Previously on YellowJackets
Lottie says that we’re making ourselves sick, which I guess does make sense if you’re tossing rotting human ears into your mouth like popcorn chicken. Nat doesn’t shoot, but does stab. Adult Lottie has a message for Nat and TeenLottie gives Travis a boner. Misty tells Shauna to get a lawyer. Callie exists, is bratty. TeenTaissa bites TeenVan and Adult Taissa gets Sammi a puppy. And, of course, TeenShauna brings our Cannibalism Watch all the way up to Orange Alert with her secret little ear snack.
“Let’s taunt the dead girl about her fragile plane of existence”
Yellowjackets S2E2 starts off in the 90’s, where TeenShauna’s still psychologically torturing herself with Jackie visions. GhostJackie notes that the girls are running out of food and razzes TeenShauna about her missing ear. Interestingly, though, GhostJackie doesn’t seem to know what actually happened to her ear, which implies that Shauna is either repressing the memory or – in line with my weekly dumb conspiracy theory – didn’t actually eat the ear at all and only imagined she did.
GhostJackie asks TeenShauna to braid her hair and give her a little makeover, which she does. They gossip and laugh and it’s almost sweet until you imagine what this scene would actually look like to an outside observer. Yikes.
I have to say, I’m glad we’re getting more of Ella Purnell this season through these Jackie visions. Her heel turn towards the end of season 1 really worked for me, and I’m enjoying watching her lean into this character who works to capture darker parts of Jackie’s real personality mixed with a certain sinister energy that TeenShauna attributes to her in her visions.
Who are these people?
Meanwhile, the rest of our intrepid teen heroes and the Miscellaneous Soccer Team Members are waiting for their (meager) dinner and getting annoyed at TeenShauna’s lateness. Coach Ben is over it. I love this guy but he’s definitely dying soon. TeenTaissa tries to go get TeenShauna, but TeenLottie stops her.
Then there’s a weird little interlude about someone leaving a sh*t in the piss-bucket, which I guess is supposed to underscore the fact that they’re all losing their minds a little? If anyone else had some grand mystery sh*t theory, please fill me in because I’d genuinely love to hear it.
During this scene, Sophie Thatcher has a great Juliette Lewis-esque line reading of, “If it’s yellow, it can mellow; if it’s brown, then f*cking do it outside!” Those two have always had the hardest job, I think, of drawing the line between their two performances just because of how little physical similarity they have to each other and how much Nat changes from her teen self to her adult self. While their tandem performances had rocky moments in season 1 (not in their individual performances, but in how they related to each other), they’ve only gotten better and better the longer the show’s gone on. Really nice work.
Back in the meat shed, GhostJackie “cuts herself” and tells TeenShauna that she knows what she’s hungry for. Episode 2 and the Cannibalism Watch needle (let’s just say it’s a needle, folks) is already ticking steadily up towards a Red Alert.
I was going to do a full breakdown of the credit changes, but Caemeron over at TV Obsessive beat me to the punch. Still, here are a couple of my favorite new moments:
- A queens of hearts card with scratched-out eyes behind a paper inscribed with “I’m grateful for my friends.”
- Another playing card being burnt. It seems like cards and games are going to be recurring as a theme this season.
- Taissa looking at herself in the mirror, very clearly in Bad One mode. I’m very excited to learn more about Taissa’s repressed alternate personality this season, especially because both Jasmin Savoy Brown and Tawny Cypress are so, so good and scary when playing that role.
- Adult Lottie looking genuinely unhinged.
- A glimpse of my teen-crush Lauren Ambrose as Van.
- Misty laughing maniacally in what looks like The Red Room(?)
- Quite a few shots of TeenMisty with blood on her face, shirt, and hands. Who is going to be TeenMisty’s first victim? My money’s on Coach Ben.
