With the identity of the timeline-unraveling "thread" revealed, the team's mission to protect him at all costs leads each agent to question their own values. Is preserving the future of the world as they know it worth the destruction they could prevent?
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Late at night, Alphonso Mackenzie is driving the car with Deke Shaw on the passenger seat and Wilfred Malick is sitting in the back but tells Mackenzie that unbeknownst to him, the Chronicom Hunters are gaining on them. Mackenzie argues that the car can’t go any faster, but Malick counters it by saying that they gotta give ‘em the slip. Mackenzie explains to the two other men that he is going dark, and proceeds to turn off the car’s headlights. Once he does that, Mackenzie is able to hide the car in the alleyway, and from the rearview mirror, he sees the car that was tailing them drive past them. A short while later, Malick advises Shaw and Mackenzie to change clothes, because they will stick out in their fancier clothing. Shaw tries to get in contact with Daisy Johnson via a walkie-talkie, but there is no response. It is Malick's first time seeing it, and mistakes it for a telephone. Which leads him to naively point out to Shaw that his communication device needs to be plugged into something. Mackenzie asks Malick to be honest with them if they’re going to protect him. Instead, he lies to the two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and makes them think that he was nearly killed for the secret formula to some alcohol. It’s not until Mackenzie and Shaw are back inside the car, that Malick takes out a green vial that has the HYDRA insignia on it while saying to himself that the future will be his, just as he drops said vial in the alcohol bottle.
Meanwhile, back at The Krazy Kanoe, Phil Coulson and Johnson are tending to an injured Viola. Ernest Koenig complains that ever since Coulson and company arrived at his establishment, they have brought him nothing but trouble. Shortly thereafter, Yo-Yo Rodriguez and Jemma Simmons arrive and Koenig begrudgingly lets the two women in after they say the passcode. He is against Simmons operating on Viola at his bar. But Simmons argues that she needs to take out the bullet as soon as possible. Johnson and Coulson filled Rodriguez and Simmons on what they found out about Malick. Rodriguez admits that they couldn’t reach Shaw and Mackenzie after they realize that the two men likely don’t know Malick’s lineage. Coulson argues that they have to protect Malick so that HYDRA will form, because without its formation, S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t form in response. Johnson tries to persuade the group to alter the timeline, because so many lives could be saved as a result. But Coulson rebuffs that idea because something much worse could rise up in HYDRA’s place. Simmons also mentions that if they were to dramatically alter the past, they would likely be going back to a future that is unfamiliar to them.
Koenig tries to kick out the agents from his bar because word is out about them, which leads to Coulson calling Enoch using one of their walkie-talkies. He tells the chronicom that they are on their way back. Enoch also lets them know that May is awake now. This worries Simmons, who says it is much too soon and they have no idea what kind of side effects or complications she may have. Simmons orders Enoch to sedate May and put her back in the healing pod. Enoch promises to do his best, but points out that May does not seem to be in the mood to take orders. Eventually, Enoch comes across May who is doing some pull ups. He tells her that she doesn’t look too good, and perhaps she should rest for a bit. May stops her work out and informs Enoch that she will rest when she is dead. May realizes she knows Enoch, who says he is the best friend to Fitz, and that she and him have not yet met in this timeline.He tries to explain to Main that he is going to sedate her, but instead, May forces the sedative onto Enoch. May asks where Simmons and the others. Enoch explains that the team is on a mission.
Elsewhere, Malick tries to separate himself from Mackenzie and Shaw, but they refuse. They warn Malick that the cops that are after him aren’t the type to stop and won’t rest until Malick is dead.
Before long Koenig finds out the cops are all over looking for Malick. That includes Koenig’s place. With Viola now stabilized, Koenig hides the team in a secret chamber off of his office while he entertains who he thinks are just cops. As they look around his place, Koenig notices the shot glass where Simmons put the bullet she took out from Viola. He quickly slips over and gulps the liquor down, bullet and all. The Chronicoms, Luke and Abel, decide to break into his office despite his assurance that there was nothing there to see. They look around and were about to leave when the lady in red regains consciousness in their hiding place and starts to struggle against the restraints. While the team did their best to keep her quiet, in her struggle she tipped over a wine bottle. Rodriguez is in a position to catch it but she does not. The noise however alertes the Chronicoms; much to Koenig’s consternation since he had almost gotten rid of them. But before they could investigate further, it was reported that Malick’s car was located. They leave and after Koenig closes the door, the team comes back out.
