The further Yellowjackets traipses into its second season, the stauncher the series becomes in proving things can always, always get worse. As episode seven begins and the camera coasts over that all-too-familiar vast expanse of wild, eventually zooming in on the snowed-in cabin, it’s clear that morale is in the shit bucket—and that’s before we get to this week’s woozy, chopped and screwed version of the theme song, a perfect encapsulation of the ensuing breakdown between reality and fantasy, book-smart ethics and animalism. Starving, exhausted, and traumatized from the loss of the baby, the entire group is listless; but none more than Shauna, who refuses to even take water. When the snow finally lets up, offering an opportunity for the gang to finally get sun on their faces, all it means for Shauna is time to bury her baby’s tiny corpse.
Although Shauna certainly has the most reason to be devastated, it’s Van whose disposition has taken the most dramatic downturn. Normally the unyielding champion of chinning up, Van’s newfound anhedonia and general apathy for life shocks even Tai, who is troubled when Van (rightfully) points out that the baby wouldn’t have been long for their harsh world even if he had lived, then poses the age-old apocalyptic question: What’s the point of surviving anyway? Van was almost incinerated in the plane, then almost mauled to death by wolves. What was it all for? When she puts it plainly to Tai, the gravity of the answer she seeks rings clear: “I need to know why the fuck I’m still here.”
Van’s not the only one struggling to find meaning in her increasingly hermetic life: As Coach Ben begins to starve, he’s still plagued by visions of times he spent in his ex-lover Paul’s apartment, which has now merged so neatly into the cabin. (Ben’s hallucinations have the aesthetic of a hunting lodge Bobby Berk got his tasteful hands on.) The more Ben sees Paul, the less Paul’s behavior actually stems from real memories, which gives a haunting tangibility to the consistently-espoused belief that something else was out there in the wilderness with them.
That hits a boiling point when Ben finds a stony-faced Paul telling him he needs to leave, in a strange mini-monologue with purposefully nebulous context: “Where do you think you are, Ben? You had to know you couldn’t stay here forever. This was never meant to be your hiding place. It doesn’t matter. What matters now is that you aren’t welcome here anymore…You didn’t do anything, it’s just time. It’s just time. I love you. We all love you, Ben.” When Ben steps outside, shaken by the conversation, his head is perfectly framed by the antlers hanging above the cabin’s doorway, a recurring image that heavily indicates there’s more at play in Ben’s visions than just hunger.
Although Lottie clearly has the most direct line to the spirit of that place, it’s notable how that same energy has focused itself on men: cabin guy’s devotion to the symbol, Javi’s inexplicable survival and strange drawings, Travis’ visions of Lottie and near-sacrifice at Doomcoming, and now Ben’s hallucinations of Paul. The fact that when Misty—troubled by some survivors thinly-veiled interest in the possible protein benefits of finding Crystal dead after overhearing Melissa opine it would be “disrespectful to the wilderness” to waste her body—goes out searching for Crystal’s body she can’t find anything further hints that this wilderness deity has some succubus-coded traits. Jackie, it seems, was merely an appetizer of opportunity; it’s pretty apparent who the wilderness wants to feed on next.
Flash forward to the future, and men—save Adam, whose dismembered corpse is very much not hidden from the cops anymore by the end of the episode—are as low on the survivors’ priority list as ever. All finally gathered at Lottie’s compound, the women each select a different therapeutic intervention to pass the day: Shauna picks “Self Care,” Tai selects “Renewal,” Van chooses “Forage,” and Misty is left with “Guidance,” which Lottie assures her is a personal favorite therapy. Just as soon as they’re back together, they’re splitting off, Shauna charged with caring for a baby goat she names Bruce, Taissa painting a building with a makeup brush, and Misty headed into an immersive sound bath (in an uncharacteristically and refreshingly sexy blue swimsuit).
That sound bath quickly morphs into a new kind of hallucination for Yellowjackets: a genuinely fun and goofy one. A wonderful indication that the show isn’t ready to settle into a certain tonal territory, the sound-bath features John Cameron Mitchell-dressed-as-Caligula performing a vaudevillian number with Walter as Misty looks on, grinning, from a room directly echoing Twin Peaks’ infamous “Red Room” (as seen in the opening credits). Confiding in Caligula as he takes off his costume, Misty asks if people see her as someone desperate for love, or worse, just some murderer. “You’re not a murderer Misty,” Caligula assures her, “you’re a closer.” When Misty leaves the tub she’s about as refreshed as they come: leave it to her bird to tell her what she wants to hear.
