Grab a flare gun and some glitter — it’s time for the Yellowjackets 107 recap. We’re talking all things “No Compass” (directed by Eva Sørhaug and written by Katherine Kearns), so if you haven’t seen it yet, get on it! Catch up on past recaps and be sure to peep the comments section if fan theories are your thing! And don’t forget to bring your latest theories and curiosities to the comments this week! Reading through them and replying is the highlight of my week!
“No Compass” doesn’t let us cut away. Yellowjackets in general needles into discomfort, into tension, into disturbance. It leaves just enough to the imagination so as not to veer into gratuitous territory. But it doesn’t cut away when shit gets uncomfortable. In its most distressing moments, Yellowjackets leans a little closer, takes it a little further. Every episode has at least one but usually several images that stay with me long after watching.
“No Compass” drops us right back into Taissa, standing in a tree in front of her home, her hands and mouth covered in dirt. Last week, this felt like a significant plot twist. But shock value doesn’t last. It’s a quick sensation and then it’s gone. The most effective plot twists are the ones that imbue meaning beyond the surprise itself, and that’s exactly what happens here when we see this reveal through. The shock has worn off, and instead we’re left with dread. Because Taissa in this tree, covered in dirt, with no recollection of how she got here is a horror on so many levels. Is she the threat that has been looming over her family all season? Why is she unraveling? And why is it happening again?
Folks in the comments last week suggested Taissa is experiencing pica. Severe nutrient deficiencies like extreme anemia can lead to pica, which could explain why teen Taissa has been eating dirt, but it can also be linked to stress, PTSD, and other mental health diagnoses. Simone mentioned a couple episodes back that Taissa has been losing weight. She’s under immense stress. It’s once again entirely possible that everything happening with both teen Taissa and adult Taissa has an explanation rooted in reality. Teen Taissa would prefer it that way. “There’s a solution for everything. An explanation for everything,” she insists when weird stuff starts happening in the woods. She’s the resident skeptic. Sure, there could be a logical explanation for everything that’s happening. Or there could still be a supernatural influence. Something that’s heightening real horrors into something more. In some ways, the possibility of that interplay between normal and the paranormal frightens much more than if it were just one or the other.
Not only is adult Taissa covered in dirt, but she also has a large bite mark on her hand. The episode’s opening sequence is a haunting one, Taissa frantically cleaning her hands and the wound. It’s got “out, damned spot!” vibes except that in this case, we know the wound is real, because Shauna points it out later. Who bit Taissa? And why does it seem like it was out of self-defense? Given the episode’s vicious ending and the fact that Taissa keeps hallucinating wolves, it could be her family dog Biscuit’s doing. Or the answer could be worse; they could be the markings of human teeth.
There isn’t time for even Taissa to consider the answers to these questions as it’s go-time for her, Nat, and Shauna to trap their blackmailer. Nat shows up with the money (which she got from selling her car), and Shauna says the stack of cash is “disappointing by heist movie standards.” She also says she bought the tracking device they stuff into the bag of cash off Amazon. It’s all very funny — a suburban Jersey caper! Their little midnight mission is, while absolutely still high stakes and dangerous, very fun and goofy, because there’s no glamorous sheen to it at all. Typical movie moments, like putting a tracking device in the cash bag and doing a car chase are thrown off course by reality (before beginning the car chase, they have to quickly switch drivers because Shauna drank too much from the celebratory bottle Nat got for them). This is exactly what it would look like for these three specific women to pull off a mission like this. Nat’s impulsive and erratic. Shauna’s the team mom, driving the getaway minivan but also trying to get these two to engage in a little small talk during the stakeout and rolling her eyes at Taissa’s vague teen-like answers. Taissa is level headed but almost to a fault, not as quick to adapt to chaos as Nat. This isn’t some flashy heist and stakeout. It’s three adult women doing their best.
Their interactions with each other continue to convey the strangeness of their relationships. Not really friends, not really enemies, they’re like siblings or cousins reluctantly thrown together. Embedded in their dialogue are little bursts of the past. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” Taissa tells Shauna while they wait in the van for Nat to return from making the money drop. Is she talking about Nat’s usefulness as the hunter of the group? Did Nat save them in some capacity when it came to the cannibalism in the woods? There’s definitely some sort of plot connection to be made here, but it’s almost an emotionally revealing moment. Taissa pays for Nat’s rehab, because she feels she owes her that care. Taissa says she feels like it’s only fate that gave her Simone and Sammy and gave Shauna Jeff and Callie. She says they didn’t do anything to deserve their families. And on the other side of that, it means Nat didn’t do anything to deserve being alone.
