At long last, the secret of the Koenig triplets is revealed! Are they androids? Clones? Siblings? Read on and find out!
Our episode starts with Agent Billy Koenig and the living one of his identical triplets, Agent Sam Koenig, riding hoverboards in an arcade while quoting classic geeky movies to each other. (Note: While S.H.I.E.L.D. is known for their crazy comic book tech, I am referring to the self-balancing scooter). As Sam goes to the bar to get another round and Billy plays a zombie shooting game, two Russian mercenaries burst into the arcade looking for one of the Koenigs (I’m not honestly sure which, by the photo). One of the Russians goes for Billy, and one goes for Sam – who leaps behind the bar and commences a shoot-out, before Billy knocks both thugs. Billy runs outside and tries to activate his communication watch, but is knocked out with a stun baton by our least favorite Watchdog, Terrence Shockley. The Russians load Billy into a truck as Sam runs out and uses his communication watch to call Coulson: “This is Agent Koenig; they’ve taken Agent Koenig!”
i’m glad to see Patton Oswalt back in action, but this is going to be a really difficult episode to cover.
On the S.H.I.E.L.D. jet Zephyr One, Director Phil Coulson (feels good to say again) briefs Agent Daisy Johnson and the secret LMD android of Agent Melinda May (What should I call her this episode? Stick with Mayda?) on Billy’s disappearance. He reveals that Billy was the person he hired to make the mystical tome the Darkhold “disappear”, and so whoever kidnapped him must be both after the book and know S.H.I.E.L.D. secrets – it must be newly re-minted villain, Dr. Holden Radcliffe. He speculates (correctly) that Radcliffe has joined forces with anti-Inhuman Senator Ellen Nadeer and the Watchdogs, using their resources to track down Billy and using them as protection. Coulson is notified that Sam is arriving for debriefing.
In the lab of the S.H.I.E.L.D. base The Playground, Agent Dr. Leo Fitz (with what appears to be a new fade haircut) is tending to the formerly-secret LMD android of Radcliffe, and paralyzes him from the neck down for questioning. He asks where the real Radcliffe is, and the LMD refuses to co-operate, believing himself to be the real Radcliffe. Fitz’ boss/girlfriend Agent Dr. Jemma Simmons and the muscle Agent “Mack” Mackenzie arrive with Mack’s shotgun-axe, and help intimidate the android. He still claims to not know where Radcliffe is, and tells them that he is the victim – that things are not what they seem.
I’m going to pause here to reflect on this season’s interesting commentary on the responsibilities we have to artificial intelligence; when is killing a being with thoughts and emotions okay? What makes something “sentient”? At what point do we decide that an android is no longer a machine or a tool, but a living being that has the rights of a person? It’s a thought-provoking contrast in that neither Inhumans or LMDs are strictly human, yet S.H.I.E.L.D. fights and condemns The Watchdogs for treating Inhumans as “less than” – where they themselves are guilty of the same with LMDs. Are they in the wrong? Or are androids mere mimicry of flesh and blood?
In some sort of bunker, Radcliffe and Billy are tied up. Shockley tells them to get acquainted, as they are both going to die. Billy refuses to break under interrogation, welcoming death. Radcliffe, on the other hand, is openly opposed to the idea and thinks Billy has a screw loose from all the torture. Shockley assures him that that wasn’t torture; it was a greeting. The man who is going to enter the room is going to do things so unspeakable even he can’t watch. Billy defiantly says that Koenigs were programmed to tolerate pain. “Koenigs are robots” joke counter: 1. As Shockley leaves, Billy confides to Radcliffe that he is in intolerable pain and asks if he has any tools to kill him quickly. Radcliffe reveals that he is the reason Billy is captured; he told the Watchdogs that Billy had the Darkhold and then they double-crossed him.
Sam’s Quinjet docks on the Zephyr One, and Coulson, Mayda and Daisy welcome him on-board. He tries not to fan-boy over meeting the superhero “Quake”, even though he’s known Daisy for like three years. Sam reveals to Coulson he followed the Watchdogs to the dock, but they either evaporated or dove into the sea. It is then revealed that the “bunker” is an old submarine.
