Yellowjackets S2E4: “Old Wounds” was directed by Scott Winant and written by Liz Phang and Julia Bicknell
Laura Lee explodes with her teddy bear. TeenLottie finds a real bear and stabs it in the brain. The girls gather “his” blessings, whoever he is. TeenNat gets attacked by a white moose. TeenLottie claims that Javi is alive but TeenNat says he’s dead, so maybe we’ll see him this episode? I’m with Lottie on this one. TeenVan is getting real mystical about TeenTai’s sleepwalking. Jessica Roberts! RIP. Callie and Jeff make mistakes. Lottie wants Nat and Fork Girl to go into their anger, but they hug it out instead. Most importantly, though, The Bad One signals to Taissa to go see Van.
Speaking of, TeenTaissa wakes from one of her little sleepwalking sessions to find herself back in the woods with TeenVan, who points out that TeenTaissa has led them to another one of the symbols carved in the trees. TeenVan wants to talk to TeenLottie about it, but TeenTaissa says that it’s none of her business and trudges back to the cabin. As TeenVan unfolds a paper map, we cut to…
…adult Taissa in the midst of the worst, most terrifying fugue state we’ve seen her experience so far. We see one version of her break into Jessica Roberts’ office to raid the Yellowjackets files as another version watches helplessly. I’m tempted to say that it’s Tai watching The Bad One, but I do think it’s ultimately more complicated than that.
She finally comes back to herself in her car, having driven all the way to Ohio. The implication here, of course, is absolutely horrifying. Particularly as we see that the only reason she’s stopped there is because the car ran out of gas.
Though I normally do these recaps more or less chronologically, I want to get ahead of myself for a moment here and say how much I appreciate that this episode is bookended with Taissa’s (and Van’s) story. To me, Taissa is the center of the entire show, both the key to the mystery of the woods and the adult character who is forced to grapple most directly with the way her time in the forest has affected every aspect of her life.
I also find Taissa to be one of the most deeply sympathetic characters in the series, though I know many disagree with me. While all of the Yellowjackets have to reckon with their own capacity for violence, Taissa’s story has always been a bit more specific. Even before the crash, it’s clear that Taissa is worried that there’s something wrong with her, that something “bad” lives inside her and beyond her control. This resonates with experiences common to certain types of girlhood as well as to the experiences that many people (myself included) wrestle with when growing up queer. Taissa fears that she’s a monster and everything she tries to do to prove that she’s not only makes her feel more monstrous. Fear is what’s behind her need for control, but the more she tries to control everything – and especially herself—the more things slip away from her. This is distinct from the other Yellowjackets, who—despite typical teenaged angst – seemed to think of themselves as more or less decent people before the crash.
And this is what makes her relationship with Van so compelling. Van can look at the same parts of Taissa that Taissa hates and, instead of being afraid of them, she sees them as powerful and beautiful and worthy of awe. If Shauna’s story (and I would argue that Shauan is the other central character of the show) is about someone who thought she was good coming to terms with her capacity for evil, I wonder if Tai’s story will be the inverse. After this episode, I think Van and Tai will become the backbone of this season and I’m excited to see where the show takes them. Anyways:
Liza Minelli, Lies!
In suburbia, Shauna lies to Jeff about how she got the van back and Jeff clearly knows she’s lying but lets it go. He tells her that the police know she was having an affair and is kind of pissy about it, but she gives it right back to him, reminding him that he wasn’t particularly slick about his little blackmailing scheme either.
Elsewhere, Lottie—who is dressed in a distinctly un-culty outfit—flits around her office while Nat watches. Nat says that she wants to go sell honey with Fork Girl and, like Shauna, is clearly lying. Lottie, uncharacteristically flustered and preoccupied, either doesn’t notice or doesn’t seem to care.
