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Phillip Coulson (b. 8 July 1964 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin) is a long-serving field agent working for S.H.I.E.L.D.
He served as Director Fury's second-in-command for some of the Division's most important missions. One of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most decorated operatives, Coulson was put in charge of surveillance and served as the primary operative in the Avengers Initiative. As of the finale of Season One, Fury at least considers Coulson the Director of the new version of S.H.I.E.L.D. which is now needed.
- "Now Trip was generous enough to offer up some of his granddad's spy tech to help us out. We should systematically take a full inventory of ev... Oh, my god. Is that a handheld hypno-beam?!"
- ―Phil Coulson
Coulson exhibits a "by the book" personality; and shows a great deal of maturity and discipline in handling very dangerous situations. He has an appreciation for traditional "things" like vintage collectibles, such as his collection of official Captain America trading cards and his 1962 Chevrolet Corvette, (which he named "Lola"), informing Ward as they get on The Bus that "people tend to confuse the words 'new' and 'improved'". Coulson greatly values the members of his team; and often cares for the well-being well beyond the protocol and guidelines that have been laid down by S.H.I.E.L.D. However, during recent episodes he has said to have greatly changed from his former self, likely describing the events before The Avengers.
More to be added, as the show progresses.
Phil is a Caucasian male with a muscular build and brown hair. He has blue eyes, and is about 6'0" tall. He usually wears a business suit, with a white shirt underneath and a tie.
During a press conference following Tony Stark's escape from the custody of the Ten Rings in Afghanistan, Coulson approached Pepper Potts to schedule a meeting with Stark. He later approached Stark himself at a benefit for the Firefighters' Family Fund to arrange a meeting, and Stark dismissively agreed; Coulson arrived at Stark Industries headquarters for the debriefing, but encountered Potts as she hurried from the building, having downloaded incriminating files that showed that Obadiah Stane had sold Stark Industries weapons to terrorist organizations as well as having arranged the abduction of Tony Stark by the Ten Rings. Coulson then accompanied Potts back to Stark Industries headquarters, but Stane escaped arrest by suiting up in his Iron Monger armor and battling against Stark. Following the explosion of the Arc Reactor, Coulson provided Stark with a prepared alibi that Stark promptly disregarded. (IM)
Six months later, following a drunken brawl between Stark and Lt. Col. James Rhodes at Stark's mansion, Coulson was assigned by Fury to personally monitor Stark while the industrialist searched for a cure to his palladium poisoning. He later assisted Stark in the construction of a prismatic accelerator with which Stark synthesized a new element to power his Arc Reactor, and informed Stark that he had been reassigned to New Mexico by Fury. (IM2)
Thor's arrival on MidgardEdit
After S.H.I.E.L.D.'s scientific branch detected unusual electromagnetic activity in the vicinity of Puente Antiguo, Coulson was dispatched to the site of an impact crater. In transit, he stopped at a gas station and overpowered two robbers (AFTHOTWTTH). At the crater site, he found a number of town locals trying unsuccessfully to pull a hammer from the earth. Coulson notified S.H.I.E.L.D., who cleared and secured the area for further investigation.
With the hammer secured, Coulson turned his attention to the surrounding area and discovered equipment which led him back to astrophysicist Jane Foster and her colleagues. He immediately confiscated the remainder of her equipment and research, and when Foster returned to her home to discover her possessions being hauled away, Coulson offered her a check as compensation.
He was later at the S.H.I.E.L.D. compound surrounding the hammer when alarms sounded to signal an intrusion, and he became concerned by a corresponding build-up of anomalous weather. He witnessed an unarmed intruder battering his way into the compound to reach the hammer, and instructed Agent Clint Barton not to use lethal force against the man, instead watching as the man reached the hammer, struggled in an attempt to lift it, and crumpled in anguish. Coulson ordered the man captured, confronted him, pressed him for information on his background and apparent military training, and earned only limited answers in reply.
The next day, Coulson was approached by Erik Selvig, who spoke on behalf of the stranger and claimed the man's name was "Donald Blake". Coulson discovered inconsistencies in Selvig's claim, but released his detainee before ordering S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to follow him.
