You’d think that five episodes in a row of racing against the clock to protect the timeline would start to feel old hat, but somehow Agents of SHIELD manages to stay fresh in “A Trout in the Milk.”
The episode’s awkward title comes courtesy of Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), who is unaware that Henry David Thoreau’s once popular quote has since faded from the zeitgeist. For those wondering, the full quote is, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”
There are no dairy farmers in Agents of SHIELD to water down our milk pails and let fish in while cheating us, but there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that the Chronicoms are more steps ahead of our heroes than they know how to count.
Come With Me If You Want To Continue To Exist
The question of where Enoch (Joel Stoffer) is when the team reaches 1973 is one that’s only answered in a roundabout way, as at first glance Coulson (Clark Gregg) is concerned to find that he left the SHIELD pub over a year ago. While he shows up just in time to save them from Malick in a car whose fuel economy is best in class, it’s still strange that we don’t learn what he was up to before that.
That’s not the only strange circumstance. The fact that Wilfred Malick is alive at all when he should’ve died 3 years ago is another, and his prolonged longevity brings technology that’s three decades early. It seems the Chronicoms have provided him the necessary tools to launch Project Insight by 1976, which is intel that May (Ming-Na Wen) cleverly gets out of Agent Rick Stoner by pretending to be the flirtatious Chastity McBride.
Meanwhile, Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and Sousa uncover a list of threats – including Bruce Banner, Nick Fury, and Peggy Carter – that HYDRA plan to take out. But how do they know Bruce is a threat? Clearly due to Chronicom help from the future, and a set of them surround the team inside the club. Luckily, Daisy is quick enough to hold Wilfred’s son Nathaniel as a hostage to get them out. But showing him her powers plants a seed that will blossom into an ugly weed later. (Sidenote: I wasn’t the only one feeling the chemistry when Sousa pretended to be Daisy’s fiance, right? Let it be a thing!)
There are plenty of other unfortunate seeds to go around, including Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) with a disconcerting red light blinking in the back of her neck as she slowly loses her focus and scientific reasoning. A Chronicom invention or something more sinister? It doesn’t help that Deke’s (Jeff Ward) questions about Fitz and his own existence go unanswered, as I start to worry we may never see “Bobo” again. When Enoch returns to the Zephyr, he seems suitably concerned about Jemma, but they are interrupted before he can come to any conclusions.
Mack (Henry Simmons) and Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova) also run into a HYDRA complication: the supposedly abandoned SHIELD bunker in now a hub to test Project Insight before its official launch during the Bicentennial in 1976. Unfortunately, their smart plan to stop it three years early is halted by a sudden time jump into the exact day that it’s meant to fly into space.
The Fatal Flaw in the Human Condition
The differences between the organic and the synthetic reemerge in “A Trout in the Milk,” starting with strange behavior that the Chronicoms first can’t understand and later exploit. Malick choosing his son’s life over the deaths of several SHIELD agents allows them to form their next attack when said agents show up on the day of the Bicentennial.
Even though they’re under a time crunch, things seem to be going according to plan. May and Coulson are sent into Project Insight headquarters undercover in order to flood the place and stop the launch. Daisy and Sousa attempt to hack a HYDRA computer to obtain a list of prisoners, so they can rescue them from the flood. Deke and Yo-Yo, meanwhile, head to Wilfred’s hideout in River’s End to bring him in.
Jemma, Enoch and Mack stay behind on the Zephyr to monitor – and everything is checking out with 5 minutes to go before launch. But then Daisy and Sousa get knocked out by Nathaniel himself as payback and are unable to give Mack the prisoner information. Then Deke, horrified that his failure to pull the trigger once helped make the world so much worse, shoots Malick dead before he can provide some crucial information.
That information? Mack’s parents are actually prisoners of HYDRA, and will be beyond rescue if May and Coulson flood the headquarters. He understandably calls off the mission, which is a tragic waste of May’s amazing right hook, and switches to shooting the missile out of the sky with the Zephyr. It works, but it also gives their location away to the enemy. What will happen to them now?
Another instance of humanity coming into question is in our beloved Philinda, who have been through the wringer far too many times. May is still human while Coulson is an LMD, but he’s the only feeling nostalgic over how they used to be while she’s the ones who isn’t feeling anything other than secondhand emotions. What determines life and who gets to be considered human? Hopefully our heroes will decide for themselves by the time Agents of SHIELD ends.
Before it does, though, Daisy is in grave danger if Nathaniel successfully follows Daniel Whitehall’s instructions to steal her powers and give them to himself.