Clark Gregg Clark Gregg

It's the big mystery of the fall TV season: How is Agent Coulson actually alive?

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has yet to answer the question on how the team's fearless leader Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is still kicking after being stabbed in the chest by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in The Avengers. But Tuesday's episode did offer up another clue that could point us in the right direction. Let's first take a look at the clues we've already been given:

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Agent Coulson lives! Coulson believes that he died very briefly, but was then revived and went on holiday in Tahiti to heal. Later, Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) ominously says that Coulson can never know the truth about his death, possibly giving credence to our theory that Coulson is a Life Model Decoy. Dr. Streiten (Ron Glass) also notes that he would be happy to keep Coulson from going into the field.

We start to notice a pattern that whenever someone mentions Tahiti, Coulson calls it a "magical place." It's an almost robotic response, one that could've been implanted just like the actual memories of Tahiti.

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Coulson struggles with his gun, with the team thinking he's rusty. He mentions the odd lack of muscle memory, which could be yet another LMD clue. Life Model Decoys would not have muscle memory since they are robots.

Coulson's former protégé Akela Amador (Pascale Armand) is shocked when he offers to help her even though all signs point to her guilt. She also expected an "I told you so" from her mentor, from which we can conclude that Coulson is a rather tough, less forgiving teacher. She even asks Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) what they did to him, because he's seemingly so different.

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Clearly, all signs are pointing to Life Model Decoy. But — and this could be a stretch — throughout the Phase 1 movies, Coulson was never depicted as a tough leader. That was Nick Fury's (Samuel L. Jackson) job. What if Coulson was actually a Life Model Decoy long before Phase 1? Maybe he was part of S.H.I.E.L.D. during its inception — Howard Stark was really inventive — which would explain Coulson's fascination with Captain America (Chris Evans) and the history of the organization. It would also be a great plot twist that would tie into the movies — like if Cap found a really old S.H.I.E.L.D. photo in the upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier film that included the original Coulson.

Who knows? Maybe Coulson's just a regular LMD! Think our theory is crazy? Share your own theory in the comments below!

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC.