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Agent Carter Recap – “Life of the Party”

Last week on Agent Carter, Peggy and her cohorts broke into a super-secure Roxxon facility and de-powered a couple of nukes before Whitney Frost could get to them. That episode was definitely exciting, in spite of the fact that the particulars didn’t make a ton of sense. On that note, I’m going to try to spend this episode asking fewer questions and, instead, enjoying the ride. We’ll see how well I do with that! Onward we go into Episode 6 of season 2: “The Life of the Party.” Spoilers to follow, of course!

The prior episode ended with Peggy on bedrest, recovering from her climactic-but-brief altercation with Whitney Frost. Jason Wilkes, who had been showing off his romantic bedside manner by listening to the radio with the bedridden secret agent, had begun to succumb once again to his zero matter-related disappearing act. This episode begins right where the last one left off — with Jason disappearing. Except, now we’re looking at it from his point of view. It looks pretty dire. The whole room looks murky and hazy …

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Peggy’s desperate cries manage to jolt Jason away from his zero matter reverie. He seems pretty shaken up, though; he can no longer control when these episodes occur, and he fears he’s in danger of disappearing into the zero matter mist forever. Peggy points out that in his work at Isodyne, Jason built a containment chamber for zero matter. She asks, “Do you think you could build a containment chamber for yourself?” He’d have to be in a tangible state for that to work, he responds, and he needs more zero matter to achieve that. Gosh, does this show ever jerk our hearts around when it comes to Jason’s plight!

Anyway, Whitney Frost has been snapping up all the zero matter before our heroes can get to it. On the other hand, her body is chock full of the stuff by now, and Jason only needs a little bit.

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Speaking of our villainess, she seems to be losing her grip on reality, much like Jason – although for her, the zero matter effects look more like moodiness and muttering. After yelling at her husband for daring to ask her if she’s feeling all right, Whitney learns that he’s arranged for the Council to meet with her. She seems impressed by this, especially considering the Council’s stance on outsiders – particularly female ones. “You’re worth it,” Calvin flatters her. I have a feeling he’s buttering her up so that he can make a break for it later. Somehow, Whitney doesn’t suspect her husband of foul play.

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Ana Jarvis is back!!! Her first line, to Peggy, in reference to last episode’s Rebar Incident: “Did that go through your body?” I had the same question, Ana. Yes. Yes, it did. “Shouldn’t you be resting?” Ana points out, as Peggy makes her way down to the lab. Ana is my favorite. She’s smart. Peggy doesn’t listen, of course.

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I expected Peggy to meet Jason in the lab – but instead, she’s meeting with a disgruntled Sousa, who looks like he’s been crying and/or sleepless since last we saw him. I guess Violet broke it off for good with him, as of their feud last episode over Sousa’s obvious feelings for Peggy. He doesn’t tell Peggy anything, though she does look suspicious about how awful he looks.

Unfortunately for him, Peggy’s called him over here to talk to him about Jason, presumably because she hopes that Sousa will be able to help with their zero matter mission. Of course, Sousa knows that means facing off against Whitney again, so he’s not thrilled. Peggy points out that Jason’s their one good witness against Isodyne, though, so if he disappears into thin air, so does their entire case. Hopefully Sousa would want to save Jason’s life for other reasons, such as the humanity of it all, but I guess the case against Isodyne is another good excuse.

Whitney’s a public figure, so she’s not exactly hard to track down. Her husband’s holding a fundraiser tomorrow night at the MacArthur Grant Hotel, which is also the same place that the Council will be evaluating Whitney’s newfound zero matter skills.

How’s Peggy going to get in? “Howard Stark’s donated money to all the political candidates in order to ensure good favor with whomever wins.” Howard’s over-simplistic ideas about politics just saved Peggy’s butt, because now she and Mr. Jarvis can get into the fundraiser. Peg describes her plan to Sousa: use a vacuum syringe to extract zero matter from Whitney, “then make a hasty exit.” Sousa looks very skeptical, as well he should be. The last time Peg met Whitney, she ended up impaled, and she’s still not healed. Perhaps, as Sousa points out, someone else could go?

