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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S4 E15 "Self Control"

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Paranoia strikes S.H.I.E.L.D. as the Playground is infiltrated by a handful of LMDs, following Mace's rescue mission.


Tropes in this episode:

  • Accidental Proposal: LMD-Fitz offhandedly proposes to Real-Simmons, and says that Real-Fitz had been considering proposing himself. Jemma decides she'll have an answer for the real Fitz when she next sees him.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Despite saying that Aida was not an AI and she could only follow programming, it seems that Radcliffe's behavior was too irrational for Aida's logic to reconcile. She resolves the paradoxes she sees from Radcliffe by slitting his wrists and pushing him into the Framework.
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  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The LMDs take control of the base and manipulate the human agents into hunting Jemma and Daisy.
  • Alternate Timeline: The Framework reality, which is a complete copy of the real world, but with major changes. For instance, HYDRA fully replaced S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson is a schoolteacher, Fitz seems to be some kind of wealthy executive, Mack seems to be happily married (or at least it's implied his daughter is alive), Simmons is dead, and Daisy is living with Ward.
  • Audible Sharpness: The knife that Aida draws right before cutting Radcliffe's wrists.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • A rare double example. We were led to believe Daisy had been replaced with an LMD. Turns out the fourth LMD wasn't her, but Fitz. Then after that reveal, we are treated to a room full of Daisy LMDs.
    • In the Framework, Daisy thinks her boyfriend is Lincoln, only to discover it's Grant Ward.
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  • Bathtub Scene: Framework-Daisy is taking a bath when Real-Daisy dials in, and she ends up getting submerged momentarily in surprise.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Seems to be a theme of the Framework, as everyone hooked in is living a life without their greatest regret. With the exception of Mack living a normal life with Hope, it goes from the bizarre (Coulson as a teacher spreading Inhuman hate, Fitz is rich but dating someone other than Jemma, Daisy is dating Ward) to the horrifying (May is a senior agent of HYDRA, and Jemma is dead).
  • Become a Real Boy: Aida wants to have human emotions, and to this end gives the Darkhold to Ivanov.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Unlike LMD-May, which has a severe case of Tomato in the Mirror, the LMDs of Mack, Fitz, Jeffrey and Coulson know what they are, and the moment they drop the act they become really scary. Even more so with LMD-Fitz who did this ever since the end of the previous episode.
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  • Bizarro Universe: The Framework Earth has everything turned on its head. May is working with HYDRA which is out in the open, Daisy is dating Ward, Fitz is rich while Jemma is dead, and Coulson apparently hates Inhumans. Mack appears to be the only one with a normal life, in that he is implied to have his deceased daughter back.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: If LMD-Fitz had put more effort into restraining Jemma instead of counting on the sedatives, then his plan might have worked.
  • Book-Ends: The Moody Blues' "Have You Heard" is played at the opening scene by Aida to Ivanov, and it is played again at the reveal of the Bizarro Universe at the end of the episode.
  • Brain in a Jar: Ivanov is reduced to a head in a jar controlling an LMD of himself remotely and perceiving reality through it.
  • Call-Back: Androids infiltrating the highest S.H.I.E.L.D. ranks leading into grand paranoia parallels the show's HYDRA arc that started in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Cloning Blues: LMD-May has them hard, having May's memories but knowing that she isn't May.
  • Closest Thing We Got: The three agents Jemma and Daisy take onto the Zephyr aren't clueless rookies, but the only one who knows how to fly the Zephyr just started training.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Aida saws Ivanov into pieces while he's still conscious.
  • Continuity Nod: The Triskelion is still standing in the Framework.
  • Cooldown Hug: Jemma learns about the LMD infiltration after discovering altered security alerts and has to kill LMD-Fitz brutally. Daisy learns by discovering a small group of Daisy LMDs inside a containment unit, and witnessing another LMD-Coulson and Mace kill S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. They prove to each other that they are human through Daisy quaking Jemma with a hug and sensing her bones.
  • Dead Alternate Counterpart: The version of Jemma inside the Framework is dead. Inverted with Framework Grant Ward, who is still alive.
  • Death Glare: LMD-Fitz gives Jemma a distinctly unsettling one as Jemma screams while stabbing him repeatedly.
  • Demoted to Dragon: Aida turns Anton Ivanov into a remote-piloted LMD to serve as the protector of the Framework under her supervision.
  • Didn't See That Coming:
    • LMD-Coulson uses LMD-May as a last line of defense against anyone trying to escape the base. He failed to consider that, with her fundamentally different objectives, she's under no compulsion to obey him. She instead blows him up along with herself.
