“Yellowjackets” Episode 206 Recap: Unnatural Birth

Welcome to the Yellowjackets 206 recap, where we will be talking about “Qui,” written by Karen Joseph Adcock & Ameni Rozsa and directed by Liz Garbus. First, I wanted to acknowledge the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike. Yellowjackets’ Ashley Lyle tweeted that the writers room had exactly one day of working on season three before the strike began. You can read more about how to support TV writers, who are standing up to corporate greed and merely asking for a fair contract. This television recapper stands with the WGA and unions. The television landscape no doubt will be feeling the ripple effects of this strike — and soon. It’s important to stay up to date and listen to union members as things unfold. It goes without saying that without the hard work, passion, and brilliance of television writers, these recaps would not exist. People make good TV — not A.I. And now, on with your regularly scheduled Yellowjackets 206 recap.

We’ve already seen a standout Melanie Lynskey episode this season, and now it’s Sophie Nélisse’s turn.

“Qui” opens with a flashback. The Yellowjackets are just regular high school students again. They’re in their sex ed class, taught by none other than Coach Ben. They’re watching a video on birth and contending with regular teenage shenanigans. Randy Walsh says the condoms they’ve been given aren’t big enough for him, and Van tells him he might need to see a doctor. Jeff passes a letter to Shauna complimenting her on their “tutoring session,” no doubt a euphemism for sex. Shauna, in order to curb the whispers about why Jeff would pass a note to her, marches past his desk and says, “Poppies, Jeff. Jackie likes poppies.” Much to Ben’s frustration, none of the students are paying any attention at all to the video he’s required to show them. Except for one. Resident freak Misty Quigley. She raises her hand to ask a very important question: How much blood is there on average?

Cut to: Shauna screaming in the cabin as she’s about to give birth surrounded by a bunch of teens who don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. Misty is about to witness firsthand just how bloody birth can be. The thing is: Even if everyone had been paying rapt attention to the sex ed video, they wouldn’t be prepared for this. Public school sex education covers the bare minimum — or sometimes even less — when it comes to sex, bodies, pregnancy, birth, etc., and is more often used as a scare tactic to manipulate teens into celibacy than as an actual tool for education. A couple years before this scene takes place, President Clinton would have signed the Welfare Reform Act, which provided $50 million in funding for abstinence only sex education programs. (And even though Obama defunded abstinence-only programs, sex ed today doesn’t look that much better than the 90s. I went to public high school and was never taught any sex education.) That’s just some fun historical context for you, but of course, nothing could have really prepared these teens for what they’re about to do.

The girls circle Shauna, mass confusion setting in. They all grasp at random knowledge they have, perhaps from movies, from family members, from distant memories. Nat wonders if they should be timing the contractions. Akilah says it’s too late for that, because Shauna is in labor labor which, she notes, her sister was in for a day and a half, which perhaps she shouldn’t have said in earshot of Shauna, who immediately freaks out, insisting she can’t take this pain for a day and a half. Tai is by her side, telling her she can fucking do anything.

“Wilderness, I hope Shauna doesn’t die!” Mari exclaims, and her frantic delivery as well as Tai’s “why the fuck would you say die” response makes for a humorous, if fucked-up, moment, because yeah, no one knows what the fuck is happening, and Mari shouldn’t have said that, sure, but also she isn’t thinking clearly; none of them are. They’re trying to group-deliver a baby from a mother who has been starving for months, and they’re all starving and delirious, too.

In the first half of the episode, we keep cutting away from the birthing scenes, making it so that every time we drop back into them, it feels like a blow, the body horror steadily escalating, some of the most disturbing we’ve seen so far in the series — even more so than the cannibalism, I’d argue, which is almost easier to get through because it’s so over-the-top, but this is real, very real, very visceral and urgent violence.

Teen Misty with her eyes closed tight in Yellowjackets 206

But let’s cut away from that for now and return to the wilderness at the end. I was tempted to break form and recap chronologically this week, because I think this episode is masterful with its pacing and structure, its stitching of the past and the present particularly effective, even though those past scenes are almost like a bottle episode, urgent and contained and only really contending with one plotline, the birth of Shauna’s wilderness baby. But in recap form, it’s harder to move between the two timelines without somehow downplaying the potency of Shauna’s brutal labor and its aftermath. So, let’s cut away, and then once we’re back in it, we’re going to stay there.

Misty reluctantly gives up her belongings as she joins Lottie’s wellness community, which she immediately clocks as a cult. “I thought you’d be more excited to see me,” Misty says when Lottie encounters her and looks distraught. Misty accuses Lottie of brainwashing and is desperate to find Nat, who is busy distracting herself with target practice using the gun seen in Lottie’s office in a previous episode. Lisa approaches her, and Nat says:

“You should get the hell away from me. I’m poison. I ruin people. I killed my best friend, the only person I loved, the only person who knew me. This whole time, I was saying it was Lottie and it was my fault because I made him believe. I told him—”

Lisa insists it isn’t Nat’s fault. “It was something that was already in him,” she says, and Nat replies:

“Well, that something that was in him is in me. We saw so much, we did so much fucked up shit out there, and yeah, maybe it was to survive. Maybe. But I don’t think we deserved to.”

Something that’s really emphasized in this episode (which has multiple banger monologues like this Nat one) is that even though the Yellowjackets technically have shared trauma, the symptoms of that trauma and the coping mechanisms they latch onto — which are sometimes interchangeable — diverge. And their trauma responses are all being reactivated by events in the present that are bringing them back to the past. What Nat feels most acutely is survivor’s guilt. She quite literally doesn’t think they deserved to live because of the choices they made in order to do so. Her survivor’s guilt has likely been reactivated by Travis’ death. She and Travis were both addicts, but he died, and she’s still here, blaming herself for making him believe in something she isn’t really sure she believes in herself.

Later in the episode, we get a closer look at Lottie’s relationship to the past and their trauma. She’s talking to her psychiatrist again, and the way this scene is shot in particular — from behind the psychiatrist’s head so that we don’t see her clearly, the camera focused intently on Lottie — seems to support my fiancé Kristen’s theory that she does not exist and is only in Lottie’s head. Lottie says she feels like things are pointing her toward back then, and of course they are. Lottie’s visions supposedly didn’t start up again until she reconnected with Travis and then with Nat. The strings pulling her toward her past are the people who were there. “Her psychiatrist” asks if her fear of the past is actually a fear of her illness. “I’m not worried that I’m ill,” Lottie says. “I’m worried that I’ve never been ill.” She goes on to say:

“The power of that place, the god of that place. We did terrible things in its name, and I thought that when we were rescued that we left it there, but now I realize we brought it back with us.”

Lottie and Nat have both been obsessing about this idea of a haunting, this idea that whatever possessed them in the wilderness to do awful things has stayed in them. The haunting sounds like a combination of guilt, trauma, confusion, dissociation, paranoia. It sounds like a scar that has never quite healed. And I think the longer the more the Yellowjackets interact with each other, the more their old wounds will reopen. I’ve written before in these recaps about the difference between healing and comfort and the dangers of confusing the two. Sure, there’s a certain power in their ability to relate to each other; no one else can understand what they’ve been through. But the closer they get to each other again, the more the past resurfaces. Nat has settled in on Lottie’s compound, but is it really healing her? The only person who seems to be offering her any kind of genuine growth is Lisa, not Lottie. Maybe what the Yellowjackets need isn’t each other at all.

Lottie’s monologue in particular reminds me of what some folks feel after leaving a religion. To admit you no longer believe in a higher power is to possibly admit that the things you did in that power’s name had so real meaning, no real purpose. Here is where Lottie’s guilt is centered. She knows she had others following her. I think her role as a cult leader is more psychologically complex than meets the eye; I think she genuinely is trying to undo some of her past harm by helping others heal. Really, I think she might have a strange case of religious trauma, instilled not by an actual church but by a belief system of her own making in the wilderness.

There’s an interesting subversion when it comes to mental health and horror that’s happening here. A lot of times in psychological horror stories, characters will spend a lot of time trying to convince others around them that they aren’t “crazy.” Mental illness is treated as evil in a lot of horror. Lottie doesn’t want to be “proved” that she wasn’t “crazy.” She wants to know her actions and beliefs were a product of her mental illness, because at least then she can understand better and seek solutions. If she was never ill, and if her visions were a divine intervention, that doesn’t liberate her. It makes her stuck, a pawn. Doomed to repeat the horrific past. Lottie and Nat both feel doomed, and they’re both grappling with it in their own ways.

