BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ it’s time to eat some dirt and then, like, forget about it! Here’s your Yellowjackets 106 recap where we’re talking all things “Saints,” written by Chantelle M. Wells and directed by Bille Woodruff. Catch up on past recaps here, and chime in with theories in the comments!
Well, folks, we have a Cassandra! I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how Lottie fits into this story and have also, as many people have expressed in the comments of these recaps, been wary of where things might go in terms of mental illness depiction. I do think Lottie’s hesitance to tell others about being on medication and also the other girls’ refusal to ask her what’s going on even though she’s clearly struggling is a realistic depiction of how mental illness stigma plays out. Van at the start of this episode becomes the first person to really ask Lottie if she’s okay and what’s wrong (cementing Van as one of my favorite characters). Especially because we see the harsh way Lottie’s parents talk about her mental state when she’s a very young girl, it makes sense that she wouldn’t really have the tools to open up to anyone about what she’s experiencing in the woods. She’s seeing things, but it’s safe to assume these aren’t hallucinations. They’re visions. The past haunts in “Saints,” but via Lottie, so does the future.
Yellowjackets has been playing around with expectations and perceptions throughout the first half of its first season. Is something supernatural happening? Or is real life and the ways we move through it—especially while navigating trauma—sometimes just strange enough to feel like fantasy-horror? “Saints” is the first episode to really let some of that strangeness spill over. There’s still a level of ambivalence that keeps things suspenseful and taut, but it’s finally pretty obvious that something supernatural is indeed happening. The mythology of Yellowjackets expands and thrills.
So yes, Lottie can see the future. The episode opens with her as a young girl in the back of her parents’ car. She screams, which distracts them, and then they narrowly avoid being involved in a fatal car accident. Her father insists she isn’t having visions and takes her to a psychiatrist. The implication here is that the medication she’s on has been stifling these visions. Now that she’s off them, she’s having what appear to be visions again. She sees a deer with bloody antlers in the woods. When Nat and Travis finally fell a deer at the end of the episode, it’s shedding its antlers, which are dripping with blood (“It’s like Bambi and Freddy Kreuger had a baby”). Shauna knifes it open, and maggots spill out. Lottie doesn’t just see the future; she sees warnings. She sees impending doom. The Yellowjackets are running out of food.
And that’s not the only horror they’re dealing with in the woods. Shauna is having nightmares about giving birth. We see one, in which Jackie coaches her and Misty helps her deliver a rotisserie chicken with a heartbeat. Shauna immediately starts eating the chicken. Several of Shauna’s current real-life nightmares are at play here: her hunger and the looming fear of starvation for the whole group, her guilt over betraying Jackie, her fear of giving birth in a remote place with no access to drugs or modern medicine. I truly love the body horror of this show. The chicken baby is equal parts cartoonish and grotesque — funny or repulsive depending on how you look at it. Any form of cooked meat on this show functions as a simultaneous foreshadowing and a callback.
Shauna has been having food-baby body horror nightmares recurringly: Her atticmate Taissa asks if she had the cheeseburger baby dream again. Shauna tells Taissa she’s thinking of using wire from a bra to do a self-abortion, and she also confesses about Jeff. “It’s not worth dying to keep Jackie from finding out,” Taissa says. Shauna thinks she’ll die either way.
We move then into the present, where Shauna and Jeff are having brunch with Jackie’s parents to honor Jackie’s birthday. I wrote last week that it sounded like Jackie’s parents might be time-frozen in their grief, and now that we meet them for real, that proves to be…an understatement. Jackie’s mom doesn’t just fixate on how perfect Jackie was but also takes brutal passive aggressive digs at Shauna. She remarks it must have been difficult for Shauna to exist next to Jackie’s shine. She says Jackie always worried about Shauna finding someone in life, which is such an absurd thing to say, because there’s no way teenage Jackie was going around telling her mom she was worried her best friend would never find a husband. Delusional much?! She also takes digs at Shauna for not working and for not being able to support Callie.
