In this episode, we find out exactly when and how Agent May was switched with the LMD. LMD May realizes what she is, but also realizes she can’t do anything to change Radcliffe’s plan for her. Coulson tries a reckless plan in a bid to gather more information about Nadeer and the Watchdogs, but it fails spectacularly, revealing that SHIELD has a mole. The title of the episode is a red herring, in many ways. Characters think they’ve woken up and figured out the truth, but it’s another lie, or only a partial truth, or they can’t use the truth to take the kind of action that they need to. The truth doesn’t always set you free, especially in government work. Especially if the government you work for is the federal government.
It turns out that May was switched with LMD May at the beginning of episode 8, The Laws of Inferno Dynamics, 5 days ago in AoS time. I remember thinking that she disappeared from the episode for a long time. It’s good to know that she hasn’t been held hostage and drugged for weeks, but 5 days is a long time for her body to be abused like that.
Mace assigned May to go get Aida to help take down Eli Morrow. Radcliffe called Aida and activated a protocol within her instruction files after he found out May was on her way over to his house. When May got there, Aida sedated her mid-conversation. She downloaded May’s memories, personality, and whatever else they can get out of the original’s brain into LMD May, who Radcliffe already had ready and waiting. Aida switched May’s clothing over to LMD May, did her hair and makeup, then turned her on. LMD May picked up the conversation exactly where it had left off before the original was knocked out. Creepy.
One day ago, original May broke free from her drugged state and tried to escape. Aida nearly killed her before Radcliffe intervened and had May sedated instead. Aida has been repeatedly instructed not to use lethal force, but isn’t following that command. The virtual reality day spa program that original May’s mind has been immersed in isn’t working to keep her calm.
Fast forward to today. Original May is doing much better. Aida wonders why they need to keep original May alive. Radcliffe gives Aida a couple of reasons. The LMD framework is in beta testing. They need the original for calibration. They aren’t killers. And they have a 2nd LMD in the field as a safety net now. You can practically see the wheels turning in Aida’s head every time Radcliffe says something that suggests that the life of a human is worth more than the life of an LMD. Radcliffe is oblivious.
Radcliffe finishes examining LMD May, then leaves the room. Aida begins to wash May, but knocks over a glass container. She leaves to get a broom. May’s eyes snap open. She’s awake. She breaks another container, grabs a shard of glass, and saws through her restraints. May then fights her way through Aida when Aida returns to the room, runs to a stairwell, up several flights of stairs, into an apartment, fights Aida again, and pushes Aida off a balcony. Except, Aida disappears into a force field, and May realizes this entire scenario is just another virtual reality program to keep her mind busy in captivity. Aida confirms this, and restarts the course.
Elena and Mack have finally sealed the deal. We join them during the after glow. They are two stunningly gorgeous people, and they both know it and discuss it. We’re not even going to talk about the turtleman thing. Just no. Mack gets a text, then jumps up to get dressed and leave. Elena asks if it’s time for the mission already. Mack says he’s not going this time.
Mace, Coulson, Talbot, Simmons and Daisy are arguing about today’s Senate hearing and proposed mission. Talbot is the voice of reason on this one, which must be a nice change of pace for Adrian Pasdar. He still gets a couple of good zingers in. Coulson wants to plant surveillance devices in Nadeer’s offices while Daisy and Mace are in with the Senate Committee. There are concerns about putting Daisy in front of the Senate, and trying to get Coulson and Elena past whatever security Nadeer might have in place. Coulson hasn’t dealt directly with Nadeer before and he’s underestimating her. She’s more than just an oily politician with some hateful ideas. Talbot wants to at least move files and sensitive material from the base to a secure location before everything goes wrong and Nadeer ends up with an excuse to investigate SHIELD. Mace and Coulson disagree with Talbot. SHIELD personnel can protect their assets just fine. Mace agrees with Coulson that Nadeer is dangerous. They need to do something about her. Talbot and I reply that the issue is that this mission is too dangerous. We should find a less risky way.
Daisy and Mace arrive at the hearing. They have a heart to heart about putting on an act for other people vs being your real self. Mace says he trusts Phil’s read on people. Daisy says Phil trusts Mace. Mace says Phil thinks highly of Daisy. Daisy and her two dads all love each other very much. I still can’t quite bring myself to trust Mace. If they take another parent away from Daisy I’ll be super pissed off. Senator Nadeer and Talbot enter and stop to throw around the required insults and vague threats with Daisy and Mace.
The hearing begins, and the senators ask tough questions, but Daisy gives thoughtful, smooth answers. The senators are impressed. Nadeer hits harder, but Daisy keeps her cool. Meanwhile, Coulson and Elena have faked their way into Nadeer’s office and are planting surveillance devices. Suddenly, some sort of flash device goes off that disables Elena, and security pours into the room to apprehend them. Meanwhile, Nadeer has been steering her questioning of Daisy toward implying that not only is Daisy a criminal, but SHIELD itself is a criminal organization. She reveals that they’ve caught Coulson and Elena, proving her point. SHIELD will now be the subject of a Senate investigation.
Coulson and Talbot argue and accusations fly. Mace tries to be conciliatory. Coulson reveals that this means that Nadeer has her own spy in SHIELD. The camera points straight at Mace when Phil is saying this. We’re supposed to think it’s because Mace is shocked that there’s a leak in SHIELD. It could be that Mace is the leak, either because he’s been turned or is being blackmailed. Or, he could be a higher up part of the Watchdogs and is upset because their mole, if it’s not him, is about to be discovered.
Coulson steps over the line with Talbot, accusing him of leaking information to Nadeer himself. Talbot is offended, reminding Coulson that Talbot has been his only backer at times. Talbot storms off.