Lisa gives Nat her fish so she can take care of something innocent, saying she believes that suffering is inevitable and that only by meeting it with compassion can they begin to grow. Nat contemplates killing the fish. She takes it out of the water and lets it gasp in her palm, thinking she’s doing it a favor. I wonder if she’s thinking about her final words to the remains of Jackie, how she thought she was lucky for dying, how it meant she got to leave the wilderness forever. Nat and Lottie are both feeling that even if they got out of the woods, they weren’t actually saved, not really. Surviving meant having to keep living with everything that happened out there, meant they were forever changed. The “it” they carry with themselves isn’t a supernatural being; it’s themselves. It’s their past choices. She lets the fish live, gives it food flakes. Maybe she’s hoping it’ll forget. But it’s a myth that goldfish have short memories. It’ll remember, like she does.

Meanwhile, in the suburbs of New Jersey, Kevyn calls the Sadecki home and summons Shauna and Callie to the police station. Jeff is very much displeased. This was exactly what he feared; Callie is now tied up in their mess. “She’s the one who decided to act out by dating a cop,” Shauna says, adding that it would have been better if she’d just had sex with Saracusa so they could use that against the cops. This isn’t exactly winning her a parenting medal of the year, but I’m here for it.

Shauna in the police station in Yellowjackets 206

Later, they arrive at the station, and Saracusa takes Shauna in for questioning while Kevyn takes Callie. Saracusa tries to get a rise out of Shauna by emphasizing how much Callie dislikes her and how much Shauna did a number on her. Kevyn, meanwhile, tries to break Callie by telling her she doesn’t have to be like her mother. Both men are, of course, underestimating the Sadecki women. Kevyn thinks he can call Shauna a bored housewife, a bad wife, a bad mom, but he isn’t telling Shauna anything she hasn’t told herself. We get another great monologue here, from Shauna:

“I never wanted to be a mom. In fact, I did not start out a bad person, but in case you haven’t noticed, life doesn’t tend to turn out the way you think it will. You have a kid that you don’t want to save a marriage that you got into out of guilt and shame, and you just, you can’t really let yourself love either of them. But of course, you do, you love them despite yourself. You’re just incredibly bad at it.”

Saracusa interjects to ask, because he is simpleminded, if they are talking about the affair. Shauna continues:

“Yes, of course we’re talking about a goddamn affair. It’s just, yeah. It’s just basically what you said. I’m a bored housewife. I got into a fender bender, and I had an affair with him that made me feel young again for five fucking minutes. And now, not only is the hot part over, but I’m left sitting here having to defend myself to some smug little douche who my daughter hit on because she was mad at me for cheating on her poor innocent dad, so if that’s what you’re playing gotchya over, arrest me already, but leave my daughter out of it.”

That really is how things started between Shauna and Adam. It was as simple as an affair. She liked reclaiming her youth with him, getting drunk in trucks and living out the kind of reckless teenagehood she was robbed of. It wasn’t until Callie made her feel paranoid by asking why Adam didn’t have a digital footprint that things shifted for Shauna. There was no conspiracy with Adam, until Shauna created one. That’s the thing with these Yellowjackets. They’ll be doing alright or at least doing well at pretending to be alright and then the smallest thing can set them off, can hurl them toward the past. It’s so easy for them to revert to old patterns and to open their wounds wider instead of trying to stitch them up.

In the interrogation room down the hall, Callie looks at first like she might flip on Shauna, but of course she doesn’t. I think Callie gets a thrill out of colluding with her parents, more of a thrill than her attempt at rebellion ever provided. She starts crying, and she says she feels so stupid because she was a virgin when she met Jay, and he told her he loved her. Kevyn is like no, Callie, Saracusa would have never slept with you, he knows the rules. He says if she’s making false statements to the police then she can be convicted. “Then fucking accuse me,” Callie says. Saracusa is an obvious creep; even the way he behaves in the interrogation with Shauna, that much is true. But here, Kevyn is also exposed, and I’m glad we aren’t getting a whole good cop/bad cop thing here. Kevyn insists Saracusa “followed the rules,” but he still preyed on a minor, even if they never had sex. He still bought her alcohol and led her on, and Kevyn’s defense of him means Kevyn shares a similarly gross concept of ethics. I know some viewers have been frustrated by a cop plotline on this show, but I think if anything, Kevyn and Saracusa are just proof of wild ineptitude in police departments. They’re far from the good guys here.

Van in her video store in Yellowjackets 206

The morning after Other Tai had her little rendezvous with Van and said “we’re not supposed to be here,” Tai wakes up late and asks why Van didn’t wake her, and Van tells her what the other one said. She also tells her she tried to kiss her. Tai wonders who the “we” is and where they’re supposed to be, and Van, with lots of walls up, says maybe it’s her family or her multiple personalities, but Tai wonders if she could have meant her and Van. “You’re married, Taissa, there’s no us anymore,” Van insists.

Taissa tries to make good with Van by helping out around the shop and messes with her by asking if Miss Congeniality belongs in “Sandy Good” or “Sandy Bad.” Van falls for it at first, and Taissa teases her, says she misses her lectures. Again, I keep thinking about the small reveal from last episode that Tai and Van were still together for a period of time after the woods, attending Shauna and Jeff’s wedding together. What happened? Now, they have that odd dynamic of first loves, turned exes. It’s like they know each other well but also not at all. It’s emotional time travel. Their intimacy is a remnant of the past. Taissa tries to press Van about the overdue bills she saw in the trash, and Van snaps her walls back into place. I still think she isn’t being forthcoming about her mother’s death, about the pills Taissa found, about the real circumstances of her life. But if there’s one thing all the Yellowjackets know how to do, it’s keep secrets.

Taissa’s phone rings, and it’s Misty. We’ve watched her go through the motions of embedding herself in Lottie’s cult throughout the episode, which she now describes to Tai as a “wellness center.” She joined a drum/cry circle where people process their breakups, which she announces she has never experienced (probably because she has seemingly never been in a real relationship). When Misty finally encounters Nat in the cafeteria, she’s thrilled, and reveals she likes it here, because knowing Lottie makes them like celebrities. Nat is less happy to see her, but this time, there’s a sadness there, almost like it isn’t the fact that she is annoyed by Misty’s presence but rather this is a continuation of how she feels about Lisa trying to get close to her. Nat thinks she only hurts people, doesn’t want them getting too close. Misty is, well, Misty, but has Nat ever had someone fight for her as hard as Misty has? I don’t think she knows what to do in the face of Misty’s refusal to give up on her.

“We’re all like this, aren’t we?” Nat asks Misty, who just looks confused. I think this further supports the theory that the Antler Queen is not one individual but all of them — perhaps with the exception of Misty. We see Misty as one of the dutiful followers of the Antler Queen in the pilot. I think everyone took turns playing some part in the Antler Queen, and they’re only just now starting to grapple with the aftereffects of it, perhaps living in denial previously or even just being confused about what really happened and what didn’t happen out there. Misty isn’t as ravaged by guilt, but she undeniably is stuck in the past, too, projecting high school social politics onto current situations. Her love of showtunes is also a preservation of the past, a way for her to have consumed ex-bestie Crystal.

Misty convinces Taissa to come to the compound, strings pulling all the Yellowjackets back to each other. Van insists on driving Taissa, because “hitchhiking is its whole entire own horror genre,” and because she’s skeptical of Lottie. But she also doesn’t want to actually come face to face with anyone, saying that she doesn’t want to live in the past. Taissa laughs at this, pointing out the fact that every detail of Van’s life makes it seem like she’s living in the past. “Yeah, in a past where we actually thought being happy was possible. Not the one that happened,” Van says. I’d argue this isn’t exactly healthy either! It’s still living in the past! And it’s shellacking the past’s reality rather than genuinely healing from it. All the Yellowjackets have found a way to cling to denial. Taissa asks Van about dating, and she says she’s on apps for strictly casual arrangements. She doesn’t believe in love anymore, but she tells Taissa not to flatter herself, that it isn’t because of her. She says it’s just easier this way. Again, she seems to be hiding something.

Taissa tries to call Shauna from the road, but Jeff — who is listening to “Fuck Tha Police” outside the police station — answers from the minivan and stumbles his way through an excuse as to why Shauna can’t come to the phone right now. When Shauna does eventually join him in the van, he’s calmly sipping on a Pepsi that he promptly spews everywhere when she tells him she told the police she was sleeping with Adam. He also sees she’s still carting around the gun in the glovebox, making him spiral more. “You are out of control Shauna,” he says. “Yeah, you think?!?!” Shauna responds, Melanie Lynskey’s line reading perfect as ever.

Callie pops into the car all smiley, saying she used Shauna’s idea and told the cops Saracusa had sex with her. Her face falls when she sees how distraught they are. “Fuck, are we going to jail?” she asks. They really are in this together, and this storyline has turned out to be a lot more interesting than your typical suburban affair storyline — not because of the murder necessarily but because of all the emotional underpinnings for Shauna, Callie, and Jeff. I keep calling their storyline “domestic chaos,” and it’s true. The murder pressure-cooks the situation, but really their problems are ordinary familial fare, all three of them at odds in what they want. It’d probably be easier for Shauna if she didn’t love them; what’s harder is admitting she’s just really bad at loving them, a sentiment made even more complicated once we know her history with motherhood and the guilt and shame she likely feels about it. She never wanted to be pregnant — either time. All Jeff wants to do is shield Shauna, play it safe with her because he knows just how much she has been through. It’s why he hatched a blackmail plan rather than telling her about the store’s failures. Of course, that backfired and only activated her paranoia and worst tendencies. They’re both complicit in the ongoing problems in their marriage. Jeff’s not getting any parenting awards either; he was just as oblivious as to Callie’s actual whereabouts for the past several weeks as Shauna was. In their desperate efforts for a sense of normalcy, the Sadeckis just make their shit so much messier. Characters on this show sure know how to self-sabotage.

Jeff convinces Shauna to join the others at Lottie’s. He wants her away from home, away from the mess she created. He drives her there, and it’s when she sees Shauna’s minivan going through the gate that sometimes changes for Van, too. She decides to drive in with Taissa instead of just dropping her off. (I sort of read this as Van seeing Shauna as a potential threat in a way she doesn’t see Misty and Lottie? Like maybe she thought she better be there for Taissa after all.) And then, suddenly, the surviving Yellowjackets — or at least the ones we know of — are reunited. Van, Taissa, Shauna, Lottie, Misty, Nat, all together in the same place for the first time in nearly 25 years. Van is stunned silent, clearly experiencing a range of emotions, as Lottie turns and walks toward them. An aerial shot reveals the symbol outlined on the grounds of the compound. This is all we get for now, though the episode doesn’t end there. But we’ll get to the final, haunting scene in a moment.

Shauna’s labor — again, broken up into scenes woven together with the present timeline — is excruciating. All of Shauna’s fears that have been simmering since season one have come true. Without access to medical care and without anyone in the room who actually knows what is happening to her body and what it needs, she has nothing to cling to. All she has is her pain, and every time she tries to ask a question, she’s just met with a flurry of chaos or confusion. Tai tries her hardest to keep Shauna focused, to stay positive. But everyone — not just Shauna — is slick with sweat. They’re practically vibrating with fear. Misty has been designated as the delivery doc, and she sits between Shauna’s legs, giving herself a pep talk. When she pulls her hands out, they’re covered in blood. “Something feels weird,” Shauna says.

While we do see some of the blood and gore of all this, a lot of it is left off-screen, the horror captured not in the gore itself but in the looks on characters’ faces as they see it themselves. I just finally watched M. Night Shyamalan’s new film Knock at the Cabin, and its use of off-screen violence is expertly done, somehow even more frightening than if we were to see it head-on. I feel similarly about these birthing scenes on Yellowjackets. We see just enough of the actual body horror for it to be indelibly seared in our minds, but the real impact of the horror is in how the others view and react to it.

Misty ends up giving up on the delivery. She spirals out, having flashbacks to Crystal’s death, hearing her voice, seeing herself failing to give her bestie CPR. She likes the ways the others see her as a the resident doctor, as the person in charge. She has been riding that high ever since she chopped Ben’s leg off. Now, I think, she fears being exposed as a fraud.

Nat tries to tap Ben for help, but he insists he doesn’t know anything. When he looks at Shauna’s body, he just says “oh shit.” There’s so much blood, and all he does in terms of teaching sex ed is press play on a video. I feel complicated (in a good way) about Ben’s role here. I think both things are true: He is failing these girls, but also, he cannot be expected to know how to deliver a baby any more than they do. But at least they’re fucking trying. He gives up quickly. “Women have been having babies for thousands of years,” Nat tells Shauna, clearly disappointed by Ben’s lack of help. She says Akilah’s got this, and Akilah’s face conveys a crystal clear panicked I do?!?!??! but she soldiers on anyway. While these young girls do everything they can to try to save Shauna and the baby, Ben returns to his dissociative mental television programming, plugging his ears to drown out Shauna’s screams and allowing himself to be transported to a fantasy with Paul and their couple friends. They’re in the cabin, only in this fantasy space, it’s a quaint little rental for two gay couples to vacation at. He’s playing charades, and the shot is framed so that there are antlers behind him, and even though they look like moose antlers rather than buck ones, it’s an interesting choice given how weighty antler symbolism is on this show. Although, if it’s moose antlers, could this be foreshadowing that Ben’s fate will be the same as the albino moose’s from earlier this season?

Ben with moose antlers behind him, holding his arms out

Travis and Lotties panicked attempt to help out takes the form of a sacrifice ritual. Travis places the bear skull on a makeshift altar in front of the fireplace, and Lottie says they need offerings. Travis draws blood and lets it drip on the skull. Everyone other than Tai, Nat, and Shauna start participating in whatever this is, offering blood and trinkets like buttons to the skull. “The wilderness recognizes your sacrifice, and so do I,” Lottie says.

Later, Akilah thinks the head might be coming, finally. But Tai and Akilah’s faces fall, again their look of terror so much more evocative than if we were seeing things from their point of view. Why is it so purple? is not really a question you want to hear when people are trying to deliver your baby. Again, Shauna’s position in relation to the horror here is just so blood curdling. Because it’s not just the terror of pain but also the terror of the unknown. She can’t see what’s happening to her. She can only see and hear how others are reacting.

It isn’t the baby’s head. It’s the placenta. “Isn’t that supposed to come after?” someone asks. Again, they know enough to know something is wrong but not enough to really explain or address it. Shauna likely has experienced placental abruption, during which the placenta detaches from the womb. This also would mean the baby hasn’t been getting proper nutrients, but also, neither has Shauna. Tai and Akilah look in horror as they hold the placenta in their hands, its purple-red bulbous form like an alien to them. Violent labor and birth scenes are common in horror — as Van might say, pregnancy and birth are its own horror subgenre — and this immediately joins some of the most frightening of all time, particularly because it’s so rooted in reality. This isn’t a monstrous birth; it’s a difficult one because the mother has received zero medical care, and because most people in the room are high school girls, throwing out random information in hopes something will stick. The violence of it is rooted in all the trauma they’ve already experienced, starvation and isolation rendering Shauna’s experience unbearable and making it so that everyone else’s fears and desperation are heightened, too.

Of course some of them turn to Lottie’s rituals; they’re just desperately grasping for whatever they can.

In the other room, Misty berates herself for her failure. Lottie approaches, and Misty says she had a plan with Crystal, they were going to do this together. Lottie tells her Crystal may be gone, but she’s still here. “You can still save Shauna. You can save our baby,” Lottie says. Shauna has been wary of Lottie’s sense of ownership over the baby, and I think she’s right to be. At the end of the day, she’s the one doing this, surrounded by the rest of their sweating panicked faces but ultimately alone, in the dark. But I still think Lottie isn’t being purposefully predatory; she’s clinging to the baby as a symbol. They’ve been surrounded by death, and here is new life, which perhaps means life is possible here. Her pep talk works, and Misty, who always responds to the sense that she’s needed, springs back into action. Dripping (there really is so much sweat in this episode!), she kneels before Shauna and tells her to push.

Shauna during labor, sweating profusely

At some point, those who believe in the wilderness’s greater power start chanting “we hear the wilderness, and it hears us.” Shauna’s still screaming, and the baby still hasn’t come. Tai, who has been Shauna’s rock all episode, makes one final plea, placing Van’s bone necklace in Shauna’s hand and joining the chanted prayer.

Shauna blacks out, and as she’s coming to, we hear someone saying her name, and when I watched my captions-less screener, I could have sworn it was Jackie’s voice, but the captions claim it’s Misty. Misty says it’s a boy and places the baby in her arms. This happens about halfway through the episode. In the second half, when we return to the cabin, the scenes focus on Shauna trying to get her baby to breastfeed. She’s having trouble, and Nat suggests that maybe she can’t produce milk because she has been starving, but Shauna is determined.

