In 1945 Austria, Hydra commander Daniel Whitehall lets an officer know that there is no need to fear the Red Skull. He's dead, but his vision lives on with the help of a mechanical item known as the Obelisk. BOOM! An explosion blows open the main gate of a bunker. Peggy Carter steps in. She's flanked by Howling Commandos and U.S. soldiers. Whitehall is taken away. The Obelisk is confiscated. Carter says all they can do is make sure that this mysterious item never sees the light of day. It's locked away in a metal case labeled #0-8-4.
In present day Virginia, ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Roger Browning shows his buyers in a black market deal a photo of the metal case holding the Obelisk. Things go south when a large, bald man storms in. He kills Browning instantly. The buyers open fire on the assassin, but bullets bounce right off him. Skye, May and Triplett storm the area to help the buyers, who are actually mercenaries named Isabelle "Izzy" Hartley (Lucy Lawless), Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) and Idaho (Wilmer Calderon). They are working in tandem with the S.H.I.E.L.D. team in this undercover operation. From somewhere else, Director Phil Coulson orders everyone there to go dark.
Alphonso "Mack" Mackenzie (Henry Simmons) works on an SUV as the bickering field team returns. Coulson lets May know that he's worn out from all the recruiting he's been doing. There are allies in London ready to be activated if necessary. Coulson believes the 0-8-4 in the case may be the very first one that was ever out there. As for the assassin from earlier, his name is Carl Creel. He has the power to absorb and transform the molecules of his body into anything he touches. He's an absorbing man. Creel enjoys the feeling it gives him as he works for an unknown leader.
In the lab, Simmons helps a struggling Fitz find the words to speak clearly. This is part of the residual damage of his injuries. The major projects of the moment include the development of a cloaking device and identifying the metal that was found in the field. Elsewhere, Coulson asks Skye to get information on Carl Creel from the one person who may know: former agent Grant Ward, who provides the team with a lead. He also vows to an unforgiving Skye that he will never again lie to her. He doesn't get the chance to tell what he knows about her father.
Evidence proves that Hydra is still out there contrary to the claims of Brigadier General Glenn Talbot, who is attacked by Carl Creel. Fortunately, Coulson has his team in place to save the very man who has been trying to hunt him down. Creel is captured by military personnel while Talbot is secretly whisked off to meet with Coulson, who warns that the government is being duped. Creel wanted to get caught so he could steal the Obelisk.
With Talbot unwilling to listen to reason, Coulson orders the team to enter a secure military compound in an all-or-nothing mission. Carl Creel escapes from his cell. Hartley is confronted by him as she finds the Obelisk. She grabs hold of it and is unable to let go. The skin on her hand begins to crack, burn and blacken as it spreads up her arm. Hartley is in extreme pain. Coulson orders the mission to continue as planned. That's not going to work for Hunter, who only wants to save Hartley.
Hunter and Hartley make their escape. All is not well though. The only way to save Hartley's life is to cut off her arm. As for the rest of the team, they complete their orders of stealing a Quinjet. Coulson knows they need it in order to make use of its cloaking technology. Fitz won't be able to do it for them. There was just too much damage to his temporal lobe. He's getting worse. The conversations he has with Simmons are actually just him talking to himself. She's not really there. She left the team a while ago. Fitz was broken after that. Coulson vows that they must fight on for him and everyone else who has been lost. They'll live in the shadows.
Hunter has completed the difficult task of cutting off Hartley's arm. Idaho drives on until Creel stands before their SUV. The absorbing man turns himself into concrete causing the vehicle to crash. Hunter is badly hurt as he looks over at Hartley's lifeless body. Creel steps over to retrieve her severed arm which still holds the Obelisk. He walks off with the mysterious object.
The man who has been serving as Creel's contact approaches an unknown individual from behind. He reports that the Obelisk has been retrieved. Arrangements are being made with Creel for its return. The identity of the person seeking the Obelisk is revealed. It's someone who has been seen before in Austria many years ago. He looks the same as he did back then. He hasn't aged as day in 70 years. This mystery figure is the Hydra commander who was captured by Peggy Carter. In the present day, he is addressed as Dr. Whitehall.