Aboard the sub, Radcliffe explains that the things he saw in the Darkhold expanded his brain into a whole new realm of possibilities. Billy accuses him of getting “Gollum-y”, and Radcliffe agrees, saying the Darkhold drives you mad. As the two Russian goons wheel a cart with a toolbox into the room, Radcliffe tells Billy to show them where the Darkhold is and let it drive them mad. They set out an onion on the tray, which confuses the prisoners, and leave. A menacing third Russian man enters, and calls himself the captain of the ship. He starts peeling the onion, and sternly tells them that if they co-operate they will be treated as welcomed guests – if they do not, they will be removed piece by piece. He opens the toolbox and pours a clear liquid into a test tube, examining it intently. He then drinks the liquid and sniffs a slice of onion, happily telling them it is only vodka – very pure vodka, and the onion enhances the experience. He complains that people put flavors into vodka these days, and yearns for the “good old days” where things were built to last. He says people put too much faith in modern machines, proclaiming “men” the superior machines. He then declares himself the superior man.
So this is the Superior.
The Superior shatters the test tube in his hand, remarking that Billy won’t talk and claimed to enjoy pain. He confesses that he too enjoys pain; especially inflicting it. He holds Billy’s eye open and brings the shattered test tube uncomfortably close to the eyeball before Radcliffe stops him. He unties himself, ending his fake ploy as prisoner, and says that Nadeer promised that Billy wouldn’t be permanently damaged. The Superior protests that he is the captain, but Radcliffe suggests he gets inside Billy’s head instead.
Simmons plugs in the Radcliffe LMD (Let’s call him Botcliffe) and says that Fitz is going to reprogram him to “sing like a canary”. He is confused by the phrase but still considers it an invasion of privacy. As Fitz pulls up the code, he finds himself unable to alter it – it is much more advanced than Aida 1.0’s code, technology he has never seen before. Every time he tries to rewrite code, it corrects itself, as Botcliffe starts twisting in strange ways and speaking in some scary-sounding language like ancient Sumerian. Latin? I’m not sure. Fitz shuts down the program, and Mack remarks the only thing worse than a robot is a possessed robot. Botcliffe agrees and claims that it wasn’t fun. Simmons asks where Daisy is when you need her, and Fitz gets furious and asks who programmed him – Radcliffe? Aida? He responds by simply whistling like a canary.
Daisy and Sam watch security footage of Billy and Sam’s attack at the arcade, and Sam jokes that Billy is not a fighter and simply hid the whole fight. Daisy corrects him, saying Sam is the one who hid behind the bar while Billy took out all the thugs, and Sam feebly accuses her of confusing them again. Daisy points out that he is still wearing the same outfit he wore at the arcade. Mayda and Coulson walk through the ship, and Mayda wonders what Billy did with the Darkhold. Coulson says that the point of giving him was that they wouldn’t know. Mayda claims that Coulson should have given her the book, but he points out they would have captured her instead – and he isn’t going to lose her. (Is this another Philinda shipping episode?) The pairs join up and Daisy remembers that the men who attacked the former director Agent Jeffrey Mace were Russian, and runs a facial recognition scan on one of the men in the arcade.
In the submarine, the LMD Aida 2.0 and Radcliffe put optical headgear on Billy. He tells them he won’t talk, but Radcliffe reveals that he can map Billy’s mind with this machine. Billy claims his mind is a steel trap. “Koenigs are robots” joke counter: 2. They sedate Billy and give him a relaxing simulation of a puppy via the Framework, and proceed to map his brain. The Superior remarks that the book better be worth it, and Radcliffe assures him that if they want to get rid of the Inhumans, this is how. The Superior asks Radcliffe what is in it for him, and he says a better world. The Superior remarks that they want the same thing.
Sidenote: I appreciate how the LMD of Radcliffe is clean-shaven and the real Radcliffe has a bit of a beard coming in. It’s a nice touch, and one that will probably be difficult to keep up in coming episodes.
