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Yellowjackets recap: Happy hunger games

A not-so-friendly competition between Nat and Lottie divides the survivors as the wilderness’ influence deepens on their adult counterparts

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Courtney Eaton in Yellowjackets
Courtney Eaton in Yellowjackets
Photo: Colin Bentley/SHOWTIME

If Yellowjackets’ teen timeline refutes one classically-held ism, it has to be “cleanliness is closest to godliness.” As the months in the wilderness drag on, the laundry list of unmentionable acts the survivors are bonded over keeps getting longer; in short, they’ve never been more desperate for a miracle. In this world, clean hands don’t get you closer to devout spirituality and the blessings that may or may not come with it—starvation does.

At the top of the episode, we slowly regain consciousness with both teenaged and adult Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown and Tawny Cypress, respectively), entering both scenes as if awakening from a dream and giving the viewer a new angle into her fractured psyche. Usually, we’re asked to discern how and when “the bad one” is maneuvering Tai’s body; this time, we’re thrust into her perspective, coming to groggy and beleaguered only to realize blurry visions of being outside her body weren’t her unconscious imagination; her astral proclivity has gotten the best of her again. As an adult, Tai awakens at the wheel of her car, pulled over on the side of a rural road with an empty gas tank and Jessica Roberts’ files on the Yellowjackets in the passenger seat. As a teen, she wakes up to the sound of an awestruck Van’s voice calling her name, pointing out to her that yet again she led them to a tree engraved with a symbol. Frightened and insistent she doesn’t know anything about it, Tai lays down the law when Van (Liv Hewson) asks her to just tell Lottie (Courtney Eaton)—now fully cemented as the group’s unofficial high priestess—what’s going on: “It’s none of her fucking business.”


Unfortunately for Tai, her aversion to Lottie’s eerie abilities (and her own) places her squarely on one side of a brewing war between the hungry, haggard survivors. On one hand, there’s the camp that believes in Lottie’s blood magic and wants to use it to their benefit: Misty (Samantha Hanratty), Akilah (Nia Sondaya), Travis (Kevin Alves), Van, and—most zealously of them all—Mari (Alexa Barajas). Months in the wilderness spent listening to incessant dripping from the cabin attic that only she seems to be able to hear have hardened Mari’s deadpan feistiness into something more animalistic and self-preserving. When Coach Ben (Steven Kreuger) asks if she would eat him like they ate Jackie when Mari accuses Ben of stealing bear meat on the grounds of believing he’s “so much better” than the rest of them, Mari doesn’t say no (which, at this point pretty much means yes).


In the other camp, there’s the majority of the core four: Shauna, Tai, Nat, and an increasingly weak Coach Ben. As we’ve seen before, Nat’s at odds with Lottie for more than a few reasons, from jealousy surrounding Travis to genuine fear of Lottie’s abilities. The opposing viewpoints bubble over into some real-life ire when Mari opines that Nat’s the reason they still don’t have any food—for months they’ve been eating starling soup from the birds that dropped dead onto the roof, which Mari steadfastly asserts Lottie told them to do. In Mari’s mind, it’s Lottie, not Nat, who is responsible for keeping them alive. Outraged, Nat proposes a contest: both she and Lottie go out for the day and whoever comes back with an edible prize first wins. Misty eagerly steps in to set the rules: leave any game you find right where it is, return to home base for assistance, and be back by sundown. If that latter clause isn’t followed, Misty assures the group will come searching for anyone who needs help. With that, they off, Nat slinging the gun and Lottie armed with just a knife, both of them sporting the straps fashioned out of seatbelts they’ve long since fashioned into jacket straps, an echo of the perceived safety they never really had in the first place. Let Yellowjackets’ own version of the hunger games begin.


As adults, Lottie (Simone Kessell) and Nat (Juliette Lewis) aren’t at war with each other anymore; within themselves, each woman has bigger fish to fry. Nat, who is finding herself more and more down to clown with Lottie’s way of life, goes on an off-commune expedition with Lisa (Nicole Maines)—who she stabbed just a few episodes earlier—and ends up meeting Lisa’s disapproving mother, whose protestations towards Lisa’s way of life leave Nat surprisingly defensive of alternative healing, even forgoing a whiskey shot at the bar while chatting about suicidal ideation later that night. Meanwhile, Lottie is desperately seeking traditional medicine and begs her longtime therapist for a higher dose of her medication to quell her visions. “It keeps happening, and it needs to stop...they need to stop,” Lottie shares. “The last time, it became something different. It can’t happen again.” That “something different” is left unexpanded upon, hanging in the air like the series premiere’s ill-fated pit girl.


When her therapist questions what Lottie believes the visions might mean, Lottie is taken aback: “Nothing, because they’re not real.” So terrified of her own mind she’s rejecting the very visions that guided her moral compass through more than a year of wilderness survival and into a life dedicated to imbuing those gifts in others, Lottie has never seemed more vulnerable. Towards the end of the episode, after a persistent vision of a queen of hearts card with her eyes scratched out sends Lottie spiraling (Reddit detectives, your moment is nigh), she slices her hand to spill blood on a private commune altar, begging to whatever out there might hear her: “Can this just be enough? Please?” Beyond the spiritual connotations of the sequence, the question feels poignantly prescriptive. How much will it take for Lottie to free herself—whether through empathy, therapy, or a whole lot of bloodletting—from what happened to her as a girl?

Speaking of that: The competition for game goes about as well as could be expected. At first, Nat’s discovery of a dead moose frozen in ice at the center of the lake (the same animal Nat hallucinated last time she visited the crash site) suggests she’s clinched a win. But the survivors struggle to pull out the cumbersome corpse with ropes. When they lose their grip, they lose the animal (which Nat had hoped would feed them until spring) to the depths of the lake. Meanwhile, Lottie’s journey takes her to a considerably less earthly place. After encountering a snow-covered altar ostensibly fashioned by dead cabin guy, Lottie wanders into a clearing that reveals his plane, the same one that exploded with Laura Lee (Jane Widdop) inside during her faithful and fatal season one attempt to save the team. When Lottie looks inside, Laura’s bear Leonard sits intact on the seat; her sparkling gold cross necklace is there, too. By the time Lottie’s hallucination leads into an astral-plane mall food court, Laura Lee steps in, telling Lottie if she doesn’t get warm soon she’ll die. Unlike Jackie (Ella Purnell), Lottie has an irrefutable higher power on her side, keeping her alive even in the most hypothermic moments. The questions are, at what cost— and why?


Thankfully, episode four isn’t all failure and frostbite. Consistently proving to be a light and buoyant note in both timelines, Misty continues to experience two kinds of love: a blossoming bestie-ship with fellow crash survivor and musical theater aficionado Crystal (Nuha Jes Izman), and a tiptoeing romance with her eager partner in citizen detective work Walter (Elijah Wood). Episode four finds Walter and Misty fumbling through a scenario worthy of any great rom-com: an impromptu road trip (set to the Evita soundtrack, Misty’s choice) that turns into an even-more-impromptu overnight. On the hunt for the commune where Lottie’s “intentional community” has swept Nat off to, Walter suggests they share a room nearby before Misty hedges. After they retire to their separate suites, a sweet split-screen montage demonstrates just how alike the duo are, each plastic-bagging the TV remote to avoid leaving fingerprints and falling asleep on their side to the soothing sounds of “Sleep Kitty” and “Birds of the Tropics” respectively. For better or worse, Misty truly seems to have found some sort of other half. Walter revealing that he’s a secret multi-millionaire thanks to a negligent scaffolding company, a wayward ton of bricks that landed on his head, and a very successful lawsuit, certainly doesn’t hurt either.

Although they don’t arrive until the end, this episode of Yellowjackets is defined by two major returns, both of which center around Taissa and the still-nebulous workings of her dead-eyed alter ego. As a teen, while searching for another symbol-engraved tree to complete a pattern Van is convinced other Taissa has been spelling out in her sleep, they find none other than Javi (Luciano Leroux) racing through the woods. God only knows how or why he survived out there (and what helped him do so), and the once-shy boy now has a decidedly sullen, silent air about him.


The way Nat shies away from the group as they welcome him back in—alive and intact, just as Lottie predicted—all but puts the nails in the coffin for her and Travis’ increasingly at-odds relationship. Whether or not it will come to light that she forged the bloody, torn trousers of Javi’s she “found” during a hunt, Nat’s decisions—as benevolent as they are self-interested—seem primed to bite her in the ass. Despite her sharp tongue and airs of orneriness, Nat has always displayed a sense of team spirit so profoundly ingrained she wishes a frostbitten Lottie “good game” after both of them nearly die on the hunt for food.

As an adult, however, the return is one Taissa makes on her own, although not consciously at first. After ditching her car and hitching a ride with a friendly trucker who voted for her in the election, Taissa arrives at a dusty small-town video store sporting a rainbow flag out front. When Tai walks in the door, there she is at the counter, as nonchalant as ever, scars faded into the lines of age on her face: Van (Lauren Ambrose). Since news of Ambrose’s casting confirmed Van as a survivor back in August 2022, a reunion for her and Tai has been inevitable—that Tai herself sought out the one person who seemed willing and able to piece together the fragments of her psyche makes the moment all the more affecting. Van loved Tai despite and because of the things she keeps closest to her chest, so close they can barely even exist on the same plane. It’s no wonder, then, that teetering over an abyss, Tai and her subconscious finally agreed on something: getting in that car and finding Van.


Stray observations

  • Van’s face has healed incredibly well. The girls don’t seem to be patting themselves on the back enough for this!
  • Hello, a brand new Alanis Morrissette cover of the series’ theme song! Wouldn’t it be fabulous if they found different artists from the era to put their own spin on the credits?
  • The only thing better than a sweet new little mouse friend for Akilah is her finally getting even the slightest character arc of her own.
  • Although this was a decidedly Shauna-light episode, adult Shauna struggling to be honest with Callie about her past (and the circumstances of Adam’s death) has to be a series-best moment between the two. Loving your mother and learning to see her as a complex, imperfect person is a real knifes edge, and the more Callie takes on secrets of her own, the more she seems both opposed to her mom’s choices and uncomfortably understanding of them. All I know is after this episode, I needed to call my mom.
  • The way the girls use seat belts from the plane to hold together their makeshift jackets is such an incisive costuming choice. It speaks to the fact that the girls are still in many ways trapped in that moment of trauma when the plane went down, the exact point that split their lives into two unique timelines, but are also reforming the last environment where they felt some sense of safety–real or perceived–into something that can suit them. They’re building their own safety nets; they have no choice.