No thank you
Oh god, our 2021 timeline is opening with Callie vaping and spouting off some self-indulgent pseudo-philosophical nonsense at her boyfriend before impulsively breaking up with him. Though I was one of the few who really didn’t mind Callie in the first season, I absolutely do not need an exploration of her interiority. No one is asking for this. Give us more of Misty at her job, the inner workings of Lottie’s cult, slice-of-life wilderness scenes, anything but this.
Drinking the Kool-Aid
Or! You could give us more scenes like the next one. TeenVan wakes up to find TeenTaissa gone and immediately realizes that she’s ventured outside. Without pausing to put on shoes, she runs after her (that’s love, baby!) and finds TeenTaissa following The Man With No Eyes off a cliff. Before she can fall, TeenVan tackles her to the ground and brings her back to the cabin. TeenVan tries to convince TeenTaissa to talk to TeenLottie, but she refuses.
A couple of interesting things in this scene. First, while Taissa’s supernatural visions and dissociative fugues have always messed with her life, this is the first time we’ve seen them have some sort of purposefully malevolent intent towards her. Up until now, the impact on Taissa has always seemed like an unintentional side effect of her foot being partially lodged in another plane of existence. Here, however, we see The Man With No Eyes intentionally trying to harm her by leading her off a cliff.
Secondly, it’s good to be reminded of TeenVan’s relationship with TeenLottie before we’re introduced to her adult self. Because Van’s such a sharp, practical character, it can be easy (for me, at least) to forget the fact that she was one of Lottie’s first acolytes. Her belief in Lottie was highlighted at the end of season 1 with the shot of her and TeenMisty kneeling behind TeenLottie during her bear heart ritual. I love this character choice because it helps skeptical viewers see how a cult ideology could easily spread to even the most grounded members of the group. Also, because TeenVan has the trust of so many of her teammates, we can assume that the other girls take her faith in Lottie as a valuable endorsement. Liv Hewlin does gorgeous, subtle work conveying TeenVan’s quietly fervent belief, and I’m excited for the show to explore how this all plays out in Van and Lottie’s adult relationship.
Through the looking glass
As TeenTaissa falls into a peaceful sleep wrapped in TeenVan’s arms, we cut to a completely fried adult Taissa desperately trying to stay awake in the present day. Why do I find Taissa’s big time divorced-dad energy so hot? That’s something to explore in therapy! Anyways, Tawny Cypress does a fantastic job relaying Taissa’s level of desperation and exhaustion in a montage that ends with her reflection slyly watching her in the mirror.
Back in the woods, the girls cook and hang out outside. TeenVan waves at TeenTaissa, who watches her with a mixture of affection and concern. TeenNat spies on TeenLottie doing a ritual with Travis. Later, as they trek through the wilderness, Travis and TeenNat fight about Lottie with Travis taking on a serene, knowing tone similar to the tone TeenVan used the night before. They disagree about which direction to go in, with Travis uncaringly wandering off on his own while TeenNat tries to keep ahold on her emotions.
I asked for ashwagandha
On Lottie’s – or “Charlotte,” as she seems to be going by now – compound, Nat and Lottie compare their respective mental states, with both getting in a few nice little barbs at the other. Lottie claims that she’s not running a cult, but an “intentional community.” Yeah, we’ve all heard that one before. Again, it’s giving Teal Swan. There’s rage and cruelty just barely under the surface of Lottie’s pat little self-help truisms and I’m now convinced that this is an intentional character choice. On one hand, this makes me think that my skepticism about Simone Kessell’s performance was premature and potentially misplaced. Given how the character is written, I think she’s doing pretty solid work with what she’s been given. So, apologies, Simone. I’m sure you don’t read these but, you know, it’s the thought that counts.