Sousa says it can’t be him: “I’m not going to fly as Jarvis’s date.” Awww! What about Rose? Her mother’s sick (that’s a convenient plot device if I ever heard one.) Peggy has a wacky suggestion: Dottie Underwood. WHAAAAATTTTTT~

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Peggy shows up at Dottie’s jail cell, posing as a doctor there to administer a psych evaluation. “Please, some privacy?” Peggy asks the guard, all the while not breaking eye contact with Dottie. This scene is going to spawn so much slash-fiction, y’all.

Ahh, I missed these two: “It takes more than six walls to hold me.” “Six?” “We’re in a cube, Peggy. Try to keep up.”

Dottie figures out in an instant that Peg must be going behind the SSR’s back, since she’s in disguise for no other logical reason. “How naughty,” Dottie purrs, complete with eyebrow raise. Of course, Dottie knows why Peggy would come to her in such a state, and she reveals it, with a satisfied grin: “You need my help.”

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Back at the Stark laboratory, Jason is getting some help from Ana Jarvis to build his future containment chamber. After all, she’s corporeal, and smart, so who better to help him with the particulars? (Sidebar: Ana’s hairstyle is so gosh darn cute that it might inspire me to dig out my hair rollers.) As Ana uses some copper wire to build a conductor, or whatever other Macguffin needs building, Jason frets aloud about the dangers of the oncoming mission. Some of his nervousness starts to wear off on Ana, who realizes how much danger her husband gets himself into by participating in these missions alongside the SSR.

Right on cue, Jarvis pops by, asking his wife to help him find the appropriate pair of cuff-links to wear to a fancy shmancy political fundraiser. As Jarvis describes his own excitement about going on another SSR mission – he does seem to enjoy this line of work – Ana only grows more and more anxious, and soon excuses herself from the laboratory (but not before accidentally breaking the conductor that she had been building). She lies to her husband and says she’s “fine,” in spite of demonstrably not being fine. Sigh. I do realize this is a TV show, and therefore all of the couples will be terrible at communicating, but this isn’t even a hard conversation to have!

Back to Peggy and Dottie. Peg shows Dottie the Council’s hatpin thingy and asks her why she was trying to steal it from the vault (back during the premiere episode). Dottie’s response, while coy, reveals that she does indeed understand what the Council is and what it does. Peg isn’t authorized to strike a deal with Dottie, given that she’s on thin ice with the SSR (as usual), but Peggy believes that if Dottie agrees to help with this mission, it could allow her to negotiate for deportation (a far more attractive form of punishment for Dottie than, say, the electric chair). Both women agree to this deal, and both seem convinced that they’ll manage to pull one over on the other. I wouldn’t be surprised if this episode ended with Dottie escaping again.

Peggy hands Dottie a circular device that she claims will aid in the forthcoming prison break-out. Said break-out begins now — Peg handles the guards, Dottie handles the door. Turns out the device Peggy gave to Dottie is a high-powered magnet; Dot uses it to open the complex lock on her cell door. She opens it to find an unconscious guard. His gun’s gone, so Dottie has to settle for a pair of handcuffs instead.

Peg said “go right,” so Dottie goes left instead, then makes a break for the nearest alleyway … where Sousa and Peggy await her, with a net. A net that’s been imbued with an electric charge, too! I can’t believe the reverse psychology of “go right” actually worked on Dottie.

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When Dottie comes to, she’s tied to a chair and wearing a beautiful silk and velvet evening gown. She’s also underneath one of those high-powered hairdryers that hair salons use. (Howard Stark sure does keep a lot of handy gadgets around the house.) Peggy provides Dottie with a beautiful diamond necklace (likely product placement on the part of Tiffany’s, given the box it came in). That necklace contains a tracking device, which hopefully isn’t characteristic of a Tiffany’s item, but is definitely necessary for someone like Dottie. What’s more, if Dottie attempts to take off the necklace, she’ll be injected with a neurotoxin that will kill her in seconds. The Tiffany’s advertising agency isn’t going to be happy to hear about that!