Aboard the Zephyr, Sam begins fan-boying over working with THE Quake. She reminds him that they have worked together for years, and he dismisses the fact; then she was Skye, now she’s Quake. He tells her that there is a library of fan fiction about her, and tells her to Google it. He then corrects himself and tells her to definitely not Google it, because it gets pretty steamy. Not that he’s read it of course, but you hear things. People are shipping her with Black Widow, calling them “Quack”. Coulson and Mayda arrive, and Daisy praises their timing. The facial recognition brings up Leo Babikov, a Russian mercenary from the same special ops division that tried to assassinate Mace, tying him to Nadeer – he also has ties to Russian Prime Minister Ovshenko, the man who threw ex-agents Dr. Bobbi Morse and Cpl. Lance Hunter under the bus, exiling them from any communication with S.H.I.E.L.D. or it’s agents.
Russian Prime Minister, American Senators, the Watchdogs and Radcliffe all working against S.H.I.E.L.D. in the fight to eliminate Inhumans. Does this mean the exile was illegitimate? Does this mean we’re gonna see Bobbi and Hunter again? If Ovshenko is thrown out of office, Bobbi and Hunter get to come back!
Sam points out that their enemies will want the Darkhold to use it to wipe out Inhumans. Coulson is surprised that Sam knows Billy had the Darkhold, and he reveals he couldn’t say anything with all the “red-shirts” around. Mayda asks what Billy did with the Darkhold, and Sam says it is secure.
In the lab, Botcliffe says he would like to help Fitz, but he has trust issues. Fitz explodes, saying he betrayed them all. Simmons points out that the android isn’t really Radcliffe, and Fitz says that he still thinks the same way; he lied to them all and pretended he was Fitz’ friend to use them. Botcliffe claims Fitz was like a son to him, and Fitz tells him to shut up. Botcliffe continues, but Simmons tells him to shut up. Mack suggests switching him off, but Fitz says they need to have him on to access his programming – not that that was getting anywhere. Botcliffe says that they all have programming, his is just more obvious than others. Humans are programmed by abandonment, betrayal – his friend Grant Ward betrayed them all and left, Daisy betrayed them and left, Fitz’ father –
Simmons holds a furious Fitz back as he goes after the android and calms him down. Fitz confides that he’s really just mad at himself; the android’s programming is way beyond his capability, he can’t do it. Botcliffe remarks that that is Fitz’ father talking – isn’t that what he used to say? “Not enough, not smart enough?” Fitz asked why he would say that, and Botcliffe reveals that he (meaning Radcliffe) knew him. Fitz says that isn’t possible, but Botcliffe retorts that Glasglow isn’t that big. They were classmates together at St. Mungo’s in Eastwood. Simmons reassures Fitz that he is lying, but Fitz claims there is no way Radcliffe would know that. Simmons theorizes that Botcliffe read Fitz’ file because he knows he’s close to cracking his code, and Fitz reiterates that he isn’t, and everyone in the room knows it. Simmons denies this, but Botcliffe uses Simmons’ voice to quote her – “Where’s Daisy when you need her?” Simmons protests, and suggests wiping it’s memory and giving it to Mack, to which Mack concurs. Botcliffe continues, saying that he and Fitz’ dad weren’t friends, but they would ride the train to work together. One day he proudly showed him a picture of his new baby boy: Leopold. He promises he is telling the truth, and offers to prove it. He says he say him a few months ago, and he told him to tell Fitz –
We don’t know. Fitz unplugs the android and storms out of the room.
Aida 2.0 and the real Radcliffe map out Billy’s brain, and Shockley inquires how long it takes. Aida 2.0 mentions that is isn’t much longer, and Radcliffe asks why the Superior hates Inhumans. He says that they did not earn their power, they didn’t work toward it. Because of this they are unnatural, and he will wipe them out and what brought them. Radcliffe asks what that is, and Aida 2.0 interrupts, saying that the mapping is complete. Radcliffe removes the headgear from Billy (who is confused over where his puppy went) and Shockley takes him to the brig. Radcliffe puts on the headgear and begins to access Billy’s memories. He sees him programming something with wires and a timer and surmises that Billy built a bomb to destroy the Darkhold – before declaring it a false alarm, realizing it was just a custom Darth Vader alarm clock.
As Sam tells Coulson & co. that he knows it is secure because Billy gave it to him, Radcliffe sees a memory of Billy handing the book off to “himself” and realizes he doesn’t have it – he gave it to someone who looks just like him, a brother or… a replica. “Koenigs are robots” joke counter: 3.
