This is your Yellowjackets 207 recap, where we’re diving into “Burial,” written by Rich Monahan and directed by Liz Phang. Catch up on past recaps, continue to support the writers strike, and buckle in for another long recap about this delightfully disturbing television program!
Following last week’s knockout of an episode, Yellowjackets is back with the equally brutal “Burial.” It’s the first episode where we get to see all of the surviving adult Yellowjackets (that we know of) in one place, and they’re all doing various levels of BAD, mental and physical health-wise. But before we get into that, let’s open with the opening.
“Burial” opens on sweeping shots of the wilderness, covered in endless snow. “Something in the Way” by Nirvana plays — “underneath the bridge / tarp has sprung a leak / and the animals I’ve trapped / have all become my pets / and I’m living off of grass / and the drippings from my ceiling” — and we move into the cabin, where everyone is in a deep, dark depression. Quite literally dark: a blizzard dampens any sunlight that might creep into the space. Shauna won’t drink water no matter how hard Tai tries to convince her. She clutches a fury bundle, and it almost looks like a child clinging to a beloved stuffed bear, but we know it isn’t that at all. She’s holding her stillborn baby.
Lottie notices that the blizzard has finally stopped. It seems they’ve all been stuck indoors since the birth. They get the door open, and snow spills in, along with a small sliver of light. Spirits are up…for everyone except Shauna. Tai suggests softly that perhaps a walk might do her some good, but Shauna doesn’t move, doesn’t speak.
She won’t join the others, but she does have something she needs to do. As everyone else works to dig in the snow, she finds a quiet spot on her own, places the bundle on the ground and, because she can’t bury him in the frozen, snow-covered earth, uses stones to erect a small, makeshift tomb. “It’s you and me against the whole world,” she says, an echo of her words in the sequence from last episode that turned out not be reality. Many commenters speculated it wasn’t even just a nightmare but rather Shauna moving some sort of spectral plane after briefly dying, sort of like how Jackie saw everyone plus the dead guy in the cabin as she died in the cold. I’m leaning toward this interpretation, too, that Shauna wasn’t just unconscious after her rough labor but also dead for a moment. Later, we see just how much blood she lost, the blanket beneath her soaked with it as Van and Tai help clean up. The sight of it brings back Shauna’s “memories” of seeing everyone eating her baby, which we know did not actually happen but which nonetheless of course feels real to Shauna, even if she did hold his body in her arms. She can’t bury the paranoia, the grief, the overwhelming sense that something awful was done to her, to her baby. She throws it in the fire. But you can’t burn away those feelings either.
Over at Camp Lottie, it’s one big not-so-happy reunion for the adult Yellowjackets. “I’m sorry, have you two joined a cult since we last saw you?” Tai asks Nat and Lottie, who calmly explain that actually this is an intentional community full of intentions, okay?! Van looks very much unconvinced. Nat opens up and shares how she was about to kill herself and that her walls are finally starting to come down here. “We brought some really dark shit back with us from that place, so maybe now we can actually start dealing with it,” she says. I used to think Nat was sort of just playing Lottie’s game in order to get information out of her or the upperhand — and I do think that’s what even Nat thought she was doing at the beginning. But I don’t think so anymore. I think something shifted during the EMDR session. I believe Natalie when she says she’s experiencing genuine healing here (though, I admittedly think that has more to do with Lisa than with Lottie). Again, Van doesn’t look convinced.
We pop back over to the past where we can see some of those shifts happening in Van, how she went from firmly believing in Lottie’s rituals to very clearly, as an adult, being wary of it all. Tai and Van are digging in the snow together, and Tai starts crying. Losing the baby was traumatic for everyone, and Shauna most of all of course, but there really was some extra special bond that formed between Tai and Shauna, almost like Tai was fulfilling the role of a partner during this process. It wasn’t necessarily romantic, but it was just as intimate as romance. She’s grieving something that feels very specific but also very confusing.
Van, now, is the practical one, a role reversal for the teen versions of these characters. She points out that even if the baby did live, it wouldn’t change the fact that his mother is starving, that they’re all starving. “I just think it’s time we woke up,” she says, and Tai bristles, says that doesn’t sound like her. Van responds:
“I kept surviving all this shit that should have killed me, and I you know, I figured it meant something. You know like maybe it meant that I had some kind of purpose in all of this, but uh yeah, I’m not fucking seeing it Tai.”