Johnson asks the mystery woman why they were using Malick. She told them she was a friend of his father and was just trying to give the kid “a leg up.” As Johnson was talking to the woman, Simmons was examining her passport and noticed how she made a number of excursions into Germany. She then noticed a green droplet on her shoe. Borrowing a knife from Koenig, she carefully scraped it up and proceeded to examine it with her makeshift materials.
Back in the Zephyr, Enoch was attempting to increase the range on the radios the team was using to communicate. Johnson contacted him and said they could not communicate with Mackenzie and Shaw. He told her they might just be out of range to which Johnson offered. She also suggests that it’s just as possible that Malick might have done something to them. Enoch promises to keep working on reaching the boys while May, who had been listening to this conversation, disappears.
Now aboard the train, Malick examines the radio that Shaw was using to try and communicate with the team. He asks Shaw if he had truthfully invented the device. Shaw says that he did but what he is holding is just a prototype. Thus, Malick surmises that Shaw must be really smart if he was able to invent something that lets the person talk to someone without it needing to be plugged in. Shaw admits to Malick that tech is kind of his thing. Mackenzie however, uses this conversation as an opening to try to learn more about Malick by asking him what his thing might be. Malick admits that he was never too good in school, but was able to make friends. When asked how he lost his dad, Malick confesses that his family used to have a lot of money, but then they lost it all in the bank crash. His father killed himself by taking a walk off a tall building. Whereas his mother kind of lost it mentally after his dad’s suicide. She hasn’t spoken in almost two years. So he explains, that did what he had to do to survive. He goes on to confess that he doesn’t always want to do these jobs. That he has dreams and when this current job is completed, he’ll be sitting pretty. Mackenzie still doesn’t believe that this is all about liquor. Malick smirks as he tells Mackenzie that whatever it is he’s delivering won’t change the world. Mackenzie and Shaw exchange looks knowing this is not necessarily true.
At The Krazy Kanoe, Simmons has set up a makeshift lab on Koenig’s bar, analyzing the green substance. As Koenig watches, he tells Coulson that she really knows her onions. As Simmons works, Johnson asks her fellow inhuman if she is okay. Rodriguez tries to shrug it off and says she’s fine. But Johnson presses and points out that Rodriguez could have stopped the bottle from falling if she really wanted to. At first, Rodriguez claims she didn’t see it. Johnson apologizes because she thought Rodriguez had seen the bottle because she had been staring straight at it. Rodriguez then admits that she couldn’t move. She froze. When Johnson asks her why, Rodriguez admits she isn’t sure. But does theorize that maybe it has to do with the Shrike infestation messing her up. Their conversation gets interrupted when Simmons exclaims that she knows what it is.
After being told to dumb it down for the others, Simmons explains that the substance was an ingredient in the very first Super Soldier Serum. The one created by Abraham Erskine and given to Johann Schmidt who went on to become the Red Skull. Thus, they realize that Malick is about to deliver the key ingredient to create the first Super-Soldier serum.
Back on the train, Mackenzie and Shaw, take the opportunity to examine the cases of alcohol while an unsuspecting Malick is asleep. Shaw ends up opening one of Malick’s bottles and takes a swig. He grimaces as he acknowledges that it is indeed alcohol. Shaw, asks his superior what it is they are looking for exactly, but Mackenzie admits he doesn’t know. Although, he believes there is more to the story than some run-of-the-mill-bootlegging job. Eventually, Shaw’s invention works, and Enoch’s voice is heard, albeit with some radio static. Mackenzie tries to talk with Enoch, but it ultimately proves fruitless. Malick subsequently wakes up and sees Shaw has been snooping his stuff.
On the Zephyr, Enoch is still trying to communicate with Mack. May walks up in her normal fighting attire. She tells Enoch that Mackenzie and Shaw, are in trouble; therefore she needs to be in the field to protect them because that is her job. Enoch tells her she is in no condition to help them, especially in her 21st century attire. May then informs him that she is not asking for his permission. Enoch points out that since she woke up, May does not appear to be acting like herself. He asks her how she’s feeling, to which May tilts her head and answers honestly that she isn’t feeling much of anything. He surmised that there may have been complications in her surgery. She tells him the only complications he should worry about are the ones that he will suffer if he doesn’t tell her where the team is. Enoch states that he is not allowed to divulge that information.