Coulson responded to another discovery in the New Mexico desert when he received a report of four strangely-dressed newcomers in Puente Antiguo. Before he could respond, he was confronted by a ten-foot-tall humanoid machine that appeared through a wind vortex in the desert. He challenged it on the basis that it appeared to be unregistered weapons technology, at which point it opened fire and scattered the assembled agents.
Coulson escaped serious injury from the encounter, but could do little more than watch as the Destroyer laid waste to Puente Antiguo. At that point, the hammer that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been guarding dislodged itself from its resting place as it was summoned by the stranger that Coulson had formerly detained; Coulson then witnessed the man defeat the machine, and approached him in the aftermath, pointing out that "Blake" had not been completely honest.
Thor told Coulson that their goals were the same, and that Coulson could therefore count on him as an ally if he returned Foster's equipment and notes. Coulson accepted and pointed out that Foster would need the equipment to continue her research. He then watched as Thor and his four friends left. (THOR)
Some time later, Coulson met with Agent Sitwell in a diner to discuss the Avenger Initiative. While Nick Fury's superiors had approved the Initiative, the Council wanted Emil Blonsky (now dubbed "The Abomination") recruited onto the team due to his military record and status as a war hero.
Since Blonsky was still being held by General Thaddeus Ross, the Council planned to blame all the destruction that Abomination had caused during his rampage in Harlem on Bruce Banner in order to clear Blonsky's name and have him released. With Fury unable to outright refuse, Coulson proposed sending a patsy to meet with Ross in the hopes of sabotaging the meeting so that Ross would refuse to hand Blonsky over. Sitwell suggested sending the "Consultant," who turned out to be Tony Stark; Coulson opposed the idea, but eventually relented, resulting in a successful sabotage when Ross refused to release Blonsky into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, keeping him off the Avengers. (CON)
At some point following his time in New Mexico, Coulson began a long-distance relationship with a cellist who lived in Portland, Oregon. This relationship was known of and approved by 'Pepper' Potts, who considered Phil a friend, discernibly more so than Tony Stark.
Coulson was later assigned to the Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. facility where the Tesseract, a relic of unimaginable power, was being studied by Selvig's team. When the object began releasing erratic power surges, Coulson led an evacuation of the facility shortly before the Tesseract activated and teleported Loki into the facility. Coulson, Fury, and Agent Maria Hill were unable to prevent Loki from stealing the Tesseract prior to the destruction of the facility.
Coulson witnessed the revival of the World War II-era hero Steve Rogers before being tasked with recruiting Stark into the Avengers Initiative, delivering a dossier on the situation. He later escorted Rogers to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, awkwardly requesting an autograph; once aboard, he oversaw the task of moving Jane Foster to a safe location.
Following the capture of Loki in Stuttgart, Germany by Rogers and Stark, Coulson remained on board the carrier until rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Clint Barton launched a daring commando raid. During the ensuing skirmish, Coulson procured an experimental weapon and hurried to Loki's holding cell where he discovered Thor trapped in the cell and Loki freed. He held Loki at gunpoint, but the Asgardian created an illusory projection that enabled him to attack Coulson from behind, piercing him through the back with his sceptre.
Coulson managed to fire a single shot before Loki fled the Helicarrier. Fury found the mortally wounded agent, who apologized for letting Loki escape and informed the Director that he was "clocking out" (despite Fury's insistence that dying was "not an option"). Coulson assured Fury that he would not die in vain, claiming that "this was never going to work if they didn't have something to..." He died unceremoniously without completing his final sentence. Fury later informed Hill, Rogers, and Stark of Coulson's death, using it to inspire the Avengers to unite against their common enemy in the ensuing Battle of New York. (AVEN) There is a speculative discussion of Coulson's death here.