Shauna later wakes up to the sound of Lottie humming. She sees Lottie holding the baby, and Lottie says, ominously, “he needs to feed.” Shauna takes her baby back. Later, she’s alone, holding him, still desperately trying to feed him. Now it’s Sophie Nélisse’s turn to deliver an exquisite monologue:

“Look, I’m sorry I didn’t think I wanted you. I guess you probably knew that. But it was all really complicated. I’ll tell you all about it someday. Maybe you’ll understand, maybe you won’t. The point is, I, I was wrong. And I love you so, so much, and I can’t wait to see who you become, where you’ll go, what you’ll do. But it all depends on this, on us figuring this out. It’s you and me, kid. It’s you and me against the whole world. So please, just please—”

The baby starts sucking, and milk comes. Nat comes in and is excited, wants to tell the others, but Shauna says she wants to have this moment to herself for now.

Shauna holding her baby in Yellowjackets 206

After the adult Yellowjackets reunite in the present timeline, we cut to black. Shauna wakes up in the night again, and again, there’s humming in the distance. She looks next to her bed, and the baby isn’t in his homemade crib. She stumbles out of bed, confused. In the main room of the cabin, she finds her teammates, their faces covered in blood, chewing and clawing away. Even Ben is participating this time.

Shauna wakes up from this nightmare, but the nightmare extends even further than baby cannibalism. Shauna wakes up, still where she went into labor, everyone circling her like they did before when she woke up to their smiles and her crying baby boy. But this time, they’re not smiling. There’s fear still in their eyes. “What did you do?” Shauna asks. Tai tells her she passed out and that they were worried they almost lost her. Misty says she’s sorry. They hand Shauna a silent, lifeless bundle and tell her the baby didn’t make it.

Shauna insists she was alive, that she held him. No one is sweaty anymore, but their faces are slicked with tears. Shauna looks at the bundle, and her face breaks open. Again, we don’t have to see what she’s looking at; her reaction hits way harder than if we were to slip into her point of view. But even as she’s looking at what’s in front of her, she can’t seem to process it entirely. “I can still hear him crying,” she says. She says he’s hungry. “Why can’t you hear him cry?” Again, we see so much in the faces of the other Yellowjackets, who don’t even know how to respond to her mania.

“Why can’t you hear him?” Shauna pleads, the camera trained on her, Nélisse looking straight ahead, the others out of frame, so that it almost looks like she’s asking us. It’s an incredible shot, the camera panning past her and then fading to black. The transitions in this episode are just so well done, the direction and editing all adding to the horror and heartbreak throughout.

Shauna crying while looking at the camera and holding her stillborn baby

Nélisse gives an emotionally complex and riveting performance, her finest to date, and one that commands so much of her physically. There are dynamics to the performance, her screams echoing as powerfully as that quiet monologue delivered to the baby before we know that what we’re seeing isn’t real, even if the emotions behind it are. Go back and rewatch that scene — and really, all of the Teen Shauna scenes that follow her labor — which is such a different experience when we know it’s all in Shauna’s head, a post-labor delirium dream. I always have to watch episodes multiple times for these recaps, and this episode in particular really rewards rewatches — not because of an abundance of hidden symbols or puzzleboxy clues but because it’s so emotional dense while still being propulsive and tightly executed.

A part of me knew all along Shauna’s baby’s chances of survival were low, but I never could have predicted this exact way things panned out. The reveal that the scenes with the baby are all part of a nightmare sequence doesn’t feel like a manipulative TV gotchya moment. Again, because all the emotions contained in it are real. They let us go even deeper into Teen Shauna’s fears, anxieties, and complex feelings toward motherhood. And they add context, too, to Shauna’s feelings about her family in the future, this idea that she loves them but feels like she’s failing at it. Like Nat’s survivor’s guilt and Lottie’s guilt about leading people astray with her beliefs, Shauna feels immense, lasting guilt about losing the baby, a specific kind of grief that touches so many things.

I know fan theories are fun, and I participate in them, too! But this episode really does underscore just how meaningless and trivial any theories about “who could be Shauna’s wilderness baby” have been. Much like some of the Yellowjackets, I think we cling to conspiracy theories because they’re easier to look at than reality. We can try to predict what happened in the wilderness and what will happen to the Yellowjackets now, but I think in truth, they don’t perfectly know what happened out there. Every time they talk about it, they trip over their words. In a previous episode when talking to Callie, Shauna had to correct herself and say we instead of they. This episode, Nat corrects herself from “we saw so much” to “we did so much fucked up shit out there.”

It’s not as simple as them just being in denial; I think they’re genuinely disconnected from the what happened in the wilderness because they’ve never been given space or time to properly process anything, swore themselves to secrecy so they’d never tell anyone what really happened out there, because how could they without being seen as monsters, even though all they were doing, as Natalie says, was surviving? Surviving in impossible conditions. Shauna’s violent, devastating, and ultimately reality-shattering labor and birth make it clear just how fucked up it is out there for them. I know people did a lot of back and forth theorizing on whether the baby would get eaten, but again, that conversation just deflates under the weight of how things really go down, Shauna’s nightmare come to life and somehow even more disturbing when it isn’t even real.

Last Buzz:

  • It’s mostly a military thing, but Jackie’s favorite flower, the poppy, is often used as a symbol of remembrance.
  • I love looking for set dressing and prop details in Van’s shop. She has a poster up for Scream, supporting my belief that she would enjoy that movie, per this list I put together. I also clocked posters for Friday the 13th, Airplane!, and Footloose.
  • The Blur song into the first scene from Shauna’s labor isssss perfect.
  • Lots of creepy humming in this episode!
  • Tawny Cypress and Lauren Ambrose have really great comedic chemistry together.
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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 870 articles for us.


  1. Yay it’s Friday! I’m so stoked to read your recap!! I’m not done reading it yet but I wanted to add a thought to your fiancée’s theory about Lottie’s therapist- perhaps the therapist is not only imaginary but a projection/recreation of the therapist Lottie saw in the Swiss mental institution she was sent to after they got back from the wilderness?

  2. It amuses me that in interviews, all the other girls talk about how the show really affects them emotionally and they carry it with them when they go home, and Sophie Nelisse is over here all, “I’m honestly not the most method actor. We were talking about this on set one day, because the girls were all saying, ‘The trauma this show brings us because our bodies undergo such high emotions that we don’t really make the difference between real trauma or fake trauma.’ And I was like, ‘I kinda feel fine.'”

    She’s doing a fantastic job, whatever her method!

    • this reminds me of when someone asked Toni Collette about Hereditary, “how did you manage to deal with a role as traumatic as this?” and she cheerily responded “well, it’s just a movie”

    • As an actor-turned-director, Sophie’s way is much much healthier!I run ‘de-rolling’ exercises when we work on intense stuff in the rehearsal room. And being able to seperate your self from the character doesn’t make your performance any weaker as seen here!

    • This is amazing re: Nelisse because it echoes something Melanie Lynskey said on a podcast recently, which is that she can’t get frightened by jump scares and has no adrenal response? And she was clear that she doesn’t dissociate, she simply — is fine. I think the parallel with this interview with Nelisse is uncanny given that they are paired into one character as actors!

  3. We all made it through a week without new YJ 🎉

    Thanks for giving us some content to hold us over, Kayla!

    This week was a rough one, but the acting was phenomenal. Tawny Cypress and Lauren Ambrose are so fun to see onscreen together and Melanie Lynskey and Sophie Nélisse are consistently so freaking excellent (because everyone is operating at 10/10 all the time)!

    I don’t have anything deep to add to this right now, I’m mostly wondering “do we think we’ll see them eat the placenta next episode, or is it going to end up used in some wilderness ritual?” as I sit with the deep emotional performances.