    • When convincing Aida that the Framework is just as good, if not better, than real life, it never occurred to Radcliffe that Aida might decide to permanently upload him to it by killing his body so he can never be a threat to the Framework.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Aida kills Radcliffe and takes the place of Big Bad for Season 4.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: LMD-May admits to LMD-Coulson that the real May loves the real Coulson.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • LMD-Coulson regrets that the plan didn't work without bloodshed, though he's still perfectly willing to kill those who are getting in his way.
    • Radcliffe's moral restraints are the reason Aida kills his body and locks him into the Framework.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Aida finally decides to overthrow Radcliffe, because he is illogical and she is not.
  • Exact Words:
    • Radcliffe tells Aida that he sees no difference between a mind that once belonged to a now-dead body living in the Framework and a living person plugged into the Framework. So Aida mortally wounds him and plugs his dying body back into the Framework, in order to simplify her standing orders to protect both Radcliffe and the Framework.
    • Also, when Yo-Yo asks LMD-Mack what's wrong, he answers that she's in danger, which is technically very true. He's sending a murder bot to kill her.
    • Ivanov told Aida that he would rather die than have his mind uploaded into an LMD body. So she left his mind right where it is: in his severed head, in a jar, controlling his LMD body remotely.
  • Failed a Spot Check: LMD-Fitz doesn't notice that he's walked under a suspended engine until Jemma hammers the winch holding it up and crushes him.
  • Fanservice: There's an entire room full of LMD-Daisys in athletic gear, and the real Daisy also ends up just wearing the same type of athletic gear as her LMD's when hiding among them. She also later has a Bathtub Scene at the end of the episode.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Aida's calm declaration that she knows how to "solve both problems" to fix the paradox in her programming, specifically by killing Radcliffe and uploading his mind; given his brief Oh, Crap! reaction, the foreshadowing isn't lost on him either.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Aida either developed a conscience or went through Exact Words, but either way she decided that the best way to protect both Radcliffe and the Framework is to permanently upload him to it.
  • He Knows Too Much: When the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at the scene of Fitz's death discover that he's an LMD, LMD-Mace and LMD-Coulson quickly dispose of them.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: LMD-May blows herself and LMD-Coulson up to stop the latter from getting to Jemma and Daisy.
  • I Don't Want to Die: LMD-May admits she doesn't want to die, but that doesn't stop her from committing suicide to destroy LMD-Coulson and protect Daisy and Jemma.
  • Impostor Forgot One Detail:
    • The one thing an LMD of an Inhuman can't duplicate is an Inhuman's power, so Daisy gives Jemma a light quake to prove that she's real, and so that she can 'feel' Jemma's human skeleton.
    • LMDs don't have respiratory systems, so Jemma and Daisy are able to identify every LMD on the base by flooding it with knockout gas — anyone still standing (whom they didn't personally revive) is a machine.
    • Used intentionally by Daisy when she slightly alters the clothing of one of her LMD duplicates in order to trick LMD Mack into believing it was her, then quakes him in the back while he's distracted.
  • In-Series Nickname: In this episode Ivanov is called "The Russian" instead of his own name or "The Superior."
  • Instant Sedation: The knock-out gas Jemma and Daisy use works fast.
  • Literal Genie: Radcliffe ordered Aida to put everyone in the Framework and fix their single greatest regret. She did so, though she had to reboot the simulation several times to reconcile them all together. The end result of this is a reality where HYDRA won. If Aida had asked anyone, they would have told her that such a reality was unacceptable, but she didn't.
  • Logic Bomb: Aida feels that her two main directives — protect Radcliffe's life and protect the Framework — are in contradiction, since Radcliffe might someday regret building the Framework and shut it down. Radcliffe finds the idea laughable. After all, how could he ever possibly regret building a perfect virtual world that is impossible for the mind to distinguish from real life, and where the mind can live forever even after the body dies? Well, it's not long until he finds out, since Aida solves the contradiction by killing his body to protect the Framework, and uploading his mind into the Framework to protect his life.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The Framework sends a person to an Alternate Universe without his/her biggest regrets in life. Stay too long in this reality, and your physical body eventually perishes.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Daisy hits LMD-Coulson and LMD-Mack with a concentrated quake burst at point blank range. LMD-Coulson comes out of it alright, but LMD-Mack is blasted apart by the shockwave.
  • Mecha-Mooks: There are a couple dozen copies of Daisy hidden in the basement of S.H.I.E.L.D., implicitly so they can all be programmed and shipped off to meet up with and neutralize the other Inhumans at once, preventing any one Inhuman from warning the others. When that plan falls through, LMD-Coulson has LMD-Fitz program in basic search-and-destroy protocols.