Meanwhile at Koenig’s bar, the team is still trying to digest what Simmons has told them. Johnson believes that perhaps they should allow Wilfred Malick to die. This could prevent the Red Skull from coming into existence. She continues by saying that perhaps by killing Malick they can save the many lives lost after the formation of Hydra. Unfortunately, Coulson tells her that those things have already happened. They cannot and should not interfere because it could ultimately lead to something far worse rising due to their interference. It is eventually pointed out that killing Malick was the goal of the Chronicoms. They followed them to stop them from accomplishing that task. The debate on how to proceed with Malick is temporarily postponed when May comes on the radio. Simmons reminds Coulson she doesn’t know he is back. She tells May it is good to hear from her. May asks Simmons where they are. She tells her they are on their way back to the Zephyr. May asks about Mackenzie and Shaw, to which Simmons says to not worry about them. But is cut off by May telling Simmons that she will find them herself. Simmons asks that May not leave the Zephyr, but it appears that May is no longer listening. Coulson reminds Simmons they need to complete the mission first, and worry about May later.
Johnson goes back to the woman in red and tells her she is done being nice. She orders Viola to tell them where Malick is going to end up. Viola tells Johnson that Malick will be on the right side of history, and there is nothing they can do to stop progress. Coulson tells the HYDRA agent that they don’t want to stop anything, that they just want to find their friends. She then tells them if they want to stop it, they can go to hell. Koenig realizes the slip up, and tells them he knows where that is. He explains that Hell refers to Hell's Harbor. It’s where the double crossers go to double cross the double crossers. Viola smirks as she says that they will never get there in time, unless they can fly because there are no trains fast enough.
Koenig says he will tell them where it is, but only if they take him along. Coulson tells him it’s not possible. He reminds them that Malick is his responsibility. He wants answers and the only way he will help them is for them to take him with them. Begrudgingly, they accept his terms. Meanwhile, the Chronicoms have arrived where Malick, Shaw and Mackenzie ditch their car. They realize that the three men escaped via train. They go over their mission and say that once they deal with Malick, those that followed them to 1931, will be out of time.
Back at the train, Malick is still questioning why Mackenzie and Shaw are searching his crates. He tells them that if his recipient finds bottles open, it reflects badly on him. Mackenzie proceeds to ask Malick if he is not the least bit curious. To which Malick answers that being curious gets you killed faster than trust. Mackenzie vows that no one will ever know, and asks that Fred step aside, to which the other man relents. He asks Shaw to give him a hand and both men naively turn their backs on Malick. When they turn their backs, Malick pulls a gun on them saying once again he can’t let them look through the bottles he is transporting. He tells Mackenzie that he should listen to Shaw, because he just needs to do his job and then they can all go home.
Back on the Zephyr, May is going to leave to find Mackenzie and Shaw. Enoch apologizes as he says that he can not allow her to leave the ship. A fight ensues after May points out that Enoch doesn’t have the guts to pull the trigger. Enoch states that while he may not have an intestinal digestive system, he is very capable in applying pressure. Enoch removes his coat after May has punched him in the face and tells her that he does not wish to harm her. He throws a few punches and kicks, one of which lands on May’s arm. She grabs it in a bit of shock, and Enoch proceeds to tell her that since they are at war, he took the opportunity to upgrade himself with the Hunter level combat skills package. May state that in the end, a machine is still a machine, which has Enoch saying that there’s no need to make it personal.
The fight continues as May seems to evaluate each time she is hit and develops a counter. Eventually, she gains the upper hand and starts hammering on Enoch with a fire extinguisher. Coulson and the team arrive and he tells May to stand down. She looks at Coulson for a moment and remarks that he is not Sarge. But he is not Phil Coulson either. The Coulson LMD asks May if she’s not the least bit surprised since he was dead. May tells him that Coulson still is dead as she walks away. Soon, she is back in the pod. While she fought Enoch about taking a sedative, she allowed Simmons to give her one without a fight. Enoch points out that Agent May is clearly malfunctioning. He also informs the others that he was unable to make contact with Mack. But did make considerable advances that will pay off when they are closer to their destination.
Meanwhile, Coulson takes the blindfold off of Koenig, he’s astounded about what he sees. He first believes it’s a rocketship, until he sees Enoch. He has trouble calling him by a proper name. At first referring to Enoch as an electrical man, followed by calling him a robot. Enoch proceeds to say that he is not in fact a robot but rather a Chronicom. Still trying to make sense of it all, he then surmises they are from outer space; perhaps Martians. Coulson changes the topic and asks Koenig to take them to Hell. They get the directions and off they go. All while Koenig continues to hyperventilate.
