Hello and welcome to the Yellowjackets 108 recap! Buckle in! “Flight of the Bumblebee” — directed by Ariel Kleiman and written by Cameron Brent Johnson and Liz Phang — is a whirlwind of en episode. There are just two! more! left! Watch the ep if you haven’t already; catch up on past recaps; and get into the comments section with your wildest theories. Let’s dig in!
In the woods, people find their purpose. Back in the pilot, Nat tells her rehab group this is why it was hard to come out on the other side. After being rescued, she no longer had a purpose. In the woods, she had a clear role. The hunter. She provided food for the group. She fulfilled her purpose. Shauna has a purpose, too. She slits throats. She makes her hands useful. In the present, as a mother and wife, she does domestic work like cooking, cleaning, ironing. She makes her hands useful, but her family would never see it that way.
In “Flight of the Bumblebee,” Laura Lee announces she has a purpose. For her, that purpose has a divine urgency to it. Her faith drives her. She asks God for a sign, and when a bird lands near her and then flies away, she interprets it as a sign she’s meant to fly. She has been studying the plane manual. Her grandfather flew planes. The gas tank is full. It almost seems too good to be true. A miracle, really. And she’s not afraid of death, because she has escaped it before. The episode begins with a flashback to her time at Camp Mary Magdalene, when she dove into the shallow end (why girl!), bumped her head, and was resuscitated by a muscly teen boy whose cross necklace swings above her in the sun. Laura Lee has been saved, and she thinks it’s her turn to save.
Everyone has a purpose. Or at least feels like they have to have one. A purpose suggests control. If everyone has a role to play, then maybe they can get through it. But any semblance of control in the woods is a trick. They can organize and delegate all they want, but there’s only so much they can truly control. Really, none of these characters should have a purpose in the woods, because none of them are here on purpose. They’re just fucking kids. They shouldn’t be here; they shouldn’t have to go through any of this. The episode opens with Taissa, Akilah, Misty, and Mari lighting a funeral pyre on which to burn Van’s body. But none of them adequately checked to make sure she was actually, you know, dead. She gasps awake, and Taissa rolls her out of the fire. They almost burned her alive. Because while these characters do have survival skills, they’re no experts in any of this shit. Because they’re kids!!!!!
And what about the characters with no purpose at all? Like Jackie. Before the woods, she was the team captain. She was used to calling shots, breaking up fights, getting the girls to listen to her. Here, she’s worthless. And yet. She’s seeming more and more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Perhaps this is rooted in my own personal fear of mean teen girls, but I think Jackie could be dangerous. Last episode, we saw her reading Shauna’s diary and learning the truth about Shauna/Jeff. This week, I expected another confrontation like the one last week where she told Shauna to spill whatever she was hiding. Instead, Jackie surprised — and unnerved me! — by saying nothing at all. In fact, she’s laying her Shauna love on thick, playing some sort of long game like a cat with a mouse. I’ve used multiple animal metaphors here, because there is indeed something animalistic and feral happening here. Jackie’s chilly attitude is way more threatening than if she were to confront Shauna head-on.
But its not just her playing it cool with Shauna that unsettles. Jackie’s commitment to slut-shaming and deriding Nat would be fucked-up even in the normal context of high school. In the woods, it’s just downright evil. Nat and Travis have lingering connection problems after their failed attempt at sex, and Jackie widens the wedge between them when she tells Travis about Nat and Bobby Farleigh, the older guy Nat had hooked up with. Jackie calls Nat’s standards trash and scoffs at the fact that Nat missed practice to hook up with Bobby in his truck, not at all considering Nat’s feelings in all of this. When Nat told Travis about the two guys she hooked up with, she mentioned there being a bad experience with an older guy at a show, and she probably meant this situation with Bobby. But no one cares about Nat here! Jackie just wants to be mean for no fucking reason, and Travis reacts like a jealous and immature teen boy (all because Bobby was who gave him his unwanted Flex nickname in middle school).