Despite the common belief that he had died, Coulson returned to active duty in September of 2013, assembling a team consisting of agents Melinda May and Grant Ward, biochemist Jemma Simmons and engineer Leo Fitz, and hacktivist Skye (AOS). Coulson and Maria Hill later explained to Agent Ward that Fury "faked Coulson's death to motivate the Avengers"; Coulson claimed that he "stopped breathing for about forty seconds," though Hill indicated that Coulson was clinically dead for just eight seconds before being revived. He then spent time recovering in "a grass shack in Tahiti," which he keeps describing as "a magical place"; the story of Coulson's survival, however, is almost certainly a fabrication. Later in the series, Coulson discovers he was actually dead for several days, and that Director Fury had "Moved Heaven and Earth" to bring Coulson back alive. Coulson was given fake memories of a luxurious island so that he would not remember the pain and suffering he had gone through to live again; due to the fact that it would have changed him into a man who had given up on living again. In "Nothing Personal", May shows Coulson a recording which indicates he was the agent in charge of operation T.A.H.I.T.I., designed to save a (hypothetical) mortally-wounded Avenger, and he himself wanted to close it down. In his resignation speech he informs Fury that the only possible hope for sanity in a subject lies in scrubbing their memory of the procedure and replacing it with a pleasant alternative.
As a reward for his "above and beyond" service on the Helicarrier, Fury provided Coulson with his own transportation, a S.H.I.E.L.D. Globemaster, and gave him free rein to assemble a team for ops of his choosing and liking. However, his hand was 'guided' by May, according to what she says in "Turn, Turn, Turn", since she needed "Someone who could repair your body, a technician who could reprogram your brain, and a specialist to help me put you down if it had to be done".
In their first mission out the dynamic is changed drastically by the addition of Skye, who causes the entire team to individually reassess what they are doing and why. Coulson sees immense potential in her, describing her as an 0-8-4. He empathizes strongly with Mike Peterson's sense of powerlessness, having been (he believes) dead for the best part of a minute at the hands of a "god".
Coulson is betrayed by his former colleague and implied lover, Comandante Camilla Reyes, in Peru over the 'object of unknown origin' he and the team are sent there to recover. Fitz explosively decompresses the Bus, leading to a 'discussion' with a less-than-delighted Director.
Coulson is reluctant to risk Skye alone in the enemy camp on Malta, but has no other choice, so he works with Ward to provide back-up. Franklin Hall reminds Coulson of his own sense that people are keeping things from him, and that sometimes steps must be taken to protect everyone.
His own past comes back to haunt Coulson, his failure to instill team spirit, when they encounter Akela Amador, a one-time agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. believed killed, who instead was patched up by someone who took the opportunity to plant a small bomb in her, compelling her obedience. Coulson has changed enough for Amadour to feel compelled to remark on the transformation to others.
His sense of betrayal in profound when Skye is found almost literally in bed with her ex, Miles Lydon. Coulson has put his own reputation on the line in bringing Skye on to the Bus, with Fury himself having warned him Skye is a risk. The tightening feeling of a unifying force behind the threats encountered also makes Coulson less than comfortable.
His relationship with Jemma Simmons is highlighted in "FZZT", along with his disappointment in Skye. The firefighters' struggles to come to grips with life in the wake of the Battle of New York resonates strongly with him, and Coulson is annoyed with himself that he is unable to save Tony Diaz.
An overview of what he's been missing, and not, is brought to Coulson by the team's visit to The Hub. Agent Hand appears to be almost everything his rep says Coulson was up to New York - high flyer, stickler and big picture planner. The Ossetian op shows him that he values his team more than just as a set of components, which may be news to everyone, Coulson included.
His instincts are not entirely shot, however, as Coulson's deduction of Elliot Randolph's true identity shows when the team go in search of the Berserker Staff. Getting to choose who you want to be has a powerful allure for Coulson, but his duties as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. take precedence.
Hannah Hutchins has a conviction, albeit in God and demons, that Coulson sorely lacks, and the "trapped between worlds" state of Tobias Ford rings haunting bells for him too. May's assertive action also contrasts with Coulson's occasionally near-paralyzing need to assess his own judgment and motivations.
The return of Mike Peterson brings a number of unresolved issues bubbling to the surface, not least Coulson's private life, or rather the lack thereof. Mike makes the only call a father could, and Coulson is the one who tells him so. Raina, however, as the mouthpiece of The Clairvoyant, wants to hear Coulson's tale from his own lips, starting with his death.