Meanwhile, out searching for Crystal’s body, young Misty has to grapple with feeling like a murderer in a pretty profound way. She comes across Coach Ben at the edge of the cliff, ready to jump. Despite Misty’s threats—she’ll eat his body, she’ll tell everyone that he’s the father of Shauna’s baby, that he impregnated all of them, that he’s gay—Ben keeps moving closer to the edge, until a final protestation stops him: “Please Ben, I can’t have another death on my hands.” Whether it’s out of fear, genuine love, or both, Ben always puts these girls’ well-being first.
As far as hallucinations go, adult Lottie gets the worst of it this episode, courtesy of the therapist she’s been confiding in turning out to be a far more pernicious kind of caregiver. Nervously admitting the “deep and primal” feeling she has being back with the women of her girlhood (who she believes the wilderness is delivering on her doorstep), Lottie is surprised when her therapist opines that she should embrace that, as that 18-month teenage wasteland marks the place and time when Lottie was her most authentic self. When Lottie points out that they hurt each other and people died her therapist morphs into none other than the antler queen, who spits: “You tell me, does a hunt that has no violence feed anyone?” before disappearing. Despite the power that Lottie’s visions gave her (both as a girl and an adult) she’s never seemed more vulnerable than realizing her safe space was a figment of her imagination.
Further proving just how adept this show is at crafting heartbreakingly complex characters that never quite become fully irredeemable no matter how bad it gets, adult Shauna also finally displays some genuine vulnerability this episode: not for her family, or for the cops, but for Lottie. As Shauna tearfully confesses, she’s always kept Callie at arms length, afraid that she would disappear, or even worse, that she was never real to begin with. She wants to just care for her, be her mom, but she feels that something inside her must be broken.
How could it not be? As soon becomes apparent, Shauna’s far from recovered from the nightmarish vision she had of her teammates devouring her baby covered in blood. When she hears Misty humming a song she heard in the vision, there’s no holding back her pain, and as she lashes out at the group Lottie steps in, telling Travis to take Javi away, putting her hands behind her back, and urging Shauna to let it out.
As the episode ends, two things are simultaneously true: these women love each other more than anything, and they might just kill each other anyway. Shots of the adult survivors dancing drunkenly around a fire pit to celebrate an eerily-timed snowfall are intercut with young Shauna beating the living shit out of Lottie, kicking and punching her until she’s twisted, bloody, and bulging. The rest of the team stands back, horrified but mesmerized. After all, they worship Lottie, and she asked for this. Whatever higher power Lottie has contact with has become fearsome enough in the eyes of the group that what she wants, even if it’s not in her own self interest, goes. What she imagines is true; what she preaches is gospel.
Despite the tenets of her grown-up “intentional community,” Lottie’s ethos has always leaned eye-for-an-eye, and as desperation abounds among the survivors, that logic is trickling down far more successfully than any material wealth ever has. When Shauna lost the baby, more than a few survivors saw the death as the wilderness’ decision, a gruesome offering in the interest of a favor later on. As Lottie herself pointed out, they got what they wanted: Shauna lived. Self-care culture rooted in loving thy neighbor is so played out, anyway (although frankly, this group of women wouldn’t seem all that out of place on a Goop cruise). “Spill blood” and you might get lucky, but sacrifice a life and you could end up blessed.
- Given their penchant for using sneakiness to help their dearly beloveds escape jail, I suspect a Jeff-Walter meeting is coming soon (not to mention a Walter-Saracusa standoff).
- When Van shuts down Misty’s desire to reminisce about “that first summer” by saying: “What, do you want to casually reminisce about our time in oblivion?” Exactly!
- Always the film buff, there’s something painfully silly about Van having this pseudo-A Walk To Remember moment, no matter how devastating the news of her aggressive cancer (and the cosmic context it brings her and Tai’s recent reconnection) is. She told Tai not to fall in love with her (again), dammit!
- Why did Misty keep her glasses on underwater? Maybe she’s even more disturbed than previously advertised.
- I would love to see Jeff and Lance (or alternatively, the actors that play them, Warren Kole and Josh Segarra) from The Other Two in conversation. Two himbos from two very different worlds involved in two very different toxic relationships...magic. Interview Magazine, let’s get to work!
- Opening with “Something In The Way” by Nirvana marks yet another perfect soundtrack choice. Who better to express the weariness of the down-bad than Kurt Cobain?
- Shoutout Redditor @loopygarden for a fan theory that’s been sticking in my brain: Could Tai’s alternate personality have been the person who helped Javi survive? After all, someone had to be severing the rope handcuffs, and when Javi speaks for the first time he tells Coach Ben: “She told me not to come back.” There’s no way Javi wasn’t getting help for someone, or something out there, and Tai as a wilderness conduit/unwitting guardian angel certainly makes sense.