Welcome to the Yellowjackets 205 recap, which is also the exact midway point of the season. TIME, WHAT A CONCEPT! “Two Truths and a Lie” was written by Katherine Kearns and Sarah L. Thompson and directed by Ben Semanoff. If you’re new around these parts, here’s the drill: My recaps are long and do not move in chronological order. You’re welcome to share your own theories and dissections (and disagree with me!) in the comments, where the conversations are always the highlight of my week! You can also ask me questions about what I think about anything I didn’t touch on or to elaborate on things! Seriously, I love to be all up in those comments! Let’s chat! Catch up on past recaps, and in honor of Jeff Sadecki, take the Wife Guy Quiz I made last week. Without further ado: Yellowjackets 205 recap let’s goooooo!
This is an episode about, as its title suggests, lies and truths — sometimes confessed willingly, other times uncovered. And in one particular instance, the truth is so much deadlier than any lie.
I typically like to end with my favorite or the most potent parts of an episode, but I simply cannot delve into any aspect of “Two Truths and a Lie” without talking about VAN PALMER, ALL GROWN UP.
After last week’s brief tease of Lauren Ambrose’s Adult Van, we get to learn a little more about this character. Van owns a video rental store called While You Were Streaming (if you recall, last season, she recounted the entire plot of While You Were Sleeping to the other girls on the expedition that got cut short by wolves) and lives above it. She’s out here loving Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman and giving local women their gay awakenings by showing them 90s hits like the Parker Posey-starring Party Girl (a fun easter egg, as it was directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer, who also directed the season two premiere and last season’s “Doomcoming”). We watch as Van goes about her day leading up to Tai’s abrupt arrival. Her home is full of 90s paraphernalia, she listens to “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes, she has a sprinkle donut and a Mountain Dew for breakfast. Overdue bills accumulate on a rainbow rug.
I read a theory last week that Van is a product of Tai’s fractured mind, isn’t really there, is surrounded by 90s movies and touches because she’s being remembered the way Tai remembers her — a film dork in the 90s. I do think we can squash that theory with this opening sequence in which we see her move throughout her day without Tai’s perspective present. But beyond that, I think this is a clear instance of where it might be tempting to reach for a supernatural answer when the reality is sitting right there (and is actually much more unsettling). Listen, no judgment on the donut + Mountain Dew breakfast combo — I respect it, but it also undeniably seems like something a 16 year old would throw back. Yes, Van is stuck in the past. But that’s not because she’s a spectral presence or caught in some sort of upside down. She’s stuck in the past and experiencing a bit of arrested development because she experienced something horrific and prolonged during formative teenage years.
When you add in the fact that Van had a bad mother, it further supports this story. The Van we meet is grown, but she’s also reaching toward the past. She explains VHS tapes and VCRs to the teens who wander into her store, baffled how these thick boxes could possibly be movies. We also learn she does work digitizing other people’s filmed memories, see her intently watching, on the precipice of tears, a stranger’s wedding on a small television. Van isn’t just stuck in a past; she also surrounds herself with other people’s stories and lives — whether that’s immersing herself in cinema or in the home videos of strangers. It’s clear that this is some sort of coping mechanism. All of the Yellowjackets we’ve met as adults have their own special ways of reckoning with the past — most of them, not the healthiest — and this is hers.
More troublingly, she also seems to have an oxy addiction. More on that in a moment!
Taissa shows up on Van’s doorstep the way we see her do at the end of last episode, and the scene continues. Tawny Cypress gives an amazing performance throughout the episode, but here in the quiet beginning of this reunion, I was immediately struck by how she made her face, her entire demeanor seem somehow younger. She looks like a scared, young girl. And that’s a fitting transformation given her history with Van.
“You haven’t changed,” Taissa later says, seeing what we all see, a woman frozen in time. Van asks why she’s here, notes that it has been “a really fucking long time” since they’ve seen each other. She accurately guesses that Tai is sleepwalking again, but Tai doesn’t want to talk about that just yet. She presents Van with the tip and strip novelty pen from last episode, and now we know why she wanted to keep it. Taissa reminisces on how the two of them apparently swapped the fancy guestbook pen at Jeff and Shauna’s wedding for one like this. According to Van, Mrs. Taylor (AKA Jackie’s mom) almost had a stroke. “I can see her bosoms!” Van mimics in a goofy voice. Indeed, Van hasn’t lost her sense of humor.