The tension of this brunch is hilarious. Yellowjackets makes everyday discomfort just as compelling and urgent as its more violent, unnerving forms of discomfort. Shauna and Jeff seem trapped in the odd delusions of these parents, forever tied to Jackie. The parents gift Shauna a porcelain bunny figurine, because Jackie supposedly loved rabbits (now we know where all of Shauna’s rabbit decorations in her kitchen come from). “I never thought I’d be this desperate to eat a rabbit,” Jackie muses in the woods in the past. Time bends back in on itself again. Which brings me to this: Jackie’s parents romanticization of Jackie and belittling of Shauna is especially funny — in a macabre way, of course — because we’ve seen how useless Jackie was in the woods. Shauna was running shit. Shauna’s the one actually checking traps while Jackie’s daydreaming about how much she misses Jeff.
Of course, you can’t really tell grieving parents that their daughter was basically useless. Shauna puts up with the digs for the most part. She still feels guilt about Jackie. And perhaps beyond the Jeff stuff. She might feel guilt over whatever happened to Jackie, which still remains unclear. Adult Shauna walks into the past, entering Jackie’s room and reading her diary, where they used to make lists together and play games of MASH. She has a memory-flashback of herself as a teen with teen Jackie, giggling on Jackie’s bed. The lines between the past and present vanish, and a hallucinated version of Jackie tells Shauna it’s not her fault, what happened. Shauna says she knows, but then Jackie turns. “Um, what, actually you don’t know. It’s totally your fault,” she says. The only thing scarier than a mean teen is an angry apparition of a mean teen!!!!!
While Shauna takes the digs, Jeff finally speaks up. Jackie’s mom takes things too far, and he blurts out that he was fucking Shauna when he and Jackie were still dating. Okay, Jeff! It’s funny and rude and maybe the most I’ve ever liked Jeff, who is possibly a Wife Guy? Which really does make me think the affair is a red herring after all. He’s up to something, but I think Shauna might be the only one cheating!
Back in the woods, Taissa and Van find some more time alone. They skinny dip in the lake at night, playing a game where they write words on each other’s backs with their fingers and then have to guess the word. Van writes: Boobs. It’s all very sweet, silly teen romance. But there’s an undercurrent of tension, too. There’s inexplicable dirt under Taissa’s nails, a moment that seems like a throwaway at first but takes on spookier meaning later on. And Van says the others will find out about their relationship eventually, but Taissa shuts her down, saying she wants to get out of here. “How the fuck are you going to survive?” Van asks at Taissa’s suggestion that they find another way out instead of waiting around to be rescued. Underneath the question, there’s also the question of why this is Taissa’s reaction to Van hinting she doesn’t want their relationship to stay a secret. Taissa is constantly in self-preservation mode, which we’ve seen in her as an adult as well.
The adult versions of Taissa and Shauna both arrive at adult Nat’s digs to sort out the postcard ordeal. It’s the first Shauna’s hearing of the postcards (more on that later). And it’s the first time we’ve seen all three of them in a scene together. There’s friction between them, and they seem not quite like strangers but not friends either. More like siblings or cousins. Bound to each other by blood. Caring about each other but not entirely liking each other.
The contrast between adult Shauna and Taissa’s dynamic and teen Taissa and Shauna’s dynamic is striking. As teens, they’re bound by the secret of Shauna’s pregnancy. They go through a painful and frightening experience together, and I’m not talking about the plane crash. All of the Yellowjackets share that. In “Saints,” Shauna and Taissa share the intimate and terrifying experience of trying to give Shauna an abortion with a piece of wire. Shauna’s determined to do it alone at first, but Taissa runs desperately through the woods to find her. She eventually does, and they try to do it together, but the pain is too much, and Shauna asks her to stop. It’s difficult to watch, a real-life version of body horror as opposed to the over-the-top body horror of Shauna’s nightmares. Shauna and Taissa are connected by this traumatic experience, and yet in the present, they’re distant. They’re busy trying to forget the past, and it colors their every interaction.
