One of 12 Monkeys’ greatest strengths is its trust in its viewers. The show isn’t afraid to change up the dynamic—whether that be the time period, what the characters know to be true, or something else—week after week.
“Yesterday” is no exception. Last week’s episode ended with a missile careening into Cole’s current location in Chechnya, and had it come at the end of a season or the entire series, he very well could have died. But this being only midway through the first season, and Cole so integral to the story, it’s easy to understand why he didn’t. But still, rather than focusing on Cole, the show only intermittently cuts to his struggles pinned down at the bottom of a crater of ash and rubble. Instead, “Yesterday” shines the spotlight on the show’s supporting cast, offering both Ramse and Jones the same focus that Cole and Cassie have had throughout the series.
It’s a welcome deviation that doesn’t take away from the central plot of saving humanity. In fact, it puts a new spin on that idea with an alternative solution to forcing Cole to jump through time until the process kills him.
So what is that solution? Well, It’s a bit far fetched but a cure for the virus is far more reasonable than sending a man through time. It turns out that the group Jones previously belonged to, Spearhead, is still active, and they’re looking for a cure to the virus that wiped out mankind. Led by Jonathan Foster (Xander Berkeley), who took over Spearhead by a coup after the death of his wife, has made it his mission to develop a cure.
Jones thinks his efforts are futile—the virus has already mutated before to adapt to attempted vaccines, and one more mutation could spell doom for even those who have been immune. She’s been determined to leave Spearhead in her past while she worked on Project Splinter, but when the time machine breaks down with a possibly-dead Cole still stuck in 2015, it’s time for her to revisit her past. The time travel machine’s power core will take days to prepare, but Jones can save time by borrowing a core from Spearhead. Against her better judgment, she, Ramse, and the perpetual wet blanket that is Whitley head off to Spearhead’s camp to attempt to borrow the core.
Ramse and Whitley make an initial pitch for borrowing the core, to which Foster denies them, instead suggesting they develop some faith (in the biblical sense, as he has), and trust that work on a cure is the right path for humanity. But their initial meeting isn’t a total failure—Ramse runs into, Elena (Amy Sloan), the woman he loved and who he’s mentioned briefly on the show. She’s alive and well, working at Spearhead, and more than that, she has a son now. He was born not too long after they were together, and Ramse, being smart enough to connect the dots, realizes Samuel is his son as well.
So when he returns to Jones, Ramse has found more than enough to convince him that they need to return to Spearhead whether Jones likes it or not. And Jones’ skepticism takes a backseat to her desperation when they give the machine one last push to zap Cole back to 2043. Their attempt fails spectacularly, leaving her with no option but to make an appeal to Foster. And it’s a good thing she’s willing to, because their last attempt to splinter Cole injured him in 2015 as he tried to pull a beam off of him.
His momentary flash in and out of existence only worsened the pain, and all he has to help him is a little girl above the blast zone who sounds like she’s got quite the nasty cough. Which can only mean one thing: Cole’s near-death experience did nothing to stop the virus.
NEXT: Can Ramse change Jones’ mind?