Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Who Are the Traitors?

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Warning: Spoilers ahead for last week's episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as promotional material for upcoming episodes. Also, we'll probably casually spoil Captain America: The Winter Soldier. We're good like that.

Tuesday's episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., titled "Turn, Turn, Turn," is described by ABC as revolving around Coulson and company being trapped on a moving plane with a traitor. Based on the end of last week's episode, many fans would assume that's Melinda May...but it's more complex than that. HYDRA's resurgence in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the subsequent collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. presents a major challenge for a show called Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The fact that they've spent the first fifteen episodes chasing after an anonymous "Clairvoyant" and fixated on small-scale mysteries of their own past suggests a partial detachment from the organizational structure, but it's impossible to ignore that they no longer have resources, commanding officers or backup. And, yes, Victoria Hand was seen ordering the execution of everyone on board Coulson's plane at the end of last week's episode...something that throws a lot of suspicion on her, but even that may not be definitive. The one member of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast that we know to be on the wrong side of the law was HYDRA Agent Jasper Sitwell, who met his end in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Sitwell appeared in last week's episode, "The End of the Beginning," and left to board the Lemurian Star, a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship that had been overtaken by Batroc the Leaper and his group of pirates, as seen in Cap 2. "That was our pitch, and that was a lot of fun, said McFeely of the decision to turn Sitwell, as well as Senator Stern (played in Iron Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier by Garry Shandling). "With Sitwell, we needed to reveal someone who was boots-on-the-ground, who you'd seen before, to shake you up. Short of bringing Agent Coulson back to life and turning him bad — and we didn't know he could be brought back to life — we had to use some returning characters to make this conspiracy story ring true. It can't be all new people where you're suddenly saying, 'And Bob from Accounting who you've never met, he's HYDRA too!' You needed one or two recognizable faces to make the reveal resonate." Here are the names we're considering, and just for fun, I'm putting them in order from least to most likely to be evil/HYDRA/Centipede, according to the complex math of my own opinion.

Agents-of-SHIELD-End-Of-The-BeginningYndNTKdMelinda May

They've spoon-fed her as the traitor, but her story for who was on the other end of the phone -- Nick Fury -- feels more true than anything that Coulson and Fitz are assuming about her on the strength of "we found a phone line." She was really not eager to go back into the field, and followed Coulson into action fairly reluctantly. Then, as she was pressured into the field more and more, she suddenly stepped up and volunteered to do it. She's also become Coulson's closest confidant. All of this is the kind of thing that an agent working directly for Fury and reporting back on Coulson's progress with his investigations into himself and Skye might do. Granted, it's the kind of thing a traitor might do, too...but again, that's all too easy. And, as we've pointed out at least once before, this is still a Whedon show. There needs to be a girl who can beat up anybody they come across, and neither Skye nor Simmons qualify, at least for the time being.

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Phil Coulson This would be kind of awesome, right? A Fight Club kind of thing going on, where part of his brain doesn't know what the other part is doing? It could feel a little like the Mark Shaw Manhunter/Dumas thing... ...but it's not gonna happen. Coulson is the only thing that actually ties this series to the events of The Avengers and while the Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie-in will mean everyone on the show is suddenly a member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phil will remain the center of the story. Plus, you know. The cellist is coming. He won't be evil for that.

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Skye She's the writers' room Mary Sue, and the only character less likely than Coulson to die at this point. Her "near-death" experience following the events of "T.R.A.C.K.S." was one of the show's least-convincing cliffhangers because anyone with any sense for the show knew that Skye of all people was in no danger whatsoever. Same here; they already experimented with "Turncoat Skye" in the episode where her loser ex-boyfriend showed up. Doing it again would feel redundant unless the stakes were really high -- like, she's the Clairvoyant-high -- but that's just not something I can see happening.

jemma-simmons-portalJemma Simmons

Trapped alone at Big S.H.I.E.L.D., it seems likely Simmons will find her way back into the action with Team Coulson by way of Antoine Triplett, John Garrett's partner who has shown a romantic interest in Simmons. The odds of her being dirty are very small, but could she come back to the show bearing game-changing information about Skye that she couldn't have gotten if S.H.I.E.L.D. didn't have a major meltdown while she was in the right place at the right time? Time will tell... The one and only big thing that could suggest she's a candidate is that she's offsite when Hand says to kill everyone on board the plane...but with a secure line that goes straight to her, that seems more like a way to get them OUT of the mess than anything else.

triplettAntoine Triplett

It's hard to get a bead on Triplett, since he's had so little screen time and all we really know is that he works for Garrett and has a crush on Simmons. That's a good enough reason for him to be a suspect. We know nothing about him, and there's some baaad stuff going on at S.H.I.E.L.D. Still, there's something about him that makes us feel like it's not in the cards. If there is a mole, in fact, maybe Triplett can hang around with Coulson and company for the rest of the season and/or next season, rounding out the cast.

fitzLeo Fitz

A wild card. While the Fitz/Simmons thing is their trademark, we've seen that each of them can operate independent of the other, and that makes each of them a little redundant. Since Fitz is the one currently on the plane, that increases his odds.

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John Garrett The cold open for tomorrow's episode certainly makes him look innocent enough, as he's shocked to see S.H.I.E.L.D. drones firing on his plane and equally perplexed by an inability to talk to S.H.I.E.L.D. command. Of course, we've seen photos of upcoming episodes that feature Garrett hanging out with Ian Quinn and Reina the Girl in the Flowered Dress, and his "We're on the front lines of the battle for S.H.I.E.L.D.'s soul!" in the trailer for Tuesday's episode feels oddly like the lecture Jefferson Pierce gave Captain America about needing to tear the world down in order to rebuild it better. All that said, he and Victoria Hand seem to have an uneasy relationship; last episode she chastised him for his tone, and he didn't seem fazed by it at all. It could just as easily be that those future photos are he and/or Ward going undercover, using the general sense of chaos at S.H.I.E.L.D. to try and convince the bad guys they're all really on the same side. Garrett, really, is only this high on the list because there aren't many people I consider a legitimate candidate to be a traitor. He's the first I could see happening, and thus the lowest likelihood.

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Grant Ward We talked about this one quite a bit, actually... The bottom line is that there was a bit of subtext to Garrett's conversation with Skye in the last episode that seemed to be hinting at Ward being a bad guy. You can see way more at the link.

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Victoria Hand Well, she did say to kill everyone in our principal cast...and her character history in the comics is that she helped Norman Osborn take down S.H.I.E.L.D. and rebrand it at H.A.M.M.E.R. Of course, that was just the beginning of her traitor/not-a-traitor/double- or triple-agent character shenanigans... Bob From Accounting

hydra-bobYou know that's right.