  4. KAYLA! this recap is poetry! oh my god! some of this writing nearly made me start crying again (and I have been crying for hours, there is no salt water left in my body). I’ll make a separate comment with my own thoughts but these pieces from your review really resonated:

    “Nat contemplates killing the fish. She takes it out of the water and lets it gasp in her palm, thinking she’s doing it a favor. I wonder if she’s thinking about her final words to the remains of Jackie, how she thought she was lucky for dying, how it meant she got to leave the wilderness forever”

    “Nat is less happy to see her, but this time, there’s a sadness there, almost like it isn’t the fact that she is annoyed by Misty’s presence but rather this is a continuation of how she feels about Lisa trying to get close to her. Nat thinks she only hurts people, doesn’t want them getting too close. Misty is, well, Misty, but has Nat ever had someone fight for her as hard as Misty has? I don’t think she knows what to do in the face of Misty’s refusal to give up on her”

    “It’d probably be easier for Shauna if she didn’t love them; what’s harder is admitting she’s just really bad at loving them, a sentiment made even more complicated once we know her history with motherhood and the guilt and shame she likely feels about it. She never wanted to be pregnant — either time”

    “It’s mostly a military thing, but Jackie’s favorite flower, the poppy, is often used as a symbol of remembrance” OK but what if I cry??

    • Omg thank you! I was tbh a little nervous about the quality of this recap because even though there was only a one week break, I felt it make a dent in my process! It was almost like one week off was enough to make me feel out of practice so for some behind the scenes context, even though this wasn’t the longest recap of the season, it took almost as twice as long as the past few have taken to write!

      So thank you, truly, for your kind words. It means a lot.

  5. this episode broke my heart right open and I was openly crying in every post-labour scene :) thoughts / things that made me laugh (they were in short supply but I think it’s important to note them nonetheless):

    – the way Christina Ricci said, icily, “hello, Charlotte”. hahaha! only she can make a two word delivery that deliciously sinister

    – “WILDERNESS, I HOPE SHAUNA DOESN’T DIE” lmaooo turns out Mari is kinda funny

    – Natalie desperately asking Ben for help, and her face crumbling when she realises he’s not going to step up and help them…my heart. that poor kid. they’re all so young.

    – these kids have to stop slicing their entire palms open every time they do this! why be so dramatic! just prick the tip of your pinky finger! bloody cults and their theatrics

    – the lock of hair that gets ‘offered’ (along with the blood and also a button, lol). presumably from Lottie? I need to rewatch. but: could this be the start of the antler queen’s fit with all the locks of hair???

    – Tai teasing Van about Miss Congeniality was so cute! these two have SO MUCH chemistry and you can sense the absolute longing they have for each other, even with Van keeping her walls up. not to be uncouth but please just fuck already it’ll make you both so much more relaxed

    – that was ABSOLUTELY Jackie saying “Shauna”! I know the subtitles say [Misty] but I do not agree! that is not Samantha’s voice, it’s Ella’s!

    – so as soon as I heard that I knew it was all going to get extremely dark and upsetting very rapidly

    – the Elliott Smith song playing while Shauna is talking to the baby is called ‘Pitseleh’, which is Yiddish for ‘little one’

    – damn, it’s good to see Lauren Ambrose behind the wheel again. that’s the fucking ticket! Six Feet Under lovers, you know what I mean

    – Jeff: “Hi Van!” [dial tone]

    – “we’re all like this…aren’t we?” Juliette’s expression and the way she said this was so sad and so evocative of Sophie Thatcher’s baby Natalie. and god, what a simple yet devastating line

    – Melanie’s delivery of “I did not start out a bad person” made me cry. haunting. just so sad. everything about Shauna is fall into place

    – my last notes are fairly incoherent, due to the full body sobbing, but essentially “Shauna woke up, Tai’s face is devastating, oh this is awful, I’m going to dry heave. Natalie crying Misty crying Van crying I’m done I’m done this is horrible I hate it”

    • Tai’s face in that scene… just absolutely gutting.

      There needs to be an award category for best nonverbal moment because I really think that conveying complex emotions in just a look without overacting is so, so difficult and Brown just nailed it.

      I completely believed that she was trying to break the news of the baby’s death to her friend while also being absolutely devastated herself.

      And Misty’s “I’m sorry, Shauna! I’m sorry!” and her voice breaking was a moment easy to miss because of the way the scene pushed forward, but it was absolutely heartbreaking as well.

  6. Don’t listen to the captions, that was most certainly Jackie’s voice calling Shauna. In fact, I think that was the same audio from episode two when Jackie is talking to Shauna in the meat shed. I don’t think that Shauna passed out. I think that she died for a moment. And just like how Laura Lee sent Lottie back, Jackie sent Shauna back to the land of the living.

    • Yeah, it’s for sure Jackie’s voice. I don’t care what the subtitles say. There were two Shauna calls and the first was definitely Ella. So I guess the second, whispery one was Misty, fine.
      I agree that Shauna died or had an NDE and was meeting her baby in another plane. I like that connection of Jackie sending her back as LL did with Lottie. I need to rewatch to see if Shauna drank any of the tea that Nat brought her because as it goes in greek mythology, eating/drinking in the underworld binds you to the underworld. Jackie has the hot chocolate and the baby nurses but Lottie doesn’t eat the food in the mall and while it seemed like Shauna drank the tea because the camera pans to the mug when she “wakes,” I don’t recall her actually being shown drinking it.

      • From how Shauna looked at the mug when she woke up and seemed drugged moving around and out of the room – I got the insinuation that she drank it.

        Also – the beginning of Shauna’s vision where everyone is smiling was quite reminiscent of Jackie’s death scene.
        I kept looking for Jackie during the group pan, because I heard her voice – thanks for the confirmation on that!

  7. I did not think it would ever be possible for me to stan a white man but they might have done it with Jeff. He gets more endearing every episode. Playing “Fuck Da Police” outside of the police station alone shot him to the top of my favorite characters list.

  8. I sometimes find Elliott Smith songs are over/misused in film & TV — or maybe I’m just a bit possessive as a superfan of his — but oof Pitseleh was a brilliant choice for this ep. Revisiting the lyrics, they’re obviously apt for Shauna talking to the baby (as is the almost lullaby-like quality), but the fact that the song continues diegetically in the scene of Tai and Van in the car drew my attention to the resonances for their relationship too. Actually the song seems to speak to the fraught bonds of all the survivors, and the questions you raise about the difference between comfort and healing re trauma and their reunion.


    [Verse 1]
    I’ll tell you why I don’t want to know where you are
    I got a joke I’ve been dying to tell you
    A silent kid is looking down the barrel
    To make the noise that I kept so quiet
    Kept it from you, Pitseleh

    [Verse 2]
    I’m not what’s missing from your life now
    I could never be the puzzle pieces
    They say that God makes problems just to see what you can stand
    Before you do as the Devil pleases
    Give up the thing you love

    But no one deserves it

    [Verse 3]
    The first time I saw you
    I knew it would never last
    I’m not half what I wish I was
    I’m so angry
    I don’t think it’ll ever pass
    And I was bad news for you just because
    I never meant to hurt you

  9. Another acting props in this episode goes to Nia Sondaya who now plays Akilah her facial reactions to what is going on were perfect and really sold the horror and panic of the situation. I was worried this season when I found out Keeya King who originally played Akilah in season 1 was not coming back because I also really liked her performance but Nia Sondaya has really taken the baton and continues to run with this character.

  10. I KNEW the alive baby stuff had to be a hallucination (her pallor was way too rosy) but they still got me for a minute. And I definitely gasped at the shot of THE symbol on the grass at Lottie’s compound.

    For such a harrowing episode though, there were a lot of moments that made me laugh though.
    – Misty crying, “We were going to do a song!!” referring to her plans for this baby’s delivery
    – Van: “I just believe in leaving the past in the past.”
    Tai: “Van, you run a video store!”
    – Jeff listening to “Fuck Tha Police” in the car outside of the police station of COURSE. Perfect, peak Jeff, no notes.
    – Shauna apparently never having watched a single episode of Law and Order in her life. What kind of suburban housewife is she!?
    – Misty telling Tai the food at Lottie’s cult is “amazing.”

    • it’s actually funny shauna is so bad at getting away with murder because it’s established in season 1 that she and jeff used to watch a lot of true crime together!

      • Jeff was definitely paying slightly more attention than Shauna, but not by much.

        I hope there is a scene next episode where Shauna tells Misty what’s been going on with her and it causes Misty’s second momentary breakdown. (Although apparently she had not considered the cops would immediately be checking Adam’s texts, which is a detail I find hard to believe she would miss, though I don’t think there is anything you can really do about it).

    • ‘Misty telling Tai the food at Lottie’s cult is “amazing.”’

      unfortunately this has already started a new conspiracy where people are convinced Lottie and/or Lisa are poisoning Natalie. I can’t. it’s always something!

