'12 Monkeys' recap: 'Shonin'
I loved “Shonin.” And I hated “Shonin.”
Since the pilot, Ramse has been one of, if not the, funniest, most emotionally resonant, and enjoyable-to-watch characters on the show. So it was great to see Kirk Acevedo in a frequently surprising and thrilling showcase episode for everything he brings to the role.
But it’s tough to watch a beloved character transform into the character who may very well be the season’s Big Bad, even in one of the season’s best episodes.
So how did 12 Monkeys and Ramse reach that point? Well, that’s what “Shonin” lays out. Ramse jumped to 1987 at the end of “Divine Move” in what Jones called a one-way trip. She wasn’t wrong, as Ramse lives out an entire life from 1987 onward. Stumbling into a club brawl with Cole at the White Dragon, where the two cross paths with Leland Goines (in a terrible wig), Ramse is quickly thrown in prison for stabbing Cole. He leaves Cole, his former best friend, for dead in the hands of Japanese gangsters.
Without a social security number or another form of identification, he indefinitely remains incarcerated and time rolls on. For over a year Ramse keeps to himself in prison, becoming an easy target for a particular bully in the prison yard. Injured after a brutal fight, Ramse returns to his prison cell and receives some mail. He refuses it at first—who could be sending a man 55 years out of time a letter?
Eventually he takes it and finds out it is for him. A woman named Olivia has written to him, calling Ramse “The Traveler” and promising she can help keep his son alive. There’s a better way than fighting back to come out on top, she writes.
So Ramse remains a pacifist despite the constant beatings he endures in jail. Olivia continues to send him care packages through the years with books like The Art of War (naturally). He eventually makes a stand for himself in the yard in 1992. He reveals his perpetual tormenter as an informant for the guards, killing the man without ever laying a finger on him as the other inmates close in to attack. Acevedo delivers this final piece of information with surprising menace.
Eventually, Ramse is released in 1995 with fresh clothes, a passport, and transportation to a mansion in Virginia. There, he meets Olivia, the woman who has worked alongside the Pallid Man. He’s there too, and they meet in the mansion’s courtyard where Olivia initiates a time paradox between Pallid’s pendant and the exact same pendant which Ramse received from Jennifer in “Divine Move.” The surrounding shrubbery is transformed a rust red color (a sign of the Red Forest?), and it’s enough to persuade Ramse to spend 16 years working with the two of them.
“Shonin” catches up with everyone in 2011, where Ramse looks like he hasn’t aged a day. In a beautiful montage pulling the curtain back, “Shonin” reveals how there’s been another level to everything that’s happened on the show. From the pursuit of Henri, to the framing of Jennifer in the lab killings, Ramse has been there to witness each step in Cole and Cassie’s story. By 2014, Olivia suggests they intervene, but Ramse refuses.
And so things continue along the path 12 Monkeys has followed. Leland dies, Jennifer leads them to the Night Room, Cassie is kidnapped. The Pallid Man wants to alter events, but he must play by the rules. The period of interference, as they call it, has begun, and if anything deviates from how Cassie and Cole experienced it, Ramse may never travel back in the first place.
Ramse expects everything to go as planned—so long as they have a workable version of the virus, it doesn’t matter what Cassie and Cole do. He remains certain he killed Cole in 1987, but Ramse’s certainty in their plan is shaken when he realizes some secrets are being kept from him.
NEXT: Did Ramse really kill Cole!?
When Jennifer is taken hostage after the assault on the Night Room, “Shonin” reveals she was actually brought to this mansion and locked away. When she’s brought home one night after trying to run away, Olivia speaks with her. Meeting for the first time, Olivia appeases to her by comparing their terrible parents and promising Jennifer that she can be a daughter again here if she wants to. Though this is probably daughter with a capital D, if her position in 2043 during “Divine Move” is any indication.
This aspect of the plan was unknown to Ramse, however, and when the Pallid Man tells him Olivia is securing his future, he begins to question what he’s really doing. He already thought his future was his own to control, but as “Shonin” proves, what characters on 12 Monkeys know to be true is very unlikely to be the whole picture.
Speaking of things Ramse may not know the entirety of, let’s backtrack to 1987… and forward to 2043, too. When Cole is stabbed, Jones and her team monitor his vitals from 2043. Making a last ditch effort to save him, they splinter him from 1987 to 2015, saving him from a swift end. Jones returns to repairing her wall of evidence that Ramse torched to distract herself, but she has to confront her actions when Whitley joins her.
These last few episodes have done a subtle but strong job of making Whitley so much more than his first few appearances led us to believe. He’s not just a hardass who refuses to get along with Cole or Ramse. He’s become a man with surprising insight, and he has come to believe that their mission is over. Cole is stuck in 2015, assuming another jump would kill him. Whitley’s moving on to the promise of another nearby encampment rather than waiting around with the ticking timebobmb that is Jones’ operation.
But as Jones reveals to another of her fellow scientists, she can’t leave. Her life’s work is here, in this building, and to abandon it would be to abandon any sense of purpose. Whether or not she has hope, she must ride out her fate, waiting to see if Cole can accomplish his task.
For now, there’s actually a chance of Cole succeeding. As “Shonin” jumps to 2015, Cole, bleeding from Ramse’s stabbing, stumbles in on Cassie and Aaron at home. But he’s still able to reveal in his debilitated state that he realized the Monkeys have been one step ahead of them the whole time. And not just that, but he also knows who the fabled Witness is, as the camera pans back to Ramse in the mansion.
Well… that sure changes the status quo.
- The Pallid Man says his father was right about Ramse, but who exactly is Papa Pallid?
- I’m hesitant to outright claim Ramse is the Witness just yet (there’s been no mention of him appearing to Cassie in “The red Forest”), but for now that seems to be where the show is heading.
- Leland recognizes Ramse at the Markridge board meeting but the time traveler refuses to acknowledge that they met over 20 years earlier, making Leland look crazy. He just cannot catch a break when it comes to time travelers.
- The episode does offer an interesting Leland fact, though. He knew all along that Jennifer did not kill those people in the Night Room, but he wants to make sure she remains locked up.
- Another scene that’s bound to have repercussions in the long game is when Olivia approaches Aaron. We know see that she returned to speak with Ramse after that moment, and managed to convince Aaron in the process. Losing his job with Senator Royce, he asks about a private sector project he was hearing rumors about. Royce mentions that an investor is on their way to speak right now, and as Aaron exits, he runs into Olivia coming in to speak to Royce. Looks like he has that private sector job, so long as he’s willing to help Olivia out.
- Demore Barnes again does a great job of transforming Whitley into a hugely sympathetic character. His angered yet restrained discussion with Jones goes a long way to improving on a character who started out as almost cartoonishly one-note.
Syfy takes on the original time-traveling film in a weekly series format.