'12 Monkeys' Episode 'Primary' Recap: Torching the Virus Changes Everything
Syfy’s ’12 Monkeys’ keeps the second season drama rolling with, ‘Primary,’ a redemption-oriented second episode.
When we last saw our time-traveling cadre of adventurers, there was a somewhat tense situation unfolding, with Cassie (Amanda Schull) ready to pop a few caps in both Cole and Jennifer in the hopes of saving the world. It’s a pretty drastic (and dark) departure from the virologist we met in the pilot.
This week’s cold open backtracks a few months to give audiences a glimpse of Cassie’s life in the year 2044. A quick pastiche of images and Cassie’s voiceover makes for efficiently delivered exposition that gets us into Cassie’s head before the credits even roll. She’s a woman who’s been forced to do things of which she never thought herself capable. She’s horrified by her actions, but has accepted that she’ll never be forgiven for the sins she’s committed to save humanity.
Torching the Virus
Moments after being knocked out by Cassie at the end of the previous episode, Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) comes to, and makes his way up to the roof just in time to divide Cassie’s attention between himself and Cole/Goines.
To avoid (more) bloodshed, Cole (Aaron Stanford) talks Jennifer into handing over the viral vial she’s holding. Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) hands over the virus without much coercion, Cassie lowers her gun, and she, Jennifer, Ramse, and Cole head out to destroy the remaining vials, housed on Jennifer’s private plane.
Once they’ve collected all the remaining vials, Cole sets them on fire, which causes an immediate reaction in the world around them. While the shift is minimal to the three travelers in 2016, to Jones (Barbara Sukowa) the changes are monumental. As a new world forms around her, the old one retreats into the past. Ghosts of alternate timelines flicker in and out of existence as she hurries through the facility to her room. Heading immediately to her trunk, she pulls out her daughter’s blanket and watches in amazement as it is suddenly renewed.
Back in 2016, the Cole and the rest are visibly annoyed that time has changed, but they still exist. Cassie plunges forward, taking the time shift in surprising stride. She’s brought with her one of Jones injections designed to help tether Cole back to his present. However, she refuses to use it until she and Cole have killed both Ramse and Goines. When Cole refuses to go along with it, Cassie uses the injection on Ramse, sending him back to the future moments before leaping back herself.
The Times They Are A-Changing
Fun fact: Thanks to Jones’s injections, Cole, Ramse, Cassie and Jones herself are all immune to changes in the time stream; basically, their existence stays constant while the world around them changes. There’s some indication that Jennifer can also see the changes in time, though this might just be a natural ability for her.
So, in the present, Cassie, Ramse and Jones are the only ones who are aware that things have shifted. The rest of the people in the facility have no idea anything has changed. While the virus is still active, Cassie’s actions have postponed its release a few years, a delay that allowed the CDC to save hundred of thousands of people. Of course, the problem now is that the Army of the 12 Monkeys was able to send a few Messengers back in time in last week’s episode, so there’s an undisclosed number of albino jack holes running around God knows where in the past (#seasonarc).
When Jones talks about the next steps — including bringing Cole back home — Cassie recommends ditching Cole entirely, since “he’s abandoned the mission,” which appears to be Cassie-speak for, “he’s a sissy.”
Meanwhile, Deacon and his thugs are busy trying to get info from Ramse that he simply does not have. Ramse, though, is holding up very well; in fact, he’s kind of winning the torture. In the episode’s best scene, Ramse — who’s having his head held underwater for long stretches of time — is allowed a few moments of reprieve to catch his breath. He takes the time to recall a moment from 2013, when he visited a home in upstate New York just in time to see a man chase a woman out into the front lawn and start roughing her up. Two children chase the couple out onto the lawn, the youngest child’s eyes welling up with tears. Ramse explains that, to him, it looked as though the man would have killed the woman if the cops hadn’t showed up.
The entire time Ramse is delivering this story, Deacon is watching, his anger building visibly, his eyes filling with hot tears. Ramse ends his story by identifying the youngest child, Deacon himself, before asking Deacon a simple question: “Are you glad I called the cops that day?”
The response from Deacon is instant. Hes clearly outraged that Ramse knows such personal information about him and he explodes (predictably), shoving Ramse’s head under the water for several seconds until Cassie comes in and pulls Deacon out into the hall, where the mercenary explains to her that he would very much like to murder Ramse because Ramse will continue to hold out. Cassie says she has a better idea.
A few scenes later, Cassie brings Ramse’s son to his cell. Smiling a big, threatening smile and putting her arm around the kid, Cassie effectively demonstrates that she’d be happy to harm the child if Ramse continues his silence. Before she can continue interrogating Ramse, though, an alert goes off in the base.
It’s a sweet-ass ninja who abducts Jones and delivers her to a militant group of women we’ve met before: the Daughters, the cult led by Jennifer Goines. One of the Daughters’ emissaries explains to Jones that Cole needs to be delivered to 2044. They claim that Cole understands something that no one else does; they issue a reminder that the fates of the past and the present are intertwined.
Left in the past, Jennifer is being pulled to the Emerson Hotel and room 607. Once she and Cole arrive at the Emerson, Cole checks into a room to use a phone so he can contact 2016 Jones (who basically refuses to help). Goines, meanwhile, continues to yammer on about getting into room 607, even getting a little psychotic, smashing a mirror, and attacking Cole with a shard of glass.
We’ve always known Jennifer was tormented by the combination of her own mental instability and the conditions she suffered at the hands of the 12 Monkeys, but it’s not until this moment that Jennifer makes clear her dilemma, that she believes that the only way to end her own suffering, the only way to be the special, functional person she longs to be is kill the world. It becomes clear that, in her mind, Cole represents her shot at redemption. He’s the only person in Jennifer’s world that believes she is capable of avoiding her terrible fate, and so she latches onto him not because she truly loves him — but because she wants to believe what he does.
Just about ten seconds after that revelation, the hotel’s owner shows up and leads the pair to room 607, which — surprise! — was apparently purchased into perpetuity by Cole himself in 1944. The room is filled with various knick knacks and pictures that hint at a long journey through various time periods, including a picture of Cassie and Cole in 1940s garb.
Seeing Cole’s reaction to the photo, Jennifer slices her wrist with the shard of glass (which she’s apparently still holding) and asks, “Why do I always have to do bad things to get your attention?”
Cole assures Jennifer that she’s got a purpose, but that her best bet right now is to get the hell out of Dodge. Jennifer tearfully agrees, and leaves Cole and the hotel. This moment triggers Jones’s abduction by the Daughters and gets Cole sent back to the future.
Closing It Out
After bringing Cole up to speed on the new timeline, Jones enters her room to pick up a few things. She finds Dr. Ecklund packing up his stuff. As it turns out, in the new reality, Dr. Jones has taken up with Ecklund only to have forgotten him as the timeline shifted around her. He assures her that he loved wooing her, and he’s looking forward to winning her over once more. It’s the promise of an opportunity to see Jones open up and allow herself a little vulnerability.
As it always seems to, the tail end of the episode comes back to Cole and Cassie. She’s hesitant to have him on the team, but Cole explains that — for all the murdering he did on his way to stop the virus — the only time he ever effected positive change was the moment he saved someone who was supposed to die. Then, he drops the 1940s picture in front of her, assures he he’s ready to complete the mission when she is, and takes off, leaving Cassie to contemplate her recent mercenary spirit.