Of course Van wants to see her pattern of almost dying and then NOT dying as something more than luck. If it’s just luck, if it’s just chance, then their chances of survival are also contingent upon fucking LUCK, something that cannot be controlled, cannot be predicted. If she survived because of some greater force, it means there’s control. It means she has a role to play, an objective to satisfy. Tai says she has done so much for her, helped her see, helped her sleep, saved her life. “I need you, Van,” she says. “I need you, too,” Van replies. “But I need to know why the fuck I’m still here.” We can see her grip on Lottie’s beliefs start to slip.
Speaking of Lottie’s beliefs, apparently it is a tradition upon arrival at her intentional community to pick something from a menu of treatments — for which there are no descriptions. It’s a little convenient that there are exactly as many treatments offered as there are new Yellowjackets on the compound, but perhaps the wilderness planned it that way. The options are self-care, guidance, forage, and renewal. Adult Van reiterates that none of this is for her, and she says she’s glad Nat is alive and Lottie is back from Switzerland. Lottie is surprised by this statement. She says that was like a decade ago, and now it’s Van who’s surprised.
There does seem to be some sort of disconnect between the rest of the Yellowjackets and Lottie as to where she has been for the past decade. We saw earlier this season that Lottie refused to eat and speak when she first got out of the wilderness, prompting her parents to force her into electroshock therapy and also an institution in Switzerland. She’s a teen in these scenes, and yet it seems the other Yellowjackets think wherever Lottie went, whatever she experienced 25 years ago has been what she has just always been. I can’t tell if this is just a result of their own mental health assumptions and stigmas — which are indeed pervasive — or if there’s something else at play. Why have they been so disconnected from Lottie? Even Tai who hired a private investigator to keep tabs on all the survivors seems to have missed this one. Even MISTY missed this. Did Lottie’s parents basically disappear her when they placed her in an institution and tell others she was locked away forever? I can definitely see that based on what we’ve seen of her father so far. Was it just easier for them all to accept Lottie was gone forever because of something she awakens in each of them? The beginnings of which we can see as they start to go through their therapy treatments.
Lottie asks Shauna which she’d like first, and with a perfect line reading from Melanie Lynskey, she replies: “Um, yeah, all my rational instincts are just kind of screaming?” She goes with self-care. Misty takes guidance, Tai takes renewal, and that leaves skeptical Van with forage. They’re all asked to text the number of a landline on the grounds to someone on the outside as an emergency contact and then must give.up their phones, the first thing Van does willingly, because of course she hates cellphones, she wants to live like it’s 1995 forever.
Shauna follows the directions to her self-care treatment and is perplexed to find herself in a barn full of livestock rather than in a spa with a massage therapist. A man hands her a goat. Or, he tries to hand her a goat, but Shauna refuses to take said goat in a great bit of physical comedy from Lynskey. The man explains that self-care means taking care of the goat for the rest of the day, and if she refuses the treatment then she’ll have to spend the day mucking out the barn instead. Shauna is very concerned about what “babysit this goat” really means. She’s convinced Lottie’s going to have her spend all day with the goat, get attached, and then have to slit its throat at the end. Of course this is where her mind goes; once the butcher, always the butcher. The goat’s name, by the way, is Bruce. Bruce officially joins a few others — Nugget the pocket mouse, Steve the replacement dog, and Gilly the goldfish — on my Protect the Animals of Yellowjackets watchlist. Caligula is not on this list, because Caligula can fend for himself.
At the cabin, Ben watches the others work outside, but his mind glitches, interrupted by the ringing of a telephone and by the TV static lines that indicate he’s slipping into his fantasy space with Paul. But now, any lines between reality and this fantasy space have been eradicated completely. Paul punctures through Ben’s reality and appears to him in the cabin. He’s on the phone, and he says to someone on it “look, he isn’t ready.” I think it’s safe to say death is literally calling for Ben. We’ve seen Jackie — and likely Shauna — slipping through the seams of reality on the precipice of death, and I think that’s what we’re starting to see here with Ben, too. He has sunk into a depression that feels not unlike dying. The lines of his reality are glitching and staticky. Paul has punctured through, a manifestation of all of Ben’s regret, of the ache of queer loneliness in the closet, of lost love and a lost sense of self.
