Big Sky: Deadly Trails returned tonight on ABC with “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire,” the 9th episode of Season 3. The title refers to Jenny and Beau’s case of the week, and while Sunny Day Excursions has ended this round of campers, there’s plenty of drama for the Barnes family. Ready to dive in?
Inside the Helena Sheriff’s Department, Walter (Seth Gabel) is handcuffed to a table in an interrogation room as Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick) and Beau Arlen (Jensen Ackles) enter. “What can we call you?”, Jenny asks, pointing out that Walter’s fingerprints aren’t in the system. Walter’s lips are sealed and he responds to Jenny and Beau’s questions with a frustrating grin. Beau tries to get on Walter’s nerves by calling him “Toby.” Jenny places photos of Walter’s alleged victims on the table. Mary and Luke’s photos elicit no response, but Beau notices that Walter’s eyes have changed when he sees the photo of Paige. “This is where you help us and then we get to help you,” Beau says. Instead, Walter lies, confessing to killing Paige.
Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) claimed her raincheck for a dancing date with Cormac Barnes (Luke Mitchell), the two leaning in for a kiss as they flirt at the bar. But Cormac notices that Cassie seems to be holding something back. She just can’t stop herself from thinking about work and she finally lets it out. “Your daddy knows there’s some strange guy in the woods and he lied about selling his truck,” she says. Cormac, who has been struggling with trusting his parents, defends his dad as simply being confused about the truck. He adds that they caught the mystery man in the woods and tries to lead Cassie back to the dance floor, but she holds back. He finishes his bottle of beer and tells Cassie he can’t talk about this anymore, walking away. “Well done, Cassie,” she mutters to herself in frustration.
The next day, Buck Barnes (Rex Linn) cuts down the Sunny Day Excursions banner, accidentally cutting his finger. He examines his blood, then presses his finger into the wooden pole and draws a heart with it. “It’s been a while, you and me, hasn’t it?”, he says to himself. Buck hears footsteps and turns around to see his wife Sunny (Reba McEntire) walking towards him. She’s been wandering through the woods looking for Paige, feeling like she must still be alive. Buck tells her it’s time to prick up the pieces and move on, making Sunny promise to let it go.
Cassie goes to the Sheriff’s Department to meet with Jenny, telling her about ruining the date with Cormac. She asks about the mystery man from the woods and Jenny tells Cassie that he only confessed to the murder of Paige. “It’s weird, that’s the one crime without a body,” Cassie points out. She asks if she can have a turn at questioning him, saying she will try to approach him like a friend. “Good luck,” Jenny says as she passes Cassie the case file of everything they know.
Emily (Cree Cicchino) stayed with her dad Beau in his classic Airstream trailer last night, finding a banker box in the closet full of newspaper clippings from Beau’s deceased partner in Texas. Her mom Carla (Angelique Cabral) arrives to pick her up and Carla asks for a moment alone with Beau. Carla tells Beau that Avery is staying at a hotel while they work things out and that she might need him to have Emily for a few more days than usual. Beau is supportive, offering whatever Carla needs, and suggesting that Emily help out at Dewell & Hoyt as an unpaid intern. Their conversation is interrupted by a phone call from Jenny, who says they have to go respond to a body that was found in a park.
It’s a gruesome scene, a dead body hanging from a parachute caught in a tree. The body is identified as Brett Baker and as Jenny and Beau drive to share the bad news with his wife, Deputy Poppernak (J. Anthony Pena) calls to share that one of the parachute’s lines were cut. Meeting with Maya Baker (Joane Nguyen), Jenny and Beau learn that Brett was a smoke jumper who quit after his friend died on the job, now working as a stunt diver for special events. He was doing a gender reveal party when he died. Jenny and Beau mention that one of Brett’s lines was cut and ask if he had any enemies. Maya says that the father of Brett’s friend blamed Brett for his son’s death.
“Isn’t there a less public place we could do this?”, Avery (Henry Ian Cusick) asks as he sits down at a booth in the Boot Heel across from Tony (West Liang), the man who hired Tonya and Donno as bounty hunters to bring Paige and Luke to him. “We’re just two old friends sharing a drink,” Tony says as he asks Avery why he hasn’t been able to unlock Paige’s account yet. Avery tells him that the encryption has been hard to crack and Tony tells him he only has 24 hours to get in and receive his $1 million cut of the $15 million account. The penalty if Avery doesn’t deliver will be the death of Carla and Emily.