Edison Po and Raina do pretty much the ultimate 'bad cop, good cop' routine on Coulson when they try to access his memories of his recovery. The flood of traumatic recollection unleashed is perhaps stemmed in part by the presence of Skye, the one person above all for whom Coulson feels the need to be strong and protective. The extent and manner of his manipulation by S.H.I.E.L.D., however, appears unforgivable to Coulson.
When he's informed by May of her liaison with Ward, Coulson displays no shock, but simply checks she knows what she's doing. The bond between May and Coulson does not appear actively threatened by the other relationship, although Coulson does take a moment later to discuss it with Ward. As much as she will allow herself to, May appears to genuinely care for Coulson. The two of them uncover some rather startling information about Skye's past, something they've both been trying to divert her from exploring.
Coulson's sense of reality is once more under siege when the board the train in Italy which also carries Ian Quinn and, presumably, further Intel on the identity of the Clairvoyant. Fitz and Skye are left together on the train when Ward, May and Coulson have to 'jump ship', and in her usual intrepid manner, Skye goes on to confront Quinn, having faced him once already in Malta. This time, however, he is a far more calculating opponent, and shoots her in cold blood, dredging up endless memories for Coulson of the losses in his life and under his command.
His total focus on saving Skye leaves Coulson prey to every doubt he's had to date, and the fact that he has to stop May killing Quinn presumably goes against his instincts also. Agent Garrett's fast and loose grasp on the niceties of interrogation may perhaps raise his spirits somewhat, but the need for information is paramount. Once again, his own past, his rebirth, seems key to what's happening now, and Coulson has to try to face his nightmares in order to drag Skye back from the brink. The Guest House is the hall of horrors and recycling plant of horrific memories Coulson feared it might be, and his own piecemeal memory brings him no peace.
The "alien invasion" by Lorelei appears to come as almost a relief to Coulson, as, however overwhelming, it's at least a physical enemy he can fight - although that changes when Ward is seduced. Lady Sif has a clarity of purpose, as well as a knowledge of blue-skinned individuals, Coulson envies, it seems, and the web around him gets ever more tangled.
Coulson calls together the 'top brass', or at least the top field agents the team have encountered, and organizes a massive manhunt for the Clairvoyant, looking to eliminate both the viper and its nest in one fell swoop. Agent Sitwell is called away, but the rest team up to track down 'overlooked' potential psychics from The Index. His own team, however, is fracturing from within, with May hunting Fitz and Ward in the brig for shooting Thomas Nash, whose confession of being the Clairvoyant Coulson now doubts, leading him to question Ward's motives and loyalty. As Coulson engages in a stand-off with May, and Skye looks to back him up, the Bus suddenly changes course - with no one apparently at the helm.
Coulson believes Fury is the key to all this, but the Director is no longer off-grid - he's now reported as dead. May was taking her orders directly from him, which expands the conspiracy around Coulson to mind-frying proportions, and it's no longer clear which level of the secrets anyone is trying to protect. With the fallout of "Winter Soldier" collapsing all around them, the team are not together in any sense, and their chances of survival are dwindling. The numbing blows keep coming with the revelation that Garrett is the Clairvoyant, and the massacre of the S.H.I.E.L.D. loyalists in a rescue team by the HYDRA infiltrators in their midst. Coulson has lost faith in almost everyone by the time Fitz and Hand stage a rescue and take Garrett into custody. Coulson believes that May is no longer a friend but is an ally, and thus vital to hopes of survival.
Director Fury, however, apparently left Coulson a going away present - a set of coordinates inscribed into his badge. Arriving, much against the wishes of most of what's left of the team plus Trip, at this location, they discover it's a secret base Fury prepared and stocked - known as Providence by the Eric Koenig
For security reasons, Koenig interrogates everyone except Coulson, leading eventually to Ward's Hydra allegiance being revealed and Koening's own death. Coulson is at a loss what to do, and drives May from the base with his criticism and distrust. Everything around him is proving unreliable, which as Coulson has given his life to S.H.I.E.L.D. is particularly disorienting for him.
