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A Scaredy-cat’s Guide to Yellowjackets

Photo: Showtime

Showtime’s Yellowjackets is the talk of the town, or, more accurately, the internet and the two or three people you see these cold, dark days. The series from co-creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson tells the story of a varsity girls’ soccer team that gets stranded in the Canadian wilderness in 1996, and the fallout — for the survivors, at least — 25 years later. It’s a thoughtful, clever study of trauma filled with questions that keep me up at night: Who lives, who dies, why does Taissa eat dirt in trees, and, most important, who do they eat?

The series’ premise is creepy on its own — plane crashes and cannibalism are understandable fears — but the show amps it up throughout the season by introducing mysterious characters and puzzling supernatural and horror elements. I, personally, have fluctuated between This show is very scary to I’ve seen episodes of Ted Lasso that scared me more — please show me the cannibalism immediately. I am, after all, a Gemini who has lied to friends and acquaintances about how disturbing Yellowjackets is in order to get them to watch it. For this, I will not apologize because I know I have done them a service. Even if they don’t sleep for a week, it will be worth it: Yellowjackets is one of the best new television shows in a decade, with one of the best pilot episodes ever made.

If you’re intrigued and/or want to be part of the culture (Yellowjackets is the culture now), here’s a guide to the violent/disturbing/scary/bloody/creepy things that happen in each episode. It is meant to serve as a warning for your precious eyes and ears and will help you see what’s coming like Lottie’s visions, so you can watch (or not watch) a plane crash, a man with no eyes, DIY surgery, and awkward teen sex scenes with relative ease and peace. Let this be your pre-Yellowjackets Xanax.

Episode One: ‘Pilot’

The first episode of Yellowjackets is not, as a whole, incredibly scary, but it starts on a dark note with a young girl running barefoot and terrified through the snow until she falls into a pit and is impaled by spikes. As the episode pivots between introducing the teammates pre-crash in ’96 and their adult iterations in 2021, we’re also offered brief glimpses of what they do to the pit girl: Her corpse is hanged, her throat is slit, and she is cooked and consumed in a mysterious, eerie ritual. The episode ends with the private plane the Yellowjackets took to nationals beginning to crash. Everyone is wearing oxygen masks, the camera is super-shaky, and the body of an unnamed teammate flails around the back of the out-of-control plane.

The pilot episode is not that scary, especially compared to upcoming episodes, and especially because it contains Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations” — the most terrifying scene is adult Shauna masturbating to a picture of her daughter’s boyfriend. However, it is a good primer to test your limits. It gets worse, so if you can’t handle this episode, Yellowjackets might not be the program for you.

How scary/bloody/violent is it? 6/10. However, if you are a person who fears plane crashes (I am not), it might be closer to 7/10.
Creepiness level: High
Cannibal vibe: Very high
Jump scares: None
How ’90s is it? Sassy magazine, flannel shirts, a goth, the Smashing Pumpkins, pink Converse. It’s definitely the ’90s (in the 1996 timeline).

Episode Two: ‘F Sharp’

Holy macaroni! “F Sharp” starts right where the pilot ended, with the plane crashing and the girls taking in the aftermath. They find their head coach dead in a tree (his sons Travis and Javi survive) and their assistant coach alive but severely injured. In 2021, Adult Shauna butchers a rabbit and feeds it to her family, right before “Glory Box” by Portishead plays. Tai’s son, Sammy, covers his windows with eerie drawings that may or may not tell us what happened in the woods, and through him, we get our first reference to the “lady in the tree” watching him.

“F Sharp” is not necessarily scary — unless, again, you are one of those people who are terrified of plane crashes — but it is incredibly bloody and violent. Misty takes over the crash site as head nurse, having learned a lot from two Red Cross babysitting-training classes. (I took the same course in the early 2000s and all I learned was how to do the Heimlich maneuver on a plastic baby doll.) Misty wraps wounds and, in the episode’s most graphic scene, amputates Coach Ben’s crushed leg with disturbing ease. Later, she cleans the wound with Sea Breeze astringent. If it weren’t for the nostalgic skin-care reference, this sequence would be way more unsettling.

How scary/bloody/violent is it? 8/10
Creepiness level: Low
Cannibal vibe: Low
Jump scares: None
Does the religious one discover the impaled body of her head coach in a tree while hugging her teddy bear? Yes, unfortunately.