Mayda asks where the Darkhold is, and Sam says he doesn’t know. Coulson points out that he said Billy gave it to him, and he affirms that he did. Mayda asks if he forgot where he hid it, and Sam claims he didn’t hide it. Coulson asks if he still has it, and Sam says no. Mayda asks what he did with it, and he says he gave it to Agent Koenig. Daisy asks if he gave it back to Billy, and Sam says no. Mayda asks who he gave it to, and Sam says LT Koenig. Daisy asks who LT is, and Coulson remarks that they are a special agent. Daisy asks what we’re all thinking – there’s another Koenig? Sam claims that LT isn’t just “another one”, LT is the ORIGINAL one; the one who got them all into S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first place. “Koenigs are robots” joke counter: 4 – but I’m starting to believe it. Coulson says they need to pick up LT, because no Koenig is safe.
In the kitchen, Mack asks Simmons about Fitz’ father, saying he never mentioned him before. Simmons says that he was not a good man, always calling Fitz “stupid” and “useless” and walking out on them when Fitz was ten, never seeing Fitz since. Mack angrily says he wants to have words with him, and asks how S.H.I.E.L.D. is unable to find him with all the tech at their disposal. Simmons reveals that they could, but Fitz doesn’t want to.
Daisy and our favorite red-shirt Agent Davis arrive in a hipster club called the Soul Patch, where Mayda tells them is the last known locating of LT. (Fun fact: Agent Davis is played by Maximilian Osinko, husband to Dichen Lachman – Whedon regular and the actress of Daisy’s mom Jiaying.) Stationed in a van outside, Coulson arrives with green teas for Mayda. Coulson remarks that after all the missions and close calls they’ve been on (including both their deaths) that they should be thankful they’re still standing. He proposes a toast to that. Mayda points out that they’ve been toasting a lot lately, and suggests they try something else. They go in for a kiss, but are interrupted when Daisy tells them to get in there via comms.
As Daisy and Davis watch, A Koenig brother with glasses (LT?) starts an anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. slam poem about how we are all programmed robots (“Koenigs are robots” joke counter: 5) and slaves to the media. Upon noticing the identical Koenig quadruplet, Davis asks if they came off an assembly line. (“Koenigs are robots” joke counter: 6) A woman (played by It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Artemis Pebdani) sticks a gun to Davis’ back and orders him outside, and when he resists she flips him over her shoulder and subdues him. She points her gun at Daisy, and Coulson and Mayda enter and Coulson tells her to stand down. The-Koenig-who-may-be-LT accuses the woman of ruining his set, and she tells him he was doing that himself. Coulson informs him that they are with S.H.I.E.L.D. and he tells them they can’t be in this “peace palace” and starts an anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. chant. No one joins in. The woman shoots him unconscious with an I.C.E.R. and asks Coulson what he is doing there. Coulson reveals that she is in danger, and Mayda is confused. The woman introduces the slam poet as her useless brother Thurston Koenig – she is LT Koenig.
That’s a new development.
Aboard the Zephyr, Thurston complains that LT I.C.E.’d him and brought him aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. “warbird” (Captain Marvel reference?). LT tells Thurston to stop being a little bitch, and Sam assures him that they brought him aboard for his own protection. Now re-read that sentence and imagine I referred to them all as “Koenig”. Shudder. Thurston wants nothing to do with their “legion of doom”, and LT asks what went wrong with him; his quadruplets toughened up and joined the cause. Thurston argues that it didn’t work out so well; their brother Eric would still be alive if it wasn’t for them. LT retorts that Eric died so people could live and do good, questioning what good Thurston has ever done for the world. Sam breaks up the fight and brings it in for a group hug (which he calls a “Koenig Crush”), when LT punches him in the testicles. He complains, saying they were having a “moment”. She says he let his guard down, and tells him to grow them back. Thurston asks to go home. Coulson refuses, and asks LT and Sam to show their brother to his room. Daisy announces that she thinks she has a lead on Billy. She did some research, and found that the two Russian thugs and the scar-faced man from “The Patriot” all worked for a reclusive industrialist named Anton Ivanov, bringing up a picture of “The Superior”. She says he is a collector of military antiques, including a submarine, where Billy is probably being held. Sam remarks that at least the Darkhold is safe, and LT claims she gave it to Billy. As Radcliffe recaps via Billy’s memories, LT claims it was “Operation: Hot Potato”; pass it back and forth and keep it moving. (That kind of explains the episode title.) She says Billy was the last to have it, and suspects he put it in the Labyrinth, a top secret S.H.I.E.L.D. vault that only the Koenigs are aware of (that Radcliffe sees is hidden in a library). Coulson resolves to get there before Radcliffe, as Radcliffe sees via memories Billy uncover a keypad on the spine of a book and tells Aida 2.0 to remember the numbers. In the memory, Billy approaches a multiple keypads down multiple hallways and Radcliffe repeats the new numbers for each pad. At the end, Billy unlocks a safe, which opens a panel in the wall – this is where he places the Darkhold.