  11. So I, like Heather, could never watch this show because of my extremely low violence/suspense tolerance.

    However, KAYLA YOUR RECAPS ARE AMAZING AND I STILL GET NIGHTMARES SOMETIMES. Thank you for writing so well and helping me get incredibly invested in characters of a show I have watched literally zero minutes of.

    Finally, my birth stories were obviously very very very different from Shauna’s, and I do believe “body horror” is an part description across the board.

  12. All I’m saying is that next time we see the psychiatrist, they aren’t going to have any eyes. I am pretty convinced of this.

    This recap is really really powerful btw. Picking up on so much if the nuance and pain. I almost got an extra layer if trauma unpacking the trauma of the most traumatising hour of telly I’ve ever seen?

    It feels clearer to me that what they’ve brought back is trauma, and they visualise everything through mystical lenses because that was the coping mechanism.

    I feel like we’re being fed real horror here. Impossible beliefs warping reality and allowing real harm. And I think you’re right that a lot of it is stuff layered in so much forgotten and misremembered struggle, that it’s all blur and chaos. Things could well escalate as Shauna grieves and blames, flashing back to the awful horror, while the nascent cult tries to explain why it’s sacrifices have been not enough. That could escalate quickly. Or something good happens and the gang decide Shauna’s baby’s sacrifice was worth it. Which will destroy any concept of community for Shauna. Or maybe I just want to stop predicting because even the things I expect to happen are simply more horrible than I could imagine. It’s powerful telly.

    Oh. And like. My god cops are awful. The extent to which the show made clear that interrogation techniques are often just gaslighting, manipulation and abuse. Those scenes were so horrible.

      • For reasons I can’t entirely explain, me and collage enthusiast tentaclerental are in the habit of referring to cabin daddy’s corpse as the ‘normal no eyed man’ seperately from Tai’s ‘not normal no eyed man’. I may have yelled ‘normal no eyed psychiatrist’ during this episode but also I was shouting too much for all the tension this episode so I may have managed to hold on to it.

  13. I love how this show presents death and near death experiences. When shauna “woke up” to everyone smiling, I found it so chilling. It felt like Jackie’s death scene. I half expected shauna to see Jackie the way Jackie saw Laura lee. I’ll need to rewatch to see if, like you said, it sounded like Jackie speaking to her. That would be a great subtle hint!

    And speaking of Jackie’s death. I love the detail of her favorite flowers being poppies. Given how she dies, I have to imagine it was a nod to Dorothy asleep in the poppies in The Wizard of Oz?

    • Okay, I read through all of these comments and didn’t see anyone ask this question, but on thing that stuck out to me is when Van and Tai get out of the car, Van says something like “keep your eyes peeled for the black and white Nikes.” Did anyone else catch that and have any ideas about what she means?

      I’ve tried to pay more attention to shoes since the pilot episode so just wondering if there is something there.

      Also, I am more convinced than ever that the AQ is all of their collective trauma. My partner just sent me a screenshot of the YJ promo with the AQ on it. Looks like Misty’s shoes, Van’s/Shauna’s body type, Lottie and Tai’s height and the shape of the head seems very tai.

      I have many other thoughts but so much of why has already been said! I’m sure I’ll have more to comment on but tell me about Van’s comment!

  14. yay we’re back! thoughts as i watched, lightly edited for typos:

    -crystal/Kristen is now chekhov’s corpse waiting for a big reveal
    -I love Van with the condom glove
    -the hard cut from Misty “how much blood on average” to the cabin was an excellent needle drop
    -I want an I spy of the stuff Misty takes out of her pockets!
    -Misty actively antagonizing a fellow survivor…you know Lottie fucked up
    -the labor scene is almost funny, the teen girl of it all and the total lack of experience. But then you remember the stakes and the context
    -seeing Natalie miss shot after shot feels worse than seeing her on a bender
    -Van homie get a lollipop coaster or something don’t just put it down on your desk
    -I really wanted Van’s magical lesbian death evasion powers to extend to running a financially successful brick and mortar VHS nostalgia store but alas
    -we haven’t seen Misty really break down, over anything, until Crystal
    -nugget watch 2×06… still a happy little guy. however akilah please wash your hands between petting him and touching shauna’s bits???
    -you know if my friend was in a medical crisis and I couldn’t do shit maybe i would sacrifice to a wilderness god too! Cover all the bases!!
    -oh yeah this psychiatrist is fully imagined
    -I think Lottie is the first one to say god? And my viewing buddy pointed out the captions rendered “It” with a capital I. “We did in Its names
    -The drumming stopping was funny but the crying woman instantly perking up was funnier 😅
    -is this gay charade cabin the same set as the wilderness cabin??
    -props department went hard on that placenta phew
    -Misty’s negative self talk breaks my heart
    -they really gave crystal up as gone so fast? Like they looked for Javi for MONTHS and they’re just like bye bestie
    -has Callie turned 18?? Where is her guardian?
    -where is my guide to the filing system of While You Were Streaming
    -Misty having Tai’s cell memorized is so on brand
    -genuinely surprised Shauna lived AND was able to have Callie? Although I suppose Callie could be adopted
    -oh that baby is far too healthy
    -Van is a Lottie hater now interesting!!!
    -I would watch a whole episode of this road trip
    -oh the fish whose name I forget! Please live little buddy, do it for me
    -Lisa is trying so hard and it is almost working but she’s in so over her head
    -little Jeff Jr. won’t nurse because he craves blood (but Natalie is right shauna has been starving for months)
    -Jeff and Tai talking is peak comedy
    -Misty immediately wearing cult clothes and leveraging her personal connections for power
    -Shauna getting it on the record Immediately that creepy cop was dating her underage daughter
    -Melanie’s “I didn’t start out a bad person” monologue is so manipulative but also very true. She’s great at using the truth to lie (which is good because she’s not good at lying)
    -Callie!! Hell yeah lie your ass off girl!
    -Lottie Would try to feed the baby….but also this is hundy p a hallucination
    -there is a parallel timeline where Jeff tries to fix things by hiding the phone call and I’m so glad we aren’t there
    -Natalie can’t do intentional harm even to a fish
    -Sophie Nelisse Emmy when?? Also the makeup team with the windburn and frostbite
    -truly expected to see Jackie or Laura Lee instead of Natalie
    -let the girlies go to IHOP together!
    -Shauna’s arrival gets Van to go in! Interesting
    -so did Lottie set up her commune in the symbol on purpose or…
    -oh that baby eating hallucination was fucked UP fucked up. The guilt in their eyes? Ben participating?
    -oh Shauna baby girl you and the team are gonna be traumatized over this for the rest of time
    -the creepy humming outro will haunt me
    -no preview with the episode! Is that so that everyone has to think about Sophie Nelisse’s broken sobs for a week?

    other thoughts:
    -“I find it interesting that this is the first time they’ve spilled blood for something and the wilderness hasn’t given it to them” -watching buddy
    -is Nat being drugged at the cult? Or is she just going through it to such a degree that she’s off?

    • I dunno how much of a Lottie hater Van actually is. Did you see her face when she saw her again? She was like, “omg it’s priestess mommy it’s really her.” (To be fair she looked incredible.)

      • it’s so hard to read her expression, because Lauren Ambrose is doing 15 different emotions all at once. she seems shocked, scared, horrified, but maybe also something else? she is so good at reacting to stuff with just her face! like, rent was DUE and she delivered!

    • I thought Nat seemed out of herself in a way in this episode, but Lottie is similarly becoming increasingly destabilized, so I think it something about this sense of the past trauma surfacing as the women reconnect and are facing their pasts (individual and collective) anew.

      I also love the ambiguity of the reveal of the symbol at the compound, which can be interpreted as 1. the wilderness/It is exerting a force to bring them back together or 2. as a manifestation of Lottie’s trauma (that she has carried out?) and they are coming back together because in a kind of heightened, toxic way, these people can’t stay out of each other’s lives (even, as you say Kayla, they might be better off doing so!) The second is my personal read. Nevertheless, chilling.

  15. Yellowjackets – best comedy on streaming! That is, when I’m not in a fetal position (too soon?) crying from the trauma.

    This is the week I officially fell in love with Simone Kessel.

    This week I also really saw the adult versions match spot on with their teen counterparts, especially when Shauna was being interviewed by a smug little douche.

    Are they going to eat the baby?

    • the adult and teen versions were SO aligned this week!!! in general the paired actresses seem more aligned this season and I wonder if it’s because they’ve spent more time together on the press tour (and were pretty limited in their interactions in season 1 I’m guessing bc of covid regulations and also not really being in scenes together)

  16. so there are theories in the sub that Van ‘obviously’ has cancer, because she’s taking oxy and allegedly the lollipops have morphine in them, and she’s not eating well and she doesn’t seemingly care about her overdue bills, and she’s given up on love, etc.

