grant and Christian when they were children while the family maintained an aura of respectability.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: This episode isn't rated TV-14 for nothing. A woman is cut up on screen and there are several shots of her butchered body.
  • Boxed Crook: Defied. Whitehall tries to convince Peggy Carter to let him be this, noting that the Americans have already begun recruiting German scientists. Peggy is appalled by the atrocities he committed and opts to have him locked up for the rest of his life.
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  • Call-Back: The confrontation between Raina and Skye's father at one point saw him call Whitehall a butcher. The reveal that Whitehall killed Skye's mother to make himself youthful shows why Skye's father considers him as such.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The brand-new shovel Grant forced Christian to use to uncover the well was leaning against the wall in the previous episode when he was on the phone with Skye.
  • The Chessmaster: Coulson proves adept at the role, handing out assignments to people who have no idea what the whole picture is and having it work perfectly.
  • Cyanide Pill: Bakshi reveals he has one implanted in his cheekbone which he activates by slamming his face into a table. His suicide was (possibly) thwarted, as Morse got him to an ICU in time.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Reinhardt's history has a lot of MCU connections. He served directly under the Red Skull, was caught and imprisoned by Agent Carter, and ultimately freed by Alexander Pierce. He also references S.H.I.E.L.D.'s recruiting of HYDRA scientists that was mentioned in Winter Soldier.
    • Bobbi tries to implant the idea in Bakshi's mind that he had been brainwashed by the Compliance process.
    • Coulson asks if the Diviner is as powerful as the Tesseract. The Doctor doesn't know what the Tesseract is.
    • Whitehall's description of the blue aliens calls them "angels from heaven", almost word-for-word the way Peter's mother described Peter's (presumably alien) father in Guardians of the Galaxy. Since there's already a confirmed connection between the Kree and Coulson's hypergraphia, it seems too good to be a coincidence.
    • While giving out assignments for the satellite-hacking mission, Coulson sends Triplett to collect a tie from a dry cleaner. Said tie turns out to be unimportant to the mission, but of great personal importance to Coulson: It was a gift from Audrey, Coulson's cellist girlfriend who was mentioned briefly in The Avengers and seen on-screen in Season 1's "The Only Light In The Darkness".
  • Death Seeker: Skye's father's claim as to why he's helping HYDRA is to reunite his family in the afterlife. Though this will take on a very different meaning in another eight episodes....
  • Dragon with an Agenda:
    • Skye's father may be working with Whitehall, but he's only doing so in order to get into position so he can avenge his wife's death, rather than because he wants to find the city for HYDRA.
    • Ward also officially re-teams with HYDRA, supposedly to help them deal with Coulson's team, but as we know from the last episode, this is all part of his attempt to destroy HYDRA from within and deliver them to Coulson as part of his attempt to show his usefulness to them.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Grant threatens Christian into admitting he was the one that wanted Thomas dead, their mother's abusive history, and that their father covered it up. This ruins all their reputations and seemingly provides a motive for the murder-suicide Grant fakes to kill Christian and his parents.
  • Evil vs. Evil: While it's understandable that Grant Ward's parents and older brother deserve to be punished for what they did to him as a child, he still ended up murdering a pair of senior citizens (among all the others he's killed to be able to do so) and framing an innocent man for it.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Simmons helpfully notes that HYDRA's brainwashing could have been done on people and they'd never even know it... and then realizes that both herself and Bobbi had been undercover within HYDRA.
  • For Science!: This seems to be Whitehall's primary motivation. He is more than happy to defect if it means continuing his research.
  • Fountain of Youth: Whitehall used what he learned from Skye's mother to reverse his age back to his forties.
  • Freudian Excuse: Both Grant and Christian had really screwed up childhoods that made them into the screwed-up men they became.
  • Gambit Pileup: Whitehall and HYDRA want to uncover the alien city for the power it has, Skye's father has his personal motives for helping them which includes killing Whitehall, and Ward apparently has his own reasons for re-joining HYDRA which aren't what they seem. This is all on top of S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to find the city before they do.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Alexander Pierce turns out to be this for Whitehall/Reinhardt, being the one responsible for releasing him from his life sentence in prison.
  • He’s Back: After spending most of the season struggling with self-doubt, brain damage and being stuck at HQ, Coulson gives Fitz the opportunity to go back into the field, and he does with flying colors.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: When Coulson asks how much time Fitz will take to assemble and install their transceiver, Fitz says he's gotten the assembly down to a little over seven minutes. When Coulson protests that their window is under six minutes, Fitz reveals that it takes him seven minutes doing it one-handed using his bad hand, and he should do just fine with both.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Bakshi states that Bobbi had to do some very bad things in order to gain the trust HYDRA had placed in her, and that her colleagues would be very disturbed if they found out what she did. Bobbi doesn't seem to be fazed one bit, and in fact she promptly throws it back in his face. However, Lance suspects Bobbi may have pressed Bakshi into going the Cyanide Pill route because the threat of exposing that she did in fact "eat the kitten" got under her skin.
  • I Never Told You My Name: As the Doctor is treating Triplett and pretending to be one of the hostages, he calls Coulson "Phil". He immediately realizes his mistake, then lampshades it. At this point, however, he is literally holding Triplett's life in his hands and doesn't have to worry about Coulson arresting him.
  • I've Heard of That — What Is It?: When Coulson asks if the Diviner has power comparable to the Tesseract, the Doctor says sure, then admits he doesn't know what that is.
  • Keeping the Enemy Close: One of the Doctor's real reasons to help Whitehall is to get close to Whitehall to do to him what Whitehall did to Skye's mother.