We then cut to Misty and Walter on their little investigative road trip. Misty calls Tai, who doesn’t pick up, and leaves a voicemail saying that she’s worried. “Don’t make me come looking for you!” she chirps which, in classic Misty style, is probably intended to be charming but instead comes off as threatening (because, ultimately, it is.) Walter compliments her friendship skills (suspicious) and then tells her she can pick anything from his extensive collection of musical soundtracks to listen to for the rest of the ride (even more suspicious.) Misty, sharing my suspicion, assumes that Walter is another weird Yellowjackets obsessive. He claims that he doesn’t care that she’s a Yellowjacket and simply enjoys musicals himself. Lies! Also, notably, though he says that being a Yellowjacket is the “least interesting thing” about her, he doesn’t deny that he knows she is one. He suggests something that Misty dismisses as “the story of Cinderella except every character is a train” and, as a non-theater gay, I have no idea wtf that could possibly be referring to. Instead, she puts on Evita (which I only know because I googled the lyrics—the things I do for my readers!)
Anyways, the point is: everyone’s lying and people who like musicals are at least 70% insane.
Better than a hunter
In the past, TeenMisty and Crystal sing the same song from Evita together. Okay, before I continue, I have to say it: Crystal’s character makes no f*cking sense, dudes. For some reason, I’ve been able to rationalize Van and Ben’s survival, Lottie’s magical powers, a self-sacrificing bear, and Jackie’s nasty-ass corpse being edible, but I can’t rationalize this character’s existence. Who is she? Where did she come from? What year is she? What position does she play on the team? Who does she hang out with? If she’s this much of a lil weirdo and has been on the team the whole time, why did it take this long for her and Misty to talk to each other? It all seems very contrived in a way that Yellowjackets writing typically isn’t.
Now that I’ve gotten my grievances out of the way, I’ll continue with the scene. TeenShauna comes in hot, accusing someone of stealing extra bear meat. Well, that’s gotta either be FugueTai or FugitiveJavi, right? No one cops to it, but Mari whispers to Akilah that it’s probably Coach Ben since “he thinks he’s so much better than us.” I’m sorry, but I love Mari and her terrible attitude. Go off, caustic queen. Ben snaps back at her and denies taking the meat but challenges them to say what they would do if it was him.
”Would you eat me?” he asks.
As a former teacher, I just want to say that I’m firmly on the girls’ side here. Like, they’re traumatized, starving teenagers who ate their already dead friend because they’re desperate and slowly losing their minds. Get over yourself, guy.
Where I can’t get behind Mari is when she tells TeenNat that she’s to blame for the fact that they don’t have any food because she refuses to accept TeenLottie’s blessing. Poor TeenNat can’t catch a break. Mari claims that TeenLottie told the birds to kill themselves for them. This devolves into an argument with Ben, TeenTai, TeenShauna, and TeenNat on one side and Mari, Akilah, TeenMisty, and TeenVan on the other. When Mari claims that the only food they’ve had in months has come from Lottie, TeenNat proposes a contest: they each go out for a day and see who comes back with food. Notably, TeenLottie doesn’t say anything throughout this entire exchange.
What do you give up?
In the present, Nat and Fork Girl drive to the market together while Nat grills ForkGirl about the cult. Wow, I cannot get myself excited about this new character at all, I’m sorry. Nor do I think she’s providing us with any particularly salient insights about the cult. It seems weird and controlling and brainwash-y, which is about what you’d expect. I am incredibly interested in where this season is taking Nat and Lottie’s characters, particularly in relation to each other, but I can’t help but feel like the show is spinning its wheels a bit in these scenes. The one interesting moment here is when Fork Girl says that the only thing Lottie asks of her acolytes is to give up their “bad parts,” which makes me think of Tai. I wonder if Lottie is scared of Tai, or at least her alter ego and her connection to the woods, and the whole cult thing is partially a way to shield herself from that fear.
Speaking of Lottie, she’s looking vulnerable at her shrink’s office. Except, we learn, it’s not her shrink at all but another therapist who’s filling in while he’s on sabbatical. We learn that Lottie comes in every six months, though she’s a little early this time. When the new therapist asks her why, she explains that she’s seeking to increase her medication dosage because she’s started having visions again. As she speaks, it’s notable how much more this Lottie resembles the TeenLottie in the woods. She talks about how hard she’s worked to build a new, better life, one free of vision and delusions, and you can really feel how important this has been for her. I think this episode solidified for me that, despite some of the goofier stuff with the cult, I’m overall on board with where they’re taking Lottie’s character.
