The Story Behind 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' Episode 5's Surprise Cameo

Were we supposed to know who that was?

the falcon and the winter soldier
Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

This article contains spoilers for Episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. 

Fans were expecting a lot of revelations from the fifth episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, titled "Truth," and while we still don't know for sure who the Power Broker is, the show went ahead and revealed another likely candidate. In the week ahead of the penultimate episode, there was a big character reveal tease, and the episode delivered a treat for comic readers and TV sitcom fans alike: Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfus stalking towards the screen in a sharp-heeled pair of boots and a streak of electric blue hair, introducing herself to John Walker (the now ex-Captain America) as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. 

It's a short scene, but she makes quite an impression, giving John her (completely blank) card and telling him that following his violent instincts was the right thing to do. Sounds like villain talk to me!! Valentina is a crucial character in the Captain America comics, an Italian heiress-turned-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, an erstwhile lover of Nick Fury, and one of the dangerous villainesses who have gone by the name of Madame Hydra. While she only has a few moments of screen time in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier so far, it's probable that she's being set up to become one of the many possible big bads of Marvel's Phase 4 (Thunderbolts, anyone?)—especially since this scene wasn't originally supposed to be her character's big debut. 

If you're still left confused by Valentina's surprise appearance, it might be because her character was actually going to be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Black Widow. But Black Widow's coming out a month from now, after this show is already done, but before quarantine hit and jumbled up every movie and TV studio's release schedule, it was Black Widow that was supposed to kickstart Phase 4 in May 2020, and, according to an article about this episode in Vanity Fair, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was originally planned to surprise cameo in that movie first. If that had happened the way it was supposed to happen, we'd already recognize her by the time she appeared in this show. But the world is a fickle place, and as it turns out, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier got to introduce her character first. It still works as a fun surprise, just one that might take some googling to figure out. 

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.