Paul says they have to go. “What matters now is that you aren’t welcome here anymore,” Paul says. Ben asks what he did. “You didn’t do anything. It’s just time. It’s just time. I love you. We all love you, Ben.” I think this scene would come off as corny or maybe even obtuse if it weren’t for the stellar performance François Arnaud brings to it. He sells the hell out of it, and the scene becomes genuinely moving. Ben follows Paul outside and shouts “PAULLLLL” to the wilderness. Again, a set of antlers are behind him, and correct me if I’m off in my antler identification skills, but I believe these are moose antlers again, no? Which would mean the second time the show is drawing a direct comparison between the frozen moose in the lake and Ben, which makes me very worried about Ben’s fate.
And we almost get a tragic fate here.
But before we get to that, first, the drama of the search for Crystal, who shall not be found.
While everyone’s out digging in the snow, Misty overhears the other JV girls talking about her. At first, it’s the exact kind of stuff she likes to hear, Akilah praising her for handling Shauna’s delivery so bravely. But then mean girl Mari (who I love) shifts the tone and wonders if Misty might be even more psychotic than they already thought. Why isn’t she looking for her missing bestie? Mari points out she poisoned Ben when she was in love with him, so maybe she also did something bad to Crystal. Misty, of course, hates to hear this, and if I were Mari, I would not say anything negative about Misty even if I thought she wasn’t nearby! An upset Misty is a scary Misty!
Ben is in the cabin shaving his face. But it doesn’t feel like this is signaling a lift out of his depressive state. It seems like he’s preparing for something. Misty gathers everyone and puts on a big show about how she knows they’re all sad they lost the baby but that Crystal could be out there, and they need to look for her. Ben jumps in to say she’s right: If Javi survived for a few months, then perhaps Crystal could survive a few days. We still don’t know how the hell Javi survived, but we do know that wherever/however it happened, Crystal was not so fortunate.
JV Melissa wonders if the wilderness took Crystal like it took the baby, and it’s floated that maybe there was a trade. Maybe the wilderness took the baby in exchange for the blizzard stopping. Lottie jumps in to say it doesn’t work that way. The wilderness, she claims, gave them exactly what they wanted by saving Shauna. I knew this would be how Lottie justified the efficacy of the group’s prayers and offerings. The group’s speculation on what the wilderness is or is not doing only highlights that the wilderness isn’t doing shit but also that it’s easy — and soothing! — to ascribe meaning and ritualism to any set of circumstances. There isn’t something supernatural happening here, but there are characters who think there’s something supernatural here, and that’s just as significant of a force as something actually supernatural. Everyone joins hands for a little round of “we hear the wilderness and it hears us,” which I maintain is just a nice little mindfulness exercise Lottie accidentally created.
A hilarious interlude follows in which Gen and Melissa talk around cannibalism, saying it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they found Crystal dead and that “it would be disrespectful to the wilderness to waste it.” There’s a delightful ongoing thread on Twitter about the comedy of Yellowjackets, and I hope to see this conversation make its way into it, because it’s so fucking funny. Misty, somehow always a fly on the wall, does not think it’s so funny! She storms out of the cabin.
Misty puts on an acting performance using the skills Crystal taught her as she cries and screams for her friend, who she knows very well is dead. She convinces the other JV girls she isn’t in the right headspace for all this, and they tell her to just go back to the cabin. Misty splits off to go to the last place she saw Crystal, sprawled and dead. “I’m not gonna let them eat you, Kristen,” she says to herself. So Misty doesn’t want anyone to eat her bestie. I don’t think this is necessarily coming from a place of protectiveness over Crystal but rather a sense of ownership. The subtext, to me, is that if anyone is going to consume Crystal, it’s her best friend.
Misty descends the cliff to look for Crystal, but troublingly, her body is nowhere to be found. It’s unclear, but it seems as if the body has possibly been moved? Either that or she’s just beneath a LOT of snow. When Misty gives up and climbs back to the top, she finds Ben walking to the cliff’s edge. She shouts for him to stop. “I’m not gonna keep losing everything,” Ben says. Then, he asks Misty if she could just push him off. A wildly unfair ask to make, especially of a TEEN GIRL who was once in love with him, but he doesn’t mean it cruelly. It’s what he truly wants, and Misty just happens to be there.
Misty then runs through a gamut of strategies to get him not to kill himself. She says they need his strength. She says if he kills himself then they’ll eat him, and she’ll particularly enjoy his “high calorie butt meat.” She says that when they get saved, she’ll tell the whole world about their love story, no actually, she’ll tell them worse. She’ll tell them he impregnated Shauna and then tried to impregnate all of them. She plays her final card, the one that’s meant to undo him: “I will tell the whole world that you’re gay,” she screams.