On the other hand, however, this makes me nervous about where they’re taking Lottie’s character. Overall, I trust the Yellowjackets team, but it does seem like they’re trying to wrangle even more storylines and characters this season than they did last season, and I’m concerned that Lottie’s character won’t get the deep, thoughtful exploration she deserves. Her emergence as a major player in season 1 was one of that season’s best surprises, and I would hate to see all that built-up intrigue thrown away in a red-herring situation. Anyways, perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself and I hope I’m wrong, but it does seem like all of this might be building up to a simple “she was just crazy all along and now she’s pathetically trying to reclaim the power and esteem she gained in the woods” situation.
Despite my potential misgivings about her character arc, I am enjoying some of the more naturalistic bits of nastiness in Lottie’s tone, which are consistent with some of her season 1 teen behaviors. Always good to remember that Lottie may be a mentally fragile mystic, but she’s also always been a spoiled, pretty rich girl as well. She breezily claims that she only kidnapped Nat to keep her from hurting herself, which Nat obviously doesn’t buy but doesn’t quite dismiss either. The acolyte whose name I still haven’t learned, the one Nat stabbed, shows up and Lottie chastises her for adding maca root instead of ashwagandha to Lottie’s smoothie. It’s clear that this sort of punishing tone is one that she often takes with her followers, but she sweetens it when she sees Nat starting to take note. Interesting. I’m still not all the way on board with the adult Lottie stuff, but I’m getting more invested.
“I could really use the support of my teammates!”
More Callie stuff. Both Melanie Lynskey and Sarah Desjardins do typically good work here but I just cannot bring myself to care about this storyline.
In more interesting news, Misty tries and fails to get any of the other Yellowjackets interested in her quest to find Nat. She checks back in with her *not Reddit* true crime message board and sees that “PuttingtheSickinForensic” claims to be able to help her with the motel security camera if she will entertain his Adam murder theories. I smell romance in the air.
“We have to get rid of Jackie’s two-month-old corpse”
In the woods, TeenTaissa stumbles upon Jackie’s increasingly disturbing corpse, which is now adorned with some very Tammy Faye Bakker-esque makeup. One of the things that I love most about Taissa is how she absolutely loses her mind in the face of chaos despite so often being a source of chaos herself. Relatable. Anyways, she understandably freaks out and immediately reveals what TeenShauna’s been up to to the rest of the girls. Not great friend behavior, but a very Taissa thing to do, and ultimately behavior that comes from a place of love and concern.
Though TeenLottie tries to defend TeenShauna’s actions, it’s clear to everyone that something has to be done with CorpseJackie. TeenShauna tries to delay by saying that there’s no way to bury her in the frozen ground, but TeenTaissa gets around this by reminding them that they can cremate her instead. I don’t know if this is really true (I’m pretty sure wood fires can’t get hot enough to incinerate a human body, not that I’ve tried), but it does seem like something a teenager would think would work, so I’m not mad at it.
“So you lied to…be feminist”
Kevyn Tan shows up unexpectedly at Shauna’s door to “give her a heads up”/gently interrogate her about Adam. Boo cops! Let Shauna do her little crimes! Shauna does an uncharacteristically iffy job at lying to defend herself and Callie jumps in to save her by playing up the bratty teen thing.
But then, of course, this means that we’re subjected to another Callie/Shauna scene. I do think that the writing for these scenes is interesting, complex, and realistic, but it’s not really adding much to our understanding of Callie, Shauna, or their dynamic. It’s clear that Shauna and Taissa’s time in the woods has impacted both of their abilities to form genuine relationships with other people, particularly with their children. They love their children, of course, but there’s a barrier up that prevents true closeness. There’s a certain coldness, even, with which they treat their kids, or at least a distance. And this impacts, and will continue to impact, their children and their relationship with them. But all of this was spelled out nicely in season 1. It’s not that I want them to drop these stories altogether, but none of the Shauna/Callie scenes this season so far have really built on that idea in a meaningful way.
