The following recap contains spoilers for Yellowjackets S2E7, “Burial” (written by Rich Monahan & Liz Phang and directed by Anya Adams)
Structurally speaking, the Shauna/Adam Martin storyline forms the main plot of Yellowjackets, so it’s no surprise that S2E7 returns to it to close out the hour. Jeff (Warren Kole) calls the compound’s landline to let Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) know that the cops have found the remains she was responsible for hiding, and while he is smart enough to be a little oblique in how he relays this information, the water around the Sadeckis is certainly getting hotter.
Unfortunately, that means the reunion of adult Yellowjackets is pretty sure to be disrupted. It’s possible they’ll join forces to help Shauna out of her jam, but if you’re at all like me what you really want is to hear the rest of what Misty (Christina Ricci) was going to ask everyone about their first summer in the wilderness.
That the Adam stuff forms the main plot from a formal point of view doesn’t mean it’s the most intriguing or compelling part of the series. At the same time, though, it makes perfect sense that the others don’t want to reminisce about what they did out there like it was going to high school. Van (Lauren Ambrose) in particular puts the kibosh on Misty’s attempt to stroll down memory lane, and we should note that Van is also the only one who doesn’t even attempt to undertake the therapy exercise she’s been assigned by Lottie (Simone Kessell). Instead, she decides to forage a bottle of booze from her truck and start drinking.
The burial of S2E7’s episode title is both literal and metaphorical. Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) makes a cairn for her lost baby. As an adult, she buried Adam’s (Peter Gadiot) dismembered body, which has now been dug up. But on a figurative level, burial signifies repression. Nat (Juliette Lewis) seems ready to excavate her trauma. Tai (Tawny Cypress) is as close to being willing to confront what’s going on with the Other One as she’s ever been. Shauna is resistant, but she plays along enough with the goat named Bruce to begin grappling with her issues about motherhood.
Van, though, isn’t having it. She wants to live in a nostalgia for a time that did not exist, at least for her—some possible past where she got to just sort out the good and bad Sandy Bullock movies and be a normal ‘90s teen. She and Tai make out a bit by the fire, and the world rejoices until Tai cuts it off with apologies. And then Van tells her she’s dying of cancer.
We still don’t know exactly what happened between these two or when they split up. We do know from previous comments about attending Shauna’s wedding together that it was some time after they returned to civilization. And we might infer from the way this scene unfolds in S2E7 that it was more Tai’s decision to end their relationship than it was Van’s. I don’t want to hang too much on this mystery because it could be something really boring and mundane like they separated when Tai went to law school, but I am curious about it.
Speaking of boring and mundane, I don’t think that Lottie’s wellness group is that, exactly, but I am more confident than ever that everything about it is just as it seems to be, with no secret cultish stuff hiding behind a proverbial curtain. I know some viewers have been waiting for lurid details, but I just don’t think they exist.
The exercises and rituals they perform are a bit weird, but honestly we probably saw the weirdest thing first. And if you want to get naked, climb in a hole, and pretend to be buried while people dance around in animal masks, I say more power to you. Sounds kind of cathartic.
(I want to join Lottie’s cult.)
As for Lottie, it seems that I was on the right track with a prediction I made last week that was honestly a bit tongue-in-cheek. She has another session with her substitute shrink in “Burial,” but it turns out the psychiatrist isn’t really there. Before that’s revealed, she starts encouraging Charlotte to embrace the version of herself that she was in the wilderness because that’s her authentic self.
I don’t know about you, but I largely continued to think Lottie just had a terrible therapist right up until she started suggesting that killing people maybe isn’t so bad and turned into the Antler Queen. A psychiatrist giving awful guidance is unfortunately realistic. But no! Shenanigans!
Lottie is not OK, but I love it.
Back in 1996, as the episode nears its conclusion, Shauna beats Lottie (Courtney Eaton) to a bloody pulp in a montage soundtracked by Live’s “Lightning Crashes.” It may not be the coolest use of the song in the history of TV, but it’s definitely the most affecting, as we cut back and forth with scenes of the women dancing together in 2021.
Shauna’s pain erupts into violence in the past, while in the present we see how that’s been covered over. All of these women have somehow found a way to go on living despite what happened to them, and if they’ve repressed it, the adult timeline centers around a return of the repressed.
Lottie remarks that it’s no surprise if they can’t remember everything they did in the wilderness because they were in an ecstatic state. I want to note that she seems here to be using the term in its technical sense, where an ekstasis is an experience that takes one outside of oneself and outside of the normal flow of time. It precisely doesn’t fit in with the rest of lived experience. Lottie’s not saying they were all blissed out doing cannibalism, though maybe they were. No judgment.
