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  • Writer's picturecasey

Yellowjackets episode 2.04 "Old Wounds"

Title sequences are so important. If it’s a good one, you shouldn’t have to look any further to get a sense of what the show is ‘about’, in the philosophical sense of the word. I’ve been so impressed with the Yellowjackets title sequence from the beginning, so when they played a different version of the theme song for this episode only, I knew there was a reason. The title sequence is off-putting, jarring, and jumping through time in every way possible from frame sizes to character ages- a fast paced dose of the overarching tone of the show. They really put a lot of work into it, so throwing in a new version of the theme song is certainly deliberate. And doing it for just one episode doesn’t mark the beginning of a new direction in the story, as I thought before watching the next episode; it means this one in particular is significant.

So what’s so special about this episode? I would argue that the confirmation of there being ‘something’ in those woods came and went in season one when pilot Laura Lee exploded moments after takeoff. Leonard the teddy bear ignited for no reason whatsoever, and that explosion is the first major event with no real logical explanation. While that was a blow, and things have certainly been pretty eerie since the shrooms doomcoming party, I think the events of this episode are the real turning point in the Yellowjackets’ time in the wilderness.

Liv Hewson and Jasmin Savoy Brown in "Old Wounds". Image courtesy of Showtime.

A few things happen, but most loaded is Natalie and Lottie’s duel to bring home the most food. The survivors have created such an emotional division into two camps of logic vs spirituality, with Lottie being the fearless leader of the latter, but I don’t think the situation- or Lottie- is that cut and dry. Natalie’s biggest gripe with Lottie is her perception that she and Travis are the only ones providing for the group, but I have to say that both Laura Lee and Lottie are very spiritual people who don’t overlook physical needs and their physical solutions. Laura Lee wasn’t waiting for divine intervention to rescue them; she read a technical manual and learned how to fly a plane. I don’t know yet what all Lottie is getting herself into (and I don’t think she does either), but she’s only ever tried to enable the group’s vital, practical chores. When Natalie scoffs at her pre-hunting ritual, she replies “you’ve come back alive every time, haven’t you?”.

But, like most cult leaders I suppose, teenage Lottie has found herself some followers more insistent than she is herself, and she agrees to this head-to-head between her and Natalie. The two part ways in the woods, Nat with the gun, Lottie with a little knife to perform a blood sacrifice. As they press on, they both make some pretty crazy discoveries. I’ll start with Lottie’s: the plane we all watched explode in midair, intact right where they found it. She gets inside and opens a hatch, revealing a ladder down into a well-lit, clean, cozy restaurant. She descends and joins her friends, including Laura Lee, at a table, but soon she’s shivering again, covered in snow, soaking wet, and seemingly in another world from her friends despite sitting right next to them. Finally, it’s Laura Lee who tells her she needs to go, or she’ll freeze to death. She pushes Lottie, who falls backwards into the snow, where there is no evidence of her experience in sight. Not even the plane. Whole thing was a hypothermia-induced hallucination from the start.

Courtney Eaton in "Old Wounds". Image courtesy of Showtime.

Nat, meanwhile, has been much more productive. She found a moose frozen into the surface of the lake- the same moose she saw for an instant while out hunting the other day, confirming that she is in her right mind, then and now. She rushes back to the cabin to enlist help breaking the ice and pulling it out. Some people (ahem, Misty) aren’t pleased with Nat getting help in what was supposed to be a one-on-one competition, but everyone else instantly puts the contest aside, as I’m confident Lottie would herself. The group is great at teamwork, honestly, and they’re a well-oiled machine working to break the ice, tie ropes to the moose’s antlers, and heave in unison. Yet despite a truly great effort, they lose their grip and the moose sinks down to the unreachable depths of the lake. Nat is devastated, contest or no contest, just sobbing “we need it” over and over.

This is a really emotional moment, and a huge blow for the group emotionally and physically. This was the first glimmer of hope they’ve had in so long, and now the question still remains: what are they going to eat? I don’t know exactly how things are going to progress, but we all know where this show is going, right? I really think this event is going to be the turning point that sends things in that direction. The thing that really puts into perspective that they are out of options. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear Nat say at some point that none of the unspeakable things they did in those woods would have happened if they hadn’t dropped that moose.

After a demoralizing, empty handed return, the group returns to the cabin to find Lottie still isn’t back. Nat recovers in a warm bath while team Lottie goes looking for her. When they stumble back in, Lottie barely conscious, Nat jumps out and helps Lottie into the tub. The two hold hands, no hard feelings. The group has made them the symbols of two very different philosophies, but really, Nat and Lottie are both pro survival. They just have different skills.

The results of this competition seem to suggest that Nat, and everything she’s come to represent, are correct. The woods made a fool of Lottie, and even though they both came back empty handed I don’t think anyone can disagree that Nat came out on top. The pair’s present-day storyline also plays a big role in this episode, and I think the timelines really come together well to take us a solid step forward towards understanding what’s going on in the wilderness.

Present-day Natalie has found the cult of the purple people, and their leader Lottie. Clearly some bad blood has formed between the two of them since their good-natured competition because Nat is hell bent on exposing Lottie’s cult. But so far, Lottie seems bulletproof. Her followers know what they’re getting themselves into and honestly Lottie is so likable that I find myself rooting for her even though I’m sure the rest of the gang’s skepticism of her will be warranted in due time. A lot goes on within the cult in this episode, but the really significant part comes at the very end. Lottie is outside in the dark alone, slicing her hand open and dripping blood into an altar, just like she did in the woods, but this time she’s saying, “please let this be enough”.

Teenage Lottie has no idea what she’s praying to, and the events of their hunting competition suggest that the answer might be nothing. But this present-day development sheds a new light on those events: there is something in the woods, but it is not a friend.

But Van and Taissa already knew that. Taissa is staunchly team Natalie- I’d say because she doesn’t want to acknowledge what she already knows deep down- but she indulges Van by attending Lottie’s little spiritual groups. On a personal note, Van is the best character, and I am thrilled to see her join the present-day timeline- played by Six Feet Under’s Lauren Ambrose no less.

Lauren Ambrose in Yellowjackets. Image courtesy of Deadline.

I can’t ignore that major development, but while Taissa’s storyline is the most terrifying, it’s also maybe the least complex. The Leftovers comparisons abound with her character- the practical, good-natured bystander who’s been chosen by a force against their will and beyond their understanding. And the fallout gets worse the longer they ignore it.

So, after hiding from her nighttime escapades that have already left her son terrified of her, adult Taissa wakes up in her car with no gas and no cell phone battery. She deduces her alter ego’s destination and hitchhikes to Van’s place- something that will surely be reaching the press very soon. Whatever’s lying in the woods, Taissa will be the one really in the center of it. Her and Van’s discovery of Javi in the wilderness, in the exact spot that Van and Nighttime Taissa knew was significant, confirm that.

The really interesting thing about this show to me is that I really can’t figure out who to root for. Shauna, Natalie, and Taissa seem to be the heroes, but these ladies are all so nutty. Right now, we still have a lot to learn about what exactly goes down in these woods, but we have a pretty good idea and it’s safe to say that no one survived without getting their hands dirty.

But the best thing about this show is that literally anything goes! So what do you think is next for the Yellowjackets? Which characters are the kind of crazy you can get behind? What will become of poor coach Ben? And dare I even plant the seed that Shauna might eat her baby…

And I’ll end with a friendly reminder to support TV writers! The creators of Yellowjackets have closed the writer’s room for season 3 that had only just gotten started last week and are now picketing as I type. The Writer’s Guild strike means we might get an abridged season 3, as is the case for many current shows, but writers are getting shafted in this behemoth of an industry, and they’re fighting for the conditions that will let them both do their best work and live their best lives.

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