12 Monkeys - The Red Forest

You'll have to excuse my confusion and consternation.  Time travel does this to me.

When one has to deal with "Jinns," "Causality Loops" and as Jonesy said, "Breaking the unwritten rules of the universe" well, it's enough to give someone a nosebleed.

There were seemingly some disparate points contained in this episode but I can't help but think there is some interconnecting threads that link everything together.

This post will be an attempt to connect those threads.

This was how I was going to start this post.  With a study on "splintering" and causing different timelines.  I wanted to see how 12 Monkeys was going to explore what happens when you enter a different timeline and what are the consequences of fixing or attempting to fix said time line.

As you can see in the above image there are droplets of blood on the headrest of the Machine.  This is how our episode opens and for the next ten to fifteen minutes we see a time gone terribly wrong instead of a time gone horribly wrong.

At first I wondered why Cole had to fix the terrible timeline when the horrible one was just as bad.  But then again, if you're not using the Machine to do anything but dry laundry then changes must be made.

It was the droplets of blood that intrigued me.  You could be excused from thinking they came from something hanging over the chair that was bleeding but there wasn't anything there.

No, I'm now convinced the droplets preceded Cole to the chair.  It's his blood.  One of the interconnecting threads comes from the following image and what "The Striking Woman" (Alisen Down) tells us.

As the "Anti-Barbie" has Cassie held captive, she has fed her some hallucinogenic "tea."  (We're jumping ahead here.)  She tells Cassie, "Most of the blood has washed away" by the rain.  All of this was in prelude to Cassie meeting "The Witness" or as I affectionately call him, "Haz-Mat" face. 

Now, I'm thinking no one knows the ravages of time travel better than The Witness.  I have a theory where he is one of Jones' guinea pigs that actually survived her earliest time travel experiments unbeknownst to her.  He's dubbed "The Witness" because of all the things he's seen.  First and foremost the ravages of time travel.  (It's even possible he wears his haz-mat gear to hide what time travel has done to his physical appearance.) 

The physical toll is so bad that the earliest "practitioners" were turned inside out before it was "perfected."  The blood "The Striking Woman" refers to is the blood of the failed time travelers.

Jones from the "terrible timeline" implores Cole to follow the path of sacrifice.  We're to understand it is the only way to save things.  Of course this is a double edged sword.  She could be speaking of herself and Cole but she could also be referring to all the poor souls that were sacrificed in order to achieve her aims. 

As an aside, the rest of my "Witness" theory is that he is exacting his revenge on the future for what it has done to him and the rest of the "guinea pigs" or as I think he calls them, the "12 Monkeys" in their honor.

As the episode closes, Jones from the horrible timeline (our current one) tells Cole she agrees with her doppelganger's assessment that sacrifice is necessary.  Time travel is killing Cole and he only has so many splinters left in him.  He must make them count even if it means sacrificing himself.

So the connective thread is the ravages of time travel in blood, the sacrifice necessary to fix the future and one man's war against that future for the sacrifice he was unwilling to make.

Did I explain that okay?

So what about the blood that precedes Cole into the terrible future?

Jinns and Causality Loops

A "Jinn" comes from Islamic mythology for a being much like a Genie that, "inhabits an unseen world called Djinnestan, another universe beyond the known universe. The Quran says that the jinn are made of a smokeless and "scorching fire",[1] but are also physical in nature, being able to interact in a tactile manner with people and objects and likewise be acted upon."  (See more on Jinns here.)

To me that sounds a lot like our friend, "The Witness."

I got this idea from two connective threads.  The first being the "jinns" or causality loops the "Terrible timeline Jones" tells Cole he is being afflicted with.  Add to that, the times where Cole is looking about the failed Machine room but seeing flashes of the Machine room he knows where everybody is still active in it's operation and upkeep.

Like being in two places at once.

The second connective thread is the "tea" Cassie had to drink in order to meet "The Witness."  Is this the only way to see him?  Does he exist in between  timelines much like the mythological Jinns?  Being able to interact in our universe but living in another?  Another price to pay from time travel?

Jennifer Goines also had to "drink the tea" before she met the witness.  I wonder if its herbal properties act as a hallucinogenic that allows you to see him as he exists between two worlds.

