12 MONKEYS -- "Memory of Tomorrow" Episode 213 -- Pictured: (l-r) Amanda Schull as Cassandra Railly, Aaron Stanford as James Cole -- (Photo by: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy)
Television & Film

Recap: 12 MONKEYS Has Time to Unmask the Witness


12 MONKEYS -- Picture: "12 monkeys" logo -- (Photo by: Syfy)

Season 2, Episode 13: “Memory of Tomorrow”
Written by Terry Matalas
Directed by David Grossman

It’s the day of reckoning. But the plague mask doesn’t exactly come off. We are told who the Witness is, or who the Witness is going to be. A lot of new groundbreaking things happen in this episode, and we get set up for season three. It’s obvious that the third season is going to be different from the first two seasons in many ways.


Cassie (Amanda Schull) and Cole (Aaron Stanford) are still in the past where we left them. They are celebrating their first Christmas together. Cassie gives Cole a razor. He just says no. I’m glad to see him just say no. Things are going well and he is confident enough to just say no to shaving. However, he is not very confident when it comes to giving Cassie a gift. It’s the first time he’s ever done it. He gives her a butterfly barrette because of what she said about not every caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It’s beautiful and the sentiment is sweet but it does remind me that Cassie’s metamorphosis was not entirely positive. She says she has another gift for him and gives him a card. We know the card doesn’t contain a sonogram because of the time period, but it does say that Cole is going to be a father. He’s overcome with emotion and looks like he’s about to cry. Cassie tells him they are where they should be. It’s sweet and adorable and is a moment that I think the audience as well as the characters are going to need to hold on to for a long time.

Cole walks into the local store and tells the man behind the counter that he’s going to be a dad. Cole still looks like he’s in shock. The man calls him Jimbo, so obviously they chat whenever Cole comes in. He’s about to give some advice on fatherhood, but he freezes. Cole looks around and everyone is still. He looks outside, and there’s a woman in the street. Madeleine Stowe, in a dress and no coat, with blood dripping down her hand from her left wrist. She tells Cole it’s not over and vanishes. This is something new, I think. I don’t remember time stopping before for no apparent reason.

He tells Cassie that he’s worried that it isn’t over and that Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) didn’t kill the Witness, but he doesn’t tell her about the vision. Time stops again, stranding him in front of St. Mary’s Mercy — Asylum for the Insane, so he goes in to find the woman. She’s primary. Her name is Lillian and she killed her family at least 34 years ago. She doesn’t believe he’s really there or really him until he calls her a primary. She warns him that the end is near. She tells him she saved her family from the end and that he will do the same. She tells him to go to the pine barrens and bring back what he finds there.

Madeleine Stowe does a wonderful job. She’s more of a Kyle Slade primary than a Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) primary. She is at once compelling, creepy, and a creature to be pitied.

Cole doesn’t want to believe. He freaks out when she says he will do the same and starts pounding on the door to be let out. But he drives directly to the barrens to look. He finds trees turning red and a storm beginning. He takes the leaves back to Lillian and he tells her there’s nothing he can do because he has no time machine. She says that James Cole doesn’t need a machine, and tells him that he can move his consciousness to any time he’s been before if he drinks the red tea and changes what he’s done. But everything after that point would be undone. And she says, as an afterthought, that if he ever gets back to the future, his sacrifices will be for naught if he goes to Titan.

She may be a family annihilator, but she’s a very good primary. She’s clear on what she sees and what it means. She has the rules down. She also has a very different idea of the red forest than the one that the Witness cultivated in his followers. She sees it as a hell to be avoided at any cost, not a place where death has ended and people will be together forever.

Cole still does not tell Cassie. She knows something’s up with him and calls him on it, but he tells her that her and the baby are all he ever wanted and uses the tea after she’s asleep. I think it’s a little unfair that he doesn’t let her in on the decision, but it also spares her the agony he is going through. Cole writes “1957-1959, This was home”, on the wall of the house. That’s where the words came from.

This settles a couple of arguments about Cole’s character. There are some that have said that he has been selfish at times ,but this is a very selfless act. He gives up everything, however brief it might end up being, to try one more time to save the world. It also settles the argument over whether he would ever do what Ramse did if he were a father. Well, it’s not a flesh and blood kid that’s in his face yet, but he made the opposite decision. He does not destroy the world to save his child. I’m sure he’s taking into consideration how long the kid’s life is likely to be, and what the quality might be, which Ramse hasn’t considered.