Nat and Taissa end up chasing the masked man who grabs the money bag, tapping into their old soccer skills quite deftly. The guy gets away but not before Nat almost shoots him, Taissa diverting the gun at the last second. The past comes back again: Shauna says she felt like they were about to be arrested for murder, and Nat replies “like we haven’t done a lot worse.” While previous episodes have all featured flashbacks-within-flashbacks (as in flashbacks and glimpses of the past before the woods), this episode doesn’t use that device, and I think it’s because “No Compass” already blurs the lines of temporality so urgently and frequently in these interactions between the adult Yellowjackets. There’s so much there. So much history. They share intimate connections and also pain. Shauna is dismissive of Nat, asking if she’s going to go around knocking on doors with a flamethrower to find the masked man. And it hurts Nat’s feelings.
They were just maybe getting to an okay place, a place of the past when they were all teen girls who were friends. Nat had just opened up about sleeping with Kevyn. She seems genuinely excited when she says it, and for a moment, they do seem like teen girls again talking about boys. But that fantasy is pierced when Shauna says the fact that he has kids sounds complicated. Nat’s face falls. Shauna and Taissa just don’t take her seriously. Then when Shauna makes that flamethrower joke, it all falls apart for real. Juliette Lewis delivers a gutting monologue. Nat says she knows Taissa and Shauna are just as fucked up as she is. They’re just better at hiding it. “You’re not healthy; you’re not stable,” she shouts at them. And she is, of course, very correct. Taissa and Shauna have families, but do their families really see them? Ironically, the two spend so much time talking about how Nat has no one, but Nat might be the only person who really, truly understands them.
Before we move on from this Suburban Jersey Caper/Comedy of Errors, it’s theory corner time! Who is the blackmailer? When Shauna gets home at 4 a.m., Adam is there waiting for her. If he’s the culprit, this could be his attempt at crafting an alibi. But I just don’t think it’s him! In fact, I increasingly think Adam is a red herring altogether. I don’t think he’s Javi grown up. I don’t think he’s a figment of Shauna’s imagination. I kind of think he’s just some overly romantic dude who’s into Shauna. I still think the abstract way they talk to each other is very strange. But I also think it might just be a symptom of the fantasy of the affair.
Adam says he waited in front of her house because he didn’t see any cars, meaning Jeff and Callie are both gone. And I think that makes both Jeff and Callie suspects, and I’m leaning Callie! A big part of this show’s premise is that teen girls are capable of much more than people expect. I don’t think it was Callie in the mask running away from Nat and Taissa, but it could be her boyfriend, who we haven’t seen since the pilot. Callie and Shauna do not like each other. Callie could have easily broken into Shauna’s vault, read her diaries, and used that info to draw the symbol and blackmail the others. When Jeff gets home early in the morning, Shauna has to hide Adam in the closet (she tries to get him to go out the window, but it’s rusted shut, which is another instance of a typical movie moment skewed by reality). It’s suspicious that Jeff was gone all night at the store and that the first thing he wants to do is shower. Did Jeff spend his night running away from two former varsity soccer players? Or is he really just cheating on Shauna? (I personally think the answer is neither, because Jeff has wife guy energy and I’m not sure he’s capable of pulling off a blackmail scheme! But he’s definitely up to Something.)
Nat breaks my heart in this episode. As for adult Nat: After Taissa and Shauna shoot her down, she returns to Kevyn, who yells at her when he realizes there’s a bullet missing from his gun. He accuses her of being high. She’s lying to him, sure, but the way he so quickly turns on her instead of giving her the benefit of the doubt is a brutal whiplash from the way she was just talking about him in the car. It’s also how she’s used to being treated by men. And then Nat does what I think might be a pattern of hers: She hurts his feelings to protect her own, making fun of his high school crush on her and saying they were only ever just fucking, nothing more.
Teen Nat breaks my heart, too. She’s very into Travis to the point of asking him not to leave with the Taissa-led team going on an expedition. He says he’ll stay right away. And then when the two have the cabin to themselves, they start hooking up and it’s…a disaster. I mean, not like a complete horror show of a time. Just awkward and uncomfortable and, well, a very realistic portrayal of teen sex. It calls back that scene of Jackie being badly fingered in the pilot. But whereas that was just kind of funny, this is harder to watch. It’s another one of those moments where Yellowjackets doesn’t cut away. It’s also another one of those moments where Yellowjackets is nakedly honest about hormones and emotions but especially bodies. Travis asks Nat not to talk dirty, because he seems to think she’s putting on some sort of performance, but Nat’s just doing and saying exactly what she wants to say and do. They’re out of sync. And who knows why Travis can’t get it up. He has just suffered an immensely traumatic experience; they’re both under constant stress; they’re also both hungry and tired. It’s not optimal conditions for hot sex or even sex at all. But Travis freaks out and runs away from the situation, and it’s once again easy to see the beginning of a destructive dynamic forming between them.
