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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Debrief Season 4, Episode 11: “Wake Up”

I don't know what's real anymore.

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Spoilers. Spoilers? Spoilers. It’s a recap. I seriously can’t help you if you don’t realize what a recap is by now.

Welcome back, agents. I realize we’ve got a gap in coverage here, and I missed out on recapping last week’s bombshell of an episode, so I must apologize. But, worry not, as we’re right back in the thick of things here this week with our recap of “Wake Up”. You’ll remember last week’s episode, “The Patriot” ended on a bit of a cliffhanger with the LMD May examining a serious injury, only to find out that she’s *dun dun dunnn* actually an LMD.

As you and I know as members of the audience, Radcliffe programmed the LMD May to not know she’s an LMD, opting to work on the subconscious level so as to not arouse suspicion amongst the other agents. But how does that pan out? Well… let’s get right into it, shall we?


We begin in the past, actually, as we cut back to five days before when May was still May. We hear Coulson make his promise to her that they’ll “crack that bottle” (woooo) before they head off in separate directions. This time, we follow May as she’s intercepted by Radcliffe, who’s making some desperate plays at trying to get access to the Darkhold. Remember, at this point he’s already Darkhold-sick, as we’ve learned over the course of the last few episodes. Even one peek is enough to do you in, and that’s exactly all Radcliffe got before handing it over to Aida.

Radcliffe’s unsuccessful, and he activates Aida’s “Sunset Protocol,” which is a really pretty, peaceful name for “Start the Android Rebellion Right Now Go Go Go.” May ends up walking right into the trap, as she’s ambushed by Aida at Radcliffe’s apartment and gets shot up with some knockout drugs. Of course, they’re not enough to put her down completely, as she still tries to get up and fight, but Aida knocks her right out. Before that happens, though, she sees the door with her LMD replacement open, and… well, okay, hold on a sec.

Do you mean to tell me that Radcliffe and Aida had a naked May just hanging around in the apartment? Like, she was always kinda just standing there (at least, since they both got Darkhold-sick)? There’s a lot of creepy things going on what with the magical book what can make impossible things happen with them pretty lights and all, but this? That’s just… next level, man. Come on, Radcliffe. I was rooting for you. We were all rooting for you.

Aida uploads Agent May’s memories into the LMD May, and then takes her captive in the small room.

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Cut to: one day ago, where May’s locked in a dream about being at a day spa. Burly masseur comes in and asks if she’s ready for her massage. May’s like, nah, and says she doesn’t have time for this. She ends up leaving, but as soon as the door shuts, she’s right back in the massage chair like it’s a one room version of Groundhog Day. She does this a few times, until she literally just says “No” to the guy and socks him right in the face.

Apparently that’s how you wake up from being held captive in a dream, because we’re right back to the end of last week’s episode which saw May waking up (only to be knocked down again, rats). May’s placed back into a dream (which Radcliffe decides needs to feature much more conflict… as he guessed, May’s not much for “relaxation”), and Aida has a decidedly Ultron-like exchange with Radcliffe. She asks why they’re keeping the real May alive, and ponders the ever-boggling quandary: what is one life measured against millions more?

Radcliffe argues that they’re not killers, and for the moment, Aida acquiesces to his directives. Then Radcliffe drops a bomb of his own: they’ve got “a safety net” should the LMD May fail: another hecking LMD that’s already been activated. Was that what was behind door number two?!

Quick assessment: who the hell has been over to Radcliffe’s before, and who’s been acting… odd lately? Oh… oh gosh… is it Fitz? Are we going to have to watch Fitz die only to realize that it’s not really Fitz?! Remember, during last week’s wrap up, Fitz was reviving Aida’s head to download her OS and memories. He’s still bent on “fixing” her… much in the same way Radcliffe’s bent on getting the Darkhold. Simmons has no idea about Fitz, and has asked him to get rid of the machine and put Aida behind him, but… he just can’t seem to do it. HMM.

At S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, the regulars are all in Mace’s office having a meeting. They’re discussing Daisy’s decision to go to Washington D.C. to sign the Sokovia Accords. She’s now known to be a super-powered Inhuman, so she’s subject to the same rules as any other super-powered hero. Simmons isn’t having any of it, though, and thinks it’s a trap or worse, given the fact that Senator Nadeer is guaranteed to be there.

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Of course, Daisy going in is actually a cover for another operation: Coulson and Yo-Yo are planning on sneaking into Senator Nadeer’s office to plant a bug. General Talbot’s not cool with the plan, but really, he’s got no say in this call: it’s all up to Coulson to call the shots.

Back at Radcliffe’s, May seems to have stabilized, and isn’t rejecting whatever dream she’s been placed into. Radcliffe leaves the room, and so does Aida after she breaks a glass, and as soon as she does, May wakes up like it was all nothing. She reaches for a beaker on a tray and breaks it, then begins to cut her restraints away. Instantly, I gotta say, I’m pretty sure this is that “fighting/resistance”-type dream that Radcliffe said May should be subjected to as opposed to the “relaxation” spa dream.