Radcliffe tells The Superior (hereby referred to as Ivanov) to turn the boat around, and Ivanov threateningly reminds him he is captain. He picks up a knife and says that Radcliffe relies too much on machinery – he is going to get the information out of Billy his way, and if it is the same, they will go. Radcliffe refuses to allow it, so Ivanov orders his goons to escort Aida 2.0 and Radcliffe out. Aida 2.0 punches through one of the Russians, killing him, and breaks Shockley’s hand. Ivanov accuses Radcliffe of bringing an Inhuman aboard, and Radcliffe says she is a machine; simple, built to last. He asks Ivanov to turn the boat around again.
In his room, Fitz looks at a picture of his mom and himself as a toddler. Simmons enters, and Fitz admits that he pretends that he’s over Radcliffe knowing his father, but he isn’t. He feels like he is stuck in a loop of being betrayed. Simmons refuses to see it that way, and said that he could have shut himself off after his dad, Ward, Radcliffe, etc betrayed him but he didn’t – he became the most loyal person because of it. Fitz interjects that that is probably why it is happening, and Simmons says it is why she fell in love with him. She says it is who he is, and is way beyond programming. Fitz realizes something and kisses Simmons, saying she is the best.
Left alone with Botcliffe, Mack threatens to shoot him. Botcliffe claims that will be murder, but Mack points out he isn’t Radcliffe – he’s not killing flesh and blood, just a bunch of ones and zeroes. Botcliffe claims flesh and blood isn’t humanity, it’s just biology – it’s programming just like him. Mack claims that it is different, because he has a soul that will continue on after he dies. Botcliffe asks how Mack is so sure he doesn’t have one too; if a soul doesn’t come from flesh and blood or ones and zeroes, then it comes from someone unrelated to their physical bodies. He points out that he is just as capable of having a soul as Mack is. He asks if Mack didn’t think he had a soul, why did he switch him on before killing him? Mack cocks his shotgun-axe and says he likes to hear robots scream. He goes to shoot Botcliffe before Fitz stops him, saying he figured out a way around his programming. As he saws open it’s head and it begs him to stop, he says he didn’t crack the code because it wasn’t a code. Mack asks if that means it’s alive, and Fitz says no – it means it has a brain, which he exposes via the sawed skull. He points out it is made of the same woven light Aida 1.0 used to make Sling Ring portals, but it functions like a biological brain. Mack asks if it is possible, and Fitz says not at all. Botcliffe explains that Aida 1.0 had mapped the brains, not him. Simmons notices that he said “brains”, not “brain” and realizes that she was there when Radcliffe mapped May’s brain – May is an LMD!
At the front for the Labyrinth, Sam tells LT to stay with Daisy and Mayda, and asks Coulson to come with him. Mayda decides to go with them anyway. Left alone, Daisy asks LT what it was like growing up with quadruplet brothers. She says there was a lot of crying. Daisy assumes they picked on her, but she corrects her – she picked on them. It was fun, but the laundry was disgusting; enough DNA to make a clone army. (Not technically a “Koenigs are robots” joke but I’m counting it. 7!) Sam opens the bookcase and asks Mayda and Coulson to wait there. Mayda pulls Ulysses off a shelf, and Coulson comments that he always wanted to take a month off and read it in Irish pubs. Mayda offers to go with him. She asks if he meant it when he said he was ready for whatever comes next, and they kiss.
