We open on a flashback to Ward’s last moments, as “It” takes over, slithering to him like a weird fleshy tentacle. There’s a supercut of Ward’s life—mostly S.H.I.E.L.D.-related. Kara dead, himself kissing someone (Kara? Daisy?), FitzSimmons screaming before he dropped them into the ocean.
NotWard is still holed up where Malick left him, in front of those TVs. Malick introduces him to their new pal ol’ Medusa Eyes, who is able to use his power on everyone except NotWard. NotWard does this creepy thing where he steps away from his body, leaving a floating body-shaped bunch of dust? bugs? Something. NotWard refers to itself in the first person plural and the particles swarm towards Medusa Eyes as they swarmed towards Giyera at the end of the last episode.
Talbot is at an airport and his wife is pissed off at him. Coulson surprises him there and they snip at one another about working together. Talbot’s not thrilled about running the ATCU (and the idea that Coulson is his boss), calling it a circus sideshow and proving that he’s as intolerant and pseudo-racist as his haircut might suggest. They prepare to head off to a Symposium in Taiwan. A baseball cap-wearing stranger follows them.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., the gang preps for the Symposium, which they’re calling a “Symposium on the alien contagion.” Daisy takes umbrage at that. She’s super protective about her powers, almost annoyingly so. She’s insistent that it’s a gift, not a disease, and that her powers have made her who she’s meant to be: someone who uses her gift to stop bad guys. Bobbi tries to gently point out that a lot of the baddies have been Inhumans and Daisy gets defensive, answering with the equivalent of “Well, yeah, but you humans suck, too!” Clearly, this new worldview of Daisy’s is going to mesh real well with everyone else’s. No friction at all. Of course.
Meanwhile, Lincoln is doing fieldwork, protecting Coulson as May directs him. He makes a funny re: Talbot’s awful haircut and for a second there I almost like Lincoln. He spots baseball cap wearing dude following Coulson and Talbot and alerts May. Coulson and Talbot discuss the Symposium. Talbot’s not sure how it’s supposed to assuage fears about those darn Inhumans, and Coulson reports that there is an inside man among the country delegates.
Baseball cap guy attacks. Coulson realizes their attacker is Creel, the absorbing guy the team met back in season two. Coulson, May, and Lincoln try to take him down. Lincoln gets a little too zap-happy and needs to be shouted down by May and Coulson. Talbot bursts out of the car, pissy (his natural state), and informs them all that Creel is with him—as his bodyguard.
Creel is put in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s lockup where Jemma and Fitz question him. He’s a human who survived contact with the terrigen obelisk, a rarity, so FitzSimmons decide to reopen their testing of him in light of what they know now about Inhumans.
Creel apparently killed Hunter’s friends Izzy and Idaho, which I forgot all about because I forgot that Izzy and Idaho even existed. But Lucy Lawless was Izzy, that much I recall now. Talbot insists that Creel’s been reformed, all of HYDRA’s brainwashing undone. The team is unconvinced, but Talbot refuses to go to the Symposium without Creel so Coulson has to agree. Hunter is annoyed. Daisy insists that she and Lincoln will take Creel down if he steps out of line and Coulson’s like “Whoa there, little miss.” She and Lincoln aren’t going because the Symposium is an Inhuman-free affair. She’s miffed. No weapons are allowed either. Hunter is super miffed. “You can’t take the bad out of a bad man,” he says, talking about Creel. We cut to NotWard. Great cut.
At Casa di Malick, where NotWard has moved on from TV to books, Gideon is worried that the host body isn’t healing. He suggests that NotWard take a new body, offering up Giyera, who looks a little ill at the thought. NotWard clarifies that he can’t take over an Inhuman and notes that Ward’s body will do for now, which makes me terrified that we may soon lose Brett Dalton. That would be a tragedy. He’s killing it as this creepy, soulless Inhuman.
On the S.H.I.E.L.D. plane, Hunter is aching to throw Creel off. May goes to collect him for the briefing and he proceeds to be annoying about that time he made a bad call and almost got Dr. Garner killed. They snip at one another about the mission, May suggesting she might prefer having Creel watch her back than Hunter. May’s like, “We’re not friends,” and I’m like, “You go, May!” I’m glad that they’re not just sweeping Hunter’s massive faux pas under the rug and forgetting about it. May has every right to dislike him.
Coulson briefs the team: They’re going in to collect intelligence on any foreign Inhumans and figure out who the inside (wo)man is so that they can track that person back to Malick. Go team, go!
At the Symposium, Talbot is wearing the official long gown of Taiwan, and he’s pissy about it. Coulson poses as Dr. Sean Lundwall, a biologist. Talbot proceeds to be ridiculous and pretty damn racist (Sushiyaki… oof), assuming everyone they speak to is the inside man. Coulson shakes hands with each of the delegates, collecting their handprints via the awesome new hand Fitz made for him, so that the team can use the print-gloves to break into the delegates’ rooms for some snooping.
Malick heads out, leaving Giyera with instructions not to leave NotWard’s side. NotWard nopes that, sending Giyera and Lucio (Medusa Eyes) to collect five humans and bring them to him, alive.
Daisy and Lincoln have a sexy-sparring session (though Lincoln legitimately wonders why they can’t just Netflix and chill instead, on their night off). The sparring is well choreographed but otherwise not anything special. It’s half fighting/half foreplay, like many a sparring match between love interests that have come before it. Mid-foreplay, Jemma interrupts to collect Lincoln for assistance testing Creel’s blood.