“Do it,” Ben says. “Tell them.”
This isn’t a weapon that can be used against him anymore. If anything, it wasn’t until Ben lost so much of himself and his life that he could finally accept this huge part of who he is. He became most secure of his queerness in the wilderness, and he isn’t contemplating suicide because he’s gay. He’s contemplating suicide because he genuinely doesn’t see a future for himself — regardless of his queerness. He’s starving; he’s the adult, but he has no real power over this group. In fact, his adulthood makes him more isolated than the others. There is no one else to talk to his own age, so instead he has taken to talking to his boyfriend in his imagination. He couldn’t help Shauna. He doesn’t have Paul, and he blames himself for not being able to show up fully for Paul. His depression and his suicidal thoughts aren’t a product of being closeted or of accepting his queerness, and yet his queerness is still inextricable from this moment. The fact that Misty thinks she can use it against him is so telling — of the time, of Ben’s lived experiences as a closeted teacher and coach. But he doesn’t grant her that power.
It isn’t until Misty tries a new tactic — perhaps others will think she’s genuine here, but I think it could be yet another masterful Misty manipulation — and breaks down crying, saying she can’t have another death on her hands, that she tried the best she could with Shauna’s baby and still failed, that Ben steps back. I don’t think it ultimately matters if Misty is being truthful or putting on a performance here, because what matters is that Ben believes it. Now I wonder if Misty is going to somehow use this against him, surveilling him the way she did in season one and call it placing him on suicide watch. Misty is at her peak power when she feels she is being useful, when she feels she is protecting or saving others. The fucked up thing is that she’s willing to sabotage them so they need that saving in the first place, a la destroying the emergency transmitter box, which we shall return to in a bit.
During the search for Crystal, Lottie pulls Tai aside and tells the others to give them a minute. Lottie suggests that maybe she could tap into whatever made Tai find Javi to now find Crystal, but Tai says it won’t work. She isn’t sleepwalking anymore, which means Other Tai is gone, and she’s the one who knew where Javi was. “She’s not gone,” Lottie says. “And that’s a good thing, Tai.” We then jump into the present timeline, where Tai is busy with her therapy treatment, which apparently is just painting a rather large building with a rather small brush. She gives up on the task and grabs Lottie. She tells her she’s sleepwalking again and that she needs help. Here, Lottie echoes a bit of her younger self’s sentiments, saying that Other Tai had a connection with the wilderness and her own wisdom. Tai says Other Tai wants to hurt her family, and Lottie responds that that might not be what she actually wants; she might just not want to be repressed.
It’s difficult not to apply a queer reading to these conversations between Lottie and Tai in both timelines, and yet I also am having some difficult parsing out exactly what that queer reading means. Certainly queer people understand this tension between selves and the intense side effects of sexual repression — side effects that can be psychological as well as physical! Other Tai doesn’t perfectly represent Tai’s queerness though, as Tai is very out as an adult and now pretty much fully out as a teen, too. But I actually like that the metaphor is more complicated than a straightforward 1:1 possession as allegory for queer repression. Because even if she’s technically out, Tai does repress a lot of things. All the Yellowjackets do, but Tai’s specific brand of repression has been that she always does what she thinks she’s supposed to do versus what she actually wants to do. This is articulated so clearly in the season one episode where she has that sleepover with Shauna and confessed that she no longer feels “it” with Simone and also that none of the by-the-book events of her life post-wilderness feel real to her. I’m interested in the fact that a queer character is contending with repression and the push and pull of desire but in a way where her queerness itself is not the thing demonized and made into a monstrous identity. I think I ultimately agree with Lottie that it’s possible Other Tai isn’t entirely evil, but I think even when Lottie is well intentioned, she also has a tendency to accidentally push people in the wrong direction.
While the others look for Crystal, Shauna seeks some alone time in the meat shed. She looks at the corner where Jackie’s frozen corpse once rested, and she begs for her best friend to return to her. Even though she knows these conversations were never real, she needs one. But Shauna’s mind does not conjure Jackie, likely because there’s some semblance of closure to the ritual of consuming Jackie’s body. We do know that in adulthood, Shauna does start seeing Jackie again, but the fact that she doesn’t show up in this moment is so indicative of just how alone and cracked apart Shauna feels. Even her delusions can’t be there for her.
