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In Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Coulson is put through the TAHITI programme to

Bring him back to life. As part of this he has some memories replace to help him return to his old personality

This has the side effect of whenever someone mentions Tahiti he will say the phrase "It's a magical place."

Later when

Cal has his memories altered he also utters the phrase.

Presumably it is implanted as part of the process but why put in this phrase/ Is it to allow quick identification of patients or for another reason?

  • This question wouldn't happen to have been prompted by Valorum and neilfein's comments on my question, would it? – Stevoisiak Jun 29 '17 at 21:42
  • @stevenVascellaro It was. – Bellerophon Jun 29 '17 at 21:52
  • Totally opinion, but probably so they don't think too closely on the actual details of the rewrite. – Radhil Jun 29 '17 at 23:10
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    Maybe it just is a magical place? I mean, it does apparently bring people back to life. – Paul D. Waite Jun 30 '17 at 7:30
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The direct answer to your question would be because the designer(s) of the TAHITI program decided to reprogram the TAHITI patients do so.

But that's not a real answer, as far as the core of your question.

TL;DR
It's much easier to seem truthful when you are telling a believable lie; than it is to seem truthful when you refuse to answer the question (or are incapable of doing so).


This "magical place" recorded response reminds me of a similar programmed behavior.

In The Wolf Among Us (videogame), you play as a detective trying to uncover a secret plot. Something has happened in the past; and anyone who was witness to it has been cursed (i.e. magically rewired).
Whenever those witnesses try to speak about the events that occurred; they are only capable of saying "these lips are sealed". When discussing unrelated topics, they have no such limitations. It only happens when that specific past event is the topic of discussion.


The above example uses magic, whereas project TAHITI is grounded more in fringe science. But the intention of wanting to keep something a secret is the same.

There are a few things to take note of about Coulson's memories:

  • The designers of the TAHITI program want their patients to be unable to remember their experiences and talk about them. It needs to remain a secret.
  • Coulson's brain still contains the memories of what happened in TAHITI.
  • If Coulson acknowledges that something secretive happened in TAHITI, and he focuses on trying to remember it long enough, he is capable of recalling certain memories (in bits and pieces). They never deleted Coulson's memories; they simply buried them deep in his subconscious.

Why would you make the patients say "it's a magical place", rather than making them say nothing at all?

Although it is never directly proven; I think I understand why it's better to have them say a "recorded" response rather than remain silent.

  • If anyone asks Coulson about TAHITI, and Coulson does not answer; that warrants further investigation. Especially if Coulson completely shuts down whenever the topic is brought up.
  • If anyone asks Coulson about TAHITI, and Coulson gives them an empty sounding phrase; this will seem much less suspicious. It sounds like he is redirecting the topic of conversation, simply because he does not want to talk about it. Most people would take this hint and not press Coulson for details, as a matter of politeness.

It's much easier to seem truthful when you are telling a believable lie; than it is to seem truthful when you refuse to answer the question.

In this case, "it's a magical place" isn't really a lie. It is an implication that Coulson is talking about Tahiti (the island), rather than TAHITI (the secret program).
And there's a second layer to it. If you don't believe that it's about Tahiti (the island); it still seems likely that Coulson has intentionally avoided the topic simply because he does not wish to talk about it.

No one realizes that Coulson himself doesn't remember it; because he talks about Tahiti (and how it's a magical place).

But it serves the same purpose: it lowers suspicions.

  • Someone talks to Coulson, asking how he is still alive (the TAHITI designers would expect Coulson to be asked this question a lot of times)
  • Coulson gives them a false reply, making it seem like he's talking about Tahiti. This makes Coulson's "trip" less suspicious. Even if they do not believe it's about Tahiti, that person would still infer that Coulson is not speaking about it in detail because he does not want to talk about it.
  • Because suspicions are lowered, it is much less likely for this other person to keep interrogating Coulson about it.
  • Because no one is interrogating Coulson about it, Coulson will spend less time thinking about TAHITI
  • Because Coulson spends less time thinking about TAHITI, he will not be able to recall these memories that have been buried deep in his subconscious.
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    Just to note, the main point of having the patients not remember is so they aren't insane. They are given pleasant memories of actually being in Tahiti. – OrangeDog Jun 30 '17 at 12:31
  • @OrangeDog: I thought secrecy was part of it too; because of the method that is used. Using alien materials would definitely be top secret; given S.H.I.E.L.D.'s general tendency to be secretive about considerably less shocking facts. At least, I would expect so. – Flater Jun 30 '17 at 14:56
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    It's explicit that the memory rewriting is in order to remove the psychological trauma (and other effects) of the procedure. If it was for secrecy - well, everyone else at SHIELD is capable of keeping secrets without brain surgery. – OrangeDog Jun 30 '17 at 15:02
  • @OrangeDog Given how deeply Hydra infiltrated, very capable of keeping secrets. – JAB Jun 30 '17 at 15:50
  • @Flater That's true, but remember that SHIELD agents are so good at keeping secrets, the one who went insane and started torturing and killing fellow SHIELD agents in his search for the whole truth managed to do so without attracting police attention or revealing his secret to any non-SHIELD personnel. They really are that good, and the candidates for Project TAHITI would have been the best at keeping those secrets -- which is why Coulson is so aghast that his pre-death memories as TAHITI director were wiped as well as his memories of undergoing TAHITI himself. – Gaurav Oct 5 '17 at 4:12

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