Sunbeam water dispenser

I haev a Sunbeam hot / cold water dispenser. It is the type that has a 5 gallon water bottle on top. The water leaked out yesterday. Nice mess to come home to. I took it apart and found a hose had split. The hose is connected to a 3/16 metal tube, top and bottom. The top is connected near the top of the metal reservoir and the bottom metal tube I'm not sure where it goes. I figured I could just go purchase a new hose but about 2 inches down, there is a plastic piece in the hose. What purpose does this 1/4 inch x 7 inch hose serve? Any idea what the plastic part in the hose is? (No web access, at work, can't look at Sunbeam)
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