The new shrink tells her to consider examining the visions and thinking about what they might be trying too tell her, which seems like a wild thing to say to an active psychotic, but I’ve had enough sh*tty psychiatrists to buy that this would happen. Lottie says they aren’t trying to tell her anything “because they’re not real.” Though this may ultimately prove to be true, we all know that Lottie doesn’t fully believe it. More lies!
So, if we’re keeping track of all of the adult characters’ relationships with the past, so far it seems like Shauna and Misty feel some sort of longing or nostalgia for their time in the woods, while Lottie and Taissa are terrified of it, and Nat sits somewhere in between. This is interesting, as Lottie and Tai seem to have the strongest mystical connection to the forest. I’m very curious as to where Van will land, though I suspect it might be with Lottie and Tai. I wonder if this might hint that some of our assumptions about how the group might fracture in the woods are off base. Right now, it seems like it’ll be Lottie, Misty, Van, and the JV girls vs. Shauna, Tai, Nat, and Ben. However, I’m becoming more and more convinced that Nat and Tai may end up siding with Lottie.
May the best cannibal win!
Speaking of sides, TeenMisty is refereeing the TeenLottie vs. TeenNat hunting competition because of course she is. The only catch is that there’s only one gun. TeenMisty initially suggests that the two girls flip a coin for it before Mari interjects and claims that TeenLottie doesn’t need a gun. Again, TeenLottie is silent. Sophie Thatcher, who I would absolutely vote for as “most improved” this season (which is not to say that I think she did bad work last season) beautifully conveys a fleeting moment of concern for TeenLottie.
This concern is well-placed, as we see TeenLottie wandering around the woods looking helpless and scared. She finds one of the symbols carved into the tree and places her hand on it but it does nothing for her. Interesting. This is why I don’t totally buy adult Lottie as a Teal Swan type. One of the most terrifying things about Teal Swan is her passionate, unwavering belief in herself and her “abilities.” Lottie, on the other hand, has been shown to doubt herself since the beginning, and it’s clear that this has continued, at least to some extent, into adulthood.
While TeenLottie flounders, TeenNat quickly finds some hoof tracks and begins following them.
Mean mommies, frozen corpses, and blood magic
In the present, Shauna learns that Callie’s been lying to her about sleeping over at her friend’s place. She decides to do some investigating by going through Callie’s room, where she finds condoms and (more alarmingly) Adams’s partially-burned ID.
In typical, terrifying Shauna fashion, she picks Callie up and tells her that they’re going to go somewhere fun. Will she kill her? Seems possible!
Also performing an investigation are Misty and Walter. More specifically, Misty performs an uncharacteristically sloppy investigation on Walter by asking “what’s your deal?” Walter says that he’s a multi-millionaire who earned his wealth by suing a scaffolding company whose faulty scaffolding caused a load of bricks to drop on his head. He says the whole thing’s on Youtube, but I’m still suspicious. They discover from the waitress that Lottie’s cult is usually at the local market on Tuesdays and, would you look at that, it’s Tuesday!
A hitchhiking Tai is picked up by a sweet trucker as she walks along the highway. We are one step closer to Lauren Ambrose!
Mari hears the phantom dripping noise again and I feel certain that she’s going to discover something important. She enlists Akilah to help her and Akilah finds a mouse instead, which she pockets as a pet. Just eat the mouse, dude! It’s better than eating your friends! Also, this seems unnecessarily twee.
Distinctly not twee is TeenLottie who, in a moment of desperation, slashes her hand open over one of the tree stumps. While it’s unclear whether or not blood actually has any sort of power in the woods, TeenLottie clearly believes it does.
While TeenLottie practices blood magic, our local skeptic, TeenNat, discovers a moose frozen in the lake. Score! It seems to be the same white moose that charged her in the airplane, which is interesting.