Again, it’s fascinating to watch how high school drama needles its way into the woods. Because again, they’re just fucking kids. The woods have forced them to do things they never imagined, but the woods can’t turn them into adults. They’re still going to have all the same hormones, emotions, and feelings. Jackie’s commitment to being a mean high school girl makes her one of the woods’ many terrors. We don’t know what these characters are capable of in terms of their strength, resilience, and ability to navigate an impossible situation. We also don’t know what they’re capable of in terms of violence and harm. Or, well, we have a small glimpse into what some of them might be capable of. Images from the pilot consistently linger in the background of the narrative. The high school-level stakes drama and the wilderness survival conflicts are not separate threads; they’re all tangled up in each other. These are young people who haven’t even really figured out who they are yet. And now they’re supposed to work together to survive? It’s bedlam!
Even Ben is probably only in his mid-twenties. An adult, sure. But not someone who has lived much more life than the teens. He has never even come out. And in fact, when Nat says she knows he’s gay, he puts up walls immediately. The two share a nice friendship moment by the water. For all the shit the other girls give Nat about being a mess, she really is the most grown up of them, forced to be mature and independent because the adults in her life have failed her. It makes sense that she and Ben might bond. It makes sense that Nat perceives his queerness before anyone else. She’s good at reading people and attuned to outsiderness. She asks Ben for advice about Travis, and she asks him about his own personal life. Apparently, Ben had a boyfriend named Paul who’s a writer in the city. Cute!!!!! But Ben immediately asks Nat to keep quiet. “If any of this gets out…” he starts, and she promises him her silence. It’s indeed a reminder that Ben’s young himself. Here they are stranded in the Canadian wilderness, and somehow staying in the closet is still one of his biggest concerns.
The emotions of “Flight of the Bumblebee” are all over the place — in the best way. It gives stakes to all the chaotic action of the episode. Nat and Ben’s interaction is sweet and earnest. But it’s followed by Travis confronting Nat about Bobby, Travis’ emotions blown way out of proportion. He has an anger problem. And Nat puts up her walls the same way we’ve seen her do as an adult. She makes fun of Travis, hurting him so he can’t hurt her. The whiplash between tender earnestness and brutal discomfort in this episode makes for quite the ride.
I do have a small bone to pick about the glitter-in-the-closet reveal. When Shauna finds the glitter, we’re shown two flashbacks to scenes from the previous episode: one of Taissa saying they should look for an asshole covered in glitter and one of Shauna stuffing Adam in the closet. It’s not the biggest deal, but that’s just more narrative handholding than this show usually does? Yellowjackets is usually so intentional about the way it uses flashbacks as a device that I was just taken out of the moment a bit here. I think it’s the first time a flashback has merely regurgitated rather than adding new information or deeper context to something.
Okay, that complaint aside, this glitter reveal is obviously intended to make us think Adam is behind the blackmailing. In fact, throughout the episode, we learn Adam has been lying. Callie finds his ID in the house, calling her mother out for it but also revealing that he has no social media or internet presence at all. So IN A WAY, I was correct many recaps ago when I posited Adam doesn’t exist. He at least doesn’t exist in the sense that he doesn’t have a digital footprint, but you know, after seeing the weird warehouse-turned-apartment he lives in (were those LOCKERS?), I can kind of see him being the kind of guy who doesn’t believe in social media or whatever. And when Shauna does some lite citizen detective work and learns he didn’t go to Pratt, he folds pretty easily when she throws that information at him. He says he only told her he went to Pratt to impress her. And he answers all the biographical questions she asks. Is it really Adam who is doing the blackmailing? Is he not the blackmailer but still hiding something? Is he JUST A DUDE who is simply into Shauna but she doesn’t trust him because none of these survivors have basic coping skills or the ability to trust anyone after the woods????? I lean toward the latter! Adam could really just be a dude. I don’t entirely know how to interpret his suggestion that they get away for the weekend at a cabin in the Poconos. Like so many things on Yellowjackets, it could go a bunch of different ways: He could be intentionally trying to evoke memories of her past because he has nefarious ulterior motives. Or he could have no idea that a cabin in the woods would be triggering for in the first place because, again, he’s just a dude! With no ulterior motives to speak of!