In the adult timeline, Shauna is still struggling with Bruce. Misty, trying to evade her own therapy treatment of locking herself in a sensory deprivation water tank, comes across Shauna in the woods. Shauna tied up Bruce, but he chewed through the rope. Misty offers to help look for him and even has a pocket snack to bait him with, because she has been hoarding food just in case the cult starts imposing caloric restriction as a means of control. In her own little Misty way, it’s kinda sweet how quickly she jumps to helping Shauna, even asking if the goat has a name. But…it is indeed in her own little Misty way, because she also says she’s surprised Shauna is so disturbed by the thought of slaughtering a goat when she was so quick to get stabby with her boyfriend. Shauna doesn’t like this, and Misty says she was just “joshing” her. Of course Misty thinks this is fodder for playful bonding. But Shauna says she isn’t like her, doesn’t treat killing like a joke. It may be true that Shauna doesn’t joke around about murder, but her attempts to distance herself from Misty doesn’t really hold up given her moment at the chop shop in “Digestif.” Misty says it seems like Shauna isn’t even grateful for her helping out with Adam, and Shauna says she’s grateful, “I really am very grateful that your hobby seems to be figuring out how to be the perfect serial killer.”
Again, it’s not entirely fair for Shauna to judge Misty, who fires back: “Well, you’re not that innocent either.” “I know that, Misty,” Shauna says. “Don’t you think I know that?” I think the adult Yellowjackets often fall into the trap of comparing themselves to each other and trying to decide who’s more fucked up. But that, my friends, is a race to the fucking bottom.
Misty is collected by an acolyte to return to her treatment, and Shauna makes her way back to the barn, where she begs goat man to help her out with Bruce. She thinks he might be sick from eating rope, but she’s only going off what she knows from cartoons. It is, admittedly, kind of funny watching Shauna flailing in the face of handling an animal when we’ve seen how deft she is at slaughtering animals. She knows how to butcher them exquisitely but not how to care for them. How’s that for a parenting metaphor?
“The kid’s care is entwined with your own,” goat man says, using “kid” of course to mean baby goat. But Shauna nonetheless bristles at the invocation of a motherly role. Callie’s care is entwined with her own.
Shauna spots Lottie and goes to her. Through tears, she says she isn’t going to kill this goat. Lottie says that isn’t what’s happening at all, that Shauna will in no way be asked to kill Bruce. Shauna’s reaction is heartbreaking. “Wait really? I really don’t? Oh Bruce,” she says, still crying, her voice sweet.
But, she says, she isn’t crying about Bruce, not really. “I don’t really know what’s happening right now,” Shauna admits, her emotions firing wildly. She opens up to Lottie just like Tai did. She says she has kept Callie at arm’s length out of fear she would die or maybe out of a fear she was never even real to begin with. She tries to tell herself she’s okay and that she is safe to just call her her own, to be her mom. But it’s difficult. “I think something’s broken, Lottie. I just can’t do it.” Shauna’s complicated feelings toward motherhood of course make sense due to the devastating stillbirth she experienced as a teenager. And there’s more than just that, too. Shauna lost so much in the woods: her best friend’s trust and love and then her best friend for good. Callie is now the age or perhaps even past the age she was when Shauna’s life was interrupted and unmade. To be close to Callie would be a vulnerability, would mean she could lose her. It’s easier, then, to push her away, to ignore her, to play the role of the nagging mother who doesn’t even really know where her daughter is most of the time. She’d probably prefer to just tie Callie to a post so nothing could happen to her, forgetting, of course, that rope doesn’t hold forever. Callie would surely find a way to break free just like Bruce.
And now, for Misty’s therapy treatment. The water tank portal to musical theater land. Misty reluctantly gets in the tank at Lisa’s insistence. The lights go off. A strange sci-fi-horror-esque light scans her body. At first, she just sees flashes of disturbing underwater imagery, screaming dolphins and alarming fish and whatnot. But then things get progressively weirder all at once. A neon animated bird flutters across the screen before turning into an anthropomorphized costumed Caligula. It looks like someone in Cats but, instead, a bird. Elijah Wood as Walter in a top hat and brandishing a cane sings a little ditty alongside Caligula. In close-up, we see Misty smiling and bopping along to the song, animations swirling around her including one of the axe she used to chop off Ben’s leg and of the emergency transmitter box. Listen, I love a musical number, especially one that pops up in an unexpected place like here. That said, I do have to agree with my friend who said she wished the song was like 23% catchier.