This stands out to me for a few reasons. Firstly, oh god thinking of Jackie’s mom at Jeff and Shauna’s wedding…I bet she paid for it! And micromanaged the whole thing! We don’t technically need to see her character ever again from a story perspective — that great episode on Jackie’s birthday from last season tells us pretty much everything we need to know about the Taylors — but wow I would love to see her again. Secondly, this reveal is interesting from a relationship timeline perspective. It implies that Tai and Van made it out of the woods with their relationship intact and were in fact still together shortly after, which is when Jeff and Shauna got married. So then: If it survived the wilderness, when and why did their relationship end? And why was it bad enough that they haven’t had contact in so long?
But, have they really not had any contact? Because Van also knows about Sammy. When Taissa shares the gory details of the Biscuit altar, her first question is: “Did Sam see?” Has Van met Sammy? Met Simone? In some ways, Van and Taissa seem to know each other so well, the aftereffects of many years of intimacy. But in others, they’re distant. Taissa finds a bottle of oxycodone in Van’s medicine cabinet labeled for V. Palmer and confronts her about it, which Van correctly points out is none of her business. But she explains they were for Vicky Palmer, her mother, who got cancer a few years back and lived with her until she died. “Cancer scared the bitch right out of her,” according to Van. “People reassess their choices when they know they’re going to die.”
The only time we previously witnessed any context for Van’s home life was in the pilot, when we see her trying to wake up her passed out mother on a couch and, when unsuccessful, slaps her across the face. Adult Van’s words here (as well as Taissa’s, who notes she knows Van’s relationship with her mother was “complicated”) further paint a picture of parental neglect or perhaps worse. Again, this likely contributes to her chosen coping method of obsessing over movies and living in a carefully constructed past. Tai says something about her own regrets after they discuss Vicky, and it pushes Van over the edge. She mixes a High Fidelity reference with a Seinfeld reference: “I’m mixing my pop culture metaphors, because I’m fucking upset.”
Van just wants Taissa to do what she came here to do: to ask for her help. But Tai says she can’t bring herself to ask for help, because she doesn’t want to hurt any more of the people who she loves. It’s a devastating moment, and Cypress and Ambrose are so good here, especially when their characters start spiraling out. The scene really underscores the difference between comfort and healing. Tai seeks comfort in Van; she seeks familiarity. She knows Van understands the sleepwalking, and it’s nice to not have to explain something and to not be judged for it or turned away in fear (Van suggests Tai sees a sleep doc, and Tai responds flippantly like what is she gonna do, ask about the symptom that apparently makes her behead dogs?). But it isn’t necessarily healing for Taissa to return to Van. It’s destabilizing for them both. It’s reopening old wounds. Taissa is indeed putting Van at risk by being here, and perhaps it isn’t intentional, but she at least subconsciously knows that Van also won’t turn her away, even though she does know the worst of what she’s capable of when she’s “The Other One.”
And sure enough, The Other One shows up. Taissa falls asleep on the couch, and Van tucks her in sweetly. She heads to the trash can to fish out the pill bottle and take some, an easy thing to see coming given the fact that she’d held onto the pills in the first place. Taissa pops up behind her, silently, and pulls her in for an aggressive kiss. “What do you want?” Van asks, calling her The Other One. All she responds with is: “This isn’t where I was supposed to be.” She walks away.
When The Other One mouthed “go to her” two episodes ago, did she not mean Van? Did she mean someone else? Lottie perhaps? After the appearance of the eyeless Queen card last episode, I do sense some sort of connection between Tai and Lottie. It seems The Other One didn’t want to go to Van, but Taissa did. Again, there’s familiarity there.