    I hate this so much because:

    a) all of those behaviours are the signs of a profoundly depressed person who’s sort of given up and is massively stuck in the past, and

    b) I love adult Van so much and I will be furious if they kill her off!

    • I hadn’t seen these theories, but I agree that it feels like there’s more going on with Van than we know yet. Even her reticent willingness to let Taissa into her life and help her suggests a level of giving up, in a way? It was insinuated (particularly the “you’re married, there is no ‘us’ anymore” comment) that Taissa may have instigated the dissolution of their relationship, and in some ways the way Van is with Taissa suggests both care but also sort of just going with the flow (ala throwing away overdue bills) and not putting up a fight. Which is not the Van we know from the wilderness timeline.

      On another note: I suspect Walter is not gone for good?

    • i mean obviously she is off but cancer feels….lazy. and doesn’t really let them explore her twenty five years of trauma. plus why introduce her as an adult only to kill her off?

    • It’s also possible Van’s oxy use began as self-treatment for chronic pain from the damage to her face and whatever else happened in the woods. I think the lollipop was just another way she’s not taking care of herself and regressing to a more innocent past. Plus her mom died. She has a lot of reasons to feel rough.

  17. oh I also want to talk about Lottie wearing blue for the first time! we’ve only ever seen her in sun colours e.g. yellow, orange, red.

    does this symbolise her fall from leadership, and emphasise that she’s just as lost as the rest of her followers? will she start to wear full on purple*?

    *heliotrope, sorry

  18. This one was so haunting. Amazing acting on everyone’s parts too.

    I kept thinking I wish Teen Shauna knew enough to know that it typically takes a couple of days for your milk to come in, as it might have saved a tiny bit fear about the baby not nursing properly right away…

    I agree that Shauna was on the brink of death, hence the extended delirium, which is almost like a kind of alternate world in which she does join the stillborn baby. And I do think that Lottie/believers would see it not as the ritual failing, but as it succeeding in saving Shauna. The labor sequence opened with Mari saying “Please don’t let Shauna die,” not “please don’t let them die…” (I am actually much more on team Lasting Trauma than There are Supernatural Forces At Work, but I think this is how Lottie’s believers would rationalize it). With a placental abruption, severe malnutrition and exposure, and probably anemic, it’s remarkable she didn’t die. The closing moments are wrenching, particularly as she clutches his body and all the others have dispersed (in that moment it is again just the two of them).

    Does the timeline of his birth mean they’ve been stranded for close to 10-11 months now?

    • I also saw the dream as more than a dream and like Shauna WAS meeting her baby in another plane while having a near death experience.

      So from the information we’re given it would seem to me that they’ve been stranded closer to 8 months and we’re probably around late Dec and labor was early (whether close enough or not quite, absent the other factors like placental abruption and starvation etc, I’m not sure). But this is based on all of the timeline information we’re given in the past two seasons and it could also be that the writers inadvertently dropped in things (mostly character statements about their rations this season) that make it seem kind of impossible for much time to have passed since we opened S2 with Shauna at 7 months. Maybe the writers are thinking that it’s Feb and Shauna made it to term and I just need to suspend my disbelief about them rationing the bear for two months and then saying they were almost out and somehow it lasting… another two months.

  19. I can’t wait to (eventually!) learn more about Lottie’s Swiss institution to wellness purveyor pipeline.

    Every time Lottie’s presence is introduced to a new YJ, they respond with the same degree of incredulous disbelief. There must be quite a story ahead of us.

    • Excellent point – they all seem literally shocked that she’s not only out, but successful. But more that she’s out. It’s definitely headed for a YJ shit show!

    • This kinda bugged me. I thought them each acting so incredulous and like because she was once institutionalized, they thought she always would be, was… weird.

  20. I am SO excited for this Van/Lottie reunion. Lauren Ambrose killed this scene, it was like fear and awe and as the one of the survivors who was the biggest believer in the woods I think this is going to hit really different for her. I think she didn’t want to go in because she is still afraid of the influence Lottie(‘s religion) has over her.

    Did other people clock the way she seemed more closed off the morning after seeing the “other Tai?” I wonder if that reunion was more pswtting for her than just seeing her ex in the video shop. In the earlier timeline she’s already says she thibks the “other Tai” is connected to the woods. I think, like Lottie, part of Van believes it was all real and fears embracing that knowledge.

    Sophie Nelise was so incredible in this episode. I didn’t immediately register that the live baby was a hallucition and I actually was worried that the reality of having a newborn in the cabin was going to lead to more tension in the house. They’re already starved and fighting over the pee bucket – what happens when you add in sleep deprivation and a malnorished infant??

    • Yeah I think narratively it would have been a stretch to keep the baby alive for a few reasons so I’m glad we didn’t go there, even if the place we did go is so fucking devastating

  21. Okay, I read through all of these comments and didn’t see anyone ask this question, but on thing that stuck out to me is when Van and Tai get out of the car, Van says something like “keep your eyes peeled for the black and white Nikes.” Did anyone else catch that and have any ideas about what she means?

    I’ve tried to pay more attention to shoes since the pilot episode so just wondering if there is something there.

    Also, I am more convinced than ever that the AQ is all of their collective trauma. My partner just sent me a screenshot of the YJ promo with the AQ on it. Looks like Misty’s shoes, Van’s/Shauna’s body type, Lottie and Tai’s height and the shape of the head seems very tai.

    I have many other thoughts but so much of why has already been said! I’m sure I’ll have more to comment on but tell me about Van’s comment!

  22. 100% agree about Jackie’s voice waking Shauna up, I straight up gasped when I heard that. Also thought that the baby’s cries sounded really off/unnatural…those two things along with just generally wondering what would happen to the baby made the end not entirely surprising but still so heartbreaking :(

  23. Kayla, I thiiiink I remember in your antler queen speculation post that you said you think the locks of hair on that costume come from girls that the AQ has hunted – does seeing the offerings in this episode change that for you at all? Could the offerings be linked to the physical costume/appearance of the antler queen?

  24. I didn’t watch with captions either, but that was 1000% Jackie’s voice! I think there’s no reason and no way Misty’s voice would be so engrained in her subconscious that she would hear her gently calling to her like that when she was blacked out.

  25. Ok, my darkest theory at the moment is that Coach Ben is going to kill himself. We already saw Jackie try to starve to death; I don’t think she really wanted to die, but Ben is HEAVILY dissociated, and probably wracked with guilt about his inability (and lack of preparation, poor Ben) to care for these girls in such an extreme scenario.

    The fact that his hallucinations have moved into the cabin makes me think the wilderness almost has him. (I agree that “the wilderness” is a wild imaginative name for their trauma, but still. Jackie ended up in the cabin during her death rattle too.)

  26. I have a theory (or perhaps it’s merely something I’m trying to manifest) that Big Lottie makes everyone around her gayer just by the sheer force of her glorious presence, there’s simply no heterosexual explanation for anything happening in the present-day compound!! Anyway, I look forward to this theory coming to fruition, if only in my head.

    On a more serious note I (somewhat stupidly, but in my defence I was caught up in the moment) completely took the birth scene at face value and it wasn’t until moments before the twist reveal that I realised. And oh my god. It BROKE me. I love that this show is so intense and complex that no matter how you come to it, whether hyper-aware of every red flag or absorbing it and being absorbed, you’re still going to have an amazing time.

    Also love this journey for Callie, this season I’ve gone from “I don’t care for Gob” to punching the air like YES, that’s my daughter and my friend, that’s Shauna’s child

    And I’ve already mentioned this in the comments but thanks for another phenomenal recap full of thoughtful analysis! My weekly Yellowjackets experience isn’t complete without coming here to read your write-ups.