Jarvis shows up, tuxedo-clad. He complains that he doesn’t get to carry a gun on this mission; Peg points out that Dottie would only take it from him if he did, since Dottie somehow already stole Jarvis’s watch off his wrist as he walked by her.

Back at the Frost household, Whitney seems to be chickening out. Could this meeting be rescheduled, she asks? Or moved to a “smaller venue, something more private?” No way, says her hubby: “The Council doesn’t give second chances!” But Whitney’s zero matter facial scar has become more and more difficult to hide, and she’s embarrassed to go out in public. Her husband manages to find a hat with a veil that hides the scar perfectly – and matches her dress. I guess all of his late-night trips to wander around in the closet paid off, huh? Good going, man.

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Peggy debriefs Dottie on the mission; Jason hangs around in the background, coming forward briefly to explain how the vacuum syringe works. Dottie flirts with Jason throughout this scene, to Peggy’s irritation. As Jason walks out of the room, Dottie reaches for his arm and realizes that her fingertips go right through it. Neither Jason nor Peggy notice Dottie doing this, however. Dot’s reaction is one of surprise, but she quickly recovers.

Dottie and Jarvis both wear subtle communication devices to the fundraiser so that they can communicate with Sousa and Peggy, who are stationed in a van outside. Before Jarvis and Dottie can get to Whitney, an unexpected person appears at the event. It’s Jack Thompson – SSR department head, jerk-face, and amateur model. He’s going to be pretty confused and angry if he sees Dottie outside of her jail cell, eh?

Jack makes small talk with Senator-to-be Calvin Chadwick about communism and how bad it is. Get it? Because Dottie’s there, and it’s ironic! Ha! Vernon, that crusty old FBI coot and fellow Council member, is in attendance as well. Vernon takes the opportunity to compliment Jack for capturing Dottie, since the pair of them are trying to impress a future Senator and thereby earn more funding for the SSR. Meanwhile, Whitney jokes that Jack’s “handsome face” could earn him a starring role in the world of cinema. (What is up with people complimenting Jack’s face? I mean, it’s a good face, but it’s getting a little weird.)

Jarvis and Dottie have differing ideas on how to deal with Jack’s sudden appearance. Dottie suggests she “kill him,” whereas Jarvis thinks they should just abort the mission. Peggy insists that they continue as planned. Jack Thompson will live to smirk another day.

Vernon lectures Jack about how many powerful men there are in the room. The only dissenting voice among them? Hugh Jones, of Roxxon. Hugh doesn’t care for Jack and his colleagues at the SSR, thanks to Peggy Carter’s doings. Hugh, Vernon and Jack share some strained small talk over the recent break-in at a secure Roxxon facility, which resulted in some atomic materials getting stolen. “My intel says it was Peggy Carter,” says Vernon. Jack admits that he had no idea Peggy had done any of that, which certainly doesn’t impress Hugh – nor does it impress Vernon, who gives him a stern talking-to. “You can’t let a female subordinate make an ass out of you like this.”

Whitney heads upstairs to the powder room, thereby providing an opportunity for our heroes to intercept her. Jarvis and Dottie steel themselves for the mission to come, with Jarvis downing an entire glass of champagne in preparation (and telling Dottie she’s a “nuisance”).

Jack, meanwhile, orders himself a whiskey. As he stands at the bar waiting for his drink, a nearby woman tells him to “smile more.” (What is this? All the compliments about Jack’s face are starting to feel like an intentional subversion of gendered norms. Not that I’m opposed to that sort of thing.)

Jarvis interrupts Jack’s flirtation with this random woman, then tries to distract Jack while Dottie creeps up the stairs to the powder room. Jack instantly suspects that Peggy Carter is hiding out somewhere at the fundraiser, since Jarvis’ presence seems so suspicious. Jarvis insists that Peggy is on vacation, chilling out next to Mr. Stark’s pool with a novel in hand. No one is going to believe that cover story, Jarvis. At least say she’s taking fencing lessons or something.

