Yellowjackets S2E8 Recap: “It Chooses”… Poorly

Nat (Sophie Thatcher) looks downward with trepidation

The following recap contains spoilers for Yellowjackets S2E8, “It Chooses” (written by Sarah L. Thompson & Liz Phang and directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer)

“There are no queens in that deck, you know?”

It’s almost a throwaway line in Yellowjackets S1E8, spoken by Nat (Sophie Thatcher) to Travis (Kevin Alves) as the latter plays solitaire. But that hasn’t stopped us from latching onto it, as Season 2 has the queen of hearts (and the queen of diamonds) in its opening title sequence, and Lottie (Simone Kessell) had a vision of it in S2E5, which freaks her out.

Attentive viewers aren’t likely to be surprised to see this playing card serving the role it does in “It Chooses.” What should surprise us is that I am almost 100% certain that they never found the queens. I think I would have noticed. Moreover, I think the Citizen Detectives over on Reddit would have noticed. And yet, this seems to have just not happened within the narrative of the show.

Nat (Sophie Thatcher) bites her lip as she stands in front of a window in Yellowjackets S1E8

So, there are a few possibilities. The simplest would be that there is more than one deck of cards, but that’s boring. Perhaps Nat was lying, or just joshing, Travis with her remark in Season 1, as the point of the scene is that she wants him to come hunting with her and to mend their relationship. But that’s also not very interesting to think about.

Yellowjackets S2E8 contains multiple moments where what we see from a character’s perspective does not match reality: Akilah (Nia Sondaya) pets a living mouse that turns out to be dead; Mari (Alexa Barajas) hears dripping again, and though Tai (Jasmin Savoy Brown) hears it too this time, only Mari proceeds to see blood pouring from the walls; Tai sees two versions of herself reflected in the window…

Tai (Jasmin Savoy Brown) looks into a window and sees two reflections of herself that differ from one another

Of course, Yellowjackets has been playing this game all season long in various ways, but I’m afraid that I don’t find the possibility of applying it to the queen of hearts to be very intriguing either. Instead, I’m actually feeling a little afraid that these things might be tied together in the season finale in some way that I find to be very lame.

Nat (Sophie Thatcher) holds up the queen of hearts

Over at Horror Obsessive, Saskia has been sharing her worries about what Yellowjackets has been doing this season, and I haven’t really shared them. Mostly, I just think this show is a lot of fun, it’s fun to think about, and I hope it doesn’t go off the rails like some previous series on Showtime have.

The way things culminate to lead to the playing card ritual makes sense. Lottie (Courtney Eaton) is on death’s door and tells Misty (Samantha Hanratty) that they shouldn’t let her go to waste if she dies. Unwilling to let Lottie be their next supper but recognizing the threat of starvation they all face, the group decides to use the cards to choose a victim (and indeed adorns the chosen one with Jackie’s necklace, just as many predicted).

But I have to question the decision to have Nat be the one who drew the queen. First of all, we know she lives, and it’s a real missed opportunity to make Gen (Mya Lowe) or Melissa (Jenna Burgess) feel like characters who have some semblance of importance to this story. Moreover, and more diegetically, Nat is the best one with the rifle and everyone knows it. We could read the general hesitance of the group as some acknowledgment of that fact, which (along with their general regard for Natalie as a person), suggests that they’re all just so hungry they push it aside, but the way it all plays out just doesn’t feel right.

That’s probably because it doesn’t track well with the dynamics we’ve seen between these women in 2021, including those in this episode. I struggle to believe that Nat (Juliette Lewis) would shrug off that time you all tried to hunt and eat me to the extent that is implied by her rapport with Shauna (Melanie Lynskey), Tai (Tawny Cypress), and Van (Lauren Ambrose) in the present, where she wants to talk through what they all went through in the past. Lottie (Simone Kessell) is oddly blameless in this regard.

Maybe Yellowjackets can do the character work as the ‘90s timeline moves forward to make this all hang together better, but I fear the writers have just made their jobs harder by taking one too many turns down the road of subverting viewer expectations. And, sure, it makes sense for it to be Natalie in terms of Travis being motivated to disrupt the proceedings and Javi (Luciano Leroux) offering to help her to safety, but part of me still thinks those character beats would have been more interesting if it was someone else.

Nat (Sophie Thatcher) looks anguished standing in the snow. Van (Liv Hewson) is behind her, looking stern

I guess Ben (Steven Krueger) is not present for the drawing of cards because he chose exactly this time to go explore where Javi had been for months. The timing feels a little too convenient, and it also somewhat undermines our desire to see where Javi was going to lead Nat when we can easily speculate that it’s the very same place Ben is poking around in.

I’m not sure what to make of this cavern. There are small bones around, along with a fire pit, and I can’t help but think about Javi’s remarks about his friend, but mostly I’m feeling willing to wait until next week on this one, as I’m sure we’ll learn more then. For the moment, since I’m being uncharacteristically critical of Yellowjackets, I’ll just add that I think it sucks that I wasn’t sad when Javi died so much as frustrated by the narrative possibilities his death cut off.