Jenny and Beau stop by the Lewis & Clark Smokejumper Unit where a man named Cooper (Adam Aalderks) directs them to Frank (Mark Derwin), father of Dave, Brett’s deceased friend. He had already heard about Brett’s death and seems shocked when Beau says it appears to have been murder. Frank admits that he was hard on Brett when his son passed away and that he misdirected his grief. However, as Beau and Jenny ask more questions, Frank becomes hostile, threatening that they will have to go through his lawyer for any further questions.
Walter recognizes Cassie when she enters the interrogation room and as she sits down, she tells him that she doesn’t believe her hurt Luke or Paige. However, she tells himthat when she tried to help him with the Suburban, she knows he had Mark Woodman’s body in his truck. “We found the figurine you put on the body before you left him; We found the others in your cabin.” She tells Walter that Mark’s parents are in a lot of pain and are looking for answers. Walter says he didn’t kill Mark and for a moment, he tries to break his hands free of the cuffs chained to the desk, seemingly to assert his dominance over the situation. Cassie remains calm, asking Walter about the figurines he carves. “They were meant for protection for what happens when they pass over, that they have a friend with them,” he says. Cassie points out that similar figures weren’t found on Mary or Luke and she asks if they needed protection. “Not from me,” Walter responds. Cassie pulls out a picture of one of the dolls found in his cabin, one that looks a lot like Paige. “If they’re for protecting people, why did you confess to murdering her?”, she asks.
Inside the Blue Fox Diner, Tonya (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) presses Donno (Ryan O’Nan) about their next move. Donno wants to just forget about it now that Luke and Paige are dead, but Tonya can’t let go of the fact that Avery must have the missing pages from Paige’s journal. “Howdy, how’s the pie here?”, a sweet voice interrupts. They turn around to see Sunny approaching the counter and Tonya glares at her. Sunny wants answers about why they were looking for Luke and Paige at her camp, but they are tight lipped, telling Sunny that the police already caught the “mountain freak,” referring to Walter. “Please, what are you really doing here?”, Sunny asks, saying she just wants to protect her campers. “What if I told you that I think Paige is still alive?”, Sunny asks Tonya. “I’d say you have my attention,” she replies. As Sunny exits the diner, we see a red truck. Cormac is behind the weel, spying on his mother.
In Beau’s office, Jenny asks him why he got so confrontational with Frank. “People make mistakes, it’s up to leaders to navigate them,” he says. Poppernak enters the office with some information he found about some thefts last fire season that were blamed on Frank’s smoke jumper unit. It turns out that Brett had a storage unit just outside of Helena, which he rented right around the time the accusations started. Jenny and Beau head out to investigate.
Denise (Dedee Pfeiffer) shows Emily the ropes at Dewell & Hoyt. When Cassie walks in, Denise sends Emily to make them tea. Alone, Cassie tells Denise about what Walter said about his figures being for protection in the afterlife. Denise asks about the heart on the foot of Mark’s doll and Cassie didn’t get that out of him.
It’s dark when Jenny and Beau arrive at the storage unit, calling for the office clerk and finding him dead behind the counter. On the live monitors of the garages, they see a dark figure in a ski mask trying to break into one of the units. Jenny calls for backup and sends Beau in a different direction to try and cut the perpetrator off. She chases down the burglar, who ultimately evades them by jumping over the fence. They go back to the unit and take a look inside. There are boxes full of cash and valuables. “Looks like we got ourself a little drop stash,” Beau says.
The interrogation room has a new occupant, Frank. Jenny tells him about the storage unit full of cash and jewelery that was rented by Brett. “Your son was a notification contact,” she adds. Beau accuses Frank of leading this robbery ring and of his son as being involved. “My son was a hero and I’m not going to sit her and have you drag him or anyone else on my crew through the mud,” Frank snaps. Jenny asks where he was last night and his alibi is dealing with a brush fire, which others can back him up on. He leaves in anger as Beau ponders who else could’ve tried to break in.
Avery called Carla to come to his hotel room and when she gets there, she sees multiple laptops open, all running code. Avery asks Carla to go with Emily to an Airbnb just outside of Helena while he finishes work, saying he will join them when he’s done. “No,” Carla firmly denies the offer, telling Avery it’s his problem when he tells her he already put down a non-refundable deposit. Avery begs her and Carla leaves, reminding him that he lied and broke her trust.
