12 Monkeys: "Cassandra Crossing" (Season 1, Episode 3)


Third time is the charm, or so it seems. Even as its ratings threaten to plummet, 12 Monkeys found  reasonably solid footing this week with a nicely tangled time travel web and a wicked dab of deception to go with it. It wasn't bad at all for SyFy.

We open with Cole teaching Cassandra how to shoot with an empty gun over an order of General Tsao's chicken. There's a bad joke about that particular menu choice, but it passes swiftly when Cass is summoned to a police station to recount what she witnessed of last week's Jennifer Goines kidnapping. In the process of being told how dangerous Jennifer is, Cass learns the identity of the researcher who survived the slaughter Jennifer remembered, the one perpetrated by The Pallid Man (TPM from now on).

It's Henri Touissaint, a Haitian by birth. And wouldn't you know Cass worked with him on a disease outbreak in Haiti in 2014. He died there, killed by a street gang. So faster than you can tell a lame Chinese food joke, Cole goes back to the future to bounce back to that specific moment. He's told not to cross paths with Cass since that might break the timeline the future is currently investigating. Oh, and solar flares at that time will do weird things to him.

Nice to know.

Haiti. I never thought I'd say this, but it's damn nice. At least on this show, because it's got oodles and oodles of something 12 Monkeys has been badly lacking--color. Enough so that they might have gone over the top on the whole Caribbean stereotype thing. It's still a welcome change.

Cassandra is progressively losing it in 2014. After her visit from Cole in the pilot, she's been looking for the lethal outbreak of which he spoke. She's convinced Haiti is the Big One. That clouds her judgment more and more every day until she's sleeping with Henri and getting a mite hysterical. Her low point? That would be when she's demanding a quarantine and telling the lead doctor in charge they have to shoot anyone who tries to get away. The audience gets her reaction--she literally believes billions of people are about to die. We also get her supervisor's reaction--what is wrong with you? It's a nice bit of plot backfilling that demonstrates for us how Cass' professional reputation began to tatter.

Cole is blinking in and out from the solar flares. That's annoying because it doesn't really have anything to do with the plot. It's a self indulgent effect that ultimately makes no difference to the events unfolding. One relatively minor flaw. I'll overlook it since most everything else clicks.

Cole gets his chance to intervene when Cassandra sends Henri off on a supply run. Henri, it seems, can find black market drugs in his old childhood stomping grounds. The two men initially fight, with Henri believing Cole is one of The Army of the Twelve Monkeys who has tracked him down. Naturally that leads to both of them falling into the hands of TPM. We learn that he's strong, too. He stops a punch from Cole flat in the palm of his hand without so much as a single flinch.

TPM wants Henri to tell him the location of The Night Room. That's presumably where the Markridge Corporation keeps its viruses, although the information to date is sufficiently vague that it could also be one more dead end twist. Henri says he won't talk because TPM will just kill him. TPM responds with cold politeness: "That does seem to be the way this is heading, but there are other things we could try. They're worse." Maybe he'll make Henri binge watch Helix.     

In a tie to last week's episode, Cole beans TPM with a rock, or a bottle, or a bottle that looks like a rock, or maybe a dead lizard that looks like a bottle. That was one noticeable bit of poor camerawork. The blow draws blood, thus creating the scar on TPM's face we see in 2015. TPM vanishes after that, which could be interesting if he winds up being a time traveler like Cole, or could just be some sloppy writing if he isn't.

So where is that pesky Night Room? Henri doesn't know--it was mobile. He says, however, that there might be a way to find it; a cutting edge mobile containment unit called... sigh... Big Bird was supposed to be outfitted on The Night Room. Find that equipment and you'll find you're Night Room.

That doesn't seem like a very good clue for people sifting through destroyed records in 2043. I'm sure it'll work out, though. Just know that you can count me out if The Night Room winds up being found on Sesame Street.

Cole commiserates with Henri. The Army of the 12 Monkeys will keep looking for him. They'll find him eventually, too. Henri promises to give those bastards a good run for their money.

While all this is going on, the B story occurs in 2043. Cole's buddy Ramse is out scouting for Scavengers with someone whose name I can't remember. Ramse runs across a woman named Max whom he and Cole both knew her when they were part of a Scavenger group run by a guy called Deacon. Deacon was apparently a nasty horse's ass. Max says she's run away, too. She begs Ramse to take her in with whatever group he's a part of, if only for a couple days. Ramse says no. He tells her about a village ten miles away where she can find food and shelter.

Back in 2015, Cole is teaching Cass how to shoot, with bullets this time. She tells him she always felt bad about Henri's death, that it was her fault since she sent Henri on that supply run. Cole tells her no. It wasn't her fault. As he says that, we watch what actually happened in the past. Cole wasn't commiserating with Henri. He was convincing himself that Henri would inevitably give up critical information to The Army of the 12 Monkeys.

Cole shot Henri.

That's cold. Of course, from his perspective,  everyone in the past is dead already.

We close with Max running through the woods. She comes to a camp where a guy who looks like a nasty horse's ass is sharpening a knife. She tells him she's located a target. As an added plus, it has Ramse and Cole.

Knife guy smiles.                             

All in all, not bad. Even kind of memorable. Give 12 Monkeys an upward trajectory at the moment and hope the ratings don't do what I suspect they are doing.