Lottie wants to help, and she’s always wanted to help. She gives Shauna permission to pummel her because Shauna needs to let that pain out, and she’s not wrong about that. Indeed, in general, Lottie is not wrong about the need to confront and acknowledge the darkness within ourselves, but we see the danger here.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see where Yellowjackets takes this narrative line because this is what the story is about. The trauma lies not just in what happened to them as teens but in what they did, and while what these characters did involved killing and eating people, the structure resonates with whatever we might feel in ourselves in parallel. You have to hope the writers keep getting this right.
As for Misty, well, she goes through the isolation tank therapy in 2021, but I’m not sure we should view the result as a positive breakthrough for her. It is if we view her problem as being too distrustful in general, and of Walter (Elijah Wood) in particular, but she may well jump back to being too trusting when she leaves him that voicemail. Last time she opened up like that, her best friend Crystal (Nuha Jes Izman) died, after all.
It’s striking how upset Misty (Samantha Hanratty) is at the prospect of Crystal being eaten for dinner, given how happy we saw her about the cannibalism in the pilot. This definitely suggests that she was happy about who they’d just devoured. Mari (Alexa Barajas) remains the odds-on favorite, though Gen (Mya Lowe) and Melissa (Jenna Burgess) are certainly contenders.
I’m sorry, though, but those two just don’t feel like characters so much as plot devices. Personally, I’d rather the pit girl be someone who’s never had any lines if they don’t somehow get a bit more fleshed out. It’s like the writers wanted to have some pair of Yellowjackets talking about the possibility of eating Crystal but didn’t want it to be anyone in the main cast, so they created two new members of the team just so they could have lines like this. It’s really the most disappointing thing about Season 2 so far. And, to be clear, I don’t mind new characters! Just make them compelling! I’ve been writing about this season for a month and a half, my notes say Mya and I had to look up Melissa’s name. Not great, Bob.
Misty doesn’t find Crystal’s body where she left it, so maybe she’s been eaten by wolves, or maybe she’s been resurrected as a zombie with no eyes. Maybe it’ll be something else.
Misty does manage to talk Ben (Steven Krueger) off the ledge. It’s not a surprise that he was planning to commit suicide, and also not really a surprise that he couldn’t go through with it. What’s more noteworthy lies in how the scenes with Paul (François Arnaud) bleed into the reality of Ben’s life in the cabin. We could read this as Ben’s ability to sustain his fantasy breaking down, but there remains the sticky wicket of the man in the doorway at the end of Season 1 when Jackie (Ella Purnell) died. I suppose that could have been a figment of Jackie’s imagination, but where would her mind have even gotten the image of a young Jacques to put in the fantasy?
And speaking of fantasy, don’t worry, I’m not going to neglect to mention the most glorious sequence in the history of television. Misty’s dream/vision includes two of the shots that really grabbed my eye in the Season 2 credits, though we don’t just get to see her in the Red Room wearing black; there are nifty animations that dance on the curtain. And how did I not guess that the smoking figure with a bird nose would be Caligula (John Cameron Mitchell)? It’s just so obvious in retrospect.
He gives Misty the advice she needs to embrace her love of Walter, who taps his love for her out on a phone in Morse code, or at least I think that’s what he does. My attempts to translate have fallen a little short, as I get IFOBEQOD when I type the dots and dashes into a Morse code translator site. I thought it might be “I love you” but the same site gives that as .. / .-.. — …- . / -.– — ..-
So, I don’t know. I’ll await the work of my fellow Citizen Detectives on this one, I guess. Regardless, the whole thing is just lovely. I really hope it works out for these two. I don’t think it will, but I hope it does.
Remember we don’t know what the messages were from Walter on Misty’s phone when it was taken from her, and neither does she, so it’s really a leap of faith to assume that nothing has changed in his disposition towards her. Maybe he went and talked to the cops. Maybe he helped them find Adam’s remains. We simply don’t know.
Yellowjackets S2E7 features another new rendition of “No Return” during the opening credits. Though the vibe might feel closer to the wheelhouse of PJ Harvey, Portishead, or Björk, that’s Alanis Morissette again. I dig it. (And oh my god, let’s get some Björk in this show!)
It’s a good use of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way (Unplugged)” in the opening scene, and I just can’t say enough about how great the music is in this show in general. I’m a child of the ‘90s, I know, so I hope the youths watching are enjoying these tracks as much as I am, even if they don’t get the same nostalgia.
It’s OK to eat fish, cause they don’t have any feelings.
See you next week.