In the past, Taissa isn’t sleepwalking anymore. Van attributes this to Taissa’s new participation in Lottie’s blessings. Shauna can’t believe Tai has bought into this, but Tai says: “happy wife, happy life.” Later, Akilah makes fun of Tai for being “totally whipped.” It’s clear that Taissa is placating Van with her presence at these little rituals, but it’s also true Tai seems to be getting something out of them if the sleepwalking has indeed paused.
We finally see one of these Lottie blessings in full, and some things come into focus. Everyone sits in a circle as Lottie asks everyone what they feel, what they hear. Van describes the cold. Travis describes the sound of the wind through the tree. They’re basically…just doing grounding exercises?! Perhaps Lottie picked up on some of these when going through mental health treatments or therapy before the crash — or perhaps she’s just pretty intuitive. But yeah, I think there isn’t necessarily something supernatural to these rituals; they’re just straightforward grounding exercises and a form of meditation that allows the group to briefly forget their dire circumstances and focus on their environment in a present way. Of course there are mental health benefits to that! It isn’t magic; it’s group therapy. Perhaps Tai isn’t sleepwalking simply because she’s more grounded. But the ritual gets a little creepier when Lottie starts talking about the baby, and the group chants “we can’t wait to meet him” Shauna listens from the sidelines, obviously confused and afraid by what this group investment in her baby really means.
We’ll come back to Teen Shauna and her friendship with Tai in a bit, but let’s go ahead and jump over to Adult Shauna. The domestic chaos continues! Despite being let into her parents’ murder coverup, Callie is still meeting up with “Jay” as part of her little teen rebellion era. They go bowling, a scene that opens with Vancouver-based band Necking screaming out their song “Big Mouth.” I immediately had to check them out, and you should, too. I’ve noticed the world of Yellowjackets opening up a little more with moments like this, which was harder to do in season one due to COVID filming restrictions. Anyway, here’s Callie, a high schooler, and “Jay”, a smarmy cop, bowling in the middle of the day. Perhaps they read my piece about bowling being peak romance.
Callie tells Jay that if she gets a strike, he has to kiss her. Despite already crossing a lot of ethical lines with her, Jay seems unwilling to let things go that far, but he takes the bet after eyeing her low bowling scores. Callie bowls the strike, and he has to dodge her kiss and explain he’s taking things slow. When he goes to the restroom, the waiter brings their check, and Callie sees his name as M. Saracusa. She does the thing she gave her mother a hard time for not doing last season and GOOGLES THIS MAN, immediately learning he’s a cop. Later, she intentionally feeds him false information and tells him she found out her mom is sleeping with her father’s best friend, Randy Walsh. Poor Randy, always the scapegoat!
Callie confesses to her parents that she has been talking to a cop and accidentally told him about the affair but that she “fixed it” by telling the Randy lie. Jeff is incredulous; this is exactly why he didn’t want to involve their daughter in a murder conspiracy. Shauna, on the other hand, thinks it’s actually a pretty good idea to make the cops think it was Randy. Callie, rather bleakly, is thrilled by the thought that she has done something helpful. Callie keeps trying to get her parents’ attention, and regular acts of teenage rebellion aren’t cutting it! Her mom didn’t care she was lying about staying with a friend in order to have sex with her boyfriend. Her mom doesn’t care about her whereabouts enough to know she’s hanging out in bars and bowling alleys with an older man. But her mom does care about this, about making sure she’s still covering her own tracks, and hey, even if that means making her teen daughter an accessory after the fact, that’s cool! So many of the Sadecki family’s problems would be fixed if they all were just honest with each other, and doesn’t that feel right for a suburban family pretending everything’s fine all the time? In the case of this particular family, the stakes of avoiding the truth are murderously high.