Less interesting is Nat and Fork Girl’s little trip to Fork Girl’s house. We learn that she’s chronically suicidal, she loves her fish, her mom’s an asshole, yadda yadda yadda. Nat tells off her mom and helps her steal her fish back, which is cute and all but – again—not particularly compelling. The only thing I’m getting out of this is that Nat might be seeing some of the value of Lottie’s teachings. I think our girl might join this cult, y’all.
Terrifying Shauna drives Callie out to the middle of nowhere because she just can’t help herself and has to do everything in the most threatening way possible. Love her. She confronts Callie about her lies and Callie confronts her back, saying that she can’t take Shauna’s dishonesty anymore. Because Shauna understands that teenaged girls are capable of more than we expect them to be, she tells Callie the truth. Ultimately, I do think she’s trying to be a good parent here and I wonder if her honesty might help her connect with her daughter in a way that she hasn’t been able to do before.
TeenVan, my new favorite little conspiracy theorist, shows TeenTaissa the map she’s made that shows that the location of the symbols sleepwalking Taissa has been leading them to creates a symbol. Based on her map, she has a prediction about where the next symbol will be and asks TeenTai to go with her to look.
Ben has another flashback and while I let these slide in the last episode, they are too cute by half and feel like filler. I would be happy to move on from them as soon as possible. One of the few missteps that the Yellowjackets writers make is a tendency to over-explain characters. I love a good backstory as much as anyone but I’d like it if sometimes they’d leave me wanting more!
Misty and Walter aren’t able to find the cult at the market, but they do get some info about the compound’s whereabouts. Walter suggests that they stay in town overnight and go out looking for them in the morning. I don’t trust this guy one bit.
TeenNat busts into the cabin to tell everyone about the moose. Like with Jackie’s corpse, I am skeptical about exactly how edible this meat would be but that’s neither here nor there. Mari’s upset that the other’s are rushing to help TeenNat when help was supposedly against the rules. When she tells TeenMisty this, and says she’s going to tell TeenLottie, TeenMisty snaps back that she can tell Lottie that “I didn’t want us to f*cking starve,” solidifying the fact that Misty has never operated on principals of loyalty. Though she’s loosely aligned herself with TeenLottie, it’s clear that what’s drawing her there is a mixture of her belief in Lottie abilities and her own interest in violence and power.
TeenLottie, in the meantime, is not doing so hot. She finds Laura Lee’s downed plane and discovers a secret tunnel in the back. Hello psychosis, Lottie’s old friend. The “tunnel” takes her to a mall, where she finds the other Yellowjackets (Laura Lee included but, notably, not Jackie) chowing down in the food court. Hilariously, there’s a choir version of the theme song playing in the background throughout this scene. Poor TeenLottie is struggling, even within the world of her delusion. Psychosis mixed with hypothermia is no f*cking joke. Laura Lee tries to push her out of the vision in an effort to help her, but even when TeenLottie comes back to reality, she can’t get herself up off the ground. Uh-oh…
While our favorite mystic begins freezing to death, the rest of the team tries to haul the moose out of the frozen lake. Call me a sap, but I’m always a little touched seeing how well they all work together. They’re not successful, and TeenNat falls part-way in, but at least the viewers are treated to some pretty spectacular shots of the giant white moose corpse sinking slowly into the lake’s depths.
Walter, aka “John Wayne,” and Misty, aka “Lady Mallowan,” book their hotel rooms for the night and then we’re treated to a montage of each of them inspecting their respective rooms for bugs. The recording-device kind, not the cockroach kind. Oh, these two freaks…
Our other nicely-paired freaks, Shauna and Jeff, have a sweet conversation where Jeff admits that he’s still hurt by the affair. Shauna assures him that they’re going to be okay and then very casually mentions that she told Callie “everything.” Jeff has a pretty understandable (and pretty calm, all things considered) meltdown about this, but Shauna is sure that it’s for the best. As if to prove her point, Callie enters, comes clean about her own lies, and offers to help with dinner. Aw, look at this nice American nuclear family! So normal! So fine, actually! Totally fine and good.