At HQ, Yo-Yo and Mace are, uh… well, together in bed. They share some really sweet pillow talk, and Yo-Yo makes everybody tear up a bit when she says, “I enjoy you,” to Mack. My heart. Protect these two cinnamon rolls, please. And don’t let either of them be an LMD, dammit.

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Mack gets a text, and the mood shifts dramatically as he gets a little serious and… well, worried, it seems. He’s not joining Yo-Yo and them for the mission, vaguely saying something along the lines of “I have to take care of something else,” and, “It’s just a change of plans.” Honestly, if you want me to start eyeing everybody I care about with suspicion, you go ahead and you tell me that one of them has been secretly replaced by an android, cause now I’m reading into everything that’s going on. Ugh.

LMD May goes to visit Fitz, who’s poring over the Aida files. She asks him if Aida knew what she was doing, if there was any way for her to stop herself from doing what she was programmed to do. As you and I know, LMD May’s asking about herself, as she’s starting to put two and two together after finding out she’s an LMD.

Fitz doesn’t exactly pick up what she’s putting down, but they share a moment, with LMD May saying that while she may feel a bit guilty asking Aida to read the Darkhold, she’d do it again to save Coulson and Fitz. Fitz unknowingly drops a wonderful pun, saying, “That’s just how you’re built,” and I swear to god, LMD May looks like she’s trying so hard to not just straight crack up at it.

Lord knows I was dying.

Meanwhile, real May is still cutting away at her bonds. She ends up injuring herself, bleeding out onto the floor a bit. We’re treated to some suspense as Aida returns with a broom, but is interrupted before she can notice something’s amiss when Radcliffe says he has to go somewhere.

A quick cut over to HQ, where just before they embark on the mission to go to the capital, General Talbot makes a play to have Coulson and Mace hand over S.H.I.E.L.D. assets to the military for protection, just in case the secondary objective of bugging Nadeer’s office goes sideways. Geez, Talbot was always kind of a robot, but now he’s really sounding like an LMD, too. Then again, he’s always trying to get his hands on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s assets, so… maybe this is just par for the course.

Real May ends up cutting out of her bonds, and is just about to escape when Aida punches her through the front door glass. They have a scuffle, with May ending up thrown across the room. As Aida closes in for the kill, May spins around and stabs Aida straight through her stomach with a fireplace poker, disabling her.

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At the capital, Daisy enters into your standard issue patently stuffy meeting room to sign the accords. Mace offers a bit of a talk, where they both open up to each other for a bit about what it means to have to “put on an act” full-time. Remember, Mace was just revealed last episode to not actually be an Inhuman, despite being held up as such by S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Army. As well, the actions that earned him the spotlight in Vienna were trumped up a bit; he didn’t actually save anybody. They connect in what feels like a real genuine moment for the both of them. (Cue my “someone’s gonna die” meter pinging just a little bit.)

Senator Nadeer comes walking in, leading a group of other politicians like a senatorial Regina George. The hearing is really beginning to heat up, with Daisy putting Nadeer on the defensive a bit after Nadeer’s line of questioning becomes a little bit hostile. Daisy says that “Inhumans are our friends, our co-workers… our brothers, and they need help… wherever they may be.” Nadeer isn’t having any of that, and she accuses S.H.I.E.L.D. of continuing to perform illegal activities.

Speaking of, Yo-Yo and Coulson make it into Nadeer’s office and begin planting bugs and scanners. Unfortunately, as soon as they’re done, the feed going back to HQ is cut. Yo-Yo finds a device in the senator’s desk, and what looks like a concussive blast sends her flying. Police go storming into the office, and both the agents are cuffed.

Nadeer’s questioning continues to grow even more hostile, and she continues to accuse S.H.I.E.L.D. of performing illegal activities, and to punctuate her point, Coulson and Yo-Yo are brought into the room in cuffs.

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Eventually, they’re all let go, pending a Senate Committee hearing. It’s the last thing any clandestine agency wants, really, and given that Nadeer will likely be leading the hearing, it’s not going to be pretty. Coulson figures out that there’s a leak, as Nadeer’s trap was specifically set to target Yo-Yo (the police that entered knew to cuff her legs specifically). Coulson accuses Talbot of being the leak, and in a surprisingly close moment, he (unknowingly) echoes Mace and Daisy’s earlier conversation, saying: “I believed in you when nobody else did, Phil.” Then he denies being the leak before walking away.

Real May, meanwhile, gets to another empty apartment in Radcliffe’s building. She has another showdown with Aida, and ends up throwing her off the balcony… and out of the simulation. As we guessed earlier, May is still “dreaming” (here, Aida reveals that they call it “the Framework”), and this attempt was the farthest May’s gone yet, implying that she’s been there before. She’s working at it so hard that they can’t keep up to code enough obstacles for her to deal with. After May swears that she’s going to find a way out, she’s sent back to the beginning to start all over, none the wiser.

She is, though, getting better at defeating the obstacles of the Framework despite having her memory wiped every time. Aida credits this progression to something she calls “memory traces.” Seems… important, don’t you think?

At HQ, LMD May and Simmons are talking about the leak when Simmons spots Fitz poring over Aida’s files. Simmons (rightfully infuriated), takes Fitz’s tablet and calls him on it. She asks if he activated her ocular receptors… and it turns out he did. Simmons believes that Nadeer had access to Aida’s ocular feed (like how Deathlok had implants that allowed third party watchers), even though neither Aida nor Fitz were anywhere near the mission planning meeting. Just as Simmons is about to leave, saying she’s done trying to help him through his “obsession” with Aida, Fitz reveals that it’s not exactly an obsession… it’s an investigation. Whaaaat.

Here’s the thing: though Aida wasn’t at the meeting, you know who was? LMD May. Who made a real hasty exit out of the lab and out of HQ… right to Radcliffe’s. She confronts him and learns that she’s actually an LMD, and that she 1.) can’t beat the shit out of him, and 2.) she can’t tell Coulson about any of it. Radcliffe makes allusions to his “core programming” for her, which is that he wants her to essentially get close to Coulson so she can retrieve the Darkhold. In not so many words: he’s shipping the two of them, and he wants LMD May to get with Coulson to earn his trust. Yikes.

LMD May says that she’s going to find a way to resist, and as if on cue, S.H.I.E.L.D. busts in the door to capture Radcliffe. Simmons repeats what Fitz was saying, which was that he was going through an investigation into Radcliffe’s activities. He found out that Radcliffe had sent Aida in to try to seize the Darkhold, and thus, he’s being arrested. Coulson asks LMD May why she’s there, and she just says that she was playing off a hunch that she had when she heard Fitz explain what he was doing.

At HQ, Mack returns from his personal leave, and Yo-Yo confronts him about his hot-and-cold attitude. Mack reveals that he was visiting an ex, and Yo-Yo really doesn’t want any part of that. But before she goes, she’s stopped by Mack, who goes on to explain that he was visiting his ex, Nicole, to talk about Mack’s daughter, Hope. A few episodes ago, Mack was looking at a portrait of some people, and on the back of it was scrawled the word “Hope.” As it turns out, Mack actually had a family before. Hope was his daughter, but she only lived for four days. The day the episode takes place happens to be the day before Hope’s birthday, and the text he got earlier in this episode was from his ex, who usually needs help to get through the time. Yo-Yo feels bad for assuming Mack was sneaking around and apologizes, and they grow closer because of this.

Radcliffe, meanwhile, is held captive at HQ. Fitz goes down to explain that he was investigating Aida’s files hoping that he was wrong about Radcliffe, because they were so close. Radcliffe admits that Fitz is “like a son” to him, to which Fitz replies, “That’s why this sucks.” But Radcliffe’s explanation as to his “first priority” tips Fitz off to something, as Fitz goes to the guard on duty to take his weapon. He shoots Radcliffe in the head, and the bullet pings off because dammit, this Radcliffe was an LMD, too.

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The real Radcliffe? In Nadeer’s office, all but confirming that LMD May (unwittingly) was the leak here. Radcliffe explained that as soon as Aida was caught, he had to replace himself, as things were getting a bit sketchy for him (nooo, reeeeeally). He was seeking protection, so he went to Nadeer, who explains that it’s not her who will be protecting him. Then she says he has to meet “the Superior.” (Ooh, spooky.)

In the wrap up, Radcliffe and Aida go over Real May’s new “Framework,” and let me tell ya: it’s pretty messed up. Radcliffe said that just fighting wasn’t enough to control her, as she’d just win. He wanted her to remember that she was fighting a fight she already lost, so all he had to do was “change the fight”… by sending her back to Bahrain, where she earned her Cavalry nickname, and where she ended up failing to save a little girl.

In this instance, though? She saves her. And that’s enough to keep Real May solidly embedded in the Framework. Oof.


Quick Takes:

  • Really, all it takes is one suggestion that anybody can be an android and I’m all over accusing everyone. I’m not sorry for that.
  • There were a lot of great moments, but Mace’s talk with Daisy before the hearing was one that resonated with me a lot. Their shared experience over always “needing to perform” for others hit me real hard.
  • God, Radcliffe, I really was rooting for you. We were all rooting for you. Dammit.
  • Nadeer’s being one step ahead of the agents is getting frustrating, and awesomely so. Parminder Nagra is seriously nailing the role.
  • I’ll say it again: Protect Yo-Yo and Mack. Dammit, they better stay together.

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (thebolditalic.com), and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters (spinningplatters.com). She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.