In the woods, food is running out. Winter approaches, and Nat and Travis haven’t killed a deer since the one infested with bugs. Taissa has an idea: She wants to search the woods. For a town, for another person, for any way out. She’s sick of waiting around. The group is like “this sounds like a bad idea, Tai,” but if there’s one thing teen Taissa Turner is going to do in this episode, it’s Not Listen To Her Friends. Or her girlfriend. Van’s skeptical of the expedition, too.
It is a queer rite of passage to dramatically cut your own hair, and Taissa gives an angsty self-cut for the ages!!!!!! It’s urgent and raw, a transformation from Taissa the ruthless soccer player to Taissa the ruthless survivalist. “That’s pretty hot, actually,” Van says. She also says she’s coming. She gives a great monologue about how she has only been to New York City once when she was seven-years-old and how all she wanted was a soft pretzel and a carriage ride through Central Park but all she got was a performance of Cats (okay who is the Andrew Lloyd Webber fanatic in the writers room!). She wants to go back. With Taissa. She wants them to have soft pretzels together and go on a carriage ride. It’s sweet and a sort of low-stakes, whimsical reason to want to survive, which really just makes it another reminder of how young these girls are. They really were just kids when this happened to them. They’d barely lived any life. A soft pretzel and a carriage ride in Central Park was seven-year-old Van’s childlike dream of a New York adventure, and she isn’t that far removed from that age, from that wide-eyed innocence. Maybe the woods is making them all age too quickly but also making them revert. After all, when we see them as adults, they sometimes still seem like teens.
So, Van’s going with Taissa. And so are Akilah and Mari. Nat won’t let them take the gun, but the group agrees they can have a flare gun and an axe. At the last minute, Misty decides to join after spying on Ben through a window and seeing him teaching Taissa about something. She thinks taking this risk will deepen her bond with him. It’s not unlike the way adult Misty thinks kidnapping Jessica Roberts is an act of love and sacrifice for her “friends.” (Adult Misty listening to “The Music Of The Night” while spying on Kevyn in Nat’s bed and Jessica Roberts screams in the background is just simply art!) Before the faction heads out, Lottie gifts Van a piece of bone from the diseased deer. They burned the deer, but the bone remains untouched. She also tells Van she dreamed of a river of blood and a cloud of red smoke. Van being one of the only people to ask Lottie if she’s okay last episode becomes meaningful here. Lottie feels like she can trust Van and like Van trusts her. Van accepts the bone and Lottie’s warning without questioning her. But Lottie continues to be this show’s Cassandra, with Taissa as the harsh cynic who keeps dismissing her visions.
While the expedition threatens to fracture the team, the friendship between Jackie and Shauna fractures, too. Jackie confronts Shauna and knows she’s hiding something. She brings up the time Shauna lied when her parents were getting divorced and she apparently told Jackie her dad had become the president of Hello Kitty to explain away his absence. Shauna’s bad lies are such a delightful character trait. Albeit probably frustrating from a best friend’s standpoint. “When did you stop wanting me to be your best friend?” Jackie asks Shauna, and it’s another gently devastating moment where the big teen emotions come crashing into the life-or-death circumstances of their new realities. Do they have other things to worry about like not starving? Sure! But that doesn’t mean all the other feelings and conflicts just shut off. If anything, Jackie’s hurt feelings are amplified by their circumstances. These characters are maybe coming to terms with their mortality, and she doesn’t want to lose her best friend at the end of the world. For once, Shauna tells a convincing lie. She admits she’s pregnant and says it’s Randy’s.
Jackie almost catches her in the lie later when Shauna’s timeline about when it happened doesn’t completely line up. And it must make her suspicious enough to go snooping. At episode’s end, she’s reading Shauna’s diary while sobbing by the campfire. Shauna’s secrets are about to come out, likely furthering the fractures in the group. But also: Did Javi have something to do with Jackie finding the diary? Shauna finds her diary on the floor of the attic after Javi rifles through her bag looking for her hunting knife so he can work on an art project (which ends up being a small carved wolf that initially looks like a protective token but then seems like an omen). So she then hides it in the rafters. Did someone tip Jackie off that it was in the rafters and what secrets were in it? Or does she just know Shauna well enough to know where she would have hidden it?