Someone shed glitter in Shauna’s closet. And someone read her diaries. It could have been Adam or it could have been someone in her family. Jeff does buy her a very nice dress for the upcoming high school reunion (which we’ll get to see unfold in the finale), and I doubt he’s making designer dress money at the furniture store. But I also am still clinging to my theory that Callie and her boyfriend could be behind the blackmailing. Callie is seemingly always “at her friend Ilana’s.” This is also the second time Callie has stressed how easy it is for people to find out who the Yellowjackets survivors are. She says something about people being able to Google Shauna in the Halloween episode, and now she says Adam could just be trying to sleep with her in order to sell a story. Could Callie’s concerns actually be a subtle reveal that she has been doing some Googling of her own and found Misty/Taissa/Nat? Jackie reading Shauna’s diaries; Callie reading Shauna’s diaries. There’s a messed-up parallel feeling to it, no?
Speaking of parallels, Taissa/Shauna as adults mirror Taissa/Shauna as teens in illuminating, devastating ways. When the group finds Taissa and Van in the woods, they get Van back and perform surgery on her face. Lit by the fireplace, Akilah putting her Girl Scouts skills to use with a needle and thread, they sew up Van’s wounds while she squirms and screams in pain. Nat has to hold her down. It’s brutal and absurd, another reiteration that their circumstances are completely bonkers and uncontrollable. These are their realities now. Stitching up their friend’s face after a vicious wolf attack. It almost doesn’t feel real, and that’s a recurring feeling on the show. Is something supernatural actually occurring or are their circumstances just so traumatic and intense that it feels otherworldly? I love when Yellowjackets dances in that ambiguity.
Taissa opens up to just one person about her sleepwalking: her atticmate Shauna. These two have a special bond. In the pilot, it didn’t seem like they were particularly close, but in the woods, they’ve become attached. Taissa was the first to know about Shauna’s pregnancy. And now Shauna knows about Taissa’s sleepwalking, a strange and mysterious secret not even Taissa knows how to explain. In a way, both of their bodies are doing things outside of their control. They also both carry immense guilt for hurting people they love. Shauna’s still lying to Jackie, who’s stoking her guilt by pretending not to know anything but also saying needling things like “it’s really not the time to be keeping a secret.” Taissa blames herself for Van’s fate.
An interlude: I keep seeing the theory floated that wolves did not attack Van but that rather this was an extension of Taissa’s sleepwalking and that Taissa was actually attacking Van. Folks have pointed out that the wolves indeed disappear entirely after Taissa hacks something up with her axe. We never see a wolf’s body, and we also don’t know how the other wolves were warded off when the group’s torch method did not seem to be working. It’s an interesting theory, but I don’t think I buy into it! I think Van would have more than just her face injury if Taissa had been striking with an axe. Also, wouldn’t the other girls say something if they’d seen Taissa hacking up Van in a fugue state? Or, if the others were just part of Taissa’s hallucinations, wouldn’t they at least have questions about the attack when the real versions of them awoke? While I do think there was something surreal about that wolf attack, I don’t think it’s as simple as a Taissa hallucination.
That said, we do see Taissa repeating patterns. She thinks she’s a threat to Simone and Sammy the same way she thinks she’s a threat to Van. But what came first? Is Taissa really the threat against the people she loves or is that just a narrative she has told herself and absorbed? At what point does calling herself dangerous — the way she does with Simone in the present while asking her to go stay with her mother — merely sweep the issue under the rug instead of addressing the underlying causes of her sleepwalking? Simone wants to help her, but Taissa thinks she can’t be helped.
