Welcome to the Yellowjackets 105 recap! We’re talking all things “Blood Hive” (written by Ameni Rozsa and directed by Eva Sørhaug), so put on some PJs and grab your planchettes, because we’re having a gay seance in a cursed cabin in the woods, baby! We’re at the halfway point of the series, so it’s a good time to get other people into this show! Revisit past recaps here.
First of all, this is a Halloween episode! I love Halloween episodes, and my girlfriend and I have a new tradition of marathoning Halloween episodes of television in October, and I can’t wait to include this one next year!
We finally get some young queer romance! (And I love that it happens in the Halloween episode, because Halloween is indeed the gayest holiday.) I promise to get to that soon. I want to start this recap elsewhere though, because I’ve spent the past few recaps peddling my Adam Isn’t Real Theory, and many a hole has been poked in that theory, but “Blood Hive” finally does deliver definitive proof that Adam does indeed exist outside of Shauna’s mind. We see him perceived by another character for the first time. Specifically, Shauna and Adam run into Shauna’s mean teen daughter Callie at a weird Halloween party in NYC. Shauna, at first, thinks she sees Jackie in the throng of costumed drunk partygoers. She follows “Jackie,” but when she grabs her arm, it’s actually Callie, high on molly and wearing Jackie’s old Yellowjackets uniform. Shauna explicitly told her she wasn’t allowed to go into the city, and she’s caught. But Shauna’s caught, too. Callie sees her with Adam and immediately knows what’s going on.
So, yes, it does look like Adam’s real after all. But it’s safe to assume we don’t know everything about him/he’s likely concealing some part of his identity. The most popular fan theory at the moment is that he’s a grown-up version of Javi, but I’m yet to be totally sold on that. Even though he’s real, Shauna’s perception of him is still steeped in fantasy. There’s the affair element, but it’s more than that. Callie’s surprised Adam is so hot and young, but then she muses that Shauna does have that “whole Yellowjackets thing” going for her. Shauna balks at this. He doesn’t know about any of that, she insists. But Callie points out that if he knows her name and has the internet then, yeah, he knows. Shauna does seem genuinely surprised by this, and at episode’s end, she Googles herself and finds dozens of results about her story, about her life. It pokes holes in her fantasy.
I think Shauna got off on the idea that she could be whoever she wanted to be with Adam. She didn’t have to be the girl who survived a plane crash. She didn’t have to be the boring housewife her husband and daughter see her as. In a way, I feel like she has been roleplaying as, well, Jackie. Or who she might imagine Jackie would have become. She admits to Callie that she thinks of Jackie everyday. Callie thinks she’s wearing Shauna’s old uniform, but Shauna tells her it’s Jackie’s, given to her by Jackie’s parents on what would have been their daughter’s 40th birthday. It’s a grim reveal on multiple levels. Callie’s wearing a dead girl’s soccer uniform. And Jackie’s parents giving this to Shauna suggest grieving parents who are frozen in time, memorializing their daughter in understandable but slightly off-putting ways. Jackie still hangs between Jeff and Shauna in their marriage, so much so that even Callie knows it. When Shauna says she and Jeff have baggage, Callie immediately chimes in: “You mean Jackie.”
But I’ll come back to Shauna in a bit. Let’s talk about the queer stuff! Lots of folks (myself included) have been picking up on the vibes between teen Taissa and Van, and at last, we see them act on those vibes in a way that suggests they’ve been secretly dating all along. It was probably easier for them to sneak around back when they were just regular high schoolers, but it has been understandably difficult for them to find alone time in their new circumstances. About halfway through “Blood Hive,” they find a rare pocket of solitude and seize it to makeout against a tree. It’s brief but desperate in that way you know they’ve been thinking about/wanting to do this for days now. I mean, they probably should just wander out into the woods under the guise of collecting berries or something? But anyway, I’m happy for these two, even if the relationship is, for now, a secret. It feels like a very believable (and relatable — though in my case, it was varsity tennis) secret girlfriends on the soccer team situation. Their makeout is interrupted by Mari, who runs out of the cabin screaming because she thinks something crawled down her shirt. “Must have been the ghost,” teen Taissa teases.