The surreality does not stop there, oh no! Misty goes “backstage” to meet the man playing her pet bird, and it’s none other than the icon John Cameron Mitchell. Misty asks him for advice. “Caligula, when people look at me, do they just see someone desperate for love? Just some murderer?” I do love that she asks those specific questions in that specific order.
John Cameron Mitchell as Caligula insists everyone counts on Misty, that she always gets the ball over the goal line. “You are not a murderer, Misty,” he says. “You’re a closer.” This delights dear Misty, who really is just saying all of this to herself in this musical theater fugue state, which no is still not over! She next does a number with Walter where he taps out in morse code what I assume is something to the effect of “I love you,” but if anyone knows morse code, feel free to provide a direct translation in the comments! Misty thanks John Cameron Mitchell as Caligula and emerges from the tank, looking genuinely refreshed. She rushes to the sole landline on property and leaves a message for Walter, saying he was right “about the thing,” effectively confessing to having a role in Adam’s murder to this man who I do no think she can trust! This might seem out of character for Misty who is usually so careful about such matters, but I don’t think it is.
Again, the Yellowjackets are all repressed in some way. Misty is stunted by a youthful attachment to things like obsessive crushes and friendships. She mentally inflates her friendship with Nat, just like she now mentally inflates her connection with Walter. Again, I think this makes sense in the context of her experiences in the wilderness. Misty already had a tendency to become overly attached to and obsess over others. Then when she made her first real, genuine close friendship, that person died. Of course those tendencies became not only heightened but also locked in, something that cannot be outgrown.
Later, after night has fallen and everyone has completed their therapy treatments, Tai approaches a candlelit altar and takes off her wedding ring to place it there. “I don’t see how marrying that rock’s gonna solve any of your problems,” Van says. She’s sitting, drinking from the bottle of booze she “foraged” from her truck instead of doing whatever the hell the forage treatment was. Tai joins her, and the two kiss each other, for real this time, all passionate and desperate like they’re trying to pull something out of each other. Taissa stops and immediately starts apologizing. “Of course I have thought about it,” she confesses, but she isn’t ready, she doesn’t know what’s going on. Van stops her and says she can’t wait for her, literally, because she has cancer and maybe only a few months to live.
I saw some people predict this in the comments last week, and I know it’ll be a divisive development. I’m willing to see it through. I’m intrigued by the narrative significance of someone who has escaped death over and over now having terminal cancer. Lottie and Nat keep talking about having some abstract darkness inside them, but here’s Van saying there’s actually something inside her body trying to kill her. No metaphors, no abstractions. This scene between Tawny Cypress and Lauren Ambrose is really fucking good, the two of them capturing all the discomfort and confusion of the reveal. You can tell Van didn’t want to say anything at all; you can tell Taissa feels betrayed she wouldn’t. Van is kind of right and kind of wrong when she says “we don’t know each other.” Also, it must be said that Ambrose and Liv Hewson are…merging?! Their physical performances are just so in-line for each other. They might be mirroring the best of all the pairs. It’s thrilling to watch.
While these two are grappling with this, Lottie’s in her office with her psychiatrist — OR IS SHE. Lottie says she feels this is what “it” wants, it presumably being the wilderness. She says it wants for them to be together. “I feel it in my body,” she says. “It’s like, it’s like something that’s deep and primal. I haven’t felt that in years, and it feels wonderful. And yet, I also feel fucking terrified.”
The psychiatrist posits that perhaps the reunion strikes a primal cord because when Lottie was last with these women, she was free, she was her truest most authentic self. This is, I think, untrue. Lottie was not free in the wilderness; none of them were. She was just as lost as the rest of them, even if others decided to put her on a pedestal for her perceived powers. I think this is Lottie’s mental illness speaking, forcing her to conflate her illness with her identity. But I also struggle to have a strong grasp on Lottie’s relationship with her mental illness and with medication. How much agency did she have in her own medical decisions in her youth? Not a lot, it seemed. So maybe it is somewhat true that she was an authentic version of herself when she went off her meds in the wilderness, assuming she never wanted or needed to be on them in the first place. But if she did need to be on them, then yeah, it sounds like she’s confusing herself here. I can’t quite parse out which one it is, but I lean toward the interpretation that she was not her most authentic self in the wilderness but that she is regressing to a point of wanting to have supernatural and divine explanations for her problems and for events like the coming together of the Yellowjackets again.
