‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 4.11 Recap: “Today Was a Kick in the Balls”

It’s getting to be increasingly difficult for me to stay interested enough in ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ to write a recap before the next new episode airs. Honestly, at this point, I only do so out of a feeling of obligation, having come this far with the show. Ironically, last week’s episode was titled ‘Wake Up’. I bet a lot of fans are having trouble doing that lately.

At the very least, the episode fills in a plot hole by explaining how Robo-May so seamlessly took over for May and how she seems to have May’s real memories and personality. In flashback, we witness Dr. Radcliffe enacting “Sunset Protocol,” in which he makes Aida (the original) attack and drug May, then scan her brain and upload her memories into the May-bot, who is activated and picks up precisely where May left off before she was attacked. She has no idea she isn’t real. None of this is at all plausible, of course, but by comic book logic standards, it’s sufficient to get by.

Radcliffe plugs the real May into a simulation of a spa vacation, but she hates it so much that she keeps seeing through the illusion and waking up, forcing him to wipe her memory and start over. (As if erasing a human being’s memory were as simple as hitting a Delete key.) Eventually, after her escape attempt, he realizes that he needs to build her a more appropriate dream. Aida (#2 this time) questions why he’d bother to keep her alive at all, and Radcliffe does an inadequate job of explaining morality to her. He doesn’t want to kill May, just keep her occupied long enough for the May-bot to get her job done. During this conversation, Radcliffe also reveals that he has another LMD robot in play, just in case anyone in the audience didn’t already see that twist coming a mile away.

Real May wakes up from her induced coma again and makes another escape attempt. Aida #2 has to chase her through the building trying to recapture her. May runs to a high floor, fights Aida, and kicks the robot off a balcony – at which point, the image pixelates and reveals that this entire sequence was of course another illusion. This is the new dream Radcliffe made for her, because he realized that her personality needs something to fight. Radcliffe calls this “The Framework.” May has already been through it a few times before, and every time she gets a little further.

As that’s happening, Robo-May confronts Radcliffe at his home. She discovered that she’s a robot due to the injury on her shoulder but hasn’t been able to tell anyone. She demands that he explain what he’s done, and he’s glad to tell her. Robo-May has all of May’s memories and personality, but her programming prevents her from compromising her mission by telling anyone that she’s not really May. Nor can she harm Radcliffe. He suggests that she return to work and let events take their natural course.

Just then, Coulson, Fitz and Jemma arrive at the house to arrest Radcliffe. Fitz figured out on his own that Radcliffe was behind Aida (#1) going evil. When they find May with him, she claims that she came to investigate the same thing.

After Radcliffe is taken into custody, Fitz attempts to question him. During their conversation, Fitz has a sudden revelation, asks the guard with him for his gun (and the guy just gives it to him?) and shoots Radcliffe in the head. The point of this is that he realized that Radcliffe was also a robot decoy.

The real Radcliffe foresaw that the team would eventually catch onto him and left the robot behind to distract them. Now he and Aida are hanging out with evil Senator Nadeer. They discuss someone called “The Superior.” May is still unconscious in Radcliffe’s custody, and this time he’s programmed an even better illusion for her. In her new dream, May has to relive the mission in Bahrain where she was forced to kill the evil little girl. This was a life-defining moment for her, which caused her marriage to crumble and altered her personality forever. In this version, Radcliffe has programmed it so that May rescues the girl and saves the day without the trauma. Will she buy it?

The Sting

Daisy is forced to testify before Congress (specifically, before Sen. Nadeer) about her supposed undercover operation where she was a wanted fugitive. While she’s doing that, Coulson comes up with a very obviously stupid plan to illegally plant spy equipment in Nadeer’s office so that S.H.I.E.L.D. can keep tabs on her. Gen. Talbot is aghast at this and orders Coulson not to do it, but he goes through with it anyway.

Coulson and Yo-Yo sneak into the office and start placing miniature cameras – only to walk into a trap. Nadeer knew what they’d try to do, and had armed agents waiting to arrest them. She then uses this as an opportunity to grandstand during the hearing and declare S.H.I.E.L.D. a criminal organization again. Although Coulson and Yo-Yo are released on their own recognizance for now, this looks very bad for S.H.I.E.L.D. and Talbot is furious.

In a side story, Mack dropped out of the spying mission and asked for a personal day after receiving a mysterious text. Yo-Yo (whom he’s officially involved with romantically now) finds this very suspicious, especially when he admits that he went to see an ex. As it turns out, Mack had a daughter named Hope who only lived four days after her birth. On the anniversary of her death, he and the ex visit the grave together. Yo-Yo feels like an asshole when she hears this story.

Episode Verdict

The plot twists in this episode (May’s escape being an illusion and Radcliffe having an LMD of himself) were easily guessable in advance. Both feel like clichés. Are we supposed to believe that the Radcliffe LMD was the second robot he talked about, or does he have another one unwittingly just waiting to be activated? I kind of hate the idea that the rest of this season will be a big game of guess-who’s-the-robot.

A friend of mine recently described this season of the show as “terminally boring.” I couldn’t agree more. The funny thing is, he was talking specifically about the current LMD storyline, but was a bigger fan of the Ghost Rider arc than I was. I’d have to say that his complaint fits the entire season. The show just feels like it has run out of steam this year.


  1. Exactly! I love the Marvel mythos, and used to get a kick out of their cleverness in loosely referring to and integrating movie and TV story lines. Now, i’m just bored. I no longer care who is real and who is not. Isn’t that done edgier on Westworld at this point? That being said, I have so much time invested, that I’m not quite ready to let it go…but I’m darned close. I may force myself to see the season through.

    • Josh Zyber

      The show’s ratings are pretty crappy this year. If it weren’t connected to Marvel, and if Disney/ABC didn’t still view it as a useful tool for corporate synergy, it almost certainly would have been canceled by now. As it is, I fear it’s going to drag on for at least another year.

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