12 MONKEYS -- "Memory of Tomorrow" Episode 213 -- Pictured: Aaron Stanford as James Cole -- (Photo by: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy)
Time Jesus

Cole is now officially Time Jesus because he is operating without a safety net. He’s Dumbo without his feather or Sam Beckett without Al or a time machine. Very Sam Beckett, because he is walking along a corridor tapping into various scenes from his life. He makes a few wrong leaps, including one in which he replays the time he met Jennifer, and he tells her never to call him Otter Eyes again. He finds the right one, tells Cassie goodbye, and kills the messenger. They splinter.

Jones (Barbara Sukowa) is alive: the time machine is there and she’s had to defend the facility while the storms receded and Ramse was traveling to the Witness and Cole was in 1957. I think the montage of her time alone is hilarious. First, she’s shaky and scared with a handgun, then cocky and smoking with a shotgun. Then she gets a dog! I can’t believe that she just gets a dog that shows up on the doorstep. Not that it’s not handy to have another pair of eyes, but she gets a dog.

Cole tells them that everyone is going to die at Titan very soon. Of course he heads off immediately for Titan without giving a thought to Lillian’s warning or telling anyone about it.He does, however, talk about warning them instead of going to Titan with them. Cole, Cassie, and Jones head to Titan via time machine. The coordinates have already been set.

They find only the daughters and Jennifer, who have been left behind. Cole wants the daughters to come to help save the others. Jennifer says they won’t follow her. What follows is one of my favorite scenes of all of 12 Monkeys so far. Jennifer gives speeches from Lord of the Rings, Braveheart and Independence Day, with a postscript of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. For each bit of speech, she climbs higher and higher on a jeep. The daughters are moved but not convinced, until Jennifer says she will do it by herself.

12 MONKEYS -- "Memory of Tomorrow" Episode 213 -- Pictured: (l-r) Barbara Sukowa as Katarina Jones, Aaron Stanford as James Cole, Amanda Schull as Cassandra Railly -- (Photo by: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy)
I think I’ve heard all of these speeches before.

The daughters arrive in the nick of time. A pitched battle ensues, and we win. Yay!

Ramse asks one of the army — all dressed as Witnesses — where the Witness is. He answers that the Witness is safe. Ramse kills him and goes on to the next one. He gets through four before he is stopped, getting more out of control each time. Then he turns on Cassie, but Cole steps in between them.

The army is interesting. They are all clean cut young men, and totally committed to the cause. Where do they get them? They don’t look like scavs. Are they from here and now or the past? Were they grown in laboratories?

They argue about whether to stay and look for the Witness or go. Jennifer and Deacon (Todd Stashwick) want to split, both knowing it’s a trap. Jennifer calls Cole Otter Eyes, and then adds, “Yes, I will always call you that.” Picks up right where they left off, as if they had just had that conversation. Ramse is sure the Witness is there. Cole decides to stay and keep looking. And this is the essence of tragedy, when you defy augury.

While they are looking around Titan, Cassandra remembers that Cole gave her a butterfly, and then remembers the rest. He is so surprised that she remembers. All is not lost. The loop that Cole closed still exists in her memory as well as his, which makes everything better.

Jones realizes that all of Titan is a time machine and is about to take off. They run to get out of it. Ramse is saved by a mysterious man in a cloak and ends up separated from the others. Cole runs in to get him. Cassie follows him.

Deacon sacrifices himself to save Jennifer. He goes down under a sea of cloaks and knives and is unlikely to have survived. However, he has faced worse. With actions like that, he’s going to have to quit calling himself a psychopath.

Jennifer gets in the way of the time beam and disappears. She ends up in France in World War I. Luckily she speaks French.

Cole gets knocked out of Titan as the army grabs Cassie. The entire complex splinters.

The mysterious man leads Ramse to Olivia (Alisen Down), and Olivia tells Ramse that she is no longer with the army and that she has his son. Hers was the hand that Sam took in the forest.