Episode Three: ‘The Dollhouse’

“The Dollhouse” is the first episode of Yellowjackets to include its opening credits, which help establish the creepy cannibal vibe. The hour begins with the survivors holding a ceremony around the buried bodies of the people they lost in the crash. They soon find lake a few miles from the plane and move camp nearby for easier access to water. After taking a swim, they discover an abandoned cabin filled with supplies including a gun, bullets, and porn.

“The Dollhouse” marks the first episode to flash back further than 1996. As a child, Taissa visits her grandmother on her deathbed; the elderly woman looks into a mirror in the corner of the room and, panting, yells at someone to “stay away.” Tai asks whom she’s talking to, and her grandma screams, “That man with no eyes!” When Taissa looks at the mirror, she sees a pale man in a black blazer and white shirt with long, dark hair. In ’96, Tai comes across the cabin owner’s skeleton in the attic, and in the present, we catch a glimpse of her son Sammy’s doll with its eyes poked out. (Eye stuff freaks me out more than anything.) At the end of the episode and in the 2021 timeline, Nat and Misty discover Travis’s dead, hanged body, yet another disturbing image.

How scary/bloody/violent is it? 8/10. As a whole, this episode is not as bloody and gross as the previous two, but it contains the Man With No Eyes, and for that alone, the scary rating goes way, way up.
Creepiness level: Very high
Cannibal vibe: Low
Jump scares: One: The Man With No Eyes’ appearance in the mirror is jarring and quite terrifying.
Is the Man With No Eyes going to hurt me? Yes, I think so.

Episode Four: ‘Bear Down’

Terrible news: Episode four opens with the plane crash yet again, this time from Natalie’s perspective, which is why a Jane’s Addiction song plays during the scene. As the plane goes down, Natalie experiences a vision of her dead father, who has a massive open wound in his head, telling her she has blood on her hands. The episode dives deeper into Natalie’s past as we see her encounters with her abusive father, who died of an accidental gunshot wound in front of her.

Back in the 1996 timeline, Coach Ben teaches Natalie and Travis how to hunt. While out looking for food to shoot, Natalie and Travis visit the crash site, where they dig up Travis’s dad’s grave to retrieve an heirloom ring. It’s creepy, and the scene contains the bone-cracking of a decaying corpse that has been in the ground for a while. Meanwhile, Laura Lee, Jackie, Van, and Lottie discover a small plane in the woods. The propellers almost chop Jackie into bite-size pieces when Laura Lee powers up the plane, and Lottie’s premonitions get more sinister: She says, “It didn’t want him to leave,” suggesting there is something, or someone, keeping people in the woods. In the present, Tai is triggered at a political event in which she is served meat, and she has a vision of a white wolf set to ominous music.

How scary/bloody/violent is it? 6/10. The opening of the episode is intense, but the rest is, for this show’s standards, a relative breeze. A Sea Breeze, if you will.
Creepiness level: Moderate
Cannibal vibe: Low
Jump scares: Though not necessarily a jump scare, Natalie’s vision of her father with a massive wound (hole) in his head might make you jolt.
How scary is Misty singing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to Coach Ben while he takes a shit? The moment I watched this, I instantly forgot everything I have ever seen and everything and everyone I have ever known. It is the scariest thing I’ve ever witnessed.

Episode Five: ‘Blood Hive’

“Blood Hive” is more witchy than scary. To start the episode, our group of stranded and traumatized teens who are bleeding out of their vaginas simultaneously because of the moon or whatever leave their petty teenage bullshit aside as they dance in unison to Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It.” My period synced with members of my basketball team one time — and we weren’t even stranded in the woods! We were just at camp.

Tension starts to build between everyone else and Jackie, who isn’t contributing anything to the survival efforts. To rally the group in her favor, she proposes they perform a séance. After Javi asks if they’re all going to die during the séance, a gust of wind — which gets its own POV shot — bursts into the attic, blowing all the candles out. A distraught Lottie starts screaming about spilling blood and speaking in French. She bangs her head against the window, cutting her forehead. In the present, Tai’s time in the wilderness starts to interfere with her state senate campaign, the Yellowjackets are blackmailed via text for $50,000, and they find proof that Travis was murdered.

