Each week Terry and Joe discuss the most recent episode of Showtime’s serialized thriller, Yellowjackets.
Spoilers follow for episode 5, ‘Blood Hive’
Plot: Out in the wilderness, the girls ride the crimson wave and plan a dark arts slumber party. Natalie (Juliette Lewis) and Misty (Christine Ricci) tame a Stallion. On Halloween night, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) parties like it’s 1996.
Happy Halloween, Terry! In the 1996 world of Yellowjackets, it’s Spooky Season and Jackie (Ella Purnell) makes the ill-advised decision to hold a seance for Dead Cabin Guy in an effort to win over the girls who notice that she’s not pulling her weight.
I really appreciated these early scenes as we see Tai (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Van (Liv Hewson) and others eying the captain with outright disdain as she sleeps late or struggles to carry a pail of water. When Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) pulls her friend aside to get candid, Jackie breaks down, complaining about her inability to both contribute and hold out. The reality is that the survivors have had a few weeks to adjust to their new situation, but they haven’t begun to process the trauma of their predicament because they’re too busy just surviving. Personally I really sympathize with Jackie, even when she comes off slightly petulant and whiny; it wouldn’t be easy to adjust to a completely new survivalist lifestyle.
Still, the group bonding attempt, which involves placing candles over the pre-existing marks in the attic and using Shauna as a speaker, is clearly a bad idea from the beginning. Tai, Laura Lee (Jane Widdop), Travis (Kevin Alves), Javi (Luciano Leroux) and Coach Scott (Steven Krueger) all initially opt to stay downstairs, but all of them save Coach slowly get lured up out of a mix of curiosity and danger.
And dangerous it gets: as we suggested last week, Lottie (Courtney Eaton) is incredibly receptive to this kind of energy and goes into a sort of trance, speaking fluent French and saying terrifying things like “It wants. Hungry” and “You must spill blood” before smashing her head into the window. So yeah…there’s definitely something supernatural going on here.
What’s interesting is how all of this is foreshadowed earlier in the episode by the matter of fact discussions about the women’s periods all synching up. On one hand, you can read what happens in the attic as a sort of group hysteria as the titular “Blood Hive” feeds on each other’s heightened emotional state. But even Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) and Travis’ discussion while out hunting hints at the way gender politics and superstition feed off each other: be it zoology or anthropology, there’s a long history of hiding away and blaming women who are on their menzies.
But Terry, I’m interested to hear your take on what happened in the attic, as well as the burgeoning intimacy in Tai’s relationships to Van (romantic!) and Shauna (platonic!) over the course of the episode.
Also: does this episode anticipate Jackie being ostracized from the group, and more specifically from Shauna (who returns the death necklace to her)? Did you like how all of the period talk was used to reveal Shauna’s pregnancy? And how great was the fake-out in 2021 when it turns out that adult Shauna (Lynskey) did actually see a girl in a Yellowjackets costume, it just turned out to be her mouthy daughter Callie (Sarah Desjardins)?
After the more measured “Bear Down,” Yellowjackets certainly upped the narrative ante this week, Joe. We’ve been tracking the Death Necklace’s location over the first half of the show (not that it’s really made much movement) and now it’s back with its owner. I think it’s probably too early in the season for it to be a definitive statement that Jackie was the person killed in “Pilot”’s cold open…but this episode absolutely hints at Jackie eventually being ostracized. It doesn’t seem as if Van has forgiven her for leaving her to burn in the plane, even though Jackie seems to think they’re even after she saved her from last episode’s prop plane. And if she’s not getting with the survival program, that’s only going to further sew doubt and frustration.
Complicating matters is Shauna’s potential pregnancy, which brings Tai closer to Shauna but is only going to widen the gap between Shauna and Jackie. And with Van obviously enjoying her makeout sessions with Tai, the beginnings of a split are becoming more and more evident.