Shauna latches onto Callie’s strategy and has Jeff arrange for her to meet with Randy at the motel, knowing the cops will be following her. Sure enough, Kevyn and Saracusa are right there on her tail, watching as she enter’s with Randy, who wasn’t told much by Jeff, but don’t worry he got some chips to share! Randy thinks this might have something to do with “the FBI” (Walter/Misty) interviewing him about Nat’s disappearance, but Shauna of course doesn’t know what he’s talking about. “I didn’t tell them about the b-mail,” Randy says, prompting Shauna to threaten him. I love when domme-y Shauna jumps out. “Don’t you dare think about me,” she asks after she instructs him to jerk off in a condom in the bathroom. Randy, unfortunately, can’t deliver, but he lies and fills the condom with lotion. Saracusa is so convinced Shauna’s affair was with Adam that he sniffs out the truth (literally — Randy used strawberry lotion). Kevyn points out this means he’s been made by Callie, and Saracusa says, as if he’s a cop character in a hardboiled detection novel: “She might be good, but I’m better.” I highly doubt it, Saracusa!!!! No one is more conniving than a teenage girl!
In addition to learning more about Adult Van after last week’s reveal, we also see some of the aftermath of Javi miraculously showing up again — though I wouldn’t say we necessarily learn much in this department. But that’s the point: Even the characters are still in the dark about how he possibly could have survived. Javi isn’t talking, and Travis doesn’t want to pressure him (Travis is also pissed at Nat, who cops to planting the bloody shorts). One of the JV girls, perhaps jokingly though it’s unclear, wonders if Javi actually died out there and this is his ghost. I’ve seen people speculate about Javi being an apparition or being caught for some time in some form of “upside down” or “alternate plane.” But as the resident Nothing Supernatural To See Here advocate, while I think it’s a mystery as to how Javi could have survived out in the wilderness alone, I don’t think he’s a ghost or that he got trapped in another dimension. I think he isn’t talking because he’s traumatized, and I think he has somehow found a way to hide out near or even under the cabin. He has obviously been in close enough proximity to steal bear meat.
“She told me not to come back,” Javi says to Coach Ben. When asked who he means, he says: “My friend.” He’s also drawing some creepy woodsy drawings, but we already know he has been coping via making art in the wilderness, like the wolf figure he carved last season. Who told him not to come back? Well, earlier in the episode, when Travis is trying to get him to talk, we do briefly see him look at Lottie and her look back. I said it last week, but I do think it’s possible Lottie was helping him hide for some reason, which would explain why she was so insistent he was alive. It’s also possible sleepwalking Tai could be involved here?
In addition to being an episode about truths/lies, this is an episode about friendship! There’s a really sweet scene between Taissa and Akilah (who yes, is still secretly talking to and hanging out with her pet mouse, whose safety I am worried about!). Akilah and Taissa talk openly about Lottie’s rituals, and Akilah says she started going because she saw Tai going. She then shares a story from before, about how her and one of the other JV players had a routine before every game involving “Easy Lover” and lucky socks and lucky shinguards. Tai teases her because the JV team lost a lot, and Akilah says “maybe we would have lost more without it.” Regardless, it was their special pregame ritual, and they could pretend it made a difference, that it made them play better or the other team play worse. “It’s not like we really believed in it, not deep down, but we still did it before every game.”
Taissa is more receptive to this than she usually is about even Van’s faith in Lottie’s rituals, and it makes sense. Akilah is putting this into words Tai understands. Pregame rituals. Lucky socks. It’s true that high school sports are steeped in superstition. I used to have my little prematch tennis rituals, too. And you don’t believe in them, but you also do. Team sports demand communal ritual, an almost supernatural level of connection between teammates. Sometimes it felt like my doubles partner knew which way I was gonna move before I did — and we didn’t even like each other! I think Yellowjackets is such a fascinating exploration of the human psyche’s attachment to patterns, to signs, to making sense of the inexplicable. Again, Teen Lottie is out here leading a grounding exercise! Of course it’s going to make them feel connected to something bigger than themselves. Even skeptic Tai is experiencing benefits.
On that note, I always love the little glimpses into Teen Tai and Shauna’s friendship. Tai was the first person to figure out Shauna was pregnant and also was going to assist her in having a self-administered abortion before Shauna realized it was too risky. Again in this episode, we see them connecting on this intimate level, but they also have some tension in their friendship due to Taissa’s increased involvement in Lottie’s wilderness circle. Shauna is fucking scared, and she should be. She’s about to have a baby in the woods, stranded, malnourished, unable to receive medical attention or any kind of real support. The only support that has existed for her has been Tai’s emotional support. She’s rightfully freaked out by Lottie’s obsession with the baby and by there being pressure on her as someone who is bringing a child into this fractured community of mostly teens. Lottie is making the baby into a symbol of hope, and that isn’t fair to Shauna. I don’t blame Shauna for getting mad at Lottie whispering to her pregnant belly while she sleeps. Lottie says it’s good to talk to them in utero, and Shauna says: “yeah, so they learn to recognize their mother’s voice.”
But hear me out: IS Lottie doing anything nefarious here? It’s important to remember that these are teens. Their knowledge is going to vary vastly when it comes to pregnancy, birthing, child-rearing. Maybe Lottie legitimately thought she was doing something good for the baby. Maybe Lottie really does see the baby as a symbol of hope and doesn’t want to steal it but just wants to cling to something that feels like change after so many months of the same.
“She’s obsessed with my baby Tai,” Shauna says after Taissa follows her into the wilderness. And she’s not wrong, but it’s hard to tell if something genuinely evil is happening here, and I’m leaning toward no. I think two things can be true: Shauna is correct to be alarmed by the team’s investment in her baby, and Lottie isn’t necessarily being fucked up by clinging to the baby. They’re both dealing with some heavy ass shit! Yes, Shauna’s situation is more obviously hard, but Lottie had to quit anti-psychotics cold turkey. She’s going through a struggle other people can’t see.
Shauna isn’t necessarily scared of Lottie so much as she’s mad at Tai. “I don’t need your fucking prayers; I need you to have my back,” she says. She doesn’t need Lottie to behave differently; she needs Tai to be there for her. And she could probably handle Lottie being weird toward her unborn baby if Tai were still on her side about things. “You’re supposed to be on my side, not Team Lottie,” she also says during this scene, suggesting a line has been drawn between Team Lottie and Team Shauna, a dichotomy I’m interested in seeing play out, because I think I previously thought things would be more Team Lottie vs. Team Taissa, as they were last season when Taissa decided to leave on her failed expedition.
Before they can come to any real conclusions about their friendship, Shauna exclaims in pain and a snow squall simultaneously blows in. The two have to navigate their way back to the cabin in the freezing cold and with limited visibility. Taissa ends up reciting Lottie’s chants from the blessing earlier, utilizing the mantra to push through this moment. Again, it’s typical grounding stuff, a way for Taissa to focus and sharpen her mind while under intense physical and mental stress. Taissa and Shauna making it back to the cabin in this snow storm as Tai chants these words isn’t proof of something supernatural on their side; it’s proof that these kinds of anxiety management techniques are powerful. Given her conversation with Akilah, the fact that she isn’t afraid to fall asleep anymore, and her love for Van, it makes sense that Taissa is newly invested in these techniques, even if she doesn’t believe in their mystical power. But it also means she’s going through a bit of a friendship breakup with Shauna, and friendship breakups with Shauna tend to be, well, lethal.
SPEAKING OF LETHAL FRIENDSHIP BREAKUPS. You know what I’m about to talk about…
Misty and Crystal. Yikes! Our two little cannibal freaks start out the episode strong by engaging in a classic game of Which 3 Famous People — dead or alive — Would You Like To Meet? Misty replies: Plato, obviously. Eric Nies of MTV’s “The Grind” so he could teach her how to dance. And…she hesitates, briefly, before confessing…Jack Kevorkian. “What he does is so brave,” she says. Crystal agrees, saying her family had to put down their pet beagle and so why do humans have to suffer in near-death more than beagles do? Plus, she adds, young Kevorkian was kind of hot?
Of fucking course these two are bonding over loving Dr. Kevorkian!!!! They’ve already bonded over enjoying the taste of human meat. They’re two horny theater geeks, and I know em when I see em, because baby I WAS ONE. Misty’s teenage idolization of Kevorkian makes me wonder if she has been engaging in some casual Kevorkian behavior at the nursing home where she works. It’s easy to conceive of, right?
