The premier of season 3 of Big Sky opens with a landscape shot of beautiful Montana while Creedence Clearwater Revival plays: “Someone told me long ago / There’s a calm before the storm / I know, it’s been comin’ for some time.” A young man in a plaid shirt and backpack hikes through the gorgeous countryside, passing a sign for two trails, Deadman’s Drop and the Basin Trail. As the terrain becomes rockier, he is startled hearing music playing in the wilderness. He is even more surprised when he finds the source of the music - a tape player hidden behind a boulder.
I jumped along with the hiker when a figure loomed behind him, another bearded young man with intense eyes and a strange air about him. “Hello, friend,” he says, but the hiker, already unnerved by the music, is horrified to see the knife in the stranger’s hand. He explains that a deer had fallen and had to be put out of its misery. He asks the hiker to help him: “we help each other in the country.” He’s too friendly, too close, reaching out to touch the hiker’s shoulder and asking if he’s alone. The hiker sees the mangled body of the deer on the rocks below. Thoroughly creeped out but still attempting to act normal, he tells him “maybe later” and walks on.
He hikes higher, enjoying the rugged landscape, when the music incongruously plays again. He turns to find the creepy stranger once more. “You might want to watch your step” warns the new arrival, but he keeps walking closer. Spooked, the hiker backs away, misses his footing, and plunges backwards off the precipice.
In town, Jenny Hoyt, Cassie Dewell, and Denise the receptionist are in the office chatting about the new sheriff in town - Beau Arlen (Jensen Ackles). Denise really appreciates how he fills out his Wranglers. Jenny says he’s just temporary, but Cassie says she thinks he’s staying. His ex-wife lives in the area; Jenny hasn’t met her yet but observes that Beau talks about his daughter 24 - 7. He has not shared much about the actual divorce however.
A new case has crossed their desks - parents asking about their missing son who was backpacking in the area. The picture on the flier shows the hiker from the opening scene. Cassie says she’ll talk to Sunny Barnes who runs a company that provides excursions into the wilderness around town.
Beau enters, bringing a dish back to Denise and complimenting her on her veggie lasagna. It’s so good he wonders how the meat version would taste. He jokes about needing to walk to burn off the calories but asks for a ride from Jenny. After they leave, Cassie tells Denise, “You never cook for ME, Mrs. Robinson!”
We meet Sunny Barnes, played by Reba McEntire, as she and her husband supervise the setting up of an elaborate campsite complete with large tents, strings of white lights, and chairs. She’s all smiles, reflecting her name, as she and Buck reminisce about young love and the people coming to join them. She fixes the sign for Sunny Days Excursions and pins Buck’s forgotten U.S. flag pin to his shirt: she has an eye for details.
The sunlight plays across the faces of Jenny and Beau as they drive through town. Jenny sees the photo of Tonya on a real estate advertisement on a bench. Her reaction to the sight prompts Beau to talk about how he handles stress: breathing exercises and visualization. He warns her, in his friendly, loquacious manner, that hate is a slow poison. He suggests Jenny talk about it, which she doesn’t want to do. She says Tonya belongs in prison and she’d like to punch her. Beau adds that he keeps a list of people he’d like to punch including his 5th grade bully, Elon Musk, and his daughter’s stepdad. Jenny wants to meet Carla, his ex, to ask her how she put up with his chit chat, but Beau says no good would come of that meeting.
Ahead of them, they see a man jogging along the road in his tightie-whities. As they pass, he waves and begins to call for help. He tells them that he was escorting a prisoner when she overpowered him and took his gun, his clothes, and his car. He pulls his ID out of his underwear and tosses it to them to prove his story. Both of them step back, unwilling to catch it. Back at the office, they discover the identify of his escaped prisoner: Faith Cole, convicted of armed robbery. The cop admits that she had caught him off guard because she had “seduced” him before punching him in the throat. Deputy Mo Poppernak (Beau calls him “Popcorn”) interrupts to tell them that there’s just been a robbery: the suspect was dressed as a female prison guard. At the market, Beau and Jenny check the surveillance footage and realize that the perpetrator has taken the manager with her as hostage.
Cassie asks Sunny about the missing backpacker, showing her the missing poster, and meets her tall, bearded, handsome son Cormac. It’s possible that the hiker ran into a bear. After all, bears have to eat too, Cormac observes. Both Cormac and Cassie seem interested in each other, and Sunny teases him about it a bit after Cassie leaves. Later, Sunny and Buck decide they need to stress their bear awareness speech to their new guests who arrive. One pair is a father Avery and daughter Emily; the wife isn’t coming. Although the guest experience could be called glamping, they do lack good cell service. Another pair of guests is an unhappy young couple: the woman wants to have a good time, but the man wanted a vacation in the sunny Caribbean, not Montana. It’s time for the tourists to hit the trails. Sunny and Buck exude confidence and cheerfulness, despite giving their guests a warning to be careful of the bears.
Cassie saw the large house that the drug cartel used is up for sale. She heads to a diner to meet up with Tonya who is the real estate agent for the ranch. Before she enters, Donno, burly and sullen, is cooking, and seems about to murder a customer who was pouring ketchup over his steak, but Tonya reminds him that the customer is always right. Feeling Cassie’s judgment for her involvement with the drug cartel, Tonya claims she is a legitimate business woman. In turn, she acts as if Cassie cannot afford the ranch. Cassie says she’ll be sending her a legitimate offer.
Beau and Jenny discover that the store manager is the brother of the suspect’s ex-boyfriend. Perhaps she took him hostage as revenge. Deputy Mo is flustered and awkward around the sheriff, who smilingly reminds him not to call him “sir.” Jenny admonishes him gently to stop sucking up.