Speaking of Taissa and Sammi, she is shocked to find him playing with Steve downstairs when she had expected him to be with Simone. In true “sad-ass divorce-sh*t” fashion, she sends him off to play and resignedly calls Simone. Simone is an absolute ass over the phone for reasons that I know I’m supposed to understand, but don’t really. I’ve never gotten this character, though. She’s always come across as pretty one note to me. But I think that’s likely because she isn’t lasting long on the show. Anyways, where is Lauren Ambrose, you cowards?!
At the nursing home, Misty spies Elijah Wood(!) taking a tour of the facility and anyone who’s been paying the slightest bit of attention knows that we’re getting our first glimpse at PuttingtheSickinForensics. I can complain about an overabundance of new characters all I want, but I’ll never be able to bring myself to complain about seeing this little freak on my screen.
Misty finds a mysterious note on top of her lunch in the fridge. Though it first appears to be blank, a blacklight reveals a hidden message from PuttingtheSickinForensics asking to team up on their respective investigations. I love it.
This all seems like a bad idea
Out in the wilderness, TeenNat is executing a terrible plan to trick Travis into believing that Javi is dead by cutting herself and then smearing her blood on a pair of Javi’s pants and claiming she found them in the woods. It works because Travis is dumb and traumatized, but I’m sure it’ll come back to bite her later.
We cut then to the Travis and Nat of the future. Travis, of course, is dead, and Nat is trying to figure out what Lottie knows about this. (Quick gripe before I continue: I think part of what’s not working for me about the Lottie cult stuff is that the aesthetics of the cult seem like a mish-mosh of a bunch of different kinds of cults instead of having its own clear point of view. For instance, the “sharing in session” sign on Lottie’s door seems to fit with about 20% of what we’ve seen of her cult, but is out of place with the other 80%.) Anyways, Lottie says Travis called her on the night of his death, scaring her and making her think that he was going to hurt himself. After driving all night to meet him, Lottie allegedly found a frantic, paranoid Travis ranting about needing to get as close to death as possible in order to reach whatever it was they encountered in the woods. Lottie pushes him up against the wall and, rather hilariously, yells, “You’re in the vice grip of your trauma!” And listen, it’s not that I’m not interested seeing a character trying to process their time in the woods through New Age bullsh*t and pop-therapy psychobabble. I just don’t know if that character should be Lottie.
In Lottie’s surely-embellished telling, Travis falls to the ground crying after she says this and then they do their little mind-meld thing and Lottie falls asleep thinking he’s okay before waking up and finding him trying to hang himself from a crane in order to talk to “it.” He enlists Lottie to help him raise the crane and lower him back down before he dies, but the button jams on the control. She also notes that Travis said not to contact Nat because “she’d only make it worse.”
Nat is skeptical, for obvious reasons, and though Lottie insists that her account is accurate, we see an additional flash of memory where Lottie, after failing to bring Travis down from the crane, sees a horrifying vision of Laura Lee’s ghost and freaks out only to find Travis hanging dead behind her. While this is interesting, I’m sure it’s not everything that she’s leaving out.
Nat tries to leave but Lottie tells her that the trains aren’t running again until the next day and that she’ll have to spend the night. Classic cult antics.
As Nat lies down to rest and scheme, she has a flashback? vision? of EMT’s putting a mask on her face. Interesting.
Alas poor Jackie, I knew her well
Out in the woods, the girls prepare Jackie’s funeral pyre. New-Akilah brings up the idea of taking Jackie’s jacket for warmth (I miss old Akilah and I’m sad that the best-developed background character was replaced, but we get what we get and we don’t get upset) but is quickly shot down by TeenShauna.
TeenShauna get into a shoving match with one of the Miscellaneous Soccer Team Members and, as TeenLottie helps her up, she notices the chunk taken out of Jackie’s arm. Instead of saying anything, she takes the Very Important Heart Necklace off of Jackie’s neck and latches it around TeenShauna’s.
TeenNat and Travis return with the fake news of Javi’s death, which TeenLottie seems confused by, and TeenShauna the funeral pyre for Jackie and tells her she loves her.