“We hurt each other,” Lottie says. “People died.” The psychiatrist asks if there is anything of value in this life that doesn’t come with loss or risk or consequence. Finally, a reveal. The psychiatrist indeed is not real and instead morphs suddenly into the Antler Queen, who says: “Does a hunt that has no violence feed anyone?” Haunting words, to be sure. And they’re uttered by voices layered on top of each other, further supporting the theory that the Antler Queen could be all of the characters and not one specific individual. Unnerved, Lottie hears someone calling her name and looks around to see she’s in the room all by herself.
Now we get to the final segment of the episode, which manages to be simultaneously super fun and super fucked up, the two timelines wildly disparate in terms of tone and yet stitched together to dazzling effect. It’s like a microcosm of this show: comedy, horror, violence, and revelry all smashed together.
First, we stay fixed in the adult timeline. Nat has gathered the others to see how their treatments went, but Misty, Shauna, Tai, and Van are all tipsy, passing around a bottle of tequila. Even Misty is partaking, and she doesn’t usually like tequila! (Never forget when she called shots of tequila “shooters” in season one.) “Natalie Scatorccio is telling us not to fuck around?” Shauna asks, incredulous. She wants everyone to just hang out a bit. Van offers the bottle to Nat, but she declines. The Yellowjackets really are never respectful of her sobriety, are they? Tai can’t complain about paying her rehab and then be complicit to her drinking, but whatever! Toxic dynamics are kind of the adult Yellowjackets’ things.
Lottie is wandering the grounds, still in shock from her turns-out-it’s-not-real therapy session. She’s lured into the lodge where the others are laughing, drinking, and listening to Florence + the Machine. You know, booze and Florence, basically a surefire way to ensure a cavalcade of emotions. Lottie attempts to tell them to all go home, but it’s too late for that! They’re having fun now! Even Van, who’s like, just think of it as group therapy Lottie, but better because there’s alcohol. And sure enough, even ultra serious cult mommi Lottie cannot resist. She whips out a CRATE? of alcohol, and they all start doing shots. I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t point out…it’s pretty hot! Everyone is dancing and snuggling and getting loose together.
Later, they all sit on the floor, and it really does seem like a sleepover. Nat asks Misty about Walter, if he’s her boyfriend. Misty says they met online, but they haven’t defined the relationship yet. “When you know, you know,” Misty adds, prompting Van to say “does he know?” Frazzled, Misty throws out there that Nat slept with Kevyn Tan, and Shauna complains that she wants new gossip, not something she already knows. Lottie asks what that was like, and Nat says he wasn’t goth when they fucked, adding that she should ask Misty because she watched. There’s a bit of confusion and intrigue over that among the group, but then Misty pivots by asking “that first summer, do you guys remember–”
Van interrupts her. That first summer? The one in the wilderness? That’s how she words it? She wants to reminisce about the worst time in their lives? That’s Misty for you, always confusing circumstances and stakes. To her, that really was like their first summer together. It was a time of camaraderie and community building.
Now Nat has a question for real. “How much do you guys remember?” she asks. “I remember. It’s just, some things are hazier.”
“Yeah. Like they’ve just been stuffed somewhere deep down,” Tai answers. “If I’m repressing things I don’t know about, I am very okay with never figuring it out,” Shauna says. Lottie points out that even if certain memories are repressed, they have a way of manifesting in other ways beyond recollections, like compulsive behavior, addiction, disease. “We’re all deeply familiar with the terrible parts,” Van interjects, breaking off from the group. Tai follows.
This is something I’ve been wondering for a while now: How much do they remember? This conversation makes it clear that it’s perhaps less than we may think. They all agreed not to talk to the press, to their families about what really happened, but I think there are parts they can’t talk about. Because they don’t remember. Because it was so traumatic out there and they were delirious from starvation and isolation that the memories aren’t like pictures they can revisit but strange and nebulous blobs they sometimes find themselves sinking into. Mental quicksand.
Off to the side, Tai tells Van she knows a specialist at Johns Hopkins, but Van dodges this by saying she loves the song that’s playing. She turns it up. It’s “Lightning Crashes” by Live And now, we get that Yellowjackets microcosm, that spliced sequence that’s part-violent-release, part-celebratory-release.