In the present, Taissa and Shauna reach back to their old connection. Taissa shows up at Shauna’s house, and they pretend they haven’t seen each other recently. They go on a walk, and Taissa says she has been sleepwalking again. Shauna is perhaps the only person who could understand. Shauna suggests Taissa spend the night, and the two have a sleepover that’s simultaneously cute and sad. It’s cute to see them gossiping like young girls. They’re giggly about Shauna’s affair with Adam. But there’s sadness here, too. Watching them revert to these teen girl roles is further evidence of their arrested development, of the time they lost. Taissa loves that Shauna feels “it” with Adam and offers up that Simone doesn’t make her feel “it” anymore, explaining that what they have is stable and safe. A lot of how these characters view and behave in relationships is influenced by their time in the woods. Stable and safe feels good to Taissa. But this whole notion of feeling “it,” I don’t know…it feels like a teenage romanticization of romance.
Shauna asks if Taissa ever thinks about what their lives would have been like if the woods had never happened and then basically writes a fanfiction about her own imagined life at Brown, writing short stories to woo rivals, meeting a mime while studying abroad in France. When it’s Taissa’s turn to share her fantasy, she just says details about the actual life she has lived. “You did do all those things,” Shauna says, confused. “Yeah, but if I’m being honest, not a single one of those things felt real,” Taissa says.
What is real and what isn’t in Taissa’s life has been an ongoing question. She hallucinates wolves. She hallucinates an eyeless man. But here, that uncertainty is given real-world stakes and context. Taissa sleepwalks, but she also feels like she has been sleepwalking through life. “I don’t know what’s happening to me,” she says as a teen to Shauna in the attic. As an adult, she explains her sleepwalking as a symptom of trauma to Simone, saying that she thinks the stress of the campaign has brought it back. But I think she’s still that teen confused and afraid of what’s going on inside her, unsure what is and isn’t real.
“Flight of the Bumblebees” really is a perfect blend of the show at its most feral and most intimate. The characters share pain and trauma, but they also care deeply about each other. Shauna takes care of Taissa in a way that transcends fixed relationship dynamics. It doesn’t feel like friendship, motherhood, or romance but rather some amalgamation of all of the above. In the past and present, Shauna protects Taissa from the thing she fears the most (herself).
They don’t always care for each other in the…right ways though. Misty and Jessica Roberts are interrupted by the owl spy cam live feed when Nat’s drug dealer shows up at her motel room. Misty rushes to Nat’s and busts in just in time, inhaling over $300 of coke so Nat won’t do it herself (“A. I will Venmo you” — give Christina Ricci an award for this line reading alone!). If you haven’t already, I highly recommend rewatching the long, action-packed shot that starts with Nat about to do the drugs and ends with Misty and her flailing at each other. Ricci and Juliette Lewis are dream scene partners. The thing is: Misty really believes what she’s doing is right. When she says she has been watching Nat to protect her, I believe that’s what she really thinks she’s doing! She says she was willing to die for Nat to keep her from relapsing. This is Misty’s definition of love and care. It’s always life-or-death. It’s always a manipulation. We keep seeing the adult Yellowjackets repeat their pasts. The way Misty smothers and obsesses over Ben is the way she smothers and obsesses over Nat. She risked her life on the expedition because she thought it would endear Ben to her. She likes to feel important and needed.
As an adult, Misty is…not entirely wrong when she says she’s the only friend Nat has, even if her approach to friendship is overbearing and toxic. It’s one of those instances where Yellowjackets avoids black-and-white relationship dynamics in favor of something more complicated. Just like there’s love between adult Taissa and Shauna, I think Misty really does love Nat. She just has a fucked-up way of showing it.