Simmons and May try to figure out how the leak happened. Each comes up with her own theory. Simmons sees Fitz poring over Aida’s schematics, as he has been the entire episode. She realizes that if he turned Aida’s head on and downloaded it into his pad, he could have given Radcliffe access to the entire base through Aida. She’s had enough of Fitz’s obsession with Aida. Fitz tells Simmons that it’s not an obsession, it’s an investigation.
LMD May, however, knows the truth. She is the leak. She goes to Radcliffe’s house to confront him, and find out what he did to her. Radcliffe is insufferably smug. He explains that LMD May is programmed to believe she’s May, but also to complete Radcliffe’s mission. Radcliffe’s directives are buried deep inside her, and will kick in at the right time, expressing themselves as her own desires and instincts. She won’t be able to reveal the truth to anyone. The SHIELD team bursts in and interrupts their conversation. Fitz figured out that Radcliffe programmed Aida to believe the Darkhold affected her and compelled her to steal it. They arrest Radcliffe.
Elena and Mack meet up again at the end of the day. Elena’s had enough of Mack’s secret keeping. No one at SHIELD knows him well at all. She wants to know where he went today. He tells her that he used to be married. They had a baby girl who died when she was 4 days old. Tomorrow is the baby, Hope’s, birthday. His ex-wife wanted to spend time with him today because it’s a difficult day. Elena hugs him.
Phil beats himself up with regret over how he handled the day. He screwed up with Nadeer, with Talbot, SHIELD’s in trouble again… May talks him down and they have a bit of a moment.
Fitz visits Radcliffe in the safe room at the base. Radcliffe lays the flattery on thick, while Fitz is wallowing in grief over having befriended and trusted another sociopath. (I miss Grant Ward, too, Fitz.) Radcliffe goes a little too far, and Fitz realizes that it’s not really Radcliffe. He borrows the guard’s gun and shoots at Radcliffe’s head. The bullet bounces off. This is the other LMD that’s in the field.
Cut to Nadeer watching Fitz on a pad through LMD Radcliffe’s eye. She turns to original Radcliffe. He wants protection from her, but she’s not the one who does the protecting. He has to meet The Superior.
Original Radcliffe and Aida 2 are holed up somewhere with original May. It looks like a submarine or a tiny basement several stories down. They’ve changed May’s virtual reality program again. After talking to LMD May, Radcliffe decided to make May a program where she could relive her disastrous mission in Bahrain and have it come out the way she wanted it to, as a sort of therapy. Between the ghost paranoia hallucination psychosis and now Radcliffe’s both stealing her brain and treating it like it’s his toy, Melinda’s having a tough year.
So, the mole is LMD May, which I probably should have guessed from the beginning. Radcliffe was taking the information he got from her and selling it to Senator Nadeer in exchange for protection for himself and his LMD program. Have I said how much I hate having Parminder Nagra play such a cold-hearted villain? Especially because she’s so incredibly good at it. And that lipstick color is to-die-for. Please let it turn out to be the poison lipstick from Agent Carter at some point. Nadeer was born to be a spy, particularly a double agent. Is there anyone who doesn’t think she’s going to double-cross Radcliffe? Or who thinks that she likes LMDs any more than she likes inhumans? Radcliffe and Nadeer are two of a kind; you can’t tell if they love you or want to kill you. Even if they love you, they may still kill you, as both have already proven. Nadeer’s political vision is the only thing she’s loyal to, and Radcliffe’s scientific vision is the only thing that earns his true devotion. God help us if their two visions coincide somehow and they become a true team.
I have no affection for Radcliffe the way others do. I just can’t find him charming and adorable. At least we haven’t seen him have sex with an LMD yet, though I’m willing to bet he has. He can’t tell the difference between LMDs and people, but instead of treating LMDs like people, he treats people like things. That’s a villain that might as well be a rapist, and I’m never going to enjoy that type of character. He wants LMD May to sleep with Coulson, which would be dubious consent at best. Coulson would think he was having sex with May, and she’s not May. On top of that, Radcliffe wants her to sleep with Coulson to use him for information, ruining a connection original May and Coulson have spent decades building. Radcliffe is twisted on so many levels, and not in a way that’s fun.
It is interesting that Coulson is the person that Radcliffe’s willing to abuse this way, since Coulson has a robot arm and was brought back from the dead. Does Radcliffe see Coulson as less than human, little more than another science experiment anyway? He’s shown so much care for original May’s life, and has been upset over Nathanson’s death. He had to know when he picked May to replace with an LMD that Coulson would be one of his main targets. Maybe he sees Coulson as already being essentially a flesh LMD?
Talbot: This is politics, Phil, which means politicians. They are a festering cesspool of toxic waste fires. You swim in those waters, you could get pulled under.
Talbot: Keep calling me reactive, Phil. Half the time I’m reacting to the steaming pile of fart pebbles you hand me. Coulson: And the other half you’re not giving me the full story. We’re like the Odd Couple here.
Mace: If you enter every room thinking you’ve got to do a song and dance, eventually everything becomes a performance. And believe me, I know how it feels, putting on an act full time. [Insert Steve Roger’s sketch of a dancing monkey here.]
Elena: If it’s better to get to know someone in tiny, slow, annoying pieces… Phil: I don’t think that’s how I put it. Elena: Then you two will never get together. Phil: Me and May? No, it’s not like that. Elena: Please. I don’t need to read a file on you two to know. Phil: You know, no one likes a smart ass. Elena: That hasn’t been my experience.
Next week, Patton Oswalt is back! The Koenig Brothers have the Darkhold. What could possibly go wrong?