In Beginning of the End, Coulson finally catches up to Hydra at a Cybertek facility and destroys the super soldier program and watches Deathlok kill John Garrett. During a small scene towards the end we see Garrett get up and be improved by super soldier machine. Coulson walks in and uses the Hydra weapon (0-8-4) against Garrett. Coulson talks with Fury and is given a small cube containing coordinates for a new Shield base called The Playground. Fury than declares Coulson the new Director of Shield. The team lands at The Playground to meet Simmons and also see a familiar face but find out that this is not Eric Koenig but Billy Koenig. Coulson awakens in the middle of the night and begins exhibiting signs of the same enhanced mental capacities and fixation that Garrett experienced by drawing symbols on the wall. It should also be noted that it is the same symbols that Ward took pictures of in the episode Eye-Spy.
- Jasper Sitwell: S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Level 7, Former co-worker, second-in-command at Puente Antiguo
- Agent Melinda May: S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Level 7, friend, co-worker, second-in-command on the "Bus"
- Agent Grant Ward: S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Level 7, former subordinate, third-in-command on the "Bus", now nemesis as a HYDRA operative.
- Agent Leopold Fitz: S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Level 5, engineer, subordinate
- Agent Jemma Simmons: S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Level 5, biochemist, physician, subordinate
- Audrey Nathan the cellist: In the "Bridge", Coulson describes a woman to Ward who was 'particularly rewarding', as a puzzle to unravel. He speaks with affection and passion. His official death made continuing the relationship an impossibility. Also mentioned in the Avengers.
- Skye: S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Level 1, protégée, friend and has daughterly feelings towards her
- Nick Fury: Former Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Superior Officer, Friend
- Maria Hill: Former Commander of S.H.I.E.L.D, Co-worker, Friend
- Rosalind Price: Former love interest, rival. (Deceased)
- Iron Man
- Iron Man 2
- "The Consultant"
- "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer"
- The Avengers ("apparent death")
- "Item 47" (mentioned)
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (indirectly mentioned)
- Coulson was born and raised in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
- Coulson grew up a die-hard fan of Captain America, having amassed a complete set of vintage collector's cards over the course of two years.
- It was revealed that Coulson had been dating a cellist at the time of his apparent death, a fact reiterated to Ward in "The Bridge".
- His current ID badge serial number is SKJ 08U7342; the card was issued on 25 April 2011, and will expire on 25 April 2015. It lists his height as 6' 0", although IMDb credits Clark Gregg as 5' 9". In "The Avengers", the equally 5' 9" Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) is barefoot and eye level with Coulson and Stark.
- His SHIELD profile as shown in the Pilot episode lists his birthday as 08 July 1964.
- Nick Fury indicates that he considers Coulson one of the Avengers in "Beginning of the End", when they discuss the intended use of the T.A.H.I.T.I. project.
- His father died when he was 9, and was a high school teacher at Manitowoc highschool.
- In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Fury uses a helicarrier built by Coulson (kept secret from the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D.) in the "Theta Protocol" to rescue the citizens of Sokovia.
- In the Season 2 finale, Coulson is forced to have his left arm amputated, due to a fight with Gordon, where Gordon dropped a Terrigen crystal after being fatally stabbed by Fitz. Coulson caught the dropped crystal before it hit the ground, but his arm started to turn to stone due to not being Inhuman, thus Mack needed to cut off Coulson's arm with his fire axe he was using as a weapon against Gordon. Coulson later had his arm replaced by a high-tech prosthetic sometime between Season 2 and Season 3.
- Coulson, at the end of Season 2, places Agent Daisy Johnson in charge of assembling a new team of superpowered agents for S.H.I.E.L.D. and asks Agent Fitz to design new vehicles for the agency.
Ward: Why was I pulled out of Paris?
Maria: That, you'll have to ask Agent Coulson.
Ward: Uh, yeah. I'm clearance Level Six. I know that... Agent Coulson was killed in action before the battle of New York. Got the full report.
Coulson: [Steps out of the dark] Welcome to Level Seven. [Beat] Sorry, that corner was really dark and I couldn't help myself; I think there's a bulb out.
Skye: I don't even know where we are going.
Coulson: Peru. That's where the 0-8-4 was reported.
Skye: And an 0-8-4 is?
Coulson: Object of unknown origin, kind of like you. Team goes in, determines if it's useful or poses a threat. Last one turned out to be pretty interesting.