It’s expedition time! At first, things go okay. Akilah’s a former girl scout after all. Mari…well I don’t know exactly what Mari brings to the table, but I inexplicably like her. Taissa’s a confident leader (though sometimes to a fault). And Van’s the resident jokester. While they sit around a fire on their first night, Van recounts the entire plot of While You Were Sleeping to entertain the others. We cut to the present where Misty is merrily watching While You Were Sleeping on a tiny television in the basement where she’s tied up Jessica Roberts. She says she thinks Jessica killed Travis, and Jessica says Travis was definitely murdered but not by her. She eventually reveals Travis’s bank account was emptied after his death. Misty is having…a lot of fun holding her hostage, quite literally saying “this is fun” before slapping Jessica Roberts across the face. And the fact that she’s watching While You Were Sleeping is another indication that Misty looks back on the time in the woods not as a trauma but as a bonding experience, as a nice time to reminisce about. She felt she had purpose in the woods, and she feels she has purpose here and now trying to extract information from Jessica Roberts.
Things go okay until they don’t. The expedition group comes across a river of blood. Or, at least, a river with reddish water. In any case, it looks a lot like what Lottie described. Ever-skeptical Taissa tries to explain it away as iron deposits. And then Van’s compass starts spinning nonsensically, she says it’s because of the iron, too. Mari and Van both recall the way Lottie said the woods didn’t want the hunter to leave when they found the plane. Taissa thinks this is outrageous. But as I posited last week: Could Taissa’s insistence that the woods are not trapping them be…the influence of the woods trying to trap them?! In the present, we’ve seen adult Taissa as the very threat she’s trying to fight against.
After all, “while you were sleeping” takes on a whole new meaning at the end of this episode. After volunteering to take the first watch, Taissa wakes up in a tree, Van’s protective necklace around her own neck, the flare gun clutched to her chest. Below, Mari, Akilah, and Misty attempt to ward off a pack of wolves with torches. Taissa descends and finds Van being attacked by a wolf. She shoots the flare gun, which looks like the cloud of red smoke from Lottie’s dream. It doesn’t do much other than just make it easier to see the wolf biting Van. So Taissa gets the axe and hacks the wolf to bits. Van is dead.
OR IS SHE. Okay, yes, we see her lifeless body. But I’m not fully buying it. Especially because of this: In the pilot, the person who stands over the trap that kills the running girl is wearing Van’s shirt. I had already been starting to think this person was Van based on body type and the red Converse alone. But now we see the shirt in this episode. And the mask the character is wearing could double as a bandage. I’m just saying I’m not accepting Van is dead until the show tells me she is more explicitly.
But regardless of whether Van survives or not, it’s safe to say that Taissa’s sleepwalking is a serious problem. Again, it’s perfectly plausible that there’s no supernatural influence here. She could just be sleepwalking from stress and disorientation. The fact that she’s also doing it in the present supports that — between the campaign, the blackmail, her family life spinning out of control, she’s under a lot of stress. But there are still little pockets of the paranormal at play. The bone necklace does seem to have some protective power. The compass and the red river supposedly have real world explanations, but what can’t be explained is how Lottie knew about them before they happened. There’s a wildness to these woods we’ve only just started to glimpse.
- I feel like this show is so good at tiny details that do a lot. Like when Shauna asks Nat how she found a gas station to sell her liquor at 2am and Nat replies she bought it off the clerk and asks how she thinks they get through late-night shifts. We get denotations of place here (liquor can’t be sold past 10pm in Jersey) as well as class (Nat sympathizes with and understands the lived reality of a late-night gas station clerk better than Shauna and Taissa would).
- Whilst spinning her lies, Shauna tells Jackie she had too much Malibu and milk the night she hooked up with Randy, and the visceral reaction I had to the mere idea of “Malibu and milk” was more severe than any of my reactions to the physical violence in this episode because truly WHAT.
- At this point, I feel like regardless of what the answers end up being, the threads of who killed Travis and who is blackmailing the group have to be separate. An overarching conspiracy feels like too much.
- I once again have to point out that Rekha Sharma has chemistry with everyone and just a very flirty energy, so if I start shipping Jessica Roberts and Misty Quigley NO I DIDN’T.
- I like that Van uses the fact that Lottie predicted prom queen last year as evidence she might be clairvoyant.
- Okay, the While You Were Sleeping moment and then the title’s double meaning of like “while you were sleeping” in an ominous way as it pertains to Taissa’s sleepwalking has me thinking about how significant and intentional the pop culture references in the show are, which is why I do think it cannot be a mistake that we see movie titles that were released after the group got out of the woods in Jackie’s journal last episode. Several theories have been posited, but keep them coming!
- According to the promo for next week’s episode, Laura Lee is gonna try to FLY?! Good for her.