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Why Medical Professionals Cringe At This Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Detail

The human mind is an incredible thing. It's able to store and recall vast amounts of information in or on about three pounds of squishy matter that's mostly made up of water. Need to recall something important from years ago like, say, an entire med school education? Bam, there's your brain with the knowledge in question, instantly remembered. Good job, brain. But, as a result of the brain's awesome power, watching fictional medical procedures on TV in the company of actual medical professionals is a surefire recipe for hearing the words "um, actually" two or three dozen times. Is it annoying? Maybe a little, but we count on them to cut out our appendix when they deem it appropriate, and so we grudgingly accept it.

Even still, there's one detail from the early days of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that nobody can blame their local sawbones for seeing, sighing, and hating out loud. It's pretty dumb, even by charming, sci-fi television standards, and even if Tahiti is a magical place. A scant four episodes into the show's debut season, we learn the details of Agent Phil Coulson's miraculous return to duty: apparently he didn't really recover from being stabbed through the heart by a space god through the all-American healing power of a little R&R. In truth, he'd been reanimated through the power of Project T.A.H.I.T.I., or Terrestrialized Alien Host Integrative Tissue I. It's an old trope, but a good one: find a beefy, blue alien corpse, drain its fluids, and use said fluids to bring dead humans back to life. But there's an easily identifiable flaw with what we see next.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. needs some agents of F.D.A.

As part of the T.A.H.I.T.I. process, Coulson's head was peeled open like a can of delicious cat food and his brain poked around at with crackling laser science. But it wasn't the transfusion from outer space Captain Planet that had medical professionals white-knuckling their way through the sequence, nor was it the indeterminable zip-zapping of Coulson's precious gray matter. It was the pillow.

Take a look at the still above and you'll note that Coulson, in the middle of having his brain operated on at a scale last seen during the first act of Saw IV, has his head resting not on a sterile surgical brace of the variety normally seen during such procedures, but on a pillow. A decidedly firm pillow, from the looks of things, but still what appears to be a completely non-sterile, standard issue pillow, like the kind you'd find on a bed. The detail inspired a Reddit thread on the topic, with user herbthedino laying things bare: "Oh man, there is just so much research and care that goes into designing head supports for situations like this. This detail (and Fitzsimmons startling lack of lab PPE) makes the scientist in me groan."

It's probably a good thing that S.H.I.E.L.D. figured out how to bring people back to life by this point.