Skye: What was the last one?
Coulson: A hammer.
Grant: We've been called in to investigate an 0-8-4. We all know what that means.
Coulson: Yes, we do. It means we don't know what that means
Skye: Sweet ride.
Coulson: I earned a little good will from Director Fury when I got hit right before the battle of New York.
Skye: You took a bullet?
Coulson: "Ish. An Asgardian stabbed me through the heart with a Chitauri scepter. The effect was similar.".
Nick Fury: Really? Really Coulson? SIX DAYS? It only took you six days to take a completely renovated piece of state-of-the-art machinery and turn it into scrap?
Coulson: My team acted with my authority.
Fury: Authority! Don't talk to me about authority. Do you know how much this plane cost? It's got a bar!
[Looks at it sadly]
Fury: A really nice one. Talking to me about authority. I want it fixed! Just like you found it. So don't go having Fitz-Simmons adding modifications like a damn fish tank.
Coulson: Yes sir.
[after Fury leaves]
Coulson: We're going to have to kill the fish tank.
Skye: So you asked how she could have cracked the system. I have a pitch, but it's way outside the box.
Coulson: I live outside the box.
"Girl in the Flower Dress"
Coulson: Go ahead, say it.
May: I don't do petty.
Coulson: But you called it. I trusted my gut even though you said she was a risk.
May: When someone breaks into my house, I usually don't invite them to stay. But that's me.
Coulson: That's me too. Then that alien staff went through my heart.
May: Sure it didn't go through the brain?
Coulson: You really don't do comforting either, do you?
Coulson: Mr. Chan, believe it or not, this could still get worse!
Chen: Bend someone long enough and they break. Poor little Chan Ho Yen may have believed your lies... but not Scorch!
Coulson: Ah, crap... they gave him a name.
Skye: You guys may think it's old news, but it's new... news to everybody else. So, Asgardians are aliens from another planet that visited us thousands of years ago?
Coulson: Or more.
Skye: And because we couldn't understand aliens, we thought they were gods?
Coulson: That's where our Norse mythology comes from.
Skye: That's too crazy. Do you think other deities are aliens, too? Vishnu for sure, right?
Coulson: You know, it'd be nice, for once, Thor and his people sent down the God of Cleaning Up After Yourself. They probably have a magic broom for this kind of thing.
Coulson: I can't think of a single time when anything alien in human hands ended well.
Skye: Wouldn't mind getting my human hands on Thor. He's so dreamy.
Coulson: Sure, he's handsome, but...
Melinda: No, he's dreamy.
Coulson: Nothing makes people more suspicious than a handsome man offering them free money.
Raina: I don't believe I've had the pleasure.
Coulson: Lucky for you.
"The Magical Place"
Coulson: I heard what you did for me. I think it's time that we remove this. [Talks to Skye's wrist bracelet]
Coulson: Disengage bracelet.
[Bracelet comes off]
Skye: Are you kidding me?
Coulson: I thought you'd like that.
Coulson: Not a grenade exactly, this might be some kind of cloaking mechanism
Ward: Maybe it created some kind of portal, jumped the train there.
Coulson: I hope not. I can't deal with Asgard today.
[Coulson and Ward see a truck]
Coulson: Keys might be in it.
[Ward shakes his head]
Coulson: It's the country. People are very trusting in the country.
Coulson: Skye, please, tell me something good.
Skye: We have Internet.
Coulson: Yay. And, boy, have I lowered my expectations.
Coulson: If I come out, will you shoot me? 'Cause then I won't come out.
Hill: Wow. I can't believe he shot Lola.
Coulson: I can't talk about it.
Coulson: Fury. I've been thinking a lot about what made him such a good director. His communication skills - flawed. But he could see five steps ahead, which, for a one-eyed man, is impressive.
Coulson: Come on, Bobbi. You ought to know me by now. I'd rather use a scalpel then a shotgun.
Bobbi: Well, it's Hydra. You might need the shotgun.
Coulson: Why do think I brought you?
Coulson: I'm not saying this is a good plan, but after all the carving and searching and obsessing; I'm pretty damn curious to see what all the fuss is about.