In the cabin, Shauna hears Misty humming, and it reminds her of the horror sequence leading up to her seeing the others devour her baby. In the lodge, the adult Yellowjackets notice its snowing and run outside. In the cabin, Shauna shouts “you killed my fucking baby.”
She accuses them of eating her baby, and they try to grab her, and Tai says she’s acting crazy, and Shauna bites Van’s arm to break free. She punches Misty. Lottie steps in, and Shauna punches her. Lottie tells Travis, calmly, to take Javi to the bedroom. She places her hands behind her back. “Shauna, I know there’s a lot of pain right now, but let it out. Shauna, we need you to let it out,” Lottie says, and Shauna hits her again. She pummels her. She beats the shit out of Lottie, kicks her, punches her, just absolutely annihilates her. The rest of the characters watch on in horrified silence.
This brutal beatdown is intercut with the adult Yellowjackets dancing in the snow around a fire. They swirl, and they laugh. The camera cuts back and forth between the younger versions of themselves and their adults selves. We see Shauna as an adult handing a bottle to Lottie, and then we see Teen Shauna battering Lottie. The contrast is so sharp that it’s almost like these aren’t the same people at all, and in a way, that’s true.
Shauna beats Lottie until she physically cannot anymore. Lottie is lifeless next to her, unrecognizable, her face a bloodied, burst plum. Shauna urges her to get up, and at first she doesn’t move. Then she gasps for breath. Shauna walks away, and the others finally start moving. “What the fuck?” Nat says as they all rush Lottie. It’s like they were frozen and have now been unpaused.
Outside, Shauna plunges her bloodied knuckles into the snow to freeze her wounds.
Back at Camp Lottie, the fireside dance and revelry is interrupted by someone saying there’s an urgent call for Shauna. Jeff tells her Adam Martin’s remains have been discovered.
Much like I urged y’all to rewatch last week’s episode after the reveal that Shauna’s baby was dead, I urge you to rewatch this episode and study Shauna and Lottie’s interactions knowing that Shauna beat Lottie to near-death when they were teens. It’s striking not because you’ll catch a subtle tension between them but rather because there are almost no indications of this tension between them as adults. It is like it’s locked away in a vault. If they’re barely able to access this traumatic memory, then what else are they repressing? The adult versions of the characters are practically as much in the dark as we are about everything that happened out there. All the back and forth between close shots of each of the Yellowjackets faces during the cabin beatdown and then to them as adults is some of the best work in terms of moving between the two timelines we’ve seen so far. It’s beyond dissonant; it’s tonal anarchy. And I think that’s what the adult Yellowjackets are feeling acutely, displaced in time and space here at the compound, reckoning with anarchic and anachronistic emotions. In coming together, they’re breaking open.
- Y’all…you can call the number to the landline at Lottie’s compound. I won’t spoil the experience for you, just try it for yourself: 607-478-1033. I am admittedly an extreme sucker for these kinds of things! It’s so fun!
- This is definitely a different version of the theme song, but according to the subtitles, it’s still sung by the original artists.
- Christina Ricci’s delivery of that unhinged voicemail for Walter…awards.
- Tawny wears the hell out of that field coat, and now I want one.
- Correct me if I’m wrong, but that was the first Nirvana needledrop of the series, yeah?
- The music is always good, but this might be the best episode as far as soundtrack goes.
- Now, I haven’t been delving too much into the shipping culture that has developed around this show in these recaps, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t, ahem, engaged with such things during my off hours. And even though I don’t usually include that stuff in these recaps, I mean, I do have EYES. I understand the appeal of adults Lottie/Nat, that’s for sure. And I feel like we were EATING in this ep! So much chemistry radiating between those two once Lottie gave in and decided to party! Neck nuzzling? Eye fucking? Sure, sure, they’re two old friends with a complicated past on a healing journey together, but who says that can’t also lead to…something else? Again, I have eyes.
- Ok why was my first thought upon seeing goat man “Shauna’s gonna fuck him” ????? I’m not even sure if that man is straight, I think I just want Shauna to have indiscriminate sex with a rando again. Sorry, Jeff, love you Jeff!
- Speaking of Jeff, even though he’s only in the episode for the briefest moment, Warren Kole gets a ton of comedic mileage out of Jeff trying to talk about Adam’s remains being discovered casually so as not to tip off any cops that might be listening into his calls.
- I literally cannot get over the fact that mere moments before we see Teen Shauna beat Lottie’s ass, we get this sweet and kinda flirty moment of them together as adults: