'12 Monkeys' Recap: 'Yesterday'
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?
Jones is, of course, unaware of all of this, so she heads to Foster with only a partial understanding. But she knows enough to remain a firm believer that there is no possible cure for the virus. She tries to make Foster see her side of things at the most awkward family meal in recent memory—add the fate of humanity to the list of topics not to be discussed at the dinner table—but he is steadfast in his beliefs. For him, the past is the past, and even the tantalizing promise that he could see his wife again if time reset itself will not shake him from his beliefs.
Ramse makes some better inroads at Spearhead, bonding with Samuel and reuniting, albeit briefly, with Elena. Even as some of the ensemble cast has taken a few episodes to strike the right balance with their characters, Kirk Acevedo has nailed Ramse from day one. “Yesterday” is no exception, as Acevedo plays the emotional twist to Ramse’s life with equal parts heart and charm. He may not be the guy risking his life by jumping through time, but 12 Monkeys has found an unexpected soul to the show in Ramse.
The reunion with Elena and his son also breaks some of Ramse’s resolve against Foster. Elena fully believes in the cure, and if the woman he loves can put her faith in it, why can’t he? Though he’s remained in Jones camp, he’s beginning to see a new opportunity with Spearhead, and when he and the others return home, he seeks to sway Jones and the other scientists. Rather than looking backward in time, they can just just move forward, and even Whitley takes his side.
Jones refuses to believe in the cure, however—it would mean all of her work (and all the people she’s let die in the process) be for nothing. She would rather steal the power core from Spearhead than join forces with them.
Her final actions remain a mystery at least for now, so it’s best to check in on one of the reasons for her refusal to quit—Cole. He may ostensibly be the show’s protagonist, but he took a breather this week at the bottom of a cave and enough evidence to determine the virus was still unleashed.
But “Yesterday” pulls one last trick to show that the problem is much worse than another failed attempt to stop the virus. A group eventually pulls Cole out of the rubble, and Cassie, who finds out Cole’s body was never recovered, goes to the blast site to investigate. But when she arrives, there’s no one there—Cole is actually being rescued two years later in 2017. Jones’ attempt to pull him back earlier caused him to make a short-term jump.
Though that jump may have saved his life, it will also make saving Cole—and saving the world—all the more difficult when Jones finally gets that time machine working again.
- It’s only for a moment or two, but it’s nice to see the show play on our expectations of Whitley when he surprisingly defends Ramse’s opinion about Spearhead. He may hate the guy, but Whitley won’t deny when Ramse sounds right.
- Ramse and Whitley’s mutual dislike is used well in the beginning of the episode, though, when Ramse promises he’ll talk nonstop on the ride to Spearhead. Sounds like Whitley’s personal hell.
- I think this may be the first time 12 Monkeys mentioned Ramse’s first name is Jose. At the very least, no one before Elena has really addressed him that way.
- Ramse wanting to teach his son Go was a nice nod to his speech about the game in episode 4, “Atari.”
- While Foster and Jones fight, he brings up her daughter, peeling back another layer of her past. The show has only offered hints at the trouble in the scientist’s past, but it’s looking more and more like we’ll get some concrete insight into her life before the season concludes.
- Cole’s flashbacks returned while he was stuck in the hole, and they’re only growing stronger. While the spilled glass that shatters over and over in his mind remains a mystery, like Jones’ past, it’s bound to somehow play into the rest of the season.
Syfy takes on the original time-traveling film in a weekly series format.