On one hand, I appreciate the almost “kitchen sink” approach the show has been taking, mixing LOST-style flashbacks that have resonance, a gender riff on Lord of the Flies and, now, a supernatural/possession storyline that might hint at a true villain of the show. It certainly keeps the pacing moving, the action more thematic and the excitement boiling. It’s the kind of twists and turns that a water cooler show like Yellowjackets excels at, particularly in our current binge-loving pop culture. My notes are certainly filled with “Possession!” “Seance!” “Ghosts!” but I also have to admit I’m somewhat bummed about the potential for a Big Bad that’s supernatural.
I’ve kind of enjoyed what Yellowjackets suggested with its opening episode: Messy women who you might not like but will love to watch. Seeing the group splinter under pressure in 1996 mixed with seeing events play out in 2021 in similar fashion (paranoia, the characters truly leaning into their personalities, threats of violence, etc.) is far more interesting, personally, when it’s examining human nature.
What I’m afraid of is that the show will eventually magic-hand wave away their indiscretions and their messy lives in a, “we’re doing it to keep an ancient evil at bay.” So far, the show has done a decent job of playing in those gray areas, such as when Adult Natalie (Lewis) says, “Travis didn’t believe in any of this shit,” when she and Misty discover that Travis’s death might have been ritualistic.
After we get the seance in 1996, Adult Natalie and Misty (Ricci) also manage to cajole (read: threaten with fire) Misty’s hacker friend into hacking into Officer Kevyn (Alex Wyndham)’s file on Travis. As the two of them dig through the photos of Travis’s crime scene, Misty discovers wax smudges on the ground that, when aligned correctly, look as if someone arranged candles around his body in the same shape as the runes that continually pop up.
So Natalie’s question is a good one: if Travis didn’t believe in any of the supernatural elements you mentioned above, Joe, then why would he be targeted with a ritualistic slaying? The answer, of course, is that whoever killed him (I’m ruling out suicide at this point), didn’t do it for his benefit, but for theirs.
The other gray area is with Jackie’s ghost and the funny (yet disturbing) way it turns out to be Callie this episode. What I find so fascinating about this development is that in 1996, Shauna has been secretly sleeping with Jeff behind Jackie’s back. And in the first episode, adult Shauna is introduced masturbating while looking at the photo of Callie’s boyfriend. And now, in a full circle moment, Callie is dressed as Jackie. I’m not sure what to make of that, yet…but it’s certainly fascinating.
But we’ve only covered about half of the things going on in “Blood Hive,” Joe, so I want to turn it back to you. As you mentioned above, Teen Natalie and Travis hunt this episode and flirt over ammo…do you buy their burgeoning relationship? If/when there is a fracture in the group, where do you think their loyalties lie? Speaking of loyalties and relationships…do you think Coach Scott played Misty correctly this episode? What do you make of Adult Tai’s relationships in 2021, particularly between her, her family and her political aspirations? And who (or what) exactly did she see at her press conference?
Let’s tackle Coach’s approach with Misty first, because that scene was absolutely fascinating. Initially I thought Yellowjackets was treading into icky “teacher/student relationship” territory (there’s still a ton of contemporary YA that treads in this area). Thankfully it becomes clear relatively quickly that Coach is placating the lovesick teen girl in order to appease her and protect himself. After all, she did try to poison him in this episode, so it’s in his best interest to keep her calm.
The bigger question is whether Misty fell for this charade, and it’s here that I’m unsure. I think we’ll find out fairly quickly whether she’s playing him in the same way that he’s playing her; after all…she’s still kicking around in 2021 and he, from what we know, is not.
As for teen Natalie and Travis…this seems relatively straightforward to me and, given the number of simmering mysteries, I think this is a fairly surface-level “what you see is what you get” plot development. It’s important for the 1996 sections to establish why 2021 Nat is so invested in uncovering the specifics of Travis’ death, so I’m taking the 90s scenes at face value. And it’s kinda cute, right, seeing them banter last week about his fellatio-inspired nickname and move into tentative make-out territory here. If anything, ‘96 is starting to get horny, Terry: as everyone settles into their new lives for the long haul, we’re seeing new relationships and different types of relationships emerge.
