Howdy, and welcome back to Big Sky: Deadly Trails. In this week’s episode, we find that “The Woods Are Lovely, Dark and Deep.” We left Sunny Barnes meeting with her secret son in the woods at the end of the Season 3 premiere, and we pick this recap up right where we left off.
Sunny Barnes (Reba McEntire) reminds her secret son Walter (Seth Gabil) that he’s not supposed to be near the camp. “Remember, you have your place,” she reminds him. “You stay there, everything’s peachy keen. You know our deal.” Walter asks to show his mom something, leading her to the missing backpacker Mark Woodman (Zach Tinker), who is alive but seemingly paralyzed and unable to move. His head is bleeding. “I’ll handle this, go on,” Sunny tells her son. She sits down next to the backpacker. “You sure have a lot of people worried about you,” she says. “Worried sick. Your poor mama. Sometimes I think mama is just another word for heartbreak.” Mark tells her he’s in pain, but she ignores this. “I’ve got a child of my own to protect. I hope you understand. It won’t be much longer.” She begins to sing “Do You Love An Apple” to Mark as he dies. “It’s all over now,” she whispers.
Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) meets with two young women (Marlsa Robison and Rashayla Daniels) who saw the fliers asking for more information on Mark Woodman. They remember meeting him and inviting him to their tents for drinks. He told them he was about to go on a hike on Dead Man’s Drop. Cassie asks Denise (Dedee Pfeiffer) to join her for another look at the trail, but she’s afraid of it and asks her to call Jenny and Beau.
At the Sheriff’s Department, Beau Arlen (Jensen Ackles) is sampling a new menu item Deputy Poppernak (J. Anthony Pena) brought him from the Blue Fox Diner. When Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick) sees them, she scolds them for supporting a business run by criminals, but Beau argues that Tonya and Donno are legitimate businesspeople now. Jenny says they should be locked up just as Madge Crowder (Melissa Chambers) approaches with a visitor for Jenny… Tonya (Jamie-Lynn Sigler). She tells her she needs help with a squatter living in one of her properties that’s for sale.
Emily (Cree Cicchino) records Sunny for her podcast, which still doesn’t have a theme but she’s now leaning towards things that scare her. Sunny talks about bears and how you never want to get between a mama bear and her cub. Sunny asks Emily if her mom knows she’s doing a podcast and Emily shares that her mom enjoys murder mysteries. Sunny says she prefers romance. Emily leaves when Buck (Rex Linn) approaches Sunny, asking his wife what she was doing out so late last night. She says she was staring at the full moon, but when he notices a scratch on her hand, she adds that she was chopping firewood too. He asks her to wake him up next time so he can do it. “You’re so cute when you’re protective,” she says as she leaves to lead a group hiking excursion. Cormack (Luke Mitchell) has already gathered a group. Paige (Madalyn Horcher) stands next to him, which upsets her boyfriend Luke (Anirudh Bisharody). He aggressively tosses her water bottle at her and some spills on her. Cormack offers to help and Luke gives him a hard time for it. Sunny ends up stepping between them and stopping a potential fight.
Tonya leads Jenny and Popernak inside the house where Donno (Ryan O’Nan) is struggling to wrangle the squatter, who says his name is Jef (Richard Jin) and saying he lives there. Tonya is shocked when he produces a utility bill in his name for the address. However, Donno pulls out a black duffel bag and spills its contents. It contains wads of cash, a gun, and a passport, which Jenny opens. A bunch of fake IDs fall out. “Who are you, Jef with one f?”, Jenny asks.
Cassie begins exploring Dead Man’s Trail while waiting for Beau. She finds boot prints and takes pictures of them when he arrives, complaining about the hills of Montana. They notice a water bottle covered in stickers from destinations the owner visited. Beau suggests they bring it to Sunny to see if she recognizes it, but Cassie questions if he doesn’t just want to check on his daughter Emily.