In the future, adult Taissa’s sexy time is also interrupted by an unwelcome presence. She’s trailing in the polls in the suburbs after sticking it to that prying rich white lady last episode, but Simone admires her wife’s ability to be herself and speak her truth. “Are you trying to get in my pants?” adult Taissa teases, and Simone is like always. It’s nice to see them have a steamy — if brief — moment of intimacy. But Biscuit the dog breaks it up with a warning bark, and when Taissa runs to the window to see what’s going on, she yet again hallucinates a wolf. She switches into survival mode and grabs a letter opener off the desk, running outside in bare feet, ready to fight. She finds not a wolf but a message. Someone has painted SPILL on her front door.
Yellowjackets has been playing the long game with adult Taissa, spooling out a psychological horror slow-burn that I think is working quite well in terms of building tension and suspense but also really leaving things so ambivalent in terms of what’s going on with Sammy. He comes home from trick-or-treating (dressed like a sandwich! Sammy sandwich!), and everything is fine — until it isn’t. The happy little family evening takes a nightmarish turn when Taissa finds a can of red paint under Sammy’s bed. Sammy is insistent that he didn’t write spill on the door. He makes another reference to “the bad one,” aka “the lady in the tree.” The thing is: I believe Sammy. Whatever is happening to him is not his fault. The lady in the tree is real. I just don’t really know exactly what is manifesting here. Is it a supernatural presence? A child’s attempt to mythologize a real threat into something easier to understand? This has to be about more than Taissa’s campaign enemies. Someone or something means harm to her family, and it undoubtedly has something to do with Taissa’s past.
Taissa tells Simone she’s considering dropping out and says she’ll make an announcement. Simone assumes that announcement will indeed be that she’s ending the campaign, and that’s originally what Taissa sets out to do, but when she looks down at her index cards, something happens. The word spill becomes pronounced. The man without eyes appears across the street. Something’s happening on a slightly supernatural level, but it’s ambivalent. And that doesn’t feel like the show being obtuse; it’s effectively suspenseful and unnerving.
The past and the present are in constant conversation with one another. “Spill” is a significant word in the past as well, echoing into adult Taissa’s timeline. It’s said by Lottie in the past when she’s seemingly possessed by a spirit from the other side, saying they must spill blood. But before we delve completely into the seance, let’s back up to the episode’s opening scene. In it, the girls plus Javi perform a choreographed dance to “This Is How We Do It,” using a battery-operated tape player and a bucket to amplify it. They’re in their PJs, dancing around, having a silly fun time. It’s another one of those instances where Yellowjackets plays around with context and setting. In any other context, this would look like a typical sleepover. In fact, some of the girls seem to get a little lost in the fantasy of it, acting the way they would back home, briefly forgetting about their grimy, gloomy realities. When they hear a creaking sound from upstairs, they joke around that it could be the dead guy. But this isn’t just some scary sleepover story. They really did find a corpse in the attic and buried it. Nat offers a new piece of information, joking around that it’s the dead guy’s missing fingers trying to find their way home. It’s the first we’ve heard about the corpse’s cut-off fingers. I doubt it’s a throwaway detail. It injects more suspense and fear into the question of exactly how and why he died in that attic.
Jackie spends much of this episode being useless. Nat kicks her awake when she sleeps in one morning, and she groans about cramps. “No shit,” Nat says. They’re all on their periods; they all have cramps. This is the only time I’ve ever seen an on-screen depiction of characters’ menstrual cycles syncing up that wasn’t played merely for laughs. When it comes to survival horror, there’s often a focus on bodies, but a lot gets left out. The focus tends to be on hunger, on thirst, on how a body responds to not having the things it needs to run. Yellowjackets takes this even further though, brutally realistic in its rendering of how being stranded in the wilderness affects not just the mind but the body. We’ve seen characters piss in the woods, struggle to defecate, and now grapple with the reality of their periods. There’s a limited supply of pain meds (apparently, Misty’s got some that people can suck up to her for). They’re all being confronted by the reality of their bodies, unable to turn to modern inventions that helped ease pain and discomfort.
Jackie moodily emerges from the cabin to find the girls cooking breakfast, doing laundry, chopping wood, and boiling bloody rags that they’ve fashioned into reusable pads. It’s already baked into their routine, into their new reality. It’s still so rare to see menstruation depicted on television at all. And I love how casually Yellowjackets confronts it, the characters coming up with a quick solution. Travis, often a sexist dick, calls them disgusting. And he tells Nat she’s scaring animals away with her “lady blood.” Again, you can start to see the emergence of a potentially toxic dynamic forming between the two. They mess with each other, teasing playfully, eventually joining Taissa and Van in the Making Out Against Trees Club. But there’s roughness between them. Nat tells Travis off for his ridiculous comments about their periods, but she’s also undeniably drawn to him even as he insults her and the others. There’s something off to this romance. Adult Nat recalls a silent memory of Travis in bed, sun kissed, his chest heaving as he breathes. It’s a soft and warm memory. And then it’s interrupted by reality, Nat looking down at a photo of Travis’ dead body, his chest no longer moving, sewn back together post-autopsy.
“That cabin is like the blood hive,” teen Travis says, providing the episode’s titular line. There’s dual meaning there, even if Travis doesn’t realize it. He’s talking about their periods, but “blood hive” takes on another meaning once the seance unfolds. Something wants a blood sacrifice. Hearing “blood hive,” it’s also hard not to think of the show’s opening chapter. Of people working together, as if part of a hive, to spill blood.
The period plotline also leads to a major reveal: Shauna’s pregnant. She tells Jackie she thinks it’s probably just stress from the plane crash. “Good thing you’re a virgin,” Jackie says since, you know, she has no idea Shauna’s been secretly screwing her boyfriend. Shauna tries to fake her own period, soaking a rag with animal blood. Taissa watches Shauna, who isn’t really good at lying, lie to her best friend. Jackie never detects the deception, but that makes sense. Jackie’s only really thinking about Jackie right now. Shauna sees how the other girls snicker at her for being the resident prissy wimp. She doesn’t pitch in. Her biggest frustration in the episode is that the batteries for her tape player give out. She’s got tunnel vision, calling the whole period rags thing a “horror show,” apparently unaware of the actual horror show unfurling around her.
“Why am I the only one not getting off on this boring back to the land bullshit?” Jackie asks Shauna, who attempts to teach her how to carve deer meat. “I don’t belong here.” Yeah, Jackie, no shit, none of you do. Jackie’s not a full on villain here. It’s easy both to empathize with her and also be irritated by her the way the other characters are. It’s true that not everyone’s cut out for this shit. But it’s also true that she isn’t special. They are a team, and they have to act like it. She’s supposed to be the damn team captain, and she’s failing everyone. Shauna gives her a pep talk, and it’s the first glimpse that they’re roles are reversing. Shauna’s becoming the more in-charge one. “We need you Jackie,” Shauna says, giving her back her necklace. It’s meant to remind us of the series’ opening sequence, of a girl wearing the necklace crashing to her death before she’s ritualistically drained and eaten. Is it Jackie? Is there a deeper, more fucked-up meaning to Shauna’s words “we need you”? Do they need her…FOR HER FLESH?
Shauna being bad at lying is officially a pattern. As an adult, we see her stumble through her book club lie, which is her go-to cover up for clandestinely meeting with Adam. First of all, book club doesn’t seem like a very good excuse to begin with. How many times can one book club possibly meet? But also, I think that might be her playing to her husband and daughter’s expectations of who she is. They do see her as some simple, bored housewife, and I’m sure they do think she’s just meeting with other simple, bored housewives to talk and drink wine. When Jeff says he wants to come with her to the Halloween meeting, Shauna says they’re reading…“the girl in the train window.” So close, and yet, simply not a book. “I’m the only one in this family who thinks actions should have consequences,” she also laments, giving Jeff a hard time for not disciplining their asshole daughter.