  27. Kayla I loved how you handled this recap <3

    It was hard to wait two weeks and I was so excited even though this episode was bittersweet; it was also brilliant. I am struck by how their treatment of Shauna’s baby echoed the way I felt about how they end up eating Jackie. I did a fair share of predicting and theorizing around how that would come to be, and then what actually happened (and how it was depicted) I could never have predicted and immediately felt like it couldn’t have happened any other way. I feel the same way about both the story and the depiction of the birth. I was twisting myself to figure out when it is in the show and how early is Shauna’s labor (my conclusion was that it is probably too early, if the writers are being consistent with their durational cues, but that’s not the subject of this post) to calculate the chances of them surviving the birth unassisted based solely on gestational age (to say nothing of their longer term survival and factoring their circumstances and Shauna’s grief, trauma, malnutrition, starvation etc etc). After obsessively calculating, just from timeline info it did not look good, aaaaaand then that whole factor was rendered irrelevant because they gave us placental abruption. I was doubting myself because even though all signs pointed to almost impossible odds, I think I just couldn’t picture a stillbirth being the whole story they were telling, even though of course it was, but also it wasn’t and I thought they did a beautiful job. I did not clock all the cues that it was a vision on the first watch, as obvious as it was (it was also extremely late-night/early morning when I watched), maybe even because of my own expectations that they had to be giving us something more complicated or nuanced, but then I was pretty seriously confused about how the baby came out after it’s placenta, breathing fine on top of how sturdy and healthy he looked because rationally I knew what poor odds Shauna’s pregnancy and labor were up against, so I was all like huh what do I know, I guess, and then it came around and made sense.

    Random thoughts:
    I love new Akilah (and old Akilah too), this episode especially, but agreeing that they should boil water because they need to keep things clean AND THEN petting nugget before checking Shauna was… a choice.
    I feel for coach but he is not coming off well and it seemed like he feared them enough to try to ingratiate himself but he’s still… not.
    Now THAT ritual was more than mindfulness and if I were Shauna I would be like FUCK OFF. Also FFS why won’t they stop splitting their palms open to obtain blood there could not be a worse wound to have your body trying to heal out there.

    • Oh also I don’t know if my timeline obsession is gonna come back to bite me just like my season one obsession with the extras / stunt doubles. They totally retconned that and it never had a chance of being internally consistent (the scrimmage in the pilot is enough to drive a person crazy). This episode I noticed some extras again. There are two extra bodies shown performing the ritual, one on each side with their faces not shown (and they’re not dressed like Javi & Ben) and then we see two random unfamiliar faces in Shauna’s vision of waking to everyone surrounding her smiling (one is a partial face off to the right of Travis and Ben that doesn’t look like Javi to me or anyone else, and the other is definitely not one of our known characters. Unclear if they are actors who played last seasons extras/unnamed survivors, or new actors playing current extras that I didn’t realize we still had, or what). Anyway this caused me to rewatch the bacchanal because we see all the yellowjackets seated around the fantasy table. In that scene everyone is accounted for and there are no misc extras. I know it’s not about this episode, but on this watch of E2 I happened to notice something interesting which is that only our survivors + Akilah + Mari are featured. Akilah and Mari are seated with their backs facing us along with Crystal, Gen, and Melissa. The survivors are facing us with Nat and Taissa in profile (because they’re at the head/foot). We get one sideview of Crystal’s face before they start eating, but then as far as I can tell, we don’t see her again at all, and we don’t see Gen or Melissa at all. Maybe it’s actually not all that interesting because they’ve already done enough to make it clear who matters and who is filler, but I REALLY gotta wonder what’s in store for Gen because she’s the most physically present extra throughout both seasons without having a story (though she did get a line and a seat around the birth this time).

  28. Coming back to add to everyone’s horror that Akilah pet Nugget and then touched Shauna??

    Also Nugget has to be dead, right? What kind of live mouse is just chillin in a pocket 24/7 and not skittering off? I think Nugget is to Akilah what Jackie was to Shauna at the beginning of this season

  29. Did anyone else catch that when Shauna awoke in the hallucination/other world, Lottie was humming “Frère Jacques?” The team nicknamed the hunter’s remains and his spirit “Jacques” before the seance in season 1. Additionally creepy knowing that the lyrics are “Are you sleeping?/Brother Jacques [John]?”

  30. I was so relieved when the baby turned out to be stillborn that I applauded. I was genuinely concerned that it wasn’t going to be a hallucination and they were actually going to go the ridiculous miracle birth route, so I spent much of the episode being annoyed and saying “when is the baby going to die?!?!” I’m so glad they went there and I did not find it emotionally affecting at all (because I hate it when babies are introduced on TV shows). Time to move on!!!

  31. I’m debating rewatching this episode (debating only because it is so tough). Been turning over a few thoughts:

    – When Lottie saw Misty and at first looked so angry but then welcomed her to stay – Lottie’s face went a little blank and I thought perhaps she was having a vision or otherwise some wheels were turning that resulted in her asking Misty to stay.

    – The final seconds of the episode that we’re so poignant showing Shauna increasingly then completely alone in her devastation seemed very play-like in lighting and camera movement.

    – Her NDE sequence telling the baby “it’s just you and me against the world” but then it was just her in her sadness. Really explains how Shauna may be surrounded by people / family / friends but also quite alone in her head.

    – It may still be true that the baby changes everything as far as group dynamics – the resulting fallout here feels like it will be quite dark.

  32. My favorite subtle moment this episode was Natalie shooting holes in the canoe each time she missed at target practice. What an excellent metaphor for when you’re so self-involved in your pain, you can’t see what you’re sabotaging around you.

    Also, Pulp’s “Sorted for E’s & Wizz” in the Van/Taissa morning after scene was perfect:

    “In the middle of the night
    It feels alright, but then tomorrow morning
    Oh, oh, then you come down
    Oh, oh, then you come down
    Oh, what if you never come down?”

  33. does anyone else think Adult Lottie is talking to “the Antler Queen” in her psychiatry sessions???? in that, she’s not really talking to anyone “real”, but the conversations seem to be pushing her further and further towards darkness? like, Lottie genuinely does not want to be having these visions, but the psych is much more interested in exploring them with her.

  34. Coming in late, but! In Shauna’s hallucination, when she wakes up and Lottie is holding the baby, Lottie initially says “WE need to feed.” Shauna replies, “what did you say?!” and then Lottie answers with “he needs to feed.” (I double checked after reading the recap by going back to the subtitles). It adds a layer of Lottie-wilderness creepiness to the scene. At that point in the episode I started to think Lottie et al might sacrifice the baby to try to get food, rather than eat him. I also interpreted the scene as Lottie actually breastfeeding him, too, though that’s more ambiguous.

    Also holy shit Sophie Nélisse. I did not expect to cry this much (ok, at all) during a Yellowjackets episode, but I have a baby so this HURT to watch, oof. I’m honestly kind of relieved the baby died in one episode because I love the show so much but would have had trouble watching through more of that, had it been a slow burn.

    Thanks as always for an incredible recap, and for your support of the writer’s strike!

    • Halloo, this is my first contribution but I’ve been following these recaps and discussions right from the outset. LOVE autostraddle.

      I am very happy Prof Queermo has raised the ‘we’ no ‘HE’ needs to feed. On second viewing I read Shauna’s fever dream scenes as containing a clear and coherent thread. Lottie’s self-correction is not a pronoun or Freudian slip – she is saying precisely what she means. He needs to feed so we can feed. Lottie is trying to fatten him up a little. ‘You’ll understand soon enough’, she says. Shivers.
      And then when Nat sees Shauna successfully feeding and goes to tell the others, Shauna says no, she just wants a moment … and Nat says ‘But…’ then leaves it. But what? That the others will want to know … that they won’t be starving for too much longer? The next scene in this timeline: the feast. All in poor Shauna’s feverish and tormented but perfectly rational mind.

      So subtle. So sad. But gee what magnificent direction.

  35. I’ve given birth twice and the most disturbing thing to me in this episode was getting flashbacks of how animalistic you become when your baby is separated from you and you don’t know — even briefly– where they are. It was odd to me that Nelisse nailed that emotional state so well when she has no actual experience with it. Wow. It wasn’t a cliche (altho the screaming in labor sort of was) which I appreciated. I feel like the writers are still doing deep-dive research on these sorts of moments and how they would likely play in a cabin full of teen girls, and it works.

    One thing I am also always on the watch for in this show is evidence of the “trauma creates criminals” trope, which I thought mayyyybe they were starting to do with Shauna and more recently Taissa. What do folks think about that? Assuming her wife survives, Tai doesn’t have a (human) body count that we know of in the way that Shauna and Lottie and Misty do, but it’s still a bit concerning that this episode sort of cements Shauna into more of a hardened criminal who knows how to misdirect and lie to the cops, and also presents the way in which her trauma in the woods is among the most intense. (Javi and Van being the obvious contenders for that honor.) And they aren’t even addressing the very upsetting fact that Lottie killed Travis!

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