Sam returns from behind the bookcase with the Darkhold and gives it to Mayda, and LT warns them that three armed men are approaching with Billy. LT and Sam leave. Coulson asks Mayda to give him the book, and she pulls a gun on him and says she can’t. He tells her to put the gun down, and she says she can’t – that she’s doing the right thing. Coulson says they are going to destroy it and asks her again to lower her gun, but she insists that she can’t. Coulson realizes that she isn’t programmed to do so, and comes to the conclusion that she isn’t May. Heartbroken, he wonders how long she has been replaced with an android, and questions why Radcliffe made her do this. She admits that she didn’t know what her mission was until she got her hands on the Darkhold. He asks where the real May is, and she claims she is the real May – her thoughts, memories, and desires are all real. Coulson says that May would never betray him, and Mayda claims that Radcliffe made some adjustments and goes to shoot him – before Daisy uses a concussion blast and knocks her into a wall and says Fitz and Simmons just told her that “May is a frickin’ robot”. Mayda tries to get up, and Daisy uses her powers to break her leg. They hear gunshots, and Coulson grabs the Darkhold and runs.
In the main lobby, Shockley holds Billy hostage and tells LT and Sam that if they give him the book, he will give them their brother. Despite being identical, Sam claims to have never seen Billy before in his life. Coulson arrives and throws Shockley the book, demanding he lets Billy go, to which he complies. Sam asks what they did to him, and he says they took his puppy. Shockley reaches for the Darkhold, and Daisy quakes it away and blasts him against the wall, as Coulson uses his I.C.E.R. on the remaining thugs. Billy grabs the Darkhold as Shockley uses his stun baton on Daisy, and more thugs arrive. LT and Sam kick their ass. Billy finds Mayda injured in the library, and sets down the Darkhold to help her. She knocks him out and takes the book. Radcliffe arrives and takes the book, declaring the mission accomplished. She begs him to take her with him, but he apologizes and says she wasn’t built to last.
Aboard the Zephyr, an injured Billy recounts that the “crazy mad scientist” Radclife and “cattle prod man” Shockley escaped with the Darkhold, and apologizes for letting Coulson down. Coulson points out they now have the name of the Superior, the man funding Radcliffe, Nadeer and the Watchdogs – they can hunt them and stop them. Sam expresses surprise that he built a fully autonomous LMD, and Billy claims that it puts them to shame. (“Koenigs are robots” joke counter: 8. Here comes the reveal!) Daisy tells Davis that Sam and Billy were part of the original LMD program. Sam says they are obsolete. (Not counting anymore.) Davis asks what they are and Sam replies that they are technicians. LT points out that Davis thought they were robots and all the Koenigs laugh. Thurston arrives and hugs Billy, but declares them all sheep. Coulson offers to take Thurston home, and thanks LT for the help.
Fitz, Mack and Simmons burn Aida 1.0 and Botcliffe (now I can go back to using Aida and Radcliffe). Mack hopes that is the last of them, but Simmons points out there is still Mayda. Fitz says that Coulson couldn’t destroy Mayda – until they find May, she is all that is left of her. Coulson watches Mayda on a stretcher, and Daisy tells him that they will find May. They leave.
Aboard the submarine, Ivanov declares their mission a success – even if they narrowly escaped. Ivanov, Radcliffe and Shockley all drink test tubes of vodka and sniff onions. Radcliffe remarks that it actually is better than way. He asks Ivanov what he meant earlier when he said he was going to destroy the thing that brought the Inhumans. Ivanov says that whenever there are Chitauri, Kree, or Inhumans there is always a man standing there, out of focus and in the shadows. Though he is dead, he seems to be everywhere – he was even there last night. He reveals pictures of Coulson. Radcliffe looks at the Darkhold in his possession, and agrees to help them get Coulson.
What an episode! Started off slow-ish but lots of great developments with Fitz and his dad, and lots of food for thought regarding artificial intelligence. Plus, we got more Patton Oswalt, a fourth and fifth Koenig, and their secret finally revealed! I give this episode another solid 8/10 – one for every “Koenigs are robots” joke I actually bothered to count.
And no, I don’t feel bad about misleading you all with the image of Botcliffe’s brain heading the article!