The attempted abortion is intercut with Laura Lee giving Lottie a baptism in the lake. Laura Lee takes an interest in Lottie’s visions, thinking they are messages being communicated through Lottie by God. During the baptism, Lottie imagines walking through a dark, underground, somewhat industrial candlelit space that my girlfriend pointed out has a similar vibe to the warehouse from the original Nightmare On Elm Street, which could be an intentional reference point given the Freddy Kreuger line later on. Just like there isn’t a fixed boundary between dreams and reality in that iconic horror movie, there isn’t a fixed boundary between hallucinations, memories, and reality for a lot of these characters — not just Lottie.
Sometimes we see literal manifestations of the past (like adult Shauna’s warped and foreboding hallucinations of Jackie), and sometimes the past sneaks back in quieter, invisible but still very present ways. Kevyn brings adult Nat to his son’s soccer game, and she gives him a detailed pointer, harkening back to her soccer past. But what should just be a simple, sweet little moment derails when Nat freaks out while watching the kid score. We don’t need to be told or overtly shown what’s upsetting her here: She’s clearly thinking about the past, remembering a different time, life before the crash. And thinking about life before the crash means thinking about everything the crash changed. It’s like her watching kids play soccer summons a ghost we can’t see.
The episode’s title is “Saints,” and I’m brought back to the pilot, when Jackie makes reference to Shauna becoming briefly obsessed with Catholicism and Shauna saying she was drawn to the tragedy of the saints. Catholic imagery/mythology is all over the place in Yellowjackets, which is fitting since, well, transubstantiation has notes of cannibalism. On that note, and I can’t help but notice the juxtapositions between hunger and love, between food and the body, this show keeps putting forth. Jackie says she misses Jeff more than cheesesteaks. Shauna’s disturbing food-baby nightmares.
Then there’s also Lottie seeing Taissa in the middle of the night shoveling dirt in her mouth. There’s an interesting mix of horror imagery in the episode. There are more heightened moments, like the chicken baby. And then there are more subtle but still unsettling moments like teen Taissa eating dirt, which honestly reminds me a little of the iconic standing-in-the-corner shot from Blair Witch Project in that it’s just really fucking scary without doing much (there’s more movement to this moment, but still! Same energy to me!). Right before that shot, there’s also a brilliant shot of Lottie with a mounted deer head behind her. But I don’t think this is suggesting Lottie’s the antlered cannibal queen from the pilot; it would be too obvious of a wink. Rather, I just think Yellowjackets seizes every opportunity to remind us of those scenes from the pilot. The Yellowjackets can never forget, and neither can we.
Something has a hold on teen Taissa. If we think back to Lottie saying the woods didn’t want the hunter to leave in his plane, could there be something deeper and more dangerous going on to Taissa’s one-track mind about getting out of here? Is that just her survival instincts or could she be unintentionally leading everyone into danger, possessed by the woods somehow? After all, in the present, she’s unknowingly harming her family. In a very well executed reveal, she’s shown as “the lady in the tree” Sammy has been talking about, which means she has been accidentally gaslighting her kid.
And it’s affecting Taissa’s whole life. Her marriage is strained, Simone hurt and angry that she didn’t drop out of the race like she said she was going to and also worried about Sammy. She makes an appointment with a child psychologist, and Taissa is distracted while there. She’s also distracted on the drive home to the point of almost accidentally hitting a guy on a bike. Sammy is under stress, and of course he is! He’s the only one who really knows Taissa is the lady in the tree, and it must be overwhelmingly confusing and weird for him. What is going on with Taissa in both timelines! And how does the eyeless man fit in here?
The Yellowjackets, even if they don’t really know it, are dealing with peripheral paranormal threats and circumstances, but they’re also still dealing with the regular teen drama and conflict that doesn’t just go away just because they’re stranded in the woods. Things escalate between Nat and Travis, and Ben decides to give Travis a sex talk. It reminds me of the menstruation stuff from last episode. Ben gives Travis a handful of condoms, saying the last thing they need is to care for a baby out here (little does he know that that complication might be on its way via Shauna). The circumstances are more dire, and yet on the surface, it looks like a regular sex talk would look. Yellowjackets is again real about its characters bodies, about their hormones, about the fact that they might be fighting for their lives but they’re still going to do the things they would have done in their past lives like have sex. Jackie also slut-shames Nat in the episode, and Travis also makes a lot of assumptions about Nat’s sexual history. As an adult, Nat also struggles with other people’s ideas about who she is. Taissa and Shauna treat her like she’s more of a mess than they are just because of her addiction. And in the past, Nat puts up a tough act, but she’s clearly affected by the ways people treat her and talk about her.
