Crystal, we hardly knew you. Kristen, we knew you even less.
Lauren Ambrose, beloved from her tenure on the HBO series Six Feet Under, fits that bill as well, and this episode fully embraces her as a card-carrying Yellowjacket.
There is no denying that Ambrose instantly catches fire as the adult version of Van Palmer. It helps that she bears a resemblance to Liv Hewson, but she’s clearly done her homework and she’s not here to play. From the moment we see her onscreen, she is Van. Like many of the present-day Yellowjackets, Van is in a state of arrested development, refusing to move past the creature comforts of the ’90s. This is a common trauma response — we’ve seen it in the way that Shauna quickly regressed to her teenage behaviors last season; more on her in a bit — but Van is taking it to the extreme. Barricading herself in with walls of VHS tapes and cherished memories of her teen years, she’s frozen her pre-wilderness life in time, creating an existence for herself where she can imagine that everything after the crash never happened. It did happen, though — and it’s come back to haunt her.
The reunion between Van and Tai is bittersweet — Ambrose and Tawny Cypress share a sparkling chemistry — but the reunion between the “Other” Tai and Van is electric and revealing. When Tai wakes from a couch nap, she makes a beeline for Van. (Who, sadly, is fishing some Percocet out of the trash. Yet another trauma response.) Other Tai kisses Van, and Van recognizes her immediately. “You’re the other one, aren’t you?” she whispers. As Tai-not-Tai slinks away, she growls, “This isn’t where we’re supposed to be.”
This moment provides loose proof for a Yellowjackets theory that’s been floating in the ether for some time now. “This isn’t where we’re supposed to be” feels eerily like the chilling “We have to go back!” declaration that Jack made at the end of season 3 of Lost. Yellowjackets shares a fair share of DNA with Lost, and it feels like it would make sense for the adult survivors to return to the scene of the crime. Do they have to go back to the wilderness in order to heal from their trauma? Or is there something calling them that needs to be dealt with? I’ve always felt like there was something more than just the cannibalism holding them back from telling the truth. Maybe there’s something — or someone (!) — still out there that they need to protect? When Javi finally starts talking to Ben about where he was when he disappeared, he mentions a friend, saying, “She told me not to come back.” Could this be the Yellowjackets version of the Others? (Because, seriously, how else did Javi survive out there for two whole months if he wasn’t with another group of people?)
Earlier in the episode we see that, much like Van, Misty is also re-creating old patterns from her teen years. The episode documents the tragic end of her friendship with her bestie, Crystal, in the wilderness timeline in parallel with her truncated relationship with Walter in the present. When she reveals her deepest, darkest secrets to Crystal, telling her that she destroyed the plane’s black box after they crashed, Crystal reacts with abject horror, roundly rejecting Misty and threatening to tell the others. Now, destroying a black box isn’t in the normal wheelhouse of teenage secrets, but Misty knows rejection from the relentless bullying she experienced in high school, and she’s not going to feel that way again. She threatens Crystal only to accidentally force her off of the edge of the comically high poop cliff. Oops. Bye-bye, Crystal. Here’s hoping your resorbed twin isn’t waiting for you on the other side.
Yet, in the present, Misty’s interaction with Walter is the complete inverse of what happened with Crystal. After they find Natalie, and Natalie sends Misty away with some abusive words, Walter reveals that he knows Misty’s deepest, darkest secrets, including that he believes she killed Adam Martin to protect a friend. He gets the details wrong — Misty didn’t actually kill Adam, but she sure was psyched to help clean up the crime scene — but he’s right that she’s a murderer. And he doesn’t care. He just likes her, murderess or not. (Weirdly, this scene gave me Bridget Jones’s “I like you very much, just as you are” vibes. Is Misty in a rom-com?!) His grandma murdered his grandfather, and he still loved her! But, old habits die hard, and Misty can’t bring herself to be emotionally open with Walter. So she flees into the arms of Lottie’s cult, and Walter escapes with his life intact. Is this the last we’ll see of Walter? I’m thinking not, but for his sake, I hope he and his cargo shorts stay far away from Misty and the rest of the Yellowjackets.
However, Walter is still a citizen detective, and he thinks he’s cracked the Adam Martin case. It feels like it’s only a matter of time until everyone puts the pieces of the puzzle together and Shauna gets caught. In a weird bit of plotting that feels like it was contrived only to give Shauna and her family something to do in this episode, Callie finds out that her new beau is actually a cop. Thinking quickly, she gives the guy some bad intel: Shauna is having an affair with Randy. A clunky sequence unfolds in which a clueless Randy putters around his motel room, taking orders from Shauna. She sends him off into the bathroom to fill a condom, but he can’t perform, resulting in him filling the love glove with a large dollop of lotion. The cops eventually find the fake cum, realizing that Saracusa has been made and that Callie is no longer a reliable source of information. Also, Randy tells Shauna about getting interrogated by the “FBI” about the purple people, but she’s too preoccupied to take note of this weird aside.
By the end of this episode, Nat may or may not be staying on with the purple people indefinitely. After breaking into Lottie’s office and finding all sorts of personal documents and items that belong to the cult members, she calls Lottie out in front of everyone. But no one cares. They all know that Lottie is all up in their beeswax, and they like it that way. Okay? For some reason this reveal leads Natalie to trust Lottie a bit more, and they decide that they’re ready to discuss Travis.
Both Lottie and Natalie are curious about what Travis’s final note to Natalie meant. “Tell Nat she was right” it read. But what was she right about? Lottie uses a blinking light and a verbal prompt to extract memories from Natalie. As Natalie remembers her last encounter with Travis, we see that she overdosed and had to be revived by paramedics. In the space between life and death, Natalie sees an alternate history in which none of the Yellowjackets made it out of the crash alive. During these recovered memories, Natalie also sees a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flash of herself in some sort of chunky knit headdress. (Seriously, it took me about 20 tries to pause on this exact frame of the montage.) Her outfit bears an uncanny resemblance to the Antler Queen getup, complete with distinctive mesh hanging behind her head. Oddly, it’s an image of her as an adult, not as a teen, which could potentially mean that this is a flash-forward and not a memory.
This flash could also just be a vision of a highly traumatized woman on the brink of death. As Natalie comes out of the memory, she’s overwhelmed. She tearfully admits that she told Travis that they brought the darkness back with them, or maybe it’s been in them the whole time. She leans over onto Lottie’s lap with exhausted reverence, regressing into the teenage version of herself. This feels like potential foreshadowing for whatever’s to come next with Lottie and Natalie in the wilderness. Is it possible that Natalie might soon be on Team Lottie?
In the wilderness, Lottie continues to gain followers as Tai and Akilah both join the morning circle. During the session, she asks them to identify what they can hear and feel. The idea of connecting to the body with breath and activating the senses to calm the nervous system is incredibly intuitive, so it makes sense that Lottie might stumble upon it in an effort to lead the group in a meaningful exercise.
Shauna refuses to attend the sharing circles, but she gets a weird feeling when they pray for her unborn child, and then she (rightfully) freaks out when she wakes up from a nap and catches Lottie whispering to her belly. She leaves the cabin and Tai follows, but they soon get caught up in a snowstorm. As the wind kicks up, the camera pushes into Tai and Shauna, making it feel like something is watching them. It feels important that the camera work here echoes the Evil Dead–esque perspective of the wind that knocked all the snow onto Jackie’s burning remains back in “Edible Complex.” Is the darkness checking in on them? The storm disorients the two girls, but they make it back because their friends leave a trail of psychic bread crumbs for them to follow. Van and Lottie chant, “I hear my friends trying to find us.” And, oddly enough, Tai starts muttering the same mantra at the same time. Coincidence? Or are they psychically connected somehow?
The chant brings Shauna and Tai back to the cabin just in time, because Shauna is exhibiting all the telltale Hollywood signs of a woman in labor. She’s screaming, grabbing her belly, and Danzig’s heavy-metal opus “Mother” punctures the moment as the episode cuts to black. What can possibly happen to this baby?
See you next week!