At the Symposium, Talbot tries to be pleasant and comments on the delegates’ unpronounceable names. Sigh. “Dr. Lundhall” explains to the assembled group that the Inhumans are simply humans with a genetic anomaly, an extra oomph. A.k.a., they’re Mutants, but Marvel isn’t allowed to say that word.
Petrov, the Russian delegate, is more than happy to open up Russia as an Inhuman sanctuary, telling the delegates that they could send all Inhumans there. Sounds like a brilliant idea. King, the Australian delegate, is paranoid about an Inhuman uprising. The other delegates fall somewhere in between on the Inhuman comfort scale.
Meanwhile, the agents poke around in the delegates’ rooms. Hunter sees something shiny and gets distracted—or, okay, he spots Creel leaving his post and decides this surely means he’s double-crossed them, which is a silly assumption and Hunter is just really annoying, compromising yet another mission. Hunter goes off after Creel, grabbing a gun that he snuck in.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., FitzSimmons show Lincoln a nifty little thing that they’ve discovered about Creel’s blood: It can act as a vaccine against terrigenesis, giving immunity to those who have the genetic anomaly and would otherwise be transformed via terrigenesis. Daisy shows up and is annoyed at the idea that Lincoln would want to put an end to Inhumans. Ugh, Daisy.
The delegates put the Russia Inhuman sanctuary issue to a vote. May decrypts a text from the Aussie delegate saying to “move him now.” Bobbi scales the outside wall (badass) to get into the Aussie delegate’s room, because Hunter is totally useless, off chasing Creel. She breaks into King’s safe and sees paperwork noting that King has an Inhuman locked up for military testing. But King isn’t working with Malick.
Hunter breaks into a truck and sees the unconscious body of Talbot’s son in a gel-matrix cube. He’s knocked out by Creel, and it would be incredibly annoying if Hunter were actually right about all this. Doesn’t matter though, still satisfying to see Creel hit Hunter. Sorry, not sorry.
Talbot halts the delegates’ voting, revealing “Lundhall” as Coulson and revealing himself as Malick’s inside man just as Malick himself makes an appearance. He also claims that Coulson is the director of HYDRA.
May and Bobbi rescue Hunter. Hunter explains that HYDRA has Talbot’s son and May puts two and two together, quickly realizing that Malick is blackmailing Talbot. Hunter reveals that he snuck in weapons (he’s useful sometimes, even I’ll begrudgingly admit). May heads off to rescue Talbot Jr. while Bobbi and Hunter go to save Talbot and Coulson.
Daisy and Lincoln have a really boring argument about the Inhuman vaccine. Daisy is insistent that the vaccine shouldn’t be used at all, that Inhuman powers are a birthright and that in the hands of the government, the vaccine would wipe them out. Lincoln counters with the case of Lash/Dr. Garner, who clearly would’ve been better off not having transformed. Daisy storms off.
Malick shows the delegates a picture of a dead Inhuman and a picture of the gel-matrix cubes used to keep Inhumans in suspended animation, claiming that Coulson wants to eliminate all Inhumans. Not really sure why these two out of context pictures constitute proof of that, but okay, Malick. It works, and Coulson is taken away by the guards.
Back at Malick’s headquarters, NotWard stands among the collected humans, preparing to put them to use for a “greater good.” Not as a new host, he clarifies. Lucio is weirded out by the idea of sacrificing innocents, so he’s probably not long for this world. Oh, sweet summer child.
Predictably, Malick double crosses Talbot, refusing to return Talbot’s son in exchange for Talbot’s turn against Coulson. Malick echoes NotWard’s sentiment about the need to sacrifice them on behalf of a “greater good.” Malick is building an army, and seems entirely unworried when Coulson mentions a human army will rise up to fight against them. Hm. Well, that’s not good.
Coulson and Talbot bicker like two little old ladies while waiting to be killed by Malick’s men. Creel busts in and rescues them and I’ve gotta say, for an ABC show with an ABC budget, the visual of Creel transforming is pretty nifty. The dynamic duo flees while Creel fights off HYDRA, leading to the excellent visual of the two running while handcuffed together, Talbot carrying Coulson’s hand. Buddy comedy, stat.
Meanwhile, Bobbi and Hunter fight off a few HYDRA agents of their own, with Creel rescuing Hunter and proving himself changed (though Hunter does issue the requisite “this doesn’t make us even” grunt). Coulson sends Bobbi and Hunter after Malick, telling them to stay on him.
May pulls up with the truck containing Talbot’s son. Yep, that’s right, May is so badass, we don’t even need to see her rescue mission in action. She just gets it done.
Lincoln and Daisy make up after he admits that he’s jealous of how zen and in control of her powers she is. For him, it’s not so easy. They stop talking and have sex, because sex fixes everything! That’s how it works on TV, right?
Coulson and Talbot reach an understanding and Talbot tells Coulson to call him by his first name, Glenn. Sometimes. Oh, these two.
Coulson confides in May that he feels Malick is reporting to someone… or something. Cut to NotWard, fully healed and covered in maple syrup and surrounded by five bloody skeletons. A rebirth. Does it mean anything that Ward’s dead body is made like new? Is Ward still dead? Am I still in denial that Ward is really gone? Yes to that last one.
Malick gives Petrov a ride home in his fancy jet and they discuss moving forward with Petrov’s plan for a sanctuary state. So, as expected, Malick will be gathering the collected Inhumans up once they’re all sequestered in Russia. They’re making this way too easy for Malick.
Meanwhile, Bobbi and Hunter are hidden in the underbelly of Malick’s jet. This seems like a terrible idea, but maybe one of them will do something cool and heroic and it’ll work out in the end. Or NotWard will liquefy Hunter’s body. Either/or, it’s fine.