Jack insists on leaving to “secure the perimeter,” since he’s now convinced that Peggy is up to something. Jarvis manages to waylay Jack for a few moments longer by delivering an oblique warning about the Council: “you’re swimming in a sea of sharks.” Jack responds with a non sequitur about Jarvis doing Stark’s laundry. Does Jack really not understand that he’s going to end up participating in a horrific conspiracy by joining up with Vernon and the rest of the Council? Does he just not care? I can’t really tell where Jack’s allegiances lie, probably because I keep assuming that he can’t possibly be stupid enough to want to join up with the Council. I keep wanting him to display some sign of secret allegiance with Peggy, since ultimately, Jack seems like the type who’d want to do the right thing (especially if he could somehow take credit for it later). We’ll see where he ends up, I guess.

Dottie “accidentally” bumps into Whitney on her way out of the powder room. In so doing, she pricks Whitney with the syringe, then pretends that she accidentally struck Whitney with the Arena Club hatpin instead. Whitney looks at the hatpin and claims she does not recognize it. This is like a double-layer of espionage, since I’m pretty sure that showing Whitney the hatpin wasn’t part of the original plan. Dottie seems to have her own plan, however – she always does.

Meanwhile, Dottie’s communication device has stopped working… probably because she took it off and left it beside a running sink so that nothing could be heard. Great. She’s still wearing a tracking device, though, right?

While wandering in the hallway outside of the powder room, Dottie spots a group of older men – the Council, probably. She sneaks into a nearby meeting room and hides. The Council members trudge in after her, sitting down at the table. Calvin and Whitney appear; Whitney’s holding a white hatbox. Whitney starts up her little presentation by extolling the importance of zero matter research. She tells them that zero matter is not about energy, but about power — then shows them her facial scar.

Whitney opens the hatbox and takes out a rat. She then uses her powers to disintegrate the rat into nothingness. She grins.

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The Council looks predictably unnerved. Then, Calvin snaps his fingers, and a couple of guys show up with a noose. They throw it around Whitney’s neck and start pulling. I did have a feeling that Calvin must have asked the Council to help him deal with his wife, but I guess I wasn’t expecting them to try to kill her. Or, at least, I wasn’t expecting them to try to kill her in such an ineffective way.

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Whitney manages to destroy her two attackers with zero matter — even without touching them. She turns around, slams her hands on the table, and glares at the Council members. Then she disintegrates a few of them. The rest continue to stare at her in terror.

Whitney then turns, teary-eyed, to her husband. “I trusted you,” she says. “I made you.” And now … she can un-make him. And she does.

She then turns back to the remaining Council members. “I’d like to call this meeting to order. Any objections?” Nope!

Some of the remaining Council members still serve a purpose for Whitney’s designs. Hugh Jones can now grant her access to the Roxxon facilities, so she can use whatever atomic materials she likes. Mr. Hayes, the newspaperman, can fabricate a story to explain the sudden disappearance of Calvin Chadwick and the rest of the now-dead Council members. Whitney tells the other men that they, too, had best remain loyal to her… or else. Hugh Jones gives her a simpering smile and tells her he’s excited about their future collaboration.

Jarvis heads up the stairs to find Dottie, who’s still hiding in the Council meeting room and witnessing Whitney’s dominion. Peggy gets up, planning to head inside the building to help Jarvis, but she pops her stitches trying to open the door. “Not fun when your body quits on you, is it,” Sousa says.

The Council has adjourned, so Dottie can leave her hiding place. She pulls out the tube of zero matter and smiles at it (uh-oh). She then leaves the room, and walks right into Vernon … who recognizes her immediately as Dottie Freakin’ Underwood. Dottie makes a break for it.

Sousa and Peggy make idle conversation about Peg’s broken stitches. “Guess I’ll have to make a follow-up appointment with Violet,” Peggy quips. Sousa’s reaction to that comment allows Peg to gather that something must’ve gone down between the two of them. When she learns that Violet broke off the engagement, Peggy insists that she’ll go to Violet on Daniel’s behalf and beg her to reconsider. Sousa then has to admit: “She broke it off with me because she thinks I’m in love with you!” (Meanwhile, Jarvis is overhearing all of this through his communication device.)

