I won't waste any time beating around the bush: "T.A.H.I.T.I." was not the return episode I was hoping for. It's not that it was bad—I enjoyed it and I think it was far better than some of the series' earlier episodes—but looking at it from a critical perspective, there were some flaws. I could blame the show's ill-timed month-long hiatus after a really wonderful episode like "T.R.A.C.K.S." for building up ridiculous expectations that the series could never live up to, but it's probably more accurate to say that my complaints about "T.A.H.I.T.I." go deeper than that. The episode didn't work the way it should have, because despite all of the characters proclaiming otherwise, this team of agents is not yet a family.
The idea of an unconventional family unit is a staple of Joss Whedon shows, and S.H.I.E.L.D. has often tried to sell Coulson's team as being a weird and wacky family in a way that doesn't quite fit everything we know about the group at this point in time. If S.H.I.E.L.D. was in Season 3, I think the sentiment would have made sense. But Simmons said it herself: They've only been working together as a team for a few months now. I've known people for years and don't like them enough to call them family. I don't even care enough to send them Christmas cards (I don't send Christmas cards). Sure, my friends and I don't work for a super-secret organization and haven't faced any life-or-death situations together (except for that time with the fireworks), but the point is: How can S.H.I.E.L.D. really be considered a family after only a few months on the job?
Coulson has known May for a very long time, and Fitz and Simmons feel like they grew up together, so there are some instances where the series' longer-term relationships give off the appearance of a deep familial bond. But at the moment, those relationships don't include Skye. I'm not quite so heartless to say that the team wouldn't or shouldn't react to Skye's failing health in a desperate way—they're human, after all—but statements like Coulson's "We're her family" ring false on account this so-called "family" having only known each other for a few months.
Fitz's reaction to Simmons' apparent death in "F.Z.Z.T." was a perfect example of how this sort of situation can lead to a great emotional arc and become a story that really resonates with the audience. But I can't say the same for what happened with Skye—a character that many fans of the series have taken issue with—as she lay dying in a hospital bed aboard the Bus while the rest of the team attempted to track down the surgeons and the medications used to bring Coulson back to life.
Of course, "T.A.H.I.T.I." was not about saving Skye—it was about discovering yet another piece of the complicated Coulson puzzle. Ian Quinn admitted that he shot Skye because the Clairvoyant told him to, and we all know the Clairvoyant only wants to know what happened to Coulson. This development severely undermines the Skye Is Going to Die situation, because it's not even about her. Once it became clear that Skye was simply a pawn in this really screwed-up game of I Spy, we had to look at the entire situation in a new light. If the team saved Skye, they would potentially be giving their unseen omniscient enemy exactly what it wanted. If they didn't save Skye in an effort to keep their enemy at bay, well then they'd all be a bunch of assholes, right?
Coulson and Skye share a bond that borders on a father/daughter relationship (although that's still a stretch at this point), and he feels responsible for her, which makes his reaction to Skye's predicament—and the role he indirectly played in putting her there—completely within reason. Fitz's guilt over letting Skye go off on her own to search for Quinn in "T.R.A.C.K.S." also fits the story, even as Simmons correctly pointed out that there's not much to be done once Skye sets her mind to something. Oddly enough, it was almost as if Fitz's guilt gave him a certain confidence at the Guest House that we haven't seen in awhile, and I'd like to keep it around. When he walked out of the elevator like he didn't care what would happen to him (even if he rightfully assumed that nothing would happen until they made it through the bulletproof glass), it made me respect him a little more. Even Simmons' reaction to Skye's situation was acceptable, because she's the one with the medical training, and she'll ultimately blame herself if Skye dies.
As for the rest of the team, I buy that Handsome is angry, but that's also his default setting. I was hoping we'd get more out of this than Handsome begging for a fight and throwing mean-girl stares at Coulson's back. S.H.I.E.L.D. had an opportunity to give his character some shading, but instead, it just rehashed everything we already knew about him. May's reaction was perhaps the most out of character; the woman has never shown more emotion than a toothpick, and yet she went to town on Quinn's face for putting Skye in that life-threatening situation. Puh-leeeze. All of these reactions were perfectly normal responses to knowing that a member of the team as dying in the next room, but we need more time for S.H.I.E.L.D. to really coalesce as a family before "We're her family" is anything more than a platitude.
Even though it may not sound like it, I did enjoy "T.A.H.I.T.I."—just not as much as I thought I would. And now that I've got my bitching out of the way, let's quickly run through the rest of what happened this week and all the questions that've arisen as a result. Coulson, Handsome, and Fitz, alongside Bill Paxton's Agent John Garrett, were able to find the medication used to save Coulson and administer it to Skye, thus saving her life. No one actually thought Skye would die, right? Unfortunately, saving her life life came at a price. Who and what was the alien in the tube at the Guest House? Was he Kree? Was he a member of the Blue Man Group? And what effect, if any, will this have on Skye, who we already knew was an 0-8-4? Will it unlock some dormant part of her biology? Will it give her powers as a result? More importantly, what has it done to Coulson, if anything? I'm very excited to see where this goes, but I can't stop thinking about the mysterious blue-skinned humanoid in the Guest House. The G.H. couldn't have stood for Guest House at that point, right? And BTW just WTF does T.A.H.I.T.I. stand for? Because I'm so over typing it at this point that if it's going to become a real thing, I need to know right now. Knowing it's a real acronym and not just a randomly selected destination to implant in Coulson's memory makes me slightly less stabby at having to write it out, but still.
It's unclear whether S.H.I.E.L.D. had always intended to take this route with Skye, or if the writers have simply come to understand that many viewers aren't happy with a comic book series that doesn't include anyone with superhuman powers, but even the possibility of introducing such powers, and the introduction of more alien lifeforms, will never be a bad thing. And now that Lorelei has arrived on Earth, and knowing that Lady Sif will appear in next week's episode, I think we might actually be looking at a series that's far more exciting than the one we previously knew.
– Everyone kept saying how Skye was an integral member of the team every time a computer-hacking issue arose, but they eventually found a workaround every time, which ultimately undercuts the Skye Is an Important Member of This Team mentality that everyone seems to have. I don't subscribe to the notion that S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to write her off, but the show certainly isn't doing itself any favors in that regard.
– Thoughts on Bill Paxton? I love Bill Paxton. I'm very happy he'll be around for several episodes this season. But can we trust Bill Paxton?
– Coulson wasn't treated by S.H.I.E.L.D., which is very interesting. Who were those guys, if not S.H.I.E.L.D.? And all of this talk about Director Fury means he has to appear again, right?
– I personally really enjoyed the scene in which Fitz and Simmons were going through all those documents. But it looked kind of tiring. I can go through a lot of documents on my computer and sit on my ass. They had to do full body movements and stuff. OMG I am tired just thinking about it.