Please, no more of this
Callie’s at a bar. Callie flirts with an older guy (John Paul Reynolds from Search Party who I love but even he can’t save this scene) who is clearly there to get information from her.
And, wow, would you believe it? (Yes.) He’s a cop and working with Kevyn to find out more about the Shauna/Adam connection. His methods are unorthodox or whatever. Sure. But also, please no more characters. There are so many characters. I don’t need all these new people popping up and taking up airtime with their introductions. It’s so many.
Fingers crossed Steve makes it out of all this alive
Poor Tai is passed out asleep when Simone comes to pick up Sammi, who has – you guessed it – disappeared!
They drive around searching for him together until a phone call from the school reveals that Sammi never came to Taissa’s house at all and it was all a delusion. Simone is understandably upset but, as she lectures Taissa, we see Tai’s face twist into the now trademark glare of the Bad One. And then, oop, they t-bone a car at an intersection. Poor, poor, crazy Taissa.
Low and slow, baby
As Jackie’s body burns, Travis and TeenNat hook up in what first appears to be a sweet, intimate scene. A few second in, however, and we see that Travis doesn’t think he’s with TeenNat at all, but instead is seeing a vision of himself being cradled in TeenLottie’s arms. Okay, Lottie the sex witch is definitely something I can get down with.
As those two (three?) crazy kids go at it, a mysterious force moves through the woods towards the cabin and causes a branch-full of snow to fall on top of Jackie’s funeral pyre, creating the perfect conditions for some delicious human barbecue.
The smell of Jackie’s succulent, crispy-skinned corpse wakes all the girls and they exit the cabin to find a very The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover body atop the pyre. Again, hats off to production design. This looks fantastic. The girls walk up to it in some kind of supernatural or hunger-induced trance, and TeenShauna barely has time to mutter “she wants us to” before everyone’s imagining themselves sitting down to a lush dinner in ancient Greek attire while – in reality – stuffing their faces with their dead friend’s perfectly-cooked flesh. C’mon Maenads!
Coach Ben is the only one who doesn’t partake and, as he rushes back to the cabin to conceal his horror, it’s clear to both him and the audience that he’s next.
Best villain energy: Both versions of Lottie
Best hero energy: No one. I should get rid of this category tbh.
Best MILF energy: Sad-sack divorcee Taissa
Acting MVP(s): Tawny Cypress and Sophie Nélisse
Favorite dumb conspiracy theory: This is definitely a deeply silly and improbable one, but I am curious about how much of the cannibalism is really happening. There’s something so dream-like about how they film it happening that it’s put a seed of doubt in my mind as to whether it’s really real. I think it probably is, but still…
My better conspiracy theory is that the guy who owned the cabin has an underground bunker somewhere (likely beneath the moss-covered stump) and Javi is hiding out in it.
Who’s next to die? Coach Ben for sure in the past. In the present, I think Kevyn is in trouble.
Ranking the new/newly highlighted characters:
1) PuttingtheSickinForensics – Elijah Wood is a great choice for this show and adding in a new character for MIsty to play off of is a good idea, especially since Nat is off doing her cult-investigation sh*t.
2) Miscellaneous Soccer Team Members (barring Crystal): Though their abrupt move to a more central position in the story was jarring, it’s good to get to know more of the team members.
3) Crystal: This one was too abrupt, though. Like, who is this girl? Will we even get a chance to find out before Misty kills her or whatever?
4) Maverick detective guy: I love the actor, but we don’t need this character.
5) Cult acolyte who Nat stabbed: What is the point of this character and does she have any defining traits? I don’t know and don’t care.
Important symbols: Games, Greek mythology, mirrors, flesh
Cannibalism Watch Level: Bright f*cking red, gals! We are finally at Red Alert! And it’s only the second episode! A phenomenal sign for this season’s trajectory.