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Last week in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. former agent Grant Ward escaped and in this week’s episode, The Writing on the Wall, the team try to recapture Ward and Phil Coulson must track down a group of agents who were also injected with the alien GH.325 serum who are being killed off one by one. At the start of the show, a man enters an apartment with a woman that he has met. She says he looks familiar and as she attempts to figure out where they have met before, the man tells her that they do know each other. As he unbuttons his shirt, she sees the pattern tattooed on his chest, that matches the design that Coulson keeps carving and the tattooed man tells the woman that he will help her remember as she begins screaming.
The scene switches to Coulson who is back at the wall, sweating as he carves the symbols again, music blares in the background and Skye comes in to turn it off just as Phil breaks the knife blade. He and Skye talk about the symbols and what might they mean and after calling the design an “everlasting gobstopper of firewalls.” Skye reveals that despite searching everywhere she has no idea what the carvings are. Phil asks her to keep at it. Skye asks when May will return and the director tells her when Ward is found.
Ward is spotted at a bus depot by Triplett and Grant reveals that he has strapped C-4 to his torso and has a “dead-man’s switch” in his hand. Coulson tells his agents to back off as the former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative is not bluffing. Skye tells Phil about a woman found murdered with the alien symbols carved on her body. The director recognises the woman, whom viewers met at the start of the show, as being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. In The Writing on the Wall, Coulson goes to great painful lengths to learn about who the other members of the Tahiti project were and to find out what the symbols mean.
When Phil and Skye go to the woman’s apartment they discover more of the symbols and later, after Simmons does an autopsy, they learn that the dead agent also has GH in her blood. They lie to Simmons about Coulson carving symbols on the wall and he tells them they will have to torture him to get more information about who the deceased woman was and who her killer may have been. He cannot remember anything on his own, but it is connected with the Tahiti project.
Grant Ward gets on a bus and spots Lance’s ex, Bobbi, he passed her on the way to the bus, and “makes her” as an agent. Telling her that she almost got past him, he warns Agent Morse to back off. Leaving the bus, which was headed to Houston, he moves to another one going to Boston and Lance is on that one, wearing a cowboy hat. The agents do not miss a beat and Ward stays under surveillance.
Phil Coulson gets in the memory machine to find out how many other Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took part in the GH program and how many began writing and carving symbols like those he puts on the wall. Apparently all of them went crazy except for one. He also reveals that all of the ones who had their memories replaced were taken off of agent status and given new lives but for one whom he must now find. Lance follows WArd to a bar where he meets with Bakshi from HYDRA.
May calls in just as Skye calls her and is upset to learn that Coulson went into the memory machine. She tells Skye to lock Phil up till she returns and Coulson locks the younger operative up instead. The agents in the command post do not learn of Phil’s trickery until much later. Coulson tracks down one of the remaining agents and Fitz reveals to Mack that the brain never really deletes files, it makes a back up, as Mack asks Leo if he has one Simmons finds Skye.
Melinda May, Triplett, Bobbi and Lance decide to go into the bar after Grant. Coulson is knocked out while talking to the former agent by the one man who did not have his brain wiped clean. May and her crew find Bakshi whom Ward has left as a gift to Phil. Former Agent Sebastian reveals that pain helps him remember. After escaping, with the help of the other former agent Phil and Sebastian face off and Coulson forces Derek to see the 3D image that the other former agent built. Mack and Skye are there when it happens and she learns the the diagram was not a map, but the blueprint of a city.
The former agent learns that he was part of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he lets Phil know that he does not want to return, but wants to be “Hank Thompson” and he gives Coulson his business card before leaving. The writing on the wall, or carvings, having been revealed as a city, has allowed Coulson to find peace and he no longer carves the images compulsively. Ward contacts Skye and promises to leave more presents for S.H.I.E.L.D. like Bakshi. This episode puts Coulson through the wringer and gives Grant Ward fans a little “eye candy” time. Both agents are still on separate missions and when Skye talks to Grant she tells him that she sees his gifts like a “cat bringing in dead birds.” Chloe Bennet gets the best lines again scoring two on the memorable delivery award with “dead birds” and the “gobstopper” remark.
By Michael Smith