How scary/bloody/violent is it? 6/10
Creepiness level: High
Cannibal vibe: Low
Jump scares: One: When the gust of wind (or is it something else?) busts open the attic windows during the séance.
Could any of the Yellowjackets watch Call My Agent! without subtitles? Although Lottie can speak French fluently while possessed, Jackie says both she and Lottie suck at it, so no. I took French for five years and still need subtitles, so I can’t blame them.

Episode Six: ‘Saints’

“Saints” dives into Lottie’s background and her visions. Walking in the woods looking for berries, Lottie sees a deer with bloodied antlers. Later, she goes on a walk at night and sees what she assumes is a vision of Tai eating dirt in a tree. It’s creepy, and I don’t like to see it! After Tai assures Lottie the eating-dirt-in-a-tree thing was definitely a vision and definitely not real, Lottie seeks help from Laura Lee, who baptizes her in the lake. During the baptism, Lottie has a vision of another bloodied deer, a candlelit staircase, and an explosion when she looks at Laura Lee’s face.

Nat and Travis finally find a deer to eat, but when they slice it open, it’s infected with gnarly worms and inedible. Tai decides to hike south to seek help. Teen Shauna, pregnant with Jackie’s boyfriend Jeff’s baby, dreams about giving birth to cooked meat and eating it. She attempts to perform a DIY abortion with wire and Sea Breeze. Doesn’t she realize this is how Kate Winslet died (sans Sea Breeze) in Revolutionary Road, a film that came out 13 years after this? In 2021, Misty uses her hunter-green Fiat and The Phantom of the Opera to lure private investigator Jessica into her basement, and the episode closes with adult Tai sitting in the tree next to her townhouse, eating dirt with a deep, mouth-shaped bite mark on her hand.

How scary/bloody/violent is it? 8.5/10. The creepiness is higher than ever but mostly features at the beginning and end of the episode, so it’s relatively easy to distract yourself. My best suggestions for doing so include doomscrolling, online shopping, folding laundry, and decluttering your closet.
Creepiness level: High
Cannibal vibe: Medium. Is it cannibalism if your newborn is already cooked?
Jump scares: None
How scary is seeing a person eat dirt in a tree? It’s scarier than the Man With No Eyes, but it’s not as scary as Misty singing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to Coach Ben while he shits in the woods.

Episode Seven: ‘No Compass’

“No Compass” is instantly creepy as it opens with adult Taissa waking up in a tree, her hands bloody and covered in dirt. Shocked but not surprised, she comes down from the tree and solemnly washes her dirty, bloody hands in the sink — and her mouth, which is filled with dirt? Seriously, what is going on with this? What kind of nutrients does dirt contain? I’m scared.

In the 1996 wilderness, Tai gathers a group to hike south, and Lottie tells Van she had a vision of a river of blood. Van, though skeptical, decides to go with Tai anyway. There is a truly horrifying (because it is so real) almost-sex scene between Nat and Travis that continues to haunt me weeks later. The group hiking south discovers the red river Lottie was talking about; when they camp for the night without shelter, they’re bombarded by a pack of wolves that eat at Van’s face. This happens because Tai is doing her dirt-in-a-tree thing when she is meant to be on watch. The wilderness is starting to seem creepier than the normal wilderness because this wilderness appears to have its own mind.

Back in the present, Misty pulls some Misery shit by handcuffing PI Jessica to a bed in her basement and filling chocolates with fentanyl. Shauna, Tai, and Nat make a money-drop for the blackmailer and fail at their attempt to chase them down.

How scary/bloody/violent is it? 8/10. The episode is very bloody, but not until the very end, and it’s very dark in the scene, so it’s easy to miss if you admire your beautiful hands or squint.
Creepiness level: High
Cannibal vibe: Low
Jump scares: None
Did Van enjoy the Sandra Bullock vehicle While You Were Sleeping (1994)? Yes, and I assume she watches it every year at Christmastime on whichever streaming platform it is available. Please. I want Van to live!

Episode Eight: ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’

“Flight of the Bumblebee”named for sweet and innocent Laura Lee’s short plane flight, which starts off successfully but ends in an explosion over the lake — opens on Van nearly being burned alive by her mourning teammates. If Van survives this, she will relate to Faramir when she watches The Return of the King in 2003.