A fire pit and some small bones

Javi’s death is sad, or at least it should be. Really, this scene should be gut-wrenching, as Misty pulls Nat away from helping him, noting that if she did successfully get him out of the lake alive, the others would proceed to kill her. I suppose this is the first step of the character work I was hoping for above, as Nat goes along and lets him die. And so does everyone else.

But if this is a key moment in the group’s developing faith in the wilderness, it’s hard not to call bullshit immediately. Van (Liv Hewson) says the wilderness chose Javi, but in order to buy into this, everyone is asked to ignore that they all chose to not save him when they almost certainly could have. After all, they have no trouble retrieving his dead body from the hole in the ice.

It explains some elements of the opening scenes of the pilot. We can infer that the whole ritual develops into choosing someone to wear the necklace and run, with the game being that they’ll eat the first person who dies during the event (whether or not it’s the girl in the necklace). But I don’t know. If this is where it starts, I find myself thinking that there would be something more honest—and something less morally suspect—in just killing whoever drew the queen of hearts and being done with it.

Call me a skeptic.

But I’ve never wanted Yellowjackets to go full-bore supernatural more than I do after watching “It Chooses.” When Van references the episode title in the past, and Lottie references it in the present, they’re clearly affirming belief in a supernatural force at play. And I groaned at both instances because Yellowjackets really hasn’t done enough to make me wonder if they’re right. Or, more importantly, it hasn’t done quite enough to make me believe that they believe that the wilderness chooses.

Lottie (Simone Kessell) prepares a tray of shots

Lottie’s decision to try to get everyone to play Russian roulette with shots of liquor in the 2021 timeline feels a little undermotivated. The seeds were surely planted, with her growing fear that she’s never been ill leading her back into a belief in the necessity of human sacrifice, but perhaps it’s the fact that Lottie is not involved in the events of the 1996 timeline in S2E8 that undermines the effectiveness of the scene.

Teen Lottie spends the hour barely conscious while others undertake the ritual in her name, and it might have been interesting to think about how she’ll react when she finds out what’s happened, except that “It Chooses” totally telegraphs how she’ll react when she finds out what happens. And you might think it’s subverting expectations in a nifty way to have her more swept up in a fervor than driving it, but it feels a bit more to me like she’s being deprived of agency.

So here we are, with me hoping that the demons are real as we head into the Season 2 finale, or, at least, that the supernatural is presented as real from the perspective of the group in the wilderness in a way that’s harder to deny. It would still be ambiguous, because the camera itself in Yellowjackets is an unreliable narrator, but right now it feels a bit too much like everyone is just deflecting to avoid taking responsibility instead of being caught in a collective delusion.

Misty (Samantha Hanratty) tends to Lottie (Courtney Eaton) in Yellowjackets S2E8, "It Chooses"

The cops come to visit Jeff (Warren Kole) in S2E8 and show him gruesome images of Adam’s dismembered body. The best part of this is the nightmare he has where he makes out with Shauna Krueger before she kills him, but I am a little disappointed that this is the explanation for the shot of blood on the Sadecki family photo that’s in the opening credits. I’d been hoping it was from Matt (John Reynolds) actually being murdered in their home. Alas…

Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) holds a knife hand in front of her face in Yellowjackets S2E8, "It Chooses"

Meanwhile, in the Sharing Shack™, everything comes out into the open between the adult Yellowjackets. Tai hired Jessica Roberts. Misty (Christina Ricci) killed Jessica Roberts. Jeff was the one blackmailing them…  Wait, I guess Van somehow manages to keep her cancer a secret through all of this, but that’s about it. Lottie just says something about how Van used to be so full of life. So at least we’re not explicitly getting the suggestion that human sacrifice can cure cancer… yet?

A very large, unfinished jigsaw puzzle

Walter (Elijah Wood) is working on a magnificently large jigsaw puzzle when he gets a notification about the fact that the police have found Adam’s remains. So he starts writing the cops an email about information he has to share with them. It’s possible that this is sincere and he’s going to implicate Misty, but something about the expression on his face and his general demeanor makes me think that he’s doing this to help Misty. So that should be fun.

Walter looks at his screen intently

We should note that the other messages on his computer screen seem to be congratulating him on effectively seducing Misty, unless I’m misreading them. Also, he’s listening to “The Music of the Night.”

A computer screen features a cat with its tongue stuck out. Two messages to the left: Response from @inthethickofit "She's a literal MAN-EATER!"; Response from @sammythesleuth "I knew it was her! @puttingthesickinforensics you're the man!"

Overall, “It Chooses” feels like a misstep to me, but it’s one that I hope I’ll be able to look past as soon as next week. I trust the writers of Yellowjackets in general, and how the group would come to not just cannibalism but the ritual around it we saw in the series premiere was always the trickiest problem. So perhaps I should be forgiving.

See you next week.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos

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  1. People on Reddit are saying that there was a remark in the background about Javi finding the queen. Missed it, didn’t find it when I searched the sub, suppose this is probably true. An interesting thing to think about if so

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