A "Causality Loop" is a popular science fiction trope wherein you, as a time traveler, become involved in the very same timeline you are trying to correct.  Much like when Cole went back in time to defeat Deacon's attack on the Machine facility and was inadvertently the reason Deacon found the secret way into the facility.

It's a difficult and paradoxical concept to follow.

So the connective thread which runs between what Cole is, experiencing with his "flashes," the headaches and the theoretical existence of "The Witness." 

Jones warns Coles in two timelines that this is killing him and "The Witness" may well be suffering from the same affect except to an extreme degree wherein he lives in two timelines.

Yes, no, maybe?

Of Milk and Monkeys

Speaking of "flashes," here's another that Cole has been experiencing.  I think we saw it twice in the "Red Forest" episode and it caused Cole to double over in pain.  In the flash, Cole sees a glass of milk break, a solitary figure and then a shadowy face.

Here's the image of the solitary figure.  What's that at its feet you say?  Does it look like something Cole folded and stuck in his pocket?

Yes, I'm saying it is a monkey. (It took me about 15 tries before I could capture that frame, so, yay me!) At first I thought it was just a shadow or outline of a monkey.  But no, it has dimensionality to it as it casts its own shadow on the floor.  In fact, in Cole's second flash of this image the monkey appears alone and the solitary figure is gone.  (I didn't bother to try and capture that frame as I nearly drove myself half crazy getting the other one.)

The connective thread here is reliving a memory that you have yet to experience.  Cassie got one when she drank the "tea" and the "Striking Woman" tells her it is from a memory from some place she's been, just not yet!

I think the same thing is happening to Cole as he is seeing flashes of the Milk/Monkey event.  It just hasn't happened yet.

I was hoping we weren't going to see any monkeys in the show, at least those of any import.  But this looks significant.  Part of my "Witness" theory is that he names his "Army of the 12 Monkeys" after the fallen time travelers that Jones had experimented on.  The "fallen" were monkeys figuratively. 

My theory isn't over but it might have taken a hit.  We'll see.

Odds and Ends

Here's a picture of "The Striking Woman" as played by Alisen Down.  She seems to be an acolyte of "The Witness" much like "The Pallid Man" is.  They live in the universe of quotation marks.

I'd say she was striking!  And if she hears I called her the "Anti-Barbie" striking may take on a whole new meaning for me.  Smack!  Right across the face.

Here's the look on Aaron's face as Cole disappeared.  "Been there done that" says the look on Cassie.  Nice to see Noah Bean get something meaty to do.   Next up, some time on the gun range.

The Pallid Man appeared in Cassie's "tea" vision.  Super creepy because he winks at her here much like he did earlier in the episode.  Super creepy.

Take note of the Snow White costume that hangs from the ceiling of the party store Cole reappears in.

Snow White awakes from a long slumber after falling into a "sleeping death" when her stepmother gives her a bite of the apple.  Who is going to be Snow White for 12 Monkeys?  Cassie?  Is "The Striking Woman" the evil Stepmother?   What will Cassie's "sleep" consist of?

I'm a little nervous about the introduction of the military into the 12 Monkeys plot line.  But I love Greek mythology so bring it!

Worst picture of Amanda Schull ever!

The CDC can fix diseases but they can't take a photo.  Fire the low life underling that is responsible for this outrage.  I've been guilty of teasing Schull for her good looks but this is is terrible.

This is how you take an I.D. photo of Ms. Schull.

Of course, security would keep her extra long in line just to gaze at her badge but dammit it's worth it.  She's important to the future!


  1. Hahaha. I thought the same thing about Cassie's photo... That was Cassie??

    REally enjoyed your theories, reading them help me understand. I'd be lying if I said this show was easy to follow... lol... But it has become one of my favorites. Time travel and a love story - two of my favorite things. I'm hating the love-triangle thing though, not much worse than that. But well. You know, I'm not sure Noah Bean (I forget his character name), is all that innocent, but we'll see.

    I completely agree with your idea of the 12 Monkeys being the "failures" of the previous/future time travellers - it seems quite likely.