Back on the train, Malick asks Shaw and Mackenzie to come clean because he knows they aren’t bootleggers, nor are they from around “here”. Shaw agrees and tells Malick that he and Mackenzie were sent a very, very, very long way to make sure Malick doesn’t die. Mackenzie asks him what if after he makes the delivery, they just decide to kill him. Malick explains that he knows the lady who asked him to do this. That she knew his father, and she is giving him a chance to be something he never could. Malick goes onto say that they aren’t going to kill him unless he does something stupid. Suddenly, the brakes on the train squeal and the train comes to a harsh stop. Mackenzie uses this moment to tackle Malick to the ground, knocking the gun from his grasp. Shaw grabs the gun, but wonders why the train has stopped. Malick tells them that they have arrived at their destination.
Koenig is still marveling at the Zephyr and it’s pilotless flight. He wonders if they aren’t Martians, or Moon Men, then where did Coulson and his team come from exactly. Coulson tells him it’s not so much a matter of where but when. Eventually, he admits that they are all from the future, early 21st century to be exact and happen to be part of a secret organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. He explains that their goal is to protect the world from evil threats.
Koenig, isn’t sure what to make of all this newfound information, but wonders what it has to do with Malick. The Shield agents explain that Malick and his family will be one of those evil threats that are responsible for thousands of deaths in the future. Koenig refuses to believe it, saying how that is not the Malick he knows. Johnson explains he’s not now, but will be. Koenig argues that you can’t hold someone responsible for something they haven't done yet.
At that moment, an alarm goes off, which Simmons explains that the countdown has commenced. She elaborates further by saying that their window in time is closing. Once the timer reaches zero, the Zephyr would move onto another time in approximately 17 minutes. Whether they are on board or not. When questioned why she hadn’t told them sooner, she explains that it was because she had no idea of how long the window was open for. That for all she knows it could be hours, days , or weeks. Coulson tells Johnson to contact Mackenzie and Shaw and let them know they are coming for them. Johnson gets a hold of Shaw. He tells her he is with Mackenzie and Malick. Johnson hesitates but then tells Shaw all about Malick’s name and his future. Upon hearing that Shaw has a gun, she tells him to take the shot to kill Malick. He is reluctant to as he is just a kid in his eyes.
Mackenzie looks through the rest of Malick’s liquor bottles and eventually finds the vial floating of the serum in one of them and proceeds to dump its contents on the ground. The vial falls to the ground, obviously sturdy enough to withstand the impact. Mackenzie asks Malick what it is. He tells Mackenzie he doesn’t ask questions. He just did what he was told. Shaw then returns and he points his gun at Malick. Mackenzie tells him to put the gun down. But Shaw explains that Fred is really Wilfred Malick, who will go on to become the father of Gideon Malick and future member of Hydra. Shaw then points the gun at Malick, and tells Mackenzie he has orders to kill Malick. Mackenzie reminds Shaw that only he can give such an order and yells at him to put the gun down. Shaw hesitates, but ultimately ends up lowering his gun. Suddenly he raises the gun back up and fires, but it’s not at Malick. Instead, Shaw shoots at the Chronicoms who have arrived on the scene disguised as the cops from earlier.
Meanwhile the team loads up. Coulson, Johnson, Koenig, and Enoch will go to get Mackenzie and Shaw. Whereas, Simmons and Rodriguez will stay on the Zephyr. Rodriguez initially wants to go but Johnson convinces her not to.
At Hell’s Harbor, Mackenzie, Shaw, and Malick dive for cover as the Chronicoms open fire on them. Shaw, seeing that the gun had little effect, tosses it aside. Fortunately, Coulson and the rest of the team come rolling up in a car. Specifically, with Koenig and Coulson firing with their guns at the Chronicoms. They jump out of the car and Johnson throws Shaw a gun, while Coulson tosses Mackenzie a shotgun. They proceed to return fire upon the fake policemen. But unbeknownst to them, Malick used the confusion to grab the vial and the gun and run off to make his delivery. Upon noticing his absence, Mackenzie tells Koenig and Enoch to find him.
