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12 Monkeys “The Keys” 

Photo Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy
Photo Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy

[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.]

I’d like to say that I don’t think showrunners actively try to stir up their audiences, but I don’t believe that would be a true statement. “The Keys” was a mind-numbing (in a good way) hour that took the whole dial-back/jump-forward “before” and “after” plotting mechanism and turned it on its ear as Cole flashed back and forward around Cassie and Aaron in 2015, and nobody had the exact same set of facts at the same time. By episode’s end, it looks like we’re down a man, except for one tantalizing throwaway clue.

Cassie and Cole discover an archeologist who can help explain the symbols that Cole found in the 12 Monkeys lair last week, so they gussy up and go to a benefit, and have a very nice time for about a minute when Cole insists they stop and smell the roses, so to speak. He gets to eat skewers, and admire art, and dance with Cassie, and then she reminds him the clock’s ticking. She tries honey to talk to the archaeologist and he shuts her down with the Ph.D version of “you’re so pretty” and a pat on the head, so Cole roughs him up.

They get out of him that it’s related to a long-ago people from Syria who have folks still hanging on in Chechnya. This dovetails back to Aaron’s boss and Project Troy, which is related to an attempt to shut down Adam Wexler (Orphan Black‘s Ari Millen), a Mark Snowden-type hiding there. Cole tells Aaron and Cassie to gather what they can, that he’ll be sent back in a week. Then he blinks out.

Cassie goes to work, and Aaron goes into the office and temporarily pockets his boss’s thumb drive, which reveals details of the mission. While he’s doing that, Cassie’s phone rings and it’s Cole, already in Chechnya and Project Troy is underway. He explains that he’s already been back to her in a week’s time, been debriefed, and now he’s back again. The not-so-small wrinkle is that he has the virus but he’s also become goon target practice.

He’s captured, and Cassie tells Aaron they need to get the CIA involved now, because they’re using the virus to kill Fauxden without taking into account the ramifications if it goes rogue. They’re of course disbelieved, until Cassie’s phone shows she did get a call from Chechnya (bonus points for Cole figuring out how to do that) and she is brought into the command center, where the weasely virus creator from the pilot realizes she has a point and says they should listen to her.

Back in Chechnya, Cole is delivered to Fauxden and warns him that the briefcase he thinks is a money drop is actually a weapon. Fauxden doesn’t listen and he and his goons are sprayed with the virus. Pretty soon they’re all dropping left and right until one of them calls in the Russian Army. The CIA then decides they have to launch a counter-strike.

While all that’s transpiring, Fauxden and Cole talk about the virus wiping out the world, although Cole doesn’t tell him where or when he’s from. Fauxden says maybe the world deserves it if they’d take such a risk and wreak such havoc just to take him out. The goons and Fauxden throw down when he realizes they’ve sold him out to the Army, so they all start shooting and Cole and Fauxden are the only two left alive.  Cole finds out that Fauxden knows of the 12 Monkeys, that they have a file at the CIA. He talks about an event with the Yakuza in 1987, and Cole remembers his conversation with the Pallid Man in Cuba about scarring him that year.

He calls Cassie and tells her the status and she tells him about the airstrike and that she needs to keep him on the phone so they can track him. He tells her that in a week’s time, she cannot warn him of this. He says The Keys is the answer to her question, because he saw it on a poster when he was a foster kid. He tells her was glad to know her. She turns and watches the satellite feed as the bombs drops, and we see the room explode around Cole.

A week later, when he comes to see her, she tells him what he needs to know, and nothing more, and she’s in knots about it. She stops him for a moment, as he did her at the gallery, and asks if they can just be “us” for a moment. She asks him what he would want when all this is over, if they stop the virus and he doesn’t die, and he doesn’t have a chance to tell her. She tells him “good-bye” and then he blinks out.

So, I’m 110% that Cole is not dead because of the 1987 comment–we know that’s something that Cole still has to do. The question becomes both when and where is he until that happens. The episode doesn’t close with him resetting to 2043. We don’t see 2043 at all this week.

I loved the heart here. Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull did very nice work with a couple of unexpectedly sweet and emotional scenes. I loved that Cole was the one who wanted to stop for a minute and take the small, quiet moments where he could get them–some of Ramse’s “the wolf you feed” logic taken to heart.

When the episode begins, Cassie’s lost in a haze of her memories about the hypnosis and burns herself. Cole comes in and stops her from scalding her entire hand. He sees she’s fracturing and tries to give her a moment’s peace. When she’s talking to Cole after the airstrike team has launched, she gets panicky, asking if they can reset somehow, and he tells her no. It’s evident now that to her, the mission is as much about saving him as it is about saving the world. She needs both things to be true.

I’m always intrigued by how networks choose the photography to release, and Syfy gave us several pics of the gallery scene, but nothing to indicate the layers we were going to get tonight. I like it when episodes go a little deeper than we expect. I was perfectly happy if the whole episode had been about them getting a little downtime, but the actual episode was much richer, with Cassie having to face that they’ve resolved this already (unlikely), and she won’t see Cole again (except not really).

He upended her life two years prior, and then resurfaced and became an integral part of it and now she has to put that back in a drawer. When Aaron takes her home after the bombing and immediately starts chucking all her files, it’s hasty, because he’s afraid of what the CIA has threatened if anything leaks (and he’s handed copies off to somebody that I seriously hope he gets back), but for her, she’s still processing Cole’s death. I’m guessing we’ll see more of the CIA because Stephen McHattie was playing their director, and they still have the source of the virus.

Fun fact: “The Keys” was directed by WarGames helmer John Badham, who last worked with Stanford on Nikita‘s fourth season episode, “Dead or Alive,” and has recently directed episodes of Supernatural and Constantine.

I’m super grateful we do not have a hiatus. I’m excited to see how they get Cole back. We’re just past halfway through the season now. Six episodes left!

You can catch 12 Monkeys in repeats all week on Syfy, and on New episodes air Fridays at 9/8c.

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