This confession from Sousa leads to an almost-kiss between Peggy and Daniel, which … eh, okay. I get that the show wants me to care about this pairing, and they’re cute, but I still like Jason better for Peggy. This romantic moment gets interrupted by some sort of collision against the van – turns out it’s Dottie throwing a literal body out the window, onto the roof of their vehicle.

Dot’s in an altercation with some of Vernon’s cohorts, a few flights up. Jack shows up and manages to overpower Dottie – at least, for the moment – and the camera pans away to reveal that Dottie dropped the canister of zero matter by the broken window.

Down on the ground, Carter and Sousa inspect the body that just fell on their van. Sousa can’t find any ID on him – he’s private security, apparently. Jarvis shows up, having found the zero matter canister (thank goodness) but not Dottie (hmm). The receiver for the tracking device in Dottie’s necklace got crushed, thanks to the falling body. Peggy wants to go after Dottie, but Sousa points out that if they stick around, they’ll blow their cover. So Dottie’s on the loose again, and it’s Peggy’s fault! At least they got some zero matter out of the deal?

Inside the building, Hugh Jones pulls Vernon aside for a private convo about Whitney Frost’s newfound leadership in the Council: “She’s calling the shots now.” Vernon then heads straight over to Jack, reaming him out for letting Peggy Carter spring out Dottie Underwood. In some ways, I’m impressed at Vernon’s guesswork here: he found out that a female psychiatrist helped spring out Dottie, and he just assumed it was Peggy in disguise. He’s right, of course, but who’s to say it couldn’t have been some other woman? There are so few women in this universe that Vernon just assumes that any woman must be Peggy Carter, his Least Favorite Woman Ever.

Vernon tells Jack to take Peggy down. Honestly, I don’t blame Vernon at this point, even though he is clearly a villain on this show. But as far as Vernon and Jack know, Peggy set Dottie loose in a political fundraiser, and now Dottie has escaped. Vernon and Jack don’t know why Peggy did any of this, and it doesn’t look good. Vernon doesn’t want Jack to kill Peggy, because then she’d be seen as a martyr. Instead, he says, “I want you to destroy the very idea of her.”

Jack refuses. Vernon gets suspicious: “She’s got something on you, hasn’t she?” Vernon demands that Jack dig something up on Peggy in return. Jack doesn’t necessarily say he’ll do it, but he does seem like he still wants to stay on Vernon’s good side. I kind of expect Jack to end up turning on Vernon in the end. He’s an asshole, but at the end of the day, I think he knows that Peggy cares about keeping the country safe … just as Jack supposedly does.

Back at the lab, Jason starts getting all excited about the zero matter and his containment chamber. But Peg and Sousa don’t want to help him yet – they’re too concerned about Dottie’s escape. Jason looks crestfallen (and so do I). Jarvis shows up and says that someone’s at the door. It’s … Jack Thompson?!

Sousa offers to go meet Jack instead of Peggy, saying he’ll “take the heat” for her. The two share a brief hand-holding moment as Peggy goes out the door. Jason looks on and he seems to infer from this why Peggy has suddenly lost interest in him and his situation. Ughhh, I officially don’t like this love triangle plot-line anymore.

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Peggy now has to pretend, in her conversation with Jack, that she’s been on vacation for months rather than working covert missions. Jack asks her about the psychiatrist that recently visited Dottie Underwood; Peg claims not to know what he’s talking about. Jack tries to convince her to fly back to New York with him. First, he tries threatening her with a potential firing; she doesn’t back down. Next, he tries an emotional appeal, suggesting that perhaps Peggy is dealing with powers that will soon overwhelm her. It’s hard to tell, as usual, whether Jack is trying to help Peggy or not in this scene.

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Where did our friend Dottie Underwood end up? In the hands of Whitney Frost, apparently. Hmm … it’s villainess vs. villainess. Who do you think is going to make it out of this one alive???

This was a fantastic episode, even though it ended with Peggy leaning Sousa’s way rather than Jason’s. I can only hope that Jason finds some way to survive in spite of the odds stacked against him. Meanwhile, the return of Dottie has definitely upped the ante. This might be one of my favorite eps out of the whole season so far, in terms of narrative pacing and action — I didn’t even manage to find any pesky plot holes this time around. What did you all think?

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).