After Crystal is charged with having to dispose of the shit bucket, Misty says she’ll accompany her. They’re best friends after all! Along the way to the cliff where they’ll dump the bucket, they confess rapid-fire secrets to each other. Misty says she hates deodorant and just pretended to be all out after the crash. Crystal says she let a boy finger her backstage during the dress rehearsal for Bye Bye Birdie, and Misty says she walked in on her parents having sex and wasn’t grossed out. Again, horny theater geeks.
Crystal says her real name is Kristen and that everyone got it wrong at practice but she didn’t correct them because they gave her the nickname “Crystal the Pistol,” and she’d never had a nickname before, never felt like she really belonged. I have a warped sense of status and rules when it comes to high school sports vs. high school theater, because I went to a performing arts school where sports bore little influence, but I know from others that as competitive and toxic as theater can be, varsity sports often come with a different kind of social status and hierarchy. The approval Crystal got on the field was likely different than the approval on the stage; high school athletes are often treated like gods.
Here, Crystal connects with Misty on a cellular level. Neither of them really experienced the high of popularity until these pivotal moments. For Crystal, that was receiving a nickname. For Misty, it was the plane crash.
Misty seizes this moment of connection, and takes it too far. There is a heady feeling that comes with being let into someone’s secrets. But then Misty tells a truth that cannot be untold. One that I, to be honest, had almost forgotten about, despite it being such a striking image, because it remains one of the single most unhinged acts of teen anarchy of the entire series. Misty tells Crystal that no one liked her before the crash and that people started treating her as useful after it, so she destroyed the emergency transmitter. Not only was Misty willing to do something so wildly chaotic, dangerous, and life-altering just to keep being liked, but she also thinks this kind of secret is on par with the other confessions she and Crystal have been making to each other. This is a recurring theme in this series: the collapsing of stakes and tendency for characters to either extremely downplay or extremely exaggerate problems, choices, points of difference. Characters are myopic and often ignorant of the specific contexts in which they’re operating. We see this across the timelines and among many of the characters. Jeff cares more about an affair than he does about murder. Teen Shauna wants Jackie to feel lesser-than and banishes her from the group, which in their previous lives would have been dramatic, sure, but wouldn’t have been deadly. Taissa thinks she can just show up on Van’s doorsteps and have a normalish reunion between exes.
Misty thinks she can tell a deep, dark secret and it’ll make her friendship with her new best friend all the deeper.
What it does instead, of course, is push her away. Literally. Crystal’s face falls and she asks, in shock, “you’re the reason we never got rescued?” Misty tries to pivot quickly and play it off like she was joking, but Crystal replies, baldly: “You’re not that good of an actress.” In any other context, these words would be mean girl shit. “You’re not my best friend; you’re a psycho,” Crystal says, and she tries to get away from Misty, who closes in on her and offers to do anything for her, anything to make her not tell the others. Crystal asks if she’s going to poison her. “No,” Misty says. “I’ll fucking. Kill you.” Samantha Hanratty is positively venomous in this delivery; it’s the most vicious we’ve seen Misty ever since she axed Ben’s leg off with a smile on her face. Crystal startles and backs off the cliff, falling to her death. Later, when Misty descends the drop-off and approaches Crystal’s lifeless body, she makes a desperate bid and tries to perform CPR while singing “Stayin’ Alive” to stay on beat. Her efforts are futile, and she parts with the words “I’m sorry, bestie.”
The moment calls back to the beginning of the episode, when Misty and Walter are riding in a car together and “Stayin’ Alive” is playing. Misty turns it off. At the time, we’re led to believe she’s just annoyed by Walter’s music choices and presence, but we uncover later on why the song might be triggering. Walter offers to put on Les Mis or Phantom, and Misty says she needs to focus. But Walter wants to play the titular game of Two Truths and a Lie, and he offers up three things about himself: that he once owned a small business that sold artisanal goat cheese made by a goat named Billy, that there’s a nonzero chance Barry Manilow is his father, and that he has a ton of stock in Taco Bell despite never having been because the beans upset his stomach. Misty makes her guesses, but it turns out all three are truths, which coincidentally only makes me further believe Walter is a capital L, LIAR.