My question is where will they side in the forthcoming rift? I’m beginning to think the folks we’re seeing in 2021 are the survivors’ side. If nothing else, the oft-repeated pact of silence we’ve seen repeated in the present-day scenes and the relationship between Tai, Nat and Shauna at episode’s end (when the shit hits the fan) suggests they were very close back in ‘96.
Speaking of 2021, we have Tai and her family drama. Rescinding on her promise to drop out of the race is completely unsurprising, but there are at least two percolating mysteries at work: who did she see during her press conference and who wrote “SPILL” in red paint on her door? The latter is a little ridiculous because even though Tai blames Sammy (Aiden Stoxx) after finding paint under his bed, the writing is clearly not the handiwork of a child (for one thing, it’s far too tall!). So the lady in the tree mystery prevails…
As for the mystery vision: I actually messaged you after I watched the episode and we both agree that we think it’s Javi…minus his eyes. So in addition to Jackie likely being a casualty of 1996, it now seems safe to suggest that Javi is another victim. Yellowjackets is so expert at keeping its cards close to its chest that I delight in these tantalizing teases about who lives and dies in the past.
But Terry, I’m curious to hear if you’re more invested in Tai’s political drama this week after our discussion last week? Did you like how Shauna turned the tables on Callie to ensure her daughter doesn’t spill the beans about the “50 Shades of Grey bus tour”? Were you surprised that a) Misty bugged the owl aroma diffuser or b) the others cut her out? And what are your predictions for the next episode?
I messaged you offline, Joe, that I realized there was more going on this episode than I initially realized. And the question of Misty is at the top of my stack of questions.
If ‘96 is teaching us anything about Misty, it’s that she sees herself as a kind of puppet master. She’s still living high on the thrill of taking charge back in “F Sharp”, making decisive moves in chopping off and cauterizing Coach’s mangled leg. And, of course, she completely masterminded their continued lostness, destroying the plane’s recorder and ensuring they won’t be found for another 19 months. When her leadership was jokingly challenged in “Bear Down” because of her relationship with Coach, she trips him.
It’s the same kind of manipulative bullying she continues in 2021 when she tortured her elderly patient by denying her pain medication. If there’s one thing Yellowjackets has shown me about Misty, it’s that she likes to control people, set up dominoes and then watch them fall…but just the way she likes. I shouldn’t have been surprised when she gave Natalie the aroma diffuser (I was), but it was the way she was watching them with a smile on her face that was even more telling.
I don’t think she ever mentally left the Ontario wilderness.
I’m curious to see where her 1996 story leads us, but I’d hazard a guess that it’s to a position of immense power. And I would not be surprised if all the 2021 drama is, at least partially, because of her inability to let go of that. Why it took 25 years to percolate into whatever is happening in 2021 is a conundrum…but whatever is going on, I think she’s at least somewhat responsible.
As for the rest of the 2021 crew, I was not surprised that Tai pulled back at the last minute, though the way it unfolded seemed like a completely different Adult Tai than we’re used to. She’s spent the first four episodes a little meek and uncertain, with flourishes of anger (such as with the influential woman at last week’s party). The way she turned on a dime and commanded the press conference felt out of character, but also felt more like a person who would be seeking election. That said, in an episode teeming with the whisper of possession, her newfound anger, poise and manipulation felt like a woman possessed.
Finally, Melanie Lynskey continues to have a blast playing Shauna and I love the way she manages to out-blackmail her own daughter. In a series with fascinating and messy characters, Shauna continues to be one of my favorites. I’m hoping we’ll see more of Shauna getting her adult life together, as well as more fallout from the seance, in the next episode. I’d also like to get more clarity about Misty’s adult life and start to unravel a bit of the mystery there.
Will we? I guess we’ll find out when we go back to Gayly Dreadful for Episode 6, “Saints.”
Yellowjackets airs Sundays on Showtime