I’m thinking a lot about Shauna lately. Someone in the comments last week threw out a bunch of side-by-side comparisons of Shauna and Misty I found sharp and smart (comment linked here). Misty seems more overtly unhinged and dangerous, but the danger is perhaps hiding in plain sight when it comes to Shauna, concealed by her seemingly average middle-class suburban mom surroundings. She’s bad at lying, and that’s both humorous and fascinating in the context of Shauna’s more manipulative and clandestine behaviors. Because yes, when it comes to the basics of lying, she’s bad in on-the-spot moments. But she’s no stranger to holding secrets. She withholds about her past from Adam. She sneaks into her daughter’s empty room to masturbate to photos of her boyfriend. She hacks up rabbits in her kitchen and then acts like it never happened. And she has, frankly, dom energy. We get a quick glimpse of her sexts with Adam, and it looks like this:
Her “actions/consequences” line doesn’t seem like a throwaway either. It sounds…almost ritualistic? I’m increasingly thinking Shauna took on some sort of leadership role in the woods and perhaps could even be our antlered queen instructing the group to eat the flesh of the slain girl with a simple, chilling nod of her head.
My favorite Melanie Lynskey moment of the show to date comes in a monologue at the end of “Blood Hive,” when Callie foolishly attempts to blackmail her mother about Adam. Shauna slowly, matter-of-factly explains mutually assured destruction to her daughter, who suddenly realizes her mom is not to be fucked with. She might not wear it on her sleeve the way Misty does, but Shauna should be feared. She is indeed not to be fucked with. A dommey mommi icon!
Adult Taissa and Nat call her at episode’s end to loop her in and seem to treat her like a leader. They don’t know they’re being watched as they do so: Misty snuck a camera into Nat’s place via an owl-shaped diffuser. The adult Yellowjackets are, at last, coming together, but they’re also fractured, operating with different motives and sets of information. Misty’s a ticking timebomb, but Shauna’s a wild card, too.
Speaking of surveillance, I found it significant on a deeper level than just plot that teen Taissa is the one who figures out teen Shauna is pregnant. She carefully watches Shauna all episode and easily figures out she’s lying. Jackie’s Shauna’s best friend, and yet she’s completely oblivious to what’s happening with her. I believe Jackie genuinely cares about Shauna, but I also think Jackie is self-obsessed, unable to see things that are right in front of her. Taissa watching Shauna feels so queer and familiar to me. I remember watching girls before I was out. It wasn’t even necessarily sexual. It was almost like I was studying them. Trying to figure them out and, really, trying to figure myself out. Taissa asks Shauna how far along she is at the end of the episode, and it’s such a quiet moment that was either heartbreaking or heartwarming — I couldn’t decide — so maybe both simultaneously?
Okay, it’s time to move away from my Adam Isn’t Real conspiracy theory and focus on a new mystery/theory: What happened to Shauna’s pregnancy? Because the math doesn’t add up to this being Callie. (The crash was in 1996, and the “present day” of the show is 2021 according to the pilot, and Callie is in high school so 18 at the oldest.) So Shauna either terminates this pregnancy, has a miscarriage, or has a baby in the woods but then something happens, because where is that child in the present? Open to theories here, because I have no clue!
I feel so validated in my characterization of Misty as “nerdy Villanelle” from Killing Eve last week, because that is absolutely the energy she’s giving on Halloween. Wearing a cat costume at her work, she gleefully frightens young children trick or treating by SHUTTING OFF THE POWER ON A WOMAN’S LIFE SUPPORT MACHINES. She’s a demon! And she’s thrilled by it! “Blood Hive” also finally gives us what we deserve: a self-contained buddy crime-comedy story starring reluctant partners Nat and Misty. Nat calls up Misty (in her phone as Do Not Answer) to ask if she still knows a person who can hack Kevyn’s email so she can get more info about Travis’ death. It leads to the two of them walking into a low lit diner and pouring gasoline on a man’s crotch, threatening to light him on fire if he doesn’t help them get into the email. It’s funny and strange, and Christina Ricci and Juliette Lewis are just so good.
Adult Misty’s antics — while entertaining — are made more unsettling when placed in the context of teen Misty’s behaviors. Teen Misty continues to obsess over Ben, and he tells her point blank: “Don’t fucking touch me Misty.” Misty retaliates by putting poison in his tea. It doesn’t kill him, but it makes him puke and sends her message. Misty genuinely thinks hurting him will bring them closer. And Ben realizes he doesn’t need to merely push her away; he needs to manipulate her into thinking he’s on her side. He tells her he returns his feelings but that he can’t act on them because it wouldn’t be appropriate since she isn’t 18. He tells her it has to be their secret. Ben is the first one really catching onto the fact that Misty is dangerous. It’s making me wonder if Ben’s days are numbered.