Jef and Donno have been brought into the Sheriff’s Department and put in the jail cell. Jenny asks Jef to tell her who he really is, but he stays quiet as Popernak leads another man (Casey Adams) into the cell. Jenny leaves, and as the other man sits down, we see him let a syringe fall from up his sleeve into his hand. Tonya is waiting for Jenny just around the corner, demanding that Donno be let out of jail. “One day I’m going to put you and your business partner behind bars,” Jenny threatens. Popernak calls Jenny over to his desk to say that there’s no match for Jef’s fingerprints. They are distracted by the sound of a fight in the cell and they rush in to find Donno trying to pull the mystery man off of Jef. Jenny knocks him out and they see the syringe, realizing that he was trying to kill Jef. Jenny asks him why someone would want him dead.
Cassie introduces Beau to Sunny and Buck. Cassie asks about the water bottle and shares that she saw fresh boot prints on Dead Man’s Drop. Sunny says there’ve been a dozen people on that trail in the past few days and Cassie reminds her that it’s closed. Buck tells her that people who go up that trail typically want to disappear. “Dad?”, Emily interrupts, surprised to see her father there. Cut to Emily giving Beau a tour of her glamping tent. She tells him he didn’t need to come check up on her, but he tells her about the missing backpacker he came to ask about. Emily’s stepdad Avery (Henry Ian Cusick) enters the tent and Beau apologizes for infringing on their time. Avery announces that he and Emily are having a nice time and that he’s helping her with her podcast. Beau is taken aback, having not heard about this project before. Cassie asks Beau if they’re ready to head out. He pulls Emily aside and asks her not to tell her mother that he stopped by before giving her a goodbye hug.
On the hiking trails, Luke confronts Paige about running off alone. “Hoping your cowboy lover would follow you?”, he snaps. Paige tells him that she only flirts with Cormack to make him jealous. Luke refers to this trip as a vacation from hell and she snaps back that this isn’t a vacation. “We both know we’re hiding out here until we can both go back for the money”
The man who tried to poison Jef is named Stephen Cooper, a Security Engineer at Redman Aircraft Corporation. Jenny and Popernak pull up the company’s info and on the screen of senior leadership is the man they’ve come to know as Jef, who is really Paul Carlson, Senior Legal Counsel at the same corporation. They also learn that the CEO’s Executive Assistant, Camille Perez, went missing two weeks ago. Jenny and Beau pull Paul in for an interrogation, and he confesses that the company’s new multi-billion dollar fleet of airplanes fails all of the safety tests and they’re covering it up. He’s trying to flee to Canada to blow the whistle and says he has an insurance policy. He doesn’t trust the U.S. government to protect him, but Beau argues that there’s nowhere safer than in the witness protection program. “You’ve got my word,” he says. “We are not going to let anything happen to you.”
Luke and Paige don’t return to camp like the rest of the guests. Cormack tells Sunny that they’re probably making up after a fight, but she asks him to go look for them, inviting some of the campers along. In the woods, we see Luke and Paige lost and arguing over whether to stay where they are and wait for help to arrive or keep roaming around. Paige sees a flashlight and starts calling to its holder, but Luke says they don’t know who it is. She snaps that he should be in jail now. “You’re a little boy pretending to be a man,” she belittles him. “I’m not going to let you take me down with you.” He asks her what about the money and she tells him it’s meaningless if they die in the woods. “Good luck waiting for mommy to come and find you,” Paige says as she starts to walk away. Luke snaps, reaching for her neck. Paige pushes him away. “You ever touch me like that again, I’ll kill you,” she warns as she goes off without him. We see Luke pick up a large rock and start to follow her. Their fight took place right by the tree with the bloody heart carved into it.
While everyone is out looking for Luke and Paige, Avery goes into their tent and, after confirming that it’s empty, begins to snoop around. Inside a cheetah-print bag he finds a gun and a handwritten journal with random words highlighted in yellow. Emily comes in looking for Paige and Avery pretends that he was confused and thought this was his tent.
The next morning, Paige and Luke have still not returned. Sunny tells the campers that she’s calling her friend Ranger Mike to come to look around. Emily suggests that the other campers join the search. Sunny glances nervously at Buck as she pretends to love the idea and leads the campers out.