Back in the present: Shauna never received a postcard, and that has to be significant. I’ve seen the theory that Misty sent the postcards to “get the band back together,” but her kidnapping of Jessica Roberts and the ongoing blackmail somewhat dispels that theory. Misty has no reason to financially blackmail the group, and she also seems pretty convinced Jessica Roberts is the Big Bad here. She thinks she cracked the case, citizen-detective-style. Shauna wouldn’t have sent the postcards either I don’t think. She wants nothing to do with the other Yellowjackets anymore. I’ve seen the theory that it could be Adam. He’s still hiding something it seems. We don’t really see him in this episode, but he keeps trying to call Shauna. And then she sends him a text that says “lie facedown on the floor for 45 minutes and maybe I’ll come,” further confirming my characterization of Shauna as a dommey mommi.
But I have an alternative postcard theory: Maybe Shauna didn’t receive one, because the call is coming from inside the house. Her house, specifically. Maybe Jeff isn’t having an affair but is rather plotting some sort of blackmail scheme. It doesn’t seem like the furniture store is doing great business. Whoever has sent the postcards knows about the symbol from the woods and other intimate Yellowjackets details, but you know who keeps a diary full of these secrets in her room? Shauna. Her family could, with a little bit of light lockpicking, access it. And I say “family,” because honestly, my main theory right now isn’t that it’s Jeff: It’s that it’s Callie. Shauna and Callie have an antagonistic relationship. Shauna straight up says she doesn’t like her daughter at the brunch (another fantastic line reading from Melanie Lynskey). And there’s a parallel here: We’ve seen Shauna sneak into Callie’s empty room to masturbate to a picture of her boyfriend, which is, to put it lightly, pretty violating? What if Callie’s breaking into her room to read her diary? Also pretty violating! If this theory is correct, it means the postcards and Travis’ murder are separate threads though. Callie is a piece of shit, but I don’t think she’s—to borrow a term from Riverdale, where the actress also appears—a murderess.
I’ve saved the best for last: Misty fucking Quigley blasting Phantom of the Opera before stabbing Jessica Roberts with a syringe full of a cocktail of drugs she stole from work. She then ties Jessica Roberts to a bed in her basement. This is, I think, Misty’s way of trying to win back Nat and the other Yellowjackets, who she has been spying on via the owl cam. Misty loves to coerce people into closeness with her. Maybe she thinks if she can get Jessica Roberts to admit to something then she can be the hero. But Yellowjackets doesn’t really have any heroes right now; it doesn’t have any saints.
- The series has been renewed for a second season! Buzz buzz buzz!!!!!!
- The line “Misty fucking Quigley” is said in both timelines in this episode, and I love that echo.
- Opening sequence musings! Today, I am thinking about the echo of “no return” in the original theme song. Could refer to the Yellowjackets being at a point of no return in the woods. Could refer to them returning to their lives outside of the woods but also…not really returning. How do you return…from any of that?
- The more I revisit the pilot, the more I become convinced the dead girl is either Mari or Lottie.
- Okay, Misty’s love of showtunes makes me think she was a theater kid back before the woods. Like maybe during the soccer off-season. But specifically…a theater tech kid. She’s got stage manager energy, and I say that as a former stage manager. Actually, more specifically, she might have assistant stage manager energy. Iykyk.
- Edit: Okay, thank you to those of you in the comments who have pointed out there are movies mentioned in Jackie’s diary that suggest she got out of the woods! The plot thickens!
- Why yes, the official soundtrack does indeed include the Phantom overature: