On the streets of Hong Kong, a magician is plying his trade. Unfortunately, his tricks are not that impressive as his nearly empty tip jar attests. After a young couple heckles him, he generates a handful of flame which he tosses in their direction stating “This is not a trick!” There is some applause, but the young couple is unnerved and they quickly leave.
After the act is finished, a woman in a flower dress who was watching him introduces herself as Rania and he introduces himself as Chan Ho Yin. She tells him that she would really like to see “that fire trick again.” The two of them go back to his apartment where they chit chat about magic until she convinces him to show her the fire trick. He tells her that it is no trick, that it is real magic. He doesn’t know how he does it, but he first became capable of producing fire from his hands a few years ago.
Rania asks him why he doesn’t share this with the world, but is concerned about ‘people’ (possibly S.H.I.E.L.D.?). She flirts with him a bit, and tells him to close his eyes as she leans in to kiss him. He does, but it is yet another ‘honey trap’—when he opens them two men standing there in fireproof suits. They quickly overpower him and knock him unconscious.
Back on the bus, Agent Ward and Skye are playing Battleship. Skye wonders what this has to do with her training. Ward says it is important for every S.O. to evaluate their student’s thought process, but he also admits that he just likes board games. The two of them seem to be actually bonding, even though Skye wins the match.
Coulson and May look in on the scene and both seem pleased with how the team is coalescing. May notes that Coulson was up early—she heard him puttering around when she got up for her Tai Chi routine. When he replies that he just has a little extra energy to burn, she says that if he wants she could lay out the mats downstairs and they could go a few rounds “just like the old days”. The way May says this definitely seems to have a flirtatious edge to it. Before the conversation can go any further, an urgent S.H.I.E.L.D. message comes in.
Coulson brings up a S.H.I.E.L.D file on Chan Ho Yin. Coulson tells the team that Chan began to exhibit minor pyrokinetic abilities a few years ago. Fitz asks how Chan gained powers and Coulson tells him that it is unknown, although he did live near a nuclear plant that caught fire shortly before his powers manifested. Apparently, S.H.I.E.L.D. contacted Chan and asked him to keep his powers under wraps. They placed him on ‘The Index’, a list S.H.I.E.L.D. maintains of known objects of power and superhumans, and have been watching him ever since.
Skye is shocked to find out that such a list exists and is concerned about what S.H.I.E.L.D. does with this kind of information. Agent Ward notes that the list is maintained for their protection, but in some cases they have had to “take action”.
Talking with Agent Quan, the Hong Kong agent assigned to Chan Ho Yin’s case, he states that they found a remnant of a fireproof suit at the scene of the abduction. This means that whoever abducted Chan Ho Yin was aware of his powers. He also has a suspect—a few days ago the Hong Kong S.H.I.E.L.D. office was hacked by the Rising Tide. Everyone in the room looks at Skye.
In Coulson’s office, Skye protests her innocence in this hack. After all, the Rising Tide consists of hacktivists around the world and she has been living on the bus for weeks. Skye offers to help them track down the leak.
Chan Ho Yin wakes up in a luxurious room with Raina watching over him. He initially assumes he was abducted by S.H.I.E.L.D. for using his powers in public, but Raina informs him that she doesn’t work for them. She tells him that she is working for a group that wants to help him increase his powers.
Raina plays on Chan’s desire for fame. When Chan Ho Yin scoffs at her wanting to make him famous she says they plan on giving him the simpler name of ‘Scorch’. After all, no one knows who Steve Rogers is but Captain America is on lunchboxes. His desire for fame wins out and he agrees to work with her.
Skye tracks the hacker who broke into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s database to Austin, Texas. His name is Miles Lyndon, and it is obvious that Skye knows him personally. This fact seems lost on most of the group though, since even Fitz-Simmons know about some of Miles past hacking exploits.
S.H.I.E.L.D. tracks Miles to a café in Austin, but he manages to elude them by hopping in his Jetta and activating a ‘gridlock’ program from his phone which messes with the traffic signals. He then meets up with Skye, and it is revealed that she sent him a text message warning him that they were coming. She chides him for hacking S.H.I.E.L.D. while she was on the inside, calling him a “dumbass”. He laughs, saying that since he taught her everything she knows, what does that make her? The tension breaks and Miles tells Skye that he has been “missing her like crazy”. The two then get reacquainted in a manner that necessitates the removal of clothing.