Deputy Marshall Weaver (Teri Reeves) arrives at the Sheriff’s Department to take Paul. Beau is surprised she didn’t bring backup and Jenny asks for her credentials, passing them to the desk and asking them to call her supervisor to double check. Beau offers a police escort to the airport to transfer Paul into protected custody, but Weaver insists that she’s done this before. Paul gets in Weaver’s car and they drive away. Then Popernak pulls up and leans out to ask Beau and Jenny if this plan is overkill. He is ordered to follow them from a distance just to make sure they arrive at the airport safely.
On her computer, Cassie matches the bottle she and Beau found to the one hanging from Mark’s backpack in the photo he shared on social media before disappearing. She calls Denise in and she once again brings up the story of her neighbor who was killed at Dead Man’s Drop twenty years ago, found with her heart cut out. The killer was never found.
Popernak follows Weaver while on the phone with Beau. He announces that they’ve made a wrong turn to the airport and Jenny is immediately suspicious. She believes they’re heading back to the house he was squatting in and Beau says it must be for the “insurance” Paul mentioned. They get in their truck and head that way.
Sunny goes alone to a clearing of chopped trees where there are manmade trinkets, some appearing to use animal or human teeth. She calls for Walter, but he doesn’t respond. Walking back to the trail, she bumps into Cormack and asks him to keep the group of guests together. He tells her they’ve already split up and he can’t herd them all the time. He wants to go down the path Sunny just came from and she stops him, saying she checked it already. They behind to argue and she asks why he can’t just do what she asks him to. “You’re a grown man, Cormack,” she scolds. “Start acting like it.”
Jenny and Beau enter the house with bulletproof vests on and guns drawn. Splitting up, Jenny finds Weaver who is guiding Paul through the house at gunpoint. When Jenny jumps out, Weaver spins around and holds the gun to Paul’s head. Jenny tells Weaver that this isn’t worth the money. While she talks, Popernak sneaks up behind and knocks Weaver out with a lamp. Meanwhile, Beau has gone downstairs and found a locked door. He kicks it in and a woman screams. Jenny rushes over to find that Camille Perez (Chhaya Nene), the missing executive assistant, was hiding out with Paul and they were planning to blow the whistle together. She was his insurance plan.
During the search for Paige and Luke, Avery asks Emily to come back to the camp with him so he can use the bathroom. Emily begs to check one more trail and says she’ll be fine alone. “It’s alright, I’ll be right there,” she promises. We see Emily find a trail of large rocks. There are red drops on a few of them. The leads to bushes with blood dripping from leaves. And then finally, she finds Luke bending down by a creek. His pants on his left leg are torn and he’s bleeding, trying to wash up in the creek. Emily pulls out her phone and takes a picture, which makes a sound. Luke turns around to look up at her with fire in his eyes. The left side of his head is also bleeding.
Cassie is busy moving into her new home when Jenny and Beau stop by with some housewarming gifts. Beau brought a loaf of bread so she’s never hungry and a can of salt for protection. Jenny brought tequila so she’s never without fun. They open Jenny’s gift right away and clink shot glasses in a toast. Jenny asks Cassie for an update on the backpacker and she mentions Denise’s theory about a murderer at Dead Man’s Cliff. “I’m sorry, what?”, Beau asks. “Emily’s up in those woods.” He pulls out his phone and Jenny warns him not to scare her. He says he just wants to check in and tries to send her a text. It comes back as undeliverable. “I guess she doesn’t have any service,” he says.
Big Sky: Deadly Trails will return on Wednesday, October 5th with “A Brief History of Crime.” Here’s the official episode description from ABC.
While investigating a scamming operation with Beau, Jenny discovers a connection to the crime that sends her reeling. Elsewhere, a camper at Sunny Day Excursions has gone missing, and Beau’s similarly stubborn daughter, Emily, is eager to solve the case. Yet, with Sunny determined to cover up loose ends, her digging might lead to more than she bargained for in the end. As all this and the hunt for the missing backpacker continue, Cassie and Denise run into a strange man on the side of the road who may just lead them down a new path.