TeenNat’s recovering from her little ice-dip in a warm bath when some of the girls enter dragging a barely-conscious TeenLottie. Poor, sweet TeenNat is worried that the whole thing is her fault, but TeenLottie smoothly disrupts Nat’s self-loathing by playfully calling her a loser and engaging in some light trash-talking. They shake hands and have a little bonding moment. I like these two as friends. If TeenShauna and TeenJackie were the normie, popular girls, and TeenTai and TeenVan were the hardcore jocks, it makes sense that these two loners might be drawn to each other.
Now back on her compound, Lottie looks through her “gratitude journal.” I don’t know why, but this made me feel very emotional? You can really see how hard she’s trying to feel normal and grounded. Great, great work from Simone Kessell here. As she flips through her little affirmations, she finds a queen of hearts card in the middle of the pile. It’s the one from the intro credits with the eyes scribbled out. She blinks hard and, when she looks again, it’s just another notecard reading “I’m grateful for my healing journey.” (I cry!) But it comes up again. It looks like her delusions aren’t going anywhere soon.
She goes outside, where she kneels down and slices her hand open with a knife. “Can this just be enough?” she asks as she closes her hand into a fist and drips blood onto the ground. I’m left wondering what beliefs Lottie has retained from her time in the woods.
Also, the cards are for sure how the girls chose which of them to kill, right? Especially given that they found that deck with the missing queens?
Javi is having a normal one
TeenLottie and TeenVan aren’t able to find anymore symbols, but they do come across the tree stump with the moss and the melting snow. Oh, and Javi! Hi Javi!
They bring him back to the cabin where everyone, TeenNat especially, is shocked to see him alive. He doesn’t speak, even as Travis comes over to hug him. He only stares in seeming shock into the middle distance.
Mari’s excited, claiming that this proves TeenLottie’s powers, since TeenLottie was the one who said he was alive. TeenLottie looks less certain. Unexpectedly, TeenVan points out that TeenTaissa was the one who knew where he was. Like TeenLottie, TeenTai seems less sure. TeenVan kneels down and tells her that she can’t deny that part of her seems to be connected to “all of this.” Like she’s done before, she’s seeing the parts of Taissa that Taissa hates as something amazing.
Both TeenTai and TeenLottie wear inscrutable expressions here. I am more and more convinced that where we’re going with this is that Lottie will turn out to be, to paraphrase Dale Cooper, a “powerful channeler,” while Taissa will be revealed to be the source of any real power.
Lauren Ambrose Watch: Red Alert!
Closing out the episode, we see Tai getting dropped off in front of a very realistically dinky-looking video store. Aw, I love this for adult Van. Inside Taissa finds Van talking to a customer. Lauren Ambrose immediately proves how smart her casting was here as she somehow manages to completely capture essential parts of Liv Hewlin’s performance in just a few moments. When Van sees Tai, she looks skeptical, confused, and then – finally – frightened.
And scene! How dare they make us wait another week!!!
Best villain energy: I don’t know if I’d necessarily classify this as “best,” but I did not care for Coach Ben this episode.
Most likely candidate for a heroic arc: Nat’s still holding strong here but I’m seeing potential for Callie and Tai as well
Best MILF energy: If you thought I was going to say anyone other than Lauren Ambrose, you’re insane. Also, yes, I’m aware that more than half of these women aren’t MILFs and, yes, I do know that I’m closer in age to them than to the teen characters, but MILF energy knows no bounds or guidelines.
Acting MVP(s): Simone Kessell and Courtney Eaton killed it this episode.
Dumb theory of the week: I don’t know if I have a fun one for this week. Van might still be a believer? Nat and Lottie will be revealed to have been on the same side? Lottie’s been taking sugar pills this whole time?
Important symbols: hands, blood (as per), cards, antlers
Most likely candidates for the next meal in the 1996 timeline:
- Something Javi found
- Akilah’s mouse
- Another moose or a deer
That was Yellowjackets S2E4: “Old Wounds.” Stayed tuned for next week’s recap and, in the meantime, let me know if any of your own conspiracy theories have come true so far.