A few assorted notes to start: Tahiti is still a magical place, Coulson wants Skye to feed misinformation to the public where necessary, and whatever even caused May to leave the field happened in Bahrain, and she was also known as "the cavalry" until then, which I think everyone will now agree makes sense?
Unsurprisingly, Skye has accepted Coulson's offer of a consultancy gig, even allowing S.H.I.E.L.D. to take temporary custody of her van and taking up residence on "the bus," which is the fancy plane we saw in the pilot that's even more heavily featured this week. In other non-surprises, Ward is not so much a fan of Skye joining their team, such as it is, not that May seems so jazzed about it either, but she's not openly hostile to Skye like Ward is. And that's hardly the only intra-team tension, as Ward, Fitz/Simmons, and Skye all bicker among themselves, to which Coulson's basically like work it out, overachieving jerks.
The 0-8-4 referenced last week seems to be any object that's as yet unexplained, but the agents at least know it's in Peru, so they head to an Incan archeological site, and within a temple they find an artifact that they determine has been there for at least 1500 years. S.H.I.E.L.D. is then accosted by Peru's military police, but luckily their leader "Commandante Camilla Reyes" is an old acquaintance of Coulson's. Fitz and Simmons determine that the artifact has a functioning power source, but before they can get any farther, rebels attack, forcing Ward to grab the thing and lead a retreat back to the plane. Once safely there, Fitz explains that the artifact is fueled by tesseract technology and as such contains lethal amounts of gamma radiation, so much like last week, we've got the potential of a ticking time bomb on our hands.
On the plane, Skye explains to Ward the concept of social change through social media by way of letting him understand her beliefs about freedom of information, and the two of them at least make an effort to see things from the other's point of view. Ward then senses that all is not right with the Commandante and her group, but while he and Coulson make a fight of it, May, flying the plane, ends up incapacitated by gas, while Fitz and Skye are captured, so Coulson ends up ceding control of the plane, whereupon we learn that the Commandante intends to use the artifact to crush the rebels, because attempting to harness power sources you don't understand never, ever goes wrong.
However, the non-Coulson S.H.I.E.L.D. agents work together to free themselves from the cargo hold, with May earning the title of undisputed badass of the episode by dislocating her wrist on command to free herself from her restraints. The S.H.I.E.L.D. underlings then use Fitz's drones to activate the artifact and blow a hole in the plane, and the resultant drop in cabin pressure causes the doors between them and Coulson to unlock, leading to S.H.I.E.L.D., using their individual talents and saving the day, although once again, May is such a badass that even Ward is again impressed; he also comes around on Skye enough to take on training her as a field agent.
In the end, the S.H.I.E.L.D. misfits bond over beers as the artifact is safely dispatched from the Earth via "slingshot," but they're unaware that Skye tells the Rising Tide that she's infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up to berate Coulson for the damage to the plane, and if he's going to appear every time these guys cause S.H.I.E.L.D.'s insurance premiums to go up, we'll be seeing a lot of him. And that would be pretty awesome.
We open with our friendly S.H.I.E.L.D. plane "616" getting clearance to head to "the Slingshot." In response to a question over the comm about his status, Coulson tells the woman that it's going to be blue skies from here on out -- whereupon an explosion blows a hole in the side of the plane, sending one man screaming to his death. That's a different meaning of "blue skies" than I was expecting, although I have to wonder if the use of that term might also be a sly wink to those dozen of us who watched Dollhouse. Inside the plane, Coulson desperately grabs hold of something and hangs on as the sucking wind threatens to send him to the same fate as the other man… and then we get the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. title card. Well!
Cut to "19 Hours Earlier," and since Skye is just finishing up off-loading a bunch of stuff from her van onto the plane, it's safe to say she's joining up. After a wistful look at it -- and a warning to the dude taking custody of the vehicle not to take any joyrides (and I know you're protective of it, lady, but this is hardly the Ferrari in Ferris Bueller's Day Off here) -- she carries her box of stuff onto the plane. Inside, Ward is dismissively telling Coulson that Skye isn't qualified to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Coulson easily replies that she's there in the capacity of a consultant, an arrangement S.H.I.E.L.D. uses all the time. "Technically Stark's a consultant." I'd wonder if the show is going to rely too heavily on references to characters who will never actually appear, but I've already seen the ending so that would be silly. Ward still inquires about the wisdom of inviting someone from the Rising Tide into their midst, and I do wonder if that's not something Coulson would have to clear with someone on, I guess, Level Eight or higher, but Coulson's like, with her hacking skills, imagine what she'll do with our resources! Ward: "I am. That's exactly what I'm imagining during this frown." Hee. He points out that Coulson brought him on for risk assessment and tells him Skye doesn't think like they do, to which Coulson's like, "Exactly." I know we're supposed to love Coulson, and I mostly do, but if Ward wanted to roll his eyes in frustration here I wouldn't exactly judge him for it.
Fitz and Simmons excitedly greet Skye, although Fitz's excitement might be a bit more hormonally based than his counterpart's. Back in the command room, May comes in on Ward's side as she acidly notes that they already have "two kids on this bus who aren't cleared for combat," and now Coulson wants to make it three? Ward adds that while Fitz/Simmons were at least trained by S.H.I.E.L.D., they can't say that about Skye, and reminds Coulson that this is supposed to be a select team meant to protect people. Coulson at least drops the dreamy smile as he snaps that while their objections are noted, the matter is closed, so Ward drops the subject and moves on to the 0-8-4, which, as we'll learn, is the S.H.I.E.L.D. designation for an object of unknown origin. Or, as Coulson says promo-style, "We don't know what that means."