The morning after, or at least 5 minutes later, Skye is shown putting her bra back on and stashing an SD card in it. Seeing the card, Miles asks if she is “making any progress on that.” She tells Miles that she is, but it is slow going and even harder now that he hacked S.H.I.E.L.D. After all, this is why she declared S.H.I.E.L.D. off limits when she left for L.A. Skye tells Miles she has to get back before she is missed, but when she opens the door and sees Agent May standing there it is obvious that it is too late for that.
Coulson questions Skye about how long her and Mr. Lyndon have been in contact. She insists that she only contacted him twice: Once when she first joined to let him know she was OK and once to let him know they were coming. Skye insists that she was trying to get the information they needed to save Chan Ho Yin, but she didn’t feel she could tell them about Miles. Skye says it doesn’t matter anyway since Miles doesn’t know anything. Coulson is obviously disappointed in Skye’s inability to trust them, but does note that he had Agent May tail her just for this reason.
May’s interrogation of Miles is not going well as he just tells her that information “has a life of its own”. Coulson tells the team to secure the prisoners, both Skye and Miles, for the trip to Hong Kong.
Back in Hong Kong, Rania shows ‘Scorch’ the lab. Some of the scientists on hand inject him with a drug that significantly increases his pyrokinetic abilities, at least for a limited time. Rania asks ‘Scorch’ to demonstrate his enhanced abilities while the scientists monitor him with their equipment.
In a holding cell on the bus, Miles complains about the lack of due process while Skye simply states that “they don’t have time for that.” Miles is horrified by her defending them, saying that people like Manning, Snowden, and Aaron Schwartz are modern revolutionaries who fought against people like S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agent Ward, who was watching the surveillance camera, turns away in disgust noting that this guy is “spouting platitudes” and is “dirty”. Fitz-Simmons disagree—except for the hacking he doesn’t seem to be involved in any illegal activities. Ward tells them to keep digging.
Meanwhile, Coulson tells May that she was right when she told him Skye was a risk. She tells him it is just common sense, “when someone breaks into your house you don’t invite them to stay”. Coulson tells her he was just trusting his gut. When May asks him what his gut is telling him now, he says “she is still hiding something.”
Ward confronts Miles and Skye with some new information that Fitz-Simmons found, namely that Miles received a million dollar payday for cracking the Hong Kong S.H.I.E.L.D. feed. Skye is horrified that he cracked the feed for money instead of just so that ‘information could be free’. She tells him that no one willing to pay that much for something has pure motives. Miles retorts that the woman he sold the information to worked for a harmless ecological research company that studied centipedes. Skye and Ward realize that this is obviously the same group from the pilot episode.
In Hong Kong, Rania is talking with the same doctor responsible for Mike Peterson’s super powers. Apparently, the platelets in Scorch’s blood keep the Extremis in the serum they developed from igniting. The doctor is very pleased with Rania’s work, but ominously tells her to “drain him”. Rania hits a few buttons and Scorch is gassed.
Coulson and the team discuss what they know about Centipede, mainly that it is international, well-financed, and interested in creating super-soldiers. Fitz-Simmons realize that they probably are hoping Chan Ho Yin holds the key to stabilizing the Extremis portion of their serum. Coulson insists that they get to him first. Conveniently, S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters thinks they have located the secret lab.
Speaking of the lab, the evil doctor and her team have succeeded in removing the platelets from Scorch’s blood. He tries to activate his powers, but without his platelets he only succeeds in burning his hand. As everyone leaves, Scorch yells after Rania that she said he has a gift. She tells him that he does—and that he is giving it.
Miles and Skye argue about his selling the information for money. In Skye’s mind that is completely at odds with the ‘information wants to be free’ ethos. He doesn’t see the problem since that that kind of money could fund their organization for years. Skye counters that his actions may kill an innocent man. In the course of this argument they acknowledge that their relationship is pretty much finished.
Agent Coulson and Agent Quan plan the S.H.I.E.L.D. assault on the Centipede facility. Quan’s people will enter through the lower levels while Agent Coulson, his team, and Quan himself will enter through the roof.
Boy, I wonder which team will see the majority of the action?
When they find the door to the lab, Agent May hands Coulson one of those tiny explosives he used to blow the door in Iron Man. Coulson says “love these things” and the team enters the lab. May quickly takes down the security guards and Quan locates Chan Ho Yin. Coulson tells Quan that the strike team needs a security override to escape, but when he turns around he sees that Chan has injected himself with the Centipede serum and used his increased power to burn a hole right through his former S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison. He then shoots a fireball directly at Coulson.