While Beau and Jenny concentrate on the fugitive criminal and her hostage, Cassie is working on the case of the missing hiker. Denise remembers a sad story from twenty years ago. Her neighbor’s son’s girlfriend went missing only to be found mutilated and not by a bear because her heart had been cut out. Grisly as the tale is, Cassie doesn’t think it really applies because it was so long ago. Beau invites Jenny to join him and Cassie for a movie night. Jenny asks if they’re just friends, and he gives a resounding yes.
Without leads, they decide to check out the missing manager’s apartment, but as they pull into the complex, a heavy body smashes down from a balcony onto the hood of their vehicle. Beau jumps out to check on the man who’s still alive while Jenny draws her gun and runs into the building.
She kicks in the door to find a deserted apartment with TV playing and windows open. A noise from another room ratchets up the tension, but it’s only a cat. Jenny notices that one of the rooms seems to be for a little girl. When Beau arrives, he comments on one of the toys - a red stuffed moose. It reminds him of one he had when he was a kid that he and his brother squabbled over until his mother punished them both.
Deep in the woods, the unhappy young couple are still arguing. They pass the same sign as the hiker from before and head toward Deadman’s Drop. The man accuses his girlfriend of checking out Cormac; she says maybe she was, but they get distracted by seeing a bloody-looking mark on a tree. It’s just paint marking the trail but it seems ominous and creepy. Unsettled the couple move on, but someone’s watching them from the underbrush. Is it the creepy man who scared the hiker off the cliff? No, it’s Emily, the young teen girl tourist who’s spying on them. She in turn is startled by Sunny, and Emily pulls a serious-looking knife. Sunny’s sunny disposition doesn’t waver. She comments that Emily has a good father and asks what she’s doing in the woods. The teen says she wants to do a podcast on people’s secrets and lies. Does Sunny have any secrets? “What you see is what you get,” responds the cheerful excursion owner. Emily doesn’t believe that.
Deputy Mo (now called Papa Smurf by Beau) has discovered who the child' room belonged to: Madeline, the daughter of the manager’s brother, Faith’s ex. That means the fugitive is probably Madeline’s mother. Jenny does a quick u-turn. They need to find Madeline quick because Faith probably wants to take the child and run. She’s desperate. They arrive at the salon where Madeline was being supervised. Inside, Faith is pointing the gun at the owner, demanding Maddy. The woman fearfully but bravely says she’s gone, but then a little girl rounds the corner. Faith eagerly approaches her daughter, but Beau and Jenny enter, guns drawn, telling Faith to put down her gun. Little Maddy hugs her mom; she’s not in the line of fire, so Beau lowers his gun. The criminal decides to do the right thing and puts down her gun. Jenny is ready to arrest her, but Beau tells her to give the fugitive a minute; “let her say goodbye to her kid. She’s going away for life.”
Cassie* bring a serious offer to Tonya for the ranch house, despite the drug lab having once been in its basement. Tonya is friendly, warm, and professional and seems happy for the sale, but Donno glowers intimidatingly.
Back at camp, Sunny takes the happiness of her guests seriously by chatting with the lonely girlfriend who is sitting by the fire while her boyfriend pouts in the woods. Sunny praises her own partner Buck as a gentle man, and the young woman admits that Luke is not so bad. She heads off into the dark to find him. Fortunately she doesn’t run into any bears or scary strangers, just her boyfriend who has gotten a little cell reception. They are tentatively making up for their earlier argument when they are interrupted by the strange sound of an old song playing. Then blood begins to drip down on the woman’s head and face. She begins to scream.
Her screams bring help. They discover it’s a coyote, mutilated and panicked that ran until it ran off a cliff to its death. It’s part of the natural cycle of life, gruesome though it is. Now the girlfriend wants to leave, but Luke is invigorated and attracted by the power of the story he sees, believing it to be more compelling than a bland trip to a tropical beach. The limp coyote sprawls on the grass, blood heavy across his chest, as if it’s been cut.
Cassie and Beau are enjoying an outdoor movie night, set up outside his silver streamlined RV. Jenny does show up. As they discuss what movie they should watch, Beau calls his daughter. Back at the campsite, Emily sits near the fire toasting marshmallows. Her phone rings; the screen says, “Dad.” She swipes it away. The man she’s sitting with is her stepfather. Emily is Beau’s daughter.
Unable to reach her, Beau admits to Cassie and Jenny that he feels that he is missing out on her life. The women encourage him to just keep being there for her when she needs him. Jenny says he should tell her how much she means to him. They lighten the mood and start the movie.
At Sunny Days Excursion, Sunny tosses the missing hiker flier into the fire. Her face, usually beaming, is set and still. She makes a smore, then heads into the woods with it, a flashlight lighting her way in the darkness. She hums, then begins to sing, “I’m gonna love him.” Are these the same words from the song on the tape recorder? She calls out, “Mama brought you a treat.” Her face is smiling again. “There you are!’ she exclaims as her flashlight beam reveals the intense eyes and raggedy beard of the young man who’d startled the hiker.
QUESTIONS: Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
- Why is the man killing people in the mountains and why is Sunny supporting him?
- Will Emily find out Sunny’s secret?
- Will Cassie get together with either Beau or Cormac?
- Why is Emily ignoring her dad’s phone calls?
- Did you catch the Supernatural Easter Egg in this episode?
Catch up on all the Big Sky season 3 Episodes! Detailed recaps for Big Sky and Supernatural are listed on Emberlast's Writer's Page!
Illustrated by Nightsky. Sorry to not be able to include a picture of Cassie. Out of 42 promo pics I found for this episode, none were of Cassie.