As the battle continues, Malick is elsewhere waiting for his contact to show up when Koenig also arrives. He tries to tell Malick that he shouldn’t do whatever he has planned. That he is better than this. Malick tries to get him to leave, but Koenig doesn’t budge. He tells Malick that he is a good kid, and asks that he not make the same choices his dad made. Malick explains that he is doing this to be somebody and not a coward like his father. Malick points the gun at Koenig asking Koenig to leave once more. Ultimately, Malick shoots Koenig in the shoulder saying that Koenig doesn’t know him. He doesn’t know anything.
Right then Malick’s contact arrives and he gets in the car and leaves. Enoch arrives soon after. He asks where Malick had gone. Koenig tells him that he left with “them”. He still couldn’t believe that Malick shot him. Enoch asks him if he is alright. Koenig responds that only his faith in humanity was damaged. The radio flares up and Coulson asks Enoch if he had found Malick. He tells them that Malick is unharmed and the timeline has been protected. Coulson tells him to get to the Zephyr, time is running out. He hesitates but Koenig tells him to go.
Once the Chronicoms realized Malick had gotten away, they acknowledged that they had failed. HYDRA will form and with it, S.H.I.E.L.D. However, the window was closing and they needed to get back. Obviously, the tech they are using is similar to the one the Zephyr is using. Coulson and the team arrive at the Zephyr with Simmons telling them to hurry. Only Enoch was missing. As the timer counted down, Simmons told Mackenzie they needed to close the hatch. As it closed they could see Enoch sprinting toward them. They told him to hurry but he arrived just in time to see the Zephyr vanish. He pondered this for a moment but then walked away.
In the end, Enoch finds himself back at Koenig’s bar making him a drink. He calls it a barracoolada. They share the drink and Koenig approves of the concoction. Enoch tells him that “he knows his onions”. Koenig agrees and offers him a job. But under two conditions. One, Enoch tells him more about the S.H.I.E.L.D. outfit. He thinks he could be of some use there. Enoch agrees. He tells him that he will, as will his fine establishment. Enoch then asks him what the second condition is. Koenig tells him that he wants to learn all Enoch knows about Robots. He is fascinated by them. Enoch tells him that his grandchildren will also be fascinated by them. This produces a smile from Koenig. He raises his glass to Enoch and toasts to the beginning of a marvelous friendship.
- Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson
- Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May
- Chloe Bennet as Daisy Johnson/Quake
- Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons
- Henry Simmons as Alphonso Mackenzie
- Natalia Cordova-Buckley as Yo-Yo Rodriguez
- Jeff Ward as Deke Shaw
- Joel Stoffer as Enoch
- Tobias Jelinek as Luke
- Darren Barnet as Wilfred Malick
- Nora Zehetner as Viola
- Patton Oswalt as Ernest Koenig
- Christopher Wallinger as Copper
- Eric Schloesser as The First
- Kevin Alexander Stea as The Second
- Gina Gonsalves as The Third
- Ryan Gray as Abel (uncredited)
- New York City, New York
- Hell's Harbor
- Hamburg, Germany (mentioned)
- Hamburg Airport (mentioned)
- Bremen, Germany (mentioned)
- Bremen Airport (mentioned)
- Berlin, Germany (mentioned)
- Berlin Tempelhof Airport (mentioned)
- Canada (mentioned)
- London, England (mentioned)
- Copenhagen, Denmark (mentioned)
- Newark, New Jersey (mentioned)
- Newark Liberty International Airport (mentioned)
- Moon (visible; mentioned)
- Mars (mentioned)
- Fear Dimension (flashback)
- Duel on Zephyr One
- War Against the Chronicoms
- Izel's Campaign (flashback)
- Battle at the Temple of the Forgotten (flashback)
- World War II (mentioned)
- La Respuesta
- Yo-Yo Rodriguez' Prosthetic Arms
- Healing Pod
- Chronicom Rifle
- Super Soldier Serum (key ingredient)
- Shrike (mentioned)
- Chronicom Hunters
- New York City Police Department
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police (mentioned)
- Leo Fitz
- Wilfred Malick's Parents
- Abraham Erskine
- Red Skull
- Phil Coulson
- Gideon Malick
- Ernest Koenig's Grandchildren
- Butterfly Effect
- The title is said twice within the episode, by Ernest Koenig when referring to Jemma Simmons' chemistry know-how, and by Enoch when referring to his knowledge in drink mixing.
- When Koenig hires Enoch, he says theirs is "the beginning of a marvelous friendship." This quote is a take on the last lines of the 1942 film Casablanca ("Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship"), with the substituted word acting as a reference to Marvel.