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In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, episode 8 "The Well", Coulson dreams that he's back in Tahiti.
The dream seems pleasant enough but Coulson wakes from it as if it were a nightmare.
The dream goes like this:

Coulson is getting a massage in Tahiti.
He asks, "Did I fall asleep?"
The masseuse replies, "For a little while"

I read that this is a Dollhouse reference, but sadly I didn't watch that show...

What did I miss? What does Coulson deduce from this dream/nightmare?

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    I don't think you missed anything. The writers are feeding us little clues and bits of the truth little-by-little. Also, go watch Dollhouse! – phantom42 Nov 21 '13 at 21:19
  • Agreed, both seasons are on Netflix instant watch, it's worth it! – Monty129 Nov 21 '13 at 21:29
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    Holy crap, that was a Dollhouse reference, and I totally missed it! Bad me, no cookie. – John Bode Nov 21 '13 at 22:56
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    We also know that 'Tahiti' is a "magical" place. – Paul A. Clayton Nov 21 '13 at 23:17
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    Coulson says "It's a magical place" as a reflex every time Tahiti is mentioned. He is becoming consciously aware of it. – Jack B Nimble Nov 22 '13 at 15:10
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He knows it's wrong, but he doesn't know why, hence the scary. Like he said in the episode, he knows he died, but he has no memory of his recovery. He just knows that one day, he was bleeding out on the HeliCarrier, and the next he was in Tahiti.

What he's afraid of is that he's not really Phil Coulson anymore, but rather a Life Model Decoy (or whatever they're going to call it) of Phil Coulson. IOW, nothing more than a ghost.

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I read that this is a Dollhouse reference, but sadly I didn't watch that show...

The basic idea in Dollhouse was that they could turn the dolls on and off while manipulating their personalities. So an exchange where the doll interpreted being turned off as falling asleep was common. The primary suggestion here would be that Coulson was not experiencing what he thought he was experiencing.

If you don't mind spoilers from well after the eighth episode, we eventually find out that

T.A.H.I.T.I. was a project that Coulson ran at S.H.I.E.L.D. So they not only made him forget what happened to him but also what he had already known. As part of what they were doing, they removed the top of his skull, leaving the brain exposed. They would directly stimulate the brain with needles (and possibly electric current, although I'm not sure that was stated). They would also apply Kree fluid for its regenerative properties. The memory erasure procedure was supposed to compensate for the side effects.

But as I said, this was explained well after the eighth episode, mostly in bits and pieces. If you don't mind spoilers, you can read more about it at Project T.A.H.I.T.I..

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