    Jones is a fascinating character - you hate her, you like her, you just don't know what box to put her into. I'm pretty sure she's lying about a whole lot of what is going on, and at the same time, she seems genuine in her sort-of comradeship with Cole. Funny relationship, they have.

    The memory Cassie doesn't have yet, that was pretty cool, I enjoyed that scene. I don't understand it, but it was interesting. It will be REALLY disappointing if this show doesn't get a sceond season because I don't see how on earth all the threads they've tossed in to the wild could possibly be tied up in a satisfying way. I'm really crossing my fingers.

    I could go on and on about that last episode (good one on the screenshot of the monkey), but you did a bang-up job on this post... :-)

  2. Thank you Ingrid, I really struggled with this post. I had so many thoughts going through my head that I was afraid I couldn't make sense of any of them let alone put them to "print." I'm glad you got something out of it.

    Noah Bean's character is named Aaron which is confusing for me in that the actor that plays Cole, his real first name is Aaron. It's like Jordan Hayes playing Sarah Jordan on Helix. Stop the name transferring!

    I'm sure he has his secrets. He knows about Operation Troy but hides the fax document from his Senator boss. Very fishy!

    I hope I'm right about my "12 Monkeys" name theory. It would add a sinister feel to the show. (Like it needs more.) But now that we may have a real dead monkey I'm a little worried.

    I would have the same "funny" relationship with Jonsey. (As I affectionately call her.) My TV fantasy is to go out all night and drink whiskey with her and talk Godel. And, yes, she has her secrets too.

    Have you ever seen the pictures of Barbara Sukowa (Jones) as "Lola?" Quite the babe. Unfortunately, I can't post a picture here but you can cut and past this link.


    Hope that worked!

    As far as Season 2 is concerned, I'm sure they have a master plan to tie everything together. Just as long as the master plan isn't anything like the one for Lost. Which is to say no plan at all. I have a plan for season two I just have to figure out how to pitch it.

    I like these pre-cognition memories or whatever they call it. Jinns? Cassie and Cole both having them is mind warping.

    Thanks for the "bang-up" compliment. Like I said, I really struggled with this one. Sadly, it is not getting much traction on the internet. My last Helix and Sleepy Hollow posts didn't garner much attention either. What's a blogger to do?

  3. It's a shame you're not getting more attention. Finding the right groups (not just on Facebook) might help, the virtual world is just so big, it is tricky to get attention. When I was blogging more in shows (which wasn't much) It put ways for people to do the RSS feed thing, and even though I rarely got replies, the feed got many subscribers. It took me six years, but now my art site is finally getting subscribers...

  4. Yeah, I've expanded to Pinterest, pushed on Google and Twitter. You can subscribe to my site on Blogger too. Still, sometimes it comes down to timing and or attracting the attention of a celeb. It can get a bit tawdry selling yourself and I find it tiresome. It's a good thing I "love" doing this.

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  6. Considering you felt confused by the episode, your theories are really solid Dave. Bravo! You always manage to get a giggle out of me and this bit was priceless... "Here's a picture of "The Striking Woman" as played by Alisen Down. She seems to be an acolyte of "The Witness" much like "The Pallid Man" is. They live in the universe of quotation marks."

    Thanks for your sharing your recaps, I read them every week!

  7. Thank you for your post and the screencaps! I love your theories and your blog helps me to understand the episodes a bit more.
    At first when I saw the last scene of "The Night Room" I thought the droplets on the chair were Cole's blood. Then I saw the first scene of "The Red Forest" and the dripping laundry and thought the droplets were water. Now I'm not sure anymore. Hmm...
    I hope your blog gets the attention it deserves. I subscribed to your email list and will share the link on Twitter. I found this via Henry btw. ;)

    1. Hi Eileen, I recognize your name from twitter. Thanks for the kind words. The blog seems to be doing pretty well today so thanks for that also.

      Time travel is a tricky thing. I figure if you can have precognition memories then shouldn't your blood be able to precede you also? It opens up a world of possibilities. We'll see how it pans out.

      Thanks for the subscription!

    2. Oops, Eileen, I meant to add a quote from Sigmund Freud that, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Coming from a background in psychology I use it to remind myself not to get too carried away with imagery, symbology or "droplets of blood." It may mean nothing at all but fortune favors the bold so fingers crossed!


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