Ward realizes Coulson is in trouble and removes Skye’s handcuffs. Back at the Centipede facility, Coulson successfully dodges the fireball, but sees that Chan Ho Yin’s pyrokinetic abilities now burn him. Regardless, Chan seems determined to make S.H.I.E.L.D. pay for forcing him to keep his abilities locked up in side. May makes a valiant effort to talk Chan down, but he is too far gone—only Scorch remains.
Back on the bus, Fitz-Simmons show Skye and Miles that the entire facility has been locked down. All external connections have been shut down, but Skye thinks she can fix it from the inside. Miles scoffs at this, telling Skye she is “a hacker, not SEAL Team Six. Skye simply replies that she isn’t, but that Agent Ward is.
Coulson makes an effort to take Scorch down with a ‘night-night’ gun, but scorch protects himself with a plume of flame that melts the bullets. With the computers back online, Coulson tells Fitz-Simmons to unlock Miles handcuffs so he can assist them.
Scorch locates Rania and the evil doctor just as they reach the elevator. Rania tells the doctor, “I wish you all the best” as she shuts the elevator door on her. The doctor pleads for her life, but Scorch uses his enhanced powers to burn her to a cinder.
Coulson comes up behind Scorch telling him that “We don’t want to hurt you—but we have to”. It turns out that his was just a diversion as May comes up behind Scorch and injects him with more of the Centepide serum. This proves to be too much and Scorch begins to overload. On the bus, Miles reroutes various doors and air ducts to vent the majority of the explosion out the roof.
Back on the bus, Coulson gives Miles a choice of prison of wearing a special S.H.I.E.L.D. bracelet. When Miles asks what it does, Coulson cryptically states “whatever we want”. He does warn him to avoid any illegal activity and that he will find it hard to use any electronic devices for awhile. He then strands Miles in Hong Kong.
Coulson calls Skye to the principal’s office. She swings by Ward, who is having a drink with Agent May, and asks if he wants to come with as he is her S.O. He coldly replies that he is off the clock.
Skye attempts to explain herself to Coulson, but he tells her to “stop lying”. He demands to know the real reason she is here or she is done. Reluctantly, Skye produces the SD card that she has been hiding in her bra. She explains that it contains all the information she was able to find out about her parents. It is not much, and it all ends with one redacted S.H.I.E.L.D. document she was able to find. After a few moments Coulson decides to allow Skye to stay. She isn’t off the hook though, as he makes her wear the same kind of bracelet he gave Miles.
In the ending tag, Rania is shown meeting with a man in prison. He is obviously high up in the Centipede hierarchy, and she briefs him that the doctor is dead but that she found the secret to keeping stage two subjects from combusting. Raina then asks him to put her in touch with ‘the clairvoyant’. She feels this will put her over the top in creating ‘Stage Three’.
This episode finally provides some forward movement on what Skye’s agenda is. I like the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. was apparently involved in her parents disappearance. At times I have joked about how S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be more than willing to trample over what is legal in order to do what is ‘right’. Between this and the Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer, I am starting to think this is a plot point rather than poor writing.
I am a bit disappointed that all it took for Skye to sneak an SD card onboard the bus was her hiding it in her bra. I know Coulson was playing the trust card to get her to work with them, but I don’t expect it to be easier to sneak something past S.H.I.E.L.D. then the TSA.
I am not sure how I feel about this episodes casual invocation of Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, Edward Snowden, and Aaron Schwartz. These figures are extremely controversial, and depending on who you speak to the first two are either traitors or heroes. Aaron Schwartz tends to be viewed with a bit more sympathy, but considering his story ends with his tragic suicide it might be a little crass to bring it up on an action sci-fi show.
I am not sure if it is intentional, but Coulson’s warning that Miles will ‘find electronic devices difficult to use for awhile’ reminds me of convicted hackers whose sentence includes prohibitions on using computers or the Internet.
I was glad to see the Centipede subplot move forward as well. There was some nice continuity in having the doctor from the pilot episode pop up again, even if she was just there for Scorch to burn to a cinder.
Given his almost total lack of origin story, I assume Scorch would have been a mutant if Fox didn’t own the live-action rights to Marvel’s mutants.
I felt this episode was an improvement over the last one. The show is definitely improving, although I am still waiting for an episode that blows me away.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.