You know that distinctly wistful feeling you get when Thanksgiving — or really, any food-centric holiday — is over? It’s all been swallowed up, and only shreds of an entire bounty remain. You regret choosing a third plate, because you’re sure every bite sent your internal organs on a collision course, like an inverted Pangea. And, in your state of recovery from gluttony, you realize that all the excitement and cheerfulness of the holidays are already fading away; soon you will have to resume a normal life.
Now take all the shame and sadness you feel in that moment and realize you ate someone’s face. Taissa is lucky she just threw up. I would have simply disintegrated on the spot.
We are three weeks into Season 2 of yellow jackets, and already, the team in the Canadian woods has suffered an unimaginable new dose of trauma that will forever alter the course of their lives. Beyond their initial plane crash, feasting on Jackie’s popular girl corpse is the series’ next big twist. All of the surviving members living in the hunting cabin in the 90s woke up to realize the horrors their bacchanal had caused. How they process the decision they made in a desperate state of hunger will define everything in the future, until now.
Tai might not feel much remorse for what happens when she sleepwalks, but hearing that she knowingly swallowed human flesh the night before, at least, triggers the appropriate reaction of shock and disgust. We’ve seen Tai carry these feelings into his adult life, reacting with the same horror whenever one of his blackouts leads him to do something so dreadful. Still, you’d think all this swirling chaos, awake or asleep, would push her to be a bit more proactive in getting serious help.
So far, we’ve only seen a glimpse of what happened to the team immediately after their rescue, when Lottie was placed in involuntary psychiatric detention. But in this episode, we can assume that the other Yellowjackets likely encountered a similar apathy toward proper care upon returning home. Tai, Lottie, Nat, and Misty are all extremely reluctant to ask for outside help in the present. And while they’ve had just enough time to work through their issues to sweep them under the rug, everyone is starting to unravel at an unprecedented rate.
This means that, yes, this episode finally gives adult characters something to do! Unfortunately, it’s in varying degrees of quality. The less said about Misty’s confusing and confusing subplot – second-hand interviewing a witness to Natalie’s abduction with her new pal, Walter (Elijah Wood) – the better. It’s far beyond me why writers think any casual yellow jackets fans will immediately remember who Randy (Jeff Holman) is, when he was only a small part of the first season’s three episodes. A brief overview in the “Previously on yellow jackets“The compilation would do wonders here, people!
But no need to be told what’s going on with today’s Taissa. We know she’s still descending from the Nespresso frenzy that tangentially led her and Simone to get boned in traffic. With Simone in the hospital, Tai’s mental state worsens by the minute. She wakes up from standing sleep (impressive in itself; I wish I could handle it) to find she’s written the hunting cabin symbol on Simone’s hand while she sleeps. When a nurse asks what this means, Tai ignores her as being “for protection”. That sentiment echoed in the ’90s as they debated why the cabin owner was surrounded by the symbol when the girls found his corpse last season.
If this symbol – for which we really need a proper name – was for protection, it probably wouldn’t be directly attributed to death and mental destruction. Not only does teenage Tai find it on another tree while sleepwalking in this episode, but teenage Lottie inscribes it on a baby blanket she gives to Shauna, at the world’s worst baby shower. As the Yellowjackets bicker over the blanket, Shauna’s nose begins to bleed, her blood soaking into the blanket’s sewn insignia. Seconds later, a cacophony of bangs landed against the roof of the cabin, in the form of birds falling from the sky. Lottie perceives this as divine bounty, manna from heaven. But logic says that Shauna’s baby would be safer swaddled in Jackie’s muscle tissue than in this blanket.
Teenage Shauna tells Lottie that after eating Jackie, she experiences terror like never before. Her maternal instincts have already kicked in and Sophie Nélisse continues to do a great job of bringing Shauna’s fear and desperation to her face in equal measure. We see both of these elements reflected in present-day Shauna, after she and Jeff have their van robbed at gunpoint. Although Shauna overpowers their attacker and snatches his gun from him, he still gets away with the van, thanks to Jeff’s misplaced machismo. Hasn’t Jeff ever heard the phrase “Never send a man to do a woman’s job when she’s been forced to fend for herself in the woods for 19 months” before?
After two whole episodes – a life in yellow jackets years—Melanie Lynskey can show off the secret badness that earned her an Emmy nomination last year. She hit a wall with Jeff’s nonsense, and damn it, that minivan had all its quarters in it! So Shauna Ubers in a chop shop with a finger on the trigger of the stolen gun. In turn, we’re treated to Lynskey’s 2023 Emmy Reel.
Despite having the gun pointed at his face, the store owner berates Shauna for her threat of violence. She’s a mom, looking for a minivan. What are the chances of her pulling the trigger? And then Lynskey hits us with the brilliant interjection, “Have you ever peeled the skin off a human corpse?” From there, the store owner and every viewer are his captive audience. “It’s really stuck on us, the skin,” she continues. “You have to just back off the edges of it, so you can get enough grip to really shoot. Which, again, isn’t easy. People are always so sweaty when you kill them… He there’s a look people have when they realize they’re going to die. This A.”
A cut to the chop shop owner, who seems to have soiled his pants already, doesn’t give even a second of comic relief, thanks to Lynskey’s gripping mini-monologue. “My hand wasn’t shaking because I was scared,” she says. “It was shaking because of how much I wanted to do this.”
An electrifying score, which interpolates the background noise of the shop of circular saws and clanking of metal chains, weaves through explosions of strident synth and crescendo to amplify the tension. Shauna decides not to shoot and leaves with her minivan. But that scene alone makes me think, maybe being so frustrated with Shauna’s lack of momentum so far this season was just a red herring. Maybe she’s just a pressure cooker that’s always on, and all she needs to do is remove her lid.
A final cut into the holistic enclosure of Lottie in the present day closes the episode, with a reminder that no one on this show is remotely well-adjusted. We know that adult Lottie professes her naturalistic approach to healing and seeks to understand everything on the outside. She even seems to deceive Nat a little, despite Juliette Lewis’ perma-wary gaze. But a moving scene on Tori Amos’ “Bells for Her” brings dust to that entire facade.
Lottie approaches her center’s beloved hives, only to find all the dead bees, with the honeycomb dripping with scarlet blood. Simone Kessell gives Lynskey a run for her money with her sheer amount of disturbing facial expressions. Lottie pours out her bloodstained hands, before one of her pseudo-cult members interrupts:He wants five.” My four years of French in high school left me rusty, but that loosely translates to “He wants five.”
Of course, this is all on Lottie’s mind. The hives are fine and the words spoken by her mate were in English, asking if Lottie would join them for lunch. Despite Lottie’s attempts to bury her own gloomy visions, they seem to be coming back with full force, now that Natalie is back in her orbit and Travis is dead.
Who “he” is, and what he wants five – assuming it’s not the yellow jackets the five-season series pitch from the creators – probably won’t take too long to reveal if the descent continues at this rate. Reality is just a suggestion for most Yellowjackets now.