Emily brings donuts for denise and Cassie on her second day at Dewell & Hoyt. She’s very interested in the Bleeding Heart Killer board and asks Cassie if they have any new information. Emily mentions that while doing her podcast, she learned that people like to have keepsakes from their past, mentioning how her mother has kept all of her wedding dresses. “People keep sentimental things in sentimental places,” Emily finishes. It causes Cassie to question whether or not she missed something.
Cormac pulls up to his family’s home, holding the baby bracelet in his hand from “Baby Johnston,” which Sunny told him belonged to a cousin. Inside, Buck and Sunny argue about Walter, with Sunny wanting to go and see him at the Sheriff’s Department and Buck reminding her that would give herself up. “I’m his mother, he needs me, and you don’t get to tell me what to do,” she snaps just as Cormac enters. He asks Sunny what she was doing at the diner, which confuses Buck. She admits to going there to ask Tonya and Donno if they knew what happened to Luke and Paige. Buck asks Cormac to give him a minute alone with Sunny, but Cormac refuses to leave. Cormac demands to know about the man in the cabin and the baby bracelet. “His name’s Walter,” Sunny smiles,.“he’s your brother.” Cormac needs to sit down as he learns Walter’s backstory. How Sunny made a mistake when she was young and couldn’t raise him on her own, so she dropped hiim at a church. But then Walted ended up with a family that mistreated him. “I had a second chance to give him what I never could before,” Sunny defends herself, adding that she doesn’t think Walter killed anybody. Cormac tells her that Cassie told him that blood was found in his cabin and Sunny says that was the backpacker’s blood. “It was Paige’s blood,” he clarifies. Buck tells Sunny that she needs to accept that Walter killed Paige and begs her not to let t his destroy their family.
Frank enters the Lewis & Clark Smokejumper Unit late at night and finds Cooper alone. He tells him about Brett’s storage unit that was full of stolen money and jewelery from homes they were trying to save. Frank asks Cooper to come clean and Cooper tells him that Brett was a liability. “What about my son?”, Frank asks. Cooper tells him Dave’s death was an accident, but Frank says he believes his son had a change of heart and was murdered. As Cooper admits to everythying, Jenny and Beau storm in, having had Frank wired for this interaction. Beau has to pull Frank off of Cooper, who was strangling the man responsible for his son’s death. “He killed my son,” Frank sobs as Beau tries to comfort him. Jenny handcuffs Cooper and leads him to a police car.
Late at night, Sunny goes to Walter’s cabin alone. She breaks the police tape and cuts the “Do Not Enter” seal on the front door to go inside. She looks around the place. “Goodbye my sweet boy,” she says. “Lord, please take care of him.” Sunny is interrupted by a light through the window, turning her flashlight off. It’s Cassie, who notices that the police tape is broken and the door seal has been cut. She pulls out her gun as she enters. “Hello? Anybody here?” Sunny hides under the hatch that led Paige out of the cabin in the previous episode. Cassie examines the floor and begins to pry one of the boards loose. She reaches down and pulls out an envelope.
Beau is hosting a movie night outside of his trailer and Jenny is with him, waiting for Cassie. Frank’s story really got to him and he feels like he’s letting Emily down. “Emily’s a good kid,” Jenny comforts him. “She’s strong because you and Carla taught her to be. Just give yourself a break for movie night, at least.” Cassie arrives and they ask how her interview with the mystery man went. “It’s not a mystery anymore,” she declares as she hands them the envelope she found in the cabin. “His name is Walter.” Jenny and Beau look through newspaper clippings about two parents killed in a house fire, their two children missing.
Sunny returns to Sunny Day Excursions and builds a fire, sitting around it and singing “Wayfaring Stranger.” As we hear her sing, we see that Avery’s encryption code finally got through to Paige’s account. He call’s Tony to tell him the good news. We see Cormac alone at the Boot Heel, crying to himself as he drowns his sorrows with beer. As Sunny finishes singing, a voice says “You have a beautiful voice.” Sunny turns around in shock to see Paige (Madalyn Horcher) alive and well.
That’s all the excitement we can handle for this week. Big Sky: Deadly Trails returns next Wednesday, December 7th, at 10/9c with “A Thin Layer of Rock.” I leave you with the ABC’s official episode description.
Jenny and Beau investigate the untimely disappearance of a missing groom from a wedding while Cassie enlists the help of Denise and Beau’s daughter Emily to unravel the lies surrounding Walter and Sunny Day Excursions. As the truth is revealed, Cassie finds herself in more danger than ever and Sunny makes an unlikely alliance to save her family. Then, a deadly attack at the diner changes everything.