  • Misery Builds Character: The Framework is programmed to remove the biggest regret in a person's life. LMD-May argues that those regrets make them who they are. It's hard not to agree, as May, Coulson, and Fitz seem to be fundamentally different people inside the Framework.
  • Murder-Suicide: LMD-May takes herself and LMD-Coulson out with a bomb.
  • My Greatest Failure: According to LMD-Coulson, the real Coulson's biggest regret is signing up with S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first place, abandoning the chance of a normal life. Framework Coulson is a civilian schoolteacher.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The Framework's Alternate Universe is similar to Scarlet Witch's House of M event in the comics.
    • The Framework's alternate reality can also be considered as the show's own meta-spin on Marvel's What If? series, which explores the consequences of some key event in Marvel history if it happened differently.
    • Melinda May working for HYDRA in the Framework reality brings to mind Steve Rogers' controversial line "Hail HYDRA" in Nick Spencer's run in the Captain America comics. For bonus points: memory manipulation was also heavily involved.
    • In the Framework, Coulson is a schoolteacher, having never signed up to join S.H.I.E.L.D. In Ultimate Spider-Man, S.H.I.E.L.D. has Coulson working undercover as the principal at Peter Parker's school.
  • Naked on Arrival: Daisy replaces her Framework analogue right in the middle of a bath.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Daisy, running from LMD-Mack, hides herself in a crowd of inactive LMDs of herself. LMD-Mack thinks he's found the real one when he notices one of them has a bit of clothing slightly out of place, but Daisy had done that to one of the LMDs to trick him.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Radcliffe's insistence on having LMD-May be a perfect replica of the original except for her command to secure the Darkhold and to preserve human life is what allows her to make the choice the real May would when that command is no longer in effect. Also, if he hadn't left her behind to be captured, she wouldn't be in a position to have betrayed his plans to begin with.
  • Nominal Importance: Agent Prince gets a name for the first time; he and the other (surviving) named background agents (Piper and Davis) are the only ones to escape the Playground with the main characters.
  • Not Afraid to Die: Ivanov is ready to die, and would in fact rather do so then become a "thing" like Aida.
  • Outrun the Fireball: LMD-May sets her bomb off right as the Zephyr leaves.
  • Pistol Whip: LMD-Coulson runs out of bullets when killing the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who happened upon Fitz's status as an LMD, so he smashes the last one's face in with the butt of his gun.
  • Rasputinian Death: Jemma drops an engine on LMD-Fitz, stabs him in the chest repeatedly, and cuts his neck before he finally gives out. And the other LMDs manage to patch him up fairly quickly.
  • Revealing Cover Up: While snooping around the security feeds after escaping LMD-Mack, Daisy spots LMD-Coulson and LMD-Mace killing three S.H.I.E.L.D. agents when they discover that Fitz's dead body is actually an LMD.
  • Revealing Injury:
    • Jemma has Fitz cut his wrist to prove that he isn't an LMD, since if he's an LMD she'll be able to see the robotics in his wrist. It doesn't work as well as she intended because the blood obscures the injury and she gets too close, allowing him to stab her in the leg and disarm her.
    • The agents Jemma revives don't believe her claims about not being an LMD and are prepared to stab her in the back. When LMD-Mack flies through a doorway in several pieces, that settles that argument.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The first act (before the reveal that Fitz is actually the fourth LMD, rather than Daisy) plays very differently on a second viewing — notice, for example, the slight nod LMD-Coulson and LMD-Fitz exchange as everyone breaks off to their respective mission assignments.
  • Shipper on Deck: Daisy wants FitzSimmons together so strongly that she uses it to motivate herself into taking on the LMDs if only to reunite Jemma with Fitz.
    Daisy: This is not a sacrifice play. Do you know why? Because I will beat them. I know it. If for no other reason than this: through all the insane crap we have gone through, the one thing I have known, without a doubt, the whole time, is that you and Fitz belong together. This is not how your story ends.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The trick Daisy uses to confuse LMD-Mack as to which of the duplicates is the real her is similar to the one used by Bruce Wayne to get the drop on Ducard during the League of Shadows test in Batman Begins and by Sonny to trick Del Spooner in I, Robot.
    • Daisy and Jemma get plugged into the Framework, and they discuss with Yo-Yo the very adverse effects of staying too long, dying, or being interrupted while in the middle of the simulation, much like in The Matrix.
    • Having your friends (and yourself) be replicated numerous times into ruthless androids hellbent to assimilate you into their virtual world is reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and The World's End.