Misty accuses him of breaking the rules, and he says: “There’s only ever one rule: win.” As I said last week, I think Walter is up to something diabolical with Misty. Someone in the comments last week put forth one of my favorite Yellowjackets theories at the moment, which is that Walter could be a cannibal hunting Misty. Sometimes, cannibalism is used in literature and pop culture as a means of survival or monstrous punishment; other times, it’s seen as a form of ascension, a forbidden fruit whose consumption equates to power and luxury. If Walter ascribes to that latter view of cannibalism, wouldn’t the ultimate form of cannibalism be to cannibalize a cannibal? The ultimate ascension, the mark of a true apex predator. References were made last episode to Sweeney Todd, Walter seems to have specific eating habits, and living on a boat would make it easy to get away with illicit acts.
Misty and Walter find the compound and have a conversation with Nat through the gate. Nat admits that, yes, technically she was kidnapped but she’s running her own operation here and she doesn’t want Misty to interfere. Misty is shocked to learn Lottie is here, running this cult: “Lottie as in Lottie? Lottie who was committed to a mental institution in Switzerland?” Later, she tells Walter she’d kept tabs on everyone but somehow missed this, underscoring just how low Lottie has managed to lay in recent years. “You and your Hardy Boy can go home,” Nat tells Misty, and as brief as it is, I sure do enjoy seeing Juliette Lewis and Elijah Wood in a scene together!
“Maybe Lottie is jealous of what Natalie and I have,” Misty says to Walter after Nat turns them away. Van isn’t the only one stuck in the past. Misty still sees things in the crystalline way of high school social politics. Here is where Walter finally says he knows her tale about Adam Martin’s mother was a lie and that he thinks she probably killed him to help a friend. “Your friendships are a little more complicated than most,” Walter says, again highlighting that tension throughout the show of collapsed stakes and the skewed headspaces of its characters. Misty is defaulting to simple social structures by thinking Lottie is jealous of her relationship with Nat, when really Misty’s “friendships” are not simple at all, are not really functional friendships in the first place, and are also full of murder, kidnapping, and lies.
Nat, meanwhile, has been trying to figure out what the fuck Lottie is up to, and SAME. Nat attends a workshop in which Lisa and Lottie both encourage her to access her darkest thoughts as a means of healing. Nat quickly clocks the slash on Lottie’s hand, and even though Lottie dismisses it as an accident, the way Nat asks suggests she already knows Lottie has been defaulting back to her old ways of slashed palms and blood sacrifices. Eventually, Nat unlocks Lottie’s cabinet of secrets in her office. She bursts into a room full of Lottie’s acolytes in an attempt to expose their leader. She found files on all of them, including information on their personal lives, financial information, everything a cult leader might need to manipulate and control their followers. “She’s preying and profiting,” Nat says. “She is clinically insane, and her delusions have hurt people.”
The followers are unfazed. They know this already, have willingly turned over their information. Lisa says Nat should know better than anyone that we shouldn’t define people based on their pasts. With Adult Lottie, it’s harder for me to conceptualize innocence. Whereas I think Teen Lottie could just be misguided and wrong but not manipulative, it’s more difficult to give the same grace to Adult Lottie. But I also can see how her past may, while not defining her entirely, influence her desire for control over and devotion from others. Especially if she’s carrying guilt. And Nat has many times implied Lottie’s actions caused harm in the past.
Lottie tells Nat that what she’s really after isn’t in that cabinet but in her mind. Nat wants to know what really happened to Travis and what he meant by saying she was right, and Lottie does, too. “I want to understand what Travis was going through,” Lottie says. Nat replies: “You know what he was going through. You started it.”
Despite what Nat said last season about Travis not believing in Lottie’s mysticism, we’ve been given so much evidence to the contrary. Nat blames Lottie for something. What did Lottie start? What power did she hold? She convinces Nat to participate in some EMDR, and Nat reflects on the last time she saw Travis alive. We watch as she looks out onto a beach, but it turns out to just be a cheap painting of a beachscape in a grimy motel room. Nat informs us that at this point it had been a while since she and Travis had seen each other. He had a new job, was seeing someone. “Part of me wanted to ruin it, and another part of me just missed him,” she recalls. It’s a devastating bookend to the Tai and Van reunion in the episode, this one another charged reunion between two former lovers that goes more steeply south. Nat overdoses, and in her near-death experience, she sees the crash site, only none of them survived. It’s just burned corpses in a plane, and the Antler Queen enters. “We weren’t alone out there,” Nat tells Travis in the memory. “I saw it. I felt it. We brought it back. Travis, we brought it back with us.”