The episode flashes back to a preteen Laura Lee, who dives into the shallow end of a pool at a religious camp. She hits her head on the bottom, cracking it open, and the pool fills with blood. I have also been to religion camp, but I never dived into the shallow end of its pool. The scene is an unfortunate sight but significant because it explains why Laura Lee became so religious: She is under the impression God saved her that day. In the 1996 wilderness, Tai helps a severely wounded but very alive Van return to the cabin, and Akilah sews her face back together in a disturbing scene that might make the squeamish cringe even when they close their eyes due to Van’s painful screams.

How scary/bloody/violent is it? 7/10. “Flight of the Bumblebee” is fairly violent and upsetting considering one teenager gets half of her face sewn back together and another blows up in an airplane in front of her soccer team.
Creepiness level: Moderate to low
Cannibal vibe: Low
Jump scares: None
Is Laura Lee far from the shallow now? God, I hope so.

Episode Nine: ‘Doomcoming’

Stabby stab stab! It’s time to throw your trash Adam theories in the trash where they always belonged, since he is dead because Shauna STABS him in his very lofty loft before the opening credits roll. In the aftermath of Laura Lee’s tragic yet inevitable explosion in 1996, the survivors eat maggots and plan a doomsday party as one last celebration before their imminent deaths and because some of their fruit turned to alcohol. The party takes a dark turn as some of the girls, experiencing psychosis on Misty’s magic mushrooms, believe Travis is a deer. I really thought it was going to be an orgy, but instead they capture him and almost kill him in a ceremony that emulates the snow-filled one from the pilot. Natalie interrupts in time to save his life.

This is the creepiest Yellowjackets has been so far, and I have a feeling this is just a taste (pun intended, with many apologies) of what’s to come.

How scary/bloody/violent is it? 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000/10. Doomsday is scary but in a psychological-thriller way. There is also the stabbing of Adam, which includes blood.
Creepiness level: DING DING DING DING DING! (Very high, higher than high — the highest.)
Cannibal vibe: High. Travis narrowly escapes being consumed by a group of teenage girls high on ’shrooms and wilderness wine.
Jump scares: None
When will the cannibalism start already? I wish I knew, and I wish I knew why I want to see it so desperately.

Episode Ten: ‘Sic Transit Gloria Mundi’

The finale perfectly wraps the season and leaves us hungry (sorry) for more. In 2021, Shauna, Taissa, Natalie, and Misty unite in an effort to get rid of Adam’s body. This is led by Misty, who knows way too much about covering up a murder. She is also overly familiar and chill about killing people; she happily hands Jessica a poisoned cigarette when she’s on her way out of basement captivity. In the woods in 1996, the tension following the doomsday-mushroom-soup party is cut short when a bear presents itself at the cabin and basically offers itself to Lottie.

Back in 2021, the adult Yellowjackets attend their 25-year high-school reunion, which is pretty uneventful but features a slideshow set to Enya’s “Only Time.” While Tai awaits the results of the election, her wife, Simone, stumbles upon a crawl space in the basement of their home. It leads to a secret room containing a shrine with the cult symbol from the woods and the head of their dog, Biscuit. Back in 1996, the tension returns to the cabin during the bear feast when Shauna and Jackie have their inevitable confrontation about Jeff and their friendship. The argument leads to Jackie, feeling unwelcome by Shauna and all the Yellowjackets (besides Coach Ben), sleeping outside for the night. In the morning, the ground is covered in snow and Jackie is dead from exposure. As she dies, she has a vision of herself drinking hot chocolate with her loving teammates in the cabin. She’s greeted by both Laura Lee and the hunter who previously lived there; he tells her, “So glad you’re joining us. We’ve been waiting for you.” The episode ends with an adult Natalie, on the verge of ending her life to be with Travis, getting kidnapped. It’s implied Lottie is behind it.

How scary/bloody/violent is it? 9/10. It’s not the scariest episode, but it does include the butchering of Adam’s corpse, Jackie’s death, and Tai’s disturbing shrine complete with severed dog head.
Creepiness level: High. The penultimate episode was a lot creepier and a bit more eventful than the season finale by design, but this episode makes you feel like anything could happen (and it does).
Cannibal vibe: Disappointingly low.
Jump scares: One: The shot of Tai’s shrine featuring the head of Biscuit. And though it’s not a jump scare, the man Jackie sees in her dying vision is so eerie, it feels like one.
Is anyone more heartbroken than Coach Ben to learn that Shauna never really liked soccer? No. Poor Coach Ben. I’m rooting for you, babe!

A Scaredy-cat’s Guide to Yellowjackets