Cole and Katarina splinter back, leaving Whitley (Demore Barnes) and what’s left of their guards and the daughters behind. They wait for Cassie, but Jones says her tether was cut. She knows where she went, though: the future. Cole is going to go get her, even though Jones warns that traveling to the future will be more dangerous. Cole is looking dangerous. That capacity for violence that is on the surface with Deacon, just under the skin in Ramse, and hidden deep down in Cole, is out in the open where you can see it. It’s impressive.

Cassie is taken into a room with a vast number of cloaked figures, including a tall one standing on a lazy Susan clock. It is the Pallid Man (Tom Noonan). She assumes that he is the Witness, but he tells her no. The Witness was born from travelers outside of time. He lays her hand on her stomach and tells her the Witness is there. The army stands up and chants “Mother” at her. What a horrible moment for Cassie. The otherworldly figure that mind-raped her, the demon that has plagued them (literally), is her own child.

We hear the voice-over and the last scene is Cole racing for the chair and splintering.

I’ll start with the big reveal. This is NOT what I wanted! I really didn’t want the Witness to be Cole and Cassie’s child. Besides the fact that it gives us a tremendously terrible consequence for their getting together, there’s a creepy incestuous vibe to the way the Witness manipulated Cassie. Mostly, I don’t want Cassie and Cole to have given birth to Kylo Ren. I refuse to believe that any child of theirs could be so evil. I plan to blame the Pallid Man and the Army of the Twelve Monkeys for every bad thing the Witness ever did. They obviously steal the kid at some point and raise him wrong!

We have gone out of bounds in regards to time travel twice in this episode. Cole being able to travel into his own body and change things is brand new. It might be reasonable, given the strange things that the red tea does, and it might explain in part how the Witness can take control of Cassie. And the baby, of course, should not exist. Nothing has stayed behind except memory in any cases of changing time before. (Poor Cassie, she lost her butterfly jewelry.) I know that’s part of the mythos and might be responsible for the Witness’s abilities, but really? Talk about an immaculate conception. He should be no more real than a dream, or a wistful regret, or a twinkle in his parents’ eyes.

Cole should have listened to Lillian, or she should have given more specific instructions. If Cassandra had stayed behind while they want to Titan, he could have had it all. She remembered their time together, and she was still pregnant, against all logic.

But despite the fact that the Witness turned out to be almost the last person I wanted it to be, it was a fantastic season finale. One little quibble I have is that Jennifer was brought back right after her time with the hyenas. She should have been able to handle the gun better, I would think.

12 MONKEYS -- "Memory of Tomorrow" Episode 213 -- Pictured: Amanda Schull as Cassandra Railly -- (Photo by: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy)
That outer strength thing, that I’ve got.

It’s almost not worth looking into the future for season three. It’s a long time until we get the next season. Cole is going after Cassie with great determination. He doesn’t know yet that they are the parents of the Witness. Cassie is going to have to find some inner strength. We know from the first two seasons that she tends to fall apart with stress and change. Deacon, if he survived, will have time traveled with Cassie. Jennifer has to find her way back from 1917. We don’t know what Olivia is up to or what she needs Ramse for. Rumor has it that the third season will be about the Witness, and that he has his reasons. I am anxiously looking forward to that.

The wait is going to be really hard. Does anyone have a time machine? While you’re waiting, here’s all our recaps for the show.


12 Monkeys airs at 9 pm/8 c on Mondays on Syfy. For more information about the show, visit the official website.


Teresa Wickersham

Teresa Wickersham has dabbled in fanfic, gone to a few conventions, created some award-winning (and not so award winning) masquerade costumes, worked on the Save Farscape campaign, and occasionally presents herself as a fluffy bunny or a Krampus.

7 thoughts on “Recap: 12 MONKEYS Has Time to Unmask the Witness

  • Great recap as usual. I can buy how Cole can use the tea to influence himself in his past timelines. It makes sense to me.

    But I’m having a lot of trouble with Cassie still being pregnant. Terry Matalas said it’s because the parents were two time travelers, so the baby was outside of time too. Or something like that. I think I can buy that too, but it’s more of a stretch to me.

    The biggest argument against that is: why didn’t Jones remember Dr. Eckland when her timeline changed? She was just like Cassie now. So I think they should either both remember the other timeline or both forget. But that’s not the case, and to me, the writing seems a bit inconsistent.