This is what Travis thought she was right about. That there was something out there they all brought back with them. Nat leans down, places her head in Lottie’s lap, and becomes Teen Nat. Lottie, frightened, remains an adult, but turns and sees her own shadow as the approaching Antler Queen. I don’t think it’s any stretch of the mind or an oversimplification to conceive of this “darkness” the group brought back with them as TRAUMA. They all keep searching for evil curses to blame, but maybe the curse was just their fucking terrible circumstances. They keep searching for monsters, but maybe the monsters were themselves. Inconceivable circumstances will sometimes make you do inconceivable things.
Yes, they brought things back from the wilderness. And I don’t think it’s reaching to define those wilderness leftovers as just extreme psychological baggage and damage. They’re being haunted, and I think there are several ways to interpret that. I know the timeline and timing of things has been a hangup for some people: Why would so much be coming to a head specifically 25 years after getting out of the wilderness? Well, I did the math, and it places a lot of the characters at 40-43 years old, and it could be as simple as them entering new stages of their lives, the past suddenly potent and present.
I know it frustrates some viewers, this teetering between what can be explained and what cannot, what could be supernatural but also might not be, but I love it. I want to be confused and conflicted, because these characters are. It doesn’t feel like we’re being kept in the dark for the sake of narrative manipulation; it feels like we’re being kept in the dark because the characters are, too. To demand definitive answers makes us like the vultures in-universe who want the surviving Yellowjackets to detail their trauma, to explain everything that happened out there in plain and digestible language. I like luxuriating in the ambivalence, in the television static.
We end things, fittingly, with a guttural scream. It’s from Shauna, who is clearly in labor. What fresh horrors will next week bring?
- Okay…did not mean to bring so much of my own high school shit into this recap, but here we are! I did sports and I did theater, and both feel especially relevant to this particular episode!
- Programming Note: Yellowjackets is off next week and returns the following week.
- It is indeed one of the best lesbian movies of all time, but I also like to think Van’s personal relationship to The Watermelon Woman would hold special significance due to when it came out. The film came out in February 1996, which is just a few months before the crash. Whether it was one of the last movies she saw before the crash or she saw it for the first time shortly after getting out of the wilderness, it probably meant a lot to her as a teen!
- Did people say “bestie” in 1996? I polled four queers who were teens in 96, including my fiancé, and they all unequivocally responded “no.” It would have more likely been “bff.” I’m willing to forgive this anachronism because “I’m sorry bestie” is indeed funny in this context of literal murder, and Samantha Hanratty’s line reading is delightful. Also, I’m just generally not a super stickler for such things! I just hope lines aren’t being written in for the sheer purpose of social media replay possibility.
- Misty only begins to do Two Truths and a Lie and says she does not like monkeys and she thinks we’re asking the wrong questions about the moon landing, and I am willing to bet both of these are her TRUTHS.
- Nat is obviously a very capable hunter in her youth, but she also misses sometimes, as with the moose, and I see this episode as Adult Nat hunting Lottie but then wildly missing the mark that’ll actually bring her down.
- I love that visual transition from the snow squall into the static of the television. TV static has become even more of a recurring visual cue this season. It’s both nostalgic and haunting.
- It is a little frightening to hear Taissa call Shauna’s baby “the hungry one.”
- The “number two” card is the shit bucket chore card, and that feels like fitting humor for teenagers.
- Okay, sorry to be this person, but here’s the aerial shot of Dead Crystal (RIP!):
And…uh…is anyone else seeing what I’m seeing?
GUYS, I’M JK slash mostly just making fun of how characters keep forming the symbol with dots that could kind of make any shape. But again, I do think it’s human nature to want to find patterns, so I don’t blame them.