Agent Carter Recap: It Came From Crate 17

138085_4251 Photo: Kelsey McNeal/ABC
Agent Carter
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This week's episode of Agent Carter takes all the disparate elements from last week and braids them together into a creepy, disturbing story. It zeroes back in on the moment where we left Peggy, in the interrogation room with Thompson, Sousa, and Dooley. She says nothing else, but tries to convince them there’s an assassin out there they should be looking for, which is frustrating to both the interrogators and the viewers. Surely she can say something to appease them? Instead, she reveals that she’s trying to protect Howard. Sousa and Thompson ask her fervently if he “scrambled her brain,” but she retorts that he didn’t scramble her brain or any other parts. This is around the time she snaps. “You think you know me,” she growls, “but I’ve never been more than what each of you has created.”

She proceeds to point out their classic sexist alignments: the patronizing Chief Dooley thinks she’s “a stray kitten left on your doorstep to be protected,” while to the condescending Thompson, she’s “the secretary turned damsel in distress.” And to Sousa? Our ever well-meaning Sousa, who ends up being the one who took her down and now accuses her of killing a colleague? She’s “the girl on the pedestal transformed into some daft whore.” I cackled aloud throughout this scene, but man, did I especially love this last one. Sousa always rubbed me the wrong way; he seemed at first to want to be Peggy’s savior, and it was clear she never felt safe enough to trust him. And she’s right. The second he got information on her, Nice Guy Sousa suspected her of foul play, and of sleeping with Stark, instead of having a little faith and approaching her himself.

They reach an impasse when Jarvis comes into the office with a “signed confession from Howard Stark,” as he puts it to the ladies at the switchboard. He proposes getting Howard to sign it if they let Peggy go without a hitch. Predictably, he gets himself put in custody as they wait for Howard to arrive in an airport in Greenland — which Jarvis confesses to Peggy is not going to happen, since the confession is a fake. Flipping hell, Jarvis! Peggy tells him it’s likely they’ll “disappear” as they await their trials, where they will most likely be hanged. (Also, New York had adopted the electric chair by then. It’s in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar!)

However, Peggy lucks out: She sees Ivchenko tapping out a message in Morse code on the windowsill of Dooley’s office. She writes it down and Jarvis reads it aloud: “Leviathan is coming in 19 minutes.”

That’s when Peggy finally decides to talk. She tells them about how it was her mistake that got their colleague killed. Dooley is still shocked that she’d be conducting her own investigation without any of them noticing, while Sousa goes, “Why didn’t you come to one of us?” Ugh, shut up, Sousa.

Peggy drops another truth bomb: “Because no one listens to me! I got away with it because unless I have your reports, your coffee, or your lunch, I’m invisible!” Then, reverently, she confesses the one thing she knows will get them to believe her: that she has Steve’s blood. It’s truly a thing of myopic beauty to hear people write about who Peggy’s future husband might be when she doesn’t look at anyone with as much love and happiness as she does Steve’s blood. She doesn’t even look at Angie that way! Peggy/Steve’s blood 4eva. (Although, like I keep saying, are we sure Howard hasn’t hidden away more, uh, biological Steve samples?)

Dooley agrees to look into Peggy’s theory and sends men across the street. Ivchenko notices this, while Dooley is on the phone talking about reconciling with his wife like every other cop on Law & Order. Earlier in the episode, we saw how Ivchenko’s hypnosis techniques were so “numbing” that they were used as last-resort anesthetics during World War II in Russia. Here, we see it again: that ring-twisting, the smudged Barbara Walters lighting, Dooley in a pristine cardigan to complete the Norman Rockwell image of him cooking and eating with his family. Ivchenko is so alluring he gets Dooley to lock up Jarvis and Peggy, throw the scientists out of the lab, and dig up the invention in crate 17 for him. All before fitting himself out with a glowing red vest ...

Before that comes to a head, Sousa and Thompson (who both admit they believe Peggy) stumble upon Dottie. Dottie and Sousa have an impressive fight, but Dottie jumps down and around the staircase with the litheness of a jumping spider. Have y’all ever seen one? It is terrifying. Alongside the dead dentist still in his chair,* Sousa finds the transcribed directive Ivchenko tapped to Dottie last episode to kill Peggy Carter.

At the same time, Dooley recovers from a heartbreaking hallucination of reconciling with his wife and children and sees that he’s wearing the vest. A vest that Jarvis recognizes as a failed invention of Howard’s, armor meant to keep a man warm but which easily overheats. The scientists fail to help him, so when Dooley really starts burning, he grabs a gun and starts the speech: “Tell my wife … ” It was totally cliché and felt a little shoehorned in, but it did the job. He makes Peggy promise to get the son of a bitch who did this, then shoots a window and breaks through it, detonating in midair.

As Ivchenko predicted, though, that’s the least of their problems, because Dottie leaves the contents of crate 17 — a gas bomb — in a movie theater. Neither the scientists nor Jarvis know its contents, but when a movie usher opens the door for a late patron, she finds that the whole audience has torn each other to bloody shreds, complete with scalp-ripping and eye-gouging. This has been done in everything from Firefly to The Flash to Futurama, but it doesn’t mean the late-century science-fiction trope is any less chilling. What was their plan to terrorize the nation? Or do they have more to keep with it? And where the hell is Howard Stark? Apparently all our answers will (maybe) be answered next week.

* Did the employees just not notice?? Were they just unable to get into the office and then gave up? Did they suspect one another and leave it alone? Stupid man, this is why you don’t become a sexist pervert: No one will find your body unless they’re looking for an assassin. 

Some notes:

  • What is Ivchenko’s deal? In the beginning, we see him in the middle of reading The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, which gives us an idea of where he might’ve gone wrong from helping baby soldiers survive amputations to manipulating men into giving him drug bombs. Plus, he has a wedding ring on …

  • I love Dottie’s Stepford Wife routine with that baby carriage. The way she talks so happily and excitedly to the saleswoman at the baby store and the way she glares at the movie-theater patrons like, How dare you question my choices? Dottie is all of us — just our indignant, slightly psychopathic 5-year-old selves.

  • Finally, a return to another Jarvis and Peggy routine when they get locked up and decide to break the mirror/window. “What if there are people there?” “They might get hurt, there’ll be a spray of glass.” “What if they have guns?” “Then there will be a spray of bullets.”

  • On that note: “I just realized— ” “We’re still handcuffed to the table.” “We’re still handcuffed to the table.”