Jackie at last does figure out what she can bring to the table: sleepover vibes. In the name of teambuilding and confronting their fears head-on, she proposes the seance in the attic. Again, it’s very regular teen girl shit if you simply forget about the fact that they’re stranded, living in a cabin where they found a corpse, and surrounded by a mysterious symbol that can’t possibly mean anything good. Jackie instructs Shauna to place candles on those symbols as if she has never seen a horror movie in her life!!!!!! The seance starts with a lot of silliness and giggles, Shauna operating the pendulum as they ask questions of the other side. Taissa opts out in favor of sharpening a knife downstairs (gay), and little Christian Laura Lee wants nothing to do with the occult either, so she instead reads her new Bible, an operating manual she found in the abandoned plane from last episode.
Javi breaks the spell when he asks a real question at the seance: “Are we all gonna die out here?” Suddenly, this doesn’t feel like a sleepover so much anymore. Right on cut: Things get weird. The pendulum answers with an infinity symbol, and some invisible presence bursts through the attic window like a gust of wind. Lottie screams as if she can see the presence, and then something overtakes her, speaking in French. Horror and humor collide brilliantly (Jackie says she and Lottie are in French class together but both suck at French). Eventually, they’re able to make out the message: “It” wants blood. It could be the woods, the cabin, something else? “We must spill blood or else,” Lottie says, slamming her head against the window.
There it is again: spill. Did the person who wrote spill on adult Taissa’s home really mean they want her to spill about her past or is that also somehow connected to whatever’s going on supernaturally? Because adult Nat and Misty also piece together that candles were lit in the shape of the recurring symbol beneath Travis where he died. “Travis didn’t believe in any of this shit,” Nat says.
Again, there’s a lot of ambivalence about what’s happening here. We don’t know much about the symbol or its significance or what really happened at that seance. I genuinely don’t think this is just an issue of Lottie being off her meds. If anything, Lottie has seemed to be the most prescient character on the show. Just like with Sammy, something is happening in a way neither of them can really explain but both know to be true. In Sammy’s case, because he’s a young child and has more creative imagination than an adult might, he seems particularly attuned to the spooky things that are happening. But he also doesn’t really have the tools to explain it to his moms.
The Yellowjackets — as teens and as adults — don’t really know what’s happening to them. We’re right there in that confusion and ambivalence. Taissa thinks the threat to her family has to do with the campaign, but it seems like much more than that. The past is calling them back, the word “spill” echoing across time. Nat suggests there were people who believed in something in the woods and people who did not. It leaves the door open for so many possibilities. And, sure, the show will have to deliver on those setups eventually, but for now, sitting inside the uncertainty is both disquieting and exhilarating.
- I mean, yes, we all knew Van had to be queer, right? She’s the freakin GOALIE.
- Finally: A Caligula sighting! Also, Misty’s citizen detective tag is African Gray. She loves her damn parrot.
- Nat, to Misty, about the guy whose dick they just threatened to burn off: “You should ask that guy out — you two have so much in common.”
- The opening sequence! I find something new to like about it every time I see it! My girlfriend and I had an interesting conversation about it last week: I thought of the sequence as having a home video aesthetic, and Kristen built on that. She called it found footage. Which feels especially fitting since these girls were lost and then found (or, at least, some of them were found). The mixing together of footage of them as teens and as adults but all still shot with the throwback 90s aesthetic ties back to what I wrote last week about the show’s narrative being shaped like a Möbius strip. Time keeps bending back into itself. This week, I’m obsessed with the moment where Jackie makes a throat slitting motion on the soccer field and then literally winks at the camera. Like wink wink, bet you’re thinking about actual throat slitting and cannibalism right now. Brilliant!
- Van doesn’t jump at the opportunity to sleep in the attic with Taissa! They could be doing so much making out up there! But ok, yes, I suppose the vibes are off in the murder attic.
- And as always, here’s your link to the show’s official playlist.