  • Jones and Eckland..it wasn’t a timeline she had lived, but Cassie had lived the other timeline, but Cole closed the loop. Obviously it’s a timeline she lived, but in this case you could say that the serum prevented Jones from remembering the changed timeline. Because everyone who didn’t have the serum remembered the changed timeline only. But Cassie didn’t have two timelines to remember, just one that took place in a split second. I suppose if Cole remembered it, she would. I think that Terry Matalas is handwaving here. The biggest problem to me is that if Cassie is still pregnant, then Jones should be still dead. I was trying to remember if any physical changes that happened in a timeline that then changed have stuck around, but I think I would have to watch all of the episodes to check on that.

  • Time travel is always an iffy proposition. No matter what you do, there’s always something that just doesn’t make sense…. I was more comfortable with Cole being able to time travel (mentally) with the magic tea, because, as you said, Teresa, we’ve seen very funky things happen with the red tea before.

    I have a lot more trouble with Cassie still being pregnant. And not just because, like you, I really didn’t want the Witness to be Cole and Cassie’s child. It’s great as a dramatic device, but emotionally, it sucks. And logically, based on what they’ve done and said before, that future should have vanished when Cole made the change to killing the Primary in 1957. To the best of my recollection, that’s how they’ve said it works, and it’s how it DOES work. That’s why Ramse is so determined not to “undo” his son. So as far as I’m concerned, that’s definitely handwaving on the part of the people who make they show. They wanted it to be so, so they did it.

    If next season is going to be all about the Witness, he’d better be interesting. I’m not sure how you can make a person who thinks that destroying time is the right thing to do, anything other than an evil crazy person (i.e., a James Bond villain). And if we’re going to be watching the Pallid Man twisting an innocent child all season, I’m even MORE out. All season Cole chasing Cassie, Bah, humbug!

    I really need to not speculate, and just wait and see where it goes. 🙂

    Oh, and the only speech I actually recognized from Jennifer was the Independence Day part, LOL!

  • You are only seeing dark futures here! Where’s the old fanfiction spirit? Surely you can think of better ways it could go.

    I think I got the sequence right-LOTR (this is is not that day) Braveheart (they’ll never take our freedom) This is our Independence Day! and Bill and Ted (Be Excellent to Each Other.) Jennifer would make an excellent Melania Trump.

    Cole really believed that he would lose everything by changing time, which is why it was a big sacrifice on his part.

    What really twists my mind around is that there is so much manipulation to get to this point. The virus, the army, the threats to the primaries are all to get Cassie and Cole together in that one place and time. At least the way I read it. So was there an original conception that didn’t go like that? Or is the Witness an entirely made creature. I would be so much happier if he were made by the monkeys rather than creating himself, which I just don’t think I could wrap my mind around.

  • I’ve stopped trying to figure out which came first on this show. The time loops are so numerous and they’ve become so complicated, that I’m just going with the flow.

    A couple of impressions I’ve gotten from Terry Matalas is that he thinks of 12 Monkeys as a love story. He said on the Syfy podcast that Cole and Cassie are the heart of the show. If he stays true to that, then I think I’ll like S3. Sure, they’ll be at odds about somethings–like what to do about their demon baby. LOL But at least Cassie remembers their time together and that they love each other. TM could’ve erased that and he didn’t!

    I also heard Terry say that maybe the Witness has positive reasons for what he’s done, which we’ll learn about in S3. So I’m hoping that when we learn more, we might find the Witness more sympathetic. Like, maybe there’s an even greater threat? I don’t know.

    I’m just still thrilled Cassie remembered that she loved Cole. I can’t take another season of her sniping at him!

  • I know, I know, don’t figure out the worst possible thing they could do and leap to the conclusion that they’re going there. LOL! But I just don’t trust the showrunners on this one.

    Andrea, I agree, I’m very pleased Cassie remembers that she loved Cole. They didn’t have to do that, but they did….so I should try to be more optimistic.

    However, unless things are way different that the results we’ve seen so far, I can’t think of any possible good the Witness might be after….

  • The Witness could be a pawn…there could be an emperor Palpatine behind him. He could be trying to ameliorate the evil that’s been done. Or not. I’m definitely going to have to rewatch.
    And I am still trying to find the end of the string.


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