Yellowjackets does like to toy with expectations. When Misty comes home to her basement prisoner, Jessica Roberts has Caligula in a chokehold. JR threatens the bird, and at first, Misty plays it cool. But then Misty hurls objects at JR’s head until she lets go of the bird and apologizes to her baby boy. As she descends the staircase, the music swells. It seems almost certain that Misty is going to kill or at least seriously hurt Jessica Roberts in retaliation. Instead…she cries and says she has just had “one of those days” and makes them something to eat. In some ways, it’s more disturbing than if she had just lashed out. Misty and Jessica Roberts have a strange, sometimes comical dynamic. Misty is always forcing people to be close to her — even the people she kidnaps and ties to a bed! If anything, Jessica Roberts threatening Caligula almost brings them closer. Because Misty’s used to other girls being mean to her. She’s used to rejection.
And speaking of fucked-up love, the juxtaposition of Nat dealing with an angry Travis in the past and adult Nat still struggling with Travis’ death is really quite devastating. As teens, Nat and Travis are hot and cold with each other. They’re not good for each other. But again, it’s complicated. Nat is having a full-on breakdown in the present, relapsing and feeling out of control and alone. After Misty reveals to her that Travis’ bank account was closed after he died, she tries to get more info from the bank but can’t because she isn’t family. Nat instead tracks down her former sponsor Suze, who she apparently has a tumultuous past with (“I promise I won’t assault you again,” Nat says, and later, Suze declares: “I wish I’d never fucking met you”). Suze works at a bank, and Nat blackmails her into helping her get more info about Travis’ account. Nat reveals that she and Travis made promises to one another to never take their own lives. Nat and Travis weren’t good for each other. Nat and Travis cared deeply about one another. Both can be true, of course. And Yellowjackets loves to live in those contradictions and ambivalences.
So Laura Lee takes flight. She says it’s her purpose. And, for a moment, she’s airborne. For a moment, there’s hope. But then her teddy catches fire and the plane goes boom, fulfilling another one of Lottie’s prophecy-visions (she saw Laura Lee ablaze during her baptism). Hope literally explodes here. It’s the first death since the initial crash. Every escape plan keeps failing. Laura Lee’s faith in her mission, in her purpose — just like Taissa’s conviction in her expedition — is an empty promise. They might feel like they have a purpose, like they have agency. But the woods are in control.
I love that Laura Lee mentions Back To The Future, because there is a time travel aspect to this show but like…emotional time travel. Isn’t that exactly what adult Shauna and Taissa are doing in that bed together? Not only repeating the past but also reimagining their own pasts? Isn’t that what adult Nat is doing every time she thinks about Travis? Emotional time travel. It’s more than just remembering. It’s reliving and repeating. The Yellowjackets perpetually living out the same patterns. Trapped in the past just like they were trapped in the woods. Struggling to find their purpose.
- Someone mentioned in the comments last week that they were pretty sure Laura Lee’s bear is seen in Jackie’s room in the pilot. I went back and took screenshots, and it turns out that while both bears are missing an eye, they are not actually the same. I think this is just another iteration of the missing eye(s) motif we’ve seen on the show.
- Ben immediately jumped up in my rankings of favorite characters the second I found out he’s gay.
- Make Christina Ricci’s Emmy reel just an endless loop of her saying “Caligula, you’re being rude.”
- JK, make Christina Ricci’s Emmy reel just an endless loop of her saying “A. I will Venmo you.”
- Jackie pressuring Shauna to tell the entire group she’s pregnant just really freaks me out!!!! Jackie is so manipulative! She scares me!!!!!
- What does this mean, Melanie Lynskey!!!!
- I love the detail of Suze stealing cookies from the meeting. This show is good at bursts of character development in little weird everyday behaviors.
- On that note, Shauna continues to be bad at the small lies. Listening to her on the phone with Pratt is hilarious. But meanwhile, as a teen she’s still big-time lying to Jackie and also hiding an affair in the present. She can lie about the big stuff but not the small, and I think that tells us a lot about her.
- And now, of course, the official playlist (which blessedly includes all the showtunes).