    • Replicating Daisy (an Inhuman S.H.I.E.L.D. agent) into an LMD army calls to mind Alice's (a T-virus-enhanced former Umbrella agent) Cloning Blues in the Resident Evil movies.
    • Radcliffe's lineup of captive agents in the Framework resembles Pre-Crime's dream-plugged prisoners in Minority Report.
    • Aida finding a Logic Bomb in her programming and solving it via homicide is one to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
    • Aida reviving Ivanov into a cyborg with his brain in a canopy device parallels Dr. Faxx turning Cain into RoboCop 2.
    • Daisy takes down a couple of LMDs with sonic Kame Hame Hadoken, destroying LM-Mack like Gohan did to Cell in Dragon Ball Z. The way she formed her the shockwave ball and its dispersal is similar to Naruto's failed attempt at Rasengan.
    • Daisy emerging from the shadows to blast an unflinching LMD Mace with a shotgun is extremely similar to Sarah Connor's final confrontation with the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (especially given the shout-outs to the Terminator films back at the start of the LMD arc).
    • The preview for "What If..." has the word "Order" upside-down, possibly as a Stranger Things reference.
  • The Starscream: Aida turns on Radcliffe by fatally wounding him and locking his dying body into the Framework, thus cementing her position as the true Big Bad of the current arc.
  • Token Good Teammate: LMD-May performs a Heroic Sacrifice against LMD-Coulson.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Teased — when talking to Daisy, Jemma briefly notes that she could be an LMD herself and not even know it. She's not.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The episode trailer implies that LMD-Coulson will capture and Pistol Whip a screaming Fitz. In truth, the pistol-whipping and Fitz screaming are from different scenes, and Fitz was himself an LMD who was being beaten up by human Simmons in the scene in which Fitz was screaming.
  • Turned Against Their Masters:
    • Aida turns on Radcliffe and manages to kill him, despite her programming to protect his life. In a way, she still is, since he made it clear that life inside the Framework is still life.
    • LMD-May pulls a heroic version, siding against Radcliffe's vision and sacrificing herself to help Daisy and Simmons.
  • We Can Rebuild Him:
    • Ivanov gets torn apart and reduced to a Brain in a Jar, then his mind is linked to an all-new LMD body.
    • LMD-Fitz gets crushed and stabbed by Jemma, but LMD Mack and LMD Coulson easily rebuild him (though it's implied that they only patched him up to the point where he could turn on, and then he fixed himself).
    • Even LMD-Mack, whose body gets partially disintegrated by Daisy's shockwave, is hinted to be rebuilt soon.
      LMD-Fitz: This is gonna take a while.
  • Wham Episode: Aida kills Radcliffe and turns Ivanov into an LMD, LMD-May blows up (part of at least) the Playground, and Daisy and Jemma jump into the Framework to find the other members of the team, in a Bizarro World. And the next episode wouldn't air for another six weeks.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Jemma's computer getting an LMD warning with a photo of her and Fitz.
    • The reveal of Fitz's blank expression as he flips the knife in his hand and stabs Jemma.
    • Daisy looking up from her tablet to see a room full of robot duplicates of herself.
    • Each of the team members' lives in the Framework:
      • Daisy gets a text to wake up her boyfriend. She assumes it's Lincoln, but on her way to the bed, she passes by a photograph of herself with Grant Ward.
      • Coulson is a schoolteacher writing on a chalkboard. He finishes writing and turns around, revealing it to say "Inhumans: Why we fear them." With "fear" underlined.
      • Mack is outside his house. He reaches out of frame to pick something up; when he lifts it, it's shown to be a little girl's bike.
      • Fitz is apparently a very wealthy man, getting out of a limo while wearing a nice suit, and helping an unseen woman get out of the limo. Think it might be Jemma? Nope, the next shot shows...
      • Jemma is dead, with a grave marker in England.
      • May is looking out a window. As the camera pulls out, the building is shown to be the Triskelion...with HYDRA's emblem on it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • We don't see Mace in the Framework.
    • We don't know if LMD-May's bomb killed anyone else in the base or how much damage it did.
    • When Daisy enters the room full of her LMDs, they are standing ready in ranks and files, evenly spaced. Then she hides among them. What happened to the one she replaced in the formation?
  • Why Are You Looking at Me Like That?: When Daisy asks the three agents who knows how to fly the Zephyr, two of the three agents look at the one agent who is actually in training.
  • World Gone Mad: The Framework is a world where HYDRA has taken over, and that's not even getting into the individual lives of Team Coulson.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: When LMD-Fitz cuts his wrist open to prove he's not an LMD, he winds up slicing an artery. When Jemma sweeps down to help stop the bleeding, he shows his true colors and attacks her.

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