  • Kick the Dog: Before Grant gets to him, Christian's phone conversation implies that he's talking to a mistress (mere moments after telling his wife he was too busy with work), showing that he's not as sympathetic as he originally appeared.
  • The Knights Who Say "Squee!": Simmons is excited to read a report done by SHIELD founder Peggy Carter herself, partially due to their shared British heritage.
  • Manipulative Editing: Grant edits Christian's confession so that it sounds like a confession not only of the "murder-suicide", but of framing Grant as a HYDRA supporter (the edited recording includes the bit where he says he wanted his brother dead but not any of the bits establishing which brother he's talking about, leaving it open to being interpreted as referring to the brother he recently publicly denounced).
  • Meaningful Look: The Doctor tells Ward it's always good to look your enemy right in the eye. Then he turns and looks at Whitehall.
  • Mistaken for Gods: Whitehall explains his belief to Carter that legends about supernatural entities he was investigating were really the blue extraterrestrials who had arrived on Earth.
  • Older Than They Look: Skye's mother didn't physically age for at least the 44 years between her first encounter with Reinhardt and the Diviner in 1945 and Reinhardt's next meeting with her in 1989. Then he vivisected her to figure out how she did it and used what he learned to rejuvenate himself.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: According to the Doctor, the only people who can safely handle the Diviner are those chosen by the aliens to survive their cleansing of the planet.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Ward kills his older brother and his parents: his mother was physically abusive to two of her three sons, his father allowed it to happen and covered it up, and Christian was responsible for trying to kill their brother whom their mother favored as well as planning on sacrificing Grant for his own political career.
  • The Reveal: Several — appropriate, given the title of the episode.
    • The Diviner is revealed to be a key to a temple within the unknown city, with the potential to end the world save a chosen few.
    • Christian is revealed to be the abusive brother Grant claimed him to be, and both brothers came out maladjusted thanks to their abusive mother.
    • How it is that Whitehall has managed to stay young for many decades is finally revealed — namely, he didn't. He restored his youth after several decades of aging normally in a secret prison (he was released, incidentally, by Secretary Pierce) by using a serum of some kind derived from Skye's mother.
    • We find out exactly what happened to Skye's mother — she was experimented on and vivisected in order to create the serum in question. Then she was tossed into the woods like garbage, where she was found by her husband.
  • Revenge by Proxy: This was Christian's intent behind throwing Thomas into the well. His mother never abused Thomas, so she'd suffer his loss greater than either of them.
  • Same Content, Different Rating: Subverted. Some On-Demand outlets gave the rebroadcast's rating as TV-PG despite the vivisection scene remaining; however, the On-Demand print retains its TV-14 rating.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Ward takes a second shot at the fire he started all those years ago. This time, he gets the whole family and pins it on his brother as a murder-suicide.
  • Shout-Out: When Skye runs down the code names for Coulson, Triplett, and Fitz to use on their mission, the final one is "Time Lord". Guess who picked that one.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Bobbi and Hunter get into a roaring argument about his inability to trust her. The argument ends with the two of them stripping and diving into the backseat of an SUV.
  • So Proud of You: An indirect example. The Doctor being impressed with S.H.I.E.L.D. for finding out about the city on their own pales in comparison to how ecstatic he is about Skye being involved in the race to get to the city and gaining its secrets.
  • Spotting the Thread: Subtle use of tense and specific word choice lead Bobbi to believe Bakshi knows something about Whitehall he isn't telling. This leads them to dig into the old SSR files and discover his true identity.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: When Coulson asks if the Diviner has Tesseract-level power, referring to the Infinity Stone that is central to Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers, the Doctor responds thusly:
    Doctor: Sure. (beat) I don't know what that is.
  • They Would Cut You Up: Reinhardt/Whitehall is keen on discovering the reason why certain individuals aren't killed by the Diviner, which he intends to do by vivisecting them. He's even more interested when the test subject he didn't get to before his arrest hasn't aged a day in 44 years, and finishes the job to rejuvenate himself.
  • Time Passes Montage: There's an extended sequence where a camera pans around Whitehall's cell as 44 years pass by. Books on his shelf are moved or replaced, he goes through several variations of chess sets, a plant grows from a seed, and the amenities are updated every so often, all while he slowly ages from his forties to his eighties.
  • The Unfavorite: Both Grant and Christian were this compared to the youngest, Thomas. It led to Christian trying to kill Thomas in order to hurt their mom. The story Christian had told Coulson in "A Fractured House" about Grant attacking Thomas with a screwdriver implies Christian wasn't the only one who had that idea, assuming that was on the level.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Coulson doesn't tell Triplett and Skye why he's sending them on assignments to deliver a watch and a button to specific locations in Honolulu.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Christian's cool demeanor finally falls apart when Grant threatens to throw him into the well to die. He begs for his life before finally admitting to his past crimes while revealing the full extent of their mother's abuse.
  • Villain Respect: The Doctor is impressed that SHIELD managed to find out about the city on their own.
  • Wham Line: Played for laughs when discussing the Diviner.
    The Doctor: Whitehall just thinks it's a weapon. He has no idea what's inside.
    (cue shocked look from Coulson)
    The Doctor: Oh, right: There's something inside.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Thomas Ward is still conspicuously absent. He wasn't in the fire that took out Christian and his parents, and he survived the trip down the well all those years ago, so that leaves the question of where he's been since.
    • An unnamed Ward sister was also mentioned before. Both are implied to have been spared Grant's revenge because presumably he never had issue with them (though he hasn't been in contact). Of course, either or both might have since predeceased Christian and their parents...
  • Your Cheating Heart: Right before being captured by Grant, Christian calls his wife and tells her that he can't come home because of work, and then calls his mistress and tells her to meet up at his cabin.

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