Moving the plot forward is not necessary for a great episode of television—see: Breaking Bad’s “Fly,” Atlanta’s “Teddy Perkins,” Community’s “Cooperative Calligraphy.” But four episodes in, an inert episode of Yellowjackets is a sad thing to behold.
It’s not all bad news. This week, we focus on Nat, and Juliette Lewis’ performance has been a true highlight of the show so far, matched beautifully with Sophie Thatcher in the younger role. We start with the crash again, this time from Nat’s perspective. At first, all is as we remember it: screaming, shaking, and the oxygen masks swinging from the ceiling like broken marionettes. But something is different this time. As Nat looks to her left, she sees her dad looking at her, smiling with half of his face blown off.
The Nat flashbacks prove to be a highlight of an otherwise inconsequential episode. In the present day, she goes to visit her Mom in her trailer. Juliette Lewis is perfect in this sequence, heartbroken by her past and her cold reception from her mother but still a little warmed by the nostalgia of youth. She goes through her old things are remembers the terrible day before the terrible 19 months.
In a rare moment of sweetness, the teenage, pre-blonde Nat sneaks future-detective Kevin into her room to listen to music. Her dad storms in, furiously calls her a “little slut” in a tone that suggests it’s not the first time he’s said it. Having been pushed to the edge, she gets out his gun and he dares her to fire. She works up the strength to pull the trigger, but nothing happens. The safety is still on. Still, we know this man ends up missing his face somehow and that somehow is all the more banal. He trips while holding the gun and boom. Face removed.
It’s an interesting choice to go with for Nat; she technically didn’t kill her father but that technicality is wafer thin. And that guilt started the spiral of addiction that has landed her in rehab, time and time again. In the wilderness, that guilt almost paralyses her. The group, having found a gun and mountains of bullets in the cabin, decides that two people need to be selected to hunt deer, guided by the coach—who is, fortuitously, an experienced hunter but can’t do it himself on account of the missing leg. Travis is selected alongside Nat, because apparently having an anger problem isn’t disqualifying.
Even when it transpires he wants to use the opportunity to dig up his father’s corpse to get a ring, that doesn’t put her off. The two young actors have got great chemistry, which makes the lasting bond from the present day all the more believable, even if we never got to see them interact as adults. Nat remains steadfast that Travis was murdered and even goes for a flirty dinner with Detective Kevin in an attempt to manipulate some classified information out of him. It’s not exactly a leap forward for adult Nat—not much seems to be contingent on her getting this small piece of evidence, but Juliette Lewis reading the phone book would still be one of the most riveting performances on television.
Not quite as interesting, but equally well performed, is Misty’s role this week. In the past, she forms an unhealthy attachment to the coach, and in the present, she stalks Nat with a whiskey-drinking, wise-cracking homecare resident in tow. Her storyline is in stasis, but it’s still a joy to see her approach the journalist/private investigator and deliver the killer line: “I know when you look at me you don’t see someone you should be afraid of, but you’re wrong.”
Taissa is in a similar loop. Her creepy son is still being creepy and her run for state senator is still not going well. She goes to a fancy party to try and win the support of a wealthy donor who can turn it all around. Sadly for her, it turns out the donor is interested in a Hannibal Lecter-style quid-pro-quo situation: He will give her cash in exchange for the real story of what happened in the woods. It’s a maddening missed opportunity for the show to finally establish what it is that the public thinks happened out there, but it swerves away. Instead, Taissa might as well have not been in this episode since she starts as she ended: with a creepy son and worse campaign.
Right at the bottom of the barrel is Shauna’s storyline, which has fallen off of late. She and the world’s most suspicious man Adam get up to some hijinks, where she tries to recreate the high-school experience that she missed—even though, by my calculations, she didn’t miss that much high school and is married to her high school sweetheart and lives in the same town. How much more high school would you want than that? Their activities include drinking cheap booze that they pay a guy to buy them, mini-golf, swimming in some sort of body of water and having sex in a car. Melanie Lynskey is such a talented actress, it’s a terrible shame to see her lumbered with this half-baked rom-com storyline. More embarrassing still is when she finally gets home and husband Jeff asks her how book club went, as many-hour-long book clubs are a thing. Jeff the husband, we the audience, and Lynskey the actress deserve better than this.
- It was pretty fun hearing Taissa telling the donor with the white savior complex to go fuck herself.
- Lottie and Sammy seem to possibly be affected with the same problem. Similarly seeing things no one else can.
- There is the tiniest hint that Adam real identity could be Travis’s younger brother? Could be a red herring but there are some parallels between present day Shauna and teen Shauna bonding with him over her journal.
- Misty is keeping up with the creepy drink orders with a chocolate martini. Gross.
- Best line of the episode goes to Misty’s care home resident companion with, “You remind me of my granddaughter. No one really likes her either.”
- Why haven’t they tried to build a raft in the wilderness? Seems like the logical way to look for civilization would be to scope out the giant lake.