The path to answers was littered with brains in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 11. Check out our recap and share your thoughts on “The Magical Place”!

Here’s what happened on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 11, “The Magical Place.”

The first lead

Team Coulson (sans Agent Coulson) work together to track down a fellow named Vanchat, who has sold Chitauri metal to Centipede. Agent Victoria Hand thinks they will be able to use him to trace the organization.

Agent Coulson has been missing for 36 hours. Hand has taken control of the Bus, which is packed with her agents. She is having Vanchat interrogated and is determined to destroy Centipede. Hand mentions that poor Mike Peterson’s burned remains have been found.

Skye quickly pisses off Hand after trying to hack into S.H.I.E.L.D. records in plain sight. Hand is livid. Ward says she’s a member of the team and can help, but when asked, May says she won’t. Hand orders Skye off the plane.

Skye is furious, and desperate to find Coulson. FitzSimmons sneak Skye a satellite phone and Ward tells her that she has a few minutes before being collected.

“Don’t touch Lola,” she tells another agent as she walks off the plane.

Skye’s the limit

At a cafe, Skye tries to hack S.H.I.E.L.D., but her bracelet stops her. She locates a man named Lloyd Rathman, buys a hot leather outfit and steals his car. Skye deliberately crashes the car so she can be towed to the guy’s house and quickly researches his exploits.

When Rathman gets home, Skye, in her leather outfit, tells him that she is Agent Melinda May, and that he is in a lot of trouble. Skye guides him through his records to money paid to Vanchat. She finds Raina in the list and drives off in another one of Rathman’s sexy cars.

Meanwhile, on the Bus

FitzSimmons do science, and Ward takes over the interrogation of Vanchat. When Vanchat refuses to talk, Ward straps himself in. Watching in the lab, FitzSimmons electronically remove the ceiling panels in the holding cell. After nearly being sucked out of the plane, Vanchat agrees to, you know, chat.

Using that information, Hand directs the plane to Sydney. S.H.I.E.L.D. is desperate to find Coulson, which bewilders Hand. “It’s unprecedented; this kind of response for a Level 8 operative,” she says. “No single agent is that important.”

“Coulson is,” Ward says.

In the cockpit, Ward gets on May for letting Skye get tossed. May tells him that she got Skye far away from the prying agents – she is outside the system now, where she works best. “You don’t have to assume the worst of me,” May says softly, as Victoria Hand sends over new coordinates for a Centipede helicopter in the Mojave desert.

Coulson feels the heat

Coulson receives a massage in Tahiti… or so it seems, until he wakes up in a shadowy room after being tortured by Edison Po. Po wants Coulson to share his memories, or else The Brain Machine will rip them out of his mind. Coulson says he’ll die before he lets them know anything.

Unfortunately for Po, the Clairvoyant cannot see anything that happened after Coulson died. For some reason, Coulson is different.

Yeah, because he’s Coulson, and he’s awesome.

After Coulson tries to escape – outside, he finds Po and a desert town populated only by creepy mannequins – Raina joins the torture team. She has been busy with “their other subject,” but Po wants her to use her (apparently literal) powers of persuasion to subdue Coulson.

The Clairvoyant calls, and is clearly unhappy. He speaks to a thrilled Raina. When she hands the phone back to Po, it latches onto his ear and fries his brain like a veiny purple potato.

The way to a man’s brain

Raina plays Good Cop with Coulson. She admits to working for the Clairvoyant, who gives them guidance for the “changing world” precipitated by S.H.I.E.L.D. Centipede has supersoldiers – they can make them and murder them – but they cannot bring them back to life.

Which is, of course, why they need Coulson’s memories.

Raina says that The Brain Machine helps uncover memories buried in the subconscious… as long as he doesn’t resist. “I want what you want,” she tells him. “The secret S.H.I.E.L.D. is keeping from you.”

Finding no path of entry through his feelings of duty to S.H.I.E.L.D., Raina goes for Coulson’s heart. She talks about the life he might have had with an unnamed woman who we must assume is the oft-mentioned cellist.

Coulson tries to resist, but when Raina mentions Tahiti, he reflexively responds, “It’s a magical place.” Pushed over the edge with doubt and frustration, he tells Raina to turn on The Brain Machine.

Hitting the dirt

Skye calls on the satellite phone as FitzSimmons show May and Ward how to hack the Centipede soldiers with a dendrotoxin arm bracelet. Simmons says “manscaping.”

Hand wants to go to Centipede’s lab, but May insists on going to the deserted farm Skye has located. Ward insists that they are going to get Coulson.

Skye and the team arrive in Mannequinville. Ward manages to knock out one of the Centipede soldiers with the dendrotoxin arm bracelet as the rest of the team searches for Coulson.

“Let me die.”

With Coulson back in The Brain Machine, Raina tells him to think back to his first memory after he died. At first, he sees Tahiti… until Dr. Streiten shows up in surgical gear.

Coulson remembers Fury’s face, green tubes and an operating theater. A flash of the cosmos, and then he is lying on a surgical table. Coulson becomes aware that a creepy-ass, bug-like machine is probing at his exposed brain with needle appendages. He begs to be allowed to die.

Back in reality, Skye bursts into the room and decks Raina. May unplugs the machine as Skye begs a dazed, weeping Coulson to come back to himself. To her relief, he recognizes her.

Back on the Bus…

Raina and a bloodied-but-besuited Coulson exchange a Look before she is led away to a land with no flower dresses.

Hand tells Coulson that there is no word on the Clairvoyant. Coulson thanks the team quietly and takes off Skye’s bracelet. He says that Centipede learned nothing from him, and that what he saw was not real – “They were just messing with my head,” he says.

Confession

But that evening, Dr. Streitan gets into his car to find Coulson waiting in the back seat.

“After New York… you were dead for days,” Streiten admits. Fury “moved heaven and earth” to bring him back, doing terrible things to Coulson’s mind and body. His suffering, the doctor says, was “ungodly.” They wanted to remove that memory, so he would remain Coulson – not “That thing.”

“What did I become, doctor?” Coulson asks.

“You lost the will to live,” Streiten says. “We tried to give it back.” He apologizes, but Coulson has walked off into the night.

In the tag…

A hideously burned Mike Peterson awakens in a dark cell. His arm and face are hideously burned, one leg amputated above the knee. But the worst change is not aesthetic; it is the ominous words of Centipede’s ocular implant crawling across his vision: “Stand